(Overheard at Lady P’s Brighton Ball last night! Sent by one of our discreet correspondents!)
My dear Lady P., I heard the most ridiculous news a few hours ago. About one of those Irish girls that Lady W. chaperones here this Season.
I know, I heard, Lady L! The second of the triplets married in haste yesterday. To that dashing Marquess, too. What brass! I do sigh in exasperation. What else can you tell me to make my daughter’s chances this Season wan so disastrously?
Well, come closer. Ahem! At the wedding?
Who should appear but the very fellow, Lord G, who jilted the third Devereaux girl two years ago!
No! Outrageous. Why, I would never let such a creature darken my doorstep? Why would Lady W. allow him inside?
He helped the Marquess save his intended, the second sister!
The second sister had a…problem?
Indeed. I have it on good authority she was carried away and the Marquess and Lord G., along with that dashing Colonel of the Royal Buffs, rescued her.
Dear me! And so now Lord Grey…I mean Lord G. is admitted to the presence of his former intended.
Just so. And I understand that she gave him a very cool reception.
As she should. Smart girl.
Clever Lord G., eh?
A nibble of my newest cherry? YES! LADY, NO MORE (Encounter of hero and heroine in a bookshop)
Excerpt, LADY, NO MORE, all rights reserved. Copyright 2022, Cerise DeLand.
She had penned a note to Hadley yesterday and asked him to meet her here today. He had promised to be her adviser on men she found interesting and she had found one. In truth, she sent over the request to him to meet her not so much because she needed his insight into Lord Parnham but because she’d spent the whole of yesterday pining for Hadley’s poetry. Or lack thereof.
Foolish. Certainly. But there it was.
A need to talk with him, if for no other ridiculous, ironic reason than to hear his opinion of another man.
Leaving Fifi to sit on the bench outside under shade of a tree, Laurel entered the shop and paused to inhale the refreshing scent of paper and ink, leather bindings and the dust of decades upon the numerous shelves. The shop was tidy, two windows open to the breezes off the coast gave it the sweet smell of stories awaiting the uplifting of hundreds of minds. She herself had signed up for the subscription service the owner also operated from his shop, but when she had a few spare pence, she wished to own many of the fantasies that others created.
Today however she was attempting to fashion a story of her own. One, perhaps with Lord Parnham. To that end, Hadley had agreed to offer his insights. If he knew the man. If he would give a good report of him, if Parnham deserved it. If she could trust what Hadley had to say of the earl.
“Good afternoon, Lady Laurel.” Hadley doffed his hat and bowed before her. He too had the elegant silhouette of a man of the town. In emerald green frock coat and yellow damask waistcoat, he had a stock that might have held up the Parthenon as well as his chin, had he needed that, of course, which he did not. His buff breeches showed off to her attentive gaze, the line of his muscular thighs and shapely calves. They did nothing for her decision to regard him coolly, or at the most, as an old friend.
The two of them stood between a row of bookcases toward the rear of the shop. In the dim light so far from the entrance, she noted that Hadley appeared tired. His eyes rimmed in dark circles, at first she wondered if he’d been drinking.
“Are you well?” she asked, alarmed.
“Quite. Why do you ask?”
Curt, was he? “You don’t look it.”
“Why would you care?”
She rolled a shoulder. “Because…I don’t like to see anyone ailing.”
“I see,” he said and fingered the brim of his half stove pipe hat in his hand. He lifted his ivory walking stick and thrust it down at the wooden floor. The punctuation made her jump. “You didn’t like my poetry.”
She would give him his due. “But I did.”
He recoiled, then he peered at her.
“I always did, Hadley. Thank you. I…have not laughed much lately.”
“So I saw.” He mellowed but the hurt in his gaze gutted her. “You wanted to meet?”
“You’ve found a man you like?”
My. He was a wasp with his stinger out this morning.
Was this a good thing? “I have,” she told him.
He huffed. “Parnham, I suppose?”
She wrinkled her nose at him. “Do be quiet. Yes, yes. Him.”
He leaned closer and in a stage whisper said, “I don’t like him.”
She inched near and lowered her voice. “Very well. Why not?”
“He’s too good looking.”
She pressed her lips together, her smile hard to contain. “And?”
“He dances well.”
Indeed. “Good rhythm.”
Hadley narrowed his beautiful green eyes to beady slits. “Graceful.”
“There has to be more?”
Oh, she rather liked this contretemps. With the roll of a shoulder, she threw him a wide-eyed look. “Naturally. What of his temperament?”
“His reputation as a manager of his estates?”
“Dear god.” With a whack, he drove his walking stick into the floorboards. “I have no idea.”
“Ask around, will you?” Oh, she liked that idea!
She stomped one impatient foot. “What do you know?”
“He likes you.”
Smart man. “How?”
“What do you mean ‘how’?”
“As a friend? A prospective—?”
“Yes. As a prospective.”
Delightful. “And you know this because you…?”
“Heard it from his lips. Is that good enough for you?”
“The best. Thank you.” She mellowed toward him. Despite his peevish temper—and a hint of jealousy, too, yes?—Hadley had told her the truth. “I’m very grateful to you.”
“Fine.” He jammed his hat on his head.
“Of course. Unless you wish to interrogate me about some other man.”
She licked her lips. That brought her to the point, didn’t it? The one that niggled her until wee hours in her bed each night. “I do.”
“There is someone else? Wonderful! Who?”
Oh, he was furious. Could this really be…jealousy? Oh, delights! “You.”
She could have pushed over the bookcase on him and it would not have fazed him as much.
It took him a bit, but he managed to form a word. “What?”
“You. I wish to ask a question about you.”
“Why?” He squinted.
Distrusting soul, wasn’t he?
“I am not one of your swains.”
“Used to be.”
His expression collapsed. To sorrow. “What do you want to know?”
“Why did you not marry the woman to whom your father betrothed you?”
“That is a very long story.” He glanced away, then around at the hundreds of books surrounding him. “Too complicated to tell here.”
“Why not tell me the short version?”
His cheeks went red with anger. “Because she loved another man.”
Had one of the bookcases fallen on her? “That…that’s…”
“Not what the ton says? No, it isn’t.”
Author Cerise DeLand
Sassy ladies and smart men make irresistible romance! That, plus a good dose of historical accuracy, are my hallmarks. Hope you will read all my Regency and Victorian romances!