This bit of fiction joins the hero of Dangerous Weakness with the hero of Embracing Prudence, a yet-to-be published work by Jude Knight. Part one has been posted on Jude’s blog today. (Click here to read it.) Part 2 is here.
Part 2 of 2
Grillion’s Dining Club, London, 1818
The choice to meet at a dining club mattered not a whit to David. They could hardly meet at Glenaire’s premises at the Foreign Office and David knew the marquess kept Spartan rooms rather than live at Sudbury House, his father’s ostentatious mausoleum of a place. If Glenaire wished to buy him dinner, David wouldn’t refuse. The quiet table, bracketed as it was by massive palms on both sides, looked discreet enough, although the topic may prove to be more personal than the marquess expected.
“What is this matter you so urgently want me to hear,” Glenaire asked as soon as the waiter brought dinner, poured wine, and withdrew. Candlelight reflected off the marquess’s fair hair, lighting gold and silver highlights.
“I had an inquiry that may interest you,” David told him.
Glenaire communicated more with one raised eyebrow than most men could in full paragraphs. This one said, “What happened to your famous discretion and client privilege?” David smiled. He knew Glenaire would never ask him to violate a client’s privacy.
“I do not, as you well know, talk about my cases. This one disturbed me.”
Glenaire nodded. “Go on. How so?” He took a sip of his wine, but his eyes never left David’s.
“He lied, for one thing. I never take on a lying client, although I allowed this one to think I had. He never returned, so I suspect he knew I saw through him.”
“He made my wife nervous. I trust her judgment.” Let the Marble Marquess make what he wants of that, David thought. Prudence is rarely wrong.
“What makes you think I would have an interest?”
“The man is Russian, but not here on any known diplomatic or business mission. His name is Konstantin Volkov.” David saw Glenaire’s interest sharpen.
“What did Volkov want,” the marquess asked, keeping his voice carefully bland.
“He wants to find a woman,” David replied. “Her name is Lily Thornton.” This time the interest contained more fire than steel. He wondered how many people ever caught a glimpse of the passion beneath Glenaire’s ice blue eyes. “You know her.” It wasn’t a question. Prue had been sure the woman had a connection to the marquess, even if the gossip didn’t consider her a serious contender in the raging marriage stakes for the marquess’s hand. The rags linked him to a duke’s daughter, a dynastic choice. Prue thought differently.
Glenaire nodded. His blue eyes were shuttered but David could almost watch the mind working, machine-like, beneath the surface.
“Has she gone missing?” David prodded.
“Two weeks ago.” The words seemed torn from him reluctantly. “It isn’t well known. Your report tells me Volkov doesn’t have her, at least not yet. Thank you for that.” He didn’t meet David’s eyes.
“I presume this woman and the Russian interest the Foreign Office.”
“Her father is one of our people. We’ve called him home from Saint Petersburg. Volkov is a snake, but we’ve been unable to catch him at anything illegal.”
“And the woman?”
“Volkov holds some threat over her. We’ve had men protecting her.” He looked up then, unable to keep bleakness from his face.
“But she evaded them.” Damn. Either she’s desperate or someone very skilled took her.
Glenaire nodded with a jerk of his head. Failure didn’t sit well with the marquess.
“This may help.” David laid out what he and Prue had been able to piece together in Falmouth and Portsmouth. “I believe your lady is one of these two women who sailed in the past week.”
Glenaire took the report. His eagerness revealed more than he may have found comfortable. “She isn’t my lady,” he murmured.
David ignored the comment. “Both have to pass through Gibraltar.”
“Obviously. Your point?”
“If you love the woman you should pursue her.”
“My interest in Miss Thornton is entirely political,” Glenaire said, folding David’s reports and tucking them in his jacket.
If you say so, my lord. If you say so. A grin formed in David’s chest and spread upward until it threatened to show on his face. He bit it back. Glenaire wouldn’t welcome his amusement.
“Of course it is,” he said. He looks ready to leap up immediately. He damned well should.
The dinner ended rather sooner than was polite.
David’s mood shifted as he made his way home. Whatever else lay between the marquess and the lady, Glenaire’s reaction told David he feared for her. His refusal to acknowledge his interest didn’t bode well, however.
He entered his own home and its familiar peace. Prue stood waiting. David put out his arms, and the woman he had chased a decade ago across half of war-torn Europe walked into them. Glenaire was a damned fool who couldn’t see what was plain to anyone with eyes. If he didn’t go after Miss Thornton, he’d regret it to the end of his days. David rubbed his cheek against Prue’s hair. He wished Glenaire as happy an ending as his own.
What has become of Lily? Find out in Dangerous Weakness, on pre-release now and published on September 30. [April 2018 update: Buy Link]
David’s job is uncovering secrets, but the woman assigned to partner him has a few of her own. As they hunt down foreign spies, blackmailing aristocrats, and one or more murderers, he discovers what Prue hides. And it touches closer to home than he expected.
About Dangerous Weakness
If women were as easily managed as the affairs of state—or the recalcitrant Ottoman Empire—Richard Hayden, Marquess of Glenaire, would be a happier man. As it was the creatures—one woman in particular—made hash of his well-laid plans and bedeviled him on all sides.
Lily Thornton came home from Saint Petersburg in pursuit of marriage. She wants a husband and a partner, not an overbearing, managing man. She may be “the least likely candidate to be Marchioness of Glenaire,” but her problems are her own to fix, even if those problems include both a Russian villain and an interfering Ottoman official.
Given enough facts, Richard can fix anything. But protecting that impossible woman is proving almost as hard as protecting his heart, especially when Lily’s problems bring her dangerously close to an Ottoman revolution. As Lily’s personal problems entangle with Richard’s professional ones, and she pits her will against his, he chases her across the pirate-infested Mediterranean. Will she discover surrender isn’t defeat? That might even have its own sweet reward.