“They tracked me. Bloody persistent, Jaya’s brothers—never offend an Indian prince. They found a boat I’d worked on and discovered that I was still alive, and where I’d gone. I left for England. There I read of your marriage and learned that you’d purchased this house. I came up here to ask you to help me go into hiding.”
“But why should you have to go into hiding?” Juliana broke in. “They would not chase you all the way from India, surely?”
Stacy gave her a wry smile. “You would be surprised, Mrs. McBride. Jaya came from one of the native states. Small principalities surrounded by British India,” he explained when he caught Juliana’s puzzled look. “Her family was related to the ruling prince. She was rebellious and ran away from home, which ruined her forever. When I married her, I brought her under the protection of British law, but her family never forgave her—or me, the blackguard who ruined her. They decided to dedicate themselves to avenging her, once she was dead. They blamed me for her death as well. But they don’t have to follow me here, in fact. They can afford to hire agents here to do the job for them.”
Elliot’s voice was cold. “So you’ve brought assassins down upon me and my family.”
“Not necessarily. I managed to elude pursuit in Edinburgh. I’m asking for sanctuary here until I can decide what to do. You can tell your friends that I’m your distant cousin from Ullapool, or somewhere.”
The word was as hard and icy as Elliot’s eyes. Juliana rose again, supporting herself with the table. “Elliot…”
“No.” Elliot’s tight stare moved to Juliana. “I will not put my wife and my daughter in danger, nor my family and my friends, to harbor the man who destroyed my life.”
“I don’t blame ye,” Stacy said. He curled his fingers closed. “I don’t blame ye at all.”
“Get up and get out. I want you miles away by tomorrow. Don’t hide in my woods, or under my house, or above the river. I’ll give you food, water, and money, and you get yourself away by foot, or horse, or boat, or whatever you want. Cross the ocean to Germany, hide in the Orkneys—I don’t care. Just get away from me and mine.”
Juliana had to press her hands together to stop herself from arguing. She had a decided opinion, but she knew that if she spoke it now, Elliot would storm away and not listen.
“Juliana, go back to the house,” Elliot said.
“To the…No, I can’t. The fête…”
“How did you get in here, Stacy? Through the back wall? Then that’s how we’re going out.”
Elliot grabbed Stacy and pushed him toward the loose flap in the tent. As Stacy scrambled through, Elliot looked back at Juliana, his eyes like a winter storm. “Stay here if you won’t go to the house. Don’t move until I come back.”
He followed Stacy out, then the tent wall fell back down to silence.
Juliana sat again in a rush, her breath leaving her. She had no idea what to do—stay here? Go after them? Try to talk to Elliot? And should she?
She didn’t have lists or organized ledgers to help her deal with this. After she’d gotten over her fright of Mr. Stacy appearing out of nowhere, she’d had the idea that he and Elliot would talk, reconcile, become friends again. What had happened with Priti’s mother was years ago—Juliana liked it firmly in the past. They no longer needed to be angry at each other.
But then Elliot revealed that Mr. Stacy had been responsible for Elliot’s being captured at all. Good Lord, if that were true, Juliana wanted to shoot Mr. Stacy herself.
How could he not have helped Elliot? Though he might not have known specifically what the tribesmen would do to Elliot, Mr. Stacy must have had some idea generally. And the tribesmen might simply have killed Elliot on the spot.
But then, Mr. Stacy had felt remorse and had gone back to try to find him. At least, he’d said so.
One thing shone in crystal clarity. Elliot was in a black rage, and there was no telling what he might do. Juliana shared a bed with him, and his powers of seduction were incredible, but she could not predict his path.
Juliana made her decision. She rose and stormed for the tent’s entrance, lifting the flap to find a fresh-faced girl just reaching for it.
“Mrs. McBride, won’t you tell my fortune?” The young woman had a few grinning friends behind her. “All of us? We long for tall, handsome husbands.”
Juliana managed a smile, trying to mask her worry and rage. “I’m afraid that Madame McBride’s head hurts too much, ladies. The fortune-teller’s tent must close for now.”
“Aye, we saw Mr. McBride comin’ in to visit ye. No wonder ye look so tired.”
“I tell fortunes.” Channan’s contralto cut through the girls’ giggling. “I know how. Come.”
She signaled with a dark hand, swept her scarves around her neck, and ducked inside the tent. Juliana thanked her silently and sped off in the direction of the house.
She found Mahindar in the middle of the lawn, showing children how to throw the balls at the bottles to knock them down. “Where is Priti?” she asked.
“With Lady Cameron,” Mahindar said.
Juliana followed where he pointed and saw Priti peering at the baby Ainsley held down to her. The tall forms of both Cameron and Daniel Mackenzie stood guard behind them.
“Mahindar, please tell Lady Cameron that I want either Lord Cameron or Mr. Daniel with Priti at all times. Tell them she might be in danger.”