Jack bolted from
their tent. "What's happened?"
"Rosemary's gone!" Daphne stood just inside her sister's
tent, her hand still lifting the entry flap. "Someone's taken
Shirtless and barefoot, Maxwell came rushing from his tent on
the other side. "This cannot be! I never heard a word .
. . I swore I would protect her," he said, his voice forlorn.
The rear of Rosemary's tent had been slashed through. Jack
whirled around to chastise the soldier he'd asked to guard Rosemary.
The fellow was sitting in the sand directly in front of
Rosemary's tent, his head bent, chin on chest, eyes closed, hugging his
musket to him as if it were a cherished woman. He was sound asleep.
Jack mumbled an oath as he began to shake the soldier. He did
not readily awaken. Then Jack smelled it. Laudanum. "The guard's
been drugged with laudanum!"
"We need to determine if anyone else is missing,"
Maxwell said, his voice commanding.
Jack's eyes narrowed. "It wouldn't surprise me to discover
that one of our recently hired servants is responsible for Rosemary's
abduction." His gaze returned to Rosemary's tent. "Daf, can you
see if anything of your sister's is missing?"
She nodded solemnly.
By now Arbuthnot had made his way to join the others. He was
fully dressed except for his coat. "Are you saying Lady Rosemary is
missing? Are you sure she's not just gone exploring? Didn't she express a
strong interest last night in seeing the mestabas?"
Jack faced Arbuthnot and spoke in a growl. "Some vile
person slashed through the back of her tent and apparently carried her
Arbuthnot's eyes narrowed, and he uttered a curse.
Maxwell looked forlorn. "And I promised her I would protect
Jack placed a hand on his shoulder. "Don't blame yourself.
I was just as close to her tent as you were, and I slept right through
"Dear God, I hope she's not intended for white
slavery," Arbuthnot said.
Daphne poked her head out of the tent and harrumphed.
"They'd be sure to bring her back. My sister is not only incompetent
about cleaning floors and polishing furniture, but she's never in her
life lifted a hand in pursuit of tidiness."
Jack coughed, and despite the gravity of the situation, his eyes
twinkled with mirth. "It appears my wife is under a misapprehension
about the nature of white slavery."