A Notorious Vow (The Four Hundred #3)(4)

By: Joanna Shupe

Now he was the closest thing Oliver had to a friend.

“You are looking well,” Henry signed after placing his bag on the ground.

“Must be all the whoring and boozing,” Oliver answered. “Thank you for coming so quickly.”

“Happy to help,” Henry signed. “I was at the hospital uptown today.” He turned toward the sofa. “And you are the injured woman I have been told about. Are you able to recall what happened?”

“I was knocked down by a dog. Apparently I hit my head on a bench when I fell.”

“May I take a look at your injury?”

“Of course,” she answered, fingertips gingerly touching her injury. “Though I cannot imagine there is much to see other than a bump on my head.”

“Oh, you would be surprised.” Henry gave her a kind smile, the one Oliver knew the doctor used to put patients at ease. Henry knelt by the side of the sofa and put his black bag on the ground. “What is your name, miss?”

Oliver wasn’t certain he’d read her answer correctly so he glanced at Gill. His butler spelled each letter. Christina. A pretty name. It suited her.

Henry performed a quick examination, focusing mostly on her coordination and vision to look for signs of impairment. During this time, Gill had a tea tray brought up. Oliver helped himself to a few scones while he attempted to curb his impatience. It was not easy. The sooner she left, the sooner he could get back to his workshop.

Finally, Henry finished cleaning and bandaging her wound. “I cannot see there are any serious injuries, miss, but you should take it easy for a few days. You have a nasty gash on your head. Make sure to rest and drink plenty of liquids.”

“Oh, I am certain there is no cause for concern.”

Henry presented her with a card. “A head injury is not to be taken lightly. Send for me or your family physician if you start to see double.” After she nodded and thanked him, Henry threw a meaningful look at Oliver. “May we speak privately?” he signed.

The two of them walked into the corridor. Henry placed his bag down and began signing. “Why was she in your gardens?”

“I have no idea. I’ve never met her before today.” At Henry’s disbelieving expression, Oliver signed, “You think I am lying.”

“I think there is a young pretty girl wandering about your estate. Dare I hope you have decided to secure future generations of Hawkeses?”

“I am not courting her. The idea is preposterous. And my sister is welcome to carry on behalf of the family.”

“I think it is a marvelous idea,” Henry signed. “First, Sarah is only eleven. Second, you need to rejoin the rest of the world.”

This was an old battle. Oliver’s hand movements grew sharp. “I am perfectly fine just as I am.”

This was not a lie. He’d tried to carry on with what gentlemen considered a “normal” life after school. It had resulted in being called “dumb” and “broken” at every turn. Why should he try to fit into a society that so readily dismissed him? That would sooner see him locked away in an asylum before allowing him into the Metropolitan Club? As far as he was concerned, the uptown set could go hang.

Henry’s mouth tightened but he did not argue. “I shall send you my bill.” He clapped Oliver on the shoulder and departed.

Christina was sitting upright, drinking tea, when the man walked back in. So this was Mr. Hawkes, the recluse her cousin had told her about. He was fairly young, which surprised her. Dark hair had been swept away from rugged features, showing off a Roman-type nose and broad jaw. Full lips and nice, even teeth. She noticed he wore only shirtsleeves and a waistcoat, along with dark trousers tapered to his long legs.

However, it was his eyes that drew her in. A vivid green, the irises were so unique and pretty they were almost difficult to look at. Right now, his eyes were focused intently, appreciatively, on her, as if he saw every flaw, every lie she’d ever told and did not mind a bit. As if he found her fascinating and beautiful—which had to be her imagination. She must’ve hit her head harder than she thought.

The butler signed to Mr. Hawkes and then disappeared, leaving her alone with the owner. Weirdly, that did not concern her. According to the butler, Mr. Hawkes had rescued her earlier when she fell. If Mr. Hawkes meant to do her harm, why bring her inside and call a doctor? Still, she had likely overstayed her welcome.

“A gentlemen is always less eager for a lady’s company than she for his,” her mother liked to say.

Christina set her tea on the table and started to push up, but Mr. Hawkes surprised her by motioning for her to remain seated. Even more alarming, he dropped down next to her on the sofa. She tried to remain calm and not fidget as he pulled a small ledger and pencil from his pocket and began writing in it. He held the words out for her to read. How do you feel?

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