The River Knows
and fears were groundless. Maybe Grantley really had taken his own life. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, because the investment consortium was fully formed and ready to be launched.
    He had even been thinking of dismissing Quinby and Royce, but the disaster last night had changed everything. The fear had returned to chew on his vitals. Much as he disliked having the guards constantly hovering, they were necessary for his peace of mind, if nothing else.
    He consoled himself with the thought that when the profits from his new investment venture began to pour in he would at least be able to rid himself of his irritating bride. He wondered if the suicide of a second wife would raise too many eyebrows in the Polite World. Perhaps an accident this time. But first he had to deal with the current catastrophe.
    He reached for one of the velvet bell pulls hanging on the wall behind his desk and yanked hard, twice. Quinby and Royce appeared immediately.
    He looked at Quinby first. It had been evident from the outset that he was the more intelligent of the two guards. He was also the most dangerous and the most annoying.
    “Tell me again what happened in the hall outside my bedroom last night, Quinby.”
    “I already gave you a full report, Mr. Hastings.” Quinby raised one shoulder in a careless shrug. “Nothing more to add.”
    Elwin clamped down on another wave of rage. Quinby’s attitude was infuriating. He was rarely overtly insolent or disrespectful, but the lack of deference for his betters was always there, just under the surface. It was obvious that he had been born into the lower classes. He did a remarkably good job of concealing the accents of the street, but they were there, nonetheless, in his speech. That gold-and-onyx ring on his finger was clearly expensive—a gentleman’s ring—but the bastard worked for a crime lord. How did he dare to consider himself the equal of a true gentleman?
    Royce, on the other hand, hulking and dim-witted, at least displayed proper respect for those born into a higher station.
    If he had any choice in the matter he would dismiss Quinby in a heartbeat, Elwin thought. But that was the problem, of course. He did not have a choice. He required protection, and, according to Clement Corvus, Quinby was the best in that line. Elwin believed it. One look at Quinby’s eyes told you that he was cold to the bone.
    “Go through your tale again,” Elwin ordered evenly.
    “I was doing my usual rounds,” Quinby said, sounding bored. “Keeping an eye on the interior of the house while Royce watched the gardens. I finished the top floor and went down the back staircase to the floor where the master bedrooms are located. There was a lady and a gentleman in the hall. They were kissing.”
    “Mrs. Bryce and Mr. Stalbridge.”
    “Yes, although I didn’t learn their names until I talked to the footman.”
    The woman had definitely been Louisa Bryce, Elwin assured himself. Her identity had been confirmed by the servants who had seen her leave with Stalbridge. There was no mistaking Lady Ashton’s unfashionable country relative. With her spectacles, unstylish gowns, and dull conversation, she was a perennial wallflower at every social event she attended. The only mystery about her was why Stalbridge had shown some interest in that direction.
    Elwin leaned back in his chair, trying to think. This was another one of those occasions when he missed Victoria’s shrewd insights. She had always been extremely clever when it came to comprehending what motivated men.
    “Any idea how long Stalbridge might have been up there in that hall outside my bedroom?” he asked.
    “Not more than a few minutes,” Quinby said. “When I spoke with the servants a couple of them mentioned having seen him in the ballroom shortly before I found him upstairs.”
    “How long does it take to crack a safe?”
    Quinby spread the fingers of one hand. “Depends on the expertise of the safecracker. Most of the

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