Today's Reading

The sisters had cried together, remembering a time when their father hadn't put his own passion for gambling ahead of his family. Long before the estrangement. When Father promised them he'd always have a home for them, even when his fortunes were low.

They'd cried because of what they had lost, and would never have now: a father who loved them. Who cared for them.

And then they'd wiped their tears, and a plan had begun to unfurl in Octavia's mind. He'd promised them he'd always have a home for them. That had to still be true.

Mr. Holton had died just a month before. Although he and his daughters were estranged, Octavia's fellow gambling club owners and workers kept her apprised of her father's activities. Just a few months earlier, she'd heard he'd bet on a race between a cow and a frog—she hadn't heard who'd won, but the very nature of the wager made her appreciate her older sister Ivy's taking Octavia away from their father's household. But perhaps his luck had changed; there was no telling what might be in the house. Never mind that the house itself was also valuable.

What if, by his death, he was finally able to do something good for his daughters?

What if she were to go to Greensett herself and see what he'd left to her and Ivy? It would remove her from London, out of Mr. Higgins's reach, and it would definitely yield some money, hopefully enough that Ivy might never know of Octavia's risky venture. She'd pay Mr. Higgins back without anyone being the wiser.

Octavia had originally wanted the money to make improvements to the gambling club she and Ivy co-owned. The club was making money, true, but Octavia believed it could make so much more, given proper investment. And at first the new tables, expanded playing rooms, and additional personnel had increased revenue.

But then the business faltered thanks to a combination of horrible weather and a distracting political crisis, and Octavia was staring at the possibility of being broken-limbed and ruined.

Or the other way around. She wasn't certain.

"It will be fine," she assured her still-sleeping dog. "Father left a will. And we will inherit everything. I'll be able to scrape up enough to pay Mr. Higgins. Just the house itself should take care of it. Ivy never has to hear of this." She spoke with a confidence she told herself she felt.

Cerberus opened his eyes, looked at her, and promptly went back to sleep.

"I would have thought feeding you would count for some loyalty," she said with a smile, leaning forward to pat Cerberus's head. He only made a low woof and shifted on the seat.

She leaned back against the seat cushion and gazed out the window, wishing she could be there right now rather than in five hours.

Patience was not her strong suit. Nor was caution. Nor, for that matter, doing anything but being her obstinate self.

A benefit when it came to being a woman in a field usually reserved for men, but not so much when it came to navigating life in a rural village.

Thank goodness she had been able to get out of London so quickly—she had recalled that her frequent, and frequently losing, customer Lady Montague was sending her carriage to fetch her niece from school. It was only a matter of asking the good-natured lady to have her carriage make a tiny detour to drop Octavia off before picking the niece up. And since this carriage was Lady Montague's second best—the best was with the lady herself—it wouldn't inconvenience her client at all.

Which meant she had no way of returning if she needed to get back just as fast. But she didn't anticipate any trouble once she arrived.

She never did.

Gabriel raked his hands through his hair as he surveyed the chaos that was his new house.

Mr. Holton had died close to a month ago, but Gabriel had been busy sorting out the details of his own father's estate, who had died only a few days before Mr. Holton.

Like Mr. Holton, Gabriel's father, Mr. Fallon, was a gambler. Unlike Mr. Holton, however, Mr. Fallon was very, very lucky. He'd transformed his modest holdings into a vast network of property, liquid assets, shares in a variety of companies, and several items that couldn't be assessed properly because they were unique.

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