The Postilion (The Masqueraders #2) - S.M. LaViolette Page 0,1

her brother’s death—and demanded to see a copy of David’s will.

As a minor, Benna had been excluded from attending the formal reading, which had taken place with only Michael and David’s new solicitor in attendance. Why her brother had sacked the solicitors their father and grandfather had used—the London firm of Norris and Ridgewick—Benna did not know.

Michael had smirked, visibly amused by her demand. “You’re not entitled to anything, my dear child, but I will kindly—this once—appease your curiosity and allow you to look at your brother’s will.”

Benna was still horrified by what she’d read. The terms of the trust—the corpus of which would only be available to her on her twenty-fifth birthday—had not surprised her since her father had been the one to establish it.

But why, in the name of God David—her legal guardian after her father’s death—had chosen Michael for that role, she would never know.

Her brother had known how much Benna despised their arrogant, far-too-domineering cousin, and yet he’d granted Michael total authority over her person and future.

The morning after that first clash with Michael Benna had gone down to the stables early, as was her practice, intending to put her new hunter through its paces.

She’d arrived to find Michael’s loathsome servant Diggle blocking the entrance to the horse stalls.

“’Is lordship wants to see you, sharpish.”

Benna had been thunderstruck; never had a servant looked at her so insolently or spoken so disrespectfully. “You will address me with respect in my own home, or you may pack your belongings and be gone.”

Diggle had only laughed.

And when Benna had tried to push past him, he’d grabbed her upper arm with a hand as big as the huge bronze sundial in the parterre garden. “I’m to bring ye.”

Then the brute had dragged her all the way back to the study, where Michael had the audacity to make her stand on the carpet in front of his desk—like a recalcitrant child—while he’d laid down what he called the new law.

No more spending her days in the stables, no more wearing breeches, no more hunting, and absolutely no riding without one of his grooms in attendance.

“Lastly,” he’d said, with a hateful smirk, “at least for now, if you wish to go for a ride, you will do so wearing a proper habit. I am arranging for a dressmaker to come out and fit you for appropriate clothing.”

Benna had looked right into Michael’s eyes and enunciated, “Go. Straight. To. Hell.” She’d then marched back to the stables and gone about her usual routine.

The next day, when she’d gone to ride, she discovered that Spitfire, her new gelding, was missing.

Benna had found her cousin in the breakfast room, along with Viscount Fenwick.

“Tom says you sold Spitfire?”

Michael had winced. “There is no need to shout.”

“There is every need,” she’d shouted again. “Those horses are my property.”

“I’m afraid not, my dear. Or do you need to peruse the document granting me power over you and every item on this property?”

“Why are you doing this?” Benna had been ashamed of the pleading note that had crept into her voice.

“I will sell a horse each time you disobey me,” he’d said in a cool, superior tone that had stoked the rage burning inside her. “If I were you, dear cousin,” he’d added, his gaze on her hand, which was moving toward a crystal vase on the nearby console table, “I would not get any ideas about hurling that at my head.”

Benna had snatched back her hand, almost chewing out her own tongue trying to keep it behind her teeth.

As she’d flung herself out of the room, she’d heard her cousin and Fenwick chortling behind her.

Michael had sold off seven of her hunters in only two weeks.

Finally, Benna had stopped riding in the mornings—she refused to go with any of Michael’s despicable grooms accompanying her—but she’d found a way around the embargo by sneaking out at night.

That pleasure, however, would be taken from her as the moon waned.

Terrified that she might lose the rest of her horses, she now grudgingly spent the daylight hours wearing a putrid dress, dining with her cousin and his vile friend, and studying under the tutelage of a prosy curate that Michael brought with him from Northumberland.

A sudden snatch of conversation jolted her from her furious musing, “—good God, Norland, you can’t be serious!”

Benna recognized the slurred voice as belonging to Viscount Fenwick.

She froze on the second-floor landing.

“Christ, Fenwick.” Michael sounded so loud that Benna assumed the men must be on the other side

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