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What’s a brother to do?

Lord Adrian de Courtenay watched his sisters from across his seat in their carriage while they returned home from Hollystone Hall. Grace, the older of the two, had a sweet smile set upon her face, most likely because she at last came to a common accord with none other than Lord Nicholas Lacey. Miranda, the youngest in the family, sat staring out the window with a blank expression and red rimmed eyes. He hated to see her cry but in this case, it was only what she deserved. She looked up as though she sensed his displeasure.

“Not. One. Word.” She murmured between clenched teeth and pointing a slim finger in his direction.

Adrian shrugged before pulling a slim cheroot from his coat and lighting it. “I said nothing, Miranda,” he answered watching the trail of smoke.

“How shall I ever show myself in Society again?” Miranda moaned before hiding her face in her hands.

Grace reached over to give their sister’s arm an affectionate squeeze. “People forget, dear heart.”

Adrian groaned. “I am not certain shall ever forget, at least any time soon. To see our sister so scantily clad in that costume has been engrained into my soul.”

A screech emitted from across the seat. “You should have been more concerned with what Lord Aldridge and Gren proposed to me,” Miranda fumed, her face turning red in either anger or embarrassment. Adrian was not sure which. “Why, oh why, did you not call them out to save my honor?”

Adrian leaned forward in his seat with a frown. “I would not dare call the gentlemen out given your performance at the charity ball. They did nothing but teach you a lesson that I pray you shall remember and not repeat, little one. I have barely recovered from the ordeal of trying to save your reputation as it is.”

The carriage came to a halt and Adrian noticed they had arrived home. Before the footman could put the step down and open the door, Miranda flung herself out of their conveyance. She leaned her arm upon the frame to peer back inside.

“I hate you, Adrian!” she yelled. “I will hate you until I die.” With a sob, she fled into the house.

Adrian gave a heavy sigh, descended from the carriage and turned to assist Grace. He was just heading up the walk when he espied none other than the Danver sister’s scratching away on a piece of parchment while standing in the middle of the sidewalk. He ignored them and went into his townhouse wondering what page the little scene they had witnessed would turn up on in tomorrow’s edition of the Teatime Tattler.


Sherry Ewing is proud to be one of the Bluestocking Belles. Lord Adrian de Courtenay and his sisters made their first appearance in A Kiss For Charityinside the Belles’ 2016 box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts. A Kiss For Charity is available for individual sale.


Holly and Hopeful Hearts

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

Holly and Hopeful Hearts is a Bluestocking Belles Collection with 25% of the sales benefit the Belles’ mutual charity the Malala Fund!

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 A Kiss for Charity Blurb:

Love heals all wounds but will their pride keep them apart?

Young widow, Grace, Lady de Courtenay, is more concerned with improving her mind than finding another husband. But how was she to know that a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would spark her interest and make her yearn for love again?

Lord Nicholas Lacey has been on his own for far too long after losing his wife in a tragic accident. After a rare trip to a masquerade, his attention is captivated by a lovely young woman. Considering the dubious company she keeps, perhaps she might be interested in becoming his mistress.

From the darkened paths of Vauxhall Gardens to a countryside estate called Hollystone Hall, Nicholas and Grace must set aside their differences in order to let love into their hearts. It will take more than a dose of holiday cheer to see these two on the road to finding their happily-ever-after and a kiss for charity may just be what they both need.

Excerpt:

Arms of steel wrapped around her waist to prevent her downward pitch. Her rescuer’s cape whirled around their bodies as though the cloak itself would conceal them from the night and those around them. Fathomless dark eyes were all but hidden in the black mask that concealed his features, yet, a flicker from the walkway lanterns hinted at their color. His eyes were brown, much like his hair, she surmised, if the curls that formed around the edges of his hat and mask were any indication.

Grace gasped as he quickly maneuvered her off the pathway to save them from being run over by the eagerness of the crowd. Sheshivered, but not from the cold for she was far from chilled. No. Shequivered from the warmth that raced up and down her spine at being this closeto a man, let alone held intimately for the first time in many years.

“Are you hurt, my lady?”

His deep voice went straight to her heart. His low tone plummeted down to reach into the very depths of her soul to awaken a part of her that had been left dormant as though she had been waiting for him her entire life. Waiting… yes she had been waiting for someone to come along who would give her this sudden feeling of completeness, even though he was a total stranger.

The realization of what she was doing hit her as if a bucket of icy water had been thrown over the top of her head. He was asking her something, but her brain could not wrap itself around what he had inquired.

“Pardon me?” she asked in a breathy whisper of astonishment, especially when she realized she had been caressing the lapel of his jacket beneath his cloak.

His arm tightened around her. She watched in mild fascination as one side of his mouth turned up in a cocky grin. He knew exactly how her body was reacting to their close proximity.

“I asked if you were hurt, although I might also beg for an introduction.”

“I h-hardly think this en-encounter is a-appropriate,” Grace stammered. Was that actually her voice sounding so unsure of herself?

He leaned down, and, for an instant, she thought he was about to kiss her.

“How utterly charming that I have you all tongued-tied.” His words whispered gently in her ear were almost her undoing.

Before she could comment, Moriah’s voice was heard above the noise of the crowd, and she quickly untangled herself from the man who did nothing to hide his disappointment.

“There you are,” Moriah declared as she stared up at the stranger. Grace could only imagine what was going on inside her friend’s mind, given their recent conversation. “I am sorry I lost you. Are you all right?”

Grace nodded. “Yes… of course. Thank you, sir, for your assistance this evening,” she murmured shyly to the gentleman whose lips turned up into a charming grin.

He raised his fingers to tip his hat towards her. “It was my pleasure to rescue a fair damsel in distress.”

Her eyes followed him through the crowd until he disappeared. Her heart hammered in her chest. What in the world had just happened?

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The Willing Widow’s Club

Mrs. Cassandra Vaughn lounged comfortably in an overstuffed chair within her salon. Her friend, Mrs. Patience Moore, was in the process of pouring them both a cup of tea. If someone had told her four years ago she would have two women living under her roof who had fallen on hard times, she would have laughed. Lucky for her, the Earl of Drayton knew how to settle his accounts. When they had ended their association, he had gifted her with a substantial amount; a vast sum that allowed her the luxury of not having to take another lover in order to keep herself in the manner to which she had become accustomed. The divine man… too bad he was now so happily married.

“However shall we tell her?” Patience chewed on her lower lip before she realized what she was doing. She poured another serving of tea. “The poor dear will be devastated.”

How indeed? Cassandra pondered accepting the china cup from Patience. “I will handle the situation as delicately as possible. If I can survive having my name splattered across that rag of a newspaper, then she shall survive too.”

A snort came from Patience. “If you had had better sense all those years ago, you would have never been following Lord Drayton in the park in the first place. I ruined a good pair of shoes scampering to keep up with you.”

“Leave it be, Patience,” Cassandra warned whilst images of Neville carrying Lady Gwendolyn Sandhurst flashed through her mind. Odd how all these years later the scene still hurt. But this… her eyes went to the open paper on a nearby table. Such news would be devastating to anyone. It was one thing to be labeled mistress. It was entirely another to be labeled a woman of the streets as the article all but implied.

Any further thoughts on how to explain the unfortunate incident plaguing her this morning came to an abrupt end with the sound of a soft knock upon the door. With the call to enter, the door squeaked open on its hinges.

Mrs. Moriah Hernshaw entered the room clutching a shawl around her morning gown. Her eyes were red-rimmed giving testament to her lack of sleep. A shaky hand ran up to her dark black hair in an attempt to tame the unruly tresses. She failed.

“Come sit with us,” Cassandra prompted pointing to the vacant chair.

“You are too kind, Mrs. Vaughn. How will I ever repay your generosity at taking a total stranger into your home?” Moriah asked as she all but fell into her seat.

“You may start by calling me Cassandra,” she answered holding up her hand to put an end to any argument on the subject. “Since you shall be staying with me for an undetermined amount of time, I must insist.”

“Very well,” Moriah replied.

“I just know we shall become the best of friends,” Patience declared holding out another cup of tea. Cassandra peered at the woman who looked as though there was nothing wrong and this was just a friendly tea party.

The silence stretched between the women for several minutes as they became lost in their own thoughts and drank their tea. Moriah began to fidget in her seat as though she was uncomfortable sitting down. It dawned on Cassandra that the woman may be concealing injuries she dared not tell her when she showed up on her doorstep in broad daylight.

“It is none of my business what that brute did to you but I do worry he caused you more pain than you are letting on,” Cassandra prompted.

Moriah paled, turning as white as the china cup that rattled in the saucer she held. She set the cup down on the table. “I will mend.”

“You must be more selective in the future about whom you take to your bed, my dear. I know you have fallen on hard times, but I was most concerned for your well-being when Lord Drayton discreetly asked if I would take you in. Are you perhaps friends with his wife,” Cassandra asked taking hold of the woman’s hand.

“I believe his wife is acquainted with my dear friend, Lady Grace Lacey.”

“I see,” Cassandra replied.

“Is it not a small world,” Patience said brightly.

Cassandra rolled her eyes giving Patience a look to remain silent. The woman was so trying at times.

“I do not want you to think less of me, Cassandra, but the gentleman in question forced himself upon me. He did not like my refusal when I told him I would not take him as my lover,” Moriah continued on.

“The swine,” Cassandra hissed. “That would explain much I fear.”

“I do not understand. Has something happened?” Moriah inquired. Her brow furrowed with worry.

Cassandra rose and went to pick up the latest edition of the Teatime Tattler. “The good news is that the article is buried on the fifth page. The bad news is this bit of gossip will spread throughout the ton by mid-day.

Moriah took the paper and began to read aloud.

This just in…

A certain Mrs. M.H. has recently been spotted having a bit of sport in nearby Hyde park, if the leaves stuck in her hair and dress are any indication as to how she spent the afternoon. She was also seen sneaking into the house of Mrs. C.V. and we all know this woman’s reputation, despite the fact no one has noticed her becoming any man’s mistress recently. Perhaps the two women have now become partners in their quest to find wealthy benefactors or will head to the cheaper side of town and take a shilling or two for payment for their wares. Curious minds want to know what will become of these willing widows.

Moriah gasped. “I am ruined.”

“I have no doubt your gentleman friend, and I use that term loosely, gave them such rubbish to print.” Cassandra took the paper from Moriah’s hands and tossed it aside. “But we shall survive such drivel.”

“I will never be able to hold my head up and face Society. And Grace,” she cried out. “What will she think of me when she see’s the latest edition?”

Cassandra went over to the sideboard and poured a draught of sherry. She handed the drink to Moriah. “If she is your friend, she all ready knows this is but a bunch of lies. You have nothing to be ashamed of. The lady will understand.”

“I hope so. I would hate to lose her friendship over something I had no control over,” Moriah replied downing the drink in two gulps.

Patience came over to give Moriah a hug. “We could look at the bright side of this,” she declared with a laugh.

Cassandra scowled. “I hardly find this situation humorous, Patience.”

“Can you not see it now, Cassie,” Patience purred. “Why they will be saying we belong to the Willing Widow’s Club. Why gentlemen will be lining up at your door just to get a look at us!”

Cassandra and Moriah both stared at the woman as though she had lost her mind. Moments later the three women broke out into laughter.

“Well, I suppose they cannot think any worse of us than how the article portrayed us,” Moriah chuckled.

“We might as well give them something more to talk about. Let’s go shopping,” Cassandra said. “Any bad situation I have ever been involved in always looks better after I’ve bought a new bonnet.

Laughter echoed in the air as the three women went to ready themselves.


This is an original piece with secondary characters from two of Sherry Ewing’s stories. Cassandra Vaughn can be found in Sherry’s new Regency series, Nothing But Time: A Family of Worth, Book One. Moriah Hernshaw can be found in A Kiss For Charity which first appeared in the Bluestocking Belles’ 2016 box set, Holly and Hopeful Hearts and is now available for individual sale.

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. You can find all of Sherry’s books on the tab above or on her website at www.SherryEwing.com.

Missing his cue

Lord Adrian de Courtenay entered the billiards room and scanned the guests already in attendance for the afternoon’s tournament. He thought this was to be a game between gentlemen. Given the number of women and children in the room, the event was apparently open to any and all who were visiting Hollystone Hall.

Noticing his sister Grace had as yet to arrive, his gaze landed on the young miss who had been following him for several days. Lady Celia Lacey was a pretty little bird who would one day become a true beauty once she left childhood far behind. He would admit, if only to himself, he had enjoyed the few encounters when their paths had met, for she acted far older than her fifteen years.

Lady Celia was the niece of the very same gentleman who thought Adrian and Grace were married, not brother and sister. The man was a fool to let a simple misunderstanding stand between him and Grace, and worse to give her no opportunity to rectify his misconception. As Adrian continued to examine the room, it was as if Lord Nicholas Lacey knew where Adrian’s thoughts had led. Grace’s gentleman eyed him warily whilst sizing up the table for his next shot. Adrian did his best to hide a smirk of satisfaction knowing he could so easily get under the man’s skin just by appearing in the room. He wondered how far he could push him.

Wishing to test his theory, he made his way to Lady Celia, whose face lit up as he drew closer. “Lady Celia, how lovely you look this afternoon,” he crooned in a sweet tone. “Why, the sun and stars must surely shine brighter knowing they gaze upon you from their place in the heavenly sky above.”

Nervous giggles escaped both the young lady, and her sister, Lady Alice, who stood next to her. “You are too kind, my lord. Will you be joining in the tournament?” Lady Celia replied, snapping open her fan to wave it in front of her flushed face.

What a becoming blush, he thought as he gave her what he considered his best smile. It really was a shame she was not older. “Perhaps, if I can find a willing opponent.”

“Pick someone. There are plenty here waiting for a chance to play.”

Her eyes sparkled as she gave him the challenge, leaving Adrian to wonder if he should consider asking her. Instead, he turned his attention to the window and noticed the weather. “I am surprised to see you indoors on such a pleasant day. I would think a stroll in the gardens with the other ladies, no matter their condition this time of year, would be more to your liking.”

“I am here to watch my uncle, but perhaps afterwards I shall take your advice,” she said.

Maybe a small distraction would not cause too much harm, he thought. “Would you care –”

“Excuse me, Lord de Courtenay,” Lord Nicholas interrupted, giving Adrian a slight bump when he brushed up against him while moving to the same side of the table as his niece to continue his assessment of the balls left on the table.

“My apologies, Lord Nicholas,” he replied. Taking a step closer to Lady Celia, Adrian took her elbow to move her slightly out of the way. He leaned closer to whisper in her ear. “We must not distract your uncle from his game. We would not want him to lose now, would we?”

“Of course not,” Lady Celia murmured. As she raised her face to his, Adrian was momentarily startled. She was too innocent to know she revealed her emotions with just one glance in his direction with her lovesick eyes. This may have been only a game to set her uncle’s nerves on edge, but he was not one to dabble with the affections of a young impressionable woman still in the school room. No, best not to encourage her. His early thought of escorting her outside, vanished for he did not wish to hurt her feelings.

Just as he was beginning to wonder how he would get himself out of the situation he put himself in, Grace solved his dilemma by entering the room.

Lord Nicholas was too preoccupied with lining up his shot to notice Grace was present. Adrian smirked, knowingly. Just as the man drew back his arm to make his play, Adrian called out loudly. “There you are at last, Gracie darling.” He watched in satisfaction as Lord Nicholas completely missed the cue ball. “Will you excuse me, Lady Celia?” he whispered for her ears alone.

Adrian made his way to his sister, gave her what would appear as an affectionate kiss on her cheek, and then proceeded to drape his arm around her shoulder pulling her close.

“Whatever are you up to, Adrian,” Grace said quietly, “as if I could not guess, considering who is here?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about, my dear,” he replied stiffly, watching Lord Nicholas who now was talking with his nieces. He looked none too happy with the young lady Adrian had just left whilst Celia continued to stare in his direction. “It is hardly my fault Lord Nicholas missed his shot.”

“I am not necessarily talking about the tournament, Adrian, and you very well know it. What are you doing looking all moon eyed over his niece,” she all but hissed, taking him up task. “She is far too young for you.”

Regret for the small part he played in furthering Lady Celia’s infatuation with him, he took Grace’s elbow and went to the farthest corner of the room. “I was only having a bit of fun with your beau, Gracie.”

“He is not my beau,” she hissed, even as Adrian put an arm up against the wall all but capturing her in the corner. Such a gesture gave the impression of an intimate conversation between them. “Stop it, Adrian.”

“Why should I?” he asked. “If Lord Nicholas is a fool to think we are married then let him see we are a happy couple. It will make for such an entertaining event when he finally learns the truth.”

“You are horrible to tease him but what is even worse is for you to be giving any form of attention to that poor young girl who clearly thinks she is in love with you!”

Adrian whirled around. Sure enough, Celia’s face registered her disappointment and confusion whilst she continued to watch him before her uncle escorted her from the room. “Very well, Grace. I shall concede your point about Lady Celia by no longer encouraging her attention, but be warned. Lord Nicholas is still fare game.”

It would be several years before Adrian’s path would cross again with Lady Celia Lacey.


 

Adrian de Courtenay and Lady Celia Lacey are secondary characters in Sherry Ewing’s novella, A Kiss for Charity which is part of Holly and Hopeful Hearts, a Bluestocking Belles Collection. 25% of the sales benefit the Belles’ mutual charity, the Malala Fund.

A KISS FOR CHARITY ~ Young widow, Grace, Lady de Courtenay, is more concerned with improving her mind than finding another husband. But how was she to know that a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would spark her interest and make her yearn for love again?

Lord Nicholas Lacey has been on his own for far too long after losing his wife in a tragic accident. After a rare trip to a masquerade, his attention is captivated by a lovely young woman. Considering the dubious company she keeps, perhaps she might be interested in becoming his mistress…

From the darkened paths of Vauxhall Gardens to a countryside estate called Hollystone Hall, Nicholas and Grace must set aside their differences in order to let love into their hearts. It will take more than a dose of holiday cheer to see these two on the road to finding their happily-ever-after and a kiss for charity may just be what they both need.

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Miranda makes her move!

A Lady Correspondent had not intended to eavesdrop. Truly. She was just sitting in an alcove catching her breath and, it must be admitted, admiring the two Grenford brothers who were leaning on a pillar just in front of her. She could not help but see Miss de C accost them. She could not help but overhear all that transpired. At one point, she nearly spoke up, as horrified as the target of the brothers’ focused attention, but no. Surely Miss de C would be most embarrassed to know anyone else had witnessed her humiliation. She sank back into the shadows. But was she not planning to write the story for the Teatime Tattler? No. No she was not. However she disguised the name and circumstances, everyone here tonight would recognize the event to which she referred. The brothers had been careful of the silly girl’s reputation. She could not destroy it.

Miss Miranda de Courtenay took one last look into the mirror, adjusted her domino mask, and left her room. There was no turning back now. Her mind made up, she prayed her brother Adrian would not remove her from the ball the moment he set eyes upon her scandalous costume of a Greek goddess. If she were to win her bet with her sister Grace, she needed to make an impression on the man whom she had chosen as her target. She had no desire to lose that wonderful bonnet her brother had brought her from Paris and she already looked forward to winning the bottle of perfume from her sister.

Entering the ballroom, she had a moment of hesitation as her eyes quickly scanned the occupants of the already overflowing room. She took a deep breath, wondering if she could truly pull off an outside appearance of confidence when deep inside she was a nervous wreck. I can do this and must remember my purpose, she thought, whilst her gaze continued to flit across the crowd. Ah ha! There he is. There was no mistaking the handsome form of none other than the Marquis of Aldridge, along with his brother, the equally devastating Lord Jonathan. ‘Gren’, he had asked her to call him, and surely such an intimacy must mean he intended to propose?

She shrugged. Either man would do. She pushed back her shoulders and began advancing toward the two gentlemen, one of whom was leaning upon a pillar looking utterly divine. Neither man had a costume other than their evening attire and the masks placed upon their handsome faces; one white, the other black. Perhaps this is what set these two gentlemen apart from any other within the room, for they needed no other enhancement to draw attention to themselves. She had chosen wisely when she set her cap. Inwardly she sighed, wondering how she would feel once she actually received a proposal of marriage from the man known as the Merry Marquis.

Grace’s warning that she should stay far away from this man in particular flashed through her mind, but she ignored it. She dropped down into a proper curtsey, hoping against hope that the men found her attractive as she knew she appeared.

“Good evening, my lords,” she purred. “Were you perhaps looking for me?” She was unprepared for the smile that made her insides churn in a wave of nervous jitters. Being on the receiving end of the Marquis’s charm was deeply disturbing.

His voice was pitched to carry just as far as her ears. “Why, Miss de Courtenay, how delightful you look. Aphrodite herself come to enthrall us with her beauty.”

Her cheeks flushed with heat causing her to question her own stupidity for wearing such a daring gown. But it obviously had the desired effect and could only serve as one step closer to winning her bet. “You are too kind, my lord,” she said offering her hand.

Gren leaned forward to whisper in her ear. “What a charming blush. I would love to see how much of you it covers, my dear.”

A gasp escaped her. How could it not? For all she pretended to act as if she knew all there was to know about men, she was an innocent at only twenty years of age. Miranda instantly became aware that Grace may have been correct when she warned her about this pair. She could feel the warmth of the man’s breath as he lingered near her ear.

She glanced down at her gown and was shocked at how much of her cleavage was there for his viewing pleasure since he towered above her. Good heavens, she really was a fool to have chosen this costume but the die was cast and she had no one else to pursue in her attempts to win what she was now thinking a silly and foolish bet.

Raising her chin, she took hold of her fan and playfully slapped the gentleman’s arm. “My you are a bold one, are you not?” she teased, all the while wondering how she was going to get herself out of this mess she was in and still save face with her sister.

“As are you, my sweet,” Gren said. “And I admire boldness. Do not you, Aldridge?”

“Indeed. Boldness in a woman is highly desirable,” Aldridge agreed, his lids half closed, his voice husky. “Exactly how bold is she, Gren, do you think?”

Miranda glanced between the pair. This was not exactly how she thought this conversation would be leading. Perhaps, if she could just get the marquis alone for a moment, she might still be able to get him to offer for her. Surely he would be swept away by her beauty and propose on bended knee in no time at all.

She turned her full attention to the gentleman, all but ignoring his brother. Rude, perhaps, but this was a matter of grave importance. “My Lord Aldridge, perhaps you could spare me a moment to have a private word with you, just there, by the alcove?”

“Oh no, my dear,” Aldridge said, lifting one aristocratic eyebrow over twinkling eyes. “We must be more careful of your reputation. I would not for the world risk your good name ─ or your brother’s good health.”

“Fie, Aldridge,” Gren scolded. “How would the child know the way these things are done? She is very young still.”

“It will be my pleasure to school her,” Aldridge murmured, his words for his brother, but his eyes captivating Miranda’s and not letting them go. “Very much my pleasure. And hers, too, of course.”

Eyes wide and turning scarlet, she could barely breathe at the implication of his words. Right here, of all places, on the sideline of the ballroom for any and all to hear. Good heavens!

“My Lord, I─” Her lips snapped shut. Any further response was beyond her, as she felt, not just Aldridge, but his brother as well step closer, one to each side of her. When had this situation become completely out of her control?

“But you will share, Aldridge, will you not?” Gren asked. “After all, Miss de Courtenay’s lures have been as much for me as for you. And we have shared a mistress before”

Aldridge nodded. “It is only fair to the lady. The duties of the duchy will prevent me from giving her the devoted attention I used to be able to pay my lovers.”

Miranda’s head swiveled between the pair of brothers. She opened and closed her mouth several times before she was at last able to squeak out some form of a response. “Sh-share?” she stammered. Her hand rose to her throat as if that would cover her embarrassment and heaving bosom.

“I assure you, good sirs, that I am not yours to be,” she quickly looked around so she was not overheard and whispered, “shared between you.”

“Aldridge has grown stuffy,” Gren assured her. “If you were our mistress, my love, I would make sure you never felt neglected.”

“Mistress? Between you?” she cried out in alarm. All thought of trying to squeeze a marriage proposal out of either man was gone as she tried to wrap her thoughts around their outrageous proposition.

Both men frowned, straight eyebrows drawn down over identical hazel eyes. “You would prefer just one of us?” Aldridge asked.

“I suppose that’s fair,” Gren said to his brother. “I dare say she is still an innocent, despite the way she has been pursuing us. She might struggle to meet the needs of us both.” He turned back to the gasping maiden. “You choose then, Miss de Courtenay. Whose mistress would you like to be?”

“I will not be any man’s mistress but a wife,” she huffed, stamping her foot as though that would drive her point home. She looked between the pair and still could not believe they would offer such a proposition as to actually be their mistress. What a fool she had been!

“Grace was right about you,” she whispered gazing directly at Aldridge, as if he were the root of all her problems. She hated to admit she had knowingly brought this whole ghastly situation upon herself with her own sense of arrogance and pride. Humiliation consumed her even as tears welled up in her eyes, both from embarrassment and frustration that she had lost the stupid bet with her sister. At least she still had her virginity intact. God help her if she stayed any longer with this dangerous pair before her.

With tears rushing down her face, she mumbled an apology and dashed from the room, barely even acknowledging Grace when she entered the ballroom. She would have been appalled if she had witnessed her sister’s silent toast with her glass of wine to the gentlemen she had just left.

Aldridge and Gren returned Grace’s salute with a nod and a smile, but Gren’s eyes are clouded. “Poor innocent,” he commented. “I didn’t expect it to upset her so much.”

Aldridge pursed his lips. “She might act like a vixen on the hunt, but she is no more than a foolish kitten. Our agreement with her sister had us honour-bound to offend but not injure.”

Gren grinned. “I kept to my lines, Mr. Propriety. The frown returned to crease his brow. “But I am sorry for the silly chit.”

“Better hurt feelings and pride than ruination,” Aldridge said. “If she’d tried her tricks in London some rogue would have had her out in the garden or off in some secluded library before her brother or sister knew she was on the loose. Yes, and flat on her back with her skirts up whether she wanted or not, with some of the people you and I both know. We have done her a favour, Gren.”

“We’ve won Grace her bet, that’s certain,” Gren concedes. “Though I imagine she is happier to have her sister safe than whatever fribbet they wagered.”

Mission accomplished, the two brothers begin to move through the ballroom, still talking. They were sons of the hostess, and Mama would expect them to mingle.


ABOUT HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEARTS

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

Holly and Hopeful Hearts is a Bluestocking Belles Collection is on sale now through December for $0.99.
25% of the sales benefit the Belles’ mutual charity the Malala Fund!

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This is an original piece by Bluestocking Belles Sherry Ewing and Jude Knight.

Miranda and the Grenford brothers can be found as secondary characters in the Bluestocking Belles’ 2016 holiday box set entitled, Holly and Hopeful Hearts. Miranda, in particular, is in A Kiss for Charity by Sherry Ewing. Aldridge and Gren are interwoven in several of the novellas and are written by Jude Knight. They also appear in Jude’s latest release, Revealed in Mist. You can learn more about Jude and Sherry and where to find their published work by clicking on their names on this website.

Lonely Widow Looking for Love

Ask Aunt Augusta

Dear Aunt Augusta,

I am in a most unusual quandary. Recently I fell into a handsome stranger’s arms while attending a masquerade ball at Vauxhall Gardens. To say that I had a sudden attraction to this man is an understatement. But, alas, when I did the unthinkable to steal a few moments in the garden with him, he thought the worst of me and actually assumed I would be amicable to spending the night with him. I, of course, refused, and yet I cannot help but constantly think of what might have been if only I had said yes. What am I to do?

Signed,

A lonely widow

From the heroine in A Kiss for Charity in Holly and Hopeful Hearts by Sherry Ewing

Dearest Lonely Widow,

My dear, I know all there is to know about being a lonely widow. I must say, meeting a man by falling into his arms is a rather thrilling introduction! That he swept you off your feet like so is no small wonder. Alas, men do tend to see hidden meanings and motives in our every action, and I am not shocked to hear that he thought you wanted more than you were actually willing to give. Also, men do tend to think they can take more liberties at a masquerade ball than on other occasions, as I am sure you are aware.

Perhaps if the two of you are to cross paths again, you might give him a chance to return to your good graces, given that you cannot help but think of him. He obviously made an impression on you, and not wholly in the negative either.

Men can make mistakes, yes, that is well known, but if you can find it in yourself to give him a chance to do better, perhaps you will be well pleased with his effort. I do hope that is to be the case.

I wish you the very best,

Aunt Augusta

A Kiss for Charity in Holly and Hopeful Hearts by Sherry Ewing

Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade would make her yearn for love again. Can she learn to forgive Lord Nicholas Lacey and set aside their differences to let love into her heart?

http://www.sherryewing.com

~~~

Dear authors, if ever you should find that one of your characters has found him or herself in a rather trying position, whether in matters of the heart or matters of fashion or any matter at all, do be a kind soul and write to me. I will endeavor to answer your questions, if you but pen them for me.

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