Sweet Rogue of Mine (The Survivors #9) - Shana Galen
Someone was in the house. Nash Pope might be half asleep and half drunk, but he knew when someone was in his house. He was a trained sharpshooter, and his body was attuned to even the most subtle changes in atmosphere. Just a few minutes before, the air in Wentmore had been stale and still, the only sounds were of mice scampering in the attic and the creak and groan of the ancient timber beams and floorboards settling.
But now the mice had gone silent and the air stirred. The house seemed to straighten and take notice of someone new, someone far more interesting than its current occupant. In the dining room, the curtains closed against the daylight, the lone candle that burned flickered as though the house exhaled softly in anticipation.
Nash raised his head from the sticky table and heard the shuffle of feet and the squeak of a door hinge.
He reached for his pistol. He didn’t need to see it. It was an extension of his arm and his favorite pistol by far. He owned at least half a dozen, including a brace of matching dueling pistols made by Manton, a pepperbox pistol made by Twigg, a more decorative pistol he’d purchased from the London gunsmith Hawkins—who liked to advertise that the former American President George Washington owned one of his creations—and this one, made by the Frenchman Gribeauval. Gribeauval had made Napoleon’s personal pistol, and though Nash was no admirer of Napoleon, he did admire the French armory of St. Etienne.
Nash’s thumb slid over the polished walnut gunstock, over the pewter filigree, until his finger curled into the trigger guard as though it were a well-worn glove. He lifted the pistol, not feeling its weight, though it was heavier than some, and then waited. It would do him no good to seek out the intruder. The world, what he could see of it, was gray and full of shadows. Better to let the interloper come to him. He could still shoot straight if he was still.
All had gone silent. Perhaps the uninvited guest had paused to listen as Nash did.
If the game was patience, Nash would win. As a sharpshooter, he had waited more than he had ever fired at the enemy. He often stood in one spot, unmoving, for four or five hours. He stood in the heat or the cold or, if he was fortunate, in the cool, scented breeze of a spring day. The weather might change, but his rifle at his side never had.
The rifle had been put away. He couldn’t sight in the rifle anymore, and it was basically useless to him now, but hitting his target with his pistol and one poorly working eye was possible.
“Nash!” a voice called out. If he hadn’t been trained as well, he might have jumped. But Nash’s jaw only ticked at his name shattering the silence.
The floorboard creaked again. The intruder was in the foyer. He was not directly outside the dining room. The voice was still too distant.
“Put your pistol down, Nash. I came to talk to you.”
Nash did not lower the pistol, though the voice sounded familiar now. Stratford? No, this voice wasn’t refined enough. Stratford had been here a few months before. Apparently, he’d sought out Nash’s father, the Earl of Beaufort, in London and told him Nash needed him. Stratford obviously didn’t know that the earl didn’t give a damn about Nash. He’d sent his solicitor, and Nash had fired the pistol he held now over the bald man’s head and sent him running back to Town.
A door opened and the man said, “Nash?”
It was the door to the parlor.
“Nash, if you shoot me, I’ll kick your pathetic arse all the way to Spain and back.”
Nash felt his lips quirk in an unwelcome half-smile, as he finally recognized the voice. “And if I kill you?” Nash asked.
“Then I’ll come back and haunt you.” Rowden was just outside the dining room now, standing at the door. Nash and Rowden had met in Spain, both serving in His Majesty’s army. They’d become close friends, even if their skill sets were quite different.
“If I open this door, will you shoot me?” Rowden asked.
“It depends,” Nash said, still holding his pistol at the ready. “Did my father send you?”
A pause. “Of course, he sent me.” Rowden spoke like he fought—directly and plainly. He did not pull punches.
“Then don’t open the door.”
“Shoot me and the next to arrive will be men from an asylum. Beaufort is ready to