Read The Gallows Bride Online

Authors: Rebecca King

Tags: #romance, #thriller, #literature, #suspense, #adventure, #intrigue, #mysteries, #romanticsuspense, #historicalromance, #general mysteries, #regencyromance, #romanticmysteries

The Gallows Bride (7 page)


I need to take this -” Sir Dunnicliffe’s words were drowned
out by a muffled scream from outside the window. Within seconds the
room erupted into chaos, as they ran to the French windows as one
to see who was screaming this time.


They’ve got Eliza,” Edward snarled, slamming out of the
French doors, and breaking into a run after the burly man carrying
a screaming Eliza across the manicured lawn to the
trees.


I’ll get the horses,” Sebastian shouted, racing toward the
back of the house.


Wait!” Sir Dunnicliffe ordered, relieved when Peter drew to a
reluctant stop just inside of the door, clearly bristling with
impatience at having to stop and explain. “What’s
happening?”


By the look of it, Rogan, Scraggan’s son, has got Eliza,”
Peter’s voice was merciless.


Eliza Trelisk? Jemima’s sister?” Sir Dunnicliffe turned to
frown out of the French doors, watching the Cavendish brothers tear
across the manicured lawns after the group of burly men who were
carrying a screaming young woman, presumably Eliza towards the
woods.


Yes,” Peter sighed. “Edward found her in Derby a couple of
weeks ago. Unfortunately, so did Scraggan’s men. Edward managed to
keep her safe while he sent word to us asking for our help. Eliza
insisted on going to Padstow to see if Jemima was there, so Edward,
Dominic, Sebastian and myself agreed to escort her and keep her
from Scraggan’s clutched. We were all on our way to Padstow, when
we got news of Jemima being held in Derby Gaol. Although we tried
to get there in time, we –” Peter sucked in a breath, unable to say
the words. He shook his head sadly, and flicked the man a stark
look.

Sir
Dunnicliffe shook his head regretfully, and turned to stare out of
the French doors while he listened to Peter’s
explanation.


Scraggan set Jemima up,” Peter’s voice was raspy with
emotion. “There is little we can do to help her now, but while I
have breath in my body, they will not take Eliza too.” He didn’t
waste any more time with explanations, and vanished.

Sir
Dunnicliffe knew Eliza had recently been on her way to Padstow. He
also knew that Edward had been accompanied by Sebastian and Dominic
Cavendish, as well as Peter Davenport himself. What he didn’t
understand was how Eliza had been captured by Rogan Scraggan while
in the relative safety of Havistock Hall.


We need to –,” he turned and found the room behind him
empty.

Shaking
his head, he stalked to the main hall and motioned to the man
standing silently in the shadows beside the front door. Within
moments, he too had simply vanished, so efficiently and so quietly,
he could have been a ghost.

Sir
Dunnicliffe decided to take advantage of not having any of the
family members around and, instead of following them out of the
house to help chase after Eliza, headed quickly toward the back of
the house and the servants’ quarters.

It was
time to put plan B into action, before any other unexpected events
took place.


God, what a mess,” he grumbled quietly, shaking his head at
the speed at which his carefully thought-out plans were rapidly out
of control.

 

CHAPTER TWO

She was
so very cold.

It took
all her concentration to simply breathe in and out, as she slowly
became aware of her surroundings. The thick black fog in her head
began to swirl around her, reluctant to relinquish its hold on her
senses.

Sucking
in a deep breath, she tried to ignore the acrid, slightly musty
taste in the back of her throat, and the worrying churning of her
empty stomach. Her head was pounding furiously, and her throat was
so raw it was difficult to swallow. She ached from head to foot,
which was bad enough in itself, but when accompanied by the
pounding in her head, left her feeling decidedly ill. She couldn’t
decide which was worse; the thick, black void that threatened to
drag her down into oblivion and render her helpless, or the various
ailments becoming more evident as time progressed.

She had
the vague urge to run, as fast as her legs could carry her, but
knew instinctively that her legs wouldn’t work. A teasing hint of
something indefinably threatening lurked on the fringes of her
thoughts for a few seconds, only to be snatched away by the
swirling black mists threatening to suck her back under.

She lay
perfectly still, and felt her confusion increase. She opened first
one eye, then the other and stared at the dull, slightly cracked
ceiling high above. Her breath fogged out before her as she
breathed out, explaining why she was frozen to the core. She
couldn’t ever remember being so cold and seemed to be covered with
nothing more than a threadbare blanket.

Tentatively lifting her head off the table, she glanced
cautiously around the room, confused to find it furnished only with
the extremely hard bed she lay upon.

What had
happened to her? Where was she? Why was she in a room with no
heating?

Again, a
whisper of memory appeared tantalisingly before her for an
infinitesimal moment only to vanish again just as quickly. She knew
there was something important she needed to remember, but her brain
just wouldn’t cooperate.

It
seemed the entire room was painted with the same dull, mossy green
paint, and was completely unfurnished. The small window high on the
wall did little to allow any daylight in, leaving the room bathed
in shadows. It was sparse, but better than where she had
been.

That
thought made her pause. Where had she been? Shaking her head, she
slowly pushed herself onto her elbows, wincing as her stomach
clenched in protest. Did she feel sick? She wasn’t sure. She had,
but now? She didn’t know. She didn’t feel hungry, but something
about her stomach didn’t feel right. She began to shiver as she sat
upright, and tugged the thin blanket around her shoulders, trying
to take stock of her situation. The room certainly wasn’t familiar
to her. It seemed to be some kind of servants’ room, but she was
fairly certain that she had never been in it before. So, where was
she?

Outside
of the room she could hear the low murmuring of what sounded like a
group of people. Although she couldn’t decipher what was being
said, she knew instinctively that they were close by. It sounded so
domesticated that it made her feel like a visitor in someone else’s
house. But whose house was she in?

Frowning
in consternation, she searched the inner depths of her memory for
anything - any clue, any hint - that would get her wayward memory
to relinquish its secrets, but could remember nothing. It was as
though her memory of life before the room had been completely
obliterated, leaving nothing but an empty space and brief snatches
of - something.

After
several minutes, her reeling senses settled enough to allow her to
slowly swing her legs over the side of the table. As she turned,
out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of a cascade of
tangled muddy-coloured hair hanging limply over her shoulder. Was
that hers? It didn’t look as though it had been washed for some
considerable time, and smelled awful.

Again, a
wisp of a memory swam before her, this time accompanied by a
tangible sense of fear that was so real she was driven to look over
her shoulder. This time, the fear didn’t leave her, and she fought
the surge of panic that began to take hold. Again, she felt the
wild urge to run for her life.

She
began to gasp against the tightness locked in her throat. The
spectre of menace hung over her until she couldn’t stand it any
longer and had to get out of the room. She desperately needed to
get out into the open; to fresh air, and freedom.
Freedom?

Had she
been held captive here? If so, by whom? What was going
on?

Slowly sliding to her feet, she cried out as her knees
buckled beneath her. Frantically clutching tightly onto the wooden
board, she stared down at it with a dark frown of consternation.
She had been lying on a simple wooden board, resting on a
table?
Why?
She
turned at the sound of movement by the doorway and watched it swing
open to reveal a maid.

Jemima
stared at the woman now standing in the doorway. At first she
seemed ignorant of Jemima’s presence, only to give a startled gasp
when she caught sight of her standing beside the table. Jemima
opened her mouth to speak, only for the maid to emit a
high-pitched, banshee-like scream and bolt from the room, slamming
the door behind her.

Shocked,
Jemima slumped back against the wooden board. She wished she had
the strength to run after the woman and demand to know what was
happening, but the trembling in her knees had increased to the
point that she knew she couldn’t even stand up any longer.
Carefully lying back down on the hard wooden board, Jemima listened
to the screams of the maid disappear into the distance. She
gathered enough strength to drag the blanket back over her body
just as the thick fog began to weave its way around her again,
drawing her back down into oblivion. As she succumbed, she thought
she heard a flurry of activity outside the door, but was so cold
and tired that she couldn’t summon the energy to keep her eyes
open, or call out to anyone for help.

 

Jemima
jolted as a sudden blast of icy air brushed over the bare flesh of
her chest. Her eyes jerked open and she stared up in surprise -
straight into the stunned gaze of another strange woman. Another
maid?

The
woman jerked backward, staring at Jemima in horror for a few
seconds before letting out the most ear-piercing scream Jemima had
ever heard.

It was
so high-pitched that it made Jemima’s head pound, and she
immediately groaned at the churning in her stomach. Clutching her
head, she took a breath to ask the woman what was wrong, only to
find herself suddenly alone. She winced as the door to the room
slammed shut.

Memories
of another woman fleeing the same room came flooding back. As
before, she lay listening to the screams of the maid disappearing
into the distance.


Why does everyone do that?” she croaked, holding her pounding
head.

Instinctively Jemima lifted a trembling hand to her tangled
mass of hair, before tenderly touching her cheek. Did she look that
bad? Why didn’t anyone stop to help her? Where was she
anyway?

She
still had no memory of anything, only her name. What was going
on?

Shaking
with a mixture of fear, exhaustion and confusion, Jemima eased her
legs over the side of the table once more, and paused to allow her
sore head to settle to the new arrangement of standing upright. As
she did so, she became aware of a commotion outside of the room
again, only this time more muffled, as though it was coming from
further away.

Slowly
gathering the blanket around her shoulders, she shuffled on
unsteady feet toward the door.

This
time she would get some answers and find out just what was going
on, and why she was being kept in a tiny storage room.

Immediately the word ‘cell’ sprang to mind, and once again
she felt a surge of fear so strong that she had the urge to run and
not look back. Driven by a desperate need to escape the room, she
lurched toward the open door.

Holding
on to the door jamb for support, she stepped out of the room and
paused in what appeared to be a long, servants’ corridor. She found
herself staring down the corridor at an assembled group of
well-dressed people who were deep in conversation.

Her eyes
immediately locked on the slender, elegantly beautiful vision of
her sister standing beside a tall, black-haired man Jemima could
vaguely remember; only she couldn’t remember where she had seen him
before. She watched as Eliza leaned against the tall, startlingly
handsome man whose hands rested on her shoulders as he stared down
the corridor at Jemima with something akin to horror on his
face.


Sweet Jesus,” Edward whispered, staring down the corridor in
shock. His hard hands prevented Eliza from turning and seeing the
spectre slowly gliding toward them.


What the -” Dominic swore, dumbfounded into stunned silence
as he watched the spectacle. His eyes wide with surprise, he turned
as Peter appeared at his elbow. For a brief moment, their eyes met
and held. Peter instinctively tensed, knowing he wouldn’t like this
latest turn of events.


What?” Peter snapped, in no frame of mind for any more
ridiculous charades with the servants. Behind Dominic, Edward was
staring, transfixed, at something further down the corridor. From
his place just outside the doorway, Peter couldn’t see anything,
but whatever it was had shocked Edward so badly he looked deathly
pale, his jaw hanging open with stunned surprise.

Peter’s
curiosity and temper surged, and his hand dropped to the
wicked-looking dagger tucked into his belt.


Is it Scraggan?” Peter whispered to a stunned-looking
Sebastian, who slowly shook his head in silent reply.

Dominic
suddenly jerked out of his trance and turned to Peter. “You need to
-” he paused, clearly stuck for words. He looked askance at his
friend, and moved to one side, gesturing behind him with one
arm.

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