“Yeah, no pressure.” I started toward the porch and stopped. “That scar—who gave it to you?”
For the first time since I’d met him the night before, Rivers faltered, and he touched the bit of it that crept over his collar. “Daxton Hart.”
He shrugged. “Eight months ago, maybe? He and Mercer—” Rivers paused. “Not sure what I did to piss them off, but whatever it was, must’ve been a doozy.”
The real Daxton Hart had died over a year ago, which meant it had been the man Masked as him instead. “Did Mercer have a—brother or a best friend?” I said. “Someone who died or disappeared a year or so ago?”
Rivers furrowed his brow and shifted his gun. “Victor Mercer, his older brother. He ran the place before he had a heart attack. Dropped dead in front of Augusta Hart and everything.”
“I bet he did,” I mumbled. Victor Mercer. That had to be him. “Thanks, Rivers. Don’t freeze your feet off tonight.”
“No more than any other night,” he said, tilting his hat to me. “Take care of yourself, Miss Hart. Hope to see you tomorrow safe and sound.”
He headed back down the drive, and I climbed up the porch steps and knocked on the front door. There was a significant chance my stunt had made the Mercers change their minds, and I was mentally preparing myself for the walk back to the bunkhouse—where Scotia would be waiting, no doubt ready to lay into me for failing to get the codes—when Hannah opened the door.
“There you are!” she said, relief saturating her voice. But why she had been worried about me in the first place, I couldn’t fathom. “Look at you—were you rolling around in the mud?”
I hesitated. “Someone knocked me over.”
“Who?” she said, her eyes flashing. I shook my head.
“It was an accident.”
She didn’t look entirely convinced, but she still helped me out of my muddy boots and socks before leading me into the warm foyer. My muscles shuddered as they began to thaw, and I padded after Hannah as she led me into the kitchen.
“No, don’t sit down,” she said, cringing. “Here—take that thing off. I’ll fetch you a robe and have a servant draw you a bath.”
She held out her hand for my muddy jumpsuit, and I stared at her. “Right here? You want me to get naked in the middle of the kitchen?”
“Well, you’re certainly not tracking that thing around my house,” she said. I sighed and began to strip.
Thirty seconds later, Hannah shoved my mud-caked clothes into a trash chute as I stood in the middle of the kitchen, shivering in a plain T-shirt and underwear. Her change in mood continued to baffle me, and I watched her as if she were about to grow a second head.
“I see you found your necklace.” Hannah poured boiling water from a kettle into a mug, and she dropped a tea bag inside. “Here, drink this—it’ll warm you up.”
I took the hot cup and wrapped my hands around it. The heat burned my cold skin, but I refused to set it down. “Why are you being so nice to me?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” she said, but there was a note of tension that hadn’t been there before.
“I’m sure Mercer wasn’t happy with—what happened earlier.”
A muscle in her jaw twitched, and she poured a cup for herself. “No, he wasn’t. I take it that girl was a friend of yours.”
I took a sip of tea. It burned my tongue, and I could feel it slide through me as I swallowed. “Yes. Or at least I thought she was.”
“Jonathan could have shot you, you know,” she said. “If Knox hadn’t asked him to be lenient, he might have. He doesn’t appreciate acts of rebellion.”
“And yet you’re offering me tea and warm clothes.”
She glanced at me out of the corner of her eye. “I don’t mistake loyalty for revolt.”
“You still shouldn’t have done it,” said another voice from behind me. Knox. I glared at him over my shoulder.
“I’m half-naked, in case you didn’t notice.”
“Oh, I noticed.”
Hannah set her tea aside. “You should head upstairs before Jonathan walks in, too. He’s due back any minute.”
“I’ll show her the way,” said Knox, setting his hand on the small of my back. I scowled.
“I know how to get to my room, thank you.”
“I’m sure you do. Through here.”
The harder I tried to shake him off, the closer Knox seemed to get, so at last I let him follow me up the back stairs and to the second floor. The hallway was empty, and I stopped in front of the Augusta Suite, not bothering to hide my sneer at the name this time.
Instead of making the lighthearted quip I expected, Knox stooped toward me. “Are you okay?”
I opened my mouth to tell him yes, I was fine, but a lump formed in my throat before I could do anything more than squeak. No, I wasn’t okay. I hadn’t been okay even after finding out Benjy was still alive, and now, with the weight of Noelle’s and Elliott’s deaths on my shoulders, along with the responsibility of getting the codes—it was a miracle I was still standing.
“How do you do this?” I managed, my voice cracking. “How—”
“Get inside,” he said quietly, pushing open the door. I took one look at the childish room named after the woman I’d killed, and my stomach turned.