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Authors: Hazel Statham

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“As good as done, Vale,”
he said eagerly. “Does the morrow
at
two
suit,
I
a
m pro
m
ised
elsewh
e
r
e
later
in
the day.”

“Assuredly,
” replied Vale, “but shall we make the
wager
five
thousand—just
to keep
the
interest
you understand?”

“Five
it
is,”
Fitzwilliam grinned.
“I
like
your
odds,
m
y lord,
m
akes it that
m
uch more interesting.”

The e
arl made a sweeping bow, bending low in the saddle.

‘Til
the
m
orrow
then,
Fitz,
ce
r
tai
n
ly
it
will
be
nothing if not interesting!”

 

*****

 

“You da
m
n fool, Do
m
i
nic,”
W
r
oxham expostulated, as they
rode
away
from the
gat
h
ering.

W
here
in
the
devil’s na
m
e
are
you
to
find
five
guineas let alone five thousand? Have you taken leave of your senses?
You take your ga
m
bling too far. Thought you said you would not issue notes of hand
?

“And neither shall I,” responded Vale. “I will have no need!
Have
you
no
faith
in
m
e
?
My Thor
w
ill outstay anything
in
Fitzwillia
m
’s
stables,
and
yours
too
if
you care to try
m
e. This is one w
a
ger I don’t intend losing; it provides
m
e
with
the
chance
to
come
about.
Do
you
lay
m
e a side wager?
Say a monkey
?

“I
do
not,”
replied
W
r
oxha
m
,
turning
his
m
ount
away
from
his
companion
in
some
d
isgust
.

W
ill
you
never
learn?
I
have
done
with
you;
I
am
heading
toward
m
y lodgings and so
m
e sanity.”


W
hat,
you will
not
acco
m
pany
m
e
to
Lady
Northa
m
’s soiree this evening
?
” laughed
Vale,
watching
his
friend’s departure with so
m
e
a
m
use
m
ent.

“No,” ca
m
e the reply as
W
r
oxh
a
m urged his horse to a canter.

“So
be
it,”
r
eplied Vale
to
t
h
e
t
h
in
air,
as he
too
headed for
his
apart
m
ents,
his
s
pirits
m
uch
l
i
fted
at
the
thought
of
the pr
o
j
ected race.

 

 

Chapter
Three

 

The
crowds that
g
athered
on
the
d
owns
to
witness
the race
b
etween
Fitzwilliam and
The
Earl
of
Vale
rivaled those of the previous day. All w
a
ited with a
g
reat air of anti
c
ipation. News
of the wager
had
spread
rapidly a
m
ongst
society,
m
any
of
whom arrived
deter
m
ined
on
m
aking
a
day
of
it,
lending
an air
of
f
estivity
to t
h
e occasion. A
town-chaise
of
obvious
quality sta
y
ed
on
t
h
e fringe
of
the
gathering.
Its
occupant,
a
petite
lady
with dark hair and expressive blue eyes who, although entering
her
forty
-
sixth
year
,
retained
a youthful appearance
, waited anxiously for the riders to arrive.

She had not long to
w
ait however. Pro
m
ptly at the all
o
tted
time
the
two
h
orse
m
en
pr
e
sented
the
m
selves
at the
s
ta
r
ting li
n
e.
Both appe
a
red
in
the best
of hu
m
ors, neither
being
inti
m
idated
by
the
other.
A
great
deal
of good natured
banter
acco
m
panied
their
rivalry,
none
being aware
of
the
e
arl’s
de
s
pera
t
e need for victory except for
W
r
oxh
a
m
who,
against
his
better
judg
m
ent,
had acco
m
panied his friend and now sat on his horse waiting for the race to begin.

Thor proved to be a huge iron-grey stallion with a good breadth
of
chest
and
p
ower
f
ul
quarters.
The
inacti
v
ity proved too much for him and he
f
retted
r
estles
s
ly,
eager
to be
off.
Vale
sat
as
ever,
tho
r
oughly
at
ease in
the
saddle, allowing
the
horse
to
fidget
without too much
interference,
as
eager
as
his
m
ount
to
have
the
matter
over as expediently
as possible. However, Fitzwilliam’s
m
ount
was not to be ignored
.
He was a rich blood-chestnut stallion
obv
iously
built
for
speed
and
equally
as enthusiastic as Thor to be
away, his large hooves churning up the t
u
rf
at the en
f
or
ce
d idlen
e
ss.

Both
rid
e
rs were
c
alled
to
the
sta
r
ting
p
o
int
a
n
d
instr
u
cted that the course consisted of two complete
circuits of the downs and, a
f
ter a brief handshake, they waited under starters orders. The flag was raised a
n
d everyone
stood
with
bated
breath until
the
adjudicator dropped
his
arm and
the
two
horses
sprang
forward,
the chestn
u
t
ta
k
i
ng
the
le
a
d
al
m
ost
immediately
with
Thor hard on his heels. The lady in the chaise instructed
he
r driver to move forward toward the
finishing
point
but
to re
m
ain as unobtrusive
as possible, not wishing to be recognized. News of the race had co
m
e to her via a fa
m
ily friend the previous evening
a
nd she was eager to know the outco
m
e.

Vale
and
Fitzwilliam appeared
al
m
ost
inseparable
as they
passed
from view
a
nd
i
n
to
the
coppice
on
the
further side of the downs. Both riders urged their
m
oun
t
s to even greater
effort as, to co
m
plete
the
first circuit,
t
h
ey raced once
m
ore
t
owards the waiting throng. It was seen that
Vale
was
marginally
in
the
lead
as,
leaning
low
over
Thor’s
withers,
he
passed
w
h
at
would
be
the
finishing
line.
Fitzwilliam thundered
al
m
ost
immediately
after
hi
m
, but
it
was
obvious
that
his
m
ount’s
breathing
had
beco
m
e agonizingly
labored.

BOOK: Dominic
8.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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