The Wild Adventure of Jasper Renn Page 12

The audience went wild. Cat jumped to her feet and clapped for her sister. She hooted and cheered, as well. Sparrow stood on the platform and beamed as though she was made of pure light. Once, maybe twice in his life had Jasper ever seen joy like that.

“She’s amazing,” Cat enthused. “Did you see her, Jas? Wasn’t she amazing?”

He put his arm around her waist and gave her a little squeeze. “She sure was. Must run in the family.”

She rolled her eyes at him, but didn’t argue. He grinned.

They sat again for the final act, which consisted of a young girl dancing with fire. It was a wonder she didn’t go up like a roman candle.

Afterward, they made their way backstage along with a large group from the audience. The area was packed.

“How are we going to get in?” Cat asked.

“Easy,” he replied, and stopped an older woman he recognized as someone in charge.

“Oi,” she said sharply. “What do you want, cowboy?”

So she knew who he was. Interesting. He gestured at Cat. “We’d like to see Sparrow.”

The woman wasn’t stupid. She recognized Cat as soon as she looked. “I’ll be jiggered. You’d be Cat! We’ve ’eard so much about you, darlin’! So very much. Right proud is our girl of her sister. You two follow me.”

Jasper grinned triumphantly and leaned down to whisper in Cat’s ear as they followed the woman. “I think she was flirting with me.”

He got an elbow in the ribs for his teasing.

The woman led them to a room at the end of a wide hall. There were a bunch of younger girls gathered out front.

“What are you lot doin’ out ’ere?” the woman demanded.

One of the girls, who he recognized as a performer from earlier in the show, looked nervous. In fact, they all did. They traded helpless glances with one another.

“We were told not to say anything,” one piped up. Jasper noticed that she and the girl beside her were actually twins, and that they were joined together at the hip—literally. They were the Siamese twins who had performed earlier, as well. “But I don’t care. Sparrow’s in there.”

Beside him Cat stiffened.

“With ’oo?” the woman demanded.

The girls traded more looks. And the same one confessed again, “Lord Blackhurst. He told us to wait out here and he’d give us all twenty pounds. He said he just wanted to talk to her.”

Oh, no.

Cat turned to him. “Jas?” She wasn’t stupid. She knew what was going on. Blackhurst. Damnation. That man was bad news.

Jasper tried the knob. The door was locked. “Do you have a key?” he asked.

The woman nodded. “In my office. I’ll go get it.”

That wasn’t time they had to waste. He knocked on the door. A man’s voice said, “Go away!”

Cat leaned in. “Sparrow?”

“Cat!” came the answering cry—and it was a cry.

Jasper didn’t think, he simply acted. He drew back his foot and kicked it into the door as fast as he could.

The door exploded inward as pain drove up his leg. Cat immediately ran in. Wincing, Jasper looked in as the girls gathered in front of him.

Sparrow stood by a desk, her costume torn, watching her sister stalk her would-be attacker with eyes that were wide and dark in her pale cheeks.

Lord Blackhurst was said to be handsome, but then so was Satan. He smirked at Cat, as though amused by her. He wouldn’t be amused when she laid open his face.

“Sisters,” Blackhurst said rather mockingly. “Had I known there were two of you I would have waited.”

Cat hissed at him. The man arched a brow. Then he looked down and saw her claws—which had extended from her fingers.

“Cat!” Sparrow cried again.

Cat turned her head to look at her sister. Jasper saw the earl draw back his fist.... He leaped into action. He didn’t care who saw him move. He thought only of Cat. Blackhurst wouldn’t hesitate to hit her, or any other woman. And he’d hit her hard. She was a scrapper, his girl, but Blackhurst also had a walking stick with him, which Jasper recognized as the kind that concealed a sword. He wouldn’t think twice about injuring her, or perhaps killing her. And he wouldn’t go to jail, because he was a peer of the realm and he’d say she attacked him.

Everything around him slowed as he moved—as though everyone became a statue. One second he was at the door and before the next one was up, he had inserted himself between Cat and Blackhurst, grabbed the man’s wrist with one hand and pulled his pistol with the other. He shoved the muzzle of the weapon under Blackhurst’s jaw.

The man blinked in confusion as time caught up with Jasper.

“Don’t.” Jasper shoved a little harder on the pistol. “Move and I’ll blow your damn head off.”

“You’d hang,” the earl sneered.

Jasper tilted his head. “You’d still be dead.”

A strong, slender hand curved around his forearm. “Jas, don’t.”

He didn’t look at her. “He’d deserve it, Cat.”

“He surely would, but you wouldn’t deserve to hang for doing the world a favor.”

“Is Sparrow all right?”

“She is.”

And he knew that it had to be truth, because if it wasn’t she would have already torn the bastard to shreds. Still, he held the pistol where it was for a few seconds longer. Sweat trickled down the older man’s brow and fear shone in his dark eyes. That was going to be all the satisfaction Jasper would get from the altercation. He wasn’t going to let him go because it was the right thing, or even because he might hang for it. He was going to let the man go because Cat asked it of him.

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