The Missing Marquess of Althorn(99)

By: Chasity Bowlin


He frowned. “I’ve insulted you and I assure you it was purely by accident… I don’t mean to imply that I move in exalted circles, miss. Quite the opposite. I only look like a gentleman. I am not one. And regardless of your current employment, I daresay you are always a lady. Good day to you.”

Elizabeth watched him walk away and wondered what sort of man would dress so finely, speak so eloquently and display such pristine manners while referring to himself as not a gentleman. He was puzzling to be certain, but handsome puzzles that piqued her curiosity and her attraction were a recipe for disaster. She could not afford to be intrigued by him. She could not afford to do anything that would sway her from her current bleak but proper course.

Looking over her shoulder once more, she saw that the large workman was gone. “I am letting my foolish imagination get the better of me,” she muttered and turned to make her way toward the baths. It had been a curious day to say the least. Given the appointment she had arranged for Lady Vale for later that evening, it was only destined to grow stranger by the hour.

*

Benedict watched the woman from a secluded doorway. Concealed in the shadows, he watched the large man lumber away, taking a set of stairs that would lead down to the river. It had been the rough-looking man who’d first caught his attention. The ruffian matched the description he’d been given by the porter of the man he’d seen following Mary only a week earlier. In the square, surrounded by fashionably dressed ladies out to shop, pay calls and take the waters, he’d stood out like the proverbial sore thumb with his rough clothes and rougher appearance.

As Benedict had observed him, it had become glaringly apparent that the man was actually watching someone else. He’d kept his gaze glued to a small storefront. When the woman had emerged, dressed in her drab brown with her tightly-coiffed hair, he’d noted that the large man relaxed immediately. She was his quarry, there was no doubt.

Reflecting on the woman, Benedict had determined two things about her immediately. Underneath her drab costume, and he couldn’t help but feel it was, indeed, a costume—an affectation for whatever reason—she was far lovelier than she wanted anyone to realize. She’d also been attuned to the danger that the other man posed. Which begged the question of why she would be familiar with such? Had it been a simple instinctive response, like a rabbit running from a fox? Or did she know him?

The large man emerged again from the stairs he’d taken. Had he ducked out of sight to answer the call of nature or to report his findings to someone else? Benedict considered his options. He could follow the woman and assume that the hulking goon was, in fact, hunting her, or he could follow the goon and see if, perhaps, he’d been wrong in assessing the situation.

The woman piqued his interest. She was a study in contradictions and he had always enjoyed a puzzle. But she was also a distraction, and one that he could ill afford. Following her could confirm whether or not the other man was a threat to her and, by extrapolation, had been a threat to his sister. But if he was wrong, if the lumbering oaf watching her had simply been a coincidence, he would have lost his advantage there. As the miscreant was the more likely source of information if he was to locate Mary, Benedict bid a mental farewell to the vexing woman who had nearly upended them both and followed the thug.

Get The Vanishing of Lord Vale now in eBook or in paperback!