Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(68) by Lorraine Heath
More light was bobbing his way. He could make out the shapes now. Two men bending over someone—
The men took off at a run.
“Get them!” Sterling yelled to his footmen as he knelt beside the crumpled and broken woman.
“Dear God, it’s Miss Darling,” Wedgeworth said as he held a lamp higher.
Sterling couldn’t respond. His throat was thick with tears. Very gently he cradled her in his arms and stood. He swallowed down the knot of fear. “When Catherine fainted, Claybourne sent one of the servants to fetch a Dr. Graves.”
“Yes, Your Grace. That would have been Jessup.”
“Send him for Graves. Immediately.”
She lay so still that Sterling kept his fingers pressed to the pulse at her neck, feeling the slight, faint fluttering. She had a horrible gash on her head. One of the maids had helped him change her into a nightgown so she’d be more comfortable. She was already bruising. It was evident they’d been beating her. If only he’d seen them. If only he hadn’t stopped on the stairs. If only he had better vision at night. If only…
Sending for Graves was like putting out word using a telegraph. Claybourne, Catherine, and Swindler arrived in short order and were quickly followed by Dodger, who brought along a disreputable-looking chap he introduced as Feagan. The old man leaned on his cane, studying Frannie as she lay with her glorious red hair spread out over the pillow. This was the man Frannie had thought might be her father. Judging by the way he watched her, as though it would kill him to lose her, Sterling thought she might have the right of it.
“She’s taken quite a blow to the head,” Graves said as he leaned over, opening one closed eye and then the other. He straightened and glanced around. “I need all of you except Lady Catherine to leave so I can examine her more fully.”
Several mouths opened—
“You heard him,” Catherine said sternly. “Go. You do her no good by delaying this. We’ll join you in the library when we know more.”
As Sterling heard the others leaving, he stayed where he was—standing beside the bed, gazing down on her. Catherine touched his arm.
“Sterling, you must leave as well.”
“I need a moment.”
With a nod, she led Graves over to the sitting area.
Sterling bent over and whispered near her ear, “Please, sweet Frannie, don’t let Sykes take you. I swear to you that I’ll never let him harm you again.” He kissed her temple. It wasn’t enough but it was all he could offer her.
“I didn’t see them lurking about,” Sterling said for what seemed like the hundredth time. He wasn’t accustomed to defending his actions. He’d tried to welcome them into his library by offering them a shot of strong whiskey and anything else they wanted. It seemed all they wanted to do was determine how he was responsible for this tragedy.
“How could you not?” Swindler asked, his anger still apparent, his inquisition growing tedious.
“Enough!” Dodger shouted. “What’s done is done. What we have to do now is figure out how best to protect Frannie.”
“Sykes ain’t loikely to fergive ’er,” Feagan said. “Only one way to make sure ’e never harms ’er again.”
“And what would that be?” Sterling asked.
Swindler looked at him as though Sterling had left his common sense on a sideboard somewhere.
“We kill ’im,” Feagan said in the same tone that someone might say, “Pass the marmalade, please.”
The next words Sterling spoke were ones he’d never thought to hear himself say. “How do we manage that?”
“We have to find him first,” Claybourne said.
“Can’t you just go to his residence? Wait for him in the shadows as he did for Frannie?” Sterling asked.
“Someone like Sykes doesn’t exactly give out his address,” Swindler said. “He works in secret. He hires people to do the dirty work for him. Unless it’s very personal. Then he might see to it himself, but no one betrays Satan, because his revenge is hell.”
“We need to lure Sykes out,” Jack said. “The problem is that he knows all of us, knows how we feel about Frannie. He wouldn’t trust us if we arranged a meeting.”
“He doesn’t know me,” Sterling said.
He thought he’d have been able to hear a feather land on the floor, the room got so quiet.
“Could work,” Feagan finally said, scratching his beard.
Sterling did hope there weren’t lice living in there, although God help him, he’d welcome the pesky buggers if it meant not losing Frannie.
“What could work?” Swindler asked, the impatience clear in his voice.
“Sykes is not only a burglar, but ’e provides boys for others in the trade. Right? Right. So we get the word going that a Mr.”—Feagan looked Sterling over as though trying to measure his worth—“Knight? I think that’ll work. A Mr. Knight is in need of a breaking-in boy. And he desires a meet with Mr. Sykes.”
“Sykes isn’t going to meet with him without checking him out first,” Claybourne said.
“Course ’e won’t. He ain’t a fool. Ye’d be in the shadows watching ev’rything. Eventually, Sykes will show because our Mr. Knight ’ere will insist on doing business only with Mr. Sykes. When Mr. Sykes shows, ye take care of ’im.”
Swindler gave Sterling a hard stare. “I think we need to make certain His Grace understands exactly what we’re proposing here.”
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