A Lady's Secret Weapon


Pain splintered inside Ethan’s skull the moment his head slammed against the cold surface. Against his will, a moan ripped from his throat, and his body curled into a tight, protective knot.

“Dammit.” His breath huffed against the floor, forcing a cloud of ancient dust into his face.

“Careful, my lord,” a voice rasped, a moment before something soft slid beneath Ethan’s head.

He tried to open his eyes but managed only a small slit, barely enough to discern the broken crate to his left and the hooded figure kneeling at his side.

“Where am I?” Ethan made another attempt to open his eyes, to no avail.

“In a warehouse near the London Docks.”

Docks. Images flashed through his mind like the blast of a firing squad. Three Goliaths, an uncomfortable carriage ride, a sound beating in a dockside alleyway. A cool hand pressed against his throbbing forehead.

Ethan’s jaw clenched. He’d been so close to locating the Frenchman who had brutalized his sister. The anticipation of snapping the man’s neck had made him lose sight of his surroundings, for which he’d paid dearly.

“How did I get here?” He struggled to a sitting position. “Who are you?”

The cloaked figure’s gloved hands halted his clumsy attempt. “You were carried, and my identity is of no consequence.”

Unable to resist, Ethan eased back down. Even though the cloak’s hood hid his savior’s features, Ethan felt the stranger’s intense scrutiny. “Why do you protect your face? You have nothing to fear from me.”

“What makes you think fear is the reason behind my need for privacy?”

Ethan sensed, more than saw, his savior retreating. An unfamiliar terror gripped his gut. “Wait.”

“Rest, Lord Danforth. You are safe here.”

Quiet confidence laced the stranger’s raspy voice, soothing the edges of Ethan’s fear. Never had he felt so helpless, or so tired. He fought the pull of oblivion for all of ten seconds. Before he slipped into darkness, a single thought registered.

How did the stranger know my name?


Sydney paused to give her eyes time to adjust to the large, gloom-filled room. The moment the makeshift bed against the far wall took shape, she moved quietly to the viscount’s side.

The low light hid most of the destruction to his handsome face, as did the cold compress over his swollen eyes. However, she could still see the darkened flesh across his jaw. The apothecary she brought in to assess the damage had discovered severe bruises covering his torso and lacerations dotting his face and body. Thankfully, she had detected no broken bones, though the woman had cautioned her that he might have sustained injuries inside his body. Only time would reveal what’s hidden beneath the flesh.

Rest, cold compresses, and beef tea would see him through the worst of it, the apothecary had said. Sydney had no doubt. His lordship had youth, strength, and sheer stubbornness on his side. Besides, he’d likely survived far worse. Still, she didn’t want to wake him from his healing slumber. He’d hardly moved an inch since they placed him on the narrow cot hours ago. Every so often, she would hold her fingers below his nose to make sure Death had not visited while she’d been away.

Sydney sighed. No matter how difficult, she would follow the apothecary’s prescribed orders. The quicker his lordship healed, the quicker she could send him on his way. She set the tray containing a bowl of beef tea, a linen filled with ice chips, a glass of water, and a bottle of laudanum on the floor and then perched on the edge of his bed. The frame creaked, and his lordship shot upright, his steel-like fingers clamped around her arm, digging deep. The spent compress covering his eyes dropped to the floor with a splat!

“What are you doing?” he asked between gritted teeth. He angled his head back to better see her, blinking several times for focus.

Sydney hunched her shoulders and tucked her chin to protect her features, even though she’d already rubbed coal dust on her face and pinned a large, frilly maid’s cap on her head to protect her identity. “I’ve brought you food and something to relieve your pain, m’lord.” She prayed her tone carried the right amount of submissiveness. “How are you feeling?”

His harsh breaths penetrated the short space between them. Finally, his grip slowly eased, though he did not release her. As he lowered himself back down to his mound of pillows, his hand slid along her arm until his fingers bracketed her wrist.

“Like a ballroom full of drunken lords trampled my body.”

“Better then.”

He squeezed