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When Luck Runs Thin

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Marguerite was never a praying person before her marriage. She wasn’t one immediately after, either. She’d been a laissez-faire Catholic, all too eager to convert to her husband’s Church of England if it meant that she could live happily at his side.

Except they did not live happily.

Not at first.

But even after all that had passed, even after the misunderstandings had cleared and they’d won one another’s trust and hearts again, Marguerite wasn’t sure that she could say they lived happily. Oh, the world thought they did. The pretty Lady Blakeney and her fool husband, Sir Percy, were the center of social London. And if the lady seemed a little sad or wistful – especially when her husband was absent – the world over decided it was because their once passionate love match had cooled a long time ago and where Sir Percy had once been the one to pine for Lady Blakeney’s attentions, the tables had turned with her husband’s increasing trips to the north country for hunting and sport left the lady dissatisfied. Her turn to pine, people said. And it served her right, how cruelly she had teased her husband! How shamelessly!

But Marguerite did not fear losing her husband’s love.

Rumors spread across the Channel about the Scarlet Pimpernel. Every time someone said that he might have been apprehended in Calais or – worse – Dover, Marguerite found herself trying to pray.

Let it be a rumor and nothing more and I will be the wife he deserves.

And for many months, her prayers seemed enough. Always, Percy returned unscathed and triumphant, ready to resume his role of the city idiot in public and the recipient of Marguerite’s ardor in private.

And then one night, a commotion in the kitchen awoke Marguerite. If she’d been abed, she would not have heard it, but she had fallen asleep in the parlor with a book of poetry upon her chest. She lit candles and crept towards the sound. A groan; a moan, agonized and familiar. She rushed to the kitchen to see Percy laid out on the chef’s table with Sir Andrew and Lord Tony fretting over him. Armand was searching the cabinets for something –

“Brandy,” he said to her. “Or something stronger to dull the pain.”

Marguerite pointed to the parlor and rushed to her husband’s side.

Percy’s face – so handsome and usually so composed, was pale and sweaty. He screwed it up as Andrew examined the wound and Tony held him down. When his blue eyes opened, an imitation of a smile ghosted across his lips.

“Well, sink me, if that brute Chaumbertin hasn’t murdered me – this must be heaven for me to be-“ he hissed “-greeted by an angel. Damn you, Andrew! Can’t you let a man flirt with his wife before trying to dislodge a bullet?”

Marguerite unwrapped her kerchief from her shoulders and dabbed at Percy’s face.

“Shh, don’t waste your breath flattering me.”

“Don’t take the only solace I’ve had all night away from me, Margot,” Percy returned. Again, he hissed. “Andrew, man! Either pull it out or leave it be!”

“What happened?” Marguerite asked. She continued to dab at Percy’s brow, but looked to Tony.

“We were ambushed just outside of London. Chauvelin and two of his men. Percy was the only one to sustain injury. Of course, he did it because he got between Chauvelin and your brother-“

“I wasn’t ready for your tears,” Percy said “Armand is all in all to you and I-“

He hissed a third time but Percy’s discomfort came not from Andrew, but from Marguerite smacking her kerchief against his good shoulder.

“Percy, you must know I couldn’t bear to lose either of you. Why must you put yourself in harm’s way?”

“Odd’s fish, m’dear! If I had known Chauvelin knew where and when we were moving, I would not have left tonight. You ought to know me better than that! Or do you underestimate me?”

“I think you underestimate Chauvelin,” Marguerite said. “He will kill you if you aren’t careful. Oh, Percy-!”

As she stifled a sob, Percy stifled a yell and the pulled fell onto the countertop with a clatter. Andrew had taken advantage of their spat.

Not two seconds later, Armand returned with a selection of brandy, which they all partook in after Percy’s arm was bandaged.

“We’ll have to explain your injury,” Marguerite said. “It’s not like the ones before where we could say you took a tumble from your horse.”

“How about a duel?” Tony suggested. “Duels are romantic.”

“Duels imply that he was fighting for my honor,” Marguerite replied. “And who would he say he was dueling for it? You, perhaps?”

Armand and Andrew chuckled uneasily. Percy stared into the fireplace pensively.

“A hunting accident,” he said. Then, in a lazy, ridiculous drawl he said, “Sink me, if I didn’t load the rifle properly!”

When they settled on a story and the others retired to rooms in the Blakeney Manor, Marguerite and Percy stayed awake, watching the fire die.

“You can’t rely on good luck forever, mon cher,” Marguerite murmured. She tucked her head onto his good shoulder. “Why not leave this heroism business and-“

“-let innocent men and women die?” he asked. “I could never live with that.”

“And I could never live without you. You must think me terribly selfish…”

“Not at all. It’s… unorthodox, but flattering.”

“I just don’t want you to be hurt or worse.”

He kissed her hair and sighed.

“I suppose that I’ll have to rely more on skill than luck from here on out.”

They continued into the night, comforting each other in ways unbecoming of their status. Morning found the Blakeneys curled up together on the sofa, Sir Percy nestled and asleep in his wife’s arms.