Excerpt from Redeeming the Rogue
London, May 1881
The vaguely annoying threat of a knife pressed to the small of his back gave Michael Rafferty pause.
“Your valuables or your life,” a guttural voice hissed. “I reckon a couple of swanks like you two have nice fat pockets.”
Michael glanced at his associate. Receiving his slight nod, Rafferty turned abruptly, rapping the miscreant’s hand sharply with his walking stick. The knife fell and slid along the street. Deprived of his weapon, the thief resorted to his fists but soon discovered he was out-classed there as well. Rafferty had the man’s face pressed to the side of a well-appointed Mayfair townhouse with his arm twisted in a painful hold.
“Well done.” His companion applauded. “You didn’t need my assistance at all.”
Rafferty winced, feeling the sting of a cut on his lip. The bloody bugger had landed one lucky punch. Blast that it had been the fist with a ring.
“Some of that famous sleight of hand would have been appreciated,” Rafferty said, shaking his hair clear from his eyes. “Or is that only for the stage?”
His friend, the renowned Phineas Connor master of illusion, laughed. “My performance on stage is limited to cards and doves. You’re the one, Rafferty, known for his fists.” He glanced at Rafferty’s captive. “At least among the Irishmen that should know better.”
The man squirmed. “Rafferty? Is that you?” He swore like a seaman, which —based on his filthy rags — he could have been. “I swear I didn’t know.”
Rafferty tugged the crook’s arm higher and heard fabric rip. “Check his pockets.”
While Phineas rummaged through the man’s clothing, Rafferty glanced around the corner of the building to a line of hansoms in front of a stylish townhouse. Such an elite gathering might offer temptation for the kind of criminal he held captive. “This is a dapper neighborhood for a wharf rat like you.”
“I was minding me own business until you two came along,” the thief muttered.
Silver glinted in Phineas’s hand, the contents of the thief’s pocket. Rafferty gave the man a shake. “A half-crown? Who else did you rob tonight?”
“I didn’t rob nobody. That was for a message. Half now and half when I brings the reply.”
“What sort of reply did you expect to a knife in the back?” Rafferty tugged the arm, earning a squeal from the thief.
“The message weren’t for you. I was to hand-deliver it to a lady, I was. I thought you two was easy pickings while I waited for her to show.”
Phineas retrieved an envelope from the crook’s jacket. No name or address was noted on the front but a blob of red wax sealed the back. He bounced the letter off his fingertips. “Nice quality stationery. Too nice for the likes of a gutter rat.”
“Who’s the lady?” Rafferty asked. When an answer wasn’t immediately forthcoming, he tugged the twisted arm higher. “Tell me before your arm leaves its socket.”
“I don’t know her name,” the cutpurse bellowed, his eyes squeezed shut. “All I know is she’s dressed in green and she’s going to that party of swells.” He slid his face on the limestone to point the way with his chin. “Barnell said…” His eyes widened and his mouth clamped shut.
“Barnell?” Michael glanced at Phineas, who nodded in recognition. “James Stuart Barnell from the House of Commons?” Lord Henderson, Rafferty’s superior at the Home Office, had suggested Barnell would be attending the diplomatic reception at Countess D’Orange’s townhouse. Rafferty had supposed that was the reason he’d been ordered to attend in spite of a spirited vocal protest. An evening spent in the company of haughty, preening, supercilious diplomats was an even greater insidious torture than the stiff starched collar currently pinching his neck. Now that intelligence listed Barnell as chairman of the Home Rule League, a group advocating violence in pursuit of Irish independence, the British government monitored his every move. Thus Rafferty had to attend the stuffy reception rather than spend a pleasant evening with the accommodating colleens at Brannigan’s Tavern.
Phineas retrieved the knife and handed it to Rafferty, who slipped it temporarily into the waistband of his trousers before releasing the guttersnipe. “What exactly did Barnell say?”
“I ain’t saying nothing more,” the man grumbled.
“You’re in luck,” Rafferty smiled. “I happen to be going to that particular gathering. I’ll be happy to convey your message to Mr. Barnell’s mystery woman.”
“She’s expecting the likes of me, not you,” the hooligan snarled. “How’s I’m supposed to get my other half-crown, if I don’t bring back her reply?”
“Be content you’re still alive,” Rafferty said, already pondering the identity of the woman. “Now be off with you. Don’t let me see your nose up here again or you’ll be returning to Kerry without it.”
The jackal began to slink down the road, but turned after he’d traveled a safe distance. “It’s a sad day—” he snarled “—when the Irish turn against their own.”
Rafferty’s jaw set, his fingers curled into fists. Had it not been for Phineas’s restraining hand on his arm, he’d have chased the boggler down to make him eat his contemptuous words.
“Easy, Rafe,” Phineas counseled. “It’s a fool that’s talking. Remember who pressed a knife to your back.” They watched until the thief blended into the shadows.
“How can they think I’m not doing my part to fight for Irish independence?” Rafferty grumbled. The insulting moke hadn’t been the first to taunt him about loyalties, and most likely he wouldn’t be the last. “Killing innocent people isn’t the right way to gain home rule.”
“I know, I know.” Phineas slapped him on the back. “It’s true what Samuel Johnson said – the Irish, we’re a fair people. We never speak well of one another.”
In spite of his lingering disgust over the lout’s taunt, Michael found his spirits lifting. Phineas was right. The man was a fool. Best to focus on the recent plum that had fallen in his lap…the message to a mystery woman in green. His lips twisted into a smile. History had proven that even the most fiery of politicians had a vulnerability where beautiful women were concerned. Could she be the key to the elimination of the violent Fenians? He pulled the paper from his jacket. “This message could prove a stroke of good fortune. Do you think Barnell is establishing a tryst?” He contemplated the red seal. “We should read it before it’s delivered.”
Phineas examined the envelope. “I can’t lift the seal without the woman knowing it’s been read. If we had the time to go back…” He glanced at Rafferty. “Maybe we should just deliver this and follow her. I can always finger the message later.” He smiled. “My sleight of hand may prove useful yet.”
Rafferty pushed his hair back from his face. The long shabby cut allowed him to blend in among the criminal underbelly where vital intelligence accumulated for those that knew the treacherous route. Rafferty knew it well.
“So Mr. Connor, master of feats of wonder and illusion.” Rafferty bowed in a mimicked salute. “Can you use your powers to foresee this woman? That information would be helpful if every woman is dressed in green.”
Phineas laughed. “Even if I had such abilities, I wouldn’t tell you. Locating her should make the reception much more appealing.”
Rafferty was tempted to argue. His experience with the hoity-toity sort of woman likely in attendance suggested they would not be interested in dallying with the likes of him.
The clop of hooves and the jangle of a carriage brought his attention back to the townhouse. Another diplomat was arriving for idle chatter and secretive glances. Phineas tapped Rafferty’s elbow. “I’ll watch the outside while you question the ladies inside.”
If he had his druthers, Rafferty would have preferred that Phineas play the role of gentleman diplomat and he be the outside lookout. After all, Phineas was the stage performer. But Lord Henderson had been explicit that Rafferty alone was to attend the reception. He started to cross the street.
Rafferty glanced back. “What’s wrong?”
“Your jacket is ripped.” Phineas pointed to the deep rent under Rafferty’s arm. “And your lip is bleeding on your silk. You won’t get past the doorman looking like that.”
A matched set of black horses pulled another liveried brougham to the entrance. The streetlights caught a shimmer of green on the skirts of the woman emerging from its depths.
Rafferty cursed under his breath, then glanced at Phineas’s frock coat. He tugged the end of his own bloodied white cravat. “Quick. Exchange with me.”
“Hell, you say!” Phineas shook his head, but Rafferty had already shed his cravat and was shrugging out of his ripped coat. With a sigh, Phineas loosened his black neck cloth, then removed his jacket. “You’re too broad for this to fit properly, you know.”
Rafferty accepted the garment with a smile, then slipped one arm in the sleeve. It was a little short but it would suffice. He tugged the jacket across his back to secure the other arm.
“That’s my best performance coat,” Phineas cautioned. “Have mercy on the seams!”
The fit was tight, but it would have to do. He moved the knife from his trousers to his boot, the purloined letter to an inside jacket pocket, then tied the cravat in a four in the hand knot.
Phineas shook his head. “All you need is a black mask, and a swift horse and you’d pass for a highwayman. You won’t look at all like the other swells.”
“That, my friend, is a compliment,” Rafferty replied, then started across the street.
Phineas called after him. “There is one thing you should know…the last time I wore that coat –”
“Tell me tomorrow,” Michael yelled back, anxious to track down the woman who had just entered the townhouse. “Lord Henderson’s residence at three.”
“Cupid’s Mistress!” The bachelor’s jaw dropped and trembled like a fish gasping air. “I didn’t realize you were the matchmaker.”
Before Lady Arianne Chambers could explain that those arrangements were purely accidental and not something she consciously practiced, the frightened Crenshaw vanished into the chattering crowd of diplomats and their spouses gathered in the Italian ambassador’s salon. Ever since word had spread of Arianne’s success at suggesting successful matrimonial matches, bachelors had run shrieking the moment she entered a room. Two years ago, such rejection would have startled her. Now she’d come to expect it.
“I’m sorry, Anne.” Lady Cardiff’s gaze held that special pity married women reserved for those less fortunate. “I thought Crenshaw would be different.”
“It matters not. I’m resigned to spinsterhood.” Arianne patted her best friend’s arm before fluffing the lace attached to her green satin sleeve. “I’m bound to be happier that way.”
Lady Cardiff frowned. “Not all men treat their wives as did your father. It’s possible to find love and companionship within the bounds of matrimony.”
Arianne did not correct her friend’s mistaken assumption, for no amount of explanation would convince her otherwise. Kitty had not lived in the Chambers household and therefore had not witnessed her mother’s decline. Abuse was neither pretty nor easily forgotten.
“I wish, though, they hadn’t assigned me that awful name.” Arianne glanced toward the string quartet whose vibrant chords were lost in the noisy crowd. “I’m afraid it will become my epitaph. Cupid’s mistress…”
“The one who coined that phrase never witnessed your lack of ability on the archery field,” her old schoolmate taunted. “If so, men and women alike would run with fear for their lives.”
Arianne chuckled at the mental image of the bejeweled ton seeking shelter from her arrows. “Perhaps then society matrons would be hesitant to trot their daughters forward for an introduction.” Though she imagined that would cease soon enough for another reason, but she pushed that thought aside. Tonight, she intended to concentrate on her childhood friend. After all, as long as Arianne’s secrets remained hidden, she could socialize at receptions such as this.
She turned toward Lady Cardiff. “Have you received word of Lord Cardiff’s posting?”
Kitty turned with her lips poised for reply, then stopped and sniffed before leaning closer. Her nose wrinkled. “Anne, is that another of your scent concoctions?”
“Have the florals failed?” Arianne gasped. “I thought to substitute the white wine in my summer formula with something stronger. I hoped it would draw more of the oil from the petals.” She sniffed at her own wrist. “Perhaps I should have used more water for balance?” Blessed St. Christopher. She smelled less like the sister of a duke and more like a distillery maid. She snapped her fan into motion.
Kitty shook her head. “Don’t be alarmed. It’s too faint for anyone to notice unless they stand unusually close. I’m quite sure Crenshaw disappeared due to your reputation, not your scent.”
Arianne’s eyes widened. Had gossip already started?
“Oh!” Kitty laughed. “That did not sound right. What I meant to say was –” her expression shifted “—Good Lord, who is that man? The one speaking with Lady Trembel.”
Arianne followed Kitty’s gaze. A man, fascinating in his total unsuitability for a gathering of this nature known for strict adherence to convention, mesmerized Lady Trembel with his attentive smile. Long black hair dangled low on his forehead. Lady Trembel’s gloved hands clenched at her side, causing Arianne to think she was having difficulty not brushing the hair aside. Yes. Arianne suspected she might feel a similar strain, if only to gain a better view of those engaging eyes. He looked as disreputable as a buccaneer, yet something about him hummed along her skin, scattered her thoughts, and sent a tremor down her spine. She wished he’d glance her way so she could see his features more clearly.
“Some people should not wear that pale shade of green. It does nothing for Lady Trembel,” Kitty groused beside her. “She has managed to capture his interest, though. Do you know him?”
Arianne shook her head, noting similar reactions repeated behind a multitude of quickly fluttering fans. Apparently he’d been noticed by every female in the room. Did they feel that same invisible force that prickled her skin?
“His jacket is wrong for this affair,” Kitty observed. “And entirely too small.”
“Or his chest is too big,” Arianne replied absently. “I wonder if the rest of him –”
Kitty lightly smacked her with her fan. “An unmarried woman shouldn’t make such observations,” she scolded. “Even those with a notorious artist brother.”
Either Kitty’s playful gesture, or Arianne’s fervent wishes caught the stranger’s attention, as his gaze swept the room for a moment.
“If I remember correctly.” Arianne observed Lady Trembel tap his arm with her fan to regain his attention. “Such things interested you before you married.”
Back in their schoolgirl days, Kitty had joined Arianne at her brother’s Yorkshire residence. When Nicholas wasn’t about, they had sneaked into his studio to peruse his sketches of scantily clad figures.
“Well, I’m married now,” Kitty said with a smug smile. “Look! He’s caught the countess’s attention. Perhaps we can garner his credentials from her.”
Countess D’Orange, the wife of the Italian minister assigned to London, had sponsored the reception in honor of some new envoy. A purpose was always stated on the invitation but rarely needed at these affairs. Diplomats loved to talk and needed little incentive to congregate and swap pleasantries. Due to her extensive travels, Arianne knew most in the room, and enjoyed the opportunity to renew acquaintances.
“He is a handsome devil, even with his questionable attire,” Lady Cardiff observed. “If I weren’t a married woman…”
“Kitty!” Arianne scolded. They hid soft laughter behind their gloves. Both knew the observation was in jest. Arianne shifted her gaze to the stranger. “He can’t possibly be a diplomat, he’s too…different. I wonder what he’s doing here?”
Fascinated, she watched a dimple form in his cheek as he smiled at something the Countess said. His visage transformed to one with a shy flirtatious charm. “I believe the Countess D’Orange has considerably improved his demeanor,” Arianne said. “He’s lost some of his menacing aspect.”
“Menacing?” Kitty’s brows lifted. “Whatever do you mean?”
Was it not obvious? Arianne was about to reply when both the Countess and the stranger turned toward them. Quickly she averted her gaze, embarrassed that he might recognize her curiosity, but then her pulse slowed. Of what consequence could that knowledge bring? Once he discovered her identity, he was bound to retreat to the distant wall to join Crenshaw and every other bachelor in the room.
She glanced at that very group as they tried to hide their sidelong glances at the stranger. The newcomer made them uneasy. There was justice in that.
“They’re coming this way,” Lady Cardiff said with exuberance. “Perhaps we won’t have to wait till the end of the reception to learn his identity.”
Oh dear! Arianne’s heartbeat hastened. Even though she had chosen spinsterhood, she wasn’t immune to male attention. Perhaps she’d been hasty in believing this man was an unlikely negotiator, for at this moment – under his dark perusal – she felt robbed of protest.
“Lady Arianne Chambers, Lady Cardiff –” the countess nodded to each of them “—allow me to introduce Mister Rafferty, a recent addition to the diplomatic corps.”
A quick doubt crossed her mind even as she and Lady Cardiff nodded acknowledgement. A fresh cut on his lip confirmed this man spoke as much with his fists as with a diplomat’s clever words. She should be wary of that proclivity given her mother’s experience, yet something about this man called to her, something that defied common sense.
“Mister Rafferty,” Kitty said. “You must be newly come to London. I do not believe I’ve seen you at any embassy functions.”
“Perhaps you weren’t looking in the dark corners,” he responded with a faint Irish brogue. A mischievous sparkle lit his watchful eyes.
“Lady Arianne.” His sudden attention robbed her of breath. “I expressly requested an introduction so that we might share a private word.”
Kitty’s expression twisted into one of shock, while surprise rattled Arianne’s bones. Men simply did not seek her out, especially dangerously handsome ones. Her mouth dried to ash a moment before she realized her jaw was agape. Dear heavens, she must resemble Lord Crenshaw!
“I’m not sure there is such a thing as privacy in this salon,” the countess teased. “Come along Lady Cardiff, I have someone you should meet.” Kitty hesitated, then reluctantly followed their hostess.
“Perhaps we might move away from that popular punch bowl?” Mister Rafferty clasped his hands behind his back as if to reinforce that he posed no threat, yet every nerve in her body tensed. Sensing a current of envy from the feminine eyes that followed their progress, she led the way toward a grouping of potted palms where the crowd thinned.
“Lady Arianne.” His voice purred as soothing as the violin’s lilting refrain. “I believe I carry a message intended for you…”
A fringe of black hair dipped just below his eyebrow. Arianne clenched her fan more tightly to avoid smoothing it aside.
“…But I find I’m hesitant to deliver it.” His lips curled in a pleasant line at odds with the alert assessment in his eyes.
“Why is that, sir?” Her chest expanded, pushing forcefully against her stays. Christopher! She, of all people, should know better than to fall victim to stirring accents and seductive smiles.
“I fear as soon as you read this note, you will rush from the salon denying me further opportunity to share your company.”
While she accepted the false flattery as a social staple, the unexpected delivery of a note lifted the fine hairs on her neck. Only bad news carried such urgency. Her pulse quickened. “Is it a message from my brother?” she asked with due gravity. “His wife is expecting their first child. If something has gone awry, I must leave immediately!”
“No.” Mr. Rafferty’s fingers grasped her arm as if to stop her immediate departure. A ribbon of tingling awareness raced up her arm. Shocked, she searched his gaze, surprised at the disdain she noted there. What had she done to earn such derision?
“I apologize if I alarmed you,” he said. “The note is not from your family.” Yet he still held her captive. She stared pointedly at his inappropriate touch. Recognizing his error, he released her, but without apology.
“It was meant to be delivered by another.” He reached inside his coat and removed an envelope. His gaze narrowed on her face, almost in accusation. “As you can see, it lacks identification.” He leaned close, pausing a bit overlong in that tight proximity. “I had to be certain it was intended for you.”
Curiosity rippled through her. She accepted the envelope, broke the wax seal and unfolded the paper, scanning the contents.
Wrap the dog in wool and loosen him on the Yanks.
The day approaches and death draws near.
Christopher! She scanned the cryptic words again. “This is nonsense.” She frowned. “Are you certain the message was intended for me?”
“Nonsense?” Mr. Rafferty ripped the paper from her hands and read the contents. “This isn’t an assignation,” he murmured.
“An assignation!” she exclaimed a trifle too loud. Her cheeks heated. Lowering her voice, she snapped her fan to flutter at a furious pace. “As the sister of a duke, I assure you I am not accustomed to complete strangers maligning my reputation. Whatever made you think that message was intended for me?”
His eyes narrowed, his jaw set. “I admit I assumed the message was to establish a rendezvous. When I overheard a reference to you as ‘mistress,’ I believed you were meant to be the intended recipient.” He stuffed the paper and envelope in his jacket, and scowled. “A simple mistake.”
He thought she was someone’s mistress! Her fan fluttered so violently, the palm fronds shook. She chose her words carefully and enunciated them clearly for his apparently impaired faculties. “The difficulty with eavesdropping, Mr. Rafferty, is that one almost never hears the full context. I believe what you heard was a reference to my talents as a matchmaker.”
She really didn’t need to expound. With his inappropriate attire and freshly injured lip, he was most likely a gate-crasher to this elite gathering of diplomats, and certainly not someone she would ever see again.
But that unspoken censure in his eyes rankled. Even to this man, she felt it important that her reputation was not needlessly besmirched. That would happen soon enough.
“Some call me Cupid’s Mistress,” she explained in a rush, before embarrassment could further stain her cheeks. “I imagine you overheard a portion of that most ridiculous name.”
“A matchmaker?” His lips quirked in humor for just a moment, before he straightened. Arianne thought she heard a seam rip. “My apologies, Lady Arianne. Obviously this note was intended for another. I hope the true recipient—”
“So on the basis of a nickname, you decided I was ripe for a tryst?” She wasn’t sure why she couldn’t let the matter drop. Perhaps his apology seemed insufficient for the affront to her honor. She should let him make a hasty departure like Crenshaw and the others.
His eyes narrowed. “There were other considerations…”
“Please tell me of these considerations. I wouldn’t want others to be under the delusion that I’m available for illicit sport.” Her sarcasm hit its mark.
He hesitated as if debating the wisdom of saying nothing, or defending his unconscionable behavior. His eyes raked over her, then a faint smile bloomed on his lips.
“I was told the recipient would be wearing a green dress. As I assumed the sender was interested in a tryst, I simply looked for the most attractive woman in the room wearing the proper color. I chose you.” He bowed his head. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll—”
She ignored his transparent flattery. “There are several other women in green. I saw you speaking to Lady Trembel earlier, yet you gave the note to me…”
What began as an attempt to correct his foolish assumption festered into something altogether different. Had something changed about her since her unfortunate incident in Vienna? Could complete strangers recognize her probable shift in society’s acceptance? “ Surely,” she pressed, suspicion taking root, “there was something else.”
He reflected a moment, then leaned closer. “Lady Trembel’s scent wasn’t that of the angel’s share.”
“Angel’s share?” Her face must have betrayed her ignorance. Was this was more Irish flattery?
He glanced away and laughed softly before returning his gaze to her. “The angel’s share is that portion of fine Irish whiskey that evaporates in the distillation.” A decidedly seductive gleam simmered in his gaze. “It’s been my experience that women who drink overly much find themselves in positions that—”
“You believe I’m a drunkard?” She sputtered in outrage. Her cheeks flamed anew.
He smiled. “Not all would find the scent of whiskey about a miss as appealing as I, but—”
“I erred in my cologne water!” She insisted perhaps a bit too loudly. A few heads turned their way. She dropped her voice. “I thought a stronger base would carry the florals.”
“And a very fine error it was.”
The impudent, non-conforming misfit was laughing at her! She could see his amusement in the creasing about his eyes, hear the blitheness in the timbre of his voice. The cad!
“Now if you’ll excuse me,” he said. “I should try to find — ”
“May I remind you, sir, that I am the sister of a duke.” She pitched her voice low and cold so he would know her displeasure. “I’m not certain how a man as common as yourself gained entrance to this reception, but your accusations are not appreciated.”
He stopped his determined egress. His shoulders shifted back, and if she wasn’t mistaken, she heard a button bounce on the floor. He turned, then glared down his decidedly handsome nose at her.
“I believe I’ve already apologized for my misapprehensions. My only defense is that I had assumed your company would be highly desired by any man.” His nostrils flared. “I trust you will forgive such a common and erroneous assumption.” He lifted her fingers as if to kiss her hand, but she jerked them away, striking his injured lip in the process.
Fresh blood rose on the wound. More heads turned their way.
Guilt and shame filled her. She wouldn’t have acted in such a low-bred manner if she hadn’t been provoked. A truly noble lady would have risen above the taunt. “I have a handkerchief,” she murmured, opening her reticule.
“No.” He reached into a pocket of his ill-fitting jacket. “I wouldn’t wish my common Irish blood to stain the linen of a sister of a duke.”
He removed a white handkerchief, but the white linen pulled a red cloth, that was attached to a blue cloth, which pulled a yellow cloth in succession. Rafferty froze, the white handkerchief clenched in his hand while the colored cloths dangled in a nautical line to his pocket. He swore beneath his breath, something rather derogative coupled with the name “Phineas.”
Abrupt barking laughter sounded from various directions. Arianne tried, unsuccessfully, to conceal her own amusement. Rafferty’s glance of anger and embarrassment seared straight through her levity. She immediately regretted her unkind words, but he gave her no time for apologies.
“Good evening, madam,” he said, stuffing the colorful assortment in his pocket. “I trust you will take pleasure in the likelihood that our paths shall never cross again.” He turned on his heel. “I know I shall.”
He strode from the salon without a backward glance.
“So…” Kitty appeared by her side. “What did you and the handsome Mr. Rafferty have to discuss for such an extended time? He certainly appeared to be taken with you.”
She glanced at her friend’s teasing face. At least Kitty’s initial description of “handsome devil” had been accurate enough, though Arianne wasn’t entirely convinced about the handsome part.
“It seems he’s in the market for a wife and wished for my recommendations,” she improvised. No need to confess that Mr. Rafferty had mistaken her for someone’s paramour.
“Have you anyone in mind?” Kitty asked, scanning the crowd.
“I’m not certain we’ll see Mr. Rafferty again,” she replied.
“Pity,” Kitty said. “He was the most interesting man here this evening.”
“Do you think so?” Arianne glanced toward the door. She had to admit that the stranger had captured her attention like none other. “He was the only one brave enough to actually engage me in conversation,” she said, adding a soft laugh for Kitty’s sake.
“I wonder who we might ask that would know more about him?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Arianne glanced toward the doorway. “I think we’ve seen the last of the arrogant Mr. Rafferty.”
Rafferty had barely left the townhouse when Phineas stepped from the shadows. “Did you find her? I didn’t see anyone leave in a green gown.”
Rafferty hesitated a moment, so absorbed in his thoughts that he had to stop and remember Phineas had been waiting to follow a woman en route to a tryst. A woman who most certainly would not be the interesting, the willful, the class-conscious Lady Arianne.
“The note wasn’t for a rendezvous,” he snapped, scanning the street for an available hack. The last carriage in the row held promise. While earlier he had been in no hurry to get to the reception, now he couldn’t wait to put distance between him and the marrow lacking upper-crust.
“How do you know that?” Phineas studied him a moment. “You opened it! What did it say?”
“Something about dogs and yanks and death.” Rafferty reached in his pocket, removed the envelope and slapped it into Phineas’s hand, all without breaking his fast stride. “The wrong woman opened the note. After the seal was broken, it was pointless to question the others. They would deny any knowledge.”
The last hansom was indeed available. Rafferty barked a destination to the driver and climbed inside.
“Dogs and yanks. That’s odd.” Phineas joined him in the dim interior. “And we still don’t know who his contact is? The mysterious woman in green?”
Rafferty glanced toward the townhouse. “At least we know one woman who she is not,” he muttered. Even Barnell knew the wisdom of avoiding the likes of Lady Arianne Chambers.