Dear Gentle Reader,
It has been brought to my attention that a certain widow—who, shall not be named at this time but is the daughter of a viscount and has a rather large dog who answers to the name Silvanus— was seen in the country, on her way to pay a second visit in one day to a certain illegitimate son of a baron. Alone and at night!
What is most alarming about this tidbit is not only is she not yet out of mourning, but she has a tendre for said illegitimate son of a baron! And I have it on good authority that Mrs. K was seen gallivanting across the countryside in a lilac riding habit.
Let me remind you, dearest reader, that this is the very same lady who disgraced her family when she ran off with the son of the head stable master on her sister’s wedding day two years ago. The same sister who was abandoned at the altar, that is. But I suppose I can not judge too harshly, for a notorious rake came to her rescue, and the now Mrs. R is happily married and living in the country with her handsome husband and darling daughter. But I digress…
It has also come to my attention that Mrs. K is not truly Mrs. K for… gather a little closer… It would seem her late husband was quite the swindler and debaucher. It was not enough for him to be married, but to have paramours—yes, plural—waiting in the shadows is beyond understanding.
Oh, such scandalous behavior!
Far be it from me to judge, but it would seem the lady in question is not quite through with causing scandal for her family. Has she no propriety or care for her family? Only time will tell if the ton forgives her for her transgressions.
Who in the bloody hell would be calling on such a dreary evening?
Rubbing his tired eyes, he stood and stretched. He hoped it was just the wind, but instinct told him it was not. Nothing currently in his life was as simple as that. Grabbing the polished candlestick, he walked from the warm sanctity of his study toward the front hall.
The pounding on the door was getting more persistent, vibrating through the otherwise quiet house.
He hoped it wasn’t Lord Botte. He wouldn’t be surprised if it were—the man had an uncanny knack for saying one thing and then doing another. Rather than let Weston conduct his investigation as he saw fit, Botte was constantly underfoot. No matter how much proof Weston had presented of his young bride’s infidelities, Botte wanted more. Sadly, his lordship could not accept the fact that his wife was cuckolding him.
Weston would deliver his report and then would not put any further time into the matter. He had wrapped up that case. In fact, he hoped it would be his last.
Rap… rap… rap.
Milton had reached the door at the same time. He shook his head at Milton. “I will handle this, Milton.” If it was Lord Botte, he did not want any of the staff to deal with the belligerent man.
“As you wish, sir.” Milton walked into the shadows, shaking his head all the while. Weston did not stand on protocol in his own home. If he wanted to answer the door, he would.
He reached for the cool handle and eased the door open. Whiffs of lavender, vanilla, and wet dog invaded his senses.
Before he could register what was happening, a petite, blonde-haired figure draped in black pushed past the door and stormed into the house, followed close behind by the largest dog he’d ever set eyes on.
Without explanation as to why she was on his doorstep, Philippa chattered, “I thought… you meant for us to fr…freeze out there.” She rubbed her arms with quick movements and stepped farther into the hall. The dog shook its body from head to tail, spraying everything with the none-too-pleasant smell of wet fur.
Weston stood dumbfounded. Wasn’t Philippa just here this afternoon? He was still holding the door open, trying to comprehend why she had come again, and at this hour. Glancing outside, he noticed no horse, no carriage, and no chaperone. Damn. One day, her impulsive nature would land her in irreparable trouble, more so than she currently was in.
“What are you doing here?” he sputtered, trying to hide the disapproval and shock from his voice. He shut the door as one last blast of cool wind whipped through the hall. Closing his eyes, he sucked in his breath. Give me patience. Releasing the knob, he turned to face Philippa.
Smoothing back errant golden locks, she avoided his gaze.
“Do you know what time it is?”
It was late by country standards, and the object of his latest investigation stood in his hallway, yet he still had to determine how to deal with the news he received earlier in the day.
“I have not a clue.” She turned her crystal blue eyes on him. “It took forever to reach Knights Hall.”
Her answer was not reassuring. He waited for her to elaborate, but no further explanation came. “How did you get here?”
“I walked.” She said those two words like they were commonplace. Perhaps in the middle of the day with a chaperone they were, but at this time of evening, and in the rain, they were inconceivable when spoken by a lady of her station.
“You walked here?”
“You walked here in the dark… in the rain… unchaperoned?”
“It wasn’t dark or raining when I left. And as for unchaperoned,” she began as she stroked the dog’s gigantic head, “Silvanus was with me. He protected me.” She turned her attention to the large wet dog. “Isn’t that right?” she said in a jovial voice. “You’re the best dog ever.” Silvanus’ tail wagged wildly at the sound of her high-pitched praise.
Weston did not doubt the dog’s ability to scare off any would-be attacker, but he was still no substitute for a proper chaperone.
“Why didn’t you ride? Or better still, why didn’t you stay at home and send word?” As the words were coming out of his mouth, he could see her face reddening with agitation. He didn’t care. Her carefree spirit had been endearing when she was a child, but now she was headed for Bedlam with this sort of activity.
If Lord Germayne knew what his daughter was about, he would lock her in her room until she came to her senses. Weston’s blood boiled with the thought of what trouble she could have found herself in, or worse. “I cannot believe you thought it was a good idea to venture out…”
Interrupting his tirade with a stomp of her foot on the marble floor, she yelled, “If you would just be quiet for all of two seconds, perhaps I might explain what I’m doing here.”
Dancing Around the Truth
Mrs. Philippa Keates thought she’d found her happily ever after when she eloped, but two years later, she’s named a widow. The horror of her husband’s death, and then the shock of discovering that Alfred was a dissolute gambler, has forced Philippa into a life of seclusion. But when she is paid a visit by a woman claiming to be her late husband’s wife and demanding recompense, Philippa knows she must emerge from mourning and discover the whole truth about Alfred. The one person who can assist her is her childhood friend, Benjamin Weston, for whom she once held a tendre until she realized he didn’t feel the same.
Benjamin Weston, the illegitimate son of the late Baron Albryght, has made a name for himself conducting investigations for those willing to pay a high price for discretion. When Philippa arrives on his doorstep, begging for his assistance, Weston fears most of all that she will discover the truth. He insists that his investigations will be done on his terms, vowing to himself that he will continue to keep his distance from Philippa. But as he unravels her mystery, secrets of his own begin to come to light, and soon it becomes clear that there is more at stake than just Philippa’s reputation.
*Reissued in a new series with a beautiful new cover!
Alanna Lucas, author bio
Bestselling, award-winning author, Alanna Lucas pens Regency-set historicals filled with romance, adventure, and of course, happily ever afters. When she is not daydreaming of her next travel destination, Alanna can be found researching, spending time with family, tending to her garden, or going for long walks. She makes her home in California with her husband and children, and too many books to count.
Just for the record, you can never have too many handbags or books. And travel is a must.