The Husband Hunt Chapter eighteen

It was the constant, unbearable pounding in his head that roused Robert. Groaning, he opened his eyes and blinked when he found himself peering into Lisa's blurry face, her hair a golden halo around her head. He didn't even think, just reached for her and began to drag her down, intent on kissing her silly in his relief that she was all right.

"Robert, if you don't unhand my wife I will be very annoyed. I may even forget you are suffering a head wound, and give you another."

"Richard?" he said uncertainly, freezing at the words even as he recognized the voice. Releasing who he realized must be Christiana, Robert glanced about and immediately spotted the man approaching the bed from the general direction of the window where Daniel now stood next to Suzette, grinning with amusement. Sighing, he glanced back to Christiana, able to see her more clearly as his vision improved.

"Sorry, Chrissy," he muttered with chagrin. "I thought you were  - "

"Lisa," she finished for him with an amused smile. "I sorted that out pretty quickly."

Grunting, he glanced around the room again, but Lisa didn't suddenly appear and rush forward to apologize for knocking him silly when all he'd been doing was rescuing her.

"I sent her to lie down," Christiana said quietly, guessing who he was looking for. "She had a stressful day. Besides, you know how she reacts to the sight of blood."

"Oh, yes," Robert said with a grimace. Lisa probably would have fainted and then would have been lying in bed next to him. Not such a bad outcome, he thought wryly. At least that way he wouldn't have to go look for her.

"Oh, Robert, just lie still and rest," Christiana admonished when he sat up with a wince and swung his legs off the bed. "You took a good hit. Rest and recover."

"I have to talk to her," he said quietly, relieved to find that sitting up didn't make his head hurt any worse. It even seemed to ease it somewhat and clear his thoughts and vision quite a bit. Strange. "But - " Christiana began, pausing when Richard caught her hand.

"Let him go. It's best if they sort this out," he said solemnly. Sighing, she nodded and made no further protests. She merely watched worriedly as he stood up.

Robert didn't know who was more relieved when he didn't sway on his feet, him or Christiana, but he offered the woman a reassuring smile. "I think I'm well enough. Other than the headache I feel okay. Lisa has one hell of swing though," he added wryly.

"That could come in handy what with the way she gets herself into trouble," Daniel said with amusement, leading Suzette closer to the bed.

Robert smiled at the words and headed for the door, moving a little slowly at first just to be sure he wasn't suddenly taken dizzy and made to fall flat on his face.

"Good luck with her," Daniel said and then teased, "Shout if she takes another swing at you . . . I wouldn't want to miss that."

"Ha ha," Robert muttered, but he was smiling. He knew Lisa hadn't deliberately hit him. He supposed he should have spoken up before touching her shoulder. It would have saved him a headache. Robert almost shook his head at his own thoughts, but caught himself before he did. The pain in his head was easing a little with every step, but he suspected shaking it about might bring the aching on again.

Robert crossed the hall to Lisa's door and then paused briefly, unsure what he was going to say. There was a lot to tell her, but he wanted to get it out right. This was important. After aligning his thoughts in his head, he took a deep breath and tapped lightly at the door. No one had said how long ago it was that Lisa had come to lie down. It hadn't even occurred to him that she might already be sleeping, but the silence that met his knock made him frown and consider that she was. Robert hesitated, shifting his feet briefly, and then turned reluctantly away. If she was sleeping, he supposed he'd have to wait until tomorrow. He'd rather not, but she would hardly be receptive to anything he had to say if she was grumpy from being woken up, he supposed. However, he'd only taken one step away from the door when a crash sounded in the room behind him.

Whirling, Robert didn't even hesitate, but opened the door and rushed in, then paused and stared in amazement at Bet, who lay on her side on the floor, apparently tied to a chair. That had been the crash, he realized as he rushed to help her. She'd toppled her chair with herself in it, probably to get whoever had knocked to come in. "Findlay," Bet gasped the moment Robert knelt and removed the gag from her mouth. She jerked her head toward the window, gasping, "He took her."

Robert glanced to the window as he straightened, but didn't even run to it to check and see how far Findlay had got with Lisa. He'd made that mistake the night she was attacked in here, trying to climb quickly down after her attacker, who'd had a head start. This time he would be smarter.

Turning on his heel, he charged out of the room, nearly knocking down Daniel who had stepped into the hall with Suzette.

"Help Bet," Robert shouted as he charged up the hall to the landing. He didn't wait to see if Daniel listened, but hurried downstairs and yanked open the front door. It had been the right choice. He hurried out the front door and rushed to the corner in time to see Findlay come around the back of the house with Lisa over his shoulder, her head hanging down his back and his arm across the backs of her thighs, just below her bottom. Both men froze at once, eyeing each other warily.

"Let her go, Findlay," Robert said grimly.

"Robert?" Lisa rose up on Findlay's shoulder, trying to peer behind her to where he stood, and Robert saw that a dislodged gag hung around her neck and her hands were bound behind her back.

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She was using only her stomach muscles to raise herself and twist but it wasn't enough and she sagged back down his back. Her voice was strong and nattering though when she said, "You shouldn't be out of bed. Go get Richard or Daniel and let them handle this."

Robert rolled his eyes at the order. The woman was bound and being carried off and thought he should run and get someone else to handle this? Madness, he thought with a shake of the head.

"I suggest you get out of my way, Langley," Charles said pleasantly, drawing his attention back to the man to see that he'd withdrawn a pistol from somewhere on his person and was holding it pointed at him. "Otherwise this could get messy."

Robert eyed the gun, his body tightening for action, but raised his hands and backed up several feet.

Findlay immediately started forward with his burden. "I really have to insist that you release my sister-in-law, Findlay. Or things will get messier than you planned."

Robert and Charles both glanced to the side to see that Richard had followed and now stood to the side, a gun of his own in hand and aimed at the man presently holding Lisa.

"You wouldn't shoot me, you might hit Lisa," Findlay said confidently.

"Shoot him! I don't care if you hit me. He's just going to torture me anyway." Lisa cried, and then added fretfully, "Just try not to hit me in the bottom, please Richard. The leg would be better for sitting and lying down while I recover."

Robert rolled his eyes, and then started forward. He was not allowing Findlay to get away with her, nor was he allowing Lisa to get shot.

"Back Langley," Charles said, his hand tightening on the pistol as he lost some of his aplomb for the first time during this encounter. "I will shoot."

"I wouldn't suggest you do, Findlay," Daniel growled from behind him as he came around the house.

Charles turned sideways to glance to him while trying to keep Richard and Robert in his view too. He hesitated for a moment and then cursed and suddenly charged toward Robert. Just when Robert thought the man was going to try to charge right over him, Findlay suddenly hefted Lisa off his shoulder and threw her at him like a sack of potatoes.

Robert instinctively lunged to catch Lisa, barely noticing that Findlay had dodged around him and was running for the road.

"Are you all right?" Robert asked, easing Lisa to her feet and peering at her worriedly. He waited long enough to see her nod, and then urged her toward an approaching Daniel and turned to charge after Findlay.

The man was almost to the road when Robert set out. Furious at the thought that the bastard would get away, he bellowed his name. It was enough to make Findlay look over his shoulder as he ran, a deadly mistake. He was just feet in front of his carriage, and stumbled as he glanced back. It made him stagger and then fall directly in front of his own horses. That might not have been much of a problem had he not been carrying his pistol. The weapon went off as he hit the ground and the stray bullet hit one of his horses. Both of the beasts whinnied in terror and reared, hooves pawing the air wildly before they came slamming down . . . on Findlay.

Robert winced and slowed to a stop as the terrified animals trampled the man and then charged forward, running him down despite the coachman's shouts and efforts to control them.

"Do you think the horse is all right?" Lisa asked, drawing his attention to the fact that she, Daniel and Richard had reached him. Robert gave a short laugh at the question. He supposed it said exactly what Lisa thought of Findlay that she was more concerned for the horse racing off down the street with the other horse and the carriage than she was with the man lying bleeding in the street. "I'll check Findlay," Richard said quietly, moving past Robert to head for the man's twisted body.

The comment seemed to draw Lisa's attention to Charles and she glanced to him now, apparently for the first time. At least that's what Robert decided when she suddenly paled at the sight of the blood quickly pooling around the man.

"Oh dear," she murmured and began to sway, and then her legs seemed to give out and she started to sink to the ground. Robert caught her before she fell, scooping her into his arms with a grunt.

"Take her in. We'll see to Findlay," Daniel said quietly. "Nothing to see to," Richard announced grimly, straightening from kneeling to examine the body. "He won't be bothering anyone anymore."

"Good," Robert muttered. "Where is Smithe?"

"We sent him home in the Radnor carriage when we got here," Daniel answered. "I'll send for him. He can handle matters here." Robert nodded and turned to carry Lisa into the house.

Christiana and Suzette were rushing down the stairs with Bet on their heels when he entered and he took a moment to reassure them that Lisa was fine, that she'd just fainted after seeing the blood from Findlay's body staining the street. He then assured them that Richard and Daniel were fine as well and were outside. Leaving the women to hurry outside to see for themselves, he then carried Lisa upstairs. Robert had intended to take her to her room, but aware that Bet was following and determined to get a few moments alone with Lisa when she woke up so that he could tell her about the epiphany he'd had and ask her to marry him, he turned into his room instead and kicked the door closed behind him. It was a silent but effective message. At least, Bet didn't knock at the door or otherwise try to interfere.

Glad she didn't, Robert carried Lisa to the bed and set her on it. He then peered down at her silently for a moment before turning to pace to the window and peer out while he waited for her to stir.
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