Euphemia Lane woke slowly, tentatively moving her body to assess the damage as she looked around the room. She was in a huge, four poster bed with white canopy draping. Nestled under a warm quilt she swallowed carefully, her small hands moving to her neck touching the tender area. It was sore and she likely had some bruises. Cautiously she swallowed, wincing slightly; she’d live and she had the pleasure of shooting Horace. The discomfort of her bottom was another matter entirely.
Narrowing her eyes, she stared at the man sleeping in the chair beside the bed.
Samuel Jordon had his long legs stretched out and upward, his feet propped on the mattress. A lock of his dark hair curled on his forehead, no doubt plastered there by the heavy rain that fell as he carried her into the house and up the stairs. While he’d provided her with one of his shirts for a nightdress and left the room so she could change, he returned quickly and refused to budge.
“I’ll be perfectly fine on my own,” she managed to rasp out as he made himself comfortable in the chair.
“Miss Lane, you’ve been through a trying experience. It’s not every day a young woman is nearly strangled to death.”
“Mr. Jordon, I’m no longer worried about Horace Remington,” she softly and painfully replied. “I’ve gone and shot him now and if he’s not dead I’m sure he’ll leave Grace and me alone. If not, I’ll shoot him again.”
“That’s not likely, Miss Lane. You see I’ve taken the liberty of confiscating your guns. I find hot headed young women and weapons do not mix.”
Rolling her eyes, she pulled the covers over her and turned away from him. He was much too large to spend the night in a boudoir chair and would most likely seek his own bed as soon as he thought her asleep.
Yet, here he was, snoring softly and keeping her from getting out of bed. Amelia and her new husband were due to arrive this morning and Effie was anxious to inform Grace her worries concerning Horace were over. Inching toward the foot of the bed she positioned her feet close to his and pushed with all her might.
Instantly his big feet crashed to the floor with a thud causing Sam to bolt forward in surprise. Scooting back to the pillows she looked at him innocently when he wiped the sleep from his eyes and glared at her suspiciously.
“Good, you’re awake,” she said, hiding her smile.
“It appears so,” he drawled sarcastically.
“Then you won’t mind giving me some privacy.”
“Miss Lane, I’d like to give you much more than that, but your injuries prevent it.”
“How kind of you to take that into consideration, Mr. Jordon, since some of those injuries were inflicted by you.”
“I am not sorry I spanked you, only sorry I didn’t do a better job of it. Had I sent you to bed like the naughty girl you are, perhaps we might have avoided last night’s violent acts.”
“I’m nineteen years old and hardly a child to be sent off to bed, Mr. Jordon,” she snapped. “It is not my fault my dear friend, Amelia, married your brother. Nor is it my fault he has a difficult time managing his employees.”
“Hugh manages his employees just fine, as do I, Miss Lane. Perhaps your dear friend and my sister-in-law, Amelia, should have given my brother the benefit of the doubt before she sent off a letter requesting you travel thousands of miles to rescue her,” he sneered.
Throwing back the covers, Effie jumped off the bed and poked her finger in his chest.
The white shirt she wore dangled over her hands and down past her knees. Shoving up the sleeves she held her ground when he stood to face her.
“Amelia did not ask us to rescue her,” she hissed, tipping her head back to make eye contact. “She simply informed us of her dire situation. It was Grace and I who decided to come to Seattle and bring her home to Massachusetts. Horace Remington added fuel to the fire when he physically abused Grace while trying to force her into marriage, but we would have come anyway.”
“How did you meet Jonah?” Sam asked.
“He was the Pinkerton agent hired to find Grace,” Effie continued, shoving her wildly curling blonde hair over her shoulder. “Horace added five thousand dollars to the normal fee for Grace’s return as an incentive, but as you can see, we made it here just fine.”
“Hardly that, Miss Lane,” he replied crisply. “You all but invaded my parents’ home, threatened me with a pistol, managed to destroy a valuable family heirloom and got your fanny blistered for it. Then you insisted on returning to your hotel where you promptly shot a man.”
“He was trying to kill me,” Grace retorted. “It was self-defense.”
“I happen to believe you, Miss Lane. Let’s hope the Marshal agrees. In any case, you made the trip and put both you and Grace at great risk and all for nothing.”
“It wasn’t for nothing. We will see for ourselves if Amelia is happy and well-cared for. Grace has fallen in love and married Jonah Blackthorn and I’ve had a grand adventure.”
“One that almost got you killed,” he snorted angrily.
“Despite your beliefs, Mr. Jordon, women in the east are not hot house flowers. We are independent, self-sufficient and quite capable of taking care of our own affairs. I have no doubt Amelia would have managed even if your brother had turned out to be the scoundrel she believed him to be.”
“Then why did you come?” he asked incredulously.
“Because I wanted to, and because she is like a sister to me, as is Grace,” she informed him coolly.
“Well, now that you’re assured of both Amelia’s and Grace’s wellbeing, I hope you will feel free to make a hasty departure, Miss Lane,” he growled. “That is, of course, providing you don’t find your sweet ass sitting in jail.”
“I shall do as I please, Mr. Jordon. I doubt even a backward Marshal will arrest me for defending myself. I’m sure that will be a disappointment to you,” she sighed, sadly shaking her head.
Sam stormed to the door and yanked it open.
“You should count yourself lucky I don’t feel the same freedom, Miss Lane, for if I were free to do as I please you would be sitting on a pillow in a train headed east as we speak.”
Effie flinched as he slammed the door. Picking up a figurine from the night table, she almost threw it after him. Then she remembered she’d already destroyed something valuable belonging to her hosts. Better to keep her wrath for Samuel Jordon to a war of words.
Moving to the bureau, Effie looked closely at the marks on her throat. Dark purple smudges showed exactly where Horace’s fingers had been as he attempted to force her to tell him Grace’s whereabouts. Whether he really would have killed her Effie couldn’t be sure, but she was grateful she’d been able to reach her gun. It seemed only seconds between the time she fired her derringer and Sam kicked her hotel room door in and she wondered now why he hadn’t been long gone. After that, time seemed spin away. She remembered him carrying her to the bed and the crowd of people spilling into the room. The doctor appeared quickly and then next thing she knew Sam was wrapping her in a blanket and hurrying from the room with her in his arms.
Of everything that went wrong yesterday, the most mortifying was the carriage ride back to his parents’ home, for it was then Effie fell apart. Weakness was not something she tolerated. Not in others and certainly not in herself. Tears served no good purpose in her estimation. They made your nose run, your eyes red, and they never solved a thing. Therefore, it galled her that she’d spent nearly the entire trip back to the Jordon’s in Sam’s arms, sobbing into his chest. What utter nonsense.
Yes, her eyes had watered a bit earlier last evening when he pulled her over his knees and spanked her as one would a child, but that was different. She’d been forced into that position. In the carriage she’d voluntarily sought the comfort and reassurance of his big body. What a ridiculous thing to do. Watching her cheeks turn red at the memory, she turned away from the mirror and went to the doorway. Peeking out she was happy to see a maid.
“Can you please find my clothes and bring them to me?” she asked. “Someone must have been in early and taken them.”
“Oui, mademoiselle. Yvette came for them while you were still sleeping. Madam Tempest is finding you something suitable to wear. Can I get you anything else?”
“Yes, last night I was taken to a bathing room. Can you show me where it is?”
“But mademoiselle, you have your own. Let me show you.”
Entering the room the young maid directed Effie to a door she hadn’t noticed. Inside was a commode, sink and a slipper tub.
“Oh, thank you. What is your name?”
“Ophelia, do you know when Hugh and Amelia Jordon are expected this morning?”
“I’m sorry, mademoiselle, I do not. Monsieur Hugh was always an early riser, but since his marriage, Monsieur Samuel complains that his brother is late every day and some days he does not come to work at all.”
“Ah, good morning,” Tempest sang out as she sailed into the room with several garments over her arm. “I hope you slept well, ma petite. My son tells me you had another mishap with your weapon last night. Are you well?”
“Yes, Madam, thank you, I am fine. I appreciate you bringing me something to wear. I seem to be making a habit of taking your clothes.”
“It is nothing. That hideous black dress was one of Amelia’s. She wore it when she was angry with my son and thought of herself as a widow. It was terribly distressing to see her wear such a dress. I have brought you something pretty and gay. Maybe Samuel will not be such a grouchy man when he sees you in something lovely.”
“I wouldn’t count on that,” Effie replied. “He seems pretty grumpy to me in general.”
“Ah, it is true,” Tempest agreed with a moue. “I keep praying he will meet a woman who will make him smile but it has not yet happened. Perhaps you will be that woman, Oui?” she teased.
“Then he will be smiling and it will be I who am grumpy, Madam,” Effie replied.
Tempest laughed and lay the clothing on the bed.
“Do you know when Hugh and Amelia will arrive?”
“Non, but I imagine Amelia will be in a hurry to be reunited with her dearest friends,” Tempest said kindly as she moved to Effie and brushed her blonde hair back from her shoulders with a gentle hand. “Mon Dieu,” she cried seeing the marks on Effie’s neck. “Tell me my son did not do this to you,” she demanded.
“No, of course he didn’t,” Effie assured her, taking her hand. “Samuel he well he only did what he said he was going to do,” she continued blushing wildly. “These marks were caused by the man who has been chasing Grace and me across the country.”
“It is a long story, Madam, and Amelia will want to know every tiny detail. If it’s all right, I’d like to only have to explain it once as my throat is quite sore.”
“Surement, please forgive me. You must wait until everyone is present. When you have finished your toilette, come downstairs. I will have some tea with honey and lemon ready for you. It will soothe your poor throat.”
“Thank you,” Effie replied, accepting Tempest’s hug. “I’ll be down as soon as I can.”
“Would you like Ophelia to assist you?”
“That would be lovely.”
Pinning her hair up, Effie sank gratefully into the warm bath Ophelia drew for her. Her hiss of pain as her bottom touched the water was soon forgotten as she tried to soak her worries away in the scented water. Finally she washed and stood, thanking Ophelia for the thick towel.
The light blue dress fit her perfectly and she sat before the mirror as the maid brushed and pinned her hair. It wasn’t until she was finished that Effie really looked at her reflection.
With her hair up and the dress’s scooped bodice, the abundance of bruises were clearly visible and quite ugly.
“Oh dear, mademoiselle,” Ophelia gasped. “I can take your hair down and that will hide some of them,” she offered.
“No, you fixed it perfectly, thank you.” Looking around the room, Effie spotted a white lace scarf atop the armoire. “How about that?” she asked, pointing.
“Oui, this may work.” Retrieving the scarf, Ophelia draped it around Effie’s neck and Effie tucked it into her bodice.
“There,” she said, satisfied with her appearance. “Thank you for your help.”
“It was my pleasure, mademoiselle. If you need further assistance while you are staying here, just ask for me.”
“Oh, I’m not staying here. I imagine I will return to my hotel sometime today.”
“I do not wish to speak out of turn, mademoiselle, but I overheard Monsieur Sam say he would be sending for your things this morning. Perhaps you are mistaken about returning to your hotel.”
“Perhaps,” Effie drawled, keeping the anger out of her voice with great difficulty. “Tell me, Ophelia, who was he talking to when he said this?”
“His Pa Pa, mademoiselle.”
“And was any mention made of firearms?”
“Yes, you see I have two pistols I seem to have misplaced.”
“Oh do not worry about them, mademoiselle,” Ophelia assured her with a smile. “They are locked up in the cabinet in the study. They are safe and sound.”
“Thank you, Ophelia. You’ve been very helpful.”
“My pleasure,” the maid responded as she left the room.
So, I’m staying here, am I? And my guns are locked up safe and sound. No doubt thanks to the overbearing, bossy and opinionated Monsieur Sam! We’ll just see about that. Checking her appearance a final time, she took several deep breaths and headed downstairs, determined to remember everything she learned at Mrs. Pettigrew’s School for Young Ladies.
She must behave with decorum as a guest in the Jordon home. She must not embarrass Amelia, nor Grace, by telling Samuel Jordon exactly what she thought of his high-handed ways. She must be dignified, despite the fact she wanted to jump on Sam’s back like a monkey and pull his hair, demanding he return her pistols.
No, she would exert control, showing him with her intelligence and wit that he was no match for her. Putting a superior smile on her face she glided down the stairs, her hand trailing along the banister.
Just before she reached the bottom a knock sounded on the front door and her heart swelled with joy. Finally, she would see Amelia and determine for herself if she was indeed happy with her new husband.
Sam walked across her path and opened the door. It was all Effie could do not to shove him out of her way. Nearly skidding to a stop behind him, she peered over his shoulder.
“I’d like to see, Miss Euphemia Lane,” a deep voice said.
“We’ve been expecting you, Marshal.”
Sam stepped back as he opened the door wide and Effie came face to face with the largest, most serious looking man she’d ever seen. Not a hint of friendliness showed in his gray eyes, not the slightest twitch of a polite smile touched his lips.
“Are you, Miss Lane?” he asked, looking her over so thoroughly she wondered if he could see through her clothes.
“I am,” she replied softly.
“I’m Marshal Hadley, and I’m here to talk to you about the attempted murder of Horace Remington.”