Adam and Sarah rode back to London with George in his carriage, leaving Adam's traveling coach to be repaired at the village. Adam's footman, Tom, stayed on to be of service to the injured coachman and tend to Adam's horse.
During the trip, they discussed the events of the day, and Adam's proposal to Sarah. There was no mention of George's arrangement with Sally. George felt Sarah would not understand, since he had recently married. Sally had told the others, but due to Sarah's naivete had said nothing to her. So George had anxiously waited for an opportunity to speak to Adam privately.
When they reached Adam's town house, Adam helped Sarah down, and turned to thank George for bringing them home.
"I say, Adam, since you're going to get leg-shackled," George said in a low voice, glancing over Adam's shoulder to make sure Sarah was out of hearing. "Will you be needing that town house on Half Moon Street, the one you use on occasion for your . . . uh . . . interludes?"
Adam turned to see where Sarah was before answering, holding up a hand in a signal that he would be with her in a minute. She smiled at him as she waited by the front steps. Adam had no further use for that place which served as a love-nest, in fact, he hadn't even thought about it since he met Sarah. If she is going to do his accounts, after their marriage, he certainly would not want her to come across that particular account.
"I'm glad you reminded me that I still owned the property! No, George, I won't be using it, and you're welcome to it for Sally. You may have it for the same price I paid for it . . . after all I did get my money's worth out of the place!" Adam reminisced.
"Aye . . . that you did," George agreed, remembering all the lovely ladies that passed through that door on Half Moon Street, never thinking that one day his own lovely lady would be in residence there.
"There's a butler and housekeeper maintaining the place, and they are very discreet. If you were interested in keeping them on, I am sure they would appreciate it. You can have your solicitor contact mine tomorrow and take care of all the details. I will send him a message as soon as I get inside to let him know about our agreement. He'll have a set of keys for you, and I'll give you my set later," Adam answered.
"It is amusing, is it not? That you, the well-known womanizer, would be the one to settle down, and I am to be the one with a mistress?" George said ironically.
"Believe me, I'm just as amazed as you are, to think this would ever
happen!" Adam laughed, as he said good-bye to his friend, before joining
"We were beginning to worry about the two of you! The doctor had stopped by earlier, and waited an hour before informing us he would return this evening," she said, handing Sarah a cup, while Adam picked his up and sat down beside Sarah on the sofa.
"I will apologize to him for his inconvenience, but it could not be helped. We have had an exciting afternoon," Adam answered.
"I can see by the dirt on your jacket you must have been into something," his father said, surveying his son's disheveled appearance and missing cravat.
"Oh, that!" Adam said, looking askance at his jacket, "Would you believe I tackled a woman?"
"Good God!" his father exclaimed.
"Tell me you are joking! Adam, how could you do such a thing?" his mother said appalled.
"Believe me, Mother, that woman deserves more than tackling!" Adam said wryly.
He then proceeded to tell them about Rachel's wrecking their carriage, the coachman's injury, her attempted escape, and the recovery of the loot she had.
"Why, the audacity of that woman! You could have been killed!" Lady Lyndmere cried in dismay.
"Fortunately her plans had been foiled. It is a shame poor John Coachman was hurt in the process," Lord Lyndmere remarked.
There was silence for a moment while they all reflected on the incident.
"Oh yes, I almost forgot," Adam said with a smug grin, as he reached in his pocket and took out his handkerchief wrapped around some articles.
"I have a little present for you, Father."
"A present . . . for me?"
"A chance for you to get the upper hand at the House of Lords," he said, unwrapping the articles and displayed them to his father.
Lord Lyndmere looked puzzled as he surveyed the items. A wallet full of money, a diamond and sapphire stick-pin, a gold watch and chain, and a crested, gold snuff box.
Reaching over he picked up the snuff box and opened the lid. Engraved inside was the name and title:
Shocked, he looked at his son.Stanley R. LowellMarquess of Dansbury
"What are you telling me? These items were stolen?" he asked suspiciously, noting his son's broad grin.
"These were with the loot from Rachel's collection. She confessed that a gentleman . . . and as she phrased it, a singularly favorite and frequent client, had left her bed in a hurry when the fire started, wearing only his breeches, leaving these behind on the table," Adam said, still grinning.
His father stared at the snuff box thoughtfully, as he digested this extraordinary revelation.
"You don't suppose he would like his wife, or his fellow Tories to know about this, do you, Father? Since he was so adamant about Lilly's club being such a disgraceful place," Adam smirked.
Suddenly his father burst out laughing, while his mother blushed at the implication of the articles. Sarah smiled at the mischievous grin on Adam's face. Adam had explained to her, how Lord Dansbury had been giving his father's political party such a terrible time during the sessions. She was beginning to feel part of his family now that he was confiding in her.
"My Boy, this calls for a celebration!" his father said, cuffing his son on the shoulder, as he walked over and pulled the cord to ring for the butler to bring the Madeira.
"That is not all we have to celebrate," Adam said, putting his arm around Sarah's shoulders, and looking into her sparkling green eyes.
"Sarah and I are getting married," Adam said proudly.
"Oh my dears!" said his mother, coming over to hug them both, while his father beamed with pleasure at his son.
"We will have to plan the wedding, and . . ."
"No, Mother," Adam interrupted, "We are getting married by special license as soon as I can get one," he said firmly.
"But, Adam . . ."
"Mother, you have been after me to get married for years. Now that I have decided, I will be married when and where I choose. Besides, I don't want to wait any longer," he said looking at Sarah, then kissing her temple, "I don't want to take a chance she will change her mind."
Sarah, blushing, nudged him with her elbow, then smiled at his mother, and father.
"You see, Adam has offered me this wonderful job that I can't refuse, and that's another reason we want to get married now . . . I am anxious to get started," Sarah said teasingly, glancing up at Adam.
"What kind of job?" his mother asked in confusion.
"She is going to run Townsend Stables, my horse breeding farm near Newmarket," he said, giving Sarah a hug.
"Not only am I acquiring a wife, but also a new manager for my farm," Adam laughed.
"Amazing!" his mother said bemused, wondering what had happened to the good old-fashion wife she had anticipated for her son.
"Does that mean you are not even taking a honeymoon?" his father asked, reaching for the glass, the butler offered as he passed around the glasses of wine.
Sarah and Adam looked at each other, and without saying a word, as if in agreement, they both shook their heads. Their honeymoon would be in the privacy of the farm, far away from friends and family. Adam leaned down and kissed her lightly, then turned to his father.
"We'll settle in first, then take a honeymoon later, after we decide where to travel. Maybe we will visit Roger in America. What do you think, Sarah?" Adam asked.
"Oh, that would be wonderful! I would like to see Roger again, and Anne too," she said eagerly.
"Why I did not know you knew Roger's new wife! Was she one of your neighbors, too?" asked Lady Lyndmere.
"Well, no . . . I met her . . ."
"She met her before Roger left for America, isn't that right, Sarah?" Adam said, not wanting his parents to know Roger had married one of Lilly's prostitutes.
"Yes, that's when I met her. I thought she was a lovely girl . . . a very nice girl," Sarah said, looking up at Adam meaningfully.
"Regardless, Adam, whether you have a large or small wedding, Sarah still needs clothes! I insist on taking her shopping tomorrow," his mother pronounced firmly.
"Excellent! You shop while I procure the special license. Is that agreeable to you?" Adam said to Sarah, squeezing her hand lovingly.
Sarah hesitated at the thought of spending money she did not have. It seemed everything involved finances.
Adam's mother guessing her thoughts, quickly said, "I would like to buy your wedding trousseau, as a present to my new daughter-in-law. I have never had a girl of my own, to splurge on those frilly things. Buying for a son is no fun at all when it comes to shopping!"
"Thank you, Lady Lyndmere, I would love to go shopping with you," Sarah laughed, gratified for her assistance. She was fortunate to have such a wonderful mother-in-law.
"I wish we had more time, we will go to Bond Street, there are so many things I want you to see in the shops."
"Speaking of celebrations," Lord Lyndmere said to Adam, while the ladies discussed the latest fashions, "there has been a little celebrating going on at Brooks's and Whites over the fire having burned all of the credit vouchers the men have signed. They feel as though they have been exonerated of their debts," Lord Lyndmere laughed.
"You better tell them the celebration is over. Lilly said to let the gentleman of the ton know that she was fortunate that everything in her safe, including their signed vouchers, had been rescued from the fire, and she would be contacting them later," Adam said.
Still laughing, Lord Lyndmere said he would prefer someone else gave them the bad news, suggesting perhaps a notice be put in the paper since the person informing them would not be well received.
"I guess we could pass it around as a word-of-mouth type gossip. Gossip will spread faster than a newspaper article," Adam said wryly.
"Good idea, I'll say I heard it from someone else," his father answered, sipping the wine.
"Did the Earl of Cranleigh's death effect your political position on the issues?" Adam asked.
"No, but it will increase Dansbury's power. He will pick up all of Cranleigh's supporters," Lord Lyndmere answered, shaking his head in disgust.
"Who is to be the new Earl of Cranleigh?" Adam mused.
"His son, Bert Trillwell, would have inherited the title," Lord Lyndmere said, causing a gasp from Sarah hearing the remarks.
"Oh no! You cannot mean that! Bertie is not fit to be an Earl . . . He should be in an asylum!" Sarah said, shuddering at the thought of that deranged man as the new Earl of Cranleigh.
"I agree. I have heard stories of some of the bizarre, and scandalous scrapes his father had to extricate him, and it was quite expensive, too. From what I understand, Bert had fallen from a tree, hitting his head, when he was about ten years old. Since then, he developed into a man with the same urge . . . uh . . . emotions as an adult male, but his mind is still that of a spoiled, mischievous boy of ten without any conscience of right or wrong. His mother contributed to his willfulness by pampering him and protecting him from any discipline while he was young, then as he grew older, his father would bail him out of any trouble he managed to create.
Nevertheless, he is the direct descendant, and whatever his health or mental status, he still inherits the title. Lord knows what mischief he'll be able to get into now that he has inherited his father's money!"
"And part of that was my money! I think it was very unfair that my father's estate had gone to my cousin in the first place, just because I am not a male," Sarah said peevishly.
"Primogeniture preserves the aristocratic status by maintaining estates whole and intact. That is the law. It is very unfair to other children in the family, but that's the way it has been for centuries," Lord Lyndmere said, shrugging. He was glad he had only one, very competent, healthy son, and would not face that problem.
Rachel pondered her situation as the carriage she had hired in Calais made its way to the hotel that Jason had given as his address. She didn't know what had gotten into her to act that way toward Lilly and the rest of those she had once considered her friends. Lilly had always been kind to her. Had taken her in when she had no where else to go. Bought her beautiful clothes, let her keep all the money she had made, and still paid her a salary. That was the best job she could have hoped for considering her prospects. Then Jason came along and thrown her whole world up-side-down.
When Rachel thought about Jason not wanting her if she turned up without the funds he had expected, her heart told her he would still love her no matter what had happened. Her head told her something entirely different. She was not born yesterday, and she knew the ways of the world. She would be cautious.
They had sent her on her way with only the original two thousand guineas that belonged to her from her savings and the jewelry her customers had given her. They did not know how much money was originally in the wallet when they found it in her bag. She had taken out five thousand pounds the night before when she had planned to leave. Rachel touched her bodice where she had securely tucked the money.
"Yes," she murmured, "I will be careful, until I find out Jason's feelings for me," as the carriage pulled up to the hotel entrance. She hoped he would be in . . . he was not expecting her until next week.
Rachel stepped up to the Desk Clerk and asked for Jason Belford's room number. Startled at the request, he cast a glance at the staircase and then back to the young lady.
"Oui, Mademoiselle. I will send a message to his room and let him know you are here. Would you care to sit down?" he said, indicating a sofa against the wall.
"No. No . . . please. I would like to surprise him. You see I am Mrs. Belford . . . his wife," Rachel said, smiling sweetly at the flustered clerk. From the way he had glanced at the staircase, she knew that Jason must be entertaining company . . . female company.
The man's face turned pale, and he gestured to the stairs.
"Room 2-B, Madame Belford," he stammered.
Rachel hurried up the stairs and down the hall until she found Jason's room. As she quietly walked up to the door, she heard feminine laughter. Putting her ear to the door, she heard Jason's deep chuckle.
"You know you love it, my dear," he crooned.
With a heavy heart, Rachel leaned her forehead on the door. She finally admitted to herself that they were right. Jason was a scoundrel.
Suddenly she became angry. Angry for all he had put her through . . . almost ending in Newgate! Silently she tested the doorknob, but it was locked. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door.
"Un instant! S'il vous plait," Jason called.
Rachel, hearing the sound of someone getting off a bed, and the rustling of clothes, she forced her temper under control, so that when Jason opened the door she would appear calm. Hearing the lock click, she put a smile on her face.
The door opened partially and Jason, with his shirt held together by two buttons, and his hair tousled, looked at her in surprise.
"Rachel! I...I wasn't expecting you until next week!" he stammered, still blocking the doorway with his body. Then putting a smile on his face, and with a casual demeanor, slipped out the door closing it behind him.
"I missed you, love," he whispered. Putting his arms around Rachel lovingly, Jason kissed her.
"Do you think we should do this in the hall?" Rachel said smiling, as she pulled back.
"No...no. You are right, dearest, it was that I was so surprised to see you," he said, then with a mischievous grin, added, "Since you are here so soon, you must have accomplished everything. Did you get all the money from Lilly?"
"Yes . . . and no," she answered, watching his expression change to a frown.
"What does that mean? Did you or didn't you?"
"It means, that I . . . shouldn't we go inside and discuss this?" Rachel asked with wide-eyed innocence, looking around.
Flustered Jason glanced at his door.
"Why don't you go down to the dining room, and I will be down as soon as I get dressed. You must be starving from that long trip," he said smoothly, as he turned her toward the stairs.
"Now that you mention it, I am hungry. Please hurry Jason," Rachel agreed as she took a step away from the door. "Of course, darling, I won't be long," Jason answered as he opened the door.
When he stepped into the room, Rachel was right behind him, before he could close the door. She stared at the bed with the pretty raven-haired woman leaning against the pillows, before they were aware she had followed Jason.
Jason shocked, tried to grab Rachel's arm, but she was too fast.
"Julie! So this is where you went! Did he send you a letter too? Asked you to get money for him? Say how much he loved you and would take you to America?" Rachel said in a state of fury, striding toward the bed. She grabbed the pitcher of water from the table, and dumped it on Julie's head, drowning the bedding along with Julie, who screamed in anger at being soaked.
Then Rachel swung around and threw the pitcher at Jason, hitting him dead-center on his nose. Stunned and with a cry of pain, Jason held a hand to his bleeding nose, and watched in disbelief as Rachel stormed toward the door.
"Rachel darling! I can explain," Jason pleaded desperately, realizing this is the woman bringing him the money, and she was getting away. All his plans for the future going with her.
Rachel turned glaring at him.
"You . . . you bastard! I gave up a good life for you, and the only friends I had, now hate me. I hope you both rot in hell!"
Reaching for the door handle, Rachel eyes landed on a side table with a book lying open. Recognizing it as the one Julie had shown to Sarah, her anger mounted with past jealousies of unfair competition. Picking up the heavy, leather-bound tome, she swung around and launched it at Jason.
Jason seeing the flying object coming at him, raised the hand not covering his nose to block the impact. He misjudged and the corner of the book landed with a force below his waistline. Rachel's eyes widened as she watched the rogue double over in excruciating pain. The bandaged hand that protected the crushed fingers, was now cradling the newly pained area, while the other hand still covered his broken and bloody nose.
With a squeal of delight, Rachel yelled, "Perfect hit! That should put you out of commission with your philandering for a while! I daresay you're handsome face has undergone a change too!"
Still laughing, Rachel left the hotel, and quickly found another carriage for hire. After requesting the driver to take her to the docks, Rachel sat back and reflected on how she was taken in by that no good wretch.
"I hope they both are so broke, they'll end up in the gutter somewhere," she muttered. Jason will never know whether I had the money or not, Rachel thought smugly, wishing he'd worry himself sick.
Taking a deep breath, Rachel contemplated what she should do now. She had enough funds to go anywhere she wanted, and Rachel decided she did want to see America after all . . . but first Paris, and a new wardrobe. She called to the driver, giving him the change of direction.
* * * *
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