The carriage jolted to a stop. Jack Brightwell waited. Back home again, after his weeks-long sojourn to Middleton House. He had not thought to visit the Wilcox estate so soon, less than a month after returning to Brightwell Manor from abroad, but he had to be there, to assist Hugh Mountbank in finally capturing the Jackal. Soon after, Jack had witnessed the marriages of Hugh to Felicity Wilcox and Greyton Thornhill to Cecilia Wilcox.
Jack bowed his head, still raw from the pains and joys of the last weeks. His friends were well. The justice he had been seeking for two years had been meted out.A greater challenge confronted him. Never had he expected to inherit Brightwell Manor. His father and older brother, Arthur, had both seemed immortal, goodness personified. But both were dead.
So it fell to Jack to carry on, without hope of the one thing, the one person who had kept him alive through indiscretion, war, loss.
He closed his eyes and leant his head back. During his time in that convent hospital, his focus had centered on her. Only her. Since childhood she had been the one he turned to, the one he had protected—and tormented.
He pushed himself out of the carriage. The warm, mellowed stone of Brightwell Manor, aged to a lighter hue than that of Middleton House, almost dazzled him. Three gables structured the roofline. His father used to say that, fortuitously, there was one for each of his children.
The house remained. Jack remained. His boots crunched on the gravel drive.
Dearing greeted him at the door. “Your mother awaits you in the drawing room, sir.”
Jack nodded to the older man, who had known him since he was a boy. The high, diamond-patterned windows let in the gleaming sunlight, casting delicate shadows on the dark wood of the halls. He made his way through the maze of corridors until he came to the newer part of the house. The white door of the drawing room loomed. So far, he had avoided his mama’s plans. Now it was time to face the proverbial guillotine.