How to Capture a Duke(8)

By: Bianca Blythe


By Zeus, we’re being attacked.

He stuffed the package into a fold of his great coat. This was everything the dowager had worried about, and everything he’d sworn he wouldn’t allow to happen.

No one was supposed to know he was here. How in Hades had this person found him?

Blast.

The driver hardly resembled the brave type. Mail coaches lauded their tendency to employ former soldiers, but Graeme must have been a veteran from the war with the colonies, if the color of his whiskers was any indication.

Percival pulled his knife from his boot. So much for conquering Napoleon at Waterloo—now he had to suffer the indignity of being attacked at home. He should have stayed in London. Even the most tiresome balls didn’t involve weapons.

It would be a blasted pain if this ended up in the newspapers. Cartoonists were eager enough to chronicle his brother’s misdeeds, now that there was less reason to draw unflattering depictions of France’s onetime emperor, now safely imprisoned on St. Helena.

The woman hadn’t lowered her knife. He hoped she was not gifted at knife throwing.

Something sounded outside, and the woman’s red lips parted, her eyes appearing wider than before. “You’re pointing a weapon at me?”

“You bet your pretty face I am,” the driver said.

She blinked.

“Anybody with you?” The driver’s voice was firm, and Percival almost cheered. Maybe he wouldn’t even need to be heroic.



***



Fiona stared into the barrel of a musket. The experience proved as horrid as she would have imagined. The wind seemed to cease its frantic swirl, the leaves paused from rustling, and all she could focus on was the long blunderbuss fixed directly on her.

Guns were not supposed to be pointed at her. Not now, not ever. Her life was quiet. Weapons were things that were directed at other people, who did reprehensible things. “You’ve made a mistake.”

“I think not.” The man’s hands were steady.

Every aspect of the driver’s appearance seemed ordinary, and the coach itself was a mere mail coach, lacking any embellishment. And yet the driver’s bushy eyebrows crinkled together, as if she, not he, were acting inappropriately.

She raised her chin and strove to keep her voice steady. “Please put the weapon down.”

He laughed, a deep rumble that grated against her. The frigid temperature verged on unbearable, the icy wind stung her face, and she had no patience to converse with some argumentative driver whose life she was attempting to save.

“There is a tree in the road. If you go much farther, your coach will be crushed.”

The driver narrowed his eyes further.

“No doubt you will consider that it is winter and you are over a mile from the nearest estate.”

“What is it, Graeme?” A deep voice startled her from her musings. The voice was authoritative and the accent cultured, sweeping her away from the Northern accents, devoid of polish, to which she was accustomed.

Her heart hammered, and she reminded herself that just because a person was in possession of a pleasant voice, did not indicate a person’s propensity for regular features, wide shoulders, and all the other traits of handsomeness.

The man peeked out from behind the curtain.

He was only lifting his head from a carriage window, but it may as well have been from the clouds that soared above.

Chestnut curls peeked from the satiny edge of a beaver top hat, one more fashionable than any the local vicar was accustomed to adorning himself with, and the features of his face were composed in a stern expression that resembled the driver’s. His nose lay in a straight, unwavering line, and high cheekbones dominated his face, bestowing him a regal look.

Every feature belonged to a paragon of masculinity.

Fiona firmed her stance and dug her boots further into the muddy ground. Dried leaves crunched beneath her feet, and she flickered her gaze to the gray sky.

Dear Lord! No chaperone, no friend, and here she was in the presence of a practical God.

“We’ve got a problem, sir. This ‘ere lady.” The driver continued to fix his musket on her, and his voice was mournful. “I am afraid, sir, that we are being besieged by a highwaywoman.”

“Excuse me?” Fiona stuttered and her heart sped, though this time, the handsome man lay not entirely responsible for the blame.

The attractive man frowned. “Do something, Graeme.”

“I cannot shoot a woman.”

The man rolled his eyes. “I would not have you shoot her.”

The wind that swept over her seemed to have transformed to ice, and she shivered. No way did she resemble a highwaywoman. They must be mad to even consider it.

“We’ve got ourselves a female highwayman,” the driver said. “Didn’t know there was such a thing.”

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