Taming the Hawk
A church bell tolls the midnight hour as Amee Ballantine hides in the shadows on Blackfriars Bridge. It is neither the time nor the place for a well brought-up young woman to be. Truth to tell, Amee has nowhere else to go. For hours she has been fleeing from her villainous guardian. Now cold, frightened, her money all gone, this is her last stand.
Then he arrives, The Hawk, with fury in his dark eyes and a terrifying proposition.
Anton Templeton had made a wager—to marry the first woman who crosses his path this night. The little whore lurking in the shadows of Blackfriars Bridge, no doubt waiting for her next customer, is perfect for his plan. Too much whisky and a volatile rage against his father’s dictate, that he wed before month’s end or lose his inheritance, plunges Anton into an scandalous alliance.
Can a marriage made under duress survive the enemies that lie in wait?
Married...to a man who was a dark brooding stranger. As the carriage trundled towards Anton’s home, Amee wondered if it was possible to die of a broken heart Grief, sorrow, anguish, all flowed together threatening to overwhelm her. Perhaps it was the injury to her head that caused such distress. Could physical pain do that? She didn’t know…didn’t know anything anymore. How had she come to this? The world began that sick, dizzying whirl and her mind spun out of control. The hours since injuring her head had been purgatory. Last night she had finally fallen into an uneasy sleep and dreamed of Brampton Grange and heard her papa’s voice calling her to come see his latest invention.
When she woke the pillow was wet with tears and she recalled how her head hit something unyielding when Anton hit her. Now the ache in her jaw where his large hand connected was minor to the spears of pain shooting from the crown of her head to her neck and down her back. Perhaps her skull was cracked. That was it. She was broken like a china doll dropped on a rock never to be put back together again.
Arriving at the house in Grosvenor Gardens, Anton climbed from the carriage. Still she sat without moving. “Come, Amee. It is time to be done with your ill-temper.” He reached in and grasped her wrist remembering too late it was bruised. Still she did not move.
“Bloody hell!” He had put up with enough of her waywardness. The sooner he left for his club and got down to the business of drinking the night away the better. He climbed back into the carriage and dragged her from the seat.
His tone was harsh. “Enough of this nonsense you are not a child and I will not put up with your hostility.” He pulled her down the steps and turned to wave Sam away. Behind him he heard a small wavering cry and swung around a second too late to prevent her collapsing at his feet.
“Amee! What is wrong?” He crouched beside her and lifted her veil and saw the nasty black bruise on her jaw. Her eyes were closed. He laid the back of his hand against her cheek. It was hot and dry as tinder. He picked her up and mounted the steps to the front door. Sam ran ahead to open the door for him. Anton noted the groom’s grim face. He was definitely at odds with his master. The thought was dismissed for he had Amee to see to.
Cranley came hurrying across the hall and asked, “Mr. Templeton! Has there been an accident?” He seemed rooted to the spot as his master pushed past him.
“Send someone for the doctor, Cranley. Immediately. My wife is ill.”
“Y-your wife, sir?”
“Yes, my wife, damn you, get a move on.” He quickly carried her up the stairs to the bedchamber next to his. All was in order and ready for her. He strode to the bed, laid her down then sat beside her. Her face was dreadfully pale and yet high spots of color touched her cheekbones.
“Amee, pet. You must wake up and tell me what is wrong.” His hand cupped her hot cheek again. He removed the pins from her bonnet and pulled it off then opened the top buttons of her blouse. Fear made his gut roil.
“Water.” Yes, he should bathe her face with cool water. He went to the bathroom, wet a towel and brought it back. At the cold feel of it, she murmured something he couldn’t make out and turned her head away.
He brushed the tumbled hair back from her brow. “Be still, Amee. A doctor will be here soon.”
“Sir, may I help?” He turned to find Mrs. Grant standing behind him.
“Her skin is burning and she has fainted.”
The housekeeper took the dripping cloth from his hand, folded it neatly and gently laid it on the girl’s forehead. “I was afraid of this. Her fever is much worse. It would be best to remove her clothing so we can bathe her with cool water.”
“A fever, why? I know her face is bruised surely that could not cause a fever.” His fingers pushed the lapels of her jacket aside and fumbled as he opened the rest of the buttons of her blouse. The housekeeper reached out to push his hand away.
“I will call a maid to help me, sir.”
His look brooked no debate. “This is my responsibility, Mrs. Grant. I will lift her if you will strip the garments off.”
Mrs. Grant was red-cheeked as she said, “Please take care. Her head injury is nasty. She should really not have left her bed today but seemed intent on fulfilling a promise. The poor lady worried about something dire that would happen if she could not go with you.”
“Her head injury?” Anton felt like an idiot as if he had to repeat everything to try and make sense of it. He shook his head. “I do not understand.”
“There.” Mrs. Grady dropped the clothing at her feet and unfastened the laces of the small corset and pulled it free. “My goodness. The lass is hardly big enough to wear such a garment.” She bit her lip as if her words were too revealing in front of a man.
It took only a few more minutes to strip Amee to her chemise. Then he untied the ribbon garters and rolled down her well-darned stockings and dropped them with the other clothing on the floor. There was a band of steel around his chest as he pulled the covers over her. He had not failed to note, as Mrs. Grant probably had not, the purple bruises on her upper arms and around her wrists. A monster! He was a bloody monster and should be shot and hanged and…