The Duchess (Montgomery/Taggert 16) - Page 90

Claire shook her head no, then took a deep breath and followed Trevelyan to the back of the house. “Well?” she said once they were at the back of the house. “What do we do now?”

“We wait for Oman’s signal.”

Claire sat down on the side of a little porch and didn’t say anything else. Within minutes came a noise that made her nearly jump out of her skin. It seemed that cannons were going off in the street in front of the house.

“Now!” Trevelyan yelled above the noise and threw a rock at the nearest window. Before Claire could think what was going on, Trevelyan picked her up and shoved her at the window.

Claire wiggled through the opening but then her bustle caught on the crossbar of the window. Without daring to look at Trevelyan she moved backward a bit, reached back to the frame and pulled it upward so it collapsed against her back. Still holding it flat, she finished moving through the window.

Once she was inside the house, it was only seconds before Trevelyan was beside her. They were in a service room at the back of the kitchen and they could hear the noise in the street outside. Near them they could hear people, servants she assumed, moving about.

Trevelyan took Claire’s hand and confidently moved through the dark house toward a narrow staircase. It was obvious that he had been in the house before and knew it well. Once they were upstairs, twice they had to flatten themselves in doorways to keep from being seen. Claire saw Powell hurry down the stairs as he pulled a dressing gown on over his nightclothes. She recognized him from the several photographs she’d seen of him.

As the noise in the street continued, Trevelyan led Claire down a corridor of the upstairs until he came to a door at the end of the hall. It was locked. Trevelyan lost no time in raising his foot and kicking the heavy door in.

The minute the two of them stepped inside the room, it was as though they’d entered another country. The large room was hung with gauzy silks of a hundred pastels. One color seemed to blend into another. There was a smell of sandalwood and jasmine in the air. Trevelyan didn’t seem to notice the surroundings, but Claire stood by the door and gaped. The floor was covered with expensive hand-tied silk carpets, one on top of the other, and through the draperies that hung from the ceiling she could see piles of silk-covered pillows.

Trevelyan pushed the gauze curtains aside and made his way through the room, Claire close behind him. He stopped in front of her so abruptly that Claire ran into the back of him. She peeped around him to see what had made him stop.

In front of him, kneeling on a fat cushion before what looked to be an altar, her hands clasped together in prayer, her head slightly bowed, was what was surely the most exquisite creature on earth. Claire saw only her profile, but the small features and the perfection of them was astonishing. Long, sooty lashes rested on a honey-colored cheek. Her lovely little nose made a perfect line down to her sculptured mouth.

Claire stepped from behind Trevelyan and stared at the woman. She was small, smaller than Claire, but the sheer silk robe she wore did little to hide the delicate, womanly curves of her body. She was so still that Claire wasn’t sure she was alive.

There was a loud boom from the street outside, followed by shouts, and the noise brought Clai

re back to the present. “We have to go,” she whispered urgently to Trevelyan, who was just standing there and staring at this woman. When he made no move to speak to the woman, Claire took a step toward her, but Trevelyan put out a hand and stopped her.

“She is praying,” he said.

Claire waited a few more seconds, seconds that turned into minutes. If they were found in Jack Powell’s house, would they be thrown into jail? Or would Powell merely shoot them?

At long, long last, the woman raised her head, then turned and looked up at Trevelyan. Claire had only a second to see the woman and she gasped at the beauty of her. A perfect oval face, perfect almond-shaped eyes, perfect nose, perfect lips. Claire hated her immediately.

Her hatred increased in the next second as the woman, in a voice that sounded as though someone had melted honey and poured it over vocal cords, said, “Frank!” and launched herself into Trevelyan’s arms.

He was supporting her full weight, her tiny feet, shod in jeweled silk slippers, not touching the floor. She kissed him, kissed his chin, his neck, kissed all of him she could reach, all the while whispering to him in a soft, oozing language that sounded like a spoken love song.

“We have to go,” Claire said. Claire didn’t seem to be aware that Trevelyan was holding his head away from the woman’s kisses. She didn’t notice that Trevelyan was much more interested in Claire’s reactions than in the beautiful woman’s kisses. When the two of them didn’t seem to hear her, Claire thought she’d nudge Trevelyan and make him hear. That’s what she meant to do. What she did do was kick Trevelyan in the side of his calf at the same time that she hit him in the rib cage.

He grunted. “Why did you do that?” he asked as the woman kissed his neck.

“We have to go,” Claire said through clenched teeth.

Trevelyan nodded, said something in the soft language to the woman, and she nodded but continued kissing the soft bit of skin just above his collar.

“Trevelyan!” Claire snapped. “We must go.”

Trevelyan, smiling at Claire as though something she’d said pleased him very much, set Nyssa from him. It was only then that the woman noticed that Claire was in the room. Nyssa stepped back and looked at Claire’s face. No, she didn’t just look at Claire, she studied her. Then Nyssa looked down at Claire’s feet and very slowly looked from her feet back up to her head.

Claire stood where she was, her eyes filled with anger.

Nyssa began to walk around Claire, pausing at the back of her. She said something to Trevelyan and he answered.

“What did she say?” Claire asked.

“Nyssa said that you have a behind like the hump of a camel. I told her you wore wire to make yourself stick out at the back, but that I assumed your purpose was not to make yourself look like a camel.”

Claire glared at him.

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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