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
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
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
Arbuthnot's eyes narrowed, and he uttered a curse.
Maxwell looked forlorn. "And I promised her I would
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 her abduction."
"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."