The Gallows Bride
me,” Sir Dunnicliffe explained. “Don’t you
Jemima?”
    After
several moments of calm recollection, Jemima slowly
nodded.
    “ From where?” Peter was still tense, not liking the sudden
paleness of Jemima’s cheeks. Sitting around the table earlier, she
had looked beautiful, with her once pale cheeks softly tinged with
colour, and all trace of fear gone from her eyes as she had enjoyed
what was probably her first proper meal since leaving
Padstow.
    “ Gaol.” Jemima’s blunt word made everyone lunge backward from
the table and stand, glaring menacingly at Sir Dunnicliffe, who had
the grace to look abashed.
    Holding
up his hands defensively in an attempt to ward off their imminent
attack, he glanced ruefully at Jemima.
    “ If you could call off your guard dogs for a moment, I think
we need to adjourn to the room next door and I can bring everyone,
including you, up to date.” His voice was tinged with mild
amusement that fell flat against the level of tension, which was
practically humming in the air.
    Jemima
nodded jerkily, allowing Peter to draw her away. She was frowning
thoughtfully by the time she was seated in one of the large brocade
chairs beside the fireplace.
    Despite
the roaring flames in the grate, she felt chilled to the bone. The
raw memories of the past two days made her feel as if she wanted to
crawl out of her skin.
    “ I think you had better explain,” Dominic ordered, his voice
cold and faintly threatening.
    “ He was one of the gaolers,” Jemima replied with a shudder.
She glanced up at Sir Dunnicliffe, who had remained
standing.
    He
looked most officious with his hands clasped behind his back, his
shoulders broad and straight, staring at each man in turn before
looking at Jemima.
    “ I think it would be best if I started from the beginning,
then you will all understand what this is about, and what needs to
happen next.” Sir Dunnicliffe knew he sounded pompous but was happy
to adopt an ‘official’ stance in order to ensure they didn’t lynch
him.
    “ Please do,” Peter snapped, settling back in the chair beside
Jemima, one booted foot resting casually on one knee in a pose that
was anything but restful.
    “ Firstly, please call me Hugo. Sir Dunnicliffe seems such a
mouthful.” He bowed at Jemima and offered her a soft smile that lit
his eyes and eased some of the dark menace from his
countenance.
    “ You are quite right, I was in Mr Simpson’s office, and waited
with you in the corridor on the morning you were supposed to be
executed -” He heard Dominic’s snarl, but refused to move his eyes
from Jemima’s. He knew she was wary of him; that his presence in
the house had frightened her, most probably because he brought so
many bad memories with him. He couldn’t blame her if she despised
him. All he could do was hope that once he had imparted all the
facts then she would feel more inclined to be amenable toward
him.
    If not,
then he had a major problem on his hands.
    He
glanced around the room at the assembled men and mentally heaved a
sigh. He may be able to call upon Jemima’s good nature to plead her
forgiveness, but this lot of battle-hardened warriors before him
would be far harder to appease, if it was at all
possible.
    “ I am head of the Star Elite,” Hugo explained, glancing at
Dominic and Peter. “The rag-tag group of ex-soldiers and friends
you rounded up to help you hunt for the smugglers in Norfolk are
still together, mostly.”
    He
watched Dominic shift forward in his seat, clearly intrigued by the
latest news.
    “ Ashley Carrington?”
    Hugo
nodded.
    “ Simon Montague?”
    Hugo
nodded again.
    “ David Petersen, Rupert Samuels and Jonathan
Arbinger?”
    Hugo
hesitated and shook his head slowly. “Not David Petersen, I’m
afraid. He got married a few weeks ago and has decided to return to
Yorkshire to run his family estates. He has been replaced by
someone else, though, who is equally well trained. Except for Pie
Masters and Archie Balfour, everyone else

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