“My lord, we have trouble,” he managed to say before the carriage reached a dangerous speed and he had to return to his perch.
“Christopher.” The panic-filled word forced him to look at his wife, and a deep pain clenched his heart.
Everything he loved and everything worth living for were with him inside the carriage. He smoothed his hand over his wife’s cheek and kissed her brow. She did not need words to know what his eyes freely spoke, but he said them anyway.
“I love you, Clara.”
“Do not even think what you’re thinking, Christopher.”
They both glanced over at their daughter, who had not been disturbed. Braden held the young girl carefully in his protective embrace. He was young, but he refused to allow any harm to come to her.
Christopher nodded to Braden and saw immediate understanding in the young man’s eyes. The earl lifted the window flap aside and stuck his head out to speak with the driver. The carriage had reached maximum speed, and he found it difficult to speak with the wind blowing ferociously in his face. Finally, he gained the driver’s attention, who motioned behind them.
He turned his upper body to look behind the carriage and saw what he feared the most—riders. There appeared to be half a dozen, but this area was not usually frequented by highwaymen—they tended to stay closer to the shipping ports and the more traveled roads to ensure a bigger purse.
Christopher pulled himself back into the carriage, grabbed a gun from a small box behind his seat, and then took one more look at his wife and silently prayed.
The chase continued for another half a mile, but the riders, not burdened with luggage and passengers, slowly closed the distance between them. Braden continued to shelter Alaina from the jostling caused by the bumps in the road, but he felt her begin to stir.
A shot pierced the night sky and echoed through the valley. Alaina awoke, not mindful of the warm arms around her or the sudden lurching halt of the carriage. She noticed only her father holding her mother with one hand and a gun with the other.
The horses lurched forward, but as they attempted to once again move forward, a third shot rang out and the geldings reared back while the driver did his best to keep the team under control. The horses fought the reins, but too many piercing shots had frightened them, and the animals backed up perilously close to a slope in the hill. Shouts were heard as the passengers sat in silence, too fearful to even breathe loudly.
Their driver shouted at the men and again at the horses. Another man laughed a sickening laugh that brought a prickling of fear to Christopher. The carriage wheels teetered precariously on the decline, and the horses lacked the strength to pull the heavy conveyance back once it started to tip. The carriage toppled over and the woman screamed. The horses whinnied, and the driver yelled again as he jumped off his perch. Down they went, rolling over and over, the sound of cracking wood echoing inside.
The doors flew open and broke off. Christopher tried to shove Alaina through the portal as they continued to roll, but he was unable to reach her. Then he saw Braden try his best to hold onto the seat and reach for Alaina. With more strength than a young man of his age should have possessed, Braden grabbed his best friend and guided her to the opening, where there were only splinters from the broken door. Christopher watched as Braden pushed her from the carriage. He slipped and lost his hold in the same moment they hit the clearing and the carriage stopped, landing on the once open door.
Christopher braced himself to take his wife’s fall, and they lay there, suspended in time.
Scarce moments passed before they managed to relax their bodies enough to breathe properly, and with the carriage lying on its side, they had little room to maneuver. Christopher checked his wife, and though she looked bruised and shaken up, she appeared to be without serious injury. Hurriedly he reached over to Braden to check him for injuries, but the young man lay still. Christopher steadied his fingers above the young man’s mouth, but no breath touched his skin.
Christopher slowly levered himself up and gently lifted the younger man’s head on his lap as best he could, and he felt for a pulse. It was still—the fall had broken his neck. Christopher leaned over the boy as something wet dropped on Braden’s face. Christopher reached up to wipe away another tear before it fell. He held the young man, who in the last moments of life had given his own for a friend. Clara wrapped her arms around him and Christopher heard her gentle sobs. They knelt over the friend their daughter loved more than life and prayed for him and for their daughter’s safety.
The carriage rattled, and they heard mumbled voices outside. The only way out was above them, through the other broken door. A man’s head appeared, but the light of the moon shone behind him, and they could not discern his features.
“Ye get yerselves ou’ of that there carriage right now, or I’ll get you ou’ meself.” There was no mistaking the threat in the guttural slur, and they had no choice but to comply.
Christopher laid Braden’s head back down and turned to embrace his wife. He kissed her with all of the love they had shared over the years, and it took more willpower than he knew himself to possess to pull away from her.
“Remember always, Clara.”
End of Excerpt
A British Agent Novel
How far would you go to avenge your family and save the one you love?
Claiborne Manor, England - 1889
In nineteenth-century England, Alaina Claiborne had a loving family, a cherished friend, and idyllic life. Then tragedy strikes and her world is forever changed. Searching for those responsible is her only focus . . . until she meets Tristan. Tristan Sheffield, a man of many talents, seeks out those who don't want to be found. His past is filled with secrets and deeds he would rather leave deeply buried. However, when his life unexpectedly entwines with Alaina's, he soon discovers they share more than a mutual desire to catch a murderer. On their hunt for a man driven by greed, Tristan and Alaina find that love is the greatest weapon against evil, and they'll stop at nothing to survive. Be swept away by the stirring romance and unforgettable adventure of Alaina Claiborne. If you love romance, adventure, and mystery, then you'll fall in love with the British Agents in Victorian England.
Don't miss the other British Agent novels . . .