Harry – Diane Darcy

Harry felt a nudge to his side … or was it a kick? “Up, up, ye workhouse brat.” The words made Harry crack an eye, but only one. It was possible he was still a little bit drunk. And cold. The thin blanket he’d wrapped himself in before curling up beneath a tree on the edge of the property wasn’t quite sufficient for the cool spring weather. He smacked his lips together and his mouth tasted terrible. “Haud yer wheesht, ye bampot. Wait. What did ye call me?” “Workhouse brat. And worse if ye wish tae get particular about it.” Wickham’s sardonic tone grated as always. “Eff off, ye blighter,” Harry said. Did the man have to be so irritating? Harry finally opened both eyes, but only managed a squint. He knew what Wickham was referring to. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he actually grew up in a brothel.

But what of it? That was old, old history, though he wasn’t surprised Wickham knew his origins. Was it worth working up his temper over? He considered for a moment. It wasn’t. He’d never beat a warlock in a fight. It wouldn’t be a fair one, and Wickham would wipe the ground with his pickled self. No joy there. “Ye’ve been drinking like a sot. Have ye been at the lasses in town? Showing that pretty face about? I bet they’d pay a pretty penny for a taste of yer mouth. And more.” Anger welled within him and when he grimaced, his lip smarted, and he darted his tongue out to taste blood from a reopened wound.

It turned out that living again actually had a few drawbacks. He’d fought a few kinsmen in town, and after he’d won, he’d ignored the fawning women, purchased a bottle, and gone on his way. He’d no interest in painted tarts. Not in his last life, and not in this one. “Where do ye wish tae go? I’ll not have ye haunting my property forever.” “Blah, blah, blah. Get on with ye. Tis finally tae be my turn, is it?” “Nae one has kept ye here.” Harry snorted. “Like we havenae all been awaitin’ on ye!” Harry’s friends, Calum and Sweeney, were gone.

They’d chosen their path and left him. Though he’d encouraged it, he couldn’t help the pain he felt at their absence. But whatever, it was fine. He finally got up and adjusted his tilted kilt. He brushed off dirt and straw, checked the bottle on the ground, found it empty, and chucked it. He straightened and ran a hand through the hair he recently chopped short with his knife. He was better off on his own, and he wanted to leave now as well. It had long been his turn. He’d held his temper lately, otherwise his friends would not have left him to his fate, and would have felt obliged to stop him from brawling, and shame him into better behaviors. Who needed that? Ignoring the warlock, he took a breath of pure, fresh air, and was reminded once again that he was back.

Alive again. Something he’d never thought would happen. In almost three hundred years, he hadn’t even hoped for it. And everything was changed. He glanced around at grass, trees, heather waving slightly in the breeze. As pretty as the property was, everything was still stark and ugly to him. He’d been abandoned, abused, and finally betrayed by the leader he’d given his loyalty to. Now even that little bit of revenge he’d looked forward to had been taken from him, his chance gone when Soni had disappeared. Bonnie Prince Charlie had no doubt met his fate at the hands of one of his brothers anyhow. If Harry was still looking for his slice of revenge against the man, he was sorry out of luck.

As always. Still, he was no quitter. Mayhap he could present the man with a challenge. The glint in the other man’s gaze didn’t deter him. He didn’t want to stay any more than the other man wanted him there. But where to go? Where to release some of this anger and get his revenge? London was truly the only place that called to him. He’d like a bit of payback against the man who’d stabbed him in the back, then spilled his guts and his strength, before the knife to the throat did him in. He knew naught of that man other than he’d been English. That was enough. Harry knew how to hold a grudge.

Even death hadn’t diminished his hatred of the English. It had sharpened it. So, why not go to that cesspool, London, and pick a fight? Soni had once warned him … remember, number twenty, to love thine enemy. Ha! Wickham smirked. “All right then, good luck with that. London is much changed. Tis too big for the likes of ye and ye’ll soon be runnin’ back here with yer tail tucked firmly betwixt yer legs.” The bloody warlock dared to read his mind while looking him directly in the face? Pure, unadulterated rage rose within him at yet another intrusion. The man had picked at him enough! Harry had already lost his life once. He knew what to expect this time around, and it wasn’t enough to stop him.

With a roar, he swung his fist. DAPHNE LANDON LOOKED DOWN at her iPad, and resolved to talk about the next item on her list whether Oliver wanted to or not. “Is now a good time to discuss getting some added protection for you?” Her young boss, Oliver Graham, seated behind his large desk with the London skyline at his back, shook his head. “I think we’re all right. Steve has everything in hand.” Steve Sutton, Oliver’s one and only bodyguard, did not have everything in hand or Daphne wouldn’t be so worried that someone was trying to kill her boss. But as she was excellent at her job, she knew when not to push and would figure out how to work it into the conversation later. She turned away to hide her expression as she pulled up Oliver’s calendar. He needed to take the incidents as she’d started to call them, seriously. First, there’d been the car accident, where miraculously, Oliver’s airbag had saved his life.

Then there’d been the drink in the local bar that had made him so sick he’d vomited for hours, and had been hospitalized for two days. Fortunately, he’d barely taken a sip. Then there’d been that crazy man with the knife who went after Oliver like … well … like a crazy man, yanking at him and trying to steal his backpack. Luckily, Oliver’s chauffeur, Chatterton, had seen the attacker raise the knife, and had been able to warn him in time, and while Oliver ducked away, others in the crowd had subdued him. Seriously, what were the chances Oliver’s life had been threatened on three separate occasions? She was truly worried and it was keeping her up nights. They needed to hire some added protection as soon as she could get Oliver to agree. “All right, work this morning, and at noon you have a business lunch at the Savoy with Lord Maren and his wife.” “I don’t care for Lady Maren.” “I’ll keep her occupied. It’s important that you talk to Lord Maren if you want him to invest in your next project.

” “I don’t care if he does.” “Your mum does, apparently. Remember, you’re doing this as a favor to her. Then at two o’clock you have a meeting with your tailor.” When she turned around, her boss, Oliver Graham, was down on one knee. Daphne sucked in a breath. Oh, goodness. Again? “Will you marry me?” His Oxford accent was crisp, and a little nervous, his gaze pensive. “Oi!” The word slipped out before she could stop it. She shouldn’t be startled, but she was.

Was he hoping the third time was the charm? Being a personal assistant to a young tech billionaire wasn’t always easy. Oliver paid her an obscene amount of money to keep his life running smoothly, and she did it well, but when it came to the personal stuff? She somehow always managed to gum it up. Another thing. She really should stop thinking of him as young. He was incredibly intelligent. There was only a six-month difference in their age, but she thought of him as a younger brother, and there was no getting around that. “Oliver, I’m so flattered.” Flattered, and unsure how to proceed. She didn’t like to feel as if she was floundering. She always had a plan.

She’d worked hard to get where she was, and insulting her boss was a good way to muck it up. She knew he wasn’t proposing because she was a beauty, because she wasn’t. Neat, tidy, and well put together was the most she could admit to. With her thick brown hair pulled back into a French twist, she probably looked more like a librarian than a personal assistant to one of the richest men in London. If it paid better, she might actually be a librarian. A secret fantasy of hers on days when life at the top was chaotic and crazy. Like today. Why did he choose today to propose with so much going on? He’d never shown that he was attracted to her in the slightest. He didn’t really like to touch or be touched. He’d certainly never tried to kiss her.

He was proposing because she was comfortable, and convenient, and because he was shy, and lonely. Welcome to the club. Oliver remained where he was, patient, watchful, and silent. Maybe she should take him up on his offer? Maybe together they could make one whole person? He was brilliant, she was organized. They did well together in business as he made the money, and Daphne helped him spend it. It wasn’t like she was going to get another offer, let alone one from a billionaire who would let her run every aspect of his life, and support the charities she believed in. Of course, she already did that. Inconvenient wistfulness rose within her once again. She wanted more. That silly girl from the East End with her cockney accent and her big dreams always wanted more.

That girl that still resided somewhere within her wanted love, passion, and that sense of coming home that every sappy Hallmark movie and sweet romance novel portrayed. She wanted those feelings directed at her too, and as she looked into Oliver’s upturned, bespectacled face, all she saw was a mixture of fear and hope. For multiple reasons, she didn’t want to crush that hope. Oliver wanted someone to call his, he wanted home and family. And the dating scene anymore was brutal. Everyone was a player, everyone slept around, and it was all just unappealing. The longer she dithered the more hopeful Oliver looked. “We could go pick out a ring today. Anything you want, anything at all. We could place an announcement and you could show your ring off at the charity ball.

” Oliver reached up and plucked something off the sleeve of her jacket, lifted it and grinned as he showed her the white cat hair. She felt herself flush. She used the roller faithfully every day before she left the house. Apparently, she’d missed one. The last thing she wanted was to be labeled a cat lady. Even if she did love the funny faced little twerp. Maybe she should just take Oliver up on his offer. It might be the only one she ever received. She stifled her sigh. She couldn’t do it, and knew that even if she said yes, she’d regret it immediately.

So, how to gently turn down yet another proposal of marriage without hurting her boss’s ego? There was a tap on the door and Oliver’s solicitor, Nate Schneider, stuck his head inside to see Oliver and Daphne stuck mid-tableau. His surprise turned to a smirk, and Daphne inwardly cringed. Oliver, his back to the other man, froze and looked suddenly panicked. She knew he looked up to the other man, older by a decade and successful with the ladies by all accounts, and would be mortified to be caught in such a position. Daphne lifted her chin. “Everything is great, Oliver is just helping me look for my contact lens.” “You wear glasses.” She met Nate’s gaze and arched a brow. “And contact lenses too. I have terrible eyesight.

” Her cool tone did not invite further comment. “Oh, all right.” Nate’s gaze flicked between the two of them once more. “The car is here. Ready when you are.” “Thank you, we’ll be right out.” As soon as the door shut, Oliver scrambled to his feet. He blew out a breath, shoved his hands in his pockets, and looked at the ground. “Oliver, thank you for your proposal.” She gave another inward cringe, but kept going.

“I’m sorry, I just don’t think it’s a good idea.” She tried to think of something more to say, a way to soften her words, but Oliver just nodded, his cheeks reddening as he turned away and hurried toward the door. Suppressing a sigh, she grabbed his briefcase and followed. Hopefully, she’d still have a job at the end of the day. AS HARRY BUMPED along in the back of a pickup truck, he had to close his mouth several times to keep from gawping like a bumpkin. Wickham hadn’t lied. London was much changed. The place was so big Harry had a hard time wrapping his mind around it. It had taken him four days to get from Craig Phadrig to London. He’d walked, been offered short rides, long ones, in different sorts of vehicles.

He’d slept in meadows, by rivers, and passed by villages, hamlets, towns, and cities. Yet none of it had prepared him for the pure size of London itself. He looked at buildings so tall and thin that he couldn’t understand how they did not fall over. He’d not be going inside one of those, that was for sure and certain. In some places there were homes as far as the eye could see; in others, taverns, eateries, and other businesses. And the traffic! He’d thought the number of cars coming into Culloden Moor had been a crowd. Then around Wickham’s place, and then traveling, but he’d not ever seen anything like the number of cars and people in London. On the walkways, it became almost like soldiering, everyone marching behind the person in front of them, only going both ways, and having to look sharp as people darted in and out, finding other pathways of people crossing roads, only to join the flow of humanity on walkways across the street. Madness. He thought to come here and fight someone? There were a lot of men to choose from, but most were busy, drunk, or too young and frail to bother with.

The truck finally stopped, and Harry slowly unfolded himself and jumped over the side and landed near the surge of humanity on the pathway. The farmer, brawny, blond, and older by a couple of decades, stepped out of his vehicle, clasped his hand and gave it a shake. “Tis the end of the line.” “Thank ye for the ride.” “Glad to help out a fellow Scotsman.” Harry nodded, took a breath, and hoisted his rucksack over one shoulder. With his heart pounding he joined the surge of people headed south. When last he’d been here in 1742 there had been a bridge overlooking the River Thames and he headed in that general direction. He was feeling awestruck and completely unlike himself. Mayhap he could find someone to fight on the morrow.

In the meantime, he’d head to the Thames and get his bearings. He didn’t think it was that far away, though he couldn’t smell the stink of it. In fact, besides the vehicles, the smells of food were most prevalent: meats, breads, and other delicious, yet unidentifiable aromas. He could remember holding a cloth against his nose when he’d last arrived in London, a preventative against the smell of raw sewage. This truly was nothing like the London he remembered. Feeling small for the first time in a long while, worry had his brow bunching. He’d not return to Wickham’s place with his tail tucked firmly between his legs. He’d not give the man the satisfaction. At least not right away. His jaw tightened.

After thrashing him, the warlock had barely let him gather his possessions, confess to the priest, and then sent him on his way. He saw a hanging sign in the distance, recognized it as a tavern, and swallowed hard. Alcohol just might be a prudent and welcome choice under the circumstances.

.

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