Ghost of the Thames
sorry. Please, disregard what I
said. I was not suggesting . . . please!”
    “Fine. I shall try my best to be a
gentleman and not offer an immediate remedy.”
    He led her to a table by the window,
where breakfast had been laid out. The smile remained on his
lips.
    “It must be nearly two days since
you’ve eaten anything.”
    She was impressed by the crisp white
linen and the vase of holly with its bright red berries. Sitting
down, Sophy found she was more thirsty than hungry. She poured tea
for them both from a silver pot. It didn’t escape her attention
that he was watching her every move.
    “Since I have agreed to report every
step I take out of this house, I want you to know that I plan to
visit the constable in Chelsea and confess what I did.”
    “No need,” he replied, spreading a
napkin on his lap. “The man who attacked you is alive. He should
recover, I’m told.”
    “I didn’t kill him?” she said, relief
washing through her.
    “I made some discreet inquiries. This
Jack Slade fellow was apparently carried to a surgeon in Chelsea.
The surgeon reported to a friend of mine that Slade told him he was
knifed by a pickpocket. There will be no complaints to the
authorities.”
    Sophy’s feeling of relief was
short-lived, however, as the faces of the women who were leaving
Cremorne House that night came back to her. They feared him, and
with good reason.
    “How far is Soho Square from Chelsea?”
she asked.
    “Why?” he asked, sitting back in his
chair. “Do you plan to go back there and finish him?”
    “No! I don’t want to run into him on
the street.”
    The captain nodded. “You are far
enough away. And I will be watching over you now. That villain will
never come near you or touch you.”
    The possessive tone in his voice was
unmistakable. His dark eyes could melt a woman to a puddle, and
Sophy was far from indifferent to his attentions. But deep down,
there was a voice that cried out against anyone owning her,
possessing her. But Sophy was aware enough of the realities of her
life not to risk offending him.
    “I have to notify Mrs. Tibbs at the
Cottage of my whereabouts.”
    “I have taken care of that through
Dickens. I met with him yesterday.”
    She put the cup of tea down,
embarrassed to think that whatever assumption Mrs. Tibbs and Mr.
Dickens had made regarding her before, this new arrangement
confirmed it.
    “Incidentally, Dickens wants to meet
with you as soon as possible.”
    Sophy looked up, surprised. “Why? Does
he intend to reprimand me?”
    “No, of course not. He is fascinated
by you.”
    She shook her head. “I believe he has
disliked me from the very beginning. He must feel he is well rid of
me.”
    “’ Dislike’? Definitely the
wrong word,” he responded. “I think you are correct that he is
relieved not to have you at Urania Cottage. You are nothing like
his charity cases. But I believe he is intrigued by you and by the
circumstances preceding your appearance in front of my carriage.
You are a mystery to be solved, and Dickens loves
mysteries.”
    Sophy was not ready to be studied like
some new species of jungle insect. She sipped her tea. In fact, she
wasn’t certain she liked Mr. Dickens, at all, in spite of his
forced kindness to her.
    “And do you think of me as a
mystery, too, Captain?”
    He was slow in answering, and this
made her uncomfortable under his intense gaze.
    “I think you are complicated, smart,
and there are pieces of your past that are already apparent to you
that you choose to keep to yourself.”
    She put the cup down, fearing that the
trembling of her hand would give her away.
    “I think you are brave, but feeling
frightened and alone.” He reached across the table and took her
hand, his thumb caressing her palm before bringing her fingers to
his lips. “I also think that you are extremely beautiful, and if
you are a mystery, I intend to enjoy every minute possible
unraveling you.”
    Sophy was certain that the pounding of
her heart was

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