Ether & Elephants
for Tom. If the girl had been a London debutante, she’d have had her pick of titles and fortunes. Instead she’d gotten both but never claimed them. That bit had always confused Nell. Why trap a wealthy baronet into marriage then run away?
    “I think we should head east tonight,” Nell said, after bidding farewell to the ghost. They stood on the platform outside the station. “We can stop at inns along the way and see if they spent last night there.”
    “It’s like chasing a bloody chimera.” Tom kicked a loose pebble off the platform. “We have nothing to go on. They could be headed anywhere.”
    “Well, we know more now than we did an hour ago.” He was right. Their quest was probably futile, but she had to try—not just for Charlie now, but for Tom as well. She had no idea how she was going to manage being alone in close proximity to him without making an utter fool of herself by either kissing him or smacking him in the gob. Blast it, now he was making her think in street cant again.
    The sound of clattering hoof beats on the lane behind them caused Nell to duck behind a bench and Tom to draw a revolver from the holster strapped inside his coat. The stationmaster’s cottage sat across the tracks, so it wasn’t him coming to investigate their breaking and entering.
    The racing figure drew close enough to be seen in the moonlight. Nell giggled as she stood up from her hiding place. “Roger,” she called over the clatter of hooves. “What on earth are you doing here?”
    Roger jumped down off his horse. Like a handful of the teachers, he kept his own mount in the school’s meager stable, paying a stipend from his wages for the gelding’s upkeep. “I’ve left the school, Nell. I’m here to help you find Charlie. I cannot work for a headmistress who’s so callous about her students and teachers.” He wrapped the reins about the platform railing and strode up to catch Nell by both shoulders. “Are you all right?”
    “I’m fine.” She looked up at him, his rugged face full of tenderness and fierce concern. He was a good man and she did care for him. She laid a hand on his chest. “But you don’t need to give up your position, Roger. Teaching is your livelihood.”
    “Not really.” He smiled and kissed her nose. “I inherited a small estate in Sussex about a year ago. I didn’t leave the school, because you were there. And the students, of course. My uncle had an excellent steward, so I wasn’t needed on the property.”
    “Oh.” She blinked. “I see.”
    Tom had apparently had enough. His boots loud on the wooden platform, he strode over and inserted his shoulder between Nell and Roger. “Sir Thomas Devere. And you are?” He crossed his arms over his chest rather than holding out a hand.
    “Oh, um, Roger Braithwaite.” Roger stuck out one hand. “You’re Nell’s adopted brother. She’s told me all about all of you.”
    Tom lifted an eyebrow, a behavior he’d copied from Papa. “Really? And yet she hasn’t told us anything about you ?”
    Nell elbowed Tom in the gut. Hard. “Be nice. I’ve told Mum and Wink all kinds of things about Roger. It’s not his fault I don’t bother talking to you.”
    “At any rate, you asked who I am.” Roger straightened his shoulders. He was above average height, but still had to look up at Tom. Nell was proud of him for holding his own. “The answer is that I am Nell’s fiancé. So if anyone is going to be careening around the countryside with her, it is I.”
    Tom froze, blinking rapidly. Finally, he looked down at Nell. “Nelly? Is he telling the truth or do I tear his head off?”
    Nell’s head whirled. She hadn’t said yes, but she hadn’t said no. Only implied it, though she had suggested he look somewhere else. She turned from one man to the other. The first, a man she had always loved, but could never have, could never trust if she did have him, and the second, a man who loved her, about whom she cared deeply, and who would

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