The Lord of the Highwaymen - Elizabeth Bramwell Page 0,2

only difference being that this man wore a coat of bottle green instead of claret.

“I am afraid that I have no idea what you mean, good sir,” replied William icily. “I do beg that you explain why you have stolen my idea, however.”

The man stopped, and then a familiar grin spread over his face. “Good Lord, is that you, Haddington?”

William blinked in surprise. “Killarney?” he demanded as he recognized his old friend. “By God, why are you dressed as a highwayman?”

The marquess looked amused at the question. “There’s a masquerade ball on, you fool! I might well ask you the same thing, though. I thought we agreed that I was coming dressed as Dick Turpin?”

William scowled, but he suspected his mask hid the expression. He tapped the point of his sword stick onto the ground in irritation. “No, damn you! I said that I was coming as the high pad Jerry Abershawe, and you said that it was a fine idea!”

His friend blinked a few times and then started to laugh.

“Damn, I knew there was too much whiskey that night!”

“And likely too much already this evening as well,” said William, realizing his friend was swaying.

Killarney just laughed.

“Very true! My apologies, Will, but I swear that we agreed I was to be the highwayman and you a runner or some such thing. No matter! We shall have to tell the ladies that we are Plunkett & MacLaine instead, and purposefully dressed as a pair!”

“I have no idea why we are friends, you know,” sighed William as the marquess threw a heavy arm over his shoulders.

“Now, now, Mr. Maclaine, you know that life would be boring without me.”

“Hold on!” spluttered William, pushing his friend away. “How come I have to be Maclaine? I am much more suited to being Plunkett!”

His friend sighed and shook his head. “Dear, dear William. Plunkett was a gentleman, and as I am of higher rank, it makes sense that you must play the common rogue.”

“Your title might be higher, but I’m not the one with the reputation of being a scoundrel.”

“Very true,” admitted his friend, “but it changes nothing. I’m Plunkett.”

They continued squabbling for a few more minutes as they happily insulted each other’s character, parentage, and future children. They turned the corner into Whitehall, where another shout went up and drew their attention.

“Damn and blast it, Killarney! I thought it was settled that we were coming as Plunkett & Maclaine!”

William cursed loudly as he recognized the two men immediately before them, despite their tricorne hats and loo masks.

Killarney pulled out his pistol and pointed it at the head of the man who had spoken.

“Stand and deliver, Conway! For I am not Mr. Plunkett, as you suggest, but rather the wicked Dick Turpin!”

Conway scoffed as he lazily pushed aside his friend’s pistol. “If either of you were going to be Plunkett, it would be William, for he’s the respectable one. Damn it, you two, I thought we’d agreed that the duke and I were to be highwaymen tonight.”

“And these two have drank more than Killareny and I combined,” muttered William before turning his attention to his oldest friend and distant cousin, the Duke of Roehampton. “Well, Dook? I suppose you agree with Conway?”

His friend gave a lazy shrug. “I thought you were going to attend the masquerade as Jerry Abershawe as part of the plan to win Amelia. Conway swore that I was so far in my cups that I had misremembered the whole conversation. I only agreed if I got to be Plunkett.”

This was too much for the Earl of Conway, who stopped play-scrapping with Killarney to stare at the duke.

“We never agreed on any such thing! I’m Plunkett!”

William briefly considered whether it was possible to escape the gallows if he murdered an earl, a marquess, and a duke just a stone’s throw from Parliament.

“Let’s agree that none of us will be Plunkett!” he half-shouted.

“I say, William, there’s no need to be so upset about everything,” said Conway, swaying slightly as he reached out to pat his shoulder. “You can be Plunkett.”

“I’m Jerry Abershawe!” he answered, and really did shout this time.

“Yes, yes. Of course, you are,” continued Conway in a soothing tone usually reserved for small children and the infirm. “Killarney already introduced himself as Turpin, so how about I play Duval, and Dook can be Patrick Flemming?”

“Wait, I want to be Flemming!” demanded Killarney. “Mine’s an Irish title, after all, and I know a fantastic song about the man!”

William rubbed at his face with