The Earl of Diamonds
A week had passed since Emily and Michael had married and left for America. The weather in Sussex had been perfect for the wedding, and remained that way. Everyone enjoyed the peaceful time away from London and planned to stay at the estate, until the news and gossip of Cedric faded.
Marion, the dowager Countess, and Lydia, the dowager Duchess, spent their time shopping in the nearby village for a wardrobe for Marissa. She had been enrolled in the same school that Marion and Elise's mother, Eleanor, had attended. Elise and Anthony settled into their new home, spending their days exploring the property, and the surrounding woods.
Raynhurst developed a friendship with Edward, as he had with Michael, and they occupied much of their time inspecting the vast acreage of the estate, with Edward giving him advice for new farming methods. Later that evening, while the two men were in the study, discussing the upcoming session of the House of Lords, and enjoying a last drink, before retiring, the butler knocked on the study door.
"Yes Jenson?" Raynhurst asked amiably, as he relaxed in his chair.
"A Mr. Davidson, from London, to see you, milord."
Startled, Raynhurst sat up straighter, "Davidson? Here? Send him in Jenson," he said, wondering what could have happened to send the Bow Street Detective so far from London.
Frank Davidson, entered looking tired and haggard from his long trip. He glanced at Raynhurst, then noticed Edward. "Your Grace," he said bowing, and turned to Raynhurst, "My lord, I am glad that I have you both here alone," he said in a somber tone.
Edward felt the chill go down his spine, knowing something serious has occurred. Raynhurst told Mr. Davidson to sit down, and handed him a glass of brandy.
Mr. Davidson sat, glanced at the glass in his hand, then he looked up at Edward with concern.
"Your Grace, I hardly know how to start, but I best tell you straight. Your wife has met with an accident. She had been crossing the street when a carriage came, and was killed instantly. She did not suffer . . . I know that is not much comfort at a time like this . . . but at least you know her death was not in agony."
Edward buried his face in his hands. Raynhurst came over and put his hand on his shoulder, then looked at Mr. Davidson. "When did it happen?"
"Late last evening. It was an odd situation. At first we were unaware of the lady's identity. She had a hackney waiting for her, and the drive saw the whole thing.
"Apparently she had just left a moneylender's shop, and was crossing the street to get back into the hackney, when the carriage came along. The hackney driver said she was not paying attention, and did not see it coming, for she was busy putting her money away in her reticule. He said he had picked her up in Mayfair, and she asked to be driven to this place. We were called on the case, right away, since it was a hit-and-run. Apparently the carriage stopped long enough to see what had occurred, and then hurried away."
Mr. Davidson looked at Edward to see how he was taking all of this, and whether he should continue. Satisfied that he was holding up, he went on, "I talked to Mr. Cohen, the moneylender, and he told us who she was, as she had stopped in quite often, over the past eight years. After we had finished getting all the information needed, I came straight here, as I knew you were going to be with Lord Raynhurst."
"Edward couldn't believe it. Rachel was dead, and now is informed she had been going to a moneylender for eight years! Her gambling had been worst than he would ever have suspected, and it was obvious, she had no intention of quitting or keeping her promise. He was sorry that the last words they said to each other had been in an argument, but for some reason he did not feel the emotional upheaval he should feel as her husband. He knew he did not love her, but he thought he should have more emotion, and that made him feel guilty for not having those sentiments. He had to get away to sort his feelings out, and he would have to tell Marissa.
"Excuse me, I . . . I..need to get some air . . . and do some thinking," he said in a shaky voice, getting up abruptly, leaving the room.
Raynhurst looked at the door as Edward left, then turned to Mr. Davidson. "You will stay the night, of course. I imagine tomorrow we will all be going back to London, to help Edward through this . . . and of course the funeral."
Frank Davidson cleared his throat, and said, "There is another reason I am here. It seems I am just the bearer of bad news all the way around," he took another gulp of the brandy before continuing.
"Your cousin Cedric has escaped from Newgate,"
"WHAT!" Raynhurst got up angrily and glared at Mr. Davidson.
"Yes, it happened just before I left to come here. Your Aunt, his mother, went to visit him, and later they found the guard had been stripped of his clothes and tied up. She had helped him escape dressed in the guard's clothes, probably with a lot of bribes along the way, to other prison guards, to be able to get him out."
"Do you know where they went?" Raynhurst asked anxiously, he did not want to have to worry about protecting his son from Cedric again.
"Not yet, but I would say they had left England. I cannot imagine they would stay, knowing we will be looking for both of them. Your aunt is now wanted for aiding in the escape," Mr. Davidson answered.
"She was a devious woman, and I am not surprised she helped him . . . but . . . God, I hope you're right! I hope he is far away from here and never comes back . . . though he had deserved to hang," he said shaking his head in disgust.
The next day having packed, they made the trip back to London. The duchess went with her son, Edward, and Marissa, to help with the funeral arrangements for Rachel. Marion offered to be of assistance, and take care of Marissa, while they made arrangements. Raynhurst, after getting his family settled back in their London house, accompanied Mr. Davidson to Cedric's Mount Street town house to look for possible clues as to where he may have gone.
The Lovell servants were surprised at the news, when informed of the situation. After being interviewed by the detective, and knowing they would not be paid any longer, the servants hastily made arrangements to take their leave of the place.
Raynhurst and Mr.Davidson, went through each room, noticing that everything of value in his Aunt's room was missing, and the same for Cedric's. Raynhurst went to the library, and started opening desk drawers'. Frank Davidson, was casually skimming the newspapers that lay open on a table. The pages were open to the Maritime Schedules of Arrival and Departures. Picking up the one that had a departure circled in ink, he looked at the date and time. The Alicetia had left that morning bound for Italy.
"It seems they are on their way to Italy," Mr. Davidson said to Raynhurst, handing him the newspaper.
Looking at the paper, Raynhurst said, "I wish it was further, Italy is still too close."
"Well, at least we know he is out of England, and I will alert the Admiralty, to see if there is any way of having him picked up, while he is still on the high seas."
Elise was waiting for Stephen in the parlor of their bedroom suite. He sat down beside her on the sofa, leaned his head back, and closed his eyes.
"Did you find out anything more?" she asked.
"Yes . . . my dear aunt and cousin are on their way to Italy," he said dryly.
She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, then with her fingers, smoothed his hair back off his forehead.
"He won't be back, Stephen," she said softly.
Raynhurst turned his head and gazing into her eyes, said, "I certainly hope you're right, but I will not take any chances with you and Anthony. I will hire men to guard my Sussex estate and London house, also to go with you whenever I am not available."
Elise smiled at him with a twinkle in her eyes, reaching up and putting her arms around his neck, she said, "You know, Stephen, the best way to discourage Cedric from thinking he will inherit . . . is to eliminate his chances."
He looked at her bewildered. "How do you mean?"
"Simple . . . we just have more children . . . then Cedric is at the bottom of the list!"
Kissing her, he murmured against her lips, "I am definitely for that plan."
She kissed him again, and said seductively, "I am glad you agree . . . since the plan is already in progress."
Raynhurst pulled back, looking at her in surprise.
"Are you saying . . . are you telling me that you are already . . . uh..that we are going to have another child?" he asked in amazement.
"Yes, that is exactly what I am saying," she answered.
"Oh Elise!" he said elated, hugging her tighter, "This time I will be with you, while you are enceinte and when our child is born," he said tenderly, before pulling her up from the sofa, to prepare for bed.
When Elise had removed her clothes, and laid them aside, she went to the dresser to get the blue satin nightgown.
"No . . . wait, Elise," Raynhurst said, and walked over to her. Reaching into his pocket he took out the bracelet, and put it on her arm.
"Oh Stephen! You had it fixed!" she said delighted. Elise looked at the bracelet fondly, as she ran her fingers over the diamonds.
"Yes, tonight I want you dressed only in the bracelet," he said kissing her, and reaching in his other pocket, he added "and this," as he pulled out a necklace, in the same design as the bracelet, with twenty-four diamonds and a slightly larger heart-shaped clasp, engraved as the bracelet, with the letter R. "I had the jeweler make this out of the last three diamond bracelets," he said, and before putting it on her, he turned the clasp over so she could read the inscription. Elise leaned forward and read: To Elise, my one and only love, forever.
He put the necklace on her, then lifted her honey-gold curls and gently arranged them over her shoulder. Raynhurst stepped back and looked at his beautiful wife decorated only with the necklace and bracelet that shimmered with prisms of color in the candle light. He looked into her violet-blue eyes and smiled.
"How beautiful you look and you belong to me, my adorable, bewitching wife," he murmured softly.
Elise looked up at him with her eyes aglow with passion, then moving close to him she slowly slid her arms around his neck, and whispered "I love you, Major Stephen Taggart."
He pulled her against him, and leaned down to gently kiss her lips. Lifting his head, he gazed into the violet-blue eyes that he dreamed of for those long three years, after he left her in Spain.
"And I love you, my little peasant girl," he answered with a smile, as he lifted her in his arms, and carried her to the bed.
Several hours later, as they laid entwined in exhaustion, Raynhurst turned his head and kissed her, "You may spend the rest of your life being pregnant, if we keep this up," he chuckled.
Then suddenly he pulled back, and said eagerly, "You know, this could be the beginning of our own dynasty! I think I will have a ring designed for our children . . . yes, tomorrow I will go to the jewelers, and have him make a gold insignia ring . . . of course, it will have the Raynhurst 'R', but I think it should be encrusted in diamonds, and on the back will be the number 'one' . . . that one will be Anthony's, then I will wait to see if we will be having a boy or girl . . . this time . . . so the next one can be made in a feminine pattern, if necessary.
What do you think, Elise, should I commission the jeweler to make
ten to start?" Raynhurst asked his astonished wife.
* * * *
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