The Seduction Of Elliot McBride

Page 81

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Elliot swiftly lifted away from him. Nausea hit him right after that, bile shoving its way into his throat.

Juliana went to him, reaching for him. She closed her arms around Elliot, and he shuddered. He wanted to scoop her to him, to hold her, but he was going to be sick.

“No,” he said hoarsely.

He broke her grasp and pushed her away. Mahindar, coughing, stood up, helped by Channan, who hovered worriedly.

“I am all right, sahib,” Mahindar said, barely able to speak the words. “I will be fine.”

He wouldn’t be. There were bruises on Mahindar’s throat, and he coughed pathetically.

Damn it. Elliot swung away from them all and strode from the room, Hamish scuttling out of his way.

Dear God, he had them terrified, and no wonder. He could have killed Mahindar if they hadn’t been able to break Elliot out of his stupor.

What would have happened if it had been Juliana’s slender throat under his hands? Or Priti’s? What kind of monster had he become?

He heard Juliana calling after him. Elliot didn’t pause but walked on out into the night, into cool twilight and misty rain that had begun to fall.

Juliana started after Elliot. Mahindar, helped by Channan, collapsed heavily onto the chair Elliot had vacated.

“No, memsahib,” Mahindar said. “I told you. When he is like this, it is best to let him go.”

The evening was darker than usual, clouds having gathered, a new rain falling. Juliana saw Elliot outside the open dining room window, his tall form disappearing into the mist.

He walked swiftly, his head bowed. The red setter, Rosie, loped out of the garden and went after him, but Elliot didn’t turn to acknowledge the dog. He pressed on, swallowed by darkness.

“No,” Juliana said. “I won’t let him go. No, don’t stop me, Mahindar. I can’t let him be alone.”

Mahindar’s protests faded as Juliana rushed out the door. She noticed that Channan had not tried to stop her, the look in her wise eyes telling Juliana that she agreed.

Juliana ran out into the rain. She realized halfway down the path that she hadn’t stopped for a wrap or boots, and that she sloshed through mud and wet in her tea gown and slippers.

What did it matter? Juliana gathered up her water-stained satin skirts and ran on.

Rain beaded on her bare head and shoulders, not strong enough to be proper rain, but steady enough to get her sopping wet.

Elliot walked fast. Juliana ran to keep up, panting, her corset stealing her breath.

He was heading not up into the hills as Juliana had expected, but along the narrow, rather precarious road to the river. That way lay the wooden bridge across which Hamish had driven them the first night from the train.

At least, Juliana thought that was where Elliot was going. She soon lost him in the lowering fog, the path and trees swallowed by the thickening mist. Even Elliot’s pale hair and swirling plaid disappeared from sight.

A flash of red came to her, the setter, who rushed back at Juliana, tail waving. Rosie ran in a circle around Juliana then dashed on ahead again.

Juliana’s heart thumped. She could see well enough to keep her feet on the road, but the fog was descending rapidly. Soon, she’d be groping her way through the black, and the edge of this road plunged off into darkness.

The hollow thump of Rosie’s feet on the wooden bridge gave Juliana a burst of vigor. The bridge rode high over the water, the river rushing and roaring below.

Juliana saw the form of Elliot in the mist, facing the rail, his kilt a smudge in the darkness. She hiked her skirts high out of the wet and ran the last few feet.

Chapter 29

“Elliot!”

Elliot didn’t appear to hear her. He kept his face turned to the river, hand gripping the rail, as Juliana dashed to him, the boards hard under her thin slippers.

Her dress would be a ruin, Channan would shake her head at it, but Juliana didn’t care. She’d shred the thing—she never wanted to wear this gown again. She wanted no reminder of the moment in the dining room when she’d seen her charming husband overcome with terror so great he’d slipped away from her. Right in front of her, he’d been taken away.

“Elliot,” she panted.

He looked up. His face was so bleak, that Juliana’s heart broke.

She feared he’d walk away from her again, but he hung on to the bridge’s rail while he shook his head. “Juliana, I can’t do this.”

His voice was broken, rasping with despair. Juliana took the last steps to him and closed her hand around his tight wrist.

“You can. I’ll help you.”

“You saw what I did. I’ve done it before. I’m hurting people—innocent people. And I can’t stop it.”

“But you do stop it.” Juliana caressed his wrist. “You do. You stop in time. Have you ever truly hurt anyone in your fits?”

Elliot looked away from her, his winter eyes closing briefly. “No, but it has been damn close. Look what I did to Mahindar tonight.”

“But you always stop yourself, Elliot. Something inside you tells you that you must.”

“I stop because someone like Mahindar makes me. Or you do.”

Juliana shook her head. “That’s nonsense. We couldn’t possibly hold you back if you didn’t want us to. You’re far too strong, stronger than any of us. Stopping the attacks is your choice.”

When he looked at her again, his eyes were hot with rage. “What if I can’t come to my senses in time? Dear God, what if I try to harm Priti? I adore her. She’s…she’s the spark that pulled me out of the blackness. She’s why I finally got out of bed after my escape. I needed to take care of her. I need to take care of you.” Elliot released his hold on the railing and caressed her throat with the backs of his fingers. “And what if I try to hurt you?”

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