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Rating: PG-13

Mild sexual references, UST.

 

The sound of fists slamming against wood resounded in the whole house.

“Miss Elena, what are you doing?” Maggie yelled angrily, finding the lady sitting on the ground in front of the door reading a book as if nothing was wrong. “Did you lock him up?”

“Yep,” Elena nodded without looking up. “I’m teaching that bastard a lesson about messing with the Derevko sisters.”

“If you do not open the door at once I will teach you a lesson about not listening to your sister’s orders!” Maggie took the key out of her hand, her eyes not hiding how angry she was. She had always been like a mother for the three girls, but mostly for Elena, who had never known her birth mother. Since their father had died, Elena, who had only been fourteen years old, had been raised only by Maggie and her elder sisters. Despite her status as maid, Maggie had always been a person Elena knew to have respect for.

The maid opened the door and found herself opposite to Jack Bristow who was raging with fury. “Sir, I’m terribly sorry. That wasn’t supposed to happen!” she hurried to assure.

“No, it wasn’t…” Jack growled, holding his head. Elena got up, her expression not even showing a hint of fear or respect. When Jack saw her, the fury returned to his eyes and he took a step towards her. Panicked, Maggie stepped between him and Elena.

“Sir, she didn’t mean it! Lady Elena is just… she’s a little stubborn sometimes and acted against her sister’s orders. But she didn’t mean to insult you.” She said sharply with an angry glance at Elena from the side.

“Oh, that’s where you are wrong, Mag.” Elena stated friendly, her voice not hiding the sarcasm as she now turned her eyes back to Jack. “Hope that was enough for you to know, that we can bring you a lot of troubles, Bristow!” she said coldly. “So if you want some good advice, return to your precious queen and leave us alone!”

“Miss Elena, shut your cheeky mouth and get to your room!” Maggie’s voice was shrill with panic and Jack’s eyes narrowed when Elena didn’t move. Then he decided that the woman was not worth any effort. He could, of course, have her arrested, but that would just raise unwanted questions. For now he was more interested in her beautiful older sister. For a moment he wondered why he was so fixed on Irina – especially after what he had learned about her family. She seemed to be the more reasonable one of the two sisters. If he wanted to arrest somebody, he should probably rather arrest Elena. He forced that thought away.

“Where is Irina?”

“For you, she is Lady Derevko!” Elena replied and sat back down in her chair, her eyes turned back on the book.

“Shut up and just answer my question!” Jack replied, knowing that it was absolutely insulting to cut a lady off, but at the moment he didn’t care.

“She’s gone…” Elena simply replied. “And you should leave too. You are no longer accepted as guest of this house – actually, you’ve never been. Feel free to get some food from the kitchen personnel for your journey back.”

Words said, the young woman got up and passed him by, expecting him to follow her. Jack shook his head and looked at Maggie. The old woman held his eyes thoughtfully. She had, of course, noticed the tender gesture in which Irina had touched the man’s cheek and she had seen the gleam in his eyes when he was talking to her. Something inside her told her that he could be trusted, although she didn’t know where this feeling came from. She grabbed his hands.

“You seem to be a righteous man. Please, find Irina. I’m afraid she’s going to do something stupid, and she’s all alone out there now.”

“I’m pretty sure your lady can take care of herself. You know that I’m going to arrest her if I find her?”

“If you had wanted to do so, she would already be in prison.” Maggie replied with unsurpassed astuteness. “And besides, the men Irina is going to contact are more dangerous than you. I’m so afraid they are going to kill her if they learn that her cover has been blown. She trusts them to hide her, but I think they will let her down.”

Jack saw that the eyes of the woman started to fill with tears.

“Sometimes Miss Irina is stubborn, but she’s a very nice and charming woman, even if you won’t believe me now. She doesn’t deserve to be tortured and killed by these men. I don’t have time to explain everything to you. Just promise me that you will follow her and make sure that she will be alright. Please…”

Jack just stared at her, unable to believe what the old woman asked of him. “You’re asking me to go after your lady, protect her and bring her back safely? You’re going to betray her?”

“No, I’m trying to save her life! She and her sisters are so blinded by their ideals that they don’t see what the men they trust are able to do. You have to promise me that nothing is going to happen to her… then I will tell you where she went.” Maggie grabbed his hands. “Please.”

For a long time neither of them spoke a word, then Jack nodded. “Fine. I will follow her and make sure that she will be alright. I will return her here safely, but I can’t guarantee what happens afterwards. I don’t know how deep she’s involved with the revolutionists.”

Maggie swallowed hard and looked at the staircase when Elena yelled for them from downstairs. Then she made her decision. She had seen the look in Irina’s eyes when she had touched this man’s cheek and she knew that Jack had wanted to give Irina a chance to spare her from prison. He wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t like her. Finally deciding that it was worth a try, she started to speak.

“The leader of the group is a man called Gerard Cuvee. I don’t know him, he was just here once. He’s why I’m worried about Irina. She works for his section, usually she just does some spying and gets information since a woman doesn’t raise suspicion. But what worries me is the unlimited obedience he demands. He won’t accept failure and he doesn’t accept betrayal. Irina once told me that he shot a man in front of her eyes because he hadn’t gotten the information they needed.” When Jack wanted to ask something, Maggie hushed him with a gesture. “We don’t have time. The group consists of about twenty people, I think. Their headquarters are somewhere near the coast… oh, and before you ask, yes, they are also smugglers. Irina wants to go there, and then, in three days, meet her sister who is staying in London at the moment. Now, I’ve told you everything I know… hopefully it’s enough for you to save her life. And maybe it will be enough to keep Irina out of this…”

“I can’t promise you that Irina will be kept out of everything.” Jack replied truthfully, then pressed Maggie’s hands. “But I do promise that I will give my best to prevent her from being officially involved.”

“Thank you…” Maggie smiled. “Go to Hampshire… it’s a small village near the coast.”

“I will, thank you…”

Jack hurried to leave the house, followed by the dark glances of lady Elena. He wondered what he was doing here. Lady Irina Derevko was a terrorist. He had offered her a deal to save herself, she had refused – instead she had admitted that she will do everything to kill the queen. He should be glad if her own terrorist friends killed her.

Yet, there was something inside him that didn’t want her dead. The same feeling that had caused him to warn her two nights ago that she was going into a trap. He just wasn’t able to resist her charm and beauty. She was unlike any other woman he had ever known, courageous and elegant and very honest in what she said. She didn’t lie just to prevent herself from trouble or please somebody. Something about her made him want to get to know her better – even more, to kiss her like he had done that night.

Did she still remember his kiss?

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If he thought the whole thing over, it had already been a mistake to come here on his own. He had not told his soldiers the name of the woman they were to search for. Instead, he had pretended to not know anything about her. From a logical point he had to admit that the way he had acted was the one of a fool.

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