Beguiled, page 26
She nodded solemnly, turned, and bracing her foot on the body of the Rook, she drew the blade of her sword across his shirt to wipe the blood away.
Agnes gazed at the man she loved. “Summon the guards to clean this up and dispose of the body. Mrs. Johnson doesn’t need to see this.”
“I will, but now I’d like to hold you and forget what has occurred here.”
Returning the sword to the scabbard, Auntie Loo joined them. “Spare Mrs. Johnson this carnage. Lord Lachlan’s man will help me. I’ll fetch him.”
As she walked away, Edward said, “Will she truly return to China?”
“I hope so.” Agnes hugged Edward. “Her mother is old and Auntie Loo is her only child.”
“Hum, that feels good. Shall we name our first daughter for her?”
Gazing up into his face, Agnes thanked God for the gift of Edward’s love. “Aye. May I suggest that we adjourn to a private place and beget her?”
* * *
Just before dawn Agnes questioned that decision. Amid the blaring of alarms and the shrill sound of whistles, her father and Robert Spencer charged into Napier House.
Dressed in her robe and standing beside Edward, who wore only the mended leather breeches, Agnes stared blankly at her father.
“Where the hell is Mary?” he demanded. “And get your hands off my Agnes.”
Edward pulled Agnes closer. “Begging your pardon, my lord, but she’s my Agnes, now.”
As the subject of her father’s intense scrutiny, Agnes could think of nothing to say. His clothing was soiled from the long ride, and he’d braided his hair at the temples. A thousand childhood memories came flooding back.
“You seduced her?” he asked Edward.
A grin as big as Scotland blossomed on Lachlan’s face. He held out his hand in gentlemanly fashion. “Congratulations, Napier, she’s yours.”
“Papa!” Agnes yelled, as indignant as could be.
Lachlan sighed and shook his head. “You’re a lucky man, Cathcart.”
“I know that, my lord, and I promise you that she’ll want for nothing.”
“Nor will you,” Lachlan said. “If companionship and loyalty are things you prize, Agnes Elizabeth has them to spare.”
From the stairs Mary said, “Why thank you, Papa.”
Robert Spencer, the dark-haired earl of Wiltshire rushed to the bottom of the steps. “So there you are,” he said.
Mary planted her feet. “Don’t you come near me.”
“I’ll do more than that, Mary Margaret MacKenzie.”
“I want nothing to do with you.”
“You’ve said that before.”
“You plied me with Italian drink.”
“You were as sober as a nun, but that was your only virtue.”
“You took any other I had.”
Edward moved away from Agnes and stepped between the English earl and Mary. “Wiltshire, we offer her shelter and you our hospitality, so long as your behavior merits it.”
“Well put, Cathcart,” said Lachlan.
Looking elegantly bedraggled, Robert Spencer slapped his plumed hat against his thigh. “She carries my child. She will marry me.”
Mary hissed. “Note which of the two holds greater importance to his lordship.”
Lachlan extended his hand. “Mary lass, please be reasonable.”
“Reasonable?” Her eyes blazed defiance. “He forced me.”
“Ha! You wanted me. You still do. You’re too thickheaded to admit it.”
Lachlan turned to Edward and Agnes. After kissing her cheek, he said to Edward, “My lord, I’m certain you’d prefer the company of my firstborn to the coil that goes between these two unfortunate lovers.”
“Indeed, your grace.” Edward held out his hand to Agnes. “Shall we, sweetheart?”
Agnes knew that Mary loved the English earl; she’d said as much. But their romantic journey had been fraught with obstacles. Perhaps some time here in Glasgow, away from both her detractors and his supporters, would allow Mary and Robert to mend the rift between them.
“Go, Agnes,” her father said. “Leave these two to me.”
“Will you?” Edward asked.
Agnes gazed into the eyes of the man she loved. “Aye.”
Arm in arm, they strolled toward the old wing.
Mary’s angry voice echoed through the corridors. “I admit to this, you pig-headed Englishman. I pray that you fall into the Minch and freeze your puny ballocks off.”
Edward whistled. “Pity poor Wiltshire. I think the Lady Mary is more dangerous than you.”
Feigning innocence, Agnes fluttered her eyelashes. “Oh, she is. I’m a kitten at heart.”
Laughing, Edward swept her into his arms. “Will you purr for me, my little cat?”
Agnes languished in his arms, her soul brimming with gladness, her mind filled with visions of bright tomorrows. “Always, my love. Always.”
Five years later
AGNES RESTED ON THE NARROW cot in the laboratory. On the floor beside her, her new daughter slept peacefully in the refurbished wicker basket. Hannah had left yesterday with Michael and Sarah and their twin sons for a visit to Edinburgh.
Across the room Edward sat on the floor near his latest invention, a bilge pump. Looking on were Christopher and four-year-old Jamie, the son Agnes had borne eight months to the day after their wedding. The low-pressure steam engine, perfected and patented, had taken its place among the other archetypes.
Edward spoke softly to the lads, and something about his tone alerted Agnes. A moment later Jamie got to his feet and skipped over to Agnes.
“Mama, when’s a lassie’s leg like an angle iron?”
Choking back laughter, Agnes glanced at her husband. Mischief twinkled in his eyes.
“When her husband is too big for his breeches.”
He giggled. “Papa said you’d blush.”
“As usual,” Edward declared, “your father is correct.”
Little Juliet, born two days before and named for Agnes’s stepmother, began to fuss. Agnes reached for her.
“Nay.” Edward scooped the girl from the basket. First he kissed the baby’s brow, then he sat on the edge of the cot and kissed Agnes. “We had an agreement, if you will recall. Rest or I’ll carry you upstairs. How do you feel?”
This labor had been blessedly short, and counting Juliet, Agnes and her sisters had presented Lachlan MacKenzie with ten grandchildren. Mary was expecting again, and this time her husband, Robert Spencer, was taking wagers that she’d give him a son. “I feel wonderful. Having the best doctor in Christendom helps.”
Edward shifted the baby to his shoulder and held her there, his graceful hand supporting her tiny back. Speaking softly to Juliet, he said, “You’re a lucky lass. Your mother is beautiful and intelligent, too.”
Christopher leaned close to his half sister and whispered, “If you’re nice to our mother, she’ll teach you how to pick a lock with naught but a hairpin for a tool.”
“Not if she doesn’t rest,” Edward said with finality. “Close your eyes, love.”
“But I’m not sleepy.”
“Humor your doctor.”
The upstairs door opened, and footfalls sounded on the ancient steps. Agnes knew the identity of their guest, but when Cameron Cunningham stepped into the room his complexion was pasty white, and his eyes were haunted with shock. His words robbed her of breath.
“I know where Virginia is.”
Books by Arnette Lamb
Maiden of Inverness
A Holiday of Love
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Arnette Lamb, Beguiled
by Arnette Lamb / Romance have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes