Conspiracy Of Hearts - Хелен Диксон - Chapter Three Читать онлайн любовный роман

В женской библиотеке Мир Женщины кроме возможности читать онлайн также можно скачать любовный роман - Conspiracy Of Hearts - Хелен Диксон бесплатно.

Правообладателям | Топ-100 любовных романов

Conspiracy Of Hearts - Хелен Диксон - Читать любовный роман онлайн в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net
Conspiracy Of Hearts - Хелен Диксон - Скачать любовный роман в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net

Диксон Хелен

Conspiracy Of Hearts

Читать онлайн
Предыдущая страница Следующая страница

Chapter Three

When the light of dawn was struggling to show itself, Serena rose and went to the stables. The weather was blustery, cold and wet, which suited her mood. The sharp air sent shivers along her flesh, but the stables were a cheery glow of lantern light against the dark, unwelcoming exterior.

As the familiar warm smell of hay assailed her nostrils, she found the stables were already a hive of industry. Under the watchful eye of John, the stablemaster, on Sir Henry’s instructions the stable lads and grooms had been hard at it for over an hour to have the horses ready for the marquess’s inspection at first light. John hurried over to Serena, his shirt open down the front to reveal his barrel chest.

Pulling on her kid gloves and with her crop tucked beneath her arm, Serena paused beside a mare which had been led out of its stall and was being held by one of the grooms. She was vaguely aware that someone was on the other side of it, but because he was hidden from view she paid scant attention. ‘Good morning, John,’ she greeted him. ‘Such as it is. I’ve known better mornings for riding over the heath.’

‘Aye, the rain looks set in for the day, miss—but I know it’ll take more than that to put you off your ride.’ John chuckled. Having known Serena since birth, ever since Sir Henry had introduced her to the horses as a toddler, he was aware that riding had become her abiding passion.

‘I shall be leaving just as soon as our guest stirs himself. Is Polly saddled?’

‘She’s all ready for you—but the marquess has been here for the past half hour looking over the horses.’

Serena stared at him in astonishment. ‘He has?’

‘Yes,’ replied the marquess, rearing up from the other side of the mare, startling Serena almost out of her wits. ‘I was impatient to see for myself your father’s splendid horses. I couldn’t sleep, anyway,’ he said, almost as an afterthought, as he ran practised hands over the horse he was inspecting.

Disappointed that he had reached the stables ahead of her, Serena stood and calmly watched Lord Brodie examine the horse in silence. He stood back and looked at it from every angle, picking up a hoof and going on to examine its teeth with a thoroughness that did not surprise her. She sensed that everything the marquess did would be controlled, certain and sure. Distracted, she saw he had removed his doublet, and that his white silk shirt was open at the throat to reveal the strong muscles of his neck.

He had the supple body of an athlete, vigorous and arresting, and with his wicked smile and shoulder-length raven black hair—a rogue wave spilled over his brow and shone like glass in the lantern light—Serena thought he would have made the most handsome pirate. His tight hose detailed his narrow hips and tautly muscled buttocks, bringing a flush to her maidenly cheeks.

Satisified, Kit slapped the horse’s flank, nodding for the lad holding it to take it back to its stall, before giving Serena his full attention. Observing the soft flush on her cheeks, he raised a questioning eyebrow and studied her for a long, drawn-out moment. A slow smile curved his lips. The sparkle in his eyes gradually evolved into a rakish gleam, and Serena’s flush deepened. She had no way of discerning the workings of Lord Brodie’s mind or where his imagination wandered.

‘I’m sorry to have dragged you from your bed at such an early hour,’ Kit said, his gaze unyielding. There was a suave, almost teasing note in his voice.

Collecting her crumbling poise and wanting to shatter his cocksure arrogance, Serena gave him a steely flash from her green eyes. ‘You didn’t,’ she replied curtly. Looking at him with a stilted coolness, she tried to overcome the resentment she felt, although why she should feel such antipathy towards him when he had rescued her from being brutally ravished by Thomas Blackwell confused her. ‘I’m in the habit of rising early to ride before breakfast. I’m sorry you had difficulty sleeping. The bed was comfortable, I hope.’

‘Perfect. It was the noise of the storm that kept me awake.’

‘And the horses? What do you think of them?’

‘Splendid,’ Kit replied, casting an appraising eye down the length of the stable. ‘Their reputation has not been exagerated. John has been helpful in showing me those which are available.’

‘And? Are you interested in purchasing any?’

‘There are three I have my eye on—good, strong mares. I have a stallion from a good strain, big and in his prime. I’m keen to breed off him, which is why I want only the finest mares. I’ll have a word with Sir Henry over breakfast.’ Retrieving his doublet which was draped over a stall, he thrust his arms into the sleeves. ‘Having decided to reserve my own horse for the hunt, I have taken the liberty of having one of the lads saddle your father’s horse—one he won’t be riding in the hunt, I’ve been told. You are up to riding in weather such as this, I hope,’ he said, throwing her a challenging look.

Serena bristled. ‘I never allow weather to put me off my ride.’

‘Shall I accompany you, Mistress Carberry?’ John inquired.

Much as she hated the idea of riding out alone with the marquess, Serena could see John was much too busy to leave the stables. ‘That won’t be necessary, John. I’m sure I shall be perfectly safe with Lord Brodie,’ she said, cracking the crop against her skirts and moving to the stall where her mare Polly was waiting.

On seeing her mistress, Polly responded by arching her neck and whickering gently. One of the lads led her out into the yard followed by another leading a huge stallion. It was Monarch, Sir Henry’s horse, black and as smooth as silk, with a long flowing mane and tail. Kit ran his hands over its quivering flanks.

‘He’s a splendid horse,’ he breathed admiringly.

‘Yes—my father’s. Andrew also rides him when…’ Serena faltered, biting her lip to stem the flow or words. She was usually so careful not to speak of her brother to strangers.

Kit looked at her with a keen eye. ‘Your brother! You can speak of him to me, Mistress Carberry. He is a priest, I believe.’

‘Yes,’ she replied crisply, looking away. ‘He’s in Italy at present.’

‘I know. Out of harm’s way.’

Stung by his remark even though it had been spoken lightly, and ever sensitive about her brother’s profession, Serena swung her head to look at him, on the defensive. Sparks of indignation flashed in her eyes, sorely incensed by what she thought Lord Brodie might be implying. ‘My brother is no coward, Lord Brodie.’

‘I did not imply that he was, and I hold nothing against him. I am merely saying that he would be wise to stay where he is. It’s no secret that Catholic priests are being hunted the length and breadth of the country and are dealt with most severely when caught.’

A deep pain entered Serena’s eyes, her expression suddenly one of anguish. ‘Do you think I don’t know that? Do you think I don’t know the fate that awaits my brother if he were to return to England? Which is why I hope and pray he remains in Rome. At least there I know he is safe.’

Towering over her, Kit’s lean, hard face bore no hint of humour or mockery. ‘I apologise if my words offended or distressed you. It was not intentional, I do assure you. Now—shall we go?’

Kit locked his hands together to accept Serena’s small booted foot, and was not surprised at the agility she displayed when he raised her up to the side-saddle, where she sat arranging her skirts while he strode towards his own mount.

Serena threw him a look as he hoisted himself into the saddle, seeing Monarch bunch his muscles and flare his nostrils. She smiled, wondering if she was about to see the arrogant marquess of Thurlow stripped of his dignity and tossed into a puddle on his backside.

‘Take care, my lord. Monarch is not usually pleased at having strangers ride him. He is swift and also temperamental. You have to show him who is master right from the start. He’s thrown many a stranger who sits on his back.’

Serena might as well have saved her breath. Kit controlled Monarch superbly as the horse reared up and pawed the air, his hooves hitting the cobbles so hard when he brought them down that it would normally have unseated the most experienced rider. But Kit remained firmly in the saddle, his lips drawn across his gleaming white teeth in a devilish grin. He flashed a triumphant look at Serena.

‘A horse after my own heart. We’ll get along splendidly,’ he laughed. The lean, hard muscles of his thighs gripped the horse, and he kept him on a tight rein to control his high-stepping prancing as they clattered out of the yard.

The landscape was stark and colourless against the grey sky, the wind buffeting them, exciting the horses. Shrouded in long cloaks they rode in silence, the fine drizzle washing their faces and dampening their hair exposed beneath their hats.

Serena couldn’t resist sneaking a glance at her companion. The sight of him on the black horse with its highflying tail drew her admiration. Horse and rider flowed along together. After a while she halted, waiting for Kit to do likewise.

‘My compliments, Mistress Carberry. You ride well.’

‘Praise indeed coming from you, my lord,’ she answered, not without a hint of sarcasm. ‘Have you ridden with Dorothea on your visits to Carberry Hall?’

‘I have not yet had that pleasure. Does she ride well?’

Dorothea hated riding and did not sit a horse at all well, but Serena would not abuse her by saying so. ‘She rides well enough but, as you will have observed, Dorothea and I are not alike. Apart from being cousins and extremely fond of each other, we have little in common. She is quiet whereas I talk a lot. She is sweet tempered and mild mannered, whereas I am often quite the opposite. Dorothea also has a high opinion of almost everyone she comes into contact with, whereas I—well,’ Serena said, throwing her companion an intriguing smile, ‘my judgement is often critical and harsh. So you see, Lord Brodie, faults I have in plenty.’

Secretly, Kit couldn’t complain about that. Serena was too warm and vitally alive for him ever to reprimand her for faults such as these.

Buoyed up by the ride and feeling a little mischievous, Serena had no qualms about laying down a challenge. Under normal circumstances Polly was no match for Monarch, but these were not ordinary circumstances. Lord Brodie was not familiar with the stallion and nor was he familiar with the tricky terrain, so she was confident she would win.

‘We’ll ride towards the woods over there,’ she said, pointing towards the trees in the distance. ‘But before we do I’ll make you a small wager, my lord.’

Kit’s eyes danced at the idea. ‘A wager? When I recall your actions of yesterday, it seems to me that you are hellbent on self-destruction.’

Serena’s eyes flashed with a feral gleam. ‘Must you remind me of that?’

A leisurely smile moved across Kit’s lean brown face as his perusal swept her. ‘I apologise, but you seem to have a genius for getting yourself into impossible situations. I might even be so bold as to say that not only do you go looking for danger, but you actually seem to thrive on it. What kind of wager have you in mind?’

‘If I reach the woods before you, if I win, you return my handkerchief—the one you took from me yesterday, if you recall. If you win, you can keep it.’

Kit laughed heartily. ‘I’ve accepted some wagers in my time, but a lady’s kerchief? Never. I must point out that I never wager on certainties.’

‘That’s an arrogant assumption. Are you saying I will lose?’

Kit bowed his head in mock deferential respect. ‘My dear Mistress Carberry, I wouldn’t dare. It would be more than my life is worth. All I am saying is that I intend to win. Would you like a start?’

‘What? And put you at an unfair disadvantage?’ Serena laughed, warming to the chase, her cheeks dimpling quite deliciously. ‘Come, my fine lord, you’re wasting time.’ Like lightning she headed in the direction of the woods, her swift and agile mare galloping off ahead of the marquess.

The heath was undulating with many open ditches and brackish, swampy bogs, making the going dangerous and the riding hard, but Serena and her horse knew every inch of the terrain. In exhilaration she exerted all her skill as she snaked her way around bogs and avoided ominous patches of slate-coloured water, clearing open ditches boldly and unheeded, urging Polly in a final burst of energy towards the woods.

Within the dripping confines of the trees stood the sinister figure of Thomas Blackwell. There was a cold gleam in his eyes as he watched Lord Brodie prancing along beside Serena Carberry, observing the apparent closeness between them.

It had come to his notice that Brodie had recently become betrothed to Dorothea Carberry, a young lady he himself had a fancy for. Dorothea had all the necessary requirements Thomas considered important in a wife. She might bore him weary, but she wouldn’t complain at being left tucked away in the country while he sought his pleasures in London. More important, Dorothea was of the same Protestant faith as himself. Lord Carberry was also extremely wealthy and would drop a fortune at his feet as soon as they were wed, which would not go amiss.

But it would seem he had been supplanted in Dorothea’s affections by Brodie, which was not acceptable. He would succeed in making Lord Carberry loath the arrogant marquess of Thurlow almost as much as he did himself. Thomas touched the livid wounds on his cheek where Serena’s fingernails had raked the flesh raw. He was not done with her, either. But he would reserve his punishment for that hellcat until he had dealt with Brodie, and then he would show her how futile it was to struggle against him. He would call on Lord Carberry at the earliest opportunity, but for the present his vanity prevented him from doing so.

Pounding hoofbeats sounded alongside Serena and she turned to see Kit separated from her by several yards, his cloak spread out behind him like the wings of a giant hawk. Monarch’s hooves sent up splatters of water in his wake, and his tail whisked like a pennon in the wind. With a triumphant yell Kit pulled ahead on the big stallion, outpacing Serena’s mare and reaching the woods first. With a broad smile he whirled round to wait for her, his horse’s ebony coat slippery and shining with rain and sweat. Serena reached the trees a few yards behind him, her face flushed and breathing hard, her heart pounding.

‘Congratulations,’ she gasped. ‘The race is yours.’

‘And you are a gracious loser, Mistress Carberry,’ Kit laughed, his voice full of admiration, thinking how delightful she looked with damp curls clinging to her face, her cheeks as pink as pink could be and her green eyes sparkling like early-morning dew drops on summer grass. ‘I must congratulate you, also. You are an excellent horsewoman.’ His eyes twinkled. ‘However, I am glad I get to keep your handkerchief,’ he said, producing it from a pocket inside his doublet. After placing it to his lips and sniffing its delicate perfume, he returned it to his pocket.

‘We’ll give the horses a chance to breathe and take a steady ride back. With any luck the rain might hold off until we reach the stables.’ He glanced across at Serena as her horse fell into step beside his own. ‘Did you really believe your mare could win against the power of Monarch?’

‘Why not? You and Monarch may be superior in both stamina and strength, but I am familiar with the terrain, which is an important advantage. You can’t deny that it’s a testing course for any horse and rider—it could prove disastrous to someone unfamiliar to it.’

‘My experiences have taught me how to read every kind of terrain.’

‘Of course. I forget you are a soldier.’

‘Was,’ Kit corrected. ‘I did serve for a time in the Low Countries, which was where Blackwell and I became acquainted—but we were never friends.’

‘What’s he like?’ Serena ventured to ask tentatively. ‘Our homes are close, but I cannot say that I know him well—not even after what occurred between us yesterday. It would not have happened had he not been drunk.’

Kit lifted a dark, winged brow, knowing that drunk or sober made no difference to Blackwell’s behaviour. He was often to be found frequenting brothels where there were women aplenty to gratify his sexual appetite. But Kit could not tell this young maid the full extent of Blackwell’s bestiality, of his brutal methods when dealing with others.

Blackwell’s reputation was sealed by the aftermath of a massacre of nine Catholic women—five of them nuns—at a convent a short distance over the border from the United Provinces in Flanders. By all accounts Blackwell had stood and watched his soldiers violate the women before butchering them, and afterwards had drunk a toast to their deaths.

But well before that his arrogant bullying style had made him feared by his enemies and hated by the soldiers beneath his command. Kit had not met Blackwell before the massacre; in his opinion Blackwell was one of the cruellest, most dissolute officers he had ever known. Coming upon the murdered women at the convent, Kit had considered Blackwell’s behaviour so outrageous that he was moved to complain to a higher authority. Shortly afterwards Blackwell’s regiment had been recalled, but his reputation was blackened forever.

‘I shall not offend your senses by giving you an account of Blackwell’s crimes in the Low Countries. Be satisfied when I tell you that they were committed with the utmost barbarity, and that he should have been hanged for them.’

‘Then why wasn’t he? Lesser mortals would have been.’

‘True. But Blackwell has friends in high places—not least Salisbury, the king’s chief minister. Blackwell is famed more for his valour in the boudoir than on the battlefield,’ Kit told Serena with a cynical smile. ‘He is not a particularly savoury character and made many enemies when he was in the Low Countries. Living his life on a short fuse, he has a penchant for excessive carousing and brawling. Wherever he is to be found wars are not always confined to the battlefield. In between fighting he has led a pretty dissolute life, both in London and abroad.’

Kit was still curious as to how Serena had come to be alone with the villain yesterday. Did Blackwell accost her or did she meet him of her own free will? He had a strong suspicion it was the latter. ‘Take care, Mistress Carberry,’ he said, his tone grave. ‘You would do well to steer clear of Blackwell. He is not a man to be trifled with or made a fool of.’

‘Which I have discovered to my cost,’ Serena replied drily, yielding her gaze to Kit’s unwavering regard. ‘Do not underestimate him either, Lord Brodie,’ she advised. ‘You may have cause to regret stepping in to rescue me. Since his father’s death, Thomas has become a man of importance and influence.’

‘Blackwell is also a man of arrogance,’ said Kit, a wry twist curling his lips. Grinning suddenly, his eyes gleamed across at her wickedly. ‘Do I detect a note of concern for me in your voice, Mistress Carberry? If so, I am deeply touched.’

Serena’s cheeks burned and she lifted her head imperiously. ‘Oh! You insufferable beast. You are mistaken.’

Kit laughed softly at her confusion, enjoying watching the fluid motion of her body as she sat her horse. His gaze dwelt on the rain running down her hat and settling on her hair, fascinated by the mass of tiny curls that clung to her face. Droplets of moisture clung to her thick lashes and upper lip. Unconsciously she licked them off with the point of her tongue, and Kit found this small action provocative in the extreme and felt the heat flame in his belly.

He felt the urge to pull her on to his horse, to hold her, to have her body pressed close and have his own mouth kiss away the droplets of rain from her lips, to taste their velvety softness, sure they would taste as sweet as honey. He looked straight ahead, the rain swirling all around them, knowing it was madness to think like this when his thoughts should be directed towards his betrothed, to that gentle creature soon to be his wife in shared tenderness, faith and mutual respect.

Forcing his mind along a different path, Kit remembered there were things he wanted to ask Serena concerning her father that had troubled him before leaving London and which, since reaching Dunedin Hall, now troubled him more.

‘I’m glad to have this opportunity of speaking to you alone. There’s a serious matter I wish to speak with you about,’ he said after a long interval, his voice grave and his expression serious. ‘If you will permit me, that is.’

‘What is it?’ Serena asked, glancing across at him curiously.

‘Last evening you mentioned that Robert Catesby came to see your father to purchase some horses.’

Serena stiffened. Although she didn’t look at him, she felt Lord Brodie’s scrutiny. The time her father had spent alone with Sir Robert and Mr Grant when they had come to Dunedin Hall concerned no one but them, and was not to be discussed with this Protestant stranger she had no particular liking for.

‘Yes, he did, but if you don’t mind, Lord Brodie, I—’

‘Understand that I have no wish to pry or to meddle in your father’s affairs,’ Kit interrupted quickly. ‘I do so on this one matter only out of deep concern, for I strongly suspect that the purchase of those horses will, in time, have a far-reaching and disastrous effect on a great many people.’

With a growing dread, Serena looked at him, a feeling of doom curling itself round her heart. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Tell me—how many horses did Catesby and John Grant purchase?’

‘Twenty, in all,’ Serena told him with reluctance. ‘Why is it important for you to know?’

Kit shrugged easily, watching her reaction closely. ‘I’m interested. I consider it a number far beyond domestic requirements. Come. Why the secrecy?’ he demanded, his eyes narrowing in question.

‘I wasn’t aware that I was being secretive. But if you are to see Mr Grant at the hunt later, perhaps you should ask him why he purchased them.’

‘But would I get the right answer?’

‘Why ever not?’ Serena bestowed a brittle smile upon him. ‘Although he might surprise you and tell you to mind your own business.’

‘I expect he would—and I would not blame him in the slightest.’

‘Don’t concern yourself, my lord,’ Serena said lightly, trying to ease the sudden tension that had developed between them. ‘Let me put your mind at rest. The reason for the purchase is quite simple and can easily be explained.’

‘Then tell me.’

‘Mr Catesby is hoping to obtain a military commission under the Archduke Albert in Flanders, which, as you will know, being a military man yourself, is a perfectly legal venture after the signing of the peace treaty with Spain last year. He needs horses to form a troop of horse and my father has horses to sell. Have you reason to doubt what I tell you?’

‘Yes, I do. Who told you this?’

‘My father,’ Serena replied, trying to sound calm, but she was more troubled than she cared to show.

‘And you believe him?’

‘Of course I do,’ she flared, indignant. ‘My father does not lie.’

‘I would not insult him by accusing him of such. But I suspect that if this is what Catesby told your father, then it’s a useful piece of dissembling on his part.’

‘Please explain why you raise this matter with me and not my father? I find it extremely alarming and fear your reason for doing so.’

‘You are right to fear it, since I do myself. I raise the matter with you because I feel you should know—that you must be warned. It’s only right that you should be prepared should something of a vicious nature occur that may prompt awkward questions to be asked of Sir Henry. What we are discussing is of an extremely serious nature—one I have not discussed with anyone else. If something should happen—and my instincts tell me it will—events have a nasty way of implicating the innocent. I have no wish to see my own head roll by making myself conspicuous.’

Serena stared at him in horror, swallowing against a restricting tightness in her throat. ‘Is it as serious as all that?’ she whispered.

‘Yes. I’m afraid it is.’

‘And do you trust your instincts?’

‘As a soldier I had to—and they could usually be relied upon. Since the king’s renewed persecution of the Catholics, I suspect there is something afoot, that a scheme is being devised to bring down the king and his government. I also fear your father may have unwittingly been drawn in to become a part of it.’

‘And how do you know this?’ Serena asked with a sinking heart.

‘Whilst in London I often supped with Catesby and his friend Thomas Percy at various taverns and eating houses, where they and their associates would meet. Robert Catesby, as you know, is a man of powerful charm and a dominating personality, who cuts a wide swathe in most company. He also has the easy ability of a man who can talk anyone into doing anything. I believe he is a convert to Catholicism—and, indeed, he has a typical convert’s passion for his faith—with an ill-conceived ardour which will make him as willing to kill for it as to die for it.

‘It’s no secret that he is deeply involved with religious malcontents like himself. I can name several—all opulent and obstinate followers of their religion, most of them living in the Midlands in their large mansions. Some you know well,’ Kit said, speaking gravely, his dark eyes surveying Serena closely, ‘whose houses you visit to conduct the rituals of your faith—where priests are condemned to secret refuges to hide from pursuivants.’

Serena met his gaze calmly. ‘You are well informed, Lord Brodie. The rituals are conducted with some trepidation, but their importance overrides any disquiet we might feel at the possible consequences should we be discovered.’

Kit nodded slowly. He admired her words, which were repeated by many courageous Catholic women playing a crucial part in the survival of the Catholic faith in the face of ruthless persecution.

‘Bravely spoken,’ he commented quietly. ‘It is no secret that Catesby has been involved in failed conspiracies in the past. When Queen Elizabeth was moved to save him from a premature death after his involvment in the Essex conspiracy in sixteen-oh-one, he was fortunate to leave the Tower with his head intact. On the surface there was nothing unusual in the meetings I was privy to, but I am no fool and strongly suspect some enterprise more serious than cards or dice to be their reason for meeting.’

‘And they let you, a Protestant, listen in?’ Serena commented with irony. ‘I beg your pardon, Lord Brodie, but that I cannot believe.’

‘There was nothing secretive in the gatherings, which were social, jovial affairs, where not everyone was of the Catholic faith.’

‘Then tell me this. Are you saying that my father could be endangering his life by selling his horses to Robert Catesby?’

‘That depends on his true reason for doing so.’

‘You don’t believe they are to go towards raising a troop of horse for the Spanish Netherlands?’

Kit shook his head in consternation. ‘I don’t know. I doubt it and believe it to be a smokescreen to conceal the true purpose of the purchase of so many horses. But I have not the slightest inkling of what is going on.’

‘What other reason could there be?’

‘Unfortunately I cannot answer that. I only know that since King James has crushed Catholic hopes for liberty of conscience and will not meet certain concessions, there are those of a violent, impatient nature who will not wait with passive endurance for change to come about.’

Serena was appalled at what he was implying. ‘But any violent means to bring about tolerance can never be justified. The sentiments of honest Catholics would never support this. If there is a conspiracy, then those involved must desist from such wicked actions that can only result in weakening the cause. But why does it interest you? Why involve yourself—especially since you are not of the Catholic persuasion?’

‘I don’t take religion seriously, I confess. I worship God in my own way and believe others should be allowed to do the same. I concern myself because your father is my friend, and I value his friendship. All I know is that it has been hinted that something of a seditious sort will be attempted by Catholics when Parliament reconvenes next month.’

Serena paled. ‘But that is treason.’

Kit looked at her steadily. ‘Only if it fails will it be called treason.’

‘There have been failed conspiracies before. How can this be any different?’

‘Well may you ask. Who is to say at this stage what will happen? But I believe that the Catholic cause, the throne and succession itself, could hang on this.’

‘If my father is in danger I should know about it. If you have discovered a conspiracy against the king, which may include him, please tell me.’

‘I wish I could tell you more, but what I have are suspicions, nothing more.’

‘Aye!’ Serena exclaimed irately, clutching the reins tighter as at a threat. ‘My brother said much the same to me before he returned to Italy.’

Kit looked at her sharply. ‘Your brother has been here recently? He gave you warning?’

‘Yes. Andrew has heard rumblings as far away as Rome, which brought him to England to see Father—no doubt to warn him about a scheme he was already aware of,’ she uttered bitterly. ‘He said much the same as yourself—that something ugly is about to manifest itself.’

Kit’s brows drew together as he contemplated this latest information. ‘As early as that! Then it is worse than I thought. Any conspiracy will have been deep laid and well and truly thought out by now—and I suspect Catesby, who is capable of great ambitions and is multitalented in the subtle stratagems of devising a master plot, of being the clever mind behind it. However, I very much doubt that Sir Henry is part of any such scheme.’

Serena was both angry and hurt, strongly suspecting that Andrew had withheld information because he believed such things were not a woman’s concern. But how could it not be when she was the one left alone with their father? If it was her father’s concern, then it was hers also.

‘Why not?’ Serena flared bitterly. ‘It wouldn’t be the first time. I love my father dearly, Lord Brodie, but he has been playing the Catholic cause since he was old enough to understand. He is not likely to stop now—even if it means dragging me in, too.’

‘I’m sure your father loves you too well to involve himself in anything that would cause you harm.’

‘His past behaviour leads me to think otherwise, and if he is involved then so am I by association.’ Serena looked at Kit beseechingly as they rode into the stable yard, her lovely eyes wide and deeply troubled, stirred despite her earlier animosity by what he had confided to her. ‘Lord Brodie, will you speak to him—discover how deeply he is involved? Please tell him of your suspicions and warn him.’

Kit shook his head slowly, jumping down from his horse when a stable lad came to take it from him. ‘If he is embroiled in any conspiracy, then I doubt he would disclose it to me. But after saying that, my instinct tells me most assuredly that he has no hand in any scheme.’

The sky loomed dark and impenetrable, and by the time they reached the house a heavy downpour was unleashed on them. Kit paused, taking Serena’s arm and turning her to face him. Knowing full well what she was going through, he was genuinely reluctant to leave her, but he had been right to speak to her. She must be warned in order to prepare herself should his suspicions be realised.

Serena blinked droplets of rain from her lashes as she looked up at Kit in question, seeing his expression was grave but calm.

‘I won’t speak of this matter again,’ he said, ‘but if it will make you feel easier I will have a word with Sir Henry later.’

It was his tone that caught all Serena’s attention and made her look long at the swarthy, rather saturnine face. As she searched those dark eyes which studied her closely, she realised that Lord Brodie had not spoken to her casually. He was deadly serious about what he had confided to her.

‘Yes, thank you. I would appreciate that. But please don’t involve yourself further on my father’s behalf. It could prove dangerous to you. But what can I do?’

‘There is nothing you can do except wait for events to unfold.’

‘What? Wait for my father to be arrested?’

‘Let us pray it doesn’t come to that.’


Получить полную версию книги можно по ссылке - Здесь

Предыдущая страница Следующая страница

Ваши комментарии
к роману Conspiracy Of Hearts - Хелен Диксон

Комментарии к роману "Conspiracy Of Hearts - Хелен Диксон" отсутствуют

Ваше имя


Введите сумму чисел с картинки