Henry Lucas regarded Letitia across the dining table, and she could not help shuddering under his cold gaze, but she managed to lift her chin and smile back at him, fighting to keep her revulsion in check. His eyes flicked over her, settling on her heaving bosom and he returned her smile, raising his napkin to prissily wipe the corner of his mouth. How had she ever found him attractive? Her skinned crawled to look at him now.
"Are you well, my darling?" he said in his smooth cultivated slur. "You look ... troubled."
"I am fine," she replied, avoiding his penetrating stare.
"Where did you get to this afternoon?" he asked coolly. "Your disappearance from the Governor's tea party was noted. It was most impolite of you to leave so abruptly."
"I needed some air," she said.
His eyes stayed fixed on her and he eventually said, "I will require your company tomorrow. It is the day of the trial and you must attend the court with me. Your absence will cause tongues to wag even further. I will not endure that kind of talk. My fiancée must be seen to be dutiful."
She just stared at her plate, not trusting herself to speak.
"And I am sure you are eager to see that common criminal hanged for his crimes against you."
She glanced up at him to find his eyes full of a chilling excitement.
"But he must be found guilty first," she stammered.
"Oh you must not worry yourself about that. The trial will be nothing but a brief formality." He abruptly stood, pushing his chair back from the table. " I have business to attend to tonight. I will call for you in the morning."
As he opened the door, she caught a glimpse of one of his burly henchmen standing in the corridor, and he spoke briefly to him as he left. The man gave her a meaningful stare as he closed the door on her. She had a feeling that Henry was ensuring she stayed just where she was until she accompanied him to the trial in the morning. She scanned the empty room desolately and prayed that Grace and Hanson would somehow come to her aid.
Grace nervously waited for the knock on the door that she knew was coming. She could feel the cold steel of the dagger she had tucked beneath the waistband of her breeches and it gave her a small comfort as her stomach heaved with the horror that she was about to face. "Come alone," she had said in the note and she hoped that his vanity would mean he would do just that, presuming she harboured desire for him rather than the intense hatred she actually felt. He was a man who expected women to fall at his feet, regardless of how he treated them and she had played on this delusion. She had left her breasts unbound and her bare skin pricked with fear beneath her thin shirt as she waited. It was almost nine and he was still not here. She did not think she could stand to wait any longer.
Then the knock on the door came and she bid him enter in a voice that hardly sounded like her own.
He walked into the room dressed more soberly than usual, his dark hair tied back, his handsome face fixed in its usual haughty expression. His eyes darkened as he saw Grace sitting on the bed waiting for him, her shirt open to reveal the swell of her unbound breasts.
"Grace Ferris," he said almost licking his thin lips. "I have waited a long time to have you again."
She kept her expression blank as she leaned back slightly and regarded him with what she hoped looked like desire, despite the anger that was boiling in her. How could he possibly think that she had forgotten the circumstances of their last encounter? How could he think that she had found his rough assault pleasurable in any way? That she would want to repeat the experience? He was far more dangerous than she had ever thought. And to think that she had resisted Hanson and lied to him for so long, telling him she was a virgin. She wanted to pull the knife out and sink it into his evil heart, but she just curled her fingers into tight fists and smiled at him silkily.
"Come to me then," she said. "Show me what it's like to have a real man again," and she almost winced at the words as he advanced towards her, desperately controlling the instinctive reaction to back away from him.
Her eyes were fixed on the door as Henry Lucas's hands touched her shoulders and she stopped herself from flinching. "Now Joshua! Now!" she pleaded silently, but with a growl, he roughly pushed her down onto the bed and rammed his knee between her legs and then at last the door burst open and before he could react, the man looming above her felt the cold, hard muzzle of a blunderbuss pressed into the back of his skull.
"Get your vile hands off my wife," Hanson snarled.