An Extraordinary Lord (Lords of the Armory #3) - Anna Harrington
Late October 1816
Bloody hell. The prince regent had made him a baron.
Blowing out an aggravated breath that left a cloud of steam on the damp midnight air, Merritt Rivers quickened his pace through the rain-drenched back alleys and narrow passages between Lincoln’s Inn Fields and St Paul’s. He flipped up his greatcoat’s collar against the ice-cold drizzle, yet he was thankful that tonight’s rain had prevented another riot from breaking out and kept the City relatively quiet for once.
A barony. Christ. If he’d known that the infamous Mrs. Fitzherbert had been in the carriage he’d saved from attack last month, he’d have fled in the opposite direction as fast as he could run.
He grimaced. No. He still would have rescued her, but he would at least have had the foresight to give a false name.
Maybe that was what he needed, he considered as he continued to scan the foggy darkness around him. A secret identity. An easier way to separate his daytime career as a barrister from his nighttime activities on the streets. After all, didn’t he already become a different person when he put on his black clothes, armed himself for battle, and headed out into the night? Had to. It was the only way he could survive.
The Night Guardian…the City Watchman…
“The Black Baron,” he muttered.
He rolled his eyes. Bloody hell.
He turned south toward the Thames. There was plenty of time left before dawn to search the area and find the contacts he kept within London’s criminal underworld, to question them about an escaped convict named Ronald Chase. The Home Office was certain the man could provide information on the recent spate of riots that were raining havoc across the City, and they had asked Merritt to catch him.
He’d agreed, but not to support the Home Office as much as to give himself an excuse for stalking the streets tonight and burning off the tension coiling inside him.
An excuse for hunting.
As with most nights, sleep wouldn’t be forthcoming anyway. Especially tonight, when restlessness pulsed in his veins like poison and gripped every muscle like a vise. He’d never be able to simply lie still in the darkness and close his eyes without the ghosts coming to—
A shout broke the stillness, followed by a smashing of wood and the sounds of running footsteps.
He bit back a curse. So much for a quiet night.
Merritt ran after the noise, dodging down a passageway in almost pitch-blackness. He broke out into a fog-banked alley and skidded to a halt, staring at the scene in front of him. What the hell…?
A large man stood with his back pressed against the brick wall. His hands rested at his sides; his eyes were as large as plates and his face pallid. A small barrel lay broken on the cobblestones beside him, its contents spreading around him in a dark puddle. Less than ten feet away, the door of the shop hung splintered on its twisted hinges. So…a burglar.
But it was the person who’d caught him who stole Merritt’s attention, who even now stood in front of the man with the tip of a knife pointed at his chin. A woman. And one unlike any Merritt had ever seen.
She held the knife with its tip pressed lightly into the soft flesh beneath the man’s jaw and at such an angle that its sharp blade would slice through his throat if he dared try to shove it away. Not a trace of fear showed anywhere in her. But then, what else would he expect from a woman dressed in a man’s black work shirt beneath a tightly cinched waistcoat made of thick leather and metal studs, black breeches, and short boots? Two short knife sheaths were tied to both forearms, with a pair of handcuffs dangling from her right hip and a small sword strapped to her left. Thick, coppery red curls were tied back at her neck with a black ribbon, yet stray curls as wild as she was had slipped free and framed the sides of her face. Good God…who was she?
“Thank you for coming,” she called out, her eyes never leaving the man in front of her. A faint foreign accent Merritt couldn’t identify thickened her voice. “But I’m not in need of rescue.”
Well, he could certainly see that. He arched a brow and leaned his shoulder against the wall, settling in to watch whatever happened next. “Who says I’m here to rescue you?”
Her sensuous lips curled with amusement. “In that case, he’s mine. I got