Always a Rogue, Forever Her Love(9)

By: Christi Caldwell

Oh, the cad!

Juliet reached out a desperate, searching hand. She sent a prayer skyward when her fingers found purchase on the crystal candelabra. With a deep breath, she awkwardly raised the solid ornament and brought it down hard on Lord Williams’ head.

He stiffened in her arms, and then slumped against her.

“Oomph,” she grunted as he slid into an ignoble heap at her feet. She shoved away from him. Her heart pounded fast and hard as she studied his prone form. “Don’t you be dead,” she whispered angrily. On legs that trembled, she lowered herself to the floor and searched around for sign of breath. A sigh of relief slipped out as a short prayer at the sign of his pulse beating steadily at his neck. She scanned the room with a panicky fear. Her brother would be livid, but she shuddered imagining a taste of the determined Lord Williams’ wrath.

Juliet surged to her feet as quick as her injured leg would allow and hurried from the room. She closed the door behind her and turned the lock in the door.

As she made her way through the long corridor, down toward her chambers, her mind raced.

Her brother had lost her beloved cottage and was bleeding father’s wealth faster than a fatal wound to one’s person. Now, he’d make her Lord Williams’ whore. Her jaw set as she reflected on the unfairness of it all, being dependent upon the mercy of men for her own safety and security.

She limped quietly down the hall toward her room, the soles of her slippers silent in the empty corridor. She paused outside her chambers, then threw the door open. Her maid, Lillian, who stood at the armoire paused, and turned around with a smile. It died on catching sight of Juliet. “Whatever has happened, Miss Juliet?”

Lord Williams. Albert. Life.

Juliet closed the door behind her, and turned the key.

Lillian’s eyes followed her precise movements, and her kind blue eyes went wide with concern. “Are you…?”

“I’m fine,” Juliet said, and waved off the loyal girl’s concern. She drummed her nails alongside the hard panel of the door. She could not remain under Albert’s care any longer. She needed to get word to her guardian, which seemed a rather daunting feat considering his ship had been lost at sea for some time now. She continued to hold out hope; Lord Henry would return and pluck her from her brother’s clutches.

She chewed at her lower lip. Considering Lord Williams’ current state, and his intentions for her, she could no longer remain patiently waiting for him to return. The alternative was Uncle Horace. She winced remembering back to their last meeting some years back. With his failing hearing, the gentleman wouldn’t hear the clamor of a bustling London street, let alone her requests for help.

Juliet shoved away from the door and began to pace. Her steps grew more frenzied as she reflected on the unfairness of it all. That Albert should inherit. She frowned. That her very existence was dependent upon one missing guardian, and one aging, wholly disengaged uncle. Her frown deepened. That the Earl of Sinclair should now possess her beloved Rosecliff Cottage. A growl worked its way up her throat.

“Miss Juliet, are you certain you’re all right?” Lillian called softly.

“Fine,” she bit out.

She chose to feed the fury over Albert’s wager with the earl, which had resulted in her great loss. The bounder whose name she’d read of in the papers was purported to be deep in the pockets, a horrible rogue, and as one who kept company with Albert, well that was saying a good deal about the gentleman’s total lack of honor. That such a gentleman should ever own her beloved home!

Juliet drew to a sudden, jerky halt. Her chest heaved up and down. She might be unable to locate her misplaced guardian or stop her fool brother from taking part in obscene wagers, but one thing within her power she could do was speak to the bloody bounder.

“What is it?” Lillian said on a beleaguered sigh, having clearly known Juliet enough to recognize the determined glint in her eyes.

Yes, she’d find the gentleman, which shouldn’t prove a difficult task. The papers reported on his whereabouts with shocking regularity. He could be found most evenings at a handful of gaming hells, and…and houses of ill repute. Her cheeks warmed, but she ignored her polite sensibilities.