And he didn’t even want to think what this would do to his mother.

“I’m going to have to leave the country,” Daniel said flatly.

“He’s not dead yet.”

Daniel turned to him, unable to believe the plainness of the statement.

“If he lives, you won’t have to leave,” Marcus said.

It was true, but Daniel couldn’t imagine that Hugh would pull through. He’d seen the blood. He’d seen the wound. Hel, he’d even seen the bone, laid bare for all to see.

No one survived such an injury. If the blood loss didn’t kill him, infection would.

“I should go see him,” Daniel finaly decided, pushing back against the bed. He swung his legs over the side and had almost touched down by the time Marcus reached him.

“That’s not a good idea,” Marcus warned.

“I need to tell him I didn’t mean it.”

Marcus’s brows rose. “I don’t think that’s going to matter.”

“It matters to me.”

“The magistrate may very well be there.”

“If the magistrate wanted me, he would have already found me here.”

Marcus considered that, then finaly stepped aside and said, “You’re right.” He held out his arm, and Daniel took it to steady himself.

“I played cards,” Daniel said in a holow voice, “because that’s what a gentleman does. And when he caled me a cheat, I caled him out, because that’s what a gentleman does.”

“Don’t do this to yourself,” Marcus said.

“No,” Daniel said darkly. He would finish. There were some things that had to be said. He turned to Marcus with flashing eyes. “I shot to the side, because that’s what a gentleman does,” he said furiously. “And I missed. I missed, and I hit him, and now I’m going to bloody well do what a man does, and go to his side, and tell him I’m sorry.”

“I will take you there,” Marcus said. It was all there was to say.

Hugh was the second son of the Marquess of Ramsgate, and he had been taken to his father’s home in St. James’s. It did not take long for Daniel to ascertain that he was not welcome.

“You!” thundered Lord Ramsgate, stretching out one arm to point at Daniel as if identifying the devil himself. “How dare you show your face here?” Daniel held himself very still. Ramsgate had a right to be angry. He was in shock. He was grieving. “I came to—”

“Pay your respects?” Lord Ramsgate cut in derisively. “I’m sure you’ll be sorry to hear that it’s a bit early for that.” Daniel alowed himself a glimmer of hope. “Then he lives?”


“I would like to apologize,” Daniel said stiffly.

Ramsgate’s eyes, already bulbous, became impossibly huge. “Apologize? Realy? You think an apology is going to save you from the galows if my son is dead?”

“That’s not why—”

“I will see you hang. Don’t think that I won’t.”

Daniel did not doubt it for a second.

“It was Hugh who issued the chalenge,” Marcus said quietly.

“I don’t care who issued the chalenge,” Ramsgate snapped. “My son did what he was supposed to do. He aimed wide. But you . . .” He turned on Daniel then, venom and grief pouring forth. “You shot him. Why would you do that?”

“I did not mean to.”

For a moment Ramsgate did nothing but stare. “You did not mean to. That is your explanation?” Daniel said nothing. It sounded weak to his own ears, as wel. But it was the truth. And it was awful.

He looked to Marcus, hoping for some sort of silent advice, something to indicate what to say, how to proceed. But Marcus looked lost, too, and Daniel supposed that they would have apologized once more and departed had not the butler entered the room just then, announcing that the doctor had come down from Hugh’s bedside.

“How is he?” Ramsgate demanded.

“He will live,” the doctor confirmed, “provided he avoids infection.”

“He will live,” the doctor confirmed, “provided he avoids infection.”

“And the leg?”

“He will keep it. Again, if he avoids infection. But he will limp, and he may very well be lame. The bone was splintered. I set it as best I could . . .” The doctor shrugged. “There is only so much I can do.”

“When will you know if he has escaped infection?” Daniel asked. He had to know.

The doctor turned. “Who are you?”

“The devil who shot my son,” Ramsgate hissed.

The doctor drew back in shock, and then in self-preservation as Ramsgate stalked across the room. “You listen to me,” he said malevolently, advancing until he and Daniel were nearly nose to nose. “You will pay for this. You have ruined my son. Even if he lives, he will be ruined, with a ruined leg, and a ruined life.” A cold knot of unease swirled in Daniel’s chest. He knew Ramsgate was upset; he had every right to be. But something more was at work here. The marquess looked unbalanced, possessed.

“If he dies,” Ramsgate hissed, “you will hang. And if he doesn’t die, if you somehow escape the rule of law, I will kill you.” They were standing so close to one another that Daniel could feel the moist air that escaped Ramsgate’s mouth with every word. And as he looked into the older man’s glittering green eyes, he knew what it meant to be afraid.

Lord Ramsgate was going to kill him. It was only a matter of time. Copyright 2016 - 2024