Authors: Katherine Grey
An Unexpected Gift
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
An Unexpected Gift
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by KayFrances Mott
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
Rae Monet, Inc. Design
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
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Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
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First English Tea Rose Edition, 2013
Print ISBN 978-1-61217-688-8
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-689-5
Published in the United States of America
Praise for Katherine Grey
Also by Katherine Grey:
available from The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
“I found it a very refreshing read! Great for regency lovers. It will definitely make you a fan of Katherine Grey.”
Romancing the Book
“If you are looking for a quick, sweet historical; this would be a good choice…”
~ Night Owl Reviews
Note: Lazarus (the hero) in
An Unexpected Gift
is a major secondary character in her short story
, released as part of the
To my mother,
who made do with so little so I could have so much
and who taught me that anything is possible
if you put your mind to it.
I love you, Mom.
“Are you certain they asked for Sir Phillip?” Olivia St. Germaine stopped mid-stride at the sight of the two men in the foyer. They seemed on the verge of an argument, the sound of harsh whispers filling the air.
“Yes, they were most insistent.” Jennings, the family butler, looked ill at ease.
Olivia studied the men as they stood unaware. Both were dressed well enough, but not in the latest fashion. The shorter of the two wore brown from head to toe with the exception of black gloves. The other was dressed all in black. Though he blended in with the shadowy area near the front door, he commanded her attention.
As though sensing her presence, their conversation came to an abrupt halt, and the man dressed in brown stepped forward. “We need ta see St. Germaine.”
“My brother is not at home, and I am not certain when he will return to London. If you would like to leave your cards...” She let the sentence trail away, hoping they would do as she suggested. Something about the two men unnerved her more than she cared to admit.
“I willna be put off.” The man in brown scanned the hall, then the staircase. “Stop hidin’ behind the skirts of a woman, ya coward,” he shouted. “I’ve come to collect yer debt.” His voice boomed off the high ceiling.
Incensed, Olivia strode closer. “My brother is no coward. And I am no liar. He is not in residence. I suggest you take your leave.”
“Lazarus doesna take orders from anyone.”
The man’s companion put a hand on his shoulder and tried to steer him toward the door.
“Then, Mr. Lazarus, perhaps you should heed your friend.” Olivia noted the Scottish burr running through his words. She eyed him with speculation.
Did their presence have anything to do with Phillip’s recent journey to the Highlands and his sudden decision to leave London without a word to her where he was going? The Lord himself knew Phillip St. Germaine had his vices, but they weren’t the sort to cause a man to flee the city. Not when he often claimed it was the boredom of country life that caused one to age, not the passing of years. What kind of debt could he have possibly incurred in Scotland that would bring men such as these to their home?
“I am Lazarus,” the other man said.
Olivia looked at him, noting the sheen of perspiration on his brow, his labored breathing, the way he held himself. He was injured. She knew the signs. Knew what to look for, much to her regret.
He stared back at her, his eyes a deep black and clouded with pain. His gaze was mesmerizing. For long moments, she stared at him. Olivia blinked, took a strangely shaky breath, and broke the spell he’d cast over her. All of her instincts clamoured for her to get them out of the house.
“Jennings, please show these gentlemen out.” She turned on her heel and headed back to the library.
She ignored the shout and kept walking. The sound of a gunshot filled the foyer. Her heart in her throat, she turned around. Bits of plaster filled the air, drifting down like tiny snowflakes to settle on the floor. She looked upward, her nose wrinkling at the familiar scent of gunpowder. The once pristine ceiling was now marred by a bullet hole.
The gunman tossed the spent pistol aside. It clattered across the marble floor, stopping inches from where Jennings stood, frozen with fear, his mouth open.
Withdrawing another gun from his coat, the stranger pointed it at Olivia.
She stared at it. The light from the chandelier overhead gleamed on the metal barrel. She glanced at the man known as Lazarus. He watched her, his expression unreadable. A trembling started deep within her stomach and spread outward until she was certain they could hear the vibrations of her bones if they but listened.
Gathering her courage, she cleared her throat. “If you mean to ransom me, you’ve chosen the wrong victim. I hold no titles. If you know my brother as you claim, you should be aware that he is a mere knight, given the honour due to his service to the crown. We have no great wealth.”
Lazarus grabbed the gunman’s wrist. “St. Germaine isn’t here. He would have come running at the sound of the shot.” He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. “We need to leave. Now,” he said, his voice strained.
The gunman gazed at him in silent communication, his lips compressed into a thin line. After a moment, he nodded. “Verra well.”
“We apologize...” Lazarus swallowed, gave a slight shake of his head as his hand crept up to his side. “...for the interruption.”
Olivia dipped her head in acceptance, eager to see them leave.
Lazarus turned toward the door, his gait unsteady. He took another step and fell to his knees. A low groan escaped his lips. He laid a hand on the marble floor, his breathing harsh.
She rushed forward, habits of old coming to the fore without conscious thought.
The gunman stepped in front of him, his pistol aimed at her. “Stay where you be.”
“He is injured.”
“He is nae injured.”
Putting both hands on the floor, Lazarus tried to rise without success. The hand that had clutched his side was covered in blood. Drops of crimson fell from under his coat onto the marble tiles in a steady stream.
“I can help him,” she said.
“You know the healin’ arts?” the gunman asked, his skepticism evident.
“I wouldn’t call it an art. My brother spent a great number of years on the battlefield caring for wounded soldiers. I assisted him at times when those who were injured outnumbered the surgeons available.” She glanced at Lazarus. His face was slick with sweat, his eyes closed against the pain. “Let me help him.”
“Do you...know how to...care for a bullet...wound?” he panted.
“Yes. One tends to see a great many bullet wounds in battlefield hospitals.” She tried not to think of it. At times it had seemed so hopeless. So many had needed attending. It felt as though she had tried to hold back a wall of blood and severed limbs with nothing more than a kind word and a single bandage.
Squeezing her eyes shut, she pressed her fingers to her forehead in an attempt to rub the images away. She shouldn’t have offered to tend his wound. She couldn’t help him. What if he died? She didn’t think she could bear the loss of another person she believed she could help, but in the end had only prolonged his pain before death took him.
Forcing the memories back down into the darkness, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. With a nonchalance she was far from feeling, she stepped closer to the gunman. “If you will not let me help him, then at least let me have my coach brought around. You may take it where ever you wish, but he needs aid and quickly.”
The gunman watched her for a long moment. “Help him.”
Olivia released a breath and turned to Jennings. “Hurry, we must get him to Sir Phillip’s infirmary.”
The butler didn’t move. It was almost as though he’d turned to stone.
He jumped and rushed to her side. Between the two men, they carried the injured man to the small room off to the side of the stairs and laid him on the cot her brother used when examining patients.
She tried not to think about the last time she’d been in the room. It had been two long years and yet, not nearly long enough. Her brother had been disappointed by her decision, but he never let her know it by word or deed. She turned to Jennings. “Have Bridget bring hot water and bandages.”
“There be one more thing, mate,” the gunman said, addressing the butler. “If you or anyone else sends for the Watch…” He pressed the muzzle of the pistol against her chest, and Olivia froze. “…she’ll be dead afore they get here.”
Jennings gave a slow, careful nod, then hurried from the room.
“I need to get my medical case,” Olivia said, working hard to keep her voice from quivering.
The gunman released her. “Do nae dawdle, or I will be comin’ for ye.”
She went straight to her room and the battered chest pushed against the far wall. Sinking to her knees, she reached for the latch, then hesitated. Could she bear to open it and let all the memories she’d locked inside escape? She’d packed them away along with everything else related to that part of her life. A life that haunted her still.
Knowing there was no other alternative, she opened the lid and lifted out her medical kit. Her fingers trembled at the touch of the cool leather case. She wanted to shove it back inside and slam the lid closed, but she couldn’t. A wounded man needed her help, and she could delay no longer without risking the wrath of his companion.
She pulled a plain blue dress that buttoned up the front from the bottom of the trunk and quickly changed out of her gown. Rolling the sleeves to her elbows, she took a deep breath and held it, then picked up the medical kit and left the room.
She stopped in the doorway of the infirmary. Bridget had laid a stack of clean cotton cloths on the bedside table along with a basin of hot water. She crossed the room and filled another basin sitting on the credenza.
As though sensing her presence, she met Olivia’s gaze, concern in her eyes. Bridget, more than anyone else, knew what tonight would cost her. With a nod of understanding, the maid carried the empty pitcher from the room followed by Jennings.
The gunman crossed the room, grabbed Olivia by the arm, and dragged her into the hall.
Taken by surprise, she didn’t have time to fight him before he came to a halt and called after Bridget and Jennings. “Turn around.”
They froze for a moment, Jennings’s shoulders hunching to his ears, then turned as one to face the gunman. Bridget tried to hide her anxiety, but it was there in her gaze. Olivia, too, was afraid of what the gunman would do next. Jennings looked like an oversized frightened rabbit, his nose twitching in fear. He would be no help in a confrontation. She would have to bide her time and hope for the best.
“Remember my warnin’. Any sign of the Watch or a Bow Street Runner and she’ll nae see the dawn.”
The two servants stared in horror as he dragged her back into the room. Once inside, he released her and moved back to stand guard over his companion.
Olivia rubbed her arm, knowing she would have a bruise in the morning. She used the gesture to play for time. She had to get rid of the jittery feeling that threatened her usual iron self-control. If she fell apart now, she could place the entire household in danger.