The Duke of Vengeance – Preview

A Historical Regency Romance Novel

About the book

“You deserve the world. But I am too broken to be able to give you that.” ”

 

Lady Lydia always loved mysteries. So, when she accidentally overheard two men arguing in the dark, she knew she needed to get to the bottom of it. No matter how great the danger…

 

When Duke Edwin’s sister disappeared two years ago, he swore he would not give up until he found her. So, he is more than furious when a nosy spinster almost ruins his carefully laid out plans. Until she discovers some hidden letters between her sister and an anonymous admirer, leading right up to her disappearance.

 

To justify the time the two spend together, they decide the only solution is to fake a courtship between them. But pretending to be in love makes it all that harder to resist the undeniable passion that starts to develop between them, and they cannot afford any distractions. For another lady has just disappeared. And the letters that Lydia’s sister has started receiving look dangerously close to those they found hidden in his sister’s closet..

Chapter One

 

 

“I did not think that any of them would turn out like this,” Lydia Lambert, the eldest daughter of the Earl of Russton, heard someone say nearby. She recognized the voice. It belonged to an old friend of her late mother’s, and most certainly, the woman was talking about Lydia herself and her sisters.

“Like what?” another voice asked. Lydia wondered that herself as she eavesdropped on a conversation that was about her yet not meant for her.

“Well, so… appropriately,” the woman replied with incredulity in her voice.

Lydia looked proudly around the ballroom, congratulating herself on a job well done. Her rosy, freckled cheeks were glowing with delight as she watched her younger sister, Selina, dance with the Viscount of Lipton and their youngest sister Anna converse joyfully with the other ladies. Things were finally all in their place as they should be. There would be weddings afoot, and she was the one responsible for the joyful union.

“… late mother… absent father… older sister took good care of them…” That was all Lydia heard as she distanced herself from the ladies and this conversation. She had heard enough.

She exhaled with relief, thinking that she deserved a break. All this stress of being a constant help to her sisters had started to take a toll on her. Truth be told, it was simply how life had turned out for them. The untimely and tragic death of their mother left the Lambert family in a state of utter disarray.

The Earl, although a kind and loving man who would do anything for his daughters, was completely oblivious to the needs of three young girls. He always expected his wife to be there, to lead them onto the right path and eventually into the arms of a loving husband. Without the matronly presence, the Earl felt lost, like a ship in the open seas having entered a tempest without any sight of salvation in the form of land.

Quickly, it became obvious to Lydia that she would need to be the motherly presence in her sisters’ lives. As for her… well, her own happiness would not be a priority. First, she needed to lead her sisters onto the right path and only then, focus on herself.

Suddenly, she felt someone’s reassuring hand on her shoulder. She turned around and was met with her father’s loving gaze. She smiled back.

“Are you enjoying yourself, my dear?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, mostly so he would not worry. She would rather have a moment of peace with her own thoughts.

“Why aren’t you with your sisters or with your friends?” he wondered. “I hate to see you all alone.”

She almost told him that she’d had so few precious moments alone lately that she relished every single one of them. But he would not understand, just like he did not understand many things that were happening lately.

“I shall join them in a moment, rest assured,” she said, propping herself up on her toes to give him a peck on the cheek. “I think I need a breath of fresh air first.”

“Would you like me to accompany you?” he suggested.

“No,” she shook her head, and at that moment, someone by her father’s side, an old friend, pulled him back into the conversation which obviously needed his presence to continue. 

Throwing one last glance to assure herself that everything was truly in order with her sisters, she headed out into the garden for some fresh air. The garden was illuminated enough for her to venture a little further away from the house, seeking a moment of peace and solitude. Surrounded by tall blossoming flower beds, tall trees, and thick shrubbery, she closed her eyes, enjoying the peace and quiet.

Then, suddenly, she heard angry voices coming from the other side of the thick, bushy fence. She tried to peer through it, but the thick leaves and the darkness did not allow her to see clearly or to see at all, for that matter. If she wished to see the two men, she would need to walk around the fence towards the opening.

Everything inside of her told her she should head back. This was none of her business whatever it was these two men were discussing. But Lydia Lambert was a lover of a good mystery, and what was more mysterious than two men arguing while concealed in the garden?

Led by curiosity, Lydia walked closer. Ever since she was a little child, she loved solving puzzles and mysteries. She would have one of the servants hide an object then leave clues as to its whereabouts. Lydia had come a long way in her search for good mysteries since those days, but this one promised to be the biggest one yet. There was no chance that Lydia would allow this chance to slip past her. She had to see what all this was about, even if that knowledge came at a price. After all, didn’t the solution to all good mysteries come at a certain price? The only question was whether someone was willing to pay it or not.

With those thoughts in mind, Lydia tiptoed closer. The voices were becoming clearer. She could hear what they were saying, instead of only snippets. Revealing only a part of her face, she caught a glance of the two men. One seemed familiar. The other, who had his back turned to her, did not. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness easily although there was enough light coming from the torches around.

“Tell me, damn you!” the one facing her demanded of the other, his voice laden with fury. “When was the last time you saw her?”

“I do not owe you any explanations!” the other one spat back even more angrily.

Light from a nearby torch illuminated the first man’s face. He was tall, much taller than what was considered to be average male height. His shoulders were equally broad to match his height, and his arms were long, ending in fingers that were now curled up into fists. His brown hair was tousled, wild, and curly, but his eyes were what captured her attention. They were a striking blue, the color of pure rainfall. She could see that even from this distance as his eyes shone bright in the darkness, fueled with despair and rage.

The other man still had his back turned to her. He was shorter. His voice was deeper, and it resembled a growl more than human speech. His entire body was positioned forward as if he were about to attack the other man. He was merely biding his time, waiting for the right moment.

“Answer me!” the other man demanded, sounding enraged. He obviously needed this information as much as he needed the air to breathe. Lydia wondered who the woman in question was. Perhaps a paramour? A sister? Someone obviously very important if that man was willing to make such a scene during a ball.

“If you keep pestering gentlemen such as myself on these issues, I shall make sure that you are cast away from the ton in no time,” the man with his back to Lydia threatened.

She wondered if such a threat had any weight. If the other man valued his position in society, he would not be here, verbally attacking this man and demanding answers so publicly. He probably did not care one bit what the ton would think of his total lack of manners. He was obviously trying to find out something important, and he refused to allow anyone to stand in his way.

“I shall keep pestering whoever I damn well please,” the man with the questions growled his insistence, “until I have the answers I am searching for!”

Once again, there was the issue of the mysterious lady. Lydia could not help but wonder about her identity and what she meant to the man. He must have loved her dearly. The thought panged her. She doubted that such deep, passionate love was destined for her. For her younger sisters, certainly. She had made sure to teach them all about what they needed to look for in a man who would prove to be a good husband. As for herself and her own husband, she had no time to ponder on that topic. It was not a priority.

Even now, she believed that she had been deemed by all eligible men in town as someone who was focused on her sisters and not her own life. No man wanted a wife who valued the happiness of her siblings more than her own happiness. Yet, that was something that came naturally to Lydia. No one forced her to become a second mother to Anna and Selina. It was a role she stepped into, almost like second nature. Then that second nature became first, and she slowly realized that she was living for her sisters with her own life blending into the backdrop.

“I won’t ask you again,” the man snarled.

At this point, Lydia believed that the two men would fight each other. That was the only way she could see this ending.

“You were the one who accosted me in the garden of this ball!” the other man replied. “I should call the constables to have you removed!”

“Call them. I shall gladly share with them what I know regarding your involvement in all this!”

“My involvement!” the man screeched. “How dare you accuse me of anything! Why someone might overhear you and – ”

At that moment, a dry branch snapped underneath Lydia’s foot. She didn’t immediately realize that she had made that sound. Only after the two men turned in her direction, staring at her in shock and disbelief, did she realize that she had made her presence known.

The first man, the one with the questions, had his eyes blue and wide like the oceans. It took her only a single moment to realize that she knew that man. She knew who he was which made this situation even more awkward. She wanted to run away without saying a word, but something forced her to remain there, to stay put and endure their shocked gazes of incredulity.

Her eyes traversed the distance from the first man to the second, the one who refused to reveal what he knew regarding the mysterious lady. She had no idea who he was. Besides, she only managed to take a single look at him, not long enough for any of his features to awaken the memory of someone she knew. Realizing that someone was eavesdropping on their conversation, the other man instantly ran away, disappearing in the garden. His footsteps reverberated for a few seconds then everything was enshrouded in silence once more.

The only thing Lydia could hear was the frantic beating of her own heart, palpitating in her throat, making it increasingly more difficult to breathe. She still had to endure the scornful gaze of the man who refused to take his eyes off of her. When he spoke, it was cold and without any affection.

“I had him right where I wanted him,” he told her, his nostrils flaring with anger that things obviously did not end the way he had hoped they would. “Are you pleased now?”

Chapter Two

 

 

 

“I… I… I’m sorry, I…” the lady who ruined the one chance he had of finding his sister kept stuttering her apology which, at this point, served very little purpose if any.

Edwin Carter, the Duke of Combston, did not know this woman. In fact, he believed that he had never seen her in his life prior to this moment. She was a stunning vision of strawberry blonde hair and green eyes, standing in her curve-hugging gown. Her rosy cheeks were flushed into a poppy red, most probably the result of having been caught eavesdropping on a conversation that had nothing to do with her.

He tried not to allow her beauty to distract him from his purpose which was more important to his own existence. He could not believe that he was so close to finding out what he needed to know. He had that man right where he wanted him. It was a chance that would only occur once in a lifetime, and this was it. He would be getting no second chances. He sighed heavily at the thought, blinking hard as if his own eyelids threatened to close on him.

“I…” she said again, her lower lip quivering, then she turned to go without being able to finish her thought.

“You know, the least you can do right now is introduce yourself,” he shouted after her.

His words stopped her mid-step. Her gown fluttered around her feet in the night breeze. Despite all his conscious effort not to pay attention to that, he still could not stop seeing her as a stunning vision in lilac, a light emanating from somewhere deep inside of her. The light of curiosity? It seemed he would need to remind her that curiosity killed the cat.

She hesitated for a moment. He thought she would not dare turn to face him. She would run back inside, hoping he would not follow her. To be quite honest, he had no intention of following her. He had other people he needed to follow, other people he needed to speak urgently to. This lady, beautiful though she may be, was a distraction.

Then, she turned around. Her eyes were fierce, unyielding, although everything about her body assured him that she was one step away from running back inside. That was her first instinct. Yet, he seemed to intrigue her as much as she intrigued him, no matter how reluctant he was to admit this.

“I am Lady Lydia Lambert,” she announced, her voice trembling, but she managed to push on. “I am the daughter of the Earl of Russton.

Edwin knew the Earl only superficially. He had been introduced to him on one occasion and exchanged a few pleasantries with him, but other than that, the man was a stranger. His daughter was even more so.

“I am–”

“I know who you are,” she interrupted him. For some inexplicable reason, it pleased him that she knew him. “You are Edwin Carter, the Duke of Combston.”

He expected her to curtsy in front of him, but she did no such thing. That amused him even more. He reached into his pocket, well aware of the fact that she was not taking her eyes off of him for even a second. He took out a cigar then proceeded to light it.

“Well, if that is all–” she started, but this time, he decided to interrupt her back.

“No,” he cut her off, inhaling deeply, enjoying the smoke filling his being. He knew it was a horrible habit. He was supposed to have quit it a long time ago. In fact, he managed to quit then this whole madness happened, and it was now the only thing that provided some solace in this tempest of troubles. “The least you can do now is keep me company for a little while,” he added nonchalantly.

He had spent so much time chasing ghosts for the past two years that he had already forgotten what it was like to be in the company of a lovely young lady. Perhaps he could be a normal gentleman just for a few precious minutes and just enjoy her company.

He thought she would refuse his request. After all, they were outside in the garden, alone. Unchaperoned. Her reputation might be at risk if someone came outside and saw them. Then he remembered what she had already done. She had already risked her reputation by coming out alone then eavesdropping on a conversation that was none of her business. She was obviously unlike any other young lady he had met before. That too intrigued him immensely.

“I apologize for my lack of manners,” she said, regaining some of her composure, although that blush on her cheeks was still as prominent now as it was several minutes ago. It suited her perfectly. He didn’t like that pale, porcelain complexion ladies preferred these days. He enjoyed some blush on a young lady’s face.

Her voice soothed him in a way he found surprising. While he was still angry regarding how this situation ended, he realized that he was eager for some company. Her company.

“I was simply worried because I heard two people arguing,” she added.

He grinned. “You thought you could talk some sense into us?”

“I…” she started, but once again, could not bring herself to finish. Her confusion was so endearing.

“You were curious,” he pointed out, taking another puff of his cigar.

She pressed her plump lips together so tightly that they turned into one single slit on her moonlit face. He was right. She simply did not wish to tell him that he was.

“I can’t blame you for being curious,” he finally said, wishing to take some strain off of her. Besides, it was true. If he heard someone arguing, he would probably have done the same thing. Claiming otherwise would be unfair. “Although, curiosity can be a dangerous thing, especially for a young lady.”

As soon as he said those words, he could not help but think of his sister. It had been two years since her disappearance. Two long years, with each passing day more difficult than the one that preceded it. Rachel had always been a wallflower. There was childlike curiosity in her, and that was how she perceived the world. She was gullible and trusting. She believed all men and women were good, decent people. She never even dreamed that someone might have any desire to harm her in any way. 

Rachel was his younger sister, his only sister. As her older brother, he was supposed to be her protector. They were supposed to be each other’s harbor. They were supposed to keep each other safe from harm. He failed her. That was why he could not rest until she was found and brought back home.

“I think curiosity is what makes life truly worth living.” She surprised him with her reply, bringing him from his troubled thoughts back to the present moment. “If you aren’t inquisitive, if you don’t ask questions, if you don’t notice the mysterious things around you, why are you living then?”

For a moment, he was stunned into silence. He had to admit that he wasn’t expecting such a profound response, especially not in the situation they had found themselves in.

“You like mysteries?” he wondered, already sensing what her answer would be.

“Ever since I was a child,” she confirmed. “I think life is one big mystery. We all have this capability of trying to solve it, but not everyone wants to do it. Some are content living mediocre lives without questioning any of the whys or the hows.”

Suddenly, he realized that her curiosity might be a problem. She might start asking questions, and that was the last thing he needed right now.

“Did you recognize the man I was speaking to?” he asked her, sounding grave. She noticed the change in tone. He could see it in her expression.

“No,” she shook her head. “Who was he?”

“That doesn’t matter,” he replied with silent relief. This didn’t mean that she would not be asking any questions on her own, but at least she did not know who the man was. “Believe me, it’s better for you that you do not know him.”

“Why were you arguing with him?” she asked boldly, and once again, he was stunned by her determination to find out more about what just happened.

He smiled. “I’m afraid that would be a tale too long to tell in the few minutes I plan on spending here with you. Furthermore, it is a tale that still has no end, so I would not know exactly what to tell you. Bottom line, it is best that you do not tell anyone of what you’ve witnessed here.”

“I might do that,” she told him, “but my curiosity needs to be satiated.”

She said it with such sweet determination that he could not help but chuckle out loud. He took one last puff of his cigar then threw it on the ground carelessly, stepping on it with his shoe. Yet another thing that was not exactly according to the rules of the ton, but he stopped caring about those a long time ago — somewhere around the time when his sister disappeared, and he realized that he had no one to rely on for help, no one but himself.

“You are a tough negotiator,” he had to give her that. She seemed to like that unusual compliment. “All I can tell you is that I spoke to this man demanding information regarding the disappearance of my sister.”

Upon hearing that, her facial expression changed immediately. There was no more defiance, no more confidence, just pure human sympathy. He had not seen such an expression of true compassion in a long time. It surprised him to see it from a complete stranger.

“I am truly sorry to hear that,” she said softly.

Against his better judgment, he continued talking about Rachel. “Everyone thinks she is dead,” he admitted, and the potential truth of those words weighed heavily upon his heart, like the stab of a thousand daggers all piercing through him at the same time in one swift puncture. “Or that she ran away of her own accord,” he added the other, softer version of events, the one which he still wholeheartedly believed in. “I am certain that she is still out there, waiting for me to find her, and that is what I intend to do, no matter what.”

She smiled. It was a smile unlike any other he had ever seen. In it, he could see the glow of innocent cherubs, and he could hear the music of an angelic chorus, all voices singing in unison as one.

“I would have done the same for my sisters,” she admitted. In that admission, he felt he just gained an ally.

There were so many other questions inside his mind. He suddenly wanted to know all there was to know about her. He wanted to hear her thoughts, her wishes, her dreams. But the silence was overpowering. A comfortable silence. The sort of silence that enshrouded one in a cozy embrace, promising only good things to come.

He had no idea how long they were standing like that, occasionally catching each other’s gaze only to look away again. He could not have imagined that this woman would understand him more than those who knew him for ages. She took one look at him and understood why he refused to give up searching for his sister. It was simply how older siblings were. At some point, they become parents, protectors, guides. It was a role one would never outgrow. It lasted forever.

Then, the spell seemed to be broken. It made Edwin sad, but he knew that this moment could not last forever. It came suddenly, and it caught him by surprise. He welcomed its appearance nonetheless, despite the knowledge that it was all too fleeting.

“Well, I’d best head back inside,” she said, still with that flicker of a smile on her face.

“Of course,” he nodded. He regretted putting her in this risky situation of being unchaperoned with a gentleman, but at the same time, he relished the precious time they had together. He was certain that she was a lady unlike any other he had met. A part of him wished to see her again, but he was caught up in the momentum of things occupying his life right now. He had no time for courting. It would be unfair to her.

“Good night,” she told him, her lips widening into a proper smile this time. Her eyes sparkled even more now as if filled with some inner light she had revealed only to him right now.

“Good night,” he smiled back.

She turned to go then stopped. When their eyes locked, she made him a promise. “Your secret is safe with me, Edwin.”

 

With those words, she tiptoed back into the house, disappearing from sight. The sound of his name on her lips inflamed him. It awakened passions he thought were long buried and forgotten under the burden of finding his sister. But they were there. They had awakened. And he feared it would be a difficult task to put them back to sleep again. 

 

Chapter Three

 

 “Susannah?” Lydia called out to her lady’s maid that evening as Susannah was combing her hair, preparing her mistress for bed. She gave her one of those looks. Lydia knew that Susannah would recognize exactly what was expected of her. No words of explanation were necessary. The plan for that evening was more than obvious.

“You can braid my hair in the back,” Lydia instructed. “I want to be as simple as possible. Nothing convoluted. Also, if you would be so kind as to bring me your blue dress from last time, the one with the roses. I really liked that one. It is so comfortable for dancing!”

Susannah smiled. Lydia smiled in return, taking her friend’s hand into her own. “You have no idea how much I appreciate your willingness to cooperate with me in my shenanigans,” she chuckled. That was what Susannah and she always called their adventures.

“You know, in all the years of me working as a servant girl, which I’m counting now more than ten, I never had such a strange request,” Susannah expressed her surprise as many times before. “Not that I mind, My Lady. It is, in fact, nice to see someone wanting to be an ordinary woman instead of it being the other way around.”

“This is all sometimes suffocating,” Lydia admitted, looking around at nothing in particular, “but I am grateful for it all, nonetheless. I simply like to live outside the confines of this house.”

The rest of the house was sound asleep. Lydia had started sleeping in her own chamber years ago, leaving Anna and Selina in another to keep each other company while she herself got some respite from everyday obligations. That privacy was also rather beneficial when it came to Lydia’s nightly wanderings as she liked to refer to them.

“You know,” Lydia remembered, “I will never forget the first time I explained what was required of you.” They both chuckled. “You could not understand why I wanted to dress as a commoner, make my hair in that same manner, and go out to a tavern where I would be treated as any other commoner.”

“I honestly could not, My Lady.,” Susannah admitted, amused by this reminiscence.

“You see, for someone like me, it made perfect sense. Every single hour of every single day requires of me to be prim and proper. My own behavior always needed to be a guide for the behavior of my sisters. That means if I were to make any mistakes in behavior and decorum, my sisters would follow suit, and I could not have that.” She paused to sigh heavily then she continued, “It is very difficult to appear constantly proper, to perpetually speak and act in the right manner.”

“And when you are a commoner, you do not need to be any of these things,” Susannah added.

“I could be someone else,” Lydia agreed.  “During these outings, Lady Lydia Lambert does not exist any longer. She is asleep in her chamber. The Lydia that is out there is someone else entirely, someone who does not need to think about manners and decorum, someone who could watch people live completely differently from her, simply and without the restraints of polite society that I feel are strangling me like a noose.”

“You know I will always be there for you, whatever it is you wish to do, My Lady,” Susannah smiled, and Lydia felt overwhelmed to have someone by her side in her adventures. After all, going through them alone would not be even half the fun, and it might even be dangerous as well. 

 That night, like all those nights before, Lydia and Susannah snuck out of the house, making sure that no one noticed their departure. They could never use their own carriage for these purposes. Lydia could not trust one of their footmen with this secret. She was already forced to place her trust in Susannah. That was one person, but more than one would mean that a secret was not as safe. Lydia would worry that one of them might mention something unintentionally to her father, who would probably have a heart attack to learn what his eldest daughter had been up to behind his back! Lydia generously wanted to save him from the burden of that knowledge.

At first, Susannah felt uneasy about all this, but slowly, she learned to enjoy it as well. Lydia felt unrestrained. She could converse with people. She could laugh with them. She could dance to her heart’s content, and no one would be any the wiser.

Upon entering the tavern, Lydia was washed over with the rowdy sounds of song and merry laughter. Everywhere she looked, she could not recognize a single face. It made her even more comfortable. She ordered two drinks for them and immediately started to dance. A few men were giving her interested glances, but she was never afraid when she was in a tavern. Lydia had learned not to return those gazes, and it quickly proved to the men that she was not interested in them but rather in dancing and having fun.

However, sometimes it happened that there was someone who did not understand such subtle hints, and Lydia had to be more vocal about it. When a man approached her while she was dancing, she smiled back politely but tried not to engage in either dancing or conversing with him.  However, he was resolute to exchange a few words with her. He leaned closer to her, and she could smell beer on him.

“Oy, luv,” she heard him say, drawling out the words. “Fancy a dance wif me?”

“Thank you,” she smiled, trying not to get too close to him as he had already tried to put his arms around her. “I’m here with my friend, and I wouldn’t want to lose sight of her.” That was the first thing that popped to mind. She could not very well refuse him outright. It would be rude. It might also be dangerous. She did not know what sort of a man he was. It was best to always deny people’s wishes in the gentlest manner possible.

“I can ‘andle two of yah,” he told her with a lewd look in his eyes, after which he laughed loudly.

Just when she was about to tell him that she was not interested, another woman came up and pulled the man by the arm.

“Come nah, Tim, leave the girls alone, will ya?” The lady gave Lydia an understanding look, and Lydia smiled.

“I was just…” the man started, but the woman, who was obviously his sister or perhaps a good friend but not his wife, kept pulling him away good-humoredly, telling him it was not nice to accost young ladies in such a manner.

Lydia sighed with relief, already thinking that such a situation could have escalated into something she would be unable to control. Such a possibility was always present, and she was well aware of that. After all, she and Susannah were two young ladies out on their own without any gentlemen to keep them safe.

At the same time, this was what she wanted, to be away from anyone who might be enshrouding her with protection. She could handle herself, and she could protect herself well enough. Truth be told, she still hadn’t found herself in such a situation, but something told her that she would be able to handle herself just fine.

She continued dancing, minding her drink and just having fun with Susannah. She was a nobody here. She was just another nameless face in a crowd, acting exactly how she wanted to act. There was no right or wrong. There were no demands that chained her to act in a certain way. She could be who she truly was. She could express her curiosity about the world around her and about the people in it and everything that ever interested her.

No one in her family understood this need of hers. She knew if they ever found out, they would be shocked. Even worse, they would be disappointed in her. Flabbergasted, even, that she would want to experience something like that. Lydia knew that no matter how hard she tried to explain it, she would never be able to make them see things the way she saw them. So, it was best to keep this side of herself a secret. As for Susannah, Lydia was certain that the sweet girl would not tell a soul about their occasional nightly wanderings. In addition to that, she was well compensated for them which was another incentive to keep quiet about them.

Lydia had no idea how long they were there as one hour blended into the next. Suddenly, Susannah pulled her by the hand and leaned to whisper something in her ear.

“Isn’t that Philip?” Susannah pointed at a man in the corner of the tavern who was too busy chatting with his friends to notice them.

Lydia looked in that direction. It took her eyes a little while to focus her gaze then she truly did recognize one of the footmen employed in her home. He had distinctively wide lips which revealed almost all of his teeth not only when he smiled but also when he spoke, so recognizing him was no difficult feat.

Lydia knew that it was imperative they were not seen. Although she was dressed differently, and her hair was done unlike she usually did it, she was not disguised in the sense that her face was any different. He would surely recognize her if he came up to her closely. She could not allow that to happen. She needed this secret. She needed this one thing that was solely hers, that brought her so much relief and comfort.

“We need to leave, now,” she told Susannah as fear gripped her. The longer they stayed there, the more likely it was that Philip would look in their direction and see them. If not her, he would recognize Susannah and surely approach her to greet her.

The two women held hands, searching for another way out which they found after asking for it. They stumbled out into the dark night, and for a moment, Lydia could not tell whether they were supposed to go left or right to get back to the main road. She pulled Susannah left and, mistakenly, ended up in an even darker alley. The moment they stepped into it, Lydia saw a group of four men, huddling in a corner, talking in a hushed manner.

She swallowed heavily, gripping Susannah’s hand. A lady alone in an alley at night was not safe, especially if there was a group of men involved. Their best option was to slowly back up the way they came from, but instantly, one of the men turned to face them. The moment he saw them, his face lit up. Then, the eyes of others fell upon them, and the two girls froze in place. Lydia could not remember the last time she was this frightened. Susannah squeezed her hand tightly.

If they ran back, they might make it. Those were the first thoughts that rushed through Lydia’s mind. It would take them only a few seconds. The men would not catch up with them that quickly.

But something forced her to remain where she was. That man. She had seen him somewhere before. But… where?

“Wait…” that same man spoke to her, pointing his index finger at her. “I know you!”

Lydia’s heart sank all the way down to her heels. It seemed that the feeling was more than mutual. 

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3 comments

  1. Wow what an interesting story! I can’t hardly wait to read the rest. Lots of mystery to solve. I love a good thriller.

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Your Privacy is 100% protected. I hate spam, so I never do it.

Fill in the blanks to read the Extended Epilogue

Your Privacy is 100% protected. I hate spam, so I never do it.

Fill in the blanks to read the Extended Epilogue

Your Privacy is 100% protected. I hate spam, so I never do it.

Fill in the blanks to read the Extended Epilogue

Your Privacy is 100% protected. I hate spam, so I never do it.

Fill in the blanks to read the Extended Epilogue

Your Privacy is 100% protected. I hate spam, so I never do it.

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Your Privacy is 100% protected. I hate spam, so I never do it.

Fill in the blanks to read the Extended Epilogue

Your Privacy is 100% protected. I hate spam, so I never do it.