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Chapter 14

The instant he touched her, Jared felt the fine rage within Olympia transform itself into an even grander passion.

You have brought my very dreams to life.

No woman had ever said such things to him, Jared thought. No woman had ever wanted him like this.

Nothing seemed to shake Olympia's desire for him. She had wanted him when she thought him a lowly tutor. She had wanted him after she had discovered his true identity. She had continued to want him even though she had every reason to believe that he was after the same thing she sought, the secret of the Lightbourne diary. She was not interested in his titles or his fortune.

She wanted him.

It was more than he had ever thought to have, Jared realized. But it was not quite enough. It would never be enough. The real treasure still eluded him, although he could not name it.

Still, he had never been so close or had so much. A wise man took what he could get and counted himself fortunate.

A pirate held on to what he had seized and let the future take care of itself.

Jared hauled Olympia across the desk. He gathered her into his arms and sank back down onto the chair. She tumbled against him, warm and fragrant and vibrant with flowering desire.

"Jared." Olympia wound her arms around his neck and crushed her mouth softly against his. A low, sensual moan escaped her lips.

Jared touched her gently rounded calf where it was exposed by the hiked-up skirts of her nightgown and wrapper. For some reason the memory of the first time he had seen her in her library, struggling to free herself from Draycott's unwanted touch flashed into his mind.

Olympia did not want any other man's touch, Jared thought. Only his.

Only his.

He felt her mouth opening for him, inviting him inside where it was moist and close and dark. Jared pierced the depths, reveling in the intimacy of the drugging kiss. Olympia trembled. Her tongue touched his with the eagerness of a small, curious cat.

He tightened his fingers around her leg and then slid his hand up along her thigh. Her skin made him think of rose petals. She was so soft.

He, on the other hand, was hard and taut and straining toward the ultimate possession. His hands trembled with the force of his need.

Jared eased his fingers between Olympia's thighs. She gasped, tore her mouth free from his, and buried her face against his shoulder.

And then she parted her legs a little for him.

"Yes," Jared muttered. He cupped the wet heat of her and thought he would shatter. She moved restlessly against his hand and he groaned against her mouth.

The heady scent of her desire enticed him, lured him, bound him to her with the power of a magical spell.


Olympia cried out softly when he found the small pearl between her legs. Her nails became delicate claws as she clung to his shoulders. His fingers grew damp.

Jared parted the chintz wrapper and untied the collar of the prim lawn nightgown. He freed the sweet fruit of Olympia's breasts and took a small, careful bite.

Olympia convulsed with longing. "Jared, I cannot bear it."

She seized his face between her soft palms and kissed him with a wild, sweet passion that seemed as uncontrollable as the wind. Jared inhaled sharply when he felt the firm, lush curve of her buttocks pressing against his erect shaft.

One of Olympia's hands was inside his shirt now, stroking him, tugging gently at the curling hair on his chest. She wriggled lower, tasting him with her tongue as she worked her way down his body.

Jared felt her start to slide out of his lap. He held her more tightly so that she would not slip to the floor. And then he realized she was trying to unfasten his breeches.

He sucked in his breath and swiftly performed the task for her. And then he was free. He heard Olympia's soft exclamation as he thrust himself into her fingers. She touched him with feminine awe.

"I love the feel of you," Olympia whispered. Her fingers tightened softly around him. "So fierce and proud and powerful."

Her words and her touch nearly sent Jared over an invisible edge. It was as if all the breath had suddenly been squeezed out of him. He closed his eyes and waged a violent battle to avoid spilling his seed into her gentle hands.

It was the first time she had touched him so intimately and he was not certain he would ever recover from the experience.

He was not certain that he even wished to recover.

Jared felt Olympia slide all the way down onto the floor. And then she was kneeling in front of him, cradled between his thighs. He lifted his lashes and looked down at her.

She was gazing intently at his throbbing manhood.


She did not seem to hear him. Her fingers touched him with increasing wonder. "You are so magnificent, Jared. So exciting. Like a mighty hero from an ancient legend."

"Bloody hell," Jared whispered. "You make me feel like one." His hands clenched very tightly in her hair. He was barely aware of her lace cap falling to the floor.

Olympia threaded her fingers through the dark, curling hair of his groin. She turned her head and kissed the inside of his thigh.

"Enough." Jared knew he could not stand any more of the sensual torment.

He got out of the chair and sprawled on the carpet. With a low, hoarse exclamation he pulled Olympia down on top of him.

"Jared? I do not understand." Olympia braced herself against his bare chest. She looked down at him with earnest confusion mingled with shimmering excitement.

Jared tugged her legs alongside his hips so that she straddled him. " 'Tis a common custom among the inhabitants of several" Jared broke off and ground his teeth together to keep from exploding. The moist, warm opening of her body was lodged against the broad tip of his shaft. "Among the, ah, inhabitants of certain foreign lands."

Olympia blinked and then her slow smile filled with a wise, womanly comprehension. She lowered herself cautiously until he was firmly lodged at the very entrance of her feminine passage. "Which lands would those be, Mr. Chillhurst? You know I am ever eager to learn new facts."

Jared looked up at her, saw the delightfully wicked, thoroughly sensual laughter in her eyes and grinned. "Remind me to make a list for you later, Miss Wingfield."

"If it would not be too much trouble."

"Not at all. I'm a tutor, if you recall. And I am very good at making lists."

He locked his hands around her hips and thrust himself upward with a swift, sure movement that took Olympia by surprise.

"Jared." Her eyes widened with amazement and then narrowed again with heightened desire. "A most interesting custom."

"I thought you would find it quite fascinating." Jared traced the curve of her thighs with his hands. "I certainly do."

He could barely get the words out. His entire body was responding to the siren's song. He was rigid with desire, desperate with it. Olympia was snug and hot and wet. She wrapped herself around him, enveloped him, made him a part of her.

For these few minutes while he was lodged deep within her, Jared knew he was not alone. He was with the one other person in the world who could touch his very soul. The one who could rescue him from his lonely island.

"My lovely siren. My wife."

Olympia cried out. She shivered and her body tightened unbearably around Jared.

Then she was singing her high, sweet, siren's song, the song she sang only for him. He thrust himself into her one last time and abandoned himself to the wild, uncharted seas.

"Fireworks," Jared mumbled.

Olympia stirred. She was lying on top of Jared's hard, damp body, her legs tangled with his, her hair flowing across his chest in a red wave.

"What did you say?" Olympia asked politely.

"Making love to you tonight was like being in the middle of a display of fireworks." Jared gathered a fistful of her hair in his powerful hand and studied it in the candlelight. He smiled slowly. "You are a siren of many talents. You can seduce me even as you argue with me."

Olympia chuckled. "No offense, my lord, but you are remarkably easy to seduce."

His smile vanished. "Only by you."

She was vaguely startled by his sudden mood shift this time. Probably because she herself was feeling so relaxed and content. She met his single-eyed gaze and once again she had the sensation that some inner veil had been momentarily pulled aside. She found herself peering past the calm facade he presented to the world into the tempestuous depths of his passionate soul.

"I am pleased to hear that, Jared, because it is the same with me," she said gently. "You are the only man I have ever wanted in this fashion."

"We are well and truly wed now," he said very quietly, as though sealing an invisible pact. "There is no going back for either of us."

"I understand. That is what I was trying to tell you earlier."

"Ah, yes. Your little lecture on how we are stuck with each other and must make the best of the situation."

She flushed beneath his mockery. "I was only trying to put a practical face on the matter."

"Leave the practical and the mundane to me," he said. "I am very good at handling that sort of thing."

Olympia frowned. "It is very odd, is it not?"


"That you are so very clever with practical matters when it is obvious that you are a man of strong emotions. Your powers of self-restraint are most impressive, my lord."

"Thank you," he said. "I do try to control myself for the most part."

She smiled approvingly. "Yes, you do. And you are successful a great deal of the time. Jared?"


She touched the black band that secured his velvet eye patch. "You have never told me how you lost the sight in your eye."

"It is not a very edifying tale."

"Nevertheless, I would like to hear it. I want to know everything about you."

Jared laced his fingers through her hair. "I have two cousins, Charles and William, who have spent a great portion of their lives living up to the family reputation."

"What do you mean?"

"They are likable enough, but they are reckless, rash, and a damn nuisance for the most part. When they were fourteen and sixteen, respectively, they decided to engage in the free-trade. They fell in with a smuggler who was doing business with the French."

"What happened?"

"I learned of their plans on the very night they were to begin plying their new trade. My father and uncle were in Italy on some hare-brained venture. My aunt came to me. She begged me to see to it that Charles and William did not get hurt."

"How old were you?"


"So you Did something go wrong that night?" Olympia asked uneasily.

Jared's mouth curved in disgust. "Of course something went wrong. Things usually go wrong when any of my family hatch one of their idiotic plans. In this particular instance the problem was the captain of the vessel which had brought the smuggled goods across the channel."

"What did he do?"

"After my cousins had unloaded the ship and gotten the goods safely stowed ashore, the captain decided he no longer required their assistance. Nor did he wish to split the profits with two young boys. He decided to take possession of the goods and leave no witnesses."

Olympia stared in horror at Jared's sightless eye. "He tried to kill them?"

"I arrived just as he was about to shoot Charles. My cousins had no weapons. I had brought along my father's dagger." Jared paused. "Fortunately, he had taught me how to use it. Unfortunately, the ship's captain had had more experience than I in knife fighting. He took my eye with his first lunge."

"Good lord," Olympia whispered. "It must have been a very near thing. You could have been killed."

Jared lifted his gaze from her hair to her face. He gave her a strange smile. "But, as you see, I was not. And neither were my cousins. All's well that ends well, siren."

Olympia hugged him fiercely. "You must not take such chances ever again, Jared."

"I assure you, I have no particular liking for such situations," Jared muttered. "I certainly do not seek them out."

Olympia held him closely. "Jared, whenever I think of what that night cost you"

"Do not think of it." Jared framed her face with his hands. "Do you comprehend me? Do not think of it and do not raise the subject again."

"But, Jared"

"Olympia, it is finished. It was finished fifteen years ago. This is the first time I have spoken of the matter to anyone since the night it happened. I do not wish to speak of it again."

She touched his hard jaw with gentle understanding. "He died, didn't he? You were forced to kill that man who tried to murder you and your cousins. That is why you do not wish to speak of what happened that night."

He silenced her by putting his fingers against her mouth. "Not another word, siren. No good can come of it. Nothing can change what happened. It is best left in the past where it belongs."

"Yes, Jared." Olympia fell silent. She rested her head against his shoulder. Her mind swirled with visions of how terrible that night had been for Jared.

He was an intelligent man, she thought, a man of strong emotions and refined sensibilities. Such a man could not escape unscathed from an act of violence. The worst scars would always lie beneath the surface.

Jared stirred. "About Robert."

Olympia frowned as her thoughts immediately shifted back to the present. "Yes, poor Robert. Perhaps it is time we discussed what happened at Vauxhall Gardens tonight."

"There is actually not much to discuss, Olympia."

"On the contrary. We must reason out who kidnapped him and why. I know you do not think much of my theory about the Guardian being after the Lightbourne diary, but I really do feel you should consider the possibility."

"Damnation." Jared sat up reluctantly, adjusted the opening of his breeches and rested his arm on one upraised knee. He pondered Olympia's concerned face for a long moment. "Just what do you think is going on here? Do you actually believe that some ghost from the time of Captain Jack is hanging about, searching for the treasure?"

"Do not be ridiculous." Olympia pushed her hair out of her eyes and fumbled with her wrapper. "Of course I do not believe in ghosts. But it has been my experience that there is usually a grain of truth behind even the most bizarre legend."

"No one is after the secret of the Lightbourne diary except yourself, madam."

"What about Mr. Torbert?" she demanded.

"Torbert undoubtedly knows that you are investigating an old legend, but he cannot know which one. Furthermore, I do not believe that he would resort to kidnapping. He is not short of funds. And he is certainly not the Guardian."

Olympia thought about that. "Well, I grant you that he does not appear to be the sort who would be involved in a legend."

"An astute observation," Jared said dryly.

"But whoever took Robert tonight must have had a reason for doing so."

"Of course he had a reason and it was no doubt a very simple one. Money."

"Money?" Olympia gazed at him in dismay. "You mean someone knows about the three thousand pounds I received from Uncle Artemis's shipment of goods?"

"No," Jared said quite forcefully, "I do not." He got to his feet and drew Olympia up to stand in front of him. "Olympia, I do not believe that whoever kidnapped Robert was after your three thousand pounds any more than he was after the diary."

She searched his face anxiously. "Then why would anyone bother to kidnap Robert? He is not connected to a wealthy family."

"He is now," Jared said simply.

Olympia was stunned into momentary silence. She swallowed quickly. "Your family?"

"The Flamecrest fortune is doing quite nicely, thank you, even without the addition of Captain Jack's lost treasure. It is more than likely that Robert was spirited off tonight in hopes of forcing me to pay a considerable ransom."

"Good heavens." Olympia groped for the chair and sat down very suddenly. "I had not thought about that. I had not realized that someone might assume you would feel responsible for Robert now that you have been obliged to marry me."

"Olympia, I give you fair warning. If you ever again imply that I was forced to marry you against my will, I shall very likely lose my temper. I married you because it suited me to do so. Is that quite clear?"

She glanced up at his unyielding expression. "Yes, my lord."

"Very well, then." Jared reached for his watch and swore softly when he found the pocket empty. He glanced at the tall clock. "I suggest we go upstairs to bed. It has been a very long night and I find that I am more than ready for bed."

"Yes, of course." Olympia rose. She felt oddly deflated. The exuberant happiness she had known a short while ago when she and Jared had made love had dissolved.

Jared watched closely as he picked up the candle. "Olympia, you are my wife but that changes nothing in our relationship. Do you comprehend? I will continue to manage the household affairs and see to Robert, Ethan, and Hugh. You need not concern yourself with the bothersome details of such matters. I will take care of all of you."

Olympia smiled wistfully. "Yes, Jared." She stood on tiptoe and kissed his taut jaw. "But there is one detail that will not be as it was before."

He arched one brow. "And what is that?"

Olympia blushed but she did not look away from his challenging gaze. "I was referring to the matter of our sleeping arrangement, sir. It has occurred to me that there is no longer any need for us to, ah, use the study for the sort of thing we used it for just now."

Jared smiled his buccaneer's smile. "No, madam, there is no longer any reason for us to skulk about in your study. It is high time we experimented with the traditional English custom of making love in a bed."

He gave her the candle to hold and swept her up into his arms. Then he carried her out the door and up the stairs.

The Master of the Siryn must make his peace with the Master of the Serpent before two halves may be joined to make a whole.

Olympia frowned intently over the most recent clue she had uncovered in the Lightbourne diary. The master of the Siryn could only refer to Captain Jack, she knew. The master of the Serpent would no doubt be his erstwhile friend and partner, Edward Yorke.

Claire Lightbourne had not known much about the quarrel that had taken place between the two men. It had occurred in the West Indies, long before she had met her Mr. Ryder in England. She had, however, recorded the fact that her new husband had vowed never to have dealings with Yorke or any of his clan.

But both men had long since passed on to whatever heavenly rewards awaited a pair of buccaneers. There was no way for the two to meet and make their peace.

No way for the two halves of the map to be joined together.

"Damnation," Olympia whispered under her breath. She had the feeling she was very close to the answer she sought. But she had to find the missing half of the map. She wondered if it had descended down through the Yorke family, just as the Flamecrest half had come down through the Ryders.

How did one go about finding a descendent of a long-dead buccaneer?

Olympia tapped her pen thoughtfully on the polished surface of her desk. She wished that Jared would show more interest in the search for the lost treasure. She badly wanted to talk to someone intelligent about the matter. But on that point, he remained adamant. He would not become involved in the search.

She sensed that Jared's refusal to discuss the diary was his way of showing her that he had not married her in order to learn the secret. Nevertheless, it was making her study difficult.

A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.

"Enter," she called impatiently.

The small parade that marched into her study consisted of Ethan, Hugh, Mrs. Bird, and Minotaur. Olympia could not help but note that even the dog appeared morose.

"Is there something wrong?" she inquired uneasily.

Hugh stepped forward. "Robert cost too much."

Olympia put down her pen. "I beg your pardon?"

"We fear that Robert cost too much," Ethan explained soberly. "Lord Chillhurst had to pay for him with his beautiful gold watch. Now Robert is receiving a terrible thrashing in the dining room and very soon we shall all likely be asked to leave."

"Oh, I really do not think that Chillhurst will thrash Robert because of what happened last night," Olympia said. "And we certainly will not be leaving."

"Some of us will be leaving right enough." Mrs. Bird looked defeated but defiant. "His lordship told me so himself."

Olympia was shocked. "He did?"

"Aye, that he did. Says we'll all be movin' into a big townhouse tomorrow. Says we'll be takin' on staff." Mrs. Bird's defiant expression crumpled without warning and her voice cracked with anguish. "He's going to hire a butler, Miss Olympia. A real butler. What'll become of me, I ask ye? His lordship won't be needin' an ordinary housekeeper like me once he hires himself town staff."

"And his lordship will not be wanting us around, either," Hugh muttered. "Especially not after he had to give up his watch on account of Robert. He's going to ship us all off to our relatives in Yorkshire."

Ethan stepped forward. "Do you think we could afford to buy his lordship a new watch, Aunt Olympia? I've got sixpence."

Hugh glared at him. "Don't be a fool, Ethan. Sixpence ain't near enough blunt to buy a watch like the one his lordship had to trade for Robert."

Mrs. Bird burst into noisy tears. "He won't be wanting any of us, least of all me."

Olympia jumped to her feet, thoroughly exasperated. "That is quite enough. I do not want to hear any more of this nonsense. I do not know about this business of moving into a large townhouse, but it does not matter a jot if we do. Nothing is going to change around here. Chillhurst told me so himself last night."

Mrs. Bird gave her a morbid look. "Then he deceived ye again, Miss Olympia. Everything's changed now that yer married to him."

"That is not true." Olympia faced her small family with stout conviction. "He said everything will continue to function just as it has functioned since he came to us. Chillhurst will not thrash Robert. He will not replace you, Mrs. Bird. And he will not be shipping anyone off to Yorkshire."

"How do ye know that, Miss Olympia ?" Mrs. Bird demanded. She still sounded like a doomed soul, but there was a small spark of hope in her eyes.

"Because I trust him to keep his word," Olympia said calmly. "Furthermore, you are all part of my family and Chillhurst knows that. He would never try to separate us. He knows very well that I would not permit it."

The flicker of hope died in Mrs. Bird's eyes. "Yer talkin' as if ye was still his employer, Miss Olympia. Truth is, ye ain't the one givin' the orders around here any longer. Ye be Chillhurst's wife and that changes everything. He's the master of the house now. He can do as he likes."

Minotaur whined softly and thrust his big head under Olympia's hand.

"I am very sorry for what happened last night, sir." Robert stood very stiffly in front of Jared. He gazed straight ahead at the wall behind Jared's left shoulder.

Jared rested his elbows on the dining room table and tapped his fingertips together. He studied Robert's face, well aware that the boy was struggling valiantly to keep his lower lip from trembling. "Do you understand precisely why I am disappointed in you, Robert?"

"Yes, sir." Robert blinked several times.

"It is not because you got yourself into trouble. And it is not because you cost me a fine watch."

Robert glanced quickly at him and then went back to staring straight ahead. "I am sorry about your watch, sir."

"Forget the watch. It is cheap compared to a man's honor. Nothing is as important to a man as his honor."

"Yes, my lord."

"When you give someone your word, Robert, you must do all in your power to live up to that vow. Nothing less is acceptable. Nothing less is honorable."

Robert sniffed loudly. "Yes, sir. I promise I will be very careful about my honor in the future."

"I am pleased to hear that."

Robert glanced at him anxiously. "Sir, I wish to ask you for a very great favor. I know I do not deserve it, but I promise I will do anything in exchange."

"What is the favor?"

Robert swallowed. "I wish to ask that you do not punish the others for what I did. Ethan and Hugh are very young, sir. They are terrified they will be sent off to Yorkshire. And I know Aunt Olympia would be very sad if they were sent away from her. She is quite fond of all of us, you see. She will be lonely without us."

Jared sighed. "No one is going to be sent away, Robert. You and your brothers and your aunt are in my care now. You may rest assured that I will fulfill all of my responsibilities toward you." His mouth curved wryly. "With any luck, I shall do a better job of it in the future than I did last night."

Robert frowned. "What happened last night was my fault, sir."

"I fear that we both must assume a share of the blame. I ought to have kept an eye on you. I should have guessed that you would be lured to the Dark Walk by that young man's dare."

Robert looked confused. "Why would you guess that, sir?"

"Because I was your age once, myself."

Robert stared at him in astonishment.

"Yes, I know. It is difficult to believe." Jared lowered his hands and sat back in the chair. "Now, then, that is quite enough on that subject. Let us move on to another."

Robert hesitated. "Sir, if you do not mind, I would like to know exactly how I will be punished for what I did last night."

"I said the matter is over, Robert. I can see that you have already chastised yourself for what happened and that is sufficient."

"It is?"

"Of course. It is a sign that you are very swiftly becoming a man." Jared smiled with satisfaction. "I am quite pleased with you, Robert. Seeing one's charges turn into honorable young men whose word may be relied upon is one of a tutor's primary goals."

He spoke no less than the truth, Jared realized with some surprise. There was, indeed, something very satisfying about this business of being a tutor. A man could do a lot worse for himself than to engage in such a career, he thought. One literally shaped the future when one instructed young people.

Robert stood very tall. "Yes, sir. I shall try very hard not to fail again, sir. Does that mean you will continue to be our tutor, even though you are now married to Aunt Olympia?"

"Yes, indeed. I rather enjoy the task. But there is something else which requires my immediate attention. Robert, I want you to think back very carefully and tell me exactly what happened last night. I want to know everything those villains said while you were with them."

"Yes, sir. But I thought you just said the matter was finished."

"It is as far as you are concerned," Jared said. "But there are still one or two small details that I must deal with."

"What sort of details, sir?"

"I must find out who employed those villains to kidnap you."

Robert's eyes widened. "You are going to find him, sir?"

"With your help, Robert."

"I shall do my best." Robert scowled in thought. "But I do not know if I can help you. The only thing I remember them saying about their employer was that he was a man of business rather like yourself, sir."

"I suppose you have heard that there were rumors of a lover." Lady Aldridge gave Olympia a very knowing look as she handed her a cup of tea. "It is said that Lord Chillhurst discovered his fianc'ee in a most compromising position with her paramour and ended the engagement on the spot. The tale was never confirmed, of course. No one involved would discuss it."

Olympia beetled her brows in annoyance. "I seriously doubt that there is anything to the rumors and I certainly do not wish to discuss them, madam."

She was not enjoying herself at all, Olympia reflected. She had accepted the offer of tea from Lady Aldridge because there had been no polite way to avoid it. After having spent the past two hours in Lord Aldridge's library, she felt more or less obliged to be civil even though she had discovered nothing useful in Aldridge's map collection. Unfortunately, she had learned the hard way that Lady Aldridge was an inveterate gossip.

"You are quite correct, Lady Chillhurst. I, too, doubt that there is anything to the gossip." Lady Aldridge's smug expression stated far more clearly than words that she believed every word of the tale.

"Excellent. Perhaps we could change the subject." Olympia tried to sound bored.

Lady Aldridge gave her a chagrined look. "But, of course, madam. I did not mean to offend. You do comprehend that I was not remarking upon your husband's family so much as I was commenting on Lady Beaumont."

"I would rather not discuss her, either."

"What's this about Lady Beaumont?" Lord Aldridge scowled as he walked into the drawing room. He had stayed behind in his library for a few minutes after Olympia had finished in order to replace all of his precious maps in their proper drawers. "What's she got to do with this map of the West Indies that Lady Chillhurst is attempting to locate?"

"Nothing, my dear." Lady Aldridge smiled benignly. "I was merely relating the old tale of how and why the engagement between Chillhurst and Lady Beaumont came to an end three years ago."

"Lot of rum nonsense." Aldridge stalked to the brandy table and poured himself a glass. "Chillhurst was quite right to end the thing. A man in his position cannot marry a female who starts carrying on with another man even before the wedding."

"Of course not," Lady Aldridge murmured. She gave Olympia a speculative glance.

"Got his honor to think of," Aldridge said. "That Flamecrest bunch is a devilish lot of Originals, but they've always been quite keen on matters of honor."

Lady Aldridge smiled coolly. "If Chillhurst was so very keen on his honor, sir, why did he not call out his fianc'ee's lover after he discovered them together? I also heard that Lady Beaumont's brother issued a challenge which Chillhurst ignored."

"Probably because he's too bloody intelligent to risk getting himself killed over a female." Lord Aldridge downed another swallow of brandy. "In any event, everyone knows Chillhurst ain't got an ounce of hot blood in him. Rest of the clan's damned volatile, but not him. Ask anyone who's done business with him. Cold and levelheaded as they come."

"You've done business with my husband?" Olympia asked in another desperate attempt to change the subject.

"Certainly. Made a packet in the process." Lord Aldridge nodded with brusque satisfaction.

"I was not aware that you were acquainted with my husband," Olympia said.

"Well, I ain't. Never dealt directly with him, naturally. Man never comes to town. Does all his business through that agent of his."

"Mr. Hartwell?"

"Precisely. Felix Hartwell has handled your husband's affairs for years. But everyone knows that Chillhurst gives the orders. Singlehandedly rebuilt the Flamecrest fortune after his grandfather and father ran through the last of it. Family's always had its ups and downs when it comes to financial matters. Leastways they did until Chillhurst took charge."

"My husband is very skilled at taking charge of such things," Olympia said with quiet pride.

"It is obvious that you are very fond of your husband, Lady Chillhurst." Lady Aldridge picked up her teacup. "I find that very touching, if rather odd under the circumstances."

"What circumstances?" Olympia demanded, thoroughly irritated with her hostess. If being polite to such people was a requirement of being a viscountess, Olympia thought, she was going to have a very difficult time fulfilling her new duties.

"As my husband says, Chillhurst has a reputation for being quite lacking in the stronger emotions. He is said to be altogether without feeling. One wonders if that is not why Lady Beaumont sought solace from another during her engagement to him."

Olympia crashed her cup down on its saucer. "My husband is an admirable man in every respect, Lady Aldridge. Nor is he lacking in the stronger emotions."

"Really?" Lady Aldridge's eyes gleamed with malicious intent. "Then I wonder why he did not feel compelled to call out his fianc'ee's lover or respond to her brother's challenge?"

Olympia got to her feet. "My husband's decisions are none of your affair, Lady Aldridge. Now, if you will excuse me, the clock has just struck four and I really must be going. My husband said he would fetch me at four and he is very precise in such matters."

Aldridge hurriedly put down his brandy glass. "I shall see you to the door, Lady Chillhurst."

"Thank you." Olympia did not wait. She stalked out of the drawing room.

Aldridge caught up with her in the hall. "I regret I was unable to assist you this morning, Lady Chillhurst."

"Do not concern yourself."

The truth was Olympia had almost abandoned hope of discovering a map that would give her a clue as to the location of the uncharted island referred to in Claire Lightbourne's diary. She had half of a map of the island itself but no notion of where the blasted chunk of land was located.

"Lady Chillhurst, you will not forget my warning about Torbert, will you?" Aldridge eyed her nervously. "The man is not to be trusted. Promise me you will be extremely cautious in your dealings with him."

"I assure you I shall be careful." Olympia tied the strings of her bonnet as the Aldridge butler opened the door.

Jared was waiting in a hackney at the foot of the steps. Ethan, Hugh, and Robert were with him.

Olympia smiled in relief and ran down the steps to join her family.

Chapter 13 | Deception | Chapter 15