A Secret Love

A Secret Love by Stephanie Laurens Read Free Book Online

Book: A Secret Love by Stephanie Laurens Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephanie Laurens
seen enough to confirm Thurlow and Brown’s standing—precisely as Montague had said, stuffily, dustily dull. He’d learned which room was whose, and through the open doors he’d seen the locked client boxes lining the walls of both partners’ rooms. They didn’t lock the boxes away somewhere else. They were there, within easy reach, and the only lock between the landing and the boxes was the old wrist-breaker on the main door.
    There had also been no sign of any junior clerk. There’d been only one desk, and little space outside the partners’ rooms—no area for a clerk or office boy to spend the night.
    Entirely satisfied with his afternoon’s work, Gabriel saluted the gatekeeper with his cane and strode through the secondary gateway into the adjoining Fields.
    Before him, a small army of old trees, like ancient sentinels, spread their branches protectively over gravel walks and swaths of lawn. Sunlight streamed down. The breeze ruffled leaves, shedding shifting shadows over the green carpets on which gentlemen and ladies strolled while waiting for others consulting in the surrounding chambers.
    Gabriel paused in the cobbled forecourt beyond the gate, gazing unseeing at the trees.
    Would the countess be impatient enough to contact him that evening? The possibility tantalized, even more so as the realization sank in that her impatience could not possibly match his. While with her, he’d felt he knew her, knew the sort of woman she was; away from her, he’d realized how little he knew of the real woman behind the veil. Learning more, quickly, seemed imperative—he especially needed to learn how to put his hand on a woman who thus far had been a phantom in the night.
    Unfortunately, he couldn’t learn more until she contacted him—at least now, when she did, he’d have something to report.
    Shrugging off his distraction, he settled on Aldwych as his best bet for a hackney and set out along the south side of the Fields. Halfway along, he heard himself hailed.
    â€œ Gabriel! ”
    â€œOver here!”
    The voices coming from the Fields were assuredly feminine, equally assuredly young. Halting, Gabriel scanned the shaded lawns; two sweet young things, their parasols tilted at crazy angles, were bobbing up and down and waving madly. Squinting against the sunlight, he recognized Mary and Alice Morwellan. Raising his cane in reply, he waited until a dowager’s black carriage rolled soberly past, then started across the narrow street.
    Alathea saw him coming, and had to fight down an urge to screech at her sisters—what had they done ? She’d seen him walk through the gates of the Inn and pause. Her attention locked on him, she’d assured herself that he wouldn’t notice her in the shadows, that there was no reason for her heart to gallop, for her nerves to twitch.
    He’d remained safely ignorant of her presence—she’d been surprised he’d acted so swiftly on the countess’s behalf. That was, she presumed, why he was here—if she’d known, she would never have risked coming. Having him find her anywhere near any location he would associate with the countess had formed no part of her careful plans. She needed to keep her two personas completely distinct, especially near him.
    As he’d walked along the street, cane swinging, broad shoulders square, sunlight had gleamed on his chestnut hair, gilding the lightly curling locks. Her thoughts had slowed, halted—she’d completely forgotten Mary and Alice were with her.
    They’d seen him and called—now there was no escape. As he crossed the grass toward them, she drew in a breath, lifted her chin, tightened her fists about her parasol’s handle—and tried to quell her panic.
    He couldn’t recognize lips he’d kissed but not seen, could he?
    Smiling easily, Gabriel strode into the trees’ shadows. As he neared, Mary and Alice stopped

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