Home > The Other Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys #3)(6)

The Other Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys #3)(6)
Author: Julia Quinn

“You have to let me write a letter,” she said urgently.

“I beg your pardon.”

“A letter,” she repeated, struggling to sit up. “You must allow me to write one.”

“And what, pray tell, do you plan to include in such a missive?”

“I’ve been visiting a friend,” Poppy said quickly, “and if I don’t return this evening, she will call out the alarm. My entire family will descend on the district.” She bored her eyes into his. “Trust me when I tell you that you do not wish for this to happen.”

His gaze did not leave hers. “Your name, my lady.”

“My family—”

“Your name,” he said again.

Poppy pursed her lips, then said, “You may call me Miss Bridgerton.”

And he blanched. He blanched . He hid it well, but she saw the blood drain from his face, and for the first time in the interview, she felt a little rush of triumph. Not that she was about to go free, but still, it was her first victory. A tiny one, to be sure, but a victory nonetheless.

“I see you’ve heard of my family,” she said sweetly.

He muttered something under his breath that she was quite certain would not hold up in polite circles.

Slowly, and with what looked to be great control, he stood up. “Green!” he barked.

“Yes, sir!” the older man said, jumping to attention.

“Kindly fetch Miss Bridgerton some writing materials,” he said, her name sounding like a dread poison on his lips.

“Yes, sir,” Green said, hurrying out the door, Brown hot on his heels.

The captain turned to her with resolute eyes. “You will write precisely what I direct you to write,” he said.

“Begging your pardon,” Poppy said, “but if I did that, then my friend would know immediately that there was a problem. You wouldn’t sound like me ,” she explained.

“Your friend will know there is a problem when you don’t return this evening.”

“Of course, but I can write something that will assuage her,” Poppy returned, “and at the very least, ensure that she doesn’t notify the authorities.”

He ground his teeth together, then said, “It will not be sealed without my approval.”

“Of course,” she said primly.

He glared at her, his eyes somehow hot and cold and so so blue.

“I’ll need my hands untied,” Poppy said, lifting her wrists in his direction.

He crossed the room. “I’m waiting until Green returns.”

Poppy decided not to argue any further. He appeared about as movable on the point as a glacier.

“Which branch?” he said suddenly.

“I beg your pardon?”

“To which branch of the family do you belong?” His voice was sharp, each word enunciated with military precision.

It was on the tip of her tongue to make an insolent retort, but it was clear from the captain’s expression that this would be most unwise. “Somerset,” she said quietly. “My uncle is the viscount. They are in Kent.”

His jaw clenched, and the seconds ticked by in silence until Green finally reappeared with paper, a quill, and a small pot of ink. Poppy sat patiently while the captain untied her hands, her breath sucking over her lips at the pain as the blood return to her fingers.

“Sorry about that,” he grunted, and she looked sharply at him, his apology taking her by surprise.

“Habit,” he said. “Not heartfelt.”

“It was difficult to imagine that it might be,” she returned.

He made no response, merely held out his hand as she swung her legs over the side of the bed.

“Am I to hop to the table?” she asked. Her ankles were still bound.

“I would never be so ungallant,” he said, and before she had any idea what he was about, he swept her into his arms and carried her to the dining table.

And dropped her most unceremoniously into a chair. “Write,” he ordered.

Poppy took the quill between her fingers and dipped it gingerly in the ink, chewing on her lip as she tried to figure out what to say. What sort of words would possibly convince Elizabeth not to summon the authorities—and her family—while Poppy disappeared for two weeks?

Dearest Elizabeth, I know you will be worried. . .

“What is taking so long?” the captain snapped.

Poppy looked up at him and lifted her brows before replying, “If you must know, this is the first time I’ve had the occasion to write a letter explaining—without, of course, actually explaining—my having been kidnapped.”

“Don’t use the word kidnapped ,” he said sharply.

“Indeed,” she replied, shooting him a sarcastic glare. “Which accounts for the delay. I’m forced to use three words where a reasonable person would use only one.”

“A skill one would think you’ve long since mastered.”

“Nevertheless,” she said, trying to speak over him, “it tends to complicate the message.”

“Write,” he directed. “And say you’ll be gone a month.”

“A month?” she gasped.

“I hope to God not,” he muttered, “but this way, when we get you back in a fortnight, it will be cause for celebration.”

Poppy was not quite certain, but she thought he muttered under his breath, “My celebration.”

She decided to let it pass. It was the least of his insults thus far, and she had work to do. She took a deep breath and continued with:

. . . but I assure you that I am well. I shall be gone for a month, and I must beg you to keep my disappearance to yourself. Please do not alert my family or the authorities, as the former will only worry and the latter will spread the tale so far and wide that my reputation will be forever ruined.

I know this is a great deal to ask of you, and I know that you will have a thousand questions for me upon my return, but I implore you, Elizabeth—please trust me and all shall be explained soon.

Your sister in spirit,

Poppy

“Poppy, eh?” the captain said. “I wouldn’t have guessed it.”

Poppy ignored him.

“Pandora, perhaps, or Pauline. Or even Prudence, if only for the irony—”

“Poppy is a perfectly acceptable name,” she snapped.

His eyes held hers in an uncomfortably intimate gaze. “Lovely, even,” he murmured.

She swallowed nervously, noticing that Green had departed, leaving her quite alone with the captain. “I signed it ‘sister in spirit’ so that she would know I wasn’t coerced. It is how we have always signed our letters.”

He nodded, taking the missive from her fingers.

“Oh, wait!” she blurted, taking it back. “I need to add a postscript.”

“Do you now?”

“Her maid,” Poppy explained. “She was my chaperone for the afternoon, and—”

“There was another person at the cave?” he questioned sharply.

“No, of course not,” Poppy said brusquely. “I managed to be rid of her in Charmouth.”

“Of course you did.”

His tone was such that she was compelled to shoot him a slitty side-eyed glance. “She was not of sufficient physical constitution to accompany me,” she said with exaggerated patience. “I left her at a tea shop. Trust me, we were both happier that way.”

“And yet you ended up kidnapped and on your way to Portugal.”

Score one for him. Damn it.

“At any rate,” she continued, “Mary could be trouble, but only if Elizabeth doesn’t get to her before she realizes something is wrong. If Elizabeth asks her not to say anything, she won’t. She’s fiendishly loyal. Mary, that is. Well, Elizabeth too, but that’s different.”

He rubbed one hand over his brow, hard, as if he was having trouble following her.

“Just let me write the addendum,” she said, and she hastily added:

Postscript: Please assure Mary that I am well. Tell her I came upon one of my cousins and decided to join him for an outing. She must not talk indiscreetly. Bribe her if you must. I shall repay you.

   
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