The Constable, The Lady & The Rogue
Constable Dickers had seen many things in his many years policing the streets of London. But never, in all his years, had he seen the likes of Lady Savannah Wrightwaite. Or rather, the likes of her very obvious lies.
“I’m telling you, sir, I had no business with the Earl.”
“Yet you’re the one who found him.”
“Because he contacted me and I had an appointment.” She attempted to look down her nose at the constable, but despite his much shorter height, the haughty look failed terribly. The Lady was frightened, and he believed it had very little to do with the bloody body four feet from her not so dainty shoes. “Must we remain in this room, the Earl is starting to…”
“To smell, if you must know.”
“I rather thought him somewhat vilely scented when he was alive,” a deep, familiar voice said from the entryway. “That certainly looks like the Earl, excepting the very large hole in him.”
“My Lord, this is Constable Dickers. He’s investigating your uncle’s unfortunate end,” another official said to Royce Summerville. He then turned to the constable. “Sir, as you requested, The Earl.”
The constable nodded, as was proper.
The Earl (surviving) dropped onto the couch next to Lady Savannah and immediately draped a decidedly improper arm behind her. “This is a touch garish, even for you, isn’t it, Blossom?”
“Will all of you stop insinuating I had anything to do with this? The man was dead when I arrived.”
“The servants do verify that story, Constable,” the young officer concurred. “In fact, they were all given today off by the Earl, himself, with extra pay. Only the houseman, a Mr. Shopshire, returned and let in the Lady when he came home for an extra coat to fight off the chill.”
“What about you, my Lord? Where were you most of today?”
“I believe I was visiting my mistress since last night. She keeps better tabs on those things than I do. Then I went to White’s, where I was when your man found me.”
The constable, stunned, stared down at the couple before him, both of whom were staring at each other. It should be said that the Earl (surviving) was staring. The Lady was wriggling away from his touch, muttering through her teeth while the Earl stayed her hands on her lap.
“If you’d just marry me, Blossom, you wouldn’t have to deal with these outrageous fits of jealousy.”
“I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on the planet.”
“If I were the last man, sweeting, I wouldn’t have to bother with marrying you. You’d just be mine.”
Before the Lady could bust the vein standing a disturbing distance off her forehead, the constable found his tongue and went back to business. “So, you did have business with the Earl, Lady Savannah?”
“I am telling you, I did not. His request was as much a surprise to me as it is to you.”
“I’m not surprised,” Royce interjected, catching the constable and the Lady off-kilter.
“I’m not surprised. It’s no secret the Earl was trying desperately to beget an heir and disinherit me. He’s made it a point to ruin as many young women as he possibly can in those efforts.”
All eyes ran to the slightly humped, barely hared form of the Earl (deceased).
“Not that many of them had a choice in the matter. All that railing at God gave the man quite strong arms. I can’t speak for the rest of him, but I have heard there are several new nieces to provide dowries for.”
“And you think the Earl had designs upon Miss Wrightwaite?” the constable asked, appalled.
“Of course he did. Look at her! Beautifully made, finely boned, deucedly smart, but what can you do about that? She’s built quite strongly for bearing sons. I’ve made it a point to try and get a few from her myself over the years, but the Lady is quite stubborn. Did you shoot him to get him off you, Blossom? We’d all understand, if that was the case.”
“Will you kindly shut your mouth?” Savannah snapped, jumping to her feet. “How is a person to think with the way you prattle on?”
“That is rather the point,” he said through tensely smiling teeth.
“I didn’t shoot him.” She tiger smiled right back.
“If you had no business with him, why did you come to his residence, Miss Wrightwaite?”
She turned her head and for a second, faltered. She looked back to Royce, but the thundercloud of an expression there didn’t provide any help. “A…curiosity.”
“Curiosity?” asked the constable, his dark gaze bearing down on them.
“As you can see, I’ve known Lord Summerville for quite some time.”
Now Royce’s eyebrows were raised. As if waiting to see if she could land on her feet as easily as she claimed. Savannah straightened her spine, determined not to be the one holding the bag this time. “And he’s proposed. Often,” she added, earning a grin from him.
“I have,” he agreed.
“Basically, there isn’t a soul that knows him and doesn’t know that he is the only Summerville heir. When Lord Summerville sent a missive of what he termed extreme importance, I naturally wanted to see what kind of wealth I might expect should I finally agree to marry this cad.”
“But as a Wrightwaite, don’t you have your own financial security?” the Constable asked pointedly.
“You, sir, have obviously never been a woman in London. Marriage to a man without funds of his own means my own monies will soon go the way of histo mistresses and gambling, most likely.” She glared down at Royce again, this time with venom.
“I can’t help but bide my time until you’re mine, darling.”
“You sicken me,” she snapped.
“Yes, but you enjoy that about me.”
“If we could,” the Constable interrupted again. “So you came to the Earl’s for the curiosity sake, concerning your soon-to-be-husband’s possible value-”
“I never said I would-” Savannah yelped when Royce yanked her arm so that she was sitting at his side on the uncomfortable settee.
“Please continue, Constable,” Royce indicated, gripping her hands to hopefully shut her quite up.
“Unknowing that he was planning to…ruin you…because you were the amour of his hated heir?”
Both Savannah and Royce leaned forward together, watching for any signs of belief on the Constable’s face.
“But if that’s the case, what ever do the news clippings we found in his hand about a jewel thief in London have to do with his death?”