Don't Tempt Me:Georgian 04(13)

By: Sylvia Day

“You were unable to conceive of it,” the vicomte said gently. “Saint-Martin was aware that he had possession of something valuable; he simply did not share the information with you.”

Marguerite heard the note of smugness in de Grenier’s words and knew he hoped to incite a rift. Such machinations were wasted on her, however. She was a practical woman. She did not find it odd or secretive for Philippe to withhold information about his covert activities from her. There was nothing she could do with such knowledge besides worry unduly about things she had no power over.

“So what can I do?” she asked. “Who is this person who needs these documents and what hold does he have over Desjardins?”

“I do not know.” The vicomte leaned forward. “I only know that you cannot remain here, Marguerite.”

“Of course not. If they want something in this house, they must have it. We cannot risk Saint-Martin’s life.”

“They also want you.”

She blinked. “Why?”

“Whoever this individual is, they carry great enmity toward Saint-Martin. They want him to lose everything he holds dear, including you. Desjardins is deeply disturbed by the brutality of the attack today. He fears that the next step will be the loss of Saint-Martin’s life, despite having been told that death would be too merciful an end.”

Pushing to her feet, Marguerite wept openly. “Did he share any of this information with Philippe? Or did Desjardins allow him to remain ignorant of these threats?”

De Grenier rose. “I do not know, nor do I care. My concern is only for you. You are innocent in this, yet your life has been compromised by association.”

“My life is with Philippe.”

“And when he is dead?” the vicomte spat out, his large frame tense with frustration. “What then?”

“Are you suggesting that my removal from Philippe’s life will spare him?”

“It might. Desjardins believes that he can use your departure to soothe this man he called L’Esprit. It will give him an opportunity to locate the papers and perhaps end this.”

“L’Esprit . . .” Turning, Marguerite rushed from the parlor and crossed to the dining room, where the note from earlier waited. She reread the cryptic words and felt ill. Her hand fell to her side, the paper crinkling within her tense grip.

Large hands settled atop her shoulders and squeezed gently. “Allow me to help you.”

“You already have and I thank you.” She faced him. “I cannot afford to be any further in your debt.”

His handsome features softened and he cupped her cheek. “You do not have the means to extricate yourself on your own.”

“I have some jewelry . . .”

“Mon Dieu!” he scoffed. “You cannot survive indefinitely on so little.”

“No,” she agreed, “but there is enough to sustain me until Saint-Martin is well and the documents are dealt with.”

“If he survives the night, it will be only because of the grace of God.”

She felt the blood drain from her face, leaving her dizzy and weary. She clung to the back of the chair, but de Grenier caught her arm and forced her to sit.

“You are not well,” he said.

“I must rest. Certainly you can imagine how taxing this afternoon has been.”

The vicomte appeared prepared to argue, then he bowed. “My previous offer still stands.”

He moved to take a seat beside her. He caught up her hand, which lay motionless on the table surface. She looked into his eyes and saw compassion.

“I cannot discuss this now.” It made her sick to think of it. Life without Philippe? Life spent with another man? The thought was inconceivable to her.

And then her day, already unbearably agonizing, worsened.

An urgent knocking came to the open door. Marguerite turned in her chair to see Celie ringing her hands in her apron. “Mademoiselle, a word, please.”

Marguerite stepped out to the hallway and found the servants scrambling. Fear froze the blood in her veins, making her shiver. “What is it? What has happened?”

Celie’s pale eyes were reddened, as was her upturned nose. “Cook made stew for the servants from the scraps. I was late—”