Dearest RogueBy: Elizabeth Hoyt
For my favorite uncle, Frank Kerr—the real storyteller in the family.
I might write the books, but it takes an entire team to get them ready to read.
Thank you to my fabulous editor, Amy Pierpont; my wondrous agent, Robin Rue; my fantastic beta reader, Susannah Taylor; the ever-on-the-ball Jodi Rosoff, director of marketing and publicity at my publisher; and last, but certainly not least, S. B. Kleinman, my long-suffering copy editor, who persevered despite the egregious overuse of em dashes.
Thank you all!
And special thanks to my Facebook friend, Judith Sandrel Voss, for naming Toby the dog!
Now once there was a king who lived by the sea. He had had three sons and the youngest was named Corineus.…
—From The Kelpie
Captain James Trevillion, formerly of the 4th Dragoons, was used to dangerous places. He’d hunted highwaymen in the stews of St Giles, apprehended smugglers along the cliffs of Dover, and guarded Tyburn gallows in the midst of a riot. Until now, though, he would not have counted Bond Street among their number.
It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon and fashionable London was gathered en masse, determined to spend its wealth on fripperies and blithely unaware of any impending violence.
As was, for that matter, Trevillion’s charge.
“Do you have the package from Furtleby’s?” inquired Lady Phoebe Batten.
The sister of the Duke of Wakefield, Lady Phoebe was plump, distractingly pretty, and quite pleasant to nearly everyone, excepting himself. She was also blind, which was both why she had her hand on Trevillion’s left forearm and why Trevillion was here at all: he was her bodyguard.
“No, my lady,” he answered absently as he watched one—no, three—big brutes coming toward them, moving against the brightly dressed crowd. One had a nasty scar on his cheek, another was a hulking redhead, and the third appeared to have no forehead. They looked ominously out of place in workmen’s clothes, their expressions intent and fixed on his charge.
Interesting. Until now his duties as bodyguard had mostly been about making sure Lady Phoebe didn’t become lost in a crowd. There’d never been a specific threat to her person.
Trevillion leaned heavily on the cane in his right hand and pivoted to look behind them. Lovely. A fourth man.
He felt something in his chest tighten with grim determination.
“Because the lace was especially fine,” Lady Phoebe continued, “and also at a special price, which I’m quite sure I won’t be able to find again for quite some time, and if I’ve left it at one of the shops we’ve already visited I’ll be quite put out.”
The nearest brute—the one without a forehead—was holding something down by his side—a knife? A pistol? Trevillion transferred the cane to his left hand and gripped his own pistol, one of two holstered in black leather belts crisscrossing his chest. His right leg protested the sudden loss of support.
Two shots, four men. The odds were not particularly good.
“Yes,” Lady Phoebe replied. “And Mr. Furtleby made sure to tell me that the lace was made by grasshoppers weaving butterfly wings on the Isle of Man. Very exclusive.”
“I am listening to you, my lady,” Trevillion murmured as the first brute shoved aside an elderly dandy in a full-bottomed white wig. The dandy swore and shook a withered fist.
The brute didn’t even turn his head.
“Are you?” she asked sweetly. “Because—”
The brute’s hand came up with a pistol and Trevillion shot him in the chest.
Lady Phoebe clutched his arm. “What—?”
Two women—and the dandy—screamed.
The other three men started running. Toward them.
“Don’t let go of me,” Trevillion ordered, glancing quickly around. He couldn’t fight three men with only one shot remaining.
“Whyever would I let go of you?” Lady Phoebe asked rather crossly.
He saw out of the corner of his eye that her bottom lip was pushed out like a small child’s. It almost made him smile. Almost. “Left. Now.”
He shoved her in that direction, his right leg giving him hell. The bloody thing had better not collapse on him—not now. He holstered the first pistol and drew the second.