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A Lady of Hidden Intent
by Tracie Peterson
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Her father straightened and met her gaze. "Daughter, you must get away from here."

"I will not. I will not leave your side."

"If you do not, I cannot focus on what must be done to clear my name. There is no telling what the authorities will deem necessary to resolve the matter. I will not have my estates confiscated and my daughter left to fend for herself. I will call Dugan. He and Selma may go with you. They have been faithful servants, but no doubt they will see their livelihood gone with this chaos. Go to Bristol. My dear friend Captain Marlowe will see you safely out of harm's way." Her father hurried to his desk and took up pen and paper.

"I won't go." Catherine shook her head. "Stop. I won't leave you, Father."

"You must. If you love me, then I beg you to do this thing for me. If the matter is easily resolved, I will merely send for you again. I will not have you bear the consequences of my mistakes. Captain Marlowe has family in America. I believe it would do you good to visit and see New York City, perhaps. It is quite fascinating."

Catherine could see his determination. "Is there no other way? No other hope for me to remain at your side?"

"No. I have not begun to tell you the full details, but let me say this much: Two men were murdered this night in Bristol by Baker's hand. There will be little rest for anyone until these issues are resolved." He dropped the pen and went to one of the bookcases. Pulling out several volumes, he placed the books on his desk, then went back to open a concealed compartment. "You will take this money and see to your needs. To the needs of Dugan and Selma as well."

The clock chimed from over the mantel. It was only a quarter until five. Soon the entire household would be about their duties. Catherine felt a chill permeate her body. Not even her housecoat could ward off the sense of doom that was now upon them.

"Here," her father said, thrusting a small leather satchel into her hands. "Take it and hide it well. The morning train would be the best way to get to Bristol, but I fear it will be watched. I'll advise Dugan to take the carriage."

Catherine hugged the satchel to her breast. "Why don't you come with us, Father? You can resolve the matter from America."

He looked at her sadly and gently touched her cheek. "I might be a poor judge of men, but I am no coward. I will face my mistakes, but I will not allow my only remaining child to do so as well."

She threw herself into his arms and held him as though she might drown if she let go. And truly that was what she felt might happen. How could she lose him like this? She'd only bid her mother and siblings good-bye two years ago. She needed him. He was her only connection to the past—to her mother and brothers—to her childhood.

Sobbing, she tried one more time. "Please let me stay with you."

"I love you too much to allow for that, kitten. You must be a good girl now. You must be brave and stand fast that I might also do the same."

She recognized the rough, desperate plea in his voice and knew her show of sorrow and despair was taking its toll on him. The thought sobered her, and straightening, Catherine stretched on tiptoe and kissed her father's cheek.

"I love you, Father. I will go to America, but even from there I will do whatever is possible to be at your aid—at your side."

"You will always be with me—at least in heart," he whispered. He kissed her forehead, then put her away from him. "Now go pack. There isn't time or the ability to take many things, I'm sorry to say. Take what will service you well. It will be cold on the Atlantic—I know it well. Take whatever will see you through the winter."

Catherine nodded and turned for the door. She wanted desperately to look back—to see his face and memorize every detail. A fear began to eat at her—tearing away her strength and resolve. She might never see him again. This might very well be good-bye.



Meet the author:
Tracie Peterson


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