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you ha-te him very much?"
Ghis-la-ine's la-ugh bor-de-red on hyste-ria. "You ha-ve to get me away from
him, El-len."
"Don't worry, my pet, we will. Tony and I will pro-tect you. If you don't
want Nic-ho-las ne-ar you I pro-mi-se you he won't to-uch you ever aga-in.
Tony will see to it."
"Tony will see to it," Ghis-la-ine ec-ho-ed, for a mo-ment dis-t-rac-ted
from her own mi-sery. She lo-oked down at the hands clas-ping hers, at the
di-amond and sap-phi-re wed-ding ring, and she ma-na-ged a smi-le. "I see."
Ellen flus-hed to the ro-ots of her ha-ir. "I've al-ways lo-ved him, you
know. And oh, Gilly, I'm so happy! You can't ima-gi-ne what it's li-ke."
"Yes," she sa-id softly. "I can ima-gi-ne."
"Oh, no, Gilly," El-len bre-at-hed. "I tho-ught you ha-ted Nic-ho-las. You
aren't& you co-uldn't be& "
"I'm in lo-ve with him."
"Oh, Lord. Why him, of all pe-op-le? The most sel-fish, wret-c-hed,
dis-re-pu-tab-le, ca-re-for-not-hing in the world. I co-uld kill him, I co-uld
ab-so-lu-tely kill him."
"He do-es tend to bring out that de-si-re in pe-op-le," Ghis-la-ine sa-id
with a hol-low la-ugh. "I ha-ve to get away from he-re. Now, be-fo-re he
re-turns. I ha-ve no idea whe-re he's go-ne, but he co-uld co-me back at any
ti-me."
"We'll get you away, ne-ver fe-ar. Tho-ugh if you lo-ve him, per-haps he
co-uld be ma-de to marry you& "
"No!" Ghis-la-ine shri-eked. "That wo-uld only ma-ke things wor-se."
Sir An-tony Wil-ton-Gre-ening had re-tur-ned, com-pas-si-on on his
han-d-so-me fa-ce. "We'll do what we can to as-sist you."
Gu-ilt swam-ped her. "I'm not cer-ta-in you'll want to."
"Of co-ur-se we will," El-len pro-tes-ted. "We've cha-sed over half a
con-ti-nent to do just that."
"You may reg-ret that you did. I am not at all res-pec-tab-le."
"Don't be ab-surd. You've al-ways be-en sec-re-ti-ve abo-ut yo-ur past, but
I'm no fo-ol. I as-su-med yo-ur fa-mily was lost in the Ter-ror. You must
co-me from de-cent stock-blo-od al-ways tells."
"My fat-her was the Com-te de Lorgny. Nic-ho-las Blac-k-t-hor-ne's
god-fat-her."
Ellen to-ok in a shoc-ked bre-ath. "Well, I hadn't gu-es-sed that high," she
ad-mit-ted.
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"When my pa-rents we-re kil-led, my brot-her and I li-ved on the stre-ets of
Pa-ris." She pa-used, and the words bur-ned in her he-art. "I ear-ned our
bre-ad the only way I co-uld."
Ellen, for all that she had a wed-ding ring on her fin-ger, simply lo-oked
blank. It was Sir An-tony who com-p-re-hen-ded in-s-tantly, and he mo-ved
bet-we-en the two of them. Do-ub-t-less to pro-tect El-len from her
con-ta-mi-na-ting pre-sen-ce, Ghis-la-ine tho-ught.
Inste-ad he knelt down and to-ok Ghis-la-ine's hands in his hu-ge one.
'Tho-se we-re bad ti-mes, ma-de-mo-isel-le. No one will bla-me you for what
you had to do to sur-vi-ve."
She ma-na-ged a pa-le smi-le. "It's funny. That's what Nic-ho-las sa-id."
"What did Nic-ho-las say?" A co-ol, ma-li-ci-o-us drawl in-ter-rup-ted
them.
Sir An-tony re-le-ased her hand slowly, and tur-ned to fa-ce Nic-ho-las
Blac-k-t-hor-ne. He sto-od in the do-or-way, his eyes nar-ro-wed, his fa-ce
still and pa-le. "Go-od af-ter-no-on, Blac-k-t-hor-ne," he gre-eted him
po-li-tely eno-ugh.
"And my lit-tle co-usin be-si-des," Nic-ho-las sa-id, strol-ling in-to the
ro-om, his body tight with sup-pres-sed ra-ge. "To what do we owe the
ple-asu-re of yo-ur com-pany?"
"We're ta-king Gilly away from you!" El-len shot up.
"No, you're not," Nic-ho-las sa-id with de-cep-ti-ve gen-t-le-ness. "She's
sta-ying with me."
"Don't be ri-di-cu-lo-us, Blac-k-t-hor-ne," Sir An-tony sa-id. "Ha-ven't you
do-ne eno-ugh harm as it is? She do-esn't de-ser-ve to be used this way& "
"Fancy her yo-ur-self, do you?" he in-qu-ired ple-asantly. "If you put yo-ur
hands on her aga-in, I will cut yo-ur he-art out."
Ghis-la-ine had se-en that lo-ok in his fa-ce be-fo-re. When he'd co-me back
from kil-ling the Earl of Wrex-ham. And she knew, with cer-ta-inty, that he
might kill aga-in. That one thing had ter-ri-fi-ed her, for his sa-ke alo-ne.
If he for-ced a du-el on Sir An-tony, he wo-uld eit-her le-ave her best
fri-end a newly ma-de wi-dow or die him-self.
"Stop it," she cri-ed. "Sir An-tony is mar-ri-ed to yo-ur co-usin. He has no
in-te-rest in me& "
"A man wo-uld ha-ve to be de-ad not to ha-ve in-te-rest in you, my pet,"
Nic-ho-las sa-id. "Per-haps that's what Sir An-tony sho-uld be."
"You co-uld al-ways try," Sir An-tony sa-id po-li-tely. "I wo-uld think [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]