Sarah was surprised she had slept so late, when Emmy came in with hot chocolate. Hurriedly dressing she went downstairs to the breakfast room. Lady Lyndmere was the only person at the table, and informed Sarah that Adam and Lord Lyndmere had left to take care of business.
"I suppose it had something to do with Lord Dansbury, and the items Adam had retrieved. Adam had also mentioned he was planning to stop at Tattersall's to see about purchasing some horses . . . one for you to ride, and others for the farm. So I doubt he will be back until late this afternoon," Lady Lyndmere said as she buttered a slice of toast, then added, "I need to make a quick trip to my Kensington home, to pick up some things for the wedding tomorrow, would you care to come with me?"
"No, I believe I should stay here. I need to help Emmy get the clothes packed, if we are to leave on the trip to the farm after the ceremony. Also, I wanted to visit my friend in her new home today," said Sarah.
"Oh, yes! I had completely forgotten about that . . . you had better leave a note for Adam in case he returns before you," Lady Lyndmere suggested, as she continued to read the morning mail.
Sarah picked up the newspaper laying on the table to read as she nibbled on a slice of toast. Turning the page, an item caught her attention.
"Oh dear God!" she murmured.
"Is something wrong?" Lady Lyndmere asked looking up from a letter.
"No . . . it is just this article in the paper. It is about the death of Cyrus Watts, a tenant farmer. The paper mentions that he was killed with a pitchfork and that it is suspected that he had chanced upon a robbery and the thief had killed him, then ran off before being detected. His wife, Maribelle, the mother of four, found him according to the paper," Sarah's hand was shaking as she laid the paper down.
"That is rather disturbing, but you do look unduly upset. Did you know him?" Lady Lyndmere asked.
"No, not him. I knew his wife," Sarah answered, wondering if Maribelle will find happiness now that she is free of that man.
Adam felt he had accomplished a lot today. He and his father had met with Lord Dansbury this morning, and it was well worth the meeting to see the shocked look on Dansbury's face when he saw his possessions. The shock changed to mortification when they informed him of Rachel's disclosure of how she came to possess them.
After coming to an agreement for their silence in the matter, Lord Lyndmere returned the articles confiscated from Rachel, except for the gold snuffbox with Dansbury's name engraved inside the lid. He wanted it for insurance, so Lord Dansbury would not go back on his promise to sway his supporters to vote with the Whig Party in the next session, when so many important issues were at stake.
After their meeting, Adam had gone to Tattersall's and purchased an amiable mare for Sarah, along with a magnificent stallion, that hopefully would turn out to be a suitable stud for breeding.
When Adam stopped by his solicitor's office, he discovered that George had already spoken to him about the transferring of the house on Half Moon Street, and had picked up the key yesterday to move Sally into the house. Adam smiled at how fast George had put his plan into action. He decided he had better stop by there on his way home, to see if everything was satisfactory, and give George the other key.
Sarah picked up her reticule and told Emmy she was leaving to visit a friend.
"Oh Milady! You are going alone? Would you not want me to go with you?" Emmy said, concerned for her mistress' reputation.
"Heavens no! I have worked you far too much already today. You just take some time off for yourself. Do not worry about me, I have gone places by myself for years now . . . I have grown quite used to it," Sarah said laughing, as she started out.
Sarah came down the stairs and noticing a footman just going out the front door, and she called to him.
"I do not think there is a carriage available, with everyone out on errands today, so I wonder if you would mind hailing a hackney carriage for me," Sarah asked politely.
"Aye Milady, where be ye off to?" he asked as he looked out the door to see if there were any nearby.
"I am going to . . . ," as she looked at Sally's note again, "to 18 Half Moon Street, Mayfair."
"Aye! I know tha place well . . . 'is lor'ship 'ad it for many a year now," he said, curious to why she would want to go there. Maybe she had been one of the past occupants of that place.
Stunned at this information, and not knowing what to say, Sarah pretended interest in finding something in her reticule, while the footman went to the street to find a hackney for her. Puzzled by this revelation, she wondered how Sally had managed to move into a house owned by Adam, and neither one of them had mentioned that fact to her.
Sarah was deep in thought as she made her way in the hackney to Half Moon Street. Being so occupied, she had not noticed the old Berlin coach that pulled out from the curb, and followed her.
George had not been there when Adam arrived at the Half Moon Street house, so he entered only as far as the vestibule. He felt awkward at being alone with Sally after having known her intimately in the past, especially as she is now his best friend's mistress. He asked her politely if everything was to her satisfaction, and said that he would speak to George later. Sally assured him, with the same awkwardness, that she and George were quite happy with the house.
Adam opened the door to leave, and before stepping out, he impulsively took Sally's hand pulling her nearer, then leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips. At her surprised look, he grinned.
"That was a thank-you-kiss for taking such good care of George. I have never seen him so happy as he has been since he met you. You're a good woman, Sal," Adam said gratefully, squeezing Sally's hand, before letting it goes, and hurried down the steps to his curricle.
Sarah had just alighted from the hackney a few yards away, and witnessed the tender goodbye kiss. She stood frozen to the spot as she watched Adam climb onto his curricle and drive away. No! He would not do this . . . not when we are getting married tomorrow! Is she his mistress? Was that why Sally invited me here this afternoon? Did she want me to know what type of man I would be marrying? If she had told me, I would not have believed her . . . but if I saw it for myself . . .
Sarah felt nauseated. This was far worse than what Richard had done when he had jilted her for another. Adam's unfaithfulness was devastating. Her heart was breaking and she wanted only to get away, as she leaned heavily against a nearby wrought-iron fence and tried to think . . . what to do and where to go.
Sally was closing the door when she glimpsed a red-haired woman down the street, and realized it was Sarah. Concluding that Sarah must be having trouble finding the right address, Sally started down the steps to meet her when an old coach pulled along side Sarah, and pulled her inside. She heard Sarah scream before the coach sped off down the street, passing Sally, and disappearing around the next corner.
Sally cried for help as she ran to the corner. Several men appeared and finally a watchman. She frantically explained what had happen, describing the coach, and what little she saw of the man that pulled Sarah inside.
Entering his front door, Adam was met by Grenby. The butler had a concerned look which Adam knew meant trouble.
"Is there a problem, Grenby?" Adam asked.
"Well, Milord, your young house guest has gone for a visit to a friend's place," he said tentatively.
"Did my mother go with her?" he asked, wondering if it were his mother's doing, showing her off to one of her many friends.
"No, Milord, she went alone . . . in a hackney. The problem, Milord, is that the friend lives at . . . ahem . . . 18 Half Moon Street," Grenby answered.
"Sally! How did Sarah know where she was? I had not mentioned it," Adam mused, more to himself than addressing his question to the butler.
"A note was delivered yesterday, presumably the writer of the note asked her to visit," clearing his throat again, he added, "Milord, I thought you should know that our young footman, Robby, mentioned to the lady, that the property belonged to you. Of course, Robby should have known you may not want this information bandied about, but I have reprimanded him properly for his indiscretion," Grenby said firmly.
"Bloody Hell! How long ago did she leave?" Adam growled in exasperation.
"I would say no more than thirty minutes, Milord," Grenby answered.
Nodding Adam hurried to his curricle, where the groom was just heading for the mews to put it away. Telling the groom to hop on the back, Adam got up on the driver's seat and urged the team of Bays at a fast pace. He suspected that Sarah might have been arriving as he was leaving, and wondered if she had witnessed his friendly kiss to Sally? This would certainly make her suspicious, if she thought he owned the house.
"A fine time for all this to happen . . . a day before the wedding," he muttered gloomily, and hoping that Sally has the good sense to explain the situation to Sarah before he got there.
Adam slowed his team when he came upon a commotion at the corner of Half Moon Street. He saw Sally talking to a watchman and pulled over to the curb. Motioning for his groom to watch his horses, he jumped down and jogged over to where Sally stood.
"Oh Adam!" Sally cried when she saw him.
"What happened?" Adam asked anxiously, knowing it must involve Sarah.
"Sarah was abducted! Right there!" she said, pointing a shaky index finger at a fence a few yards from her house, and sounding on the point of hysteria.
Adam paled at the words.
"Who? Who did this?" he whispered.
"Pardon me, yer Lor'ship. Bein' the lady 'ere is so emotional, I 'ave the information she gave me," the watchman offered.
"Yes, yes . . . tell me! Who did this?" Adam asked as he looked up the street, as if the carriage with Sarah would miraculously appear.
When the watchman had finished describing the scene Sally had witnessed, he glanced up from his notes and saw a look of murderous rage in the steel-grey eyes, he swallowed and said, "Ye know the bloke, yer Lor'ship?"
"Yes, I know who the bastard is, and I will find him," he said coldly, "Take this lady back to her house, please, and thank you for your help," with a curt nod, Adam hurried to his curricle. He reached into a compartment below the seat and pulled out a pistol, checking to make sure it was loaded, he slipped it into his coat pocket.
Sarah struggled to breathe as she felt Bertie's sweaty, pudgy hand press harder across her mouth and nose. He had stifled her scream as soon as he pulled her into the coach, and they had been driving for nearly fifteen minutes. With her arms pinned between the seat and his body, Bertie held her tightly to him, one of his hands over her mouth, the other roaming across her stomach and chest. Sarah was thankful she had on a spencer over her kerseymere dress, to protect her against this repulsive invasion.
"You ran away, you naughty girl! But Bertie found you," he giggled, giving her a squeeze.
Sarah opened her mouth trying to sink her teeth in his hand, but she only accomplished having him push her lip against her teeth, causing it to bleed.
"My hand is tired, and you're getting in all wet . . . you promise you won't scream and I'll take my hand away. You promise?" he asked petulantly.
Sarah nodded, and Bertie eased his hand away. He stared in disgust at the saliva and blood on his hand, then wiped it off on the front of her clothes.
She tried to break free of his arms, but he held on.
"Let me go, Bertie!" Sarah said angrily.
"No . . . no . . . no! Papa said you would be my wife! You are mine!" he said squeezing her tighter. He put his cheek next to hers and rubbed it along the side of her face working his way to her neck, then began kissing her with his slobbering wet mouth, just as he had that first time he caught her outside her room in the hallway.
"Please let me go, Bertie . . . we need to talk . . . don't you want to talk, Bertie? Won't you tell me where we're going?" Sarah pleaded, hoping that kindness would work instead of anger.
Relaxing his grip, Bertie leaned back against the seat, and eyed her with a contented smile.
"I like to talk, but no one talks to me . . . Mama doesn't talk anymore now that Papa's gone. She sits all day long in a chair by the window."
"I'll talk to you Bertie, just sit right there . . . and I will sit here . . . so I can see you better, while we talk," Sarah said in a soothing manner, as she slid across the seat putting distance between them.
"Yes, I like that. Now I can look at your pretty red hair. I like red hair and I like your green eyes too." He leered at her with that lascivious look that Sarah feared. She had to keep him talking while she tried to find a way to escape.
"Where are we going, Bertie?" Sarah asked quietly.
"Why, to our house, of course. The house Papa gave me when I first saw you . . . don't you remember? When Papa said you would marry me . . . then you ran away. Shame on you, Sarah," he shook his finger at her, then giggled again.
Sarah forced a smile, and nodded as he continued to talk, while she planned her escape. My home! Thank God. I'll have a chance to escape, if I can just put enough distance between us when we get there. There are so many hiding places on the estate to hide until dark . . . then I'll go to the Hartley's again.
After leaving Sally in the care of the watchman, Adam had hurried to White's Club to find his father or someone who would know the address of Cranleigh's London house. His father was not there, but learned the Cranleigh's lived on Bruton Street. Adam halted the horses in front of the stately three-story home, leaving his carriage with his groom and bounded up the steps to the door. Receiving an answer to his knock, he stepped into the foyer. A tall, austere butler blocked his way.
"Where is the Earl?" Adam demanded.
"Not here, Milord," the butler answered without moving.
"Where is the Dowager Countess?" Adam asked.
"She is not receiving," he said firmly.
"Blast it man! This is an emergency! Take me to her or I'll find her myself," Adam said angrily, shoving the man aside.
Realizing he wasn't getting rid of the angry visitor, the butler hurried ahead of Adam and led him to an upstairs parlor, where the Dowager Countess sat by the window. She did not turn when they entered.
"Lady Cranleigh?" Adam asked, looking at the solemn women dressed in black. When he did not receive an answer, he stepped into her line of vision.
"Lady Cranleigh, your son has abducted Lady Sarah Prescott, and I need to know where he would have taken her," he demanded.
Slowly she looked up at him, digesting what he had said, before she answered with a sigh of resignation.
"I'm sorry, I was hoping he would not find her . . . he was obsessed with her you know. He never talked of anything else. I don't blame her for trying to run away from him . . . but there was nothing I could do, you see, I was too weak, and . . . his father wanted her to be . . . but now he's gone . . . I cannot help you," she said stonily.
"Please, just tell me where he would have taken her," Adam pleaded.
"Why to their home, in Oxfordshire, of course. Bertie insisted his father promised her to him as his wife, and they would live in that house . . . the one he inherited from her father," Lady Cranleigh answered.
Adam did not wait for anything else. He rushed out of the house, hoping he would get there in time.
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