Little Dorrit 2008

The series tells the story of Amy Dorrit, who spends her days earning money for the family and looking after her proud father, who is a long term inmate of Marshalsea debtors’ prison in London. Amy and her family’s world is transformed when her boss’s son, Arthur Clennam, returns from overseas to solve his family’s mysterious legacy and discovers that their lives are interlinked.

 

 

 

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Tristan and Isolde 2006

Before there was Romeo and Juliet, there was Tristan and Isolde.

One of the great stories of doomed love is given a new screen interpretation in this historical drama. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, King Donnchadh (David O’Hara) of Ireland has become the de facto ruler of England, but one of his underlings, Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell), dreams of uniting Tristen and Isolde insertBritish forces with an eye toward self-rule. One of Marke’s most valuable allies is Tristan (James Franco), Marke’s protégé, who has become a brave warrior since he was rescued by the lord after his parents were murdered by Irish forces during a battle. While Marke and Tristan dream of banishing Ireland’s presence in England, Tristan has a secret he’s been hiding from Marke — after suffering serious wounds during a hard-fought battle, he was rescued and nursed back to health by Isolde (Sophia Myles), King Donnchadh’s daughter, and the two fell deeply in love. But the couple were separated after Tristan returned to England, and when Donnchadh attempts to quell the British uprising by staging a tournament among the nation’s greatest warriors, an extreme and rather personal surprise is in store for Tristan. Tristan & Isolde was directed by Kevin Reynolds and produced in part by Ridley Scott.

Admin note:  There is a fight scene between James Franco and Mark Strong, without stuntmen, in this film. Although, James Franco broke something in his knee and was out for 3 months, I think it’s the best choreographed fight scene ever!!

 

 

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I Killed Him – Pt 4

Chapter Four

John Thornton  was ready to storm Margaret’s hospital room if the doctors didn’t finish with her soon. A million things had crossed through his mind while he waited. One was how loved he felt that she had found her way back to him when she was barely alive. The other was how slowly could he kill a man. Not so much the slow death, but how he would go about it, kept whirling through his head.

I Killed Him 250x375Finally, Donaldson came from her room.

“I’m going in there, not matter what you say.” John started to walk that way and Donaldson grabbed his arm.

“Let’s sit for a few minutes and then you can go in. She is not awake but that is on purpose. I will tell you the findings.”

John hung his head. “Is there more I don’t know? I’m not sure I can take much more.”

“Did you want to know or not?”

“All of it.” John said, as he stood to start his pacing again.

“One of the things I know worries you most or any man in love, is the fellatio assault. There was no presence of his semen, but a small piece of skin was removed from her front teeth. Her mouth has been thoroughly cleansed, so you may kiss her as I know you will. She fought hard, John. There were finger prints on the back of her neck and arms.” Donaldson paused.

John flopped down in the chair in the waiting area and slumped over, averting his eyes. Donaldson could hear his attempts to keep his weeping silent.

“She does have a slight fracture to one rib, and it did cause internal bleeding. That is our major concern right now. She has stopped coughing up blood, so I think that is slowing down. We will keep a close eye on that for a few more days. He did not break her cheek, however he did loosen a few back teeth, which is hard to do, but they should stabilize quickly. You saw the black eye. That is only the beginning. You know they last a week or more.”

“And the fists to her body?”

“I’m afraid we found evidence of about 9 or 10 punches, several in the kidney area, which is of moderate concern. Until we can get some urine out of her, we won’t know how extensive that damage is. There is a very small chance that getting with child could be difficult, but far from impossible.”

Still sniffling and refusing to look Donaldson in the eye, he asked, “Is there more? I cannot believe there can be more and she still is alive.”

“I believe her best recovery lies with you, now. Her body will heal. Continued beatings and torturous stress could have taken a mighty toll on her. That yet remains to be seen. It may not manifest itself right away, either. It could be a year from now. Much will depend on what happens with her brother, your commitment to her, of which I have no doubt and the outcome of the man that is responsible for this. I have to ask, John, do you have any reservations about saving her brother from the hands of the Navy, being a Magistrate?”

“None. None at all. I plan on resigning before there are any questions about where my actions will lie. She is my whole world now. I’ve waited over two years for this and nothing will deter me. What is important to her is important to me. That’s all I need to say on that subject.”

“I know it must be a difficult position to put you in but . . .” Donaldson was interrupted.

“No, you are wrong. There is no difficult decision. It’s one of the easiest I will ever make. I will sacrifice all for her. I may do that this morning. Once I’ve seen her and spent some time with her, I will go home and we will make plans to rescue her brother from this madman. When I know he is out of danger, I will go after the man that did this.”

“John, just remember what you sacrifice for revenge, you do so for two of you.”

“I have to do it. I cannot live with myself otherwise. I am already being consumed by this man. Someone has taken the most precious person in my entire life and played with her until she broke. And it’s all been due to his greed and an apparent enjoyment of torture. He is a dead man to me.”

“So, do you know your immediate plans? Where do I contact you for any changes in her condition?”

“I will know in a few hours. You will be informed. I’m going in there now.”

John stood and walked to Margaret’s room, pausing at the door, bolstering himself to weather what he was to see; he opened the door and then closed it behind him.

 

With Adam Bell having written Frederick a few days ago; their chances of him having moved on looked better than normal. The three men felt that they could handle the search for Frederick and leave John here. He had Margaret and the man in London to contend with. Adam was sure they could locate Frederick, but doing so without being followed was his concern. The other two did not know what Frederick looked like and how could they approach him with him thinking people were after him. Mr. Bell felt he would be the bait. His hope was that Frederick would keep his head if he happened to have heard all that his sister had endured on his behalf.

 

John spent the next half hour with one arm wrapped around Margaret’s head on the pillow, as if, in his arms, and the other wiping her brow or kissing her fingers. He spoke soothing words of love and told her she was safe. She would never see that man again.

John wept at her bedside.

He could see the hand prints of long fingers on the sides of her neck. Her arms showed identical bruising. Eventually, he left the room to be sick. He kept telling himself that she would heal. She would live and he would bring her love. He couldn’t love her anymore than he did, but somehow he would make up for the treatment she had suffered.

John wondered if she would fear him in any way. If she had found her way to him under such impossible odds, he hoped that would not stand in their way. He did not care how long it took him, even the rest of his life, he would give her happiness.

“Mr. Thornton, I am surprised to see you visiting here. Is this someone you know?” said a nurse unknown to him.

“And you are?”

Nurse Pickering. I shall be one of Miss Hale’s day nurses.

“And how do you know who I am?”

“Mr. Thornton, everyone knows who you are. The newspaper people are already gathering outside.”

“Thank you for telling me. To answer your question, this is the woman I will marry. I’ve waited two years for her to be my wife.”

“I am terribly sorry for both of you. She is in a bad way, but I believe there is great confidence that her health will eventually return. If this is the woman you have waited to marry, I shall be glad to know her. Even though all of our patients have the best care, I will personally see to her every need.”

“Thank you. How long will she sleep with the medication she has been given?”

“In her current state and the need of absolute rest from physical movements, as well at mental emotions, I believe the orders are to keep her sedated for a full day.”

“A full day? I had not counted on that. I will marry her at her sickbed as soon as she becomes conscious, if she will have me.”

“My heavens, such determination you have. Do you know what or who caused this to her? It’s been a fierce time for her. Did it happen in Milton?”

“No, not here. I know who did this and that’s all I will say.”

“Mr. Thornton, you need not leave the room, but if you could just turn your back for a few moments, I need to check something of this lady.”

John stood, pulling his arms from her and turned his back. He could tell by the rustle of sheets that the nurse was checking below her neck.

“Can I ask if you are checking her dispelling of urine for potential kidney problems?”

“Yes, you may ask and since you will be her husband before she leaves here, I will tell you that is exactly what I am doing. I see no evidence of a problem.”

“Can I turn around?”

“Not yet. Dr. Donaldson did not think she had any family in the area. Are you considered the closest person to her?”

“I believe I am. I will make no decisions without consulting with Donaldson if that need arises. Should you have an emergency and cannot locate him, I will take responsibility for her care. I am a Magistrate and in lieu of no family present, I take full authority. It should take several days for her aunt to be contacted and arrive here from London. Hopefully, we will be married by then.”

“You may turn around now. Mr. Thornton, there will be no changes and nothing to see for at least twenty four hours. You should take that time for yourself, as you will probably be here when she begins to waken.”

“You are mistaken. There is everything to see here. I have not seen her for a two years. But I will take your advice and tend to some pressing matters. I appreciate your close supervision to Miss Hale. Thank you.”

The nurse left, and John returned to loving words and soft kisses to her undamaged cheek. Finally standing, he kissed her gently on her lips, her palms and her wrists. He left the room, and the rage returned.

 

The three men waiting for John seemed to be in deep conversation when he arrived home. They all stood expectantly, wanting to hear about Miss Hale. Unbeknownst to John, there was now a ‘Thornton Watch’ in effect.

“John, may we ask about Margaret,” Adam asked. He had been quite upset seeing her being carried away.

“Let me get one or two scotches into me before I feel I can speak the words.”

“It’s that bad, is it?” asked Nicholas.

“It is worse than bad,” John replied, belting back his first scotch glass at 10:30 in the morning. He didn’t even sit down between refills.

The men looked at each other knowing John was in a bad way, more than they had seen when he left.

“John, I have written to Frederick about his potential danger before coming to you last night. We do have that going for us. Nicholas, Branson, and myself, feel we can locate him somewhere in Paris, as I wrote of a meeting place he should check at a certain time every couple of days to find me. I believe the three of us and Frederick himself can work out a way to move him to another country and let you remain with Margaret. Before we contact Frederick, we will have to watch him and ensure he is not being watched or followed. This hold over Margaret could be genuine therefore we dare not tarry in Milton.”

John put away his second scotch and rose for a third. Again the men looked to one another.

“John, are you sure you want another one of those so quickly?” asked Higgins.

“I will have the whole bottle before this day is over.”

“I’m sorry, John. Margaret’s condition must be devastating. She is still expected to live, isn’t she?”

“Yes.”

“Have you talked to her? Can you relieve her mind that Frederick is in the process of being warned? She should know that she will not have to marry that dreadful man.

“Don’t you mean ­­­– that dead man?” warned John in no subtle terms.

“John, tell us,” Nicholas asked softly. “She’s our friend, too. Let us share this hard time with you. We worry for her but now we worry for you.”

“I see my responsibility, and I will dispatch it. Do not worry for me.”

“Tell us, John.”

John slowly swiveled the scotch in his glass, watching it coat the sides and he began without looking into their faces.

“It appears that Margaret has been beaten many times. There are at least nine or ten fist impacts to her body in various forms of healing. This dead man has taken quite an effort to keep her injuries hidden until . . . last night. I have not spoken with her and probably will not be able to for another day, as she is medicated for that long. It seems last night, she received another punch and a fist or backhand to her face, causing her back teeth to loosen and her eye to swell. The impact to her body has cracked a rib, and there is internal bleeding.” As John was talking, still looking into his glass, he heard the gasps around the room and Adam Bell weeping.

“I want you to keep this to yourselves, as Margaret would be very embarrassed for you to know. I am only willing to tell you the rest, so you understand the man I will deal with.”

Feeling the tears well in his own eyes, he continued the worst part of the story. “She fought hard against him, Donaldson told me. I saw for myself, the finger marks around the back of her neck and upper arms. She was violated orally.” With that, John broke down, but recovered quickly, where his friends did not. Even Branson rose and walked downstairs. Nicholas paced the other end of the room, and Adam wept where he sat.

John drew deep and continued. “That is behind us, now. She will never see anything like that again in her lifetime. And neither will this Captain. What’s his name, Adam?”

“Captain Grant Hartford.”

“And he’s a friend to Edith, Margaret’s cousin?”

Nicholas returned to his chair, and Branson returned from downstairs hearing the new conversation.

“I do not think so. I believe her fiancé, Captain Lenox, met him quite by chance, or so we are led to believe. John, she is alive and will heal. Don’t do anything to ruin what happiness she could have.”

“Adam, surely you have had too much to drink if you think I can let that man walk this earth. How could Margaret ever settle into a comfortable life knowing he was still out there? How could any man let what happened to her, not be avenged? Look how hard you all are handling this and she is not the love of your life.”

“John, couldn’t the military itself sort him out? He’s ruined, when it’s known,” offered Nicholas.

“Higgins, there are two things wrong with that scenario. He still could find some redemption in turning in her brother – some sort of legal bargaining. And two, they probably would not kill him.”

“Adam, not today, but tomorrow will you write her family and let them know where she is? I am going to marry her as soon as she wakes. That will take away the inheritance that he thinks he’s going to receive.”

“John, I can change my will, instead,” Bell mentioned as a matter to be considered.

“Adam, that is generous of you, and I will let you do what you will with your wealth, but I will marry her, regardless of that. I want her under my protective custody. If I should I hang for what I will do, she can inherit what I own, too.”

“What are you going to do, Guv? Can I help?”

“Branson, I’m not sure yet exactly what I will do. It will be slow. He will be scared and then hounded; he will run for his life like a rabbit. I will hunt him, and he will know it. I will have a week or more to plan this out. I can’t do anything until I know Margaret is married to me and Frederick is out of danger. Branson, you might enjoy this too much. I will think on it. Even if I do use you or any of you, remember, he is mine.”

“Do you not fear his formidable men that serve him?” asked Bell.

“They will know most of his deeds before he ever sees me coming. In my capacity as a Magistrate, I will serve papers against him to his senior officer. I am thinking of anonymously tipping him off as to what is coming so he will run.”

“John, I’ve never seen my friend be as diabolical and calculated as you seem destined to be. I’m not sure if I am worried for you or proud of you. If you hang, I will sorely miss you,” said Nicholas.

It was perfectly clear to everyone where they all stood as far as John went. No one could brook an argument against his intended deeds, and no one wanted to, either.

It was decided to meet again in the morning and leave John to himself. For all he had been through in the last eight hours, they knew he needed time to himself. They hoped he could dampen the rage that was building inside of him.

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Hearts Adrift – Part Thirty-Three

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Chapter Thirty-Three

 

Richard could see the vivid green of Manon’s eyes in the silver glow of the moon. He basked in that eternal fire, which always burned in them. He saw the cloak of her gorgeous hair, fanned out over her slim shoulders. Not even the lack of daylight could dim the abundant waves’ bright auburn shade. His hand came up to twine into the silken smoothness. Oh, Lord, the feel of it…so divine…

“My sweetling,” he croaked, summoning every ounce of sense he could muster, “do not try me so. I need to hold you in high esteem until you are mine before God and our congregation. I can do no less, dearest heart. I do not want to ruin you. You at least should come to me a virgin, as it should have been for Lily and Elizabeth.”

“Oh, that unbendable de Briers’ honour! I should have known you of all the ones that came before you would be the most steadfast, my Richard. I admire you for it, my love, and I love you for it, but … you would make me most thoroughly unhappy, if you let it come between us tonight. I cannot wait, my heart, I cannot.”

Manon placed her hands on his chest, stroking the taut muscles beneath Richard’s shirt. She could feel Richard’s heat radiating through the sheer fabric, and instantly, a responsive stirring, deep in her core, weakened her knees. Her pulse quickened and her heartbeat located itself between her thighs, deep down below. A sweet ache fluttered there at the apex of her thighs, causing her breath to stop. Hot moistness began pooling there, a sensation so enticing, that Manon released a soft whimper. She felt the urgent need to press herself firmly against Richard’s long, hard body. Oh, how she had longed for this!

Richard endeavoured to resist the soft, feminine curves that settled along his chest and stomach. Sweet Lord. When Manon’s belly pressed against his arousal, he groaned, his voice a deep, faltering rumble.

“Manon, do you know what you are doing to me?”

Her answering chuckle was seductively low.

“I think I have a fairly good inkling, my love. Why are we still here? Take me to bed, Richard.”

She paused, then looked up at Richard.

“Please, my love, I want to be yours. I cannot wait any longer.”

Richard buried his face in the soft richness of her hair and greedily inhaled her scent.

“Oh, my darling Manon, you feel so incredibly right in my arms.”

And that was where she was, Richard acknowledged with surprise. Somehow, sometime, he had wrapped her in the circle of his arms without even realising it. His blood was now racing madly, straight into his tautly aroused manhood. Rational thoughts were beginning to fade, as his body recognised the same signs of arousal in her soft, luscious figure. She became warm, and where his hands roamed over the cotton of her nightdress, dampness began to form.

He gave in and swept her into his arms, to strode indoors and up the stairs to his bedchamber. Bright, his valet, violently startled at the sight of his master carrying his betrothed in his arms, but Richard merely gave him a fierce, commanding stare. Matthew Bright literally fled the room, while Manon, utterly embarrassed, hid her face against Richard’s shoulder.

He set her on her feet, next to his large four-poster bed, and took her face between his hands.

“I can wait, my love, if you wish it,” he whispered, drinking in the green glow of her eyes. It would be deuced hard, but he would wait, if…

“But I cannot, my love…I cannot wait any longer…” Manon breathed, turning her mouth into the palm of his hand to kiss it softly.

With a groan, Richard captured her luscious mouth with his own, driving his tongue into her soft warmth to explore her sweet abundance to his heart’s content. He felt like a man starving after a cold, harsh winter, one who finally knew that his famine was at an end.

Manon answered him with all the fervour she felt, desperate as she was to quell the need she had experienced for so long. All those previous, heart-wrenching moments of painful longing for Richard were swept away in their fierce, intoxicating kiss. However, Manon realised, it was not enough. She wanted to feel all of him; she wanted to be his, totally and in every aspect. Fumbling for the buttons on Richard’s shirt, she began tugging it free from his breeches. He broke their kiss and coaxed her to sit on the bed.

“Wait, wait, sweet. Let me uncover you. We have to slow down, better to savour our lovemaking, my precious.”

Manon leaned back against the cushions on top of the thick, silken spread, and her eyes grew wide when Richard pulled his shirt over his head. His chest was broad, smooth, and oh, so firm. Her breath caught at the sight of those taut, finely chiselled muscles. His tanned skin was covered with a light sprinkling of dark hair that narrowed to a thin line where it disappeared below the rim of his breeches. And then, he shed his top boots and white silk stockings to reveal his strong, masculine feet. The tension was building inside Manon, like steam in a kettle on a kitchen stove. She stopped breathing altogether when Richard stripped off his breeches and small clothes to free what was inside.

He was utterly and beguilingly beautiful. He was all male splendour, magnificent and powerful. Her heart was pounding now, with trepidation as well as with longing. This was the hour. This was their moment.

His beloved lay perfectly still, Richard realised. He watched her eyes grow large, and when she moistened her lips with her tiny, pink tongue, a spear of raw desire skidded through him. Slowly, slowly, he admonished himself. She is a maiden. She must be initiated in a tender way.

He approached the bed and mounted the mattress. Crouching on his knees beside Manon, he began stroking her small, bared feet, lifting them to his lips. She whimpered when he let his mouth roam over the sensitive skin of her perfect instep, first one dainty foot, then the other.

He worked his way up to her knees, then to her thighs – creamy silk, and so soft and warm.

Manon felt as if her bones were melting inside her at the feel of Richard’s smooth, hot lips caressing her. A pressure was building in her belly and in her aching breasts, so fiercely that it made her writhe with need. She was hot and damp, and her skin would surely dissolve if Richard kept up his torturing like that. Oh, God! Now he was uncovering her belly, shoving her night rail higher, in order to free her breasts. Soon, her arms were lifted above her head, and her gown was suddenly gone. She had barely had time to wonder about the fact that she was now totally naked when he started kissing the delicate skin of her neck, right on the sensitive spot behind her ear.

Richard revelled in the silk of Manon’s skin as he worked his way down her elegant neck, to the exquisite swelling of her breasts. His manhood twitched when his lips caressed the hard, puckered nipples. He would have to be careful, or he would spill himself, before he was even inside her! Oh, how he loved the way she twisted and writhed beneath him! With slow, sensuous licks, he traced the contours of her gorgeous breasts, then finding his way down the silken plane of her belly, he began feathering light kisses around her rosebud belly button. Her muscles twitched in instant response, one that shot an arrow of lust down his already tightened groin.

“Richard … please, Richard,” Manon moaned, and grasped the firm support of his shoulders, as if to steady herself.

“Patience, my sweet. Just relax,” her lover cooed. Then he positioned himself with a knee on either side of her, and lifted her lower body, better to kiss her womanly curls. Manon gasped. Oh, sweet Lord…oh, oh…hot, sweet torture made her claw her hands into the thick abundance of Richard’s ebony locks. She arched her hips and pressed them more firmly against his mouth, better to savour the bliss he was giving her. His tongue explored her most private place, causing liquid fire to ignite with every stroke. He sucked, kissed, licked that hard, tiny bud at the edge of her womanhood, until Manon thought she would explode and dissolve into a myriad of shards. And then, it truly happened! She did, she truly did shatter!

Richard could swear he tasted the difference in her honey after she cried out and convulsed against his mouth in a long series of shudders. In one swift movement, he let her down onto the bed and slid his aching manhood into her wetness. Slowly, slowly…do not forget, this is Manon’s initiation. Christ! This was incredible. Her sheath was already closing around his flesh, nearly sending him over the edge.

Manon was still shaking with the aftermath of her climax, when he started moving inside her, with slow, careful thrusts, each of them deeper than the one before. It was heaven, the way he rocked inside her, Manon thought, as he filled her further and further, and ever so gently, with his powerful maleness. She started to feel the same tingling of arousal again and began to be swept away once more. Until… oh, Lord! A sharp, burning pain exploded deep inside her and raced through her entire body to her shocked brain. She was hurt; she must surely have been stabbed with a blade!

Her maidenhead resisted only for a short time, and Richard forced himself to keep still while he caught her cry of pain with a tender kiss.

“Shhh, shhh, my heart. It will pass, my sweet. Shhh, this will happen only this first time, I promise.”

Richard could feel Manon relax beneath him as her breathing eased, when he began thrusting again. Cautiously at first, then gradually increasing the rhythm and force of his strokes until he noticed she was following his pace. A wild jab of arousal, fierce and taunting, travelled up and down his body.  “Yes, my sweet, that is what I want you to do,” he crooned. He rose onto his knees, lifting Manon’s lower body, to match his rapidly increasing desire.

Manon could barely believe that her body warmed into arousal once again after the fierce pain in her inner core, but her body did exactly that. Again, warmth began bubbling in her womb; again, that tiny bud throbbed with a growing need; again her folds started to tremble with renewed desire. With a sigh of pure, raw pleasure, she gave herself over to the delicious sensations that shook her body.

Richard inwardly burst with joy when he felt her response. She was so hot and soft, and so incredibly tight, as her inner muscles drew him deeper into the heat of her core. In a split second of awareness, Richard felt the exact moment when Manon climaxed yet again. That was right before he lost himself into divine, overwhelming bliss. His muscles tensed, and his body went perfectly rigid with anticipation, and then he violently shuddered. His senses were drowned in a relentless sea of hot waves. He raced through the surf that swept him higher up into the flames. She was, he registered, riding with him. Riding him with the siren-like undulation of body and of soul. A hoarse cry escaped him, as the alluring motion of Manon’s hips milked him, drew every strength out of him, conquering all resistance. As his seed spilled into her depths, Richard shattered into a million pieces.

In the tiny second before she succumbed to the overwhelming exhaustion, Manon registered a pure, utterly feminine joy at the realisation that she had just given Richard the ultimate pleasure of love. She snuggled up against his warmth as he gathered her in his arms and drew the coverlet over them both.

 

Richard listened to Manon’s soft, steady breathing while he enjoyed the feel of her warm, naked body against his. He could not so easily find sleep, not after the bliss he had just experienced. He had to simply revel in the memory of their beautiful lovemaking. Tomorrow, she would be his wife. Tomorrow, he would love her yet again, and his rampant thoughts were already plotting new ways to make her reach heaven. He had long years of experience to look back on. Skilful women had shaped his own talents in lovemaking. Yet, with Manon, he was reluctant to use those skills. He wanted his wooing to be unique, to be reborn solely for Manon. He now wished that he had still been a virgin this night and that he would have had to work out the art of lovemaking for the first time with Manon. He would give his right hand if it meant he could start over with Manon as his first woman and to be a young, innocent boy again.

But it was foolish. The past could never be remade. At least, he could be hers, and hers alone, for the rest of their lives. That, at least, he would vouch before the Almighty tomorrow.

 

I Killed Him – Pt 3

Chapter Three

I Killed Him 250x375John spent the night thinking and packing. He had been thinking so long, he had to unpack things he hadn’t meant to pack. He was going to get a marriage license first thing that morning, before his meeting. He had determined to marry Margaret and save her first. He had no idea what she would think of that, but Bell had given him the barest of hopes.

He was encouraged that Adam Bell had a post office number that could be watched until Frederick arrived at it. John felt sure that this Hartford man would know Bell, but his lads who might be watching for Frederick would not know him on site. John decided that the first part of the plan was for Bell to write Frederick and tell him of the situation. They would decide on a new city to meet in and finalize Frederick’s safe exit from France. Somewhere in there he would find Margaret and steel her away to marry her.

 

John was having his early breakfast when a weak knock was heard. He shouted to Jane, his housekeeper, that he would get it. No one was expected this early, but the others probably couldn’t sleep either.

He opened the door, and his breath left him as he saw a frail Margaret, bent in pain with a swollen face and the burgeoning colors of a black eye.

“Oh God, Margaret.” He didn’t ask her anything. He stepped out, picked her up in his arms, and shouted for one of the yard men to get a doctor.

His eyes filled with tears as he carried her upstairs. Looking into her face, he saw his little angel was broken. If he hadn’t needed to tend to her, he would go and end the man’s life. It would happen, but just not right now.

Margaret looked at John through exhaustion.

“Margaret, I have never stopped loving you. I would have done anything to have prevented this.”

“I know you love me. I know I have loved you since first, we met. John, I killed him. I have killed my brother.” Margaret said as she collapsed.

 

John held her in his arms until Donaldson arrived. After her statement, she closed her eyes, and they had not opened since.

Donaldson opened the outside door and shouted up.

“Up here,” John said, as he carried her to his guest room.

Donaldson took one look at her and wanted to take her to his clinic immediately. “John, get one of your nightshirts, will you?”

“I want you to examine her here, first. I want to know what we are dealing with. Disturbing news, of her being coerced into a marriage, came to me late last night. I am to have a meeting in about an hour and want to know what’s happened to her, and I mean everything.” John looked at Donaldson sternly.

“John, I will be a while. Get the tea brewing.”

John first ran across to the office as he’d heard Nicholas’s coach. He asked him if he would go find Bell at the hotel and bring him here. They had an emergency on their hands, now. He went for Branson, himself, returning as quickly as he could.

He had Cook prepare a tea pot and told her to keep them coming for the next several hours. John, also, mentioned that Margaret was here, in the guestroom.

Cook smiled but saw that her Master was completely overcome with worry.

As the men gathered, they all began telling John that she was out of danger now. He needed to calm down, but John knew they hadn’t seen her.

Donaldson called John into Margaret’s room. John walked in, closing the door behind him. Donaldson didn’t like what he was about to tell him.

“John, she’s alive. She will live, but she’s been badly and repeatedly beaten. It appears it’s been going on for some time. She has a newly fractured rib, and I will have to look closer at her cheek. I think she has internal bleeding. There are signs that this man forced her to perform fellatio. Do you understand that word?”

“Yes.” John began to let the tears fall as he folded himself onto the foot of her bed. He looked at her unconscious body.

“She has not been raped.” Donaldson continued. “She appears to have about six large areas of bruising from, I would think, a fist, in various stages of mending. There are some small signs that there have been more, but they are healing. Whoever this was, took great care to beat her where it would not show. Tell me the story on the way to the clinic.”

The men heard the door open and stood.

“Branson, get the coach.”

“It’s ready out front, sir.”industrial-darcy

All the men witnessed John’s tears dropping onto the lifeless form he was carrying in his arms.

Branson rushed ahead, while the other two walked to John.

“Is she . . . ?” Nicholas started to ask.

“She’s alive.”

“You two talk and I’ll send Branson back. I’ll be awhile.”

“John, take care of her.”

Mr. Bell was quite near tears himself. Beside her swollen face, he noticed a bit of blood oozing from her mouth and saw John lick that from her face. He broke down at the sight.

“I should have known,” Bell berated himself. “She never told me she was being mistreated only that she was being forced to marry in order to secure her brother’s safety.”

Bell felt a nudge on his shoulder, and looking up, saw a glass of scotch. He was glad to see it. “This is better than tea after what I just saw.”

“What did you see that I didn’t? I saw John’s face. I’ve never seen that face in all my years. I saw glassy eyes when his mother passed, but nothing like just now,” said Nicholas.

“Nicholas, Margaret had blood running from the corner of her mouth, and John licked it off of her face. That’s when I broke down.”

“I am sure I would have too, had I seen that.

“As bad as this situation is, it just got worse,” said Nicholas. “John will not be denied his revenge, but that still doesn’t mean that Frederick is out of the woods. Have you given this, much thought?”

“Much thought? That seems that’s all I’ve done for weeks. I finally sought out John for help. Margaret did not know I was coming here, but she found her way here under some horrific circumstances. I think we know she has finally figured out where her love lies. You know, Nicholas, it was the love of her brother and the love of John that kept them apart all this time. She felt she couldn’t tell John and break her promise to the family. John felt she was hiding something from him. He’d seen them embrace at the station as Frederick left after his mother passed away. John, I believe, was devastated seeing that. He lost hope. What a mess this has been keeping this secret for her, but I had promised. I watched both of their hearts break.”

“Adam, you need another scotch. I need another whiskey. This tale is one for the books. It seems that literature is writing its story in front of us. All the elements are here, and I know we have not seen nearly the end of this. John is going to be a handful, and I am not so sure I want to talk him out of it. I think it’s one of those rare times in a man’s life when nothing matters but revenge. He can’t be the man he is and let this pass no matter how much you, I or Margaret try to reason with him. He has seen the devil’s work today.”

“I hope he can keep his head enough and not destroy what he and Margaret have waited a long time to begin. If he destroys himself, he destroys her.”

Branson came up the stairs, shaking his head. “The Guv is in a bad way. I waited for a while with him until he felt embarrassed and sent me home. He went from kneeling on the floor trying not to weep to pacing the room like a bull. I don’t know how bad Miss Hale is, but it must be bad for him to show those emotions to me. I’m to pick him up in an hour and if he isn’t there, they’ll be at the hospital.

 

Edith finally decided to inquire why Margaret was sleeping so late and went to her door. Knocking she received no answer. “Margaret!” Still no answer. “I’m coming in.” She looked about the room to find Margaret missing; the bed hadn’t been slept in, and a few drawers were left open. Edith cheerfully skipped down the stairs to her mother.

“Mother, I think Margaret and Grant have eloped. It looks like she left last night and took a few clothes with her. I wouldn’t have thought Margaret would have done such a thing, but if she’s happy . . .” Edith began to remember how unhappy Margaret had seemed of late.

“I see that look on your face, Edith. My thoughts, too. She hasn’t been the example of a bride-to-be as we would have expected. I don’t like this. Can you get a hold of Maxwell? I think we need to contact Captain Hartford.

“Yes, Mother. I’ll take the buggy to the fort.”

 

Captain Grant Hartford didn’t know which hurt more: his loss of Margaret or the loss of skin. “Bloody hell,” he shouted from the confines of his leather chair, unable to walk around easily. He and his driver had waited several hours for Margaret to appear at her home. She had no money as her reticule lay on the couch and she wouldn’t have brought money in any case. If she walked home, it could have taken over an hour in good daylight. He didn’t know what to think she could be doing. Was she at the authorities, calling his bluff or had she come to her senses in regards to her brother’s life. Either way, she would marry him, but he just may not see her until the wedding. He did have the one ace up his sleeve. He did know where her brother was. He was in Paris.

 

“Sir, a Captain Lenox, and his fiancé are here to see you.”

“Did you tell them I was indisposed?” Grant asked, relieved to hear it wasn’t his Commander.

“Yes, Captain, but they said it was urgent.”

“Give me a moment and let them in.” Grant grabbed a small blanket and threw it over his lap. Just as they were being let into his study, he noticed Margaret’s reticule on the sofa, but not very prominently displayed. He wouldn’t ask them to sit down. Due to women’s large full frocks, they usually sought the sofa.

“Do excuse me for not rising. I am a bit ill. Maxwell, to what do I owe the honor of your presence?”

“I’m sorry to interrupt your morning. I am sorry you are feeling unwell.”

“It’s nothing that a few days rest will not cure. How can I help you?”

“We have a concern for Miss Hale. It seems she did not sleep in her bed last night, and she is missing this morning.”

“Missing?” Grant said with great surprise.

“I was wondering if you could remember the circumstances of taking her home last evening.”

“Why, yes. Missing you say? Let me think. We had dinner here. After, we talked about our wedding and other things for about an hour, when she asked to go home. She seemed to have something on her mind, but would not permit me to help. I believe I left her at her door around 10:00 p.m. What is being done to locate her, Maxwell? I am quite disturbed by this as you can well imagine.”

“It has just come to our attention when she did not come down to breakfast only a short time ago. We were hoping that she may have said something to you of plans she might have had at the last minute. Could I ask if you two had any kind of quarrel?”

“It seems I have been caught out. I was hoping to convince her to move the wedding up, and we may have had a few unpleasant words, but nothing that I could ever feel would cause her to flee. Leaving it, as it had been planned, was the final word, and she seemed relieved that I had given up for an earlier nuptial.” Grant saw Miss Shaw’s eyes start to wander around the room.

“Miss Shaw, she gave you nothing to concern yourself about?”

“No, but we have all been in agreement lately that she has seemed quiet and reserved; not the spirited, independent Margaret we love. I guess it is just pre-marital nerves. Those are always common, never really any worry in them.”

“If that were the case, my conversation last night could have brought more pressure to bear than I had thought it would. I hope she’s not gone somewhere to think about changing her mind. It would not have seemed so last night. My cook made a special meal for her. She seemed to enjoy that. Maxwell, keep me informed. Let me know immediately of any new developments.”

“I will, Grant. Sorry for interrupting so early in the morning. I hope you are fit in a day or two. We will see ourselves out. You shall be kept informed. Good day.”

“Good day to you both and I certainly hope it is a good day. I will worry now.”

Edith and Maxwell turned to leave the room. Out of the corner of her eye, Edith noticed Margaret’s reticule. She almost stopped to say something, however, refrained, wanting to tell Maxwell first.

As soon as they were out of the house, Grant hobbled over and collected Margaret’s small bag and threw it in his desk drawer.

As the carriage pulled away, Edith told Maxwell what she had seen.

“Are you sure? Are you positive it was Margaret’s?”

“I’ve borrowed it enough times to be sure. Maxwell, she would never leave without that. Wherever she is right now, she doesn’t have it with her. Do you think he acted overly friendly?”

“Yes, I do. Margaret’s bag was left on his couch. He was sitting with a blanket over part of his lap. Hmm …”

“Maxwell, what are you thinking?”

“I know I would have been out of that chair if someone had brought the same news to me about you. His less than enthusiastic concern bothers me. I don’t like what I am thinking, and I’d rather not say at the moment.”

“But you can’t hide things now. Could he have harmed her? He could not have her hidden away, could he?”

“No. If he had her, you would not see signs at the house that she left. My guess is he was too forward with her, and she ran if you must know.”

“In what way? He’s an officer.” Edith thought about Maxwell noting the small lap blanket. She couldn’t believe such a thing could have happened. “Even if he was that vulgar, why would Margaret run away?” Edith asked, letting Maxwell know she knew what he was thinking. She would have come home, even if she walked.

“I find it hard to believe what we are supposing, but still, Margaret is missing, whether voluntary or not, I don’t know.”

“Maybe we should contact Mr. Bell. They are close friends. She could be hiding over there until she can sort things through in her mind.”

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