Chapter Twenty (Part Two)
Good God, if it wasn't Jonathon Whitby, Lord Denbury himself, that leaned into the carriage about a foot away from me, resting on his elbow somewhat jauntily. Nathaniel Veil appeared on Lavinia's side with an expectant expression, looking like the wild, theatrical twin to Jonathon's more tamed elegance. But in that moment, I wasn't thinking of their black-haired beauty; I was only filled with fury as they both broke into grins at our blushing faces.
My cry of, "What in God's name?" thanks to my gag, came out as one jumbled, inelegant, "Aah ih aw ehh!" I threw my body forward, onto my knees, and tried to say, "You untie me this instant!" but that didn't come out any better than the first attempt.
I shook my head like a horse trying to throw off its bridle and wrestled my shoulders. Lavinia was, by contrast, sitting quite still and staring.
"I said I'd come fetch you," he replied, shifting forward to undo my bindings. I didn't like being tied down when I'd been subjected to the toxin, so I certainly didn't like it now.
The minute the fabric was unwound from around my mouth, I launched into a tirade, though the language was so much quicker in my head than I was able to spit out. My tongue, due to my disability, still remained at a pace behind my mind, and it only made me blush hotter.
"Jonathon Whitby! You… should be ashamed of yourself. This is not how you treat ladies. Much less ones you're courting," I murmured vehemently. "We had no idea what was going on. That was… simply cruel!"
I looked over at Lavinia for support, expecting a mutually incensed young woman.
Instead, I found Lavinia looking rather dreamily at Nathaniel as he undid her bindings. We wore the same blush, blooming brightly, but hers seemed far less borne of anger. As she leaned towards him with hitching breaths, I rolled my eyes. I supposed, in her Gothic novel heart, that this was somehow very romantic.
Jonathon noted with discomfort that I was not so swayed. He opened his mouth to reply, but I cut him off.
"Why such a show of abducting us, what good did that do save scare us to death?" I asked, keeping my tone hard. "And I hope you'll give us the small courtesy of telling us where we've been swept off to."
"It's good to see you, too, you know," he said, frowning.
"Don't you dare pout at me! You nearly drove us mad!" I snapped. I felt my whole body grow hot with the delayed panic, as if the blush were a rapid contagion, my survival instinct now overturned with relief and yet replaced by a thorough and violent anger. "After all we've been through, to do something like that? It's not a game! It's not a game when I honestly thought I might die," I said, tears springing to my eyes. "When I'm scared I might soon die, with your help or no, these dangerous circumstances—"
Jonathon climbed in the carriage and took me by the arms and spoke earnestly. "I'm so sorry. This was what was advised to us." I wanted to break away, but his embrace felt divine and his warm breath on my ear so delicious. I cursed giving over easily, though my heartbeat still pounded like the thump of rolling trains. "I thought you'd know it was me."
"You could've said something," I murmured. I glanced over, glaring at Nathaniel. "You could have whispered something, either of you—"
"No," Jonathon replied firmly. "We were both advised against that as your body, fight, and struggle would have changed in the moment, and even a hitch could have cost us the ruse. Please understand that we feared eyes upon us, we had to keep up appearances."
"Advised by who—"
"Gabriel Brinkman," Nathaniel piped in. I noticed that as he stood at the side of the carriage, Lavinia had gravitated to him, sitting midcarriage between the benches in a pool of black satin and ensconced in her paramour's arms. I furrowed my brow.
"Ah, Mister Brinkman." I turned back to Jonathon, pulling back to stare him down fully. "He who ferreted you off without allowing you any chance to tell me you were going?"
Suddenly Lavinia seemed to recover her dignity and self-awareness. "Or me!" she piped in.
Both gentlemen sighed in tandem.
"Time was of the essence. And to tell you the truth, Brinkman so passionately convinced me to just come directly to
that it was
precisely the thing to do. I telegraphed a note to Mrs. Northe with addresses
I'd found in my searching on the streets of London , several Master's Society
properties that had that fiery red and gold aura about them, the demon's
mark." New York
"You wrote Mrs. Northe, but not me—"
"It was encoded, and nothing could be traced. I didn't know how to send you something as efficiently that wouldn't give too much away. Please, Natalie, your need to be included shouldn't overreach the caution for my safety and that of your own."
"No, it shouldn't," I agreed. "But I do hope you'll explain why this show of force was necessary," I tried to take the edge off my voice, trying not to let the tears of panic I'd held back now flow forth in relief and displaced anger. My stubbornness was not so easily worn down.
"Brinkman said that there was a Society tail that he thought was closing in on me in
New York, and
had reports that things were escalating in , that the Society was
keeping an eye out on any of their scientists, experimenters, and operatives.
We chanced that if I returned to England and convinced the Master
that I was still my evil half, then they might be more forthcoming in general
while giving me leave to move and interact with more freedom." England
My jaw fell open. "You chanced meeting with that man again? He could've had you killed!"
"Brinkman was at the ready with police should I have signaled distress. But I convinced the bastard." A furious flash of pride crossed over his lovely, albeit haunted, face. I wondered if playing the demon again had the same distressing affect that his soul had shown when his body and mind were failing in the painting. "Dragged Nathaniel into it with me, he was brilliant."
"How did you earn his trust?" Lavinia asked, looking up at Nathaniel, her voice breathy, impressed.
"By saying I wanted to see the breadth of his power as I could see my Association was under attack, and that they indeed had presented themselves as a test group of willing subjects. I told him if I could bring the Association into the fold of something more powerful, then I was willing to become a devotee in turn," Veil said convincingly.
"I played the same part as before," Jonathon continued. "I've seen the mannerisms and the pointed, eerie ways of the possessed enough to know how to mimic them. He asked questions of my conquests, and I invented elaborate stories." His shudder inspired my own. "And I made some promises…" And here his expression suddenly grew sheepish.
"Promises? I'm not sure I like the sound of that, Jonathon," I said, my voice lowering. "What kind of promises?"
"Bait," Nathaniel replied with a nonchalance that disturbed me. Our respective gentlemen looked at each of us.
"Us?" I was immediately indignant again.
"Only if you're willing," Jonathon rushed to reply. "I had a feeling when I met with the "Master" that you'd be coming. Natalie. You have that way about you, a certain predictability…" He offered a fond smile that threatened to undo my indignity. "And I know you want to eliminate these bastards as much as I do."
"Or I could convince others within my Association here in
," Nathaniel added.
"In no way did we predicate this plan on the assurance of your
involvement, most esteemed ladies. I am sure I could find other willing
"I'll do it," Lavinia blurted. I set my jaw and nearly growled.
"But…" Jonathon leaned forward again to cup my face in his palm. "It would be far better to have the bravest woman I know there at my side. To have someone beside me who knows the enemy better than anyone else? That’s the safest option. For in the baiting, there is the trapping, the snaring of the fox." Here his bright eyes lit with determination.
"Go on," I urged. The fact that we were discussing intense and dangerous plans while in an open carriage was questionable, but they must have taken us somewhere far from civilization indeed, as all I could hear outside were the sounds of nature and wildlife at night.
Jonathon continued excitedly. "Brinkman will have guards posted in the secret passages of my home, and just when the true depth of the depravity is revealed, as I hope to get him onto one of his rhapsodies about his plans, the authorities will swoop in and apprehend the villain."
"And the context of this baiting?" I queried pointedly.
Lavinia looked at me with a certain overwhelmed gratefulness, as if it was all she could do just to keep up and she was glad someone was asking the right questions. This kind of mindset and these sorts of situations were not the kind of thing any "good, upstanding" young woman would ever have been trained for. I simply had grown somewhat accustomed to the sort of twisted tale I seemed to have lived into, a strange extension of the countless adventure novels I consumed and loved since I could read.
"Why, you bring all the best bait to a lavish dinner party, of course," Veil replied with a winning smile. "A meeting of the depraved minds."
"I am hoping it will bring out others within the Master's Society for their arrest," Jonathon added.
"But…" I began, furrowing my brow. "Couldn't that mean we might end up being outnumbered? For what if Brinkman can't be trusted? What if he is just serving us all up directly into the hands of the enemy? Who vouches for this stranger who just conveniently, unexpectedly, showed up in our lives?" I thought about the day he swung uninvited into our carriage near
Central Park, and this
abduction plan seemed like his handiwork indeed. I wondered if he was lurking
somewhere nearby, listening to everything. "Arriving knowing more about
you than I'd like a stranger to know?"
"He isn't about to serve us up," Jonathon said gravely. "He's playing the double agent just as I am. Though unlike me, he's not doing his part as a possessed creature. But he is entwined in the same dangerous game, I assure you. Playing for life or death. For someone he loves."
"Trust us on that count," Nathaniel murmured. Though I didn't know the situation, from the look on both their faces, something horrible was at stake, and I felt a pang of pity for Brinkman. To have garnered such an unquestioning response, it must be something terrible indeed.
I nodded, though something nagged at me that I couldn't shake, the certainty that this couldn't possibly go smoothly, no matter how well thought out or imagined.
"You still haven't answered where we are."
"Ah, yes, that!" Joanthon smiled. "Now that we're away from watching eyes and listening ears, I shall present our next task. Surveillance." He offered his arm. Glancing over at Nathaniel, he did the same; a matching set of black sleeves, a similar engaging smile, a glimmer in Nathaniel's dark eyes was mirrored as well as in Jonathon's ice-blue ones. It was clear these two were best friends, kindred spirits, and impossible to resist. Even after kidnapping. "Shall we?"
(End of Chapter 20.2 - Copyright 2013 Leanna Renee Hieber, The Magic Most Foul saga - If you like what you see, please share this link with friends! Tweet it, FB, + it! The Magic Most Foul team really hopes the audience will continue to grow and it can only do so with YOUR help! If you haven't already, do pick up a copy of Magic Most Foul books 1 and 2: Darker Still and the sequel: The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart and/or donate to the cause! Donations directly support the editorial staff.
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