Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

Page 83

"He never came home," she said in a bleak voice. "Morton and Bellamy were looking out for him especially."
She did not want to voice the thought that Mac could be dead. The world would cease to turn if that happened. As fear welled up in her, Isabella knew that she loved Mac with all her heart, and she did not care whether he wanted to live with her forever, or run back to Paris to paint, or stay out all night with his friends, or spend all day in bed with her. She simply wanted Mac home, whole and safe and sound.
"We are looking," Fellows said.
Isabella clenched her hands. "Look harder. I don't care if every man in Scotland Yard must be out on the streets searching for him. I want him found. I need him found."
"I'll find him," Cameron said. "I'll make damn sure."
"I'm coming with you," Isabella said. As the two men exchanged a glance, she swung from them in irritation and called to Evans to fetch her coat.
Cameron stepped in front of her. "Isabella."
"Don't 'Isabella' me, Cameron Mackenzie. I am coming with you."
Cameron's scarred cheek twitched, and his eyes, more golden than Mac's, regarded her steadily. "Yes," he said. "I suppose you are."
Mac's first thought upon waking was surprise to be alive. His second was terrible need to see Isabella.
He peeled open his eyes, wincing when bright gaslight stabbed through them. He lay on a floor, and though he felt the prickle of a thick woolen carpet, the flat surface was hard. His side hurt like hell. He made the mistake of moving and groaned out loud when pain raked through him.
Mac let his head drop back, trying to calm his breathing. He needed to think, to figure out where he was, to decide how to get away.
The smell here was stuffy and wrong, like a house too long shut up. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw that the colors of the room were garish, the walls done in bright pinks and reds and covered with gold-framed paintings his eyes were too blurred to make out. Money had gone into making this room, but his artist's soul cringed at the gaudiness. Cost without taste. A bloody crime.
His vision began to clear, and Mac saw the pictures.
They were Mac's. At least some of them were-originals he'd done years and years ago. Many were paintings done in Mac's style, but he knew he hadn't painted them. There were pictures of Kilmorgan, of the house in Buckinghamshire, various views of Paris and Florence, Rome and Venice, of Cam's horses, of the Mackenzie dogs.
Two whole walls held nothing but Isabella.
Cold seared Mac's stomach. Every painting portrayed Isabella nude. Isabella sitting on a straight-backed chair with her legs spread, Isabella reclining on a sofa, Isabella stepping out of a bath, lying on a rug, standing outside naked with one hand on the branch of a tree .
She'd never posed for these, Mac knew she hadn't. Mac knew she wouldn't. Likely Payne had drawn a model, probably Mirabelle, Aimee's mother, then had painted in Isabella's head, the opposite of what Isabella had asked Mac to do with the erotic pictures.
Mac wanted to be sick, and at the same time his rage rose so swiftly that his entire body pulsed with it.
"You're a dead man." Mac drew in as much air as he could and shouted it. "Do you hear me? You're a dead man!"
The door swung open. Mac couldn't screw his head around to see who'd entered, but he heard a man's tread move toward him. Booted feet stopped at Mac's side, and Mac stared up at Payne.
Now that he had light, Mac saw that the man did resemble him, at least superficially. Payne's eyes were brown and set deeply into his face; his hair had been brushed the way Mac wore his, but it fought a widow's peak. His cheeks were more hollow, and Mac suspected that what Fellows had suggested was true: that he filled them out with cotton wool when he needed to. He hadn't at the moment, and the hollow cheeks gave his mouth a drawn look.
He wore a full dress kilt of Mackenzie plaid, formal coat, and polished boots. Seen at a distance or in the dark, or by someone who did not know Mac well, Payne could easily pass for him.
"You have it wrong," Payne said coldly. "It is I who will kill you."
Mac laughed. It came out feeble and hoarse. "Then why haven't you already?"
"Because I need her to come to me."
Mac's blood chilled as he understood what Payne had done. He hadn't planned to shoot Mac in the hansom at all-he'd wanted Mac to chase him through the back streets of London to this place. Leading Mac as a fox led the hounds. Except the fox was in his hole now, ready to annihilate the hound foolish enough to follow him down it.
"She'll never come here," Mac said. His head spun with dizziness; it took so much damn effort to speak.
Payne went down on one knee next to him. "She will come here to watch you die. I alerted a constable that I'd found Payne, and he ran off with the news. She will be safe with me, where she belongs, with her husband who will take care of her."
"Like hell she will."
"Isabella has been trying to get away from you for some time. I thought she'd managed it when she left you three years ago, but no, you kept turning up. Following her about, insinuating yourself on her when she made it clear she didn't want you. You should die for that."
Fear bit him when he realized Payne had been watching her for that long. And none of them had known. He hadn't known. He hadn't watched out for her well enough. "Isabella is the only thing I care about," Mac croaked. "Hell, why am I arguing with you? You're a madman."

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Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.