Adam Black rose up from the chair by the fire like an apparition from the underworld. A moment later he had moved to put himself between the two, facing Lord Widom.
With a grunt, Lord Widom shifted to move past him. Black stopped him with a blow to the jaw that made him reel.
“Nothin’to do with you!” Lord Widom sputtered. “Girl’s a damned slut. Get out of my way!” Once again he made to move past Black.
Black sent him spiraling to the floor with one blow. Blood poured from Lord Widom’s nose, flowering across his shirt. Bending over the groggy man, Black spoke firmly, “Come near the girl again and I will beat you to within an inch of your life. Worse, I will let you keep that chit you are trying to sell me.”
With that he grabbed the man by his cravat and dragged him into the hall. He closed the door and locked it.
When they were alone Black turned back to her, his blue eyes luminous in the darkness. Slowly he approached her. He took the decanter from her and returned it to a nearby table.
Elizabeth began to cry, hands coming to cover her face. What had she done? Tomorrow she would have nowhere to live. Could she bear the streets? Sinking to her knees she found herself wishing that she had died with her father nine months ago. Why couldn’t they both have died of fever? They could have been buried side by side. Why had he left her alone?
Black picked her up and carried her to his chair.
Elizabeth, heart pounding, allowed him to hold her. What did anything matter any more? What kind of world could it be when an uncle tried to rape his own niece? Would she ever feel safe again?
“Stop,” Black ordered softly. “Crying accomplishes nothing. You should really consider acquiring a new employer.”
“What about a new family? Elizabeth choked, wishing for all the world it was possible.
“You’re related to these…”
“Indeed.” Elizabeth managed an uncertain smile. “Do not pity me too much. You will soon be a member of the clan too.”
Black grimaced. “Nevertheless, its time to look for a new situation.”
I thought I would have six weeks. Now I have six hours,” Elizabeth said. “I am surely a most unfortunate person.”
“Six weeks,” said Black. His expression hardened a little as he stared into space.
Elizabeth let her head fall against his chest. For a few moments at least she felt safe. Closing her eyes she reflected that she was half naked on Black’s knee. She should get up, run from the room, cry. But why should she? This was where she wanted to be, where she had wanted to be for weeks.
The two sat in companionable silence for a long time.
“You must be blind to marry Diana,” Elizabeth said abruptly. It was merciless to take advantage of his kindness this way but something drove her on. She had to know, for her own peace of mind, how he could make such a mistake.
When his lips brushed hers, Elizabeth held very still. A hand came to her throat, drawing her toward him. Lost in the smell of him, the overwhelming strength, she wondered if she would ever draw another breath. His tongue parted her lips, his hands follow the curve of her breast.
When he finally drew away, Elizabeth put her head on his chest and closed her eyes. Nothing mattered anymore. That one moment, that one second of kindness wedded to desire, would last a lifetime.
“Here I save you from rape only to steal a kiss,” Black said in a low voice. His laugh was rueful. “Christ, you have had a rough night.”
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