Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

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Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 97-93782

eISBN: 978-0-307-76780-6


Dedicated to Jane Merrow

in friendship



Other Books by This Author

Title Page



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

“Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”



SIR OLIVER RATHBONE SAT in his chambers in Vere Street, just off Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and surveyed the room with eminent satisfaction. He was at the pinnacle of his career, possibly the most highly respected barrister in England, and the Prime Minister had recently recommended him to Her Majesty, who had seen fit to honor him with a knighthood in recognition of his services to criminal justice.

The room was elegant but not ostentatious. Intellect and purpose were served before the desire to impress a client. Comfort was necessary. Beyond the door was the outer office, full of clerks writing, calculating, looking up references, being courteous to those who came and went in the course of business.

Rathbone was almost at the conclusion of a case in which he had defended a distinguished gentleman accused of misappropriating funds. He had every confidence in a satisfactory outcome. He had enjoyed an excellent luncheon in the company of a bishop, a judge and a senior member of Parliament. It was time he directed his attention towards the afternoon’s work.

He had just picked up a sheaf of papers when his clerk knocked at the door and opened it. There was a look of surprise on the clerk’s usually imperturbable face.

“Sir Oliver, there is a Countess Zorah Rostova desiring to see you on a matter she says is of great importance —and some urgency.”

“Then show her in, Simms,” Rathbone directed. There was no need for him to be surprised that a countess should call. She was not the first titled lady to seek counsel in these chambers, nor would she be the last. He rose to his feet.

“Very good, Sir Oliver.” Simms backed away, turned to speak to someone out of sight, then a moment later a woman swept in wearing a black-and-green crinoline dress, except that the hoop was so small it hardly deserved the name, and her stride was such that one might have supposed her to have only a moment since dismounted from a horse. She had no hat. Her hair was held back in a loose bun with a black chenille net over it. She did not wear her gloves but carried them absent-mindedly in one hand. She was of average height, square-shouldered and leaner than is becoming in a woman. But it was her face which startled and held attention. Her nose was a little too large and too long, her mouth was sensitive without being beautiful, her cheekbones were very high and her eyes were wide-set and heavy lidded. When she spoke, her voice was low with a slight catch in it, and her diction was remarkably beautiful.

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