A Lady’s Secret

A Lady’s Secret by Jo Beverley Read Free Book Online

Book: A Lady’s Secret by Jo Beverley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jo Beverley
Tags: Historical
leaned across her to call, “Fontaine!”
    “Yes, sir,” said his valet, the very picture of dripping misery.
    “Are the wheels sinking now we’ve stopped?”
    “No more than they were, sir. I am very wet.”
    “So you are.” Robin closed the window and sat back.
    “Your master,” Sister Immaculata said to the dog in his lap, “is cruel and heartless.”
    “Is it not entirely her fault, Coquette, that my poor valet is exposed to the storm?”
    Coquette yipped in agreement.
    “Sycophant,” she accused.
    “Termagant,” he retorted. “And I don’t mean the dog.”
    “Of course not. She never disagrees with you.”
    “She doesn’t always obey. Damn this never-ending rain. Our story,” he said. “Here we are, traveling despite bad weather, a nun and three men. Suspicious. They might think we’re eloping. One winces at the possible punishments for ravishing a nun.”
    “Like Abelard,” she said, a glint in her eye.
    “You want to see me unmanned, Sister?”
    “Not yet,” she said.
    “Terrifying woman. I see Powick returning. Pray for good news.”
    She turned to look out. “Even if these people wonder, they won’t do anything.”
    “Better not to raise alarm. We’ll be brother and sister.”
    “But we don’t look at all alike.”
    “Half brother and sister, then. Your mother was Italian. Your father, also my father, was English. See my devotion to truth?”
    “After a fashion,” Petra said dryly. “Why, then, are we in a desperate hurry?”
    Yes, why? Robin thought at her turned head.
    “I could be more inventive, but let’s say we’re racing to your dear mother’s deathbed. We’re a staunch Catholic family. You discovered a vocation to the holy life and entered a convent—I like the way this ties together—entered a convent in your mother’s hometown of Milan.”
    She frowned as if on principle, but said, “I suppose that makes sense.”
    “It is pure brilliance.”
    “It is not a matter for pride to be a brilliant liar.”
    “Consider it theatrical invention, then. I shall write a play about our adventures and call it… The Rake and the Nun .”
    Perhaps she growled, but Powick was approaching the coach, hunched against the rain.
    “We are both Bonchurch?” she asked quickly.
    “We share the same father, so yes. Your mother’s name?”
    “Amalia.” It came out so automatically that it was probably the truth. “And your name? Hurry. Immaculata is not convincing for an English lady.”
    “Not even with an Italian mother?”
    “The English father would object.”
    She hesitated, so when she said, “Maria,” he asked, “Truth?”
    “Are we still playing that silly game?”
    “Yes.”
    “My name is still Maria.” But the tilt of her chin suggested a half-truth at best.
    He let it pass and turned to let down his window to hear Powick’s report.
    “They’ll give us shelter, sir, but there’s only women there right now, so they won’t let us in the house.”
    “Women? I should have gone to talk to them.”
    “More than likely, sir,” Powick said, dripping. “The best I could obtain was a barn of sorts out the back.”
    “Beggars can’t be choosers. Can the coach get back there, or do we walk?”
    “There’s a cart track, but it’s rough.”
    “We’d better try it. But first, what did you tell them?”
    “Just that we’re English. sir. Couldn’t help that, me with my mangled French.”
    “Damnation, I really should have gone myself. Listen, Sister Immaculata is my half sister, Maria. My mother died and my father remarried an Italian woman.” He saw rather than heard Powick’s sigh. “We’ve no choice. They’re going to wonder about a nun with four men. Tell Fontaine.”
    “Very well, but you’d better hope they don’t want to gossip, or they’ll get a dog’s dinner of details.”
    “Impudent rascal,” Robin said, shutting the window.
    “But right.”
    “He generally is. I apologize for our lodgings, Sister.”
    “I suspect I’m more

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