Title: A Touch of Emerald: The Conclusion to the Realm Series
Author: Regina Jeffers
Genre: Regency Romance; Historical Fiction; Romantic Suspense; Series
Four crazy Balochs. A Gypsy band. An Indian maiden. A cave with a maze of passages. A hero, not yet tested. And a missing emerald. For nearly two decades, the Realm has thwarted the efforts of all Shaheed Mir has sent their way, but now the Baloch warlord is in England, and the tribal leader means to reclaim the fist-sized emerald he believes one of the Realm stole during their rescue of a girl upon whom Mir had turned his men. Mir means to take his revenge on the Realm and the Indian girl’s child, Lady Sonalí Fowler. Daniel Kerrington, Viscount Worthing, has loved Lady Sonalí since they were but children. Yet, when his father, the Earl of Linworth, objects to Sonalí’s bloodlines, Worthing thinks never to claim her. However, when danger arrives in the form of the Realm’s old enemy, Kerrington ignores all caution for the woman he loves.
“Permit me to examine the cut for glass.” It bothered Daniel she had yet to speak to him. “I am grieved,” he said as he dabbed at the cut to wipe away the blood, “that my heroics brought this upon you.” He could not look upon her. Sonalí’s tears would rip the soul from his body.
His hands trembled as his finger gingerly traced the cut searching for shards of glass. “We must clean the wound and stanch the flow of blood.” Daniel looked about the room for water. Finding an ewer, he filled a large tumbler with water and turned to look upon her. Sonalí kept her eyes averted from the wound, but they met his in open assessment.
“Please say you will forgive me,” he pleaded. He soaked his handkerchief in the water and gently dabbed at the cut, which was much deeper than he first thought. “Does Thornhill keep more handkerchiefs in his desk?”
“Top drawer on the right,” Sonalí whispered.
Daniel scrambled to find the duke’s monogrammed cloths. “I should summon a physician.” He rushed to Sonalí’s side to wrap the large square about her wrist. “Forgive me. I must tie this tight.” His fingers were never so stiff, and he silently cursed his ineptitude.
He lifted his eyes to meet hers.“Yes?” It was most inconvenient to feel his groin tighten, but that was the effect Sonalí’s closeness had on him.
“You were wonderfully masterful.” The fingers of her free hand brushed an errant curl from his forehead, and Daniel’s breath caught in his chest.
Forcibly clearing his throat, he said with a bit of irony. “I brought tears to your eyes. I would not term such foolhardiness as masterful.”
“You prevented Lord Gilbert from knowing harm,” she argued.
“I would prefer the viscount to you,” Daniel admitted.
Her fingers brushed his cheek. “You were my knight.” Sonalí’s gaze ran over him in what appeared to be a possessive manner. If only, Daniel thought.
His mind whirled with possibilities. What would Sonalí do if he claimed her lips in a declaration of his devotion? Uncertainty flickered over her features. Did she anticipate his intentions? Her lips parted in expectation, and Daniel felt himself leaning closer. He was within inches of heaven when a heavy tread outside the study had him scrambling to his feet.
“My lord?” Thornhill’s trusted footman eyed where Sonalí rested upon the chaise.
“Ah, Murray,” Daniel said with more enthusiasm than he felt. “I am pleased you came. Lady Sonalí knew an injury during the supper hall’s melee. Would you fetch Thornhill and Lady Linworth? Lady Sonalí’s maid should also be summoned, as well as the duke’s personal physician.”
The footman’s eyebrow rose in curiosity, but he nodded his agreement before rushing off to do Daniel’s bidding.
“Permit me to apply more pressure. I believe the blood has slowed.” Daniel returned to tending her wound.
Sonalí sat forward. “Murray has abominable timing.”
Her breath warmed his ear, but Daniel did not turn his head. “It is for the best,” he said grudgingly.
“I suppose.” A bit of what sounded of disappointment laced Sonalí’s tone.
“Daniel?” his mother’s voice called from the hall.
“In here!” He knew Eleanor Kerrington would see to Sonalí’s wound, but he was sore to release the girl’s hand.
Within seconds his mother knelt by his side. “Tell me what occurred.”
“The glass Rivers hurled at Gilbert broke against the wall behind Lady Sonalí. Somehow a fragment cut Sonalí’s arm.”
His mother unwrapped the cloth to examine the wound. “Did you wash it?”
“Only with water.”
Ella lightly touched Daniel’s arm. “Ring for a servant to bring us warm water and some soap.” She smiled at him. “You acted with foresight. I am proud of you.”
“I was no longer frightened once Daniel took control,” Sonalí noted.
His mother’s smile widened. He had no doubt the countess knew of his infatuation. Thankfully, Eleanor never questioned him on his behavior.
“My son engenders protection. Daniel is very much his father in that respect.” In truth, Daniel thought Ella modeled the behavior he practiced, but he did not argue with his stepmother.
Instead, he rose to do as she bid. He just reached for the cord when he heard Ella gasp. Spinning on his heels, his eyes followed his mother’s steady gaze. The patio door to Thornhill’s study stood ajar. A man with skin as dark as Sonalí’s stood in the shadows of the open door, and the countess pulled Sonalí to her feet and shoved the girl behind her. When Daniel meant to place himself between the women and the intruder, a flick of Eleanor’s wrist kept him in place.
“What do you mean coming here on such a night?” Ella demanded frostily of the stranger.
A wry smile graced the man’s lips.
“It has been too long, my lady. I believe the last time we met, we tussled over Lord Lexford’s body.” The stranger glanced about the room as if assessing the situation. “In case you wondered,” he continued in a mocking tone, “I have a scar marking where you shot me.”
Daniel knew immediately the man was the infamous Murhad Jamot, a man who once hunted each of the Realm members.
Ella’s chin rose in defiance. “You did not answer my question.”
The Baloch warrior shrugged away her challenge. “Let us call this a bit of goodwill upon the entrance into Society of Ashmita’s daughter.” The intruder’s gaze traveled over Sonalí’s body, and Daniel instinctively took several steps in the man’s direction before a slight shake of his mother’s head again stilled his steps. “The girl has the look of her mother,” Jamot announced.
“You knew my mother?” Sonalí pleaded.
Daniel understood. Despite his deep regard for Eleanor Kerrington, he wished often to speak of his real mother. He rarely encountered any of Elizabeth Morris’s family, and he felt deprived of a part of his being because of it. He would not be whole until he knew more of his Morris ancestry.