The Perks of Being a Lady Preview

A Historical Regency Romance Novel

About the book

And now the final pieces, have been placed on the chessboard...

Though the daughter of a Duke, Lady Eudora Farrell wants nothing to do with polite society. Tired of being treated as a bargaining chip for the wealthiest lord to marry, she is adamant about being involved in the Dukedom's business. Especially since this allows her to see one very specific barrister.

Elijah Keating has a lot to prove. With past crime accusations against his father weighing heavily on his shoulders and reputation, he must fight even harder to establish himself as London's most capable barrister. Most importantly, he strives to prove his worth to Eudora's father, who has all but forbid him from approaching her.

Eudora and Elija's forbidden romance is challenged when bodies of noblemen begin to show up, and he is called to aid the investigation. On a hunt for the killer, things take a turn when all roads seem to lead to one person: Elijah.


Chapter One



She was asleep and dreaming of a future that, in all likelihood, would never be hers.

Even in the dream, she knew that the things she was seeing weren’t real. They were too beautiful to be real. They were things she could never have.

A small cottage, clean and well lit. The smell of baking bread in the air, and flour on the table. 

A man, just outside the window. Her lover. He faced away from her, surveying their small plot of land, the vegetables that grew in their garden, and she smiled at the sight of him, knowing that he took pleasure and pride in the life they had built.

A baby, crawling on the floor, staring up at her with the brightest blue eyes she had ever seen. His father’s eyes, not hers. Not her dull brown ones, which she had never admired. They were the eyes of the man who had brought beauty into her life.

She loved him. In spite of everything, she loved the child’s father.

In spite of everything…

She felt vaguely sick at that thought, as reality encroached on the beautiful fantasy of her dream. She loved him, and yet there was no denying that he had been cruel to her. He would never love her in return.

She would never have this vision, this beautiful dream.

But there was one part of it that would be brought to life. One part of what she was seeing would be real.

The child. The beautiful, blue-eyed child.

And even in sleep, she felt the baby move inside her, reassuring her that this much, at least, was no dream. It was a soothing feeling. Whatever came next, at least she would have her baby.

Suddenly, a hand closed around her arm, jerking her from sleep.

She awoke to the cold brutality of her real life. She was lying on a mattress on the floor where she always slept. No one around her was stirring.

A hand clapped over her mouth. “Silence,” he said. “If you make a sound, you’ll regret it. You and that bastard you’re carrying.”

Fear shot through her like a knife. She couldn’t have made a sound even if she had wanted to. She looked up at him, terrified.

Even now, her heart clenched with love for him as she looked up into those blazing blue eyes. Even now, she wanted him in her perfect fantasy life. She wanted him to grow vegetables behind the beautiful cottage they would live in together. She wanted to leave this dark and dirty world behind her, and she wanted to do it with him by her side.

But he would never agree to it. He would never go with her, never stay with her. He had made that clear. What he wanted from her, he had already had, and there was nothing between them anymore.

So what did he want with her now?

He dragged her from the sleeping room, and she scrambled to keep her feet beneath her, doing her best to keep up with him. When they reached the front door of the Manor, he released her mouth but kept his grip on her arm.

“Not a sound,” he growled.

She was desperate to ask where he was taking her, but she was too fearful to actually put the question into words. She had no doubt that he would harm her, harm her baby, if she didn’t do as he asked.

How can I love someone who’s so hateful?

She didn’t know. She only knew that she did love him. He was never far from her thoughts. Every time she indulged in fantasies about the life she wished she could have—the life she knew would never be hers—he was in them.

But maybe…

Maybe something different was finally happening tonight.

Maybe that was why he had woken her up. Maybe he had decided that he wanted her after all. Maybe he was going to take her away from his Manor. They would run away together. They would finally start the life that should have been theirs from the beginning.

Or maybe—maybe it was even better than that. Maybe he had finally decided to take her as his wife! She would be a lady, a proper lady, living by his side, and they would be free to love one another publicly.

If that’s what he wants, why is he being so rough?

He was a strong, rough man by nature. That was all. He didn’t know his own strength. When they had made love, it had been painful, because he had been too rough with her. But he just hadn’t known, that was all. And this was the same thing. He didn’t know his hand was hurting her arm. He didn’t know he was frightening her.

He would never hurt her on purpose.

Yes. That was it. Her heart filled with hope. She had judged him too harshly! He was going to take her away, and they would raise their child together.

He pushed her out the door in front of him, into the street.

She staggered and tripped, falling to her hands and knees on the cobblestones. Quickly, she picked herself up, wondering whether he would be angry at her clumsiness. She turned to look at him, anxious that she would see irritation in his face.

He was standing in the doorway and watching her coldly.

“Are you coming?” she asked him, and immediately regretted opening her mouth. He had asked her to be quiet.

He barked out a laugh. “Am I coming? Certainly not.”

She frowned, not understanding. “But…but I thought…”

“You thought that I would be going with you,” he said. “Is that it? You thought that we would be leaving together. Raising that bastard of yours together. That’s what you thought, isn’t it?”

He was so obviously mocking her now that she didn’t dare to respond. She felt her cheeks grow red with shame, but she said nothing.

“I’m not going with you,” he said. “My place is here. I have my responsibilities to tend to. But you no longer have a place with us here. So go. Seek your fortune elsewhere. Find another place for yourself in the world. There’s no longer any room for you with us.”

A shudder ran down her spine. He didn’t mean that. He couldn’t.

“Where am I to go?” she implored.

“That’s hardly my concern, is it?” he said coldly. “After today, I never want to see you again.”

“But you can’t,” she said, tears coming to her eyes. “You can’t do this. What about—what about us?”

“Us?” He laughed scornfully. “There’s no us. There was never any us. You and I are nothing. I never cared for you. How many times must I tell you that? And yet every time I say it, you come crawling back, determined to try again. Desperate for my affection. Like a dog that’s been kicked and yet keeps returning to its master. You’re pathetic.”

“But the baby,” she said. “You can’t turn away your own child.”

“That’s no child of mine,” he said. “I’m a Marquess. You and that child are nothing.”

“It is yours,” she insisted.

“You can’t expect me to believe that. That could be anybody’s child. You could have gotten it anywhere.”

It wasn’t true. She knew the truth. She had counted the days, and the baby could only be his. But she had told him that, and he hadn’t believed her.

Either that or he knows I’m telling the truth but he just doesn’t care.

“Please,” she said, not caring that she was begging in the street now. She was beyond dignity. “You can’t do this to us. You can’t throw us out like this.”

“I’ve had enough of you,” he said. “I don’t care where you go, but you can no longer stay here. Go on, now, and don’t come back. If you’re still about in the morning, I’ll summon the constable.”

He turned and went back inside, slamming the door behind him.

She stood in the street, shivering with shock and cold.

Just moments ago, she had been asleep in her bed. And now she was without a home. No roof over her head, no food for herself or her unborn child. Nothing.

I have no money. What am I going to do?

She staggered down the street, looking left and right, wondering where to go. She knew the city well enough to know that nobody was going to help a woman like her. Not without money. She would have to find work.

But what kind of work could she possibly find? Her employer had just thrown her out in the street without so much as a good recommendation. Nobody would hire her. They would see her as a reject.

She found a boarded-up business and tucked herself into the doorway, sheltering herself a little from the wind. Tears began to trickle down her cheeks as she thought of the man she had allowed herself to fall in love with.

He had let her believe that she mattered to him. He had let her believe that she was important and special, the most favored of all his household staff. He had held her in his arms. He had told her she was beautiful.

He was a monster.

She had loved him. But he was an absolute monster. He had never deserved an ounce of her love.

She closed her eyes and imagined her little fantasy cottage, hoping that it would bring her some measure of peace. But it did her no good. The fantasy that usually warmed her so now felt cold and dismal. Her little cottage was farther away than it had ever been.

So she imagined it burning.

She imagined herself with a torch, throwing it at the wall of the cottage and watching it go up in flames. She imagined the blazing heat as the fantasy was utterly consumed. Huddled in her little doorway, she smiled at the thought. Anger and hatred filled her—hatred for him, hatred for the fantasy she had held onto for so long, hatred for everything that had led to her finding herself in this horrible position.

The baby shifted inside her again, but all the comfort that had once been associated with that little movement was gone.

She couldn’t imagine loving the little blue-eyed baby from her dreams. Not now. Not after what his father had done to her. When the child arrived, she knew that she would only hate and resent him.

It’s for the best. I can’t possibly care for a child now. I can’t bring up a child while I’m living on the streets, barely able to care for myself.

She would give the baby up. It was a much easier decision than she had ever dreamed it would be. The baby had been the brightest thing in her life from the moment she’d known she was pregnant.

But now she despised it.

If it hadn’t been for that baby, he would never have thrown her out. It was the pregnancy that had made him decide he didn’t want her around anymore. If the baby hadn’t come to exist, she would still be in the Manor, and perhaps he would have come to her tonight to take her to his bed instead of to throw her out onto the streets.

She gritted her teeth at the thought of it.

She hated him.

She hated the baby she was carrying.

She hated the whole, dark, dismal world.

Beyond the doorway, rain began to fall, and she allowed herself a small chuckle. Rain. It was perfect for a night such as this, when the whole world seemed to be falling apart.

She allowed the rain to soak her, not caring that she was getting wet. Liking that she was getting wet. Who cared about comfort or happiness? She wanted to see things destroyed.


Chapter Two


“Done for the day?”

Elijah Keating looked up from his books to see his best friend, the handsome and rakish Marquess of Dartbury, leaning against the doorframe. “Don’t you have anything to do with yourself, John?” he asked. “How is it that you always manage to show up at my office just as soon as I’m done for the day?”

“It’s a talent,” John said with a grin. “Besides, you work far too hard. All of the other barristers in town have closed up shop.”

“Well, there’s a reason I’m the most successful barrister in town,” Elijah said.

“Because you’re the smartest,” John said.

“Because I work the hardest,” Elijah corrected. “I have several important cases right now, as a matter of fact, and I can’t neglect them just because you are bored.”

“But I’m extremely bored,” John said. “Come on, Elijah. You’ve done enough for one day. Come and have drinks with me.”

Elijah rolled his eyes, but he closed his books and stacked them on the corner of his desk. “Very well,” he said. “I suppose the rest of this can wait until morning.”

“Good man.” John clapped him on the shoulder. “We’ll go to the pub on the corner, all right?”

“The pub we always go to?” Elijah asked wryly.

“The very same,” John said. “Come on, it’s been days since you and I have been out together. You deserve to have a little fun, Elijah. All you ever do is work.”

Elijah extinguished the candle on his desk and grabbed his coat from the rack. “You know,” he said, “this would all carry a lot more weight with me if you had ever done a day’s work in your life.”

John laughed. “It’s true,” he confessed. “But would you really work, if you were in my shoes?”

“Yes, I would!” Elijah said. “You may feel satisfied with the life you lead, John, but I need to accomplish things in order to be happy with myself.”

“Oh, I accomplish plenty of things,” John said. “It’s just that my accomplishments lie outside the business world.”

“For example?”

“When was the last time you were with a woman?”

Elijah shook his head. “That sort of thing hardly counts as an accomplishment,” he said.

“You wouldn’t say that if you were catching any women’s notice,” John said. “Truly, time spent in the company of a pretty woman is the best time one can spend. I’ll never lie on my deathbed wishing I had spent more hours working.” He made a face. “But you—someday, when you’re old and no longer in your prime, you may wish you had spent more time on romantic pursuits.”

“And when you say romantic pursuits, do you mean patronizing the local brothel? Because I have to tell you, John, that doesn’t really qualify as romance.”

“Oh, loosen your collar,” John said. “Have a little fun for once in your life. You deserve it, with how hard you work all the time.”

“Patronizing a brothel doesn’t sound like fun to me, I’m afraid,” Elijah said.

It was easy for John to talk about these things. It was easy for him to waste his days and nights in ways that wouldn’t advance his life at all. He was a Marquess already. There were responsibilities associated with that position, of course, but John was able to dedicate the majority of his life to idle pursuits in a way that Elijah just wasn’t.

As the foremost barrister in town and a wealthy man in his own right, Elijah was largely accepted by members of the ton. He considered John his best friend, and when he went out and socialized with John and his companions, he fit in fairly effortlessly.

But he was always conscious of the differences between them. They might all be rich, but John and his friends had inherited their wealth, and Elijah had to work for every penny. They might all be respected, but Elijah had earned the respect he was given through hard work and careful study. He knew that John was an educated gentleman, but he also knew that John would never do anything with that education. He didn’t need to make his way in the world, as Elijah did.

That was why John could squander his time and money at brothels.

But even if Elijah had time and money to burn, he wouldn’t have wanted to patronize a brothel. What he’d said to John was true—that wasn’t romance. And Elijah cared a great deal for romance. If he was going to spend time with a woman, it was going to be someone he truly cared for.

Someone like—

“Elijah!” John was staring at him. “What on Earth are you thinking about? You walked right past the pub!”

“Oh,” Elijah said, shaking away the thoughts of the lady who was so often on his mind. “Forgive me, John. I was distracted.”

“Distracted by what?” John pressed. “You had your head in the clouds.”

“Just work,” Elijah fibbed. He turned toward the door of the pub. “You’re right. I should leave that behind me. Let’s get that drink.”

They made their way into the dim light of the pub. It was already beginning to fill up for the evening, and several gentlemen down at the end of the bar called out to John as they walked in.

Elijah followed his friend over to the group, scanning for familiar faces. He didn’t recognize anyone, which was no great surprise. Even though John frequently made an effort to include him in his social affairs, Elijah was sure he would never know everyone in John’s social circle. There were too many events to which he couldn’t be invited, too many balls and parties that were limited strictly to members of the ton. He would always be an outsider, at least to some extent.

“Good evening, gentlemen!” John said as they approached the group. “I hope you haven’t started the festivities without us!”

“Never!” a red-haired man said. “Who have you brought with you, Johnny?”

“This is my good friend, Elijah,” John said. “Of course, I’ve told you all about him.”

“The barrister?” The man frowned. “I didn’t realize you were bringing him.”

“Oh, relax, Fred,” John said. “He’s a good friend of mine. You’ll like him.” He turned to Elijah. “The Earl of Essex,” he explained. “He’s not yet twenty, but we let him drink with us anyway.”

“It seems you’ll let just about anybody drink with you,” the Earl of Essex muttered.

“Wait a moment,” Elijah said. “I do know you. You were a client of mine last year. You and your father. I helped you with a property matter. Don’t you remember?”

The Earl shrugged. “A lot of people work for me,” he said. “I can’t possibly remember all of them.”

Apparently, the Earl was determined to be rude and dismissive. Well, Elijah wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction.

“Bartender,” Elijah said, signaling. “An ale for me, please, and one for my new friend, the Earl of Essex.”

John burst out laughing. “That’s putting him in his place. Well done, Elijah.”

“I don’t need a commoner to buy me drinks,” the Earl said, glaring.

Elijah was hard pressed not to laugh. He really did look like a child. In a few years, he would come to realize that he was only betraying his own insecurities by refusing to associate with anyone outside the ton.

“The choice is yours, My Lord,” he told the Earl. “If you can’t accept a drink offered in friendship and respect, certainly no one will force you to drink it.”

The bartender delivered the drinks. Elijah picked his up and took a long swallow, humming with satisfaction. When he set the mug down, he saw that the Earl of Essex had picked his up. Although he still wore a scowl, he was sipping.

We may be friends yet, Elijah thought. It wouldn’t be the first time one of John’s acquaintances had resisted socializing with him at first, only to be won over as time progressed.

“What are we doing tonight?” John asked, looking around at the rest of the group.

“We might go to the music hall,” someone suggested.

“We might stay here and keep drinking,” someone else said with a laugh.

“I’m not going to be able to stay out late,” Elijah said. “I have work in the morning.

“You own the business!” John protested. “You’re the barrister! Can’t you simply open late? What difference would it make?”

“I have meetings scheduled with clients,” Elijah explained. John wouldn’t understand this. The people he met with were his peers. He could reschedule his meetings with them, and there would be no consequences. But Elijah didn’t have that privilege. His clients were nobles, for the most part. They appreciated his knowledge and skill, but they would be quick to abandon him if they thought they were being disrespected.

And tomorrow I’m to meet with the Duke of Merkworth…

That, in particular, was a meeting he did not want to be unprepared for. It was incredibly important to Elijah that he make a good impression on the Duke.

One more thing John could never understand.

“Well, your friend can go on home, then,” the Earl said. “We can certainly have plenty of fun without him.”

“You’re being rude, Fred,” John said.

The Earl shrugged and said nothing, drinking deeply from his ale.

“I hope you enjoy that drink,” Elijah said, smiling at the Earl. “It was my pleasure to get to see you again.”

John took Elijah by the arm and let him away from the group.

“I’m sorry about him,” he said. “I don’t know why we let him associate with us. He’s almost ten years younger than the rest of us. I suppose the hope is that he’ll do a bit of maturing and be more pleasant to spend time with.”

“I’m sure he will,” Elijah said. “You needn’t worry about it, John. He didn’t bother me.”

“Don’t leave because of him,” John urged. “Or if you must, I’ll go with you.”

Elijah shook his head. “You knew that these gentlemen would be here tonight, am I right?”

“Are you upset with me?”

“Not at all. But I came out in part because I thought you had no one to socialize with. Now that you do, I see that it’s all right for me to head on home.”

“But you’ve only had one drink, Elijah!”

“And one was enough,” Elijah assured him. “John, you have nothing to worry about or apologize for. Everything is fine between you and I. But I do have work in the morning to think about, and it’s time I took my leave. Thank you for persuading me to come out tonight. I had a good time.”

“Did you?” John asked dubiously.

Elijah laughed. “Well, I’m glad I came, at any rate. We can do it again sometime soon.”

“Is that a promise?”

“It is,” Elijah said. “I know I’ve been too wrapped up in my work lately. It will be good for me to get out a little more, and I’m lucky to have a friend like you who’ll make sure that I do. But no brothels!”

John grinned. “I think I can agree to that,” he said. “We’ll stick to the pubs. There’s plenty of fun to be had in places like this.”

Elijah nodded. “Make sure you get home safely tonight, all right?”

“Of course,” John said. “Nothing dangerous ever happens in this town. I’ll be fine.”

Elijah nodded. His friend was right. This wasn’t the kind of place where a man had to be afraid to walk home after dark.

Still, he couldn’t shake a sense of unease. There was a part of him that felt like it might be wiser to stay here with John and walk home together.

No, I’m being silly. I have to get home and to bed so I’ll be well rested for tomorrow.


Chapter Three


It was dark outside and the moon was bright overhead when Elijah stepped out of the tavern and onto the street. He was so caught up in thoughts of work that he wasn’t watching where he was going, and it wasn’t until he had actually stepped on the hard object in the road that he noticed it was there.

He bent down to pick it up. Moonlight glinted off of its surface as he held it aloft, turning it in his hands to examine it from all sides.

It was a pocket watch on a golden chain. But the watch’s face was broken, and the hands no longer told the time. Elijah frowned. He hadn’t stepped on the watch with that much force.

I must not have been the first person to step on it.

Someone must have dropped it here. He felt sorry for them, whoever they were. This was a nice watch, and it would be a shame to lose it.

Elijah looked around. The street was empty. If somebody had dropped the watch here, they were long gone by now.

He pocketed it. He was a barrister, after all, and if someone had misplaced a watch, surely word of that fact would make its way around town in the next couple of days. He could see that the item was returned to its rightful owner.

And if nobody claims it, I’ll have it fixed. It’s certainly nicer than any piece of jewelry I own at present.

Pleased with his decision, he turned down the alley that served as a shortcut to the part of town where he lived. It was darker than the main roads, but that had never bothered Elijah. He whistled as he made his way down the alley.

He had made it about halfway down the alley when a voice called after him. “Hey! Stop right there!”

Startled, Elijah turned. A man was running toward him, and for a moment Elijah was sure that this must be the man who had dropped his pocket watch. His hand moved toward his own pocket, ready to fish the watch out and hand it over.

Then the moonlight caught the man’s face, and Elijah recognized him. It was Featherstone, the town’s head constable.

“Constable Featherstone?” Elijah said. “Is there something I can assist with?” As barrister, he often worked hand in hand with the constables, but he was unaccustomed to being approached outside of his working hours. Still, if there was something he could do to be helpful, he would happily do it.

“Put your hands up,” the constable barked.

Elijah frowned. “I beg your pardon?”

Featherstone’s hand went to the butt of his pistol, which was still in its holster. “Hands up, Mr. Keating. Don’t test me, now.”

Slowly, Elijah raised his hands, palms out in front of him. “There must be some mistake,” he said.

“No, I don’t believe there has been,” Featherstone said. “I saw what you had in your hands in the street back there, and if it’s what I think it is, you have quite a bit of explaining to do.”

“Do you mean the pocket watch?” Elijah asked. “I can explain that.”

“I’m sure you can,” Featherstone said. “You can explain to me when we reach the constable’s station how you came by that particular artifact, and where you were while its owner was being murdered.”

Elijah sucked in a breath. “Murdered?”

“Come with me, Mr. Keating,” Featherstone said. “You and I have a great deal to discuss.”

***

He was led to a cell and locked inside immediately, before he had even been questioned. “This is outrageous, Constable Featherstone,” Elijah said. “I’m entitled to speak in my own defense, surely? I don’t even know quite what I’ve been accused of.”

“We’re about to find out,” Featherstone said. “Hand over the pocket watch, please.”

Elijah fished it out of his pocket and passed it through the bars of the cell. “It was on the ground outside the pub,” he explained. “I saw it there and picked it up. I thought I might return it to its owner.”

“That’s a convenient story,” Featherstone said.

“It’s the truth,” Elijah said.

“Can anyone confirm it? Was anyone with you at the time?”

“Well, no,” Elijah admitted. “I had left my companions in the pub. I’d decided to go home early. I was tired, and I have meetings tomorrow morning that I really can’t miss.”

“At this point, you should count on missing those meetings,” Featherstone said. “You’re going to be staying here in this cell for the next little while, at least.”

“But I haven’t done anything,” Elijah protested.

Featherstone held the pocket watch up to the bars of the cell and pointed to the back side of it. “Do you see that engraving?”

Elijah hadn’t noticed an engraving before. He stepped closer now, squinting at it, and could just make out the letters G.M.

“G.M.?” he asked.

“Gordon Morris,” Featherstone explained.

“I don’t know anyone by that name.”

“Then perhaps you know him by his title,” Featherstone suggested. “The Marquess of Haertley?”

“We’re acquainted,” Elijah admitted. “He was a client of mine last year.”

Then he remembered what Featherstone had said when the two of them had met in the alley. “Wait a moment. Has the Marquess been murdered?”

“I think you know the answer to that question, Mr. Keating,” Featherstone said darkly. “I think that’s how you really came to be in possession of this pocket watch. You took it from your old enemy after you murdered him.”

“I didn’t murder him!” Elijah protested. “And I wouldn’t call him my enemy, either.”

“Really?” Featherstone asked.

“I didn’t even remember who he was at first.”

“Or you pretended not to remember,” Featherstone said. “What I remember is that you were very troubled by the Marquess of Haertley. It took everything you had to represent him fairly.”

“He was trying to accuse one of his maids of theft,” Elijah recalled. “He had accused her of pocketing pieces of silver when she was supposed to be cleaning.”

“And what did you do?” Featherstone asked.

“Well, I questioned the maid and she insisted she’d had nothing to do with it,” Elijah said. “So then I examined the silver. As it turned out, nothing was missing at all. The Marquess had simply been trying to destroy his maid’s reputation and to ensure that she would be unable to get another job after he dismissed her. It was cruel and heartless behavior, and it would have ruined the poor woman’s life.”

“So you didn’t like him,” Featherstone said.

“No, I didn’t like him.” Elijah saw where this was going, and he was beginning to feel very indignant indeed. “That doesn’t mean I killed him. I don’t believe there are any laws against disliking somebody, are there?”

“There aren’t,” Featherstone agreed. “But the gentleman is dead. And now I just happen to find you with his pocket watch on your person, and you insist that it’s a coincidence?”

“Listen, my father was falsely accused of theft,” Elijah said. “He was convicted without trial and sentenced to death for his crime. That’s the reason I became a barrister in the first place. I wanted to provide justice for those who might not otherwise receive it.”

“Your father’s story is well known,” Featherstone said. “But what has it to do with this matter?”

“It’s the reason I couldn’t tolerate what the Marquess of Haertley had done,” Elijah said. “Setting someone up to take blame for a crime they didn’t commit. I became a barrister because I wanted to help people achieve true justice. I wanted to see that the guilty were punished, and that the innocent were not. It’s the most important thing to me.”

“Is this a confession?” Featherstone said. “You wanted to murder the Marquess because of his guilt in the matter of his maid?”

I didn’t murder him,” Elijah said. “I would never do such a thing, because that isn’t justice at all! Don’t you see? Even though I despised him for what he did, it didn’t mean he ought to be killed.”

Featherstone shook his head. “The evidence is all against you,” he said.

“I don’t understand,” Elijah said. “You couldn’t have known about the engraving on the pocket watch when you saw me in the street. Did you simply see a pocket watch and decide to bring me in on that evidence alone? For all you knew, it might have been my own pocket watch!”

“The Marquess’s watch had a very distinctive gold chain,” Featherstone said, holding it up so that Elijah could see. “Longer than the chain found on a typical pocket watch. When I saw this chain dangling from your hand, I knew there was a very good chance you were holding the watch I was looking for.

“And it didn’t occur to you that I might have simply purchased a long chain for my own watch?” Elijah said, feeling slightly helpless. He knew this wasn’t a productive line of questioning—the engraving proved that the watch wasn’t his. But if he could poke a few holes in Featherstone’s logic, perhaps he could make the man question his deductions.

“No man looks at his own watch the way you were looking at that one,” Featherstone said. “Turning it over and over in your hands, as if you had never seen it before.”

“But if I had taken it off of the Marquess after killing him, I would have seen it,” Elijah protested.

Featherstone shook his head. “You never had time to examine it,” he said. “He was killed only just last night.” He narrowed his eyes at Elijah. “Can you account for your whereabouts last night, by the way?”

“I was working late, as I often do.”

“Did anyone see you?”

“No,” Elijah said. “I’m the only one in my office, as you’re well aware. But that’s hardly a crime.”

“If that’s really where you were,” Featherstone said. “But who can say?”

“This isn’t enough evidence to convict a man of anything at all,” Elijah said hotly.

Featherstone shook his head. “You don’t realize the seriousness of the situation,” he said. “Or perhaps you just didn’t believe that we would take it as seriously as we are. The fact of the matter is that murder can’t be overlooked. We can’t take any chances. Right now, you’re the only suspect we have for this crime.”

“That reflects as a failure on your part to do your job,” Elijah said. “I’m innocent.”

“That’s exactly what a guilty man would say, I’m afraid,” Featherstone said. “You and I have worked together on more than one occasion, Mr. Keating, and I’ve always considered you a friend and ally, but now I’m forced to acknowledge that perhaps I never knew you as well as I thought I did. If you’re someone who could commit such a heinous crime, it’s my duty to keep you behind bars.”

“You can’t do this!” Elijah protested.

But Featherstone was already making his way out the door and into the front part of the office. He pulled the door closed behind him.

The room was cast into darkness.

Elijah exhaled slowly, feeling his way toward the bench at the back of the cell, against the wall. He sank down onto it, feeling dizzy and overwhelmed.

How could this have happened?

An hour ago, he had been in the pub, drinking with John and his friends. They were probably still there. If he hadn’t decided to leave when he had, he’d have been perfectly safe.

Instead, he was rotting away in a cell without trial.

This was no justice.

The Marquess of Haertley had been a terrible man, in Elijah’s estimation. But he hadn’t deserved to die.

And the fact that Elijah was the one who had been imprisoned meant that the true killer was still out there.

As long as Constable Featherstone believes I’m to blame, the streets aren’t safe.

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Tags

duke, earl, historical romance, lady, manor, mystery, regency romance, revenge, victorian romance

  • Its shocking that Elijah has been arrested and thrown into jail … and cant wait to see what evolves from this as he is innocent… also the tragic situation of the pregnat maid thrown out by a despicable Duke .. I hope she will get her revenge on him eventually…
    cannot wait to read the rest of their stories in the book ….. intriguing story line….

  • I love regency romance/mystery and this looks like a great one. I can’t wait to see how
    the constable eats his words. This is going to be great.

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