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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!

Buy the box set here:

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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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Hearts and Hope at Hollystone Hall

Sam Clemens, proprietor of The Teatime Tattler, bought the stablemaster another mug of dark bitter, his fifth by Sam’s count. It was a powerful brew, and Sam was still nursing his second. He wanted to keep his own wits, and befuddle those of his companion. Bellowes must have a head of pure oak, for he was still upright and coherent, though he was speaking a bit more loudly and gesturing wildly to punctuate his points.

“Not a beauty, not by our measure,” he was saying. “The head was too small and the back too long. But a magnificent beast, for all that. And what that there viscount could do with him! You’d not believe it, and that’s a fact.”

Viscount? The matter was in some dispute, since the man in question was the offspring of a ducal heir and a foreign woman, the marriage (if it happened at all) taking place in some place high in the mountains at the rear end of the Persian empire.

Bellowes would be of little use if he could not be persuaded to talk about anything but horses.

“I’m surprised the Haverfords invited Lord Elfingham,” Sam said. “It’s no secret that His Grace is behind the move to have his father’s marriage declared invalid.”

“As to that, he arrived unexpected,” Bellowes declared. “His horse came up lame, he said. Good trick that. He was courting one of the Belvoir ladies, and that’s the truth. Clever horse, like I told you.”

Not back to the horse again! Sam thought quickly. “He wasn’t the only unexpected arrival, I heard. You’d see them all, in the stables.”

“That I do. That I do. Let me see. There was the young Hebrew. Nice fellow. Turned up bright and early on one post horse, leading another. He came a courting too, by all accounts. Them up at the house say he’d been on a mission for the Duke of Wellington himself! Think of that. Well, he had his own mission at Hollystone Hall.”

Yes, Sam had heard about that. Some relative of Baumann the banker, and Baumann’s daughter was a guest at the party.

“And young Lord Jonathan, of course. He was only here for a couple of days, though, and then he and Lord Aldridge ordered the carriage, and took off for London. And Lady Sophia Belvoir went with them! A nice lady like that. Who’d have thought it.”

“House parties can be scandalous places,” Sam suggested, hoping Bellowes would confirm with some more gossip.

But Bellowes shook his head, saying staunchly, “Not parties run by the duchess. A lot of billing and cooing, mind you. But no hanky-panky. Let me see. We had Lord Nicholas Lacey exchanging a kiss for a big donation to Her Grace’s charity. That’s what the party was for, you understand. To raise money for education.” He shook his head again, more slowly this time. “Though what women need with an education I don’t know.”

Sam responded with a neutral sound that Bellowes could take as he liked, and Bellowes continued.

“His brother-in-law, too. Mr Durand was here with his betrothed, and they seemed like a fine couple. I got to know the young ladies a little, Lord Lacey’s daughter and Mr Durand’s. They used to come down with the other schoolroom chits to feed the horses. That oriental? Gentle as a lamb.”

Sam leapt in before Bellowes could return to the horse. “You had a wedding, I’m told.”

“That we did. An earl and an actress, if you can believe it!”

Sam, who had seen Miss Halfpenny on the stage, could easily believe that the reclusive Earl of Somerton was besotted, but marriage? Society was shocked, but rumour had it that the two most concerned were blissfully happy.

“His cousin wasn’t best pleased. Took off early, he did. Just as well, too, because we’d not have had room for the Woodville coach or Lord Stanton. They arrived just in time for the ball on the last night, though they’d been expected right at the beginning.”

Sam could smell a story, could all but taste it, but no one was talking. Lord Stanton, his sister Miss Lockhart, and his stepmother had left London together, as had Miss Woodville and her brother. Lady Stanton had arrived at the party at the beginning, Lord Stanton had later appeared on his own. Miss Lockhart had not only come with the Woodvilles, she was actually married to Mr Woodville. He would keep digging. Someone must know what had happened.

“Two weeks of romance,” he commented.

Bellowes eyes were drooping, but he opened them again. “That they were, and the servants’ hall abuzz with our own.” He chuckled. “The French chef and the duchess’s cousin. Who’d have thought it?” With that, he toppled forward onto the table, and in moments was snoring. Sam would get no more out of him tonight.

Mr Bellowes is talking about characters and stories from the anthology Holly and Hopeful Hearts. You can read the blurbs for each story here, and get the buy links. Furthermore, the collection is on special this month for only 99c, which is pretty good for 680 pages of fiction!

•*☆Holly & Hopeful Hearts is a RONE nominee☆*•

PLEASE VOTE!!
The Bluestocking Belles were thrilled to learn Holly and Hopeful Hearts became a RONE nominee with InD’Tale Magazine. Voting begins for the Anthology category from April 24th – April 30th but you have to be signed in to the website to vote at www.indtale.com. It is easy to register, and you won’t be sorry—it is a great little magazine.

The Bluestocking Belles would sincerely appreciate your support by voting for our box set since this round is reader based. Starting Monday after you sign in you can vote here: http://www.indtale.com/2017-rone-awards-week-two

Thank you for your support from the Bluestocking Belles.

A Pirate, A Lady, and A Lord – Part Three

Captain Pershore was in a foul mood. The nighttime sky glittered with thousands of sparkling crystals in lieu of stars, but he could not appreciate the majestic sight. Even the calmness of the peaceful waters did not soothe him.

Annamarie did not know him! Yes, he had changed his name, but they had met on occasions before. Their mothers were close friends.

Regardless, he would make her remember. She would come around. One day, and one day soon, she would be his.

***

The door was locked. Annamarie heard it click when the pirate stormed off. She had forgotten him? When would she have ever come across him before? Had he mistaken her for someone else?

It did not matter. She had more pressing concerns to worry about, such as how to unlock the door. Of course, she could not flee until they reached a port, but having a means to free herself when the time came around would be prudent.

Quickly, she searched the room again and again. She placed all items that might help in a pile. It felt almost rewarding to work so hard, and yet her fear and her worries never left her.

***

Larry “Landlubber” Lancaster was the name of the man helping Barnet. He gave no details about his past with Pershore. To pass the hours as they sailed, Barnet found himself confessing his feelings for Lady Annamarie to the pirate. He had not even made his intentions known to her. In fact, that had been why he went to her manor in the first place!

“Ya need to be relaxin,” Landlubber grumbled. “Ya fit to be tied. Bad energy ya be givin’ off. It’ll affect the waters. Ya’ll see. Relax. All will be well.”

“How can you be so calm?” Barnet blurted, eyeing the pirate’s cutlass. The pirate almost always had a hand resting on the gilded hilt. “You’re preparing to kill another man!”

“Pershore isn’t a man. He be a monster. If you be lucky, your lady will not be ruined by him yet.”

There was no hope of Barnet relaxing now, not after hearing that statement. Despair, fear, worry, and anger all warred within him. He had known for some time now that he cared for Annamarie. It wasn’t until she was taken away that he realized that he actually truly loved her.

Don’t worry, Annamarie. I’m coming for you.
To be continued…

Read Part One here and Part Two here.

 

Taken from the notes of one Lady Anna Wycliff

Lady Anna is the heroine in Christmas Kisses, part of the Bluestocking Belles’ boxed set Holly and Hopeful Hearts available now from various retailers. 25% of proceeds will go to the Malala Fund.

hollyhopefulheartsAbout the Book

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?

About the Stories

A Suitable Husbandby Jude Knight

As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Surely she can find a suitable husband amongst the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party. Above stairs or possibly below. 

Valuing Vanessaby Susana Ellis

Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life. 

A Kiss for Charityby Sherry Ewing

Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball 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?

Artemis, by Jessica Cale

Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?

The Bluestocking and the Barbarianby Jude Knight

James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy. 

Christmas Kissesby Nicole Zoltack

Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts. 

An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?

Dashing Through the Snowby Amy Rose Bennett

Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love…

BUY LINKS for HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEARTS

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Amazon UK
Amazon Australia
Amazon Canada
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Barnes & Noble
iBooks

 

A Pirate, A Lady, and A Lord – Part Two

Captain Pershore directed his first mate to keep them out at sea. They provisions aplenty that they would not need to go to land for some time.

That matter settled, he made his way to his cabin. There, the Lady Annamarie jerked to her feet. Her dark strands half covered her face, but he could see that her cheeks were stained pink.

Her wrists were rubbed raw from the ropes, and he stalked toward her. “Allow me,” he murmured, reaching out for her and untying her bindings.

***

The wretched pirate was freeing her! But then he was rubbing her wrists, massaging them, and she wiggled free enough to slap him hard in the face. Her palm ached from the slap, but the infuriating man merely chuckled.

“I see you aren’t ready to accept me yet. You will. Soon,” he said, his voice low and threatening.

“I would rather—”

“If you wish to insult me,” he said, his eyes narrowing, “I suggest you think again because I am not known for my patience.”

“I do not even know your name.” Her voice did not tremble, for which she was pleased, but he was already grabbing her wrists and retying her binding. Despite her struggles and her attempt to kick him—curse her long skirt!—he overpowered her with ease.

“You have forgotten.” His eyes narrowed even more, hardly open at all. His lips pursed, and he raised his hand. She flinched, awaiting his blow, but he merely marched out of the room, slamming it shut and locking with with a click.

Who was this pirate? Why had he taken her?

“Oh, Mother, Father.” Annamarie refused to cry, but her chest ached all the same.

***

Clutching the old coin as if it possess all the answers to his problems, Barnet rushed to the tavern where he had seen the pirate Pershore on a few occasions. The two had never exchanged words, but if it came down to blows or even a full brawl to ensure the safety of Lady Annamarie, he would not hesitate to do what he must.

From there, it took some other coins as well as ale for Barnet to learn that Pershore had left port early that morning, many hours before dawn.

“Do you know where he went?” he asked, desperation leaking into his words.

“No,” the first man said, and the second shook his head, gulping down the sale Barnet purchased for him.

Barnet grimaced. It was early in the day, so few others were in the tavern yet.

A man from the corner stood and beckoned Barnet over. “I couldn’t help overhearin’ ya,” he said, grinning, revealing a few missing teeth.

Barnet grimaced, despair hovering about him like a cloak. “Do you know where I can locate Pershore?”

“You be needin’ a ship. I have one. And what’s better, I have a grudge against Pershore meself. We can leave at once.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me until you have your lady back and me have Pershore’s head.”
To be continued…

Read Part One here.

Taken from the notes of one Lady Anna Wycliff

Lady Anna is the heroine in Christmas Kisses, part of the Bluestocking Belles’ boxed set Holly and Hopeful Hearts available now from various retailers. 25% of proceeds will go to the Malala Fund.

hollyhopefulheartsAbout the Book

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?

About the Stories

A Suitable Husbandby Jude Knight

As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Surely she can find a suitable husband amongst the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party. Above stairs or possibly below. 

Valuing Vanessaby Susana Ellis

Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life. 

A Kiss for Charityby Sherry Ewing

Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball 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?

Artemis, by Jessica Cale

Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?

The Bluestocking and the Barbarianby Jude Knight

James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy. 

Christmas Kissesby Nicole Zoltack

Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts. 

An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?

Dashing Through the Snowby Amy Rose Bennett

Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love…

BUY LINKS for HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEARTS

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Australia
Amazon Canada
Smashwords
Kobo
Barnes & Noble
iBooks

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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