Luke Avery is a troublemaker. She doesn’t mean to be, she is just curious. Curiosity often leads her to trouble but there’s just no getting around that with her. Naturally, with Mr. Espott having fed her the piece about Aiden’s long lost love, she just can’t help herself. She needs to know.
She can’t ask Aiden. She’s only know him for a little over a week and she’s seen him pull a gun on about twelve people. It’s unlikely he’d be willing to share his dark secrets with her.
And then there is Wentworth. He’s always rather cheery and open with her, so she decides to see what he can teach her.
When they arrived at the main foyer again, Luke held back slightly. “Mr. Simon, may I ask you something?”
He turned to her with a cheeky look of curiosity. “Anything my dear.”
She took a breath and glanced up at the giant portrait of a woman she didn’t know. “What can you tell me about Marietta Grace?”
For the first time in his career, Wentworth paled and found himself rooted to the ground. There wasn’t a single witty retort he could come up with. With labored breath, he swallowed.
“How do you know about Marietta Grace?” he whispered, his hand coming up around her upper arm and squeezing tightly, “What do you know?”
Luke could sense his fear and she knew he wouldn’t speak on the matter. This issue was taboo, she was now discovering and even though Wentworth was playing friend, he would not confide in her.
“I know that Mr. Finnegan was in love with her,” she replied quietly, not taking her eyes from the painting of what looked to have once been the lady of the house, “and that she did something terrible.”
“Keep your curiosity at bay,” he warned, removing his hand from her arm. With a nervous laugh, his checked his timepiece. “Goodness! It’s late. I’ve some affairs to tend to, Miss Avery. You should entertain yourself for a while. Perhaps you might enjoy the conservatory at this hour.”
Eh, well, not much luck there. It’s too bad for both Aiden and Wentworth that he wasn’t able to conjure up a quick dismissive story. Being taken by surprise will do that to a person, I suppose. This is where the story starts getting complicated for all involved. The more truth that Luke knows, the more difficult it will be for the pair of con men to do their job productively. But otherwise we wouldn’t have much of a story, would we?
Now because she wasn’t able to obtain the information she wanted by asking, Luke decides to do something a little risky. Wentworth did tell her to entertain herself for a while, didn’t he?
So what better way to keep busy than to search Aiden’s personal belongings?
With a light hop, she dashed back to lock her door, then threw open the one that connected the two rooms. Heart pounding, she stepped inside. She’d never been inside a man’s bedchamber before and even she knew the social repercussions to be had if she were caught.
She walked slowly, taking in all of the dark woods and masculine fabrics. The door locked with a definitive click and she turned, scanning the room for something, anything that might help her.
There wasn’t much.
Everything was in its place. His clothes had been put away into the wardrobe, the vanity was arranged perfectly, waiting patiently to prepare a gentleman for dinner. Drumming her fingers against her cheek, Luke pursed her lips.
And then she saw them.
Tucked away in a corner, stacked in a pile, were three bags. They hadn’t been touched and they hadn’t been unpacked. Of course they hadn’t. She recognized those bags. Aiden had fitted Jeremiah with them on a few occasions and they had sat, just as they did now, in the corner of the room in Glendale’s tavern.
Hurrying over to the corner, Luke grabbed the canvas and pulled, hauling them across the floor. She tossed them up onto the bed, clambering up to follow, and after rubbing her hands together in anticipation, she dug in.
The first was boring. Clothes, mostly. They hadn’t been placed in the wardrobe and she imagined this was an emergency bag. He was a dangerous sort of man, so naturally he would have to be prepared for things to go sour. Her heart fluttered at this. He had probably been on many adventures in places she only dreamed of.
The second was filled with maps and tools used for making them. There was one pocket filled entirely with money, more money than Luke had ever seen at one time. Another was filled with ink and parchment, some of which had halfway finished compositions written on them. So he played the piano.
He wrote music.
The third bag was smaller and held his personal items. She found the idea of Aiden even having anything he held dear to him strange, and these were the things she was most interested in. She puled it closer to her, reaching in and first pulled out four miniatures.
The first miniature was of a man whom she didn’t recognize. The second, a beautiful woman who resembled Aiden. Turning it over, she found no date, name, or other marking. Was this his mother?
Setting that aside, she picked up the third and was shocked and tickled to find that it was of the king. He had been much younger then, probably about the age she was now. He was a handsome man, with kind eyes and a bright smile that suggested the zeal he had for his life. Seeing this, Luke’s heart grew heavy. She doubted he possessed that smile now. From what she had heard, his illness had robbed so much of his strength that he was pushed around in a wheeled chair to keep from fainting.
These musings led her to thoughts of her mother, Isabella, who wasn’t dying, but had become something completely unlike herself.
Shaking solemn thoughts from her mind, she reached for the last miniature and wasn’t at all taken by surprise.
There she was, in all of her glory. It wasn’t a portrait like the others, no. This was so typical of Aiden. It was a nude, but it was painted with such class and beauty that it took Luke’s breath away. This what was what a real lady looked like.
Feeling slightly discouraged, she reached in the bag for other things Aiden carried.
The envelopes were unaddressed, and the seal was broken, denoting that Aiden had already read them. Carefully, Luke slipped one from the envelope and unfolded it. The paper was faded, and the creases were so thin, it was clear that he made a habit of reading them frequently.
They were love letters, sent to him from his dearest Marietta. They were filled with jokes, news, gossip, sweet nothings, and occasional hints of something slightly filthy.
“So this was Marietta Grace,” she whispered, reading each one carefully. Never, not in any of the words gracefully painted on the page did she make mention of unhappiness or distress. She wanted him as badly as he was in love with her. There were no notes of his cruelness, nothing stating that he had a vicious temper or had made her feel less than him in any way.
Aiden had been wronged here. If nothing else, Luke believed this.
Being the romantic that she is, she’s putting together a story in her mind that may hold very little truth, and out of pity, we will start to see her fascination with the dark Aiden Finnegan start to become something more akin to sympathetic affection.
No good will come of this. 🙂
Book of Luke completion progress: 23%
The Noble Project completion progress: 6%