The headline grabbed attention if Sam did say so himself. The editor of The Teatime Tattler held up the proof copy to the light, and grinned as he thought of all those papers sold. A respectable widow caught in a gentleman’s rooming house, in bed with a gentleman who was not even the room’s renter. Yes. An excellent story, and with credible witnesses!
He ignored a knock on the door. At this time of night, the newspaper office was shut. Indeed, he’d be off home to bed as soon as he gave the nod to the roll the presses and print tomorrow’s scandalbroth, so that it would be on people’s breakfast tables when they woke.
As he stood to go through to the printery to give the order, a couple of solid thuds made him pause. Then it flew open, and two men marched in. Sam blanched. He had already had a run-in with the Earl of Stanford last year, simply because the presses had printed a couple of caricatures the man objected to. Sam knew the man who snatched the newspaper from his hand, too. Lord Arthur Versey, world traveller, writer, and an even more dangerous man than Stanford.
Versey handed the newspaper to Stanford, who quickly scanned it. “It’s a pack of lies, Rex,” he said to Versey. “It says Regina was at Peach Tree Lane for an assignation with Deffew, and that Ashby tied the scoundrel up and abducted Regina.”
“You are going to have to rewrite that, Clemens,” Versey told Sam.
“I have witnesses to everything that’s in there,” Sam insisted. “And I have witnesses!”
“Any Deffews or Snowdens amongst your witnesses?” Standford demanded. “For they are trying to compromise a lady.”
Sam must have shown the truth in his expression, for Versey growled. “It was them.”
“Not just them,” Sam protested.
“And their friends,” Rex added.
Stanford obviously decided a gentler approach would be more useful. “Look, Clemens, you’re an honest man. Your newspaper told the truth about the persecution against my wife. Here’s your chance to be on the side of the angels again. Rex, tell him what really happened.”
One Perfect Dance
Regina Paddimore puts her dreams of love away with other girlish things when she weds her father’s friend to escape a vile suitor who tries to force a marriage. Sixteen years later, and two years a widow, she seeks a husband who might help her fulfil another dream—to have her own child.
Elijah Ashby escapes his abusive step-family as soon as he comes of age, off to see the world. Letters from his childhood friend Regina are all that connects him to England. Sixteen years later, now a famous travel writer, the news she is a widow brings him home.
Sparks fly between them when they meet again. Regina begins to hope for love as well as babies. Elijah will be happy just to have her at his side. However, Elijah’s stepbrothers are determined to do everything they can—lie, cheat, kidnap, even murder—so that one of them can marry Regina and take her wealth for themselves.
Love and friendship must conquer hatred and spite before Elijah and Regina can be together.
Buy now: https://books2read.com/1PerfectDance
Excerpt from One Perfect Dance
She unlocked the door, and Lady Kingsley swept inside. Wilson stammered apologies, but Regina waved him off. Her mother was a force of nature.
“Go back to your post,” she told him, and closed the door. If her mother was going to make a fuss, she didn’t want her servants and her son to hear.
She turned to ask her mother to explain her presence, but Lady Kingsley spoke first, to Elijah. “Do I need to ask your intentions towards my daughter, Mr. Ashby?”
“No, Mama,” Regina said. “I am a grown woman, and my actions are my own business.”
Lady Kingsley turned a chair around from the desk to face the bed. “You are right, Regina. I withdraw the question.”
Regina’s indignant response to the lecture she expected died on her tongue, and for a moment, she had nothing to replace it.
“My apologies for not rising, Lady Kingsley,” Elijah said, lifting himself off the pillows enough to bow his head, and then collapsing back with a grimace.
Regina’s mother frowned. “Are you unwell, Mr. Ashby?”
“Elijah was injured last night, fighting off some attackers,” Regina explained. She resumed her seat in the chair next to Elijah’s bed, so they were facing her mother together.
“Last night?” Mother asked. “Then you were with Regina, Mr. Ashby?” She turned a concerned gaze on Regina. “There is gossip about your activities yesterday evening, daughter. I want to know how I can help counter what is being said.”
“What is being said?” Elijah asked.
“That Regina had an assignation with Mr. David Deffew in an apartment in Peach Tree Lane. That you broke in, Mr. Ashby, tied Mr. Deffew up, and threatened to shoot Mr. Deffew if he followed. Mr. Deffew claims that Regina has promised to marry him and is threatening to have you arrested for abducting her.”
That perverted version of the evening’s events had Regina’s eyebrows twitching upward. Elijah, however, laughed. “Does Dilly truly think people will believe that?” he scoffed.
“I do not,” Mother insisted. “I know Regina despises the man, and I believe her to be right in his assessment of his character. But several of Richard Deffew’s friends claim to have seen her coming out of the building with you, Mr. Ashby. Richard Deffew is Mr. Deffew’s nephew.”
“Did those friends mention that Elijah’s servant was with us, and that he and Elijah were half-carrying Geoffrey? I was there because a messenger came to tell me that Geoffrey had been injured in an accident and needed me.”
“Ah!” Lady Kingsley commented. “Another abduction attempt.”
“It was,” Regina agreed. “An unsuccessful one, since Elijah saw me leaving here in a hackney with one of the young men that Geoffrey has been seeing. He came after me. We rescued Geoffrey, who had been drugged, and then Elijah and Fullaby fought off a group of the young men, who attacked us when we left the building.”
“Rex was there too,” Elijah disclosed.
Mother gave a single decisive nod. “Excellent. The pair of you have a witness that Society will accept as credible.”
As opposed to Fullaby and Geoffrey, though to be fair, Geoffrey was not in a condition to be much of a witness.
“Do you happen to know whether Deffew has an apartment in that building?” Elijah asked.
Mother shook her head. “Not to my knowledge. He and his nephew live with Matthew Deffew.”
Ash grinned, the flame of mischief in his eye. “Then Society might put its busy mind to wondering why he was in that building at all, let alone in the condition I saw him.”
Mother raised her eyebrows and inclined her head. “The condition in which you saw him?” she repeated, making a question of it.
Elijah’s grin broadened. “I should tell you that the room to which we were directed, the room in which Geoffrey was being held, was towards the far end of the passage from the stairwell. To reach it, one had to pass a door that had been damaged and loosely propped in the frame, so anyone who looked in that direction would see a man spreadeagled on the bed. He was unclothed and tied by his wrists and ankles to the bed posts.”
Impressive! His statement was entirely true but left out any mention of their altercation with Deffew.
“Unclothed!” Mother repeated. “I take it you recognized this man, Mr. Ashby.”
“I did,” Elijah told her gravely. “It was David Deffew. One wonders how he found himself in that state, in what is, after all, a building full of bachelor apartments. A foolish jape? An assignation gone wrong? Perhaps he was waiting for the owner of the apartment?”
“One prefers not to speculate,” Mother replied, dryly, “but it would be unkind not to permit other people to relish such an interesting insight into the character of the man who has been attempting to coerce my daughter into an unwanted marriage.”
“I thought you might see it that way,” Elijah said, and he and Mama exchanged a smile full of accord.