No, she will not, Caroline replied. If anything,
Mother is at least a proper lady. He will make it out of
here intact. I am fairly confident of that.
Charlotte groaned again. She did not even notice
the soft creak of floorboards at her threshold as someon
love her plainly, truly, and with every measure that I call
This is an outrage! James bellowed. He whirled
toward Lady Epping. My lady! Surely, you cannot
consent to such a daft arrangement as this! Surely you
will not allow our darling Charlotte
hands! You are a rot damn liar, Theydon! You only met
Charlotte yesterday! You cannot expect one among us in
this room to think she would marry you so quickly and
It is true that to your limited observation, we
were introduced yesterday, Kenle
I will go with you, Una said. She will believe
me. With my help, we can make sure she never learns the
truth about you and Lord Theydon.
Do not be ridiculous, Una, Charlotte said,
frowning. You are not going with me.
Una arched her brow. And how precisely
outside of the Wake Arms inn. It was five minutes before
eleven oclock; they had arrived just in time. The tavern
was in full humor, despite the late hour; the windows
were aglow with bright, golden light, and the muted
sounds of laughter, song, and fiddl
him, Charlotte said.
I know, Una said again. I saw them, too.
They joined Lord Roding toward the back of the pub.
Charlotte blinked, confounded.
There was no woman that I saw, Una said.
Only those three: Mr. Cheadle and the two barons who
came to sit with
Epping is still in her chamber. She has not even called
for tea yet this morning.
Oh, Charlotte said, visibly relieved. She rose
and paused, her expression troubled again. What does
he want, Meghan? Did he say?
All at once, she worried that a night spent
At this, the parlor dissolved into absolute chaos,
voices overlapped in a sudden, sweeping, cacophonous
din. Lady Chelmsford uttered another quavering yowl
and promptly keeled over in a horrified swoon. She
plowed into four people standing
with a matted nest, sleeping with it unfettered as you do.
Charlotte did not have the heart to argue with her
sister, and did as she was told. She turned about,
presenting her back to Caroline, crossing her legs before
her. She hunched her shoulders and h
Caroline set the brush aside. She gathered the
sheaf of Charlottes hair between her hands and separated
it with her fingers into three long sections. He was a
very unhappy boy, she remarked as she twined the
portions together in a plait. You do not rememb
breath, I will see you face-down in the Thames, James
seethed, his voice floating with icy malice through the
gates taxed wooden planks. Charlotte shivered at the
sound of it; she had never heard such undisguised
malevolence in all of her life.
I . . . I
Charlotte smiled, her heart still trembling as the
residual thrill of his touch, his kiss faded. I did not say I
minded, she told him, making him blink in surprise. She
caught a quick glimpse of his mouth lifting in a smile,HIGHWAYMAN
ducked into a stall where Charlottes roan was boarded,
and squatted together in the fragrant hay, sheltered by the
shadow of the gate. The more time that passed, the more
aggravated Una grew.
We should leave, Charlotte, she kept
whispering, the furrow cle
Oh, piffle, Caroline said with a laugh. Mother
only wants what is best for you. She just happens to have
decided James Houghton is what is best. She will come
right round on things, you mark me. Do not worry
Is Father really standing up for me?
pounding his head against the wall regretting-would be
no less cruel than her mothers expectations that
Charlotte marry James.
There must be some way out of this, Charlotte
whispered. If she did what she knew in her heart was
right-releasing Kenley from h
than finding reputable employment as a coachman.
She flipped through the book and found the
second note: Oct 26, 11 oc, W. Arms, Epp. Prop. Both
Cheadle and James had been at Rycroft House that
morning; they had not picked up any wedding guests
I am sorry, Una, Charlotte said, touched that
Una would have defended her. You told Mother that?
Thank you. I will make it up to you. Let me ride to
Epping. I think James is meeting a woman there, a lover,
and if I can catch him at it
smoke, and a deafening roar of music and voices, and
Una ducked inside. The door closed behind her, and
Charlotte was left alone, shivering in the shadows.
She paced about anxiously, her eyes darting all
about. She had tucked her braid beneath the collar
whimpered, her head leaning back as she presented her
neck to him. I . . . I have to get back . . .
His lips brushed against her ear; she gasped as he
delicately traced along the lines and curves with his
tongue. She felt the edge of his tongue hook again
What is this? Charlotte whispered at Lady
Lord Epping caught Charlottes gaze from
beyond his wifes shoulder. He awarded Charlotte a
somewhat sheepish and sorrowful sort of glance most
often reserved for someone about to be drawn b
breath, she felt his lips part, his tongue delve between
hers, tangling against her own.HIGHWAYMAN LOVER
She uttered a muffled whimper and he drew her
closer, until her pannier buckled inward against his hips
and her breasts pressed against the front o
Charlotte laughed shrilly, nervously. Dear God,
no, she said. I have yet to recover from yesterdays
Lady Chelmsford delivered her to the far end of
the parlor, where Lord and Lady Epping stood together
in amicable conversation with a small group. C
Why? Charlotte asked, puzzled, turning to look
Caroline smiled. Father did not tell you? He
sent word to Theydon Hall, asking Kenley to come for
Charlottes eyes flew wide. He did what?SARA REINKE
Caroline nodded. Eleven o
congratulations to you, Lord Roding, she heard someone
call out from behind her. The voice was loud and
resonant, drawing the throng to an uncertain and puzzled
silence. Charlotte turned, and her eyes flew wide with
new shock when she saw Kenley step forw
Our father is yet in London, Margaret said.
He will be pleased to see you Saturday, though. Oh, I
am sure he is just giddy with the news.HIGHWAYMAN LOVER
News? Charlotte thought, glancing out of the
corner of her eye toward her mother. What news?
laughed together. All right, then, Linford said. WhenSARA REINKE
he rose, he turned to Charlotte again, cramming the
rumpled folds of his kerchief back into his pocket. As I
was saying, miss, I would have paid call sooner than this,
but have had some
Yes, Handel. My favorite.
He pressed his cheek against her brow and helped
muffle her groan with his coat lapel. As dear to your
heart as you have described her, Lord Roding, Charlotte
is a thousand-fold more so to me, he said. She is theHIGHWAYMAN
was new and exquisite to her; again, she whimpered,
tightening her grasp on his shoulders.
He found the measure of her heart pounding out
its frantic rhythm along the slope of her neck, and his
mouth lingered here. Her voice escaped her in a soft
My, he is in a mood, Caroline said, untroubled.
She looked down at Charlotte, and her expression
softened. Did he hurt your feelings, lamb? Pay him no
heed. She brushed her palm against the cap of
Charlottes head. He has been in a state all day,
she would consider him of higher rank and a far better
suitor. Since His Majesty and I shall likely never meet,
much less marry, I figure I am on my own to discredit
James and see Kenley freed from this pretense of
Oh, so it is pretense, then