Excerpt from Chapter 2
“Of course it’s her concern.” Wickburgh began swinging his walking stick, narrowly missing a flower-filled vase atop a Chippendale side table. “You see my dear, your father was about to find the means by which to settle a debt with me.”
Genevieve narrowed her gaze. “I doubt very much my father owes you a gambling debt since he seldom gambles.”
“Oh, but he did, a wager of the worst kind—with fate.”
Papa said more forcefully, “Genevieve, leave us.”
Genevieve offered an apologetic smile to her father and cast an open glare at Wickburgh. “I assume you have vowels to prove this gambling debt?”
“I do, indeed—a letter that my brother dictated on his deathbed. It only just arrived.” He withdrew a folded paper and waved it in front of them. “I must warn you however; it is much more damming than a mere gambling debt. This letter is very revealing about the part your father played in a mutiny.”
Any other time, she would have been frightened of this stern man who watched her too closely, too hotly, but at the moment, her righteous anger overpowered her fear. Her face flushed in indignation at his horrible lies. “Impossible. Papa would never take part in a mutiny. He served king and country faithfully for many years.”
She folded her arms, wishing she were taller and better able to look Papa’s accuser in the eye to prove he didn’t frighten her. Really, it was difficult to be impressive when one was barely five feet tall. But she made up for it with what she hoped would be a fearsome glare.
With a measured smile, Wickburgh handed her the letter. “Read it for yourself. Quite a diverting tale.”
She snatched the document from his hands and read, the blood draining out of her face. The letter did, indeed, narrate a convincing and condemning story about her father and his crew mutinying when he’d served as second lieutenant. Surely this mutiny story was a lie.
She waved the letter in front of the viscount. “I don’t believe this. It can’t be true.”
Wickburgh gestured to her father. “Ask him.”
“That won’t be necessary. My father is a good man.”
Wickburgh merely watched her with that hungry, possessive stare of his. Genevieve rubbed sweaty palms down her skirts. She glanced at Papa who had sunk into a chair with his head in his hands, his shoulders slumped as if utterly defeated. For the first time, doubt crept in. A knot twisted in her stomach.
Her father lowered his hands, staring at the floor. “It’s true.”
Genevieve’s legs collapsed and she slumped into the nearest settee. This went beyond her imagination, so far outside of her safe and happy world that she couldn’t think of what to do.
Her dear papa—the man who carried her on his back and romped with her in the fields of wildflowers, who taught her to read Latin and speak French and learn mathematics even though it was unpopular for girls to be so educated, who doted on Mama with the care of a nurse—how could he have committed such a terrible crime? There had to be some mistake, some other explanation.