The Waylaid Heart

The Waylaid Heart by Holly Newman Read Free Book Online

Book: The Waylaid Heart by Holly Newman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Holly Newman
Tags: Romance
Haukstrom? He should be looking out for her, no matter how tiresome she might sometimes be.
    Branstoke turned on his heel, hastily grabbing up his greatcoat and hat as he left the box, all the while calling down deprecations upon Randolph Haukstrom's head under his breath as he went.
    "Now what's a vision of beauty the likes of you doin' by your lonesome, eh?"
    Cecilia whirled around in her seat to confront the reeling figure of the nattily attired gentleman from the pit. "This is a private box. I must ask that you leave," she said quietly.
    "I say, that's a fine voice you've got. Where'd ol' randy Randolph find you, my pretty? He's got the devil's own luck he has.' He stumbled toward her, laying a hand on her bare shoulder.
    Cecilia jerked away and stood up in one fluid motion leaving the gentleman unbalanced. He fell over the back of the chair, his feet kicking up in the air. Cecilia swallowed an involuntary laugh.
    As she watched the man struggle to get up, she raised her fan and began agitatedly fanning her face. "Oh, my nerves!' she wailed, backing away from him. "You—you brute! I can just feel my heart pounding in my chest. I shall have one of my spell now, I know!" She dramatically laid the back of a shaking hand to her forehead.
    "Wha'd you go and do that for?" the man said petulantly "You ain't the only pretty bird feathering Randolph's nest. Angel Swafford's got a neat little place from him over by Leicester Fields. He's down in the greenroom with Angel now, y'know, saw him myself before I came up." He moved toward Cecilia, his arms outstretched. "The blighter ain't worth it, love." He hiccupped and stumbled, catching himself against the back of another chair. He leered at her; but only managed to look the jester.
    Cecilia was angered, and suddenly a little afraid, by the man's persistence. Never before had she suffered difficulty in dissuading a gentleman's attention. Unfortunately, judging by his glassy eyes and gin-perfumed breath, he was in no condition to understand her words. She edged toward the back of the box, careful to keep chairs between herself and her unwelcome visitor. If Randolph is with his mistress, I will ring a peal, over his head he'll not long forget , she silently vowed.
    Coughing behind her fan, she made little mewing sounds "Please, I feel quite ill. Do not come any closer lest I—I cast up my accounts upon your elegant person!" she threatened, nearing the exit. "I swear I am sick enough to do so! Ohh !" she cried, colliding against a solid object. A pair of warm, strong arms wrapped around her.
    "We have to stop meeting like this," the owner of those arms murmured in her ear.
    Branstoke! She struggled to regain her balance and stand free of him, but he held her fast. She turned startled, agonized eyes up at him.
    He glanced briefly down at her face, pulled in by the deep purple rims of her wide open, twilight blue eyes. He was stunned by the vulnerability there. From somewhere inside him, a closed empty space cracked open. Abruptly, he set her away from him, guiding her into a chair.
    "Nutley, a word in your ear," Branstoke said softly, grasping the gentleman by the elbow and firmly leading him to the back of the box.
    "Dash it all, Branstoke, I saw her first," complained Jerome Nutley, hiccupping again and swaying against Branstoke.
    "I am not in the habit of taking up with diseased ladies," Branstoke drawled.
    "Diseased?" repeated Nutley. He blinked owlishly and turned to look over his shoulder at Cecilia, nearly overbalancing himself in the process. Branstoke steadied him.
    Taking her cue, Cecilia closed her eyes and agitatedly fanned herself while moaning some more.
    "You're right. She don't look so good. What's she got?" he asked in a stage whisper.
    "Guess," Branstoke replied curtly.
    "The French Disease?" Nutley asked.
    Branstoke shrugged faintly. "Well, you don't see any smallpox."
    "Egad. And so pretty and delicate looking too," Nutley said, awed.
    Branstoke maneuvered him to the

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