Chapter 24

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Jacob had gone through a week of hell. So he couldn't be blamed for thinking he was suddenly in heaven when he saw Olivia walk in to the court room. She took his breath away, dressed in a simple morning gown with her hair pulled back under a hat.

But the surprise and pleasure lasted only for a moment. Because after that it was replaced by fear.

She was either here to testify against or for him. And after all the time he'd spent with her, he knew she was here to save him. Save him at the expense of her reputation—hence the fear. He'd known she'd do something stupid like this and that was precisely why he'd extracted that promise from his uncle.

He turned to look at his uncle accusingly who looked equally surprised seeing Olivia and Lady Melissa walk in as if they dealt with the law on a regular basis.

His eyes sought Olivia's, silently pleading with her to look at him. She didn't disappoint.

The spark of despair in her eyes as she looked at him was enough to make him want to run to her and comfort her. He tried to pull away but the guard held him back with a disapproving grunt.

She didn't belong here. Not here, in this unclean place where the common folk were shoving each other aside to watch the trial of a gentleman. Not here, where the men jeered at her. His jaw tightened.

Don't do it, he mouthed from across the room.

Her chin tilted up in defiance and he wanted to growl his frustration. He turned to stare at Lady Melissa who was having a staring match of her own with his uncle. He would've found this amusing if he wasn't so worried about Olivia.

Maddening women.

He watched as Cavendish spotted his daughter and walked up to her as his uncle did the same.

Maybe he'd order her to go back and she'd listen? He knew he was asking for too much but—

Jacob couldn't hear what her father was saying but he saw the bastard's face turn red with anger. Olivia's lips tightened and her eyes burned with a fire so intense that Jacob felt the heat all the way on his side of the room. Cavendish tried to pull her hand but Lady Melissa stepped in.

Don't you dare maul her, he thought she said to the Duke. Cavendish looked like he was about to raise his hands on Lady Melissa but Uncle George stepped in.

"All rise," the bailiff announced.

And then the judge arrived. The room fell silent and Cavendish stepped away from his daughter.

Olivia and Lady Melissa settled onto their seats and Uncle George sat beside them, his face troubled as he tried to talk them out of helping him. But Jacob could see that both the women had no intention of heeding to his uncle's words. He closed his eyes in agony. This was going to be a disaster. The woman was going to ruin herself.

Like you didn't already do it, his subconscious whispered.

Good God, he was responsible for all of this. He'd taken her virtue without remorse and now she was going to save his worthless ass and further the damage he'd inflicted.

He didn't have more time to feel sorry for himself though because the judge began the proceedings.

Cavendish flung one accusation after another at him and although the barrister his uncle had hired was doing his best, it was clear who had the upper hand.

He was going to hang.

And then he saw Olivia walk up to his barrister and whisper something to him. The man's face lit up immediately and he nodded at her, signalling her to wait.

"If your lordship permits , I would like to call upon Lady Olivia Cavendish herself to the stand for cross examination," the barrister intoned. The judge immediately signalled her to come forward, his eyes lighting up with interest.

Olivia walked up to the stand bravely even as she unconsciously smoothed her skirts. She was nervous.

"Do tell us, my lady, do you think Mr.Townsend stole your necklace?"

"No," she said as Jacob exploded saying, "yes, I did it." The guard immediately rushed to his side and tightened his hold about Jacob's body.

"Silence," the judge thundered. He turned to look at Olivia and nodded, his wig bobbing.

"He's lying, your lordship," she said firmly, her eyes shouting daggers at Jacob.

"And why would he lie, my lady?" the barrister asked.

"To save my reputation," she replied, her eyes solemn.

"And why would your reputation be in need of saving to begin with?"

"Because Mr.Townshend and I are lovers. I gave him the necklace with my own free will. It belonged to his mother. It was never mine."

A hushed silence fell in the room—the stenographer furiously scribbling her statement on a paper the only sound.

After a few moments of silence though, the spectators burst into murmurs. Jacob's eyes were squeezed close as his hands clutched the wooden handle of the witness box.

He'd failed her. He'd failed the woman he loved. And of course he loved her. How could he not a love a woman like her—someone so brave and wonderful?

The barrister cleared his throat, his face beaming. "So you see, my lordship, Mr.Townshend is innocent, as the lady herself has confessed to have given the necklace to him."

The judge pretended to stroke his nonexistent beard before nodding and ruling in Jacob's favour. Jacob felt nothing but remorse. Not that he wasn't grateful to Olivia for her sacrifice.

The judge wasn't expected to take any action against Cavendish—who was no where to be seen— and his uncle, Lady Melissa and Olivia seemed joyous enough.
Strangely, that brought a sense of contentment to him. Olivia's reputation might be in tatters after this, she wouldn't be received in most circles for a while but he'd be there for her. He'd stand by her side as her husband and he'd do his best to make sure she never regretted the sacrifice she'd made for him. Besides, they had their family—his uncle and her aunt(someone he'd grown very fond of).

They'd get married and have babies. And they were going to be happy.

But that was after Olivia received a sound thrashing for not listening to him.

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