Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(36) by Lorraine Heath
“To gain the title.”
“Don’t be daft, man. I didn’t want this. It comes with responsibilities, duties. My brother gave me a generous allowance, and I was a true gentleman of leisure. I cared nothing for the title.”
“Why do you suppose Miss Watkins wanted to kill him?” Swindler asked.
“Something to do with her sister. My brother…as much as it pains me to say it—and I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead—was not always kind to women.”
“He took advantage of Elisabeth Watkins?”
“In all likelihood, yes.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Swindler said. “I have no further questions at this time.”
After the marquess left, Sir David asked, “So what are you thinking, Swindler?”
“His brother had the most to gain, although I suppose it’s possible there is another woman who was wronged and sought revenge. The new Lord Rockberry simply misidentified her.”
“You’re quite certain it wasn’t Miss Watkins?”
“From the moment I first danced with her, near ten o’clock, she never left my arms.”
“Never left my sight.”
“What time did you leave the ball?”
“Half past eleven.”
“I do hope this nasty matter doesn’t come down to your word against the new Rockberry’s.”
“I shall do all in my power to ensure that it doesn’t.”
Nodding, Sir David sighed. “Right. So what is your plan?”
“Make inquiries, see if I can find this mysterious woman. If nothing comes of that, then I suspect we’ll find ourselves arresting the new Lord Rockberry.”
“Before we do that, just make bloody sure we’ve got the right of it.”
“Yes, sir. I always do.”
“I know, but I thought it bears repeating. This situation needs to be handled very delicately, Swindler.”
Swindler spent two more hours at Rockberry’s, making sketches of the room, trying to notice anything that appeared out of place. He questioned the servants. No one saw a lady arrive, so the only way she could have entered was if one of the Lords Rockberry had admitted her. His next step would be to see if he could find another lady who’d been taken advantage of. It was always possible that she wasn’t of the nobility. He would have to give more scrutiny to Rockberry’s papers and documents. Some clue might be hidden within them. He would also talk with Catherine. She’d been of little help when it came to Elisabeth Watkins, but she might know of another lady.
But before he moved forward with the investigation, he wanted to see Eleanor again. He wanted to comfort and reassure her. He also intended to ask for her hand in marriage. He couldn’t deny that it was a hasty proposal, delivered in part to spare her reputation, but he also had to admit that he’d never been as drawn to a woman as he was to her. The hours she spent in his bed had seemed far too short. He thought it very likely that they could have a good life together.
Still in possession of Luke’s carriage, he made his way to Eleanor’s lodging house and knocked briskly on the door.
When Mrs. Potter opened it, he didn’t wait for an invitation, but simply brushed past her.
“Will you please inform Miss Watkins that I have come to call?”
Mrs. Potter closed the door. “I’m afraid she’s gone, sir.”
He could well imagine Eleanor needing to walk, needing to brush off the scare she’d had that morning when she was arrested. She’d find comfort in the park, no doubt. Or perhaps she’d walked elsewhere. He could go in search of her or simply wait. He had no doubt she wouldn’t be gone long. He faced Mrs. Potter. “If you’ve no objection, I’ll wait in the parlor for her return.”
“I fear you’ll be waiting a dreadfully long time. I don’t think she’s planning to return, sir. She packed her bags. Told me not to worry about the days remaining to her, that I was welcome to hire the room out to someone else. That she’d no longer need it. She left two packages.”
Stunned beyond measure, feeling as though his body had turned to stone, Swindler watched her go into the parlor. He looked at the stairs. That was where he needed to go. He needed—
As though someone else controlled his legs, he walked into the parlor.
“The large box there is addressed to the Duchess of Greystone. I suspect it’s the lovely gown she brought over for Miss Watkins. Then she left this for you. I suspect I know what it is as well.”
Swindler opened the velvet box and stared at the pearls that only that morning had adorned Eleanor’s lovely throat. He felt as though one of the bullies from the rookeries had plowed his fist into his gut. “Are you quite certain she’s left for good?”
“Yes, sir. Bit hard to miss when she hired a couple of lads to carry out her trunk.”
She was gone? After everything they’d shared, she was gone?
The words kept echoing through his head, blocking out all other thoughts. She was gone.
As the train rumbled over the tracks, Eleanor stared at her reflection in the window. The deed was done. She should have seen satisfaction on her countenance, staring back at her. Instead, in spite of her best efforts, she saw a touch of regret. She shifted her gaze over to another reflection, one remarkably similar to hers.
“Why the long face, Emma?” she asked.
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