The Strange Case of Finley Jayne Page 19

Chocolate was good, and getting out of the house would be good, as well. If she was distracted, perhaps she wouldn’t think of the look Lord Vincent had given her. It scared her and angered her at the same time. Part of her was afraid of him now, while another part of her wanted to grab him by the throat and thrash him until he cried like a baby.

But it wasn’t really herself she was worried about. She was worried about Phoebe. Phoebe was more breakable than she was.

They found Lady Morton downstairs. She agreed that an outing sounded delightful, and insisted that Finley allow her to treat—a thank-you for saving her daughter’s life.

“You don’t need to thank me, Lady Morton,” Finley told her.

The lady put her arm about Finley’s shoulders and squeezed. “When you are a mother, my dear girl, you will realize that I will be beholden to you for the rest of my days.”

That was a strange concept for Finley to wrap her head around—that someone might feel indebted to her for so long.

They called for the carriage and collected their coats. The day was slightly overcast and a little cool, but still pleasant. The city bustled with activity. Vehicles filled the cobblestone streets with pedestrians threading in and out of traffic. The steam-moistened air was filled with the scents and sounds of London as ladies in bright walking gowns mingled with the drably garbed lower classes.

Bond Street was one of the most fashionable locations in the West End. A place Finley rarely ever haunted before coming to the Morton household. There were many fine shops catering to any number of tastes, and little coffeehouses and tearooms where ladies might stop to rest their shopping-weary feet.

Their destination was a small shop with a bright blue awning and sign that read Chocolatier. As soon as Finley crossed the threshold, her stomach growled in appreciation. Here, there was nothing but the smell of chocolate—warm and delicious.

They sat at a table near the window and ordered a pot of hot chocolate along with a selection of sweets, such as chocolate-filled croissants and tiny, decadent cakes.

Finley glanced out the window and spied two men on the opposite side of the street. They were a little rough looking—not normally the type that one saw in this part of the city—and they seemed to be looking directly at her. Her heart gave a nervous kick at their intent gazes, and she quickly turned her head.

“He’s so handsome,” Phoebe commented just as Finley directed her attention at her.

“Who?” she demanded.

“The Duke of Greythorne,” came the reply. “He just left.”

She glanced out the window, but all she saw was a tall gentleman with reddish-brown hair and wearing very fashionable clothing as he walked away from her. “Well, he has a tolerable back,” she commented drily.

Phoebe snickered. “Looking at his backside are you, Finley?”

Lady Morton chuckled, as well. A slight heat crept up Finley’s cheeks. Why she was embarrassed escaped her. It wasn’t as though she could actually see his derriere with his coat in the way.

“He’ll make a fine catch for a debutante one day,” Lady Morton commented. She wore her dark spectacles, but Finley could see a twinkle in one eye. “Rich as the devil, handsome and polite.”

“Not much for society, though,” Phoebe rebuked. “Whoever marries him will have to be content to go to balls alone, or stay at home for the most part. He’s not out and about very much.”

Her mother raised her cup of chocolate to her lips. “He may grow into enjoying society.”

“Well, it hardly matters to me. It’s not as though I’ll have a chance of ever marrying him.” Phoebe’s tone was surprisingly sharp, and drained the color from her mother’s face.

“I don’t have a chance with him, either,” Finley jumped in, hating that guilty look on her employer’s face. “All I’ll ever have is the memory of his backside.”

Phoebe’s smile broke first, then she chuckled. Her mother followed suit, and the tension at their table lessoned. By the time they’d finished their treats—the croissants were to die for—they had been in the shop for more than an hour, talking, laughing and indulging in more chocolate than was wise.

They bought croissants to take home with them for breakfast the next morning. Personally, Finley thought they’d be lucky if the pastries made it to midnight. They were to attend a musicale that evening, and might be in need of a snack when they returned home.

As they left the shop, Finley glanced across the street. The men she’d spied earlier were gone, much to her relief.

They barely made it half a block before an arm snaked out of the alley they were passing and grabbed Lady Morton, snatching her into the narrow space. She cried out, but her abductor slapped a hand over her mouth and pointed a pistol at Finley and Phoebe.

It was the ruffians. She’d been right to be suspicious of them.

Phoebe gasped, and looked as though she was about to scream. The second man pointed a knife at her. “Make a sound and I’ll slit yer mum’s throat.”

The color drained from Phoebe’s face, but Finley was most concerned with Lady Morton. The woman was terrified—to the point where she might pass out.

“What do you want?” Finley asked, a strange calm settling over her. The other part of her had come to call, and she was glad of it.

Both men looked at her. “Yer money and yer valuables,” the larger of the two—the one with the knife—informed her. “You come over here and take off Lady Posh’s glittery bobs.”

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