|A Murder And A Kiss
Author: Fading-Scream PM
Set in regency London, a murder leaves the Montrose twins as prime suspects – at least in Nathaniel, Marquess of Hartington's mind. Cole and Catherine Montrose have many secrets to keep hidden about who they are and what they can do, but when Hartington starts digging into their past there is only one thing to be done - or is there?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Mystery - Chapters: 15 - Words: 27,053 - Reviews: 20 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 13 - Updated: 02-09-13 - Published: 11-21-12 - id: 3076203
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I have to apologize for the slow progression of the story in the first few chapters, but now that you know the main characters rest assured that this mystery will become more complex... and, of course, the romance side will become more obvious.
Thanks to all who are my cherished readers for your continuous support.
"Well, that was an interesting meeting." Sir Graham murmured to Cole as they rode back toward the house from Hyde Park. "Hartington seemed rather put out by our appearance while he was chatting up your sister."
Cole had noticed the same thing but was loath to acknowledge it. The man was a well known rake but it was also well known that he never trifled with the debutants, placing himself beyond the fire of the matchmakers. Cathy seemed flushed and strangely affected by the meeting too which worried him. Hartington was dangerous. It was as clear as crystal and Cole had no desire to test out how dangerous the man could become. Although Cathy was extraordinarily captivating, Cole could see no reason for Hartington to follow her with his eyes the way he had.
"It's best if Cathy does not become friendly with Hart. Having her name linked to his too often would ruin her beyond repair, even if he did not touch her." Graham continued. "Mind you, he's an upstanding gentleman who does live by a code of honour. He was well awarded when he served England under Wellington."
Cole felt the blood rush from his head and could hear his heart beat in his chest. "Hartington is a spy?" he tried to sound as normal as possible.
"Oh well that is just speculation, my friend. He has been known to occasionally help those runners on Bow Street. He isn't exactly one whom you can hide from."
Cole glanced at Cathy, wondering just how much she had inadvertently given away without even knowing that Hartington was questioning her. It seemed planned that he had found Cathy alone in the precise moment that Graham's horse spooked and ran off with him, leaving Cole to chase after the horse and the shaken Sir Graham who was far from competent on a horse.
Cathy too was questioning her meeting with Hartington. The man seemed too put out by the sudden arrival of Cole and Edward's friend, Sir Graham. She couldn't deny her attraction to the earl though. As soon as she had seen him she had felt as if there was a magnet pulling her toward him, her body wanted to feel his strong arms around her. It puzzled her to think of it. There had never been a man who she had been attracted to in this way. Even in the country, when all the country gentry came together at the assembly hall once a month, she had never felt the burning desire to feel his lips on hers. Perhaps it was due to the fact that she had never met a man as bold as Hartington was. All the young men who had been interested in her were bumbling fools who spent hours trying to impress a woman with their great many accolades and who thought wooing a woman was achieved purely through outrageous flattery. It was little surprise that Cathy thought little of them.
The manor house which had been rented by the viscount for the duration of the season was large and modern, situated on the outskirts of popular Mayfair. White roses edged along the sides of the building creating a show and begging someone to compliment their beauty. At the sight of the house, Cathy felt the familiar dread which worked its way up into her throat every time she had entered the front doors since Charlotte's death a few short days ago. Visitors had swarmed the house, paying their respects to the grieving family who had been left without the consolidation of the killer's capture.
The three could hear Aunt Heloise's voice as they stopped their horses by the front steps, waiting for the footmen to take their mounts from them. She sounded upset, more so than she had been over the week. Entering the hall they found Aunt Heloise shouting at a young boy who was cowering under the dragon's anger, clutching the box he had brought her to his chest.
"Charles! Get the boy from my sight!" Aunt Heloise screamed, forcing Cathy to step in before they all lost their hearing.
"What has happened aunt?" she tried to be as tenderly caring as she could.
Aunt Heloise yanked the box from the hands of the retreating child and shoved it into Cathy's hands before she made her way back to her private salon.
"The boy found this on the steps not long after you left." Uncle Charles explained, his voice gruff.
Cathy cautiously opened the box and showed the contents to Cole and Graham.
"One of Charlotte's gloves and a strand of her hair. A note too saying that the one who knows the secret had better remain silent or else that person would share Charlotte's fate."
"That makes no sense at all, uncle." Cole protested. "What secret? Charlotte had no secrets. She didn't know how to keep a secret."
"If she did have a secret I would certainly know about it." Cathy said, giving Cole a meaningful look. "After all, we were close." She lied.
"Yes, of course. The killer probably was just trying to scare everyone. The man must have been mad to kill such a sweet woman, it would not surprise me if this message is just another of his mad schemes." Sir Graham tried to console Uncle Charles.
"Yes, indeed. The mind games played are what makes the killing worth it all isn't that right? I suppose that we are reacting just as he wished us to react."
Cathy gave Graham a grateful smile before heading to her sister's room to make sure that the young girl wasn't taking the day's activities badly.
Georgiana Montrose watched Cathy pace the library floor and wondered how long it would be before her sister managed to wear a groove into the hardwood flooring. Cole was taking extraordinarily long to send Sir Graham on his way home, though although it was not in Cole's character to be outright rude to a guest. They had waited for nearly twenty minutes after Cole had sent a footman to request that they meet him in the library and now, watching Cathy pace was making Georgie feel as if she were on a boat.
"Cathy, please sit down." She begged, "You're making my head spin."
"I don't understand why Cole is so uptight about this whole situation. Charlotte died, and as far as we can tell, she took our secret to the grave! The box that was sent today must be exactly what Sir Graham proclaimed it to be, just a mind-game."
Cathy sank down into one of the many overstuffed chairs which littered the room and grabbed a book which lay open on a table nearby. The room was large and filled with almost as many books as in their uncle's country home, Uncle Charles was a scholar and couldn't bear to be away from his books for long. Afternoon light spilled in through one of the many full length windows, illuminating the two sisters as they sat staring at the door. That was how Cole found them when he eventually managed to enter half an hour later.
"It's about time!" Cathy couldn't help but shout, her frustration was at its peak. "You send us to this blasted library to await you and then you take your sweet time joining us."
Cole looked at Georgie for aid but he could see that she was just as irritated, although she didn't burst into metaphorical flames as his twin did.
"I'm sorry. Getting rid of Graham took longer than I thought it would. Come, we have some serious talking to do."
Cathy almost rolled her eyes at his theatrical prose. "What indeed is so important that we had to wait all afternoon to discuss?"
"Haven't you heard his thoughts Cath? He suspects that we've had something to do with Charlotte's death. I saw it in his eyes when he looked at me. We cannot be pulled into question, sister. If we are then there will be many questions which we will not be able to answer without revealing out curse." Cole slumped onto the settee next to Georgie.
"Who's thoughts? I haven't heard anyone suspecting us, you must be mistaken brother."
"No, I saw how Hartington watched us today. Even I could see that he had more than a little bit of interest in us when we were questioned by the constable. He suspects us and I'm surprised you've been able to filter out those thoughts of his, even though you were enamoured by his handsome face."
Cathy blushed. She had worked hard to learn how to filter those thoughts which belonged to others from those which were her own, something she had to learn before it drove her to insanity. It had become an unconscious skill now which only failed her in times when she was taken unawares. "I was not enamoured, Cole. And I swear I have not filtered his thoughts on purpose Cole. I should have made certain of what he thought, that's true."
He nodded and rested his head in his hands for a moment before continuing. "I am convinced that he does not trust us. He seems too wary. I didn't want to mention this to you before, not wanting to make you two feel uneasy, but you should be aware of this now. There is a Bow Street Runner who has been asking too many questions about us. I learned today that Hartington has many connections to Bow Street. It may have been him who has set this runner on our tail."
"But he may not be." Georgie added hopefully, seeing Cathy's reaction to the news.
"But he may be, Georgie. I agree with Cole, we need to find out exactly what Hartington believes about us. If he gets too close to the truth we may be ruined."
There was a moment of silence before Cole continued. "If he does not suspect us of playing a part in Charlotte's murder then he may believe that we think he was the one who caused her death. Charlotte did have a secret lover, it may have been Hartington himself who had her killed."
Georgie gasped at this new knowledge and Cole instantly regretted revealing the secret within earshot of his young and innocent sister. She had been sheltered from all the unpleasant facets of the world and thus she was quick to judge based on meaningless demeanours. Cathy glared at Cole for his mistake. "So what must be done?" she asked, drawing her sister's attention from Cole's loose tongue.
"You need to get close to him, find out what he's thinking. If we're suspects then we'll have to convince him otherwise. We can't afford someone like Hartington sniffing around in our history. Who knows what he'll find! And if he is the murderer we'll find a way to capture him and make him pay for what he did. Charlotte may have been a vindictive twit but she was still family."
The girls could do nothing but agree with Cole on this. Whoever killed Charlotte deserved to be punished and what better way to get vengeance than to help to capture the killer?
"Luckily Aunt Heloise refuses to mourn Charlotte's death formally until the killer is captured," Georgie murmured "or else you would never be allowed to attend the balls and other soirees where you can catch Hartington in a conversation."
Cathy smiled at her wistful tone. "Your turn will come, just be patient. Three more years will go by without you even realizing it and then you will be able to dance until your heart is content, and flirt with the men who will flock to your side."
Georgie giggled at the thought. "At least I will have you as my chaperone, and not Aunt Heloise." She made a face as she thought of how Cathy was being tortured by Aunt Heloise at every opportunity.
"Why thank you, Georgie. You really do know how to make one feel privileged to have such a tyrant as a chaperone."
Cole sat back and watched as his sisters bantered playfully, teasing each other and him in a familiar way. It had been like this far too often. The months after they had been taken in by their mother's brother had been filled with pent up sadness and they had teased each other to get rid of the torment they all felt. The frustration which had followed when they learned that each one had a new ability had only made their situation worse. And then there was the disappointment in that Edward had refused to join in their games as he had been much older than them, thus saw them as being below his notice. It had always just been the three Montrose siblings, outsiders in the home they had been moved to. They all remembered practicing their curse-gifts, trying to control the monsters which they could unleash. Too often there would be unexplained fires or floods, or Cathy would answer a question which someone had thought and thus causing uproar and rumours about witchcraft. Yes, Cathy had been right. The Montrose siblings would forever be outcasts in society and would always be alone.