Reckless in Innocence
Reckless in Innocence
(an early Jane Lark story that is not at all associated with the Marlow Intrigues)
~ Read the earlier parts listed in the index
“Wait! Halt!” Marcus yelled to his brother as his gaze followed the numbers on the properties lining the street. They were close. Fifteen, seventeen, nineteen. The address Jason had copied in the solicitor’s office was twenty-three.
It was a tall, narrow, terraced house.
Marcus looked at his brother. Jason’s gaze was on the property too, and his expression grim. No one knew better than Jason how depraved Percy could be when he chose. Nausea stirred in Marcus’s stomach as they drew closer. There were only two windows in which there was any light. They were on the first floor.
They could be in bed…
The thought struck Marcus like a dagger through the gut.
His eyes hovered on the windows in which light flickered, hoping beyond hope he was wrong.
How many times had Percy bedded her? How had she been treated?
Marcus thought of Angela – the state she’d been in when Jason had introduced Marcus to her. She’d been quiet and nervous – afraid.
There was movement in the window above him. He couldn’t see who or what, but a shadow had crossed the light.
He freed his feet from the stirrups, lifted a leg over the horse’s rump, then slipped down from his saddle, dropping onto the cobbled street, as quietly as he could. Jason did the same.
Marcus lifted his finger to his lips, telling his brother to stay silent. Then tied his reins to the railing. Once his horse was safely tethered, Marcus crossed to the far side of the street and looked up. He could see into the room, although he could see little but a picture on the far wall and the flickering candlelight that made the dark become a frame too, making the view into the room like a picture itself. The neighbouring window which was also lit seemed to be a different room.
Jason stood at Marcus’s side. They glanced at each other, then looked up once more. This was the house. But which room?
Everything about him calmed, he felt as though he stood in the eye of a storm, like a boat becalmed on a still sea. He was in reach of her, but he did not want to rush his fences and err now. She may not be in either lit room, or even in a room at the front of the house…
He could still see movement in the room on the left, hurried movement in the form of a shadow passing across the walls. Then he saw her, just a glimpse, for a brief moment, but it was long enough to know it was her – and enough to know she was frantic – and afraid. She swept back a lock of fallen hair and glanced about the room then moved out of sight.
He looked at Jason. Jason caught hold his arm and nodded up to the other lit room. Percy walked towards the window looking bloody pleased with himself, with a glass in one hand.
Hell and damnation. He’d seen them.
Elizabeth had looked at everything, there was nothing heavy, apart from a chair. But if she picked up a chair she could not hide and have surprise. The only thing which she could find that she could lift above her head to hit him with was her silver plated hairbrush. It was not heavy but it was hard. She gripped its handle and, with her other hand, swept back her hair as she walked past the window. Her hand shook as it lowered and she crossed the room to stand behind the door, her heart pounding.
Lord Percy’s footsteps crossed the floor in the room next door at an urgent pace. “Elizabeth!”
She lifted her hand, holding up the brush and gripped the doorknob. It turned within her fingers. She stepped back as the door thrust open.
When he entered she brought down her arm with as much force as she could. The back of the hairbrush struck his temple, but it had as much impact as a wet rag. He did not even flinch but caught her wrist in his fingers and twisted her arm.
“Ah!” A lance of pain shot up to her shoulder.
“You little trollop.” He dragged her out of the bedroom and into the sitting room. She tugged against his grip, fighting to be free, but his strength was beyond hers.
“Let me go.” Her fingers scratched his face, cutting into the skin beside his eye.
“Stop fighting for God sake.”
“Let me go!”
He pulled her around, twisting her arm so it was pinned behind her back, and pressed up towards her shoulders. The pain in her shoulder, elbow, and the wrist, where he gripped, was searing.
His other arm became a bar across her chest.
“Let me go!”
He dragged her backwards to a chair where he’d left his outdoor coat, she stumbled awkwardly, bucking against his grip, trying to pull away, even though it hurt her arm.
“Stop it!” he barked as he reached across her into the pocket of his coat.
The cold steel of a pistol pressed to her temple. “Stop fighting. Stay still. Or I will simply kill you. It will make things damned well easier.” His voice rung with determined truth. Stunned horror congealed in her blood and she stopped fighting, as he dragged her back again, towards the door.
Marcus banged on the door with the side of his gloved fist, a hard heavy strike which jolted it. He needed to get in there. It opened inwards, revealing a giant of a man who stood like a wall between Marcus and Elizabeth. “Let us pass,” Marcus growled. The man was a mountain. “We are here to see Lord Percy. Move aside. I know for a fact, he is here.”
“And I know for a fact ‘e don’t want no visitors.” The mountain answered.
“And I do not give a damn what he wants!” Marcus withdrew his pistol from his coat pocket, but held it the wrong way around, gripping the handle in his fist. He used it to add weight and solidity to the punch he thrust into the man’s stomach. The mountain doubled over, coughing as Marcus pushed past him and ran up the stairs, two at a time. His pistol now gripped correctly in his hand.
A door opened on the landing above them. Marcus looked up. Elizabeth. Her gaze grasped at his. “Marcus!”
Good God. His heart bled. Percy had his arm about her and a bloody pistol pointed at her head. He pulled her out on to the landing. He had her pinned against him somehow. “Stay back!”
Marcus slowed. He sensed Jason do the same. But Marcus did not stop moving – downstairs the noise suggested the doorman had recovered and was moving towards Jason. Marcus half turned on the stairs, spinning his aim to the mountain. “Stay back. Keep out of this.”
The man looked at the end of Marcus’s pistol and stilled, as Jason turned and aimed at the doorman too.
They had a bloody stand off. Marcus looked back at Elizabeth, and returned his aim to Percy. Percy was using her as a shield. Hell, Marcus was a reasonable shot but he was no marks man, he would not like to try for Percy when Elizabeth’s head was beside his.
Percy had not stopped moving; he continued backing away from the head of the stairs, along the landing. Marcus climbed another step. So did Jason.
“You would not dare.” Percy growled. “You would lose both her and the child.” My God. Percy dropped the tip of the pistol to Elizabeth’s stomach and pressed.
A chill raced across Marcus’s skin. He could see the convex curve which Percy pressed the pistol against, there was no doubt that what she’d said was true. She was carrying his child. She was. And now because of him, both Elizabeth and their child were at risk. Violent curses screamed in his head as he glanced at his brother, then back at Percy. Marcus climbed another step.
How could he get her away from Percy. The tip of Percy’s pistol lifted and pressed back against Elizabeth’s temple. It had left a red mark there when he’d taken it away. There was a red mark and bruising on her cheek, and her lip had been split. He tried to think, but internally he was too busy screaming curses at himself. “Elizabeth…” His voice echoed about the hall, ringing with pain, saying so much he could not speak; a hundred sorrys, a thousand I love yous and a promise for the future; a promise to be different. If he could get her out of this…
He climbed another step as Percy kept on backing her away. Percy was pulling her towards the entrance to the service stairs at the end of the landing.
Marcus judged the distance Percy had to the stairs, compared the distance he had to reach them.
Even in this awful situation Elizabeth’s instinctual relief at the sight of Marcus flowed into her blood -, the warm feeling from when she’d known him as her sanctuary. Her stomach had turned a somersault at the first sight of him. She did not feel afraid anymore as her gaze clung to his. He’d come for her. The sound of his voice filled her with memories – good memories – she wanted to be held by him. To feel safe again.
“Elizabeth,” he said more quietly as he came to a halt at the top of the stairs, his gun aimed at Lord Percy, his gaze on her. His eyes were trying to communicate something she could not understand. Fear… Apology… Hope… Need…
“Percy, let her go.” The words were the order of Marcus’s brother, as his gun and his gaze focused on the doorman below.
“I do not think so,” Percy answered from behind her, the sick humour in his voice, mocking them. He continued stepping backwards, as she stumbled over each step. His breath ran across her shoulder in a harsh uneven rhythm.
“Don’t worry, Elizabeth.” Marcus took a step forward, his gaze reaching out to grasp her away from Lord Percy.
She glanced back over her shoulder as Lord Percy turned slightly. They were three steps from the door to the servants’ stairs. Her heart thumped as Marcus moved another two steps in her direction and Lord Percy hauled her back again. Lord Percy turned to look back at the door, and his hand which held the pistol, fell, reaching for the handle.
“Move!” Marcus yelled at her.
She ran forward tearing her wrist free of Lord Percy’s grip, twisting her arm still more. The pain roared as she ran to Marcus while behind her she heard Lord Percy open the door. Marcus ran towards her, his pistol still aimed beyond her. He caught her tight against his chest when she reached him and wrapped her arms about his neck. She looked back. Lord Percy disappeared through the servants’ door into the stairwell.
“You are safe?” Marcus said as she clung to him. Then he breathed against her ear. “What has he done to you?” The pistol’s mechanism clicked as he disarmed it, then the weapon was gone, hidden within his pocket, as his brother pushed past them.
Her gaze followed Lord Derwent, Jason, as he ran after Lord Percy, disappearing through the door.
Marcus’s fingers cupped her face, gently turning her gaze back to him. “I am sorry.” His gaze swept across her face, assessing her swollen lip, the bruising and redness on her skin.
When his arms slipped about her shoulders, she rested her temple against the strength of his chest, any anger she’d felt towards him ebbed away. He was her sanctuary again.
“You’re safe now. It’s over.”
Tears, which she’d not even noticed falling, became sobs. He swung her up off her feet, into his arms, then turned back to the stairs. The doorman stepped back, perhaps realising that he’d taken the wrong side.
Elizabeth clasped the lapel of Marcus’s coat. “Your brother?”
“Will see to Percy, and the horses. I am taking you home.”
“I have no home,” Elizabeth whispered on a sob as her arms slid about his neck once more, and her forehead pressed against his shoulder.
“You have a home now, for as long as you want it. Angela and Jason will take you in.”
“Your brother…” she asked in a small voice. Why not with you?
He looked down at her. “My sister-in-law will take care of you. Nothing will harm you there.”
It was not nausea which writhed inside her, nor was it fear – she was heart-sore. But she clutched his shoulders tighter as more tears fell. What had she thought? That he would marry her after this…
To be continued…
If you cannot wait until next week for more of Jane Lark’s writing there’s plenty to read right now, and do not miss your chance for the great Magical Weddings summer reading box set, containing Jane’s super sexy story The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel “If you love Reckless, you will love the Jealous Love of a Scoundrel 😀 ” 99c or 99p
To read the Marlow Intrigues series, you can start anywhere, but the actual order is listed below ~ and click like to follow my Facebook Page not to miss anything…
The Marlow Intrigues
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all
Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ A Free Novella #2.5
The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ A second Free Novella #3.5
Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback and, yes, there are more to come 🙂
Go to the index
- the story of the real courtesan who inspired The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
- another free short story, about characters from book #2, A Lord’s Scandalous Love,
- the prequel excerpts for book #3 The Scandalous Love of a Duke
Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark