Fiona sat frozen in shock. Not Sheffield! The carriage door opened, and in the dim light, she recognized the man from the Wandering Goose Inn.
“Care to alight, ma’am?” He extended his hand.
She stared at him in consternation. This was quite the pickle to be in. After running away from home to avoid the advances of one rake, she had ended up in the hands of the most notorious rake of all! The man was known to her by reputation only, though at one time he had been a close friend of dear Ted. However, their relationship had suffered, and to make matters worse, Lord Sheffield had wounded Ted in a duel! She quailed at the thought of accepting aid from one such as him.
His smile faltered. “Well, ma’am? I don’t have all night.”
“Lord Sheffield? I cannot possibly come to your house,” she blurted.
“Not overwhelmed by gratitude, I see,” he drawled. His sardonic expression told her that he had correctly interpreted her reaction to his identity. “I am not in the mood to ravage muddy, soaked maidens today, so you may be at ease that your virtue is safe with me, ma’am.”
Her face reddened further at his crude remarks. “No, you don’t understand, sir! I am Fiona Cavendish. Edward Cavendish is my brother.”
The man stared at her in disbelief. “Oh! Good God! What a damned mess!” She heard him swear under his breath. Her head hurt, and the shock of the accident made it impossible for her to think straight. She stared at him wordlessly, trying to find a way out of the unbearable situation. He appeared to come to a decision. “There is nothing for it but that you must take shelter at my house tonight.”
Fiona shook her head. “No! I will not! My brother will be most distressed. Please take me and my people to the nearest posting house, I beg you.”
“Your brother is not here, and you must be addle-witted to suppose that I will allow my coachman or cattle to drive anywhere in this weather. You may have no concern for the well-being of your staff, as is evident in the fact that you chose to be out on the road on a night like this, but I value the lives of my people. I will be damned if I am going to stand in the rain and argue with you. Please alight and let me show you into the house.”
Fiona shook her head stubbornly. “I will not set foot in your house willingly, my lord.”
“Very well then, let it be noted that you came into my house most unwillingly.” Without preamble, he picked her up as if she were a child and carried her from the carriage. A footman hovered beside them, protecting them with an umbrella as his lordship strode purposefully into the house.
Fiona was too surprised to protest until she saw that he was not setting her down in the hall as she expected and instead was carrying her up the stairs. She then struggled furiously against him. “Put me down at once. Where are you taking me?” Her voice sounded querulous to her own ears.
“Why, to bed of course,” he replied, innuendo dripping in his cynical voice, and he leered at her dramatically, all the while ignoring her protests and struggles.