He laid Brianna on the plush carpet and knelt beside her. He brushed her bangs out of her eye, sweeping aside the feather headdress.
And who was the poisoner?
He might have spied something if he hadn’t dallied over his evening dress, and what had his delay accomplished? Not a bluidy thing. His hair still stuck up a little in front. As for the noose around his neck, he could feel the ends brushing his jaw.
“Damn it, Brianna, wake up!”
“Señor Stuart?” Esmé pried apart the Van Sargents. Worry pinched her features, increased the pitch of her voice. Two men in ship’s uniform squeezed through behind her, parting the assembled crowd. An elderly man in a somber suit appeared and set a black bag on the table.
Ignoring the newcomers,
leaned close to Esmé’s ear. “Has Brianna eaten anything tonight?” Duncan
Shock flashed in her brown eyes. Her gaze flicked to the corpse before meeting his.
“No, señor. The dinner, it has not been served.”
He nodded. Relief flooded him.
“I believe she has fainted.”
“There are smelling salts in our room.”
“Are you a doctor, sir?” Curry and garlic permeated the air as the elderly man who’d arrived with the ship’s crew creaked to a stop beside
. He leaned over Brianna with his ear near her mouth. “Peppermint,” he whispered, straightened then peeled the glove off her left hand. His index finger settled comfortably against the inside of her wrist. “An admirable heartbeat.” Duncan
“I’m nae a doctor.”
“Hmm, yet your prognosis is undoubtedly correct.” The man peered at
over the gold rims of his spectacles. “The ladies do like to lace tightly, don’t they?” His Adam’s apple bobbed in the wattles of his throat. “Smelling salts should set Miss to rights. You’ve sent the companion to fetch them, hmm? ” Duncan
“That won’t be necessary.” Sir Reginald stepped forward. “Mrs. Van Sargent, the salts, if you please.”
She winced, turned her head and coughed. Her eyes flickered open.
. Wh-what happened?” Duncan
“You are very much mistaken.” She shoved herself into a sitting position, tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear and straightened her bodice. “A Grey does not faint.”
“It’s alright, dear.” Mrs. Van Sargent tucked the bottle back in her purse. “I daresay, if Mr. Stuart hadn’t caught you you would have crashed right into the table.”
Movement caught his eye. At the doctor’s nod, the burly crewmen lifted the body.
shifted his weight to block Brianna’s view. Her lips parted; her eyes grew round. He had acted too late. She had seen the corpse. Duncan
“That man.” She pointed to the blanket-draped body with her bare hand. “He...”
“He’s dead, dear.”
“Choked to death,” Van Sargent added with relish.
“Such a terrible tragedy,” said Miss Phillips, dabbing her dry eyes.
“Sir Reginald doesn’t think it will prolong our stay aboard the <i>Osiris.”
“But he—“ Brianna’s nails dug into
’s arm. Duncan
”Choked to death.” He kept his voice firm, his tone final. Brianna had been around death most of her life, was intimately acquainted with most of its faces. He wouldn’t allow her knowledge to get her killed.