A Night Like This

Page 80

“Where?” Daniel asked urgently. “Where were you, exactly?”

Frances blinked. “Park Crescent. The far end.”

Lady Pleinsworth gasped through her tears. “You came all that distance yourself?”

“It wasn’t that far, Mama.”

“But all the way through Marylebone!” Lady Pleinsworth turned to Lady Winstead. “She walked all the way through Marylebone on her own. She’s just a child!”

“Frances,” Daniel asked urgently. “I must ask you. Do you have any idea where Sir George might be taking Miss Wynter?” Frances shook her head, and her lips quivered. “I wasn’t paying attention. I was so scared, and most of the time they were yeling at each other, and then he hit Miss Wynter—”

Daniel had to force himself to draw breath.

“—and then I was even more upset, but he did say—” Frances looked up sharply, her eyes wide with excitement. “I remember something. He mentioned the heath.”

“Hampstead,” Daniel said.

“Yes, I think so. He didn’t say that specificaly, but we were heading in that direction, weren’t we?”

“If you were at Park Crescent, yes.”

“He also said something about having a room.”

“A room?” Daniel echoed.

Frances nodded vigorously.

Marcus, who had been silent throughout the questioning, cleared his throat. “He might be taking her to an inn.” Daniel looked over at him, gave a nod, then turned back to his young cousin. “Frances, do you think you would recognize the carriage?”

“I do,” she said, her eyes wide. “I realy do.”

“Oh, no!” Lady Pleinsworth thundered. “She is not going with you to search for a madman.”

“I have no other choice,” Daniel told her.

“Mama, I want to help,” Frances pleaded. “Please, I love Miss Wynter.”

“So do I,” Daniel said softly.

“I will go with you,” Marcus said, and Daniel shot him a look of deep gratitude.

“No!” Lady Pleinsworth protested. “This is madness. What do you think you’re going to do? Let her ride on your back as you go traipsing into some public house? I’m sorry, I cannot alow—”

“He can bring outriders,” Daniel’s mother interrupted.

Lady Pleinsworth turned to her in shock. “Virginia?”

“I am a mother, too,” Lady Winstead said. “And if anything happens to Miss Wynter . . .” Her voice fell to a whisper. “My son will be broken.”

“You would have me trade my child for yours?”

“No!” Lady Winstead took both of her sister-in-law’s hands fiercely in her own. “I would never. You know that, Charlotte. But if we do this properly, I don’t think Frances will be in any danger.”

“No,” Lady Pleinsworth said. “No, I cannot agree. I will not risk the life of my child—”

“She won’t leave the carriage,” Daniel said. “You can come, too.”

And then . . . he saw it on her face . . . She was beginning to relent.

He took her hand. “Please, Aunt Charlotte.”

She swalowed, her throat catching on a sob. And then, finaly, she nodded.

Daniel nearly sagged with relief. He had not found Anne yet, but Frances was his only hope, and if his aunt had forbidden her to accompany him to Hampstead, all would have been lost.

“There is no time to lose,” Daniel said. He turned to his aunt. “There is room for four in my landau. How fast can you have a carriage readied to folow? We will need seats for five on the return.”

“No,” his aunt said. “We will take our coach. It can seat six, but more importantly, it will support outriders. I am not alowing you to take my daughter anywhere near that madman without armed guards on the carriage.”

“As you wish,” Daniel said. He could not argue. If he had a daughter, he would be just as fiercely protective.

His aunt turned to one of the footmen who had been witness to the entire scene. “Have it brought ’round at once.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, before taking off at a run.

“Now there will be room for me,” Lady Winstead announced.

Daniel looked at his mother. “You’re coming, too?”

“My future daughter-in-law is in danger. Would you have me anywhere else?”

“Fine,” Daniel acceded, because there was little point in arguing. If it was safe enough for Frances, it was certainly safe enough for his mother. still—

“You are not coming in,” he said sternly.

“I wouldn’t dream of it. I have skils, but they do not include fighting madmen with weapons. I am sure I would only get in the way.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it. I have skils, but they do not include fighting madmen with weapons. I am sure I would only get in the way.” As they rushed outside to wait for the carriage, however, a phaeton rounded the corner of the square at far too fast a speed. It was only due to the skil of the driver—Hugh Prentice, Daniel realized with shock—that it did not tip over.

“What the devil?” Daniel strode forward and took the reins as Hugh awkwardly got himself down.

“Your butler told me you were here,” Hugh said. “I’ve been looking for you all day.”

“He caled at Winstead House earlier,” his mother said. “Before Miss Wynter left. She claimed not to know where you went.”

“What is going on?” Daniel asked Hugh. His friend, whose face was normaly an emotionless mask, was pinched tight with worry.

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