Home > Captive (Eve Duncan #29)

Captive (Eve Duncan #29)
Author: Iris Johansen

 

Chapter

1

MacDuff’s Run

Scotland

 

Where is she?” MacDuff asked impatiently. “I told you that she wasn’t to leave the castle without an escort, Fergus. Yet this is the third time this month that Jane MacGuire has slipped away from you.”

“It was the fog,” Fergus said quickly. “It was heavy this morning and the guards didn’t see her go out the gates. She didn’t stop to eat breakfast. She probably just took her sketchbook and went up to the hills to do some sketching.”

“And no maids or guards saw fit to question why it’s almost noon and no one has seen her yet?” MacDuff asked caustically. “I made a promise, and I don’t like the thought of breaking it. Do you understand?”

“Of course, my lord,” Fergus said. “I take full responsibility. Everyone was on alert, and I should have double-checked that Ms. MacGuire realized we didn’t want to interfere with her personal freedom.” He gestured to the courtyard that was still almost totally lost in fog. “Only watch for possible accidents.” He added gravely, “I didn’t believe I had the right to speak to her in those terms. Perhaps it would be better if you explained that to her?”

“Or perhaps I should place a call to Seth Caleb and let you explain to him why you didn’t take better care of her?” His voice was low and silky. “Yes, that might be a better way to handle it.”

“No, it wouldn’t.” They still couldn’t see Jane, but MacDuff could recognize her voice somewhere on the other side of the fountain. “Stop trying to intimidate him, MacDuff. We both know it’s my fault.” She was crossing the courtyard toward the steps. She was wearing a brown leather jacket over taupe suede pants and carrying a sketch portfolio over her shoulder. She smiled at Fergus as she climbed the steps toward them. “Sorry, Fergus. I thought I’d be back an hour before this. I got…involved. When I woke and saw the fog, I knew I wasn’t going to want company.”

“That’s quite all right,” Fergus smiled back at her. “But I’d appreciate seeing what involved you if I was going to suffer for it. Will you show it to me?”

She nodded. “Tomorrow. But you weren’t going to suffer. MacDuff was bluffing.”

“Don’t be too sure,” MacDuff said dryly. “I wasn’t going to be the one to take the brunt of Caleb’s irritation when he found out you’d disappeared for half the day.” He gestured for Fergus to leave. “But she’s right, it’s her fault, so we’ll let her handle Caleb.” He turned back to Jane. “Since you’re the only one who appears to be able to do it. You didn’t have breakfast? Would you care for tea and biscuits?”

She nodded. “I’m starved.” She followed him into the library. “And I really am sorry I caused a ruckus. I’ve just been surrounded by people ever since I got here, and I needed some alone time.”

“I might be persuaded to forgive you,” MacDuff said as he gestured to a seat on the couch. “As long as I get a glimpse of that sketch before you show it to Fergus. I refuse to be in second place. It must have been a masterstroke of inspiration that sent you out into the fog.” He buzzed for the housekeeper. “Was it worth it?”

“It was for me.” She leaned back on the cushions. “But I don’t know if it will be worthwhile to anyone else. We all have our own values.”

“Well, there’s evidently an entire art world that embraces your values,” MacDuff said. “I had to take out a loan to pay for that landscape I bought at your last gallery exhibit.”

“Bullshit.” Jane grinned. “Poor MacDuff. Remember, I was the one who went with you to the Royal Bank of Scotland when you deposited that family treasure. I believe you can afford to buy a few of my humble offerings.”

“Perhaps.” He watched her take the cup of tea the housekeeper served her. “But keeping it to a few is the problem. Every time you come for a visit you paint several ‘offerings’ that I want to buy.” He made a face. “And sometimes you won’t let me buy them. Not fair, Jane.”

“Very fair,” Jane said. “I’ve always loved MacDuff’s Run. I have a right to keep the ones that I have a particular fondness for.”

“And MacDuff’s Run has always loved you,” MacDuff said. “Did I tell you that Caleb tried to buy the portrait of Fiona again before he flew out after dropping you here? He never gives up.”

“Why should that surprise you? It’s always been difficult for Caleb to keep from taking whatever he wants. It’s just been a matter of selection.” Jane took a sip of her tea. “He’s Seth Caleb and even MI6 comes knocking on his door when he lets them know he’s available.”

“Do I detect a little bitterness?” MacDuff’s gaze narrowed on her face. “Was there some reason he brought you here rather than taking you to his house near Sky Island?”

“No bitterness. He felt safer about leaving me here with you.” She smiled crookedly. “Because he knew he’d have someone to blame if anything happened to me. As evidenced by your totally unreasonable response to poor Fergus today.”

MacDuff frowned. “Fergus should have known where you were. I gave him his orders when you walked through that door this time.”

“As dictated by you and Caleb.” She nibbled on a bun. “I told you, I didn’t want to have company today. I’ve put up with having your very efficient employees trailing me around since I got here. I’ll try to keep doing it until it’s time for me to leave. But don’t push it, MacDuff. I always enjoy being here with you, but I won’t feel like a prisoner.”

“Tell that to Caleb,” MacDuff said bluntly. “You know that he has enemies galore who would like nothing better than to bring you down. Caleb has a target on his back whenever he’s given an assignment. He’s a unique weapon, and if they can’t get to him, you’ll do fine. It’s happened before, it could happen again.”

“I can take care of myself. What with Joe, Eve, and Caleb, I’m very well trained. You know that, MacDuff.”

“Then why did he send you to me?”

“Could it be because you’re an earl, you’re a war hero, and you have Parliament at your beck and call? Those are pretty impressive credentials.” She grinned. “And I let him send me because I was feeling guilty. I’d asked him not to accept any assignments while Eve and Joe were going to be tied up with keeping their son, Michael, safe. They trust Caleb and their lives had become awkward, even dangerous, and they were really grateful to have him there as a safeguard.” She lifted her shoulders in a half shrug. “But now that they’re heading back to their lake cottage in Atlanta, there’s no reason for Caleb to refuse any more assignments. So, I told him I needed to work and to go away and not bother me.”

“And he immediately obeyed you?” He shook his head. “I don’t think so. The last time I saw you together he couldn’t let you out of his sight.” He was studying her face. “And you were thinking about marriage. What happened?”

“Life got in the way,” she said. “We had to delay quite a few things. But so did the entire world. We’ll get around to it.”

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