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If a child was guilty for the crimes of one’s father, then Georgina Patience Wilcox was going to burn in the eternal flames of hell.
And it just so happened that hell was located in a stucco townhouse with heavy cornice in the port-city of Bristol, where she may as well have been a chambermaid for all the attention she was paid.
The sharp ache in her breastbone reminded her that she’d forgotten to breath. She sucked air into her lungs and stared at the simple wood door eying the handle as though it was covered in venomous spiders.
The moans finally stopped. As did the cries and shouts of fury and agonized pain. In this house of traitors to the Crown such sounds were not foreign; they were however, no less…
“What are you doing, Georgina?” Jamie Adleyson Marshall snapped.
She spun around on a gasp, a hand clasped to her breast.
Jamie lounged against the wall, arms folded across his chest.
“I-I…” she gestured to the door. “Who is in there?”
He shoved away from the wall. “Tsk, tsk, I asked you question.”
She forced herself to remain still, not wanting to give him the benefit of seeing the effect his presence always managed to have on her. Any other man who’d possessed his tall, lean physique and golden crop of curls would have surely elicited a different reaction than the shivers of apprehension that danced along her spine whenever he was near.
“I asked you first,” she countered, marveling at her own bravery for questioning him.
His nostrils flared in barely restrained anger. “No, you didn’t.”
Well, that was true. His blasé attitude drove back her fear as determination steeled her spine. “I heard a man screaming. Who is he?”
The swift backhanded blow was fast, unexpected. Not as hard as her usual beatings, but a painful warning nonetheless. A vicious reward for her bravery. She staggered against the wall, a hand clutching her stinging cheek. Pain radiated out from that point of contact. After so many years of being hit, she still wasn’t used to the way it left her body screaming for relief. She flexed her jaw, immensely thankful it wasn’t broken.
An icy smile turned his perfect lips, chilling her to the center. “We’ve told you numerous times to mind your place. You were specifically ordered to stay away from this room.”
In other words, carry on cleaning and cooking all the while ignoring the poor strangers brutalized by the two monsters who lived her. Except, those monsters had learned that she would not meekly look away from the plight of the men brought into this townhouse. All the beatings in the world hadn’t deterred her from caring after the prisoners whose only real crime was being loyal to the Crown. Which in Georgina’s opinion was no crime at all.
In spite of her fear, she took a step toward Jamie, and tossed her chin back. Her cheek still throbbed from where he’d struck her. “I-I w-want to be sure he wasn’t unwell. I heard sounds of distress.”
Those were the wrong words. Then, she’d never been the best with finding the appropriate ones.
He closed the small distance between them and grasped her chin between his thumb and forefinger. His breath fanned her cheeks. Suddenly he released her, his hand dropped to his side as though her skin had scorched him. “You are a tender-heart, Georgina.” Those words contained a blend of consternation and intrigue.
So many of their interactions went this way; she would say or do something to earn a show of his disapproving fury and then he would waver. It was as though he were two different people. She saw his weakening resolve and pressed her vantage. “I’m going to help him whether you allow it or not. You should therefore let me do what I…”
He pressed his finger to her lips, silencing her. His eyes grew shuttered and another frisson of fear curled deep in her belly like a poisonous serpent about to strike.