Chapter 9

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Alex had a choice to make. He could pretend Evelyn Remmington had never knocked on his door, that he'd never spoken to her apart from one or two much-gossiped about public encounters. Or he could be the knight in shining armor she clearly didn't want, and rescue her from her own stupidity.

Her arrest was in the newspapers, of course. She was quickly indicted on the lesser offense of arson, since it was in theory easier to prove, and a guilty verdict would help the prosecution's murder case. And then she was remanded to Newgate Prison to await her trial at the Old Bailey.

He tried not to think about her in there. Newgate was a cesspool, bringing together the worst of humanity--and that was just the guards. The prison reformation movement had yet to reach Newgate, though there wasn't a prison in England that needed it more. It was a cruel irony: Bernard Remmington had supposedly had a hand in building the automaton watchmen that were slowly replacing their human counterparts. His wife was incarcerated in the one prison in England that didn't yet have them, and would suffer for it.

Fortunately, Mrs. Remmington didn't have to stay in Newgate long--less than a week before she was back in the Old Bailey courthouse to stand trial. A sensational case like hers moved straight to the top of the docket and would keep the adjective-jerkers in good employment. London liked nothing better than to see those who rose to great heights crash and burn.

He dreaded the morning paper now, expecting his name to appear alongside hers in the scandal sheets any day now. The arson accusation hinged on her missing whereabouts the night of the fire. And she had a real alibi. All she had to do was tell the jury she was with him, and they would find in her favor. But, inexplicably, she kept her mouth shut. Perhaps she'd thought Alex wouldn't support her claim. Without his backing, the word of an alleged murderer wasn't worth much. The word of a female was worth even less.

Today's morning paper was different. Thomas had had it pressed and folded, exactly the way Alex liked, and he read it with a piping hot cup of coffee, a special brew imported from the Americas. It was a ritual he used to enjoy, before her.

The headline on the front page was printed in glaringly big letters, all capitalized. INVENTOR'S WIFE FOUND GUILTY OF ARSON, it screamed.

A surge of anger ran through him. Why hadn't that fancy barrister she'd hired pressed her to tell the truth about their interlude? Hadn't she told him? Was her pride truly worth more than her life?

He slammed his mug down, hot coffee sloshing over the sides and spilling onto the paper. He shouldn't intervene. He didn't even like Evelyn Remmington. And if he were fool enough to intercede on her behalf, he would draw undue attention to himself, the infamously recalcitrant earl leaping to the defense of his ex-rival's wife. The gossip would be unbearable--worse if any of the screeds managed to get a look at his ruined face. He'd spent the last two years cultivating his reputation as a recluse precisely to avoid this sort of scrutiny. His life's work depended on it.

"You've coffee on your cravat," Thomas remarked blandly. "Though why you still bother to wear one is a mystery to me."

Alex scowled at the man who was far more than a butler. "I'm not yet a complete heathen."

"Not yet," Thomas agreed, summoning an autobot to clean up the spilt coffee. "You know," he said after a healthy pause, "I don't think I've ever seen you this riled up over a woman before."

"I'm not riled up," Alex growled.

"I wonder what makes this one different," Thomas mused, having fun with it now. "She's certainly not your usual type. You used to like them blonde and buxom. Although I suppose beggars can no longer afford to be choosers."

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