A Rose at Midnight

Free A Rose at Midnight by Anne Stuart

Book: A Rose at Midnight by Anne Stuart Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anne Stuart
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical
her dress, and her clothes had been torn during her furious assault. Her hair hung around her face, and she must have looked like all the furies combined. It hadn’t even daunted Blackthorne. He’d laughed at her, laughed at her rage. For that alone she wanted him dead.
    But she’d lost. She’d half-expected to, from the moment she knew he’d arrived at Ainsley Hall. Her course had been set in motion, and she’d had no choice but to follow it, even knowing it was doomed to failure. Her only regret was that she hadn’t been able to bring him down with her.
    She ached all over. Her head throbbed, and she remembered his hand crashing into her as she’d tried to scratch his eyes out. He didn’t have any gentlemanly scruples, at least she could grant him that. If he had, he might not be alive now.
    She rolled onto her back, staring up at the ceiling, struggling to catch her breath against the tightness of her bonds. The shadows from the firelight flickered against the ceiling, casting ominous shapes overhead, and she wondered how long she had to regain her strength, her determination. How long before she had to fight again.
    The door opened wider, and she held herself very still, already prepared for a renewal of the battle. And then she heard the familiar scrabble of paws on the parquetry floor and an anxious yip as Charbon hurtled himself at the bed. It took him a number of attempts to breach it, and then he was pouncing all over her, licking her anxiously with his rough little tongue, making a soft whining noise in the back of his throat.
    They hadn’t gagged her. There was no need—who would have paid the slightest bit of attention if she called for help? “Poor baby,” she whispered, her voice a soft caress. “I’m all right, I promise you.” Her voice sounded rough, even to her own ears, and the dog wasn’t placated. He whimpered again, placing his cold wet nose against her cheek, licking anxiously.
    “You can’t imagine how it gratifies me to hear that,” a hateful voice drifted to her ears from the open door.
    She didn’t turn her head to look at him, didn’t give him any indication that she’d heard him. She hadn’t many defenses left—she intended to cherish each one.
    She kept her gaze concentrated on the shadowed ceiling as he strolled into the room. A moment later Charbon was scooped off her chest, and she braced herself to hear a canine yelp of pain.
    She’d underestimated Blackthorne. “Your mistress isn’t in the mood for doggy kisses,” he said to the puppy in a soothing voice. “And we don’t want you licking the brandy off her clothes, now do we? Get along with you.” He set the dog on the floor and gave him a gentle nudge.
    Charbon bounced back onto the bed with an indignant yip, and Ghislaine had no choice but to look at the puppy, ignoring the tall, dark figure that loomed above her.
    “You’re just as determined as your mistress, aren’t you?” Blackthorne said, and there was a trace of cool amusement in his voice. “Tavvy?” he called over his shoulder. “Dispose of this creature, will you?”
    She couldn’t help her instinctive protest as he once more scooped Charbon’s wiggling body off her.
    Taverner appeared beside the bed, taking the puppy in patient hands. “What do you want me to do with him?”
    Blackthorne was watching her very carefully, gauging her reaction, and she concentrated all her limited energies on keeping her face blank. “You could always drown him,” he said in a dreamy voice. “Or break his neck.”
    “No!” The voice was torn out of her. Shame filled her at her weakness, but she couldn’t let him die without a protest.
    “No?” Blackthorne echoed, leaning over her. “Are you asking me to save your little dog?”
    She wanted to spit in his face. She stared up at him, into his dark, merciless eyes, and wished she could curse him. “Yes,” she said, forcing the words.
    He smiled then, a small, cool smile of triumph. “Take the dog to

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