Lessons in Temptation for Lady Josephine Preview

A Steamy Regency Romance

About the book


A forced marriage… A desire that can’t be denied…

Desperately thirsty for adventure, Lady Josephine Wallace finds herself in big trouble. Unaware that she is being targeted by her father’s enemies, she refuses to consent to attend the Season with a bodyguard. Least of all, this particular one.

When Ace Smith, popular pugilist of the Rookeries, is hired to guard the Duke’s daughter, he never expected his passion for her to grow so unbearably. Or that she would be one he has held in his arms before. 

With their unquenched desire burning hot, playing with fire has never felt more right. When they go missing leaving a suspiciously cold trail behind, the ton is not ready for the scandal that hits the halls of London. For one is an accident, two is suspicious. But three is murder.

 

Prologue


 “No! I won’t do it!” cried Lady Josephine, stamping her little curved foot in its pretty satin slipper. “I won’t be confined to house arrest, rusticating in the countryside here among the cows at Cloverdene! I’m nineteen years of age, a grown woman—”

“Then you should behave like one,” said her father, the Duke of Clover. “You have no one but yourself to blame for this debacle.

“Running away from Miss Saltonbury’s Academy, spending over a month gadding about London with no chaperone—why, it’s a wonder you have any reputation left whatsoever. What I have had to pay to the headmistress and teachers at Saltonbury’s to hush the gossip over your absence—”

“Oh, my lord Papa, you’re one of the richest men in England. I’m sure it was no great amount for you.

“And as for a chaperone in London, I had Hermie. She’s twenty-one, she has already been ‘out’ for a Season.”

“Lady Hermione is usually a fairly sensible young woman, until she finds herself in your company. She worships you, as you know. If you suggested, my dear, that she should jump into the English Channel, I have no doubt she’d start packing right now for the cliffs of Dover.”

“My lord Papa, this is all much ado about nothing. I’m sure Hermie’s mother didn’t care that she was missing for a month. She probably assumed she was off visiting friends at country house parties, making good use of the social opportunities of the Season.”

“What I think of Lady Glastonbridge’s mothering skills, not to mention her scandalous behavior as part of the Prince’s inner gaming circle, is not fit to be discussed between a father and daughter.”

Despite the temper she was in, the side of Lady Josephine’s mouth curled into a little, private smile. “Oh, Papa,” she said affectionately. The Duke smiled, too. Father and daughter understood each other very well indeed.

How I love this girl, thought the Duke, gazing at his only child, absorbing joyfully her waist-length, nut-brown wavy hair, her dancing hazel eyes and the high color on her rosy cheeks. She has such courage, such a sense of adventure. Nothing fazes her.

She reminds me of myself. Not as the world sees me now, but as I was when I was young. And as I still am inside, although I must hide those traits now from most people, for safety’s sake.

Horace Wallace, 10th Duke of Clover, outwardly appeared to fit the stereotype of the bumbling, inbred aristocrat—easily cheated at cards, easily talked by his acquaintances into too many glasses of port. In short, a wealthy, aging man, good company to be in who was an easy mark for sharpsters and predators.

It was a wonder, they said, that his fortune nonetheless seemed to grow by leaps and bounds.

Were the truth known, however, ten generations of inbreeding since the days of William the Conqueror had produced not a fool, but one of the sharpest minds in Europe. He was invaluable to his king, George III, and to the Prince Regent. As a double agent, he planted disinformation among Napoleon’s allies—getting well paid by the French for false reports. He then brought priceless information back to the English Court, and he was paid yet again.

There were many men on both sides of the English Channel who would have shot him on sight, had they known for certain of his double-dealing.

For himself, he cared nothing. He was fearless—indeed, he enjoyed the perilous game. It made him feel young and alive.

But now his beautiful daughter, Josephine, was entering womanhood. It was for her he was afraid. Any of his many enemies might abduct her and harm her, just to punish him in the worst way possible. He had to protect her.

“My lord Papa,” Lady Josephine said gently, “you should have more faith in me. I am no light-skirt like Lady Glastonbridge—nor is Hermie. Just because we went off on an anonymous adventure for a few weeks doesn’t mean we would do anything to shame you.

“Didn’t you ever feel tempted to do such things when you were young? Change out of your fine clothes and pose for a while as a stable boy or a sailor lad? See how the rest of the world lives?”

Of course I was tempted. And I had those adventures too, and many more she will never know about. But I was not vulnerable in the ways she is...partly because she is a girl, a very rich girl, and partly because my work places her in a great deal of danger. If only I could get her married quickly, to a good man with power and money in his own right, then the world would not so readily identify her with me. She would be much safer.

“My love,” the Duke said to his daughter, “I have complete faith in your morals, but somewhat less faith in your good judgment. You are rash. You believe that you are intelligent enough to get yourself out of any foolish scrape you may cause. None of us is that clever, in the long run.    

“Sit down, Josephine, I need to talk bluntly with you.”

Lady Josephine took a seat on a nearby chaise. Her face was anxious—rarely was her lord father so serious with her, it seemed.

“The problem, little one, is more of my making than of your own. You may have heard it hinted that, from time to time, I perform small services for His Majesty and His Royal Highness, both here and overseas? And that you should never, ever speak of these matters to your friends, or even to family?”

Lady Josephine nodded. “I have never said anything.”

“Good. I trust you. Josephine, both you and I are in danger of our lives. Europe is a powder keg right now, with that dastardly Napoleon Bonaparte aiming to conquer every country he can. There are ‘patriots’ on either side who would shoot or hang me in an instant. Still worse, they would capture or harm you, and then, with you at risk, I would be clay in their hands.”

“Worse than house arrest at Cloverdene?” Lady Josephine said grimly.

“Far worse. You have no idea,” said the Duke. “So can you see why I was at my wit’s end when you went missing for a month? You can only guess the horrors I imagined.”

Lady Josephine reflected soberly on that. Never in her life had she felt so ashamed or remorseful. Her father loved her more than anything in this world. Yet I put him through more than a month of hell. “Yes. I’m sorry, Papa. I truly am. I will go back to Miss Saltonbury’s Academy—I will dutifully finish up my last few months of study there, under Ducky’s fearsome watch—”

“No. Miss Duckworth has been a loyal maid and lady’s companion to you since you first began putting your hair up and wearing long gowns. She is as worthless as Lady Hermione, though, at keeping you under control. Otherwise, you would never have been able to run away from Saltonbury’s, unobserved.

“And there’s little more they could teach you at that school by now, anyway. Time we pulled you out.”

The Duke stood up and paced about the room in a quandary. Where would Josephine be safest? Finally, he spoke.

“You will move to Clover House in London. Your cousin Lady Seraphina will join you there as chaperone. I will also be in residence, although I spend many evenings at my clubs. You will join the Season and be presented at Court.

“I hope shortly to arrange for you a good husband, appropriately high-ranked and wealthy, who can take you under his protection. I expect you to be wed, or at least engaged, before the Season ends in June. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, my lord Papa,” Lady Josephine said demurely.

The Duke looked over at her sharply. It was unlike Josephine to be so cooperative, when her own liberty was concerned.

“You realize there will be no gadding about? You will be under thorough, careful supervision and protection, every hour of every day.”

“Papa, I don’t need a nanny or a nursemaid, not at my age!” Lady Josephine protested.

“Believe me, this will be no nanny or nursemaid,” the Duke said firmly. “Nor will it be the compliant little Miss Duckworth. I have found someone much more likely to keep you in line. And he will have my permission to do whatever he needs to do to ensure your obedience.”

He left the room with no further explanation.

Even with her lord father’s warnings still ringing in her ears, Lady Josephine could only think of returning to London. Join the ongoing Season—certainly! Accept engagement to some suitable lord—not a problem! If those were the prices she had to pay to enjoy just a few more months of freedom back in the teeming, thrilling metropolis—then so be it. She would count the cost cheap.

For Lady Josephine had met a man during her few weeks’ stay in London. His name was Ace. She did not know him well enough to say she was dying in love, although that might well be the case. But truly, for the first time in her young life, she was burning in lust.


Chapter One

Three Months Earlier


Lady Josephine and Lady Hermione had planned their London escape for at least six months in advance. Every detail was considered. From afar, they wrote each other confidential notes daily: Lady Josephine a senior student at Saltonbury’s, and Lady Hermione, an alumna of that fine institution, now beginning her second London Season.

His Grace the Duke of Clover had been right in assessing that Lady Hermione, on her own, would not have had the gumption to come up with such a plan. Most found her a shy, insipid girl, ultimately rather dull, although at first glance a beauty of the first water like her mother. She had the silver-blonde hair, the angelic blue eyes and the pink-and-white prettiness so worshiped in society. But it was only in Lady Josephine’s vivacious company that Lady Hermione came alive.

The escape to London was Lady Josephine’s scheme, of course. But Lady Hermione threw herself into the planning like the faithful aide-de-camp she was.

Lady Hermione told her friend, “Jo, I have my own reasons for wanting to escape from the London Season for a few weeks. My mother, Lady Adeline Glastonbridge, has become quite notorious among the haut ton. I can’t bear all the whispering going on around me.”

At first the infamous Lady Jersey’s bosom friend, now Lady Adeline had become Lady Jersey’s successor in the Prince Regent’s bed. Between personally pleasing the Prince Regent and amusing his courtiers all night at balls and gaming tables, Lady Adeline had no time for a nubile young daughter—nor did she wish any comparisons to be made between their ages. Lady Hermione’s absence, explained or otherwise, would no doubt be a relief to her busy mother.

And the older woman’s reputation was equally an embarrassment to the daughter. She did not wish to be thought of as a similar sort of woman. She wanted to escape completely from the haut ton, if only for a while. So Lady Hermione joined in her friend Lady Josephine’s plans with gusto.

***

Lady Josephine, on the other hand, longed for adventure. As she had told her lord father, she wanted to know something about life. And increasingly, she wanted to know something about men.

There were very few men at Miss Saltonbury’s Academy: a sweaty-palmed dancing master, an elderly art teacher with whiskers and ear hair, a handful of foolish stable boys and kitchen churls.

And I knew no suitable boys at home. An only child, I had no brothers bringing friends to Cloverdene to ride my lord father’s horses, to play lawn tennis or to picnic in the grassy meadows. My cousins were of no help either. They were half a generation older; and they tended to ignore me when they visited the ducal estate.

So men are a mystery to me.

Then, a year or so past, one of the girls brought to school several French novels, taken secretly from the bookcase of an older sister at home. That the novels were in French was itself no obstacle to the small cabal of girls who began to translate them to each other at night. One of Saltonbury’s few academic boasts was the quality of its instruction in foreign languages.

But there were strange romantic scenes in the novels, odd euphemisms about things men and women did to each other. The girls had to puzzle out this new vocabulary. When they did, it was a revelation to them.

Lady Josephine was astounded. She had had no idea that men and women could so set each other on fire with their hands, their mouths and their loins. Did such things really happen? Did the men and women one met every day, who seemed so proper and decorous in polite company, really become such animals once the bedroom door was closed? And did it feel good?

Night after night, she would go to her private chambers—her rank and wealth assured her of privacy, and even Miss Duckworth had to sleep separately in an adjoining little room—and mentally review what she had heard or read.

Then she would become inflamed with desire for some unknown man who would be able to satisfy her. Her hands would slip over her skin, which she knew to be soft and creamy to the touch. They would tease her own nipples until hard. They would reach between her own thighs and cause her to climax, bringing her to that peak of satisfaction that the women in the French novels called le petit mort—the little death.

But where was the man who could make her feel this way? Lady Josephine could picture him sometimes, as she made love to herself. He would have dark hair, deep blue eyes and sharp, chiseled facial features. He would be strong and muscular, with broad shoulders and arms that could hold her down while he pleased her. Sometimes just these images were enough to drive her to arousal.

Yet Lady Josephine had not lied to her lord father. She was no light-skirt. She was still a virgin—indeed, no man had so much as kissed her. She was waiting for the “right man.”

Not the man who would walk her down the aisle, who would give her children and grow old beside her. There would, inevitably, be such a partner for her. But she knew enough, from closely observing all the loveless      marriages around her, that physical passion was rarely to be found in an arranged aristocratic match.

No, the “right man” was the one man out there who would prove that physical passion could exist for her. He would arouse her and satisfy her. And then, when required, she would give him up and return to do her marital and family duties, comforted by her own secret memories.

***

So the girls meticulously planned their London escape.

“Your sister works in London, doesn’t she?” Lady Josephine casually asked one of the Academy’s young parlor maids.

“Oh, aye, m’ lady,” the girl replied. “She makes ladies’ gloves for a shop. Ever so excitin,’ she says the life is, seein’ all the London sights wi’ ‘er friends.”

“Does she live right in the heart of London?”

“Aye, she an’ a few other girls share a room in a boardin’ ‘ouse. They ‘ad to look about a bit at first, to find someplace cheap but respectable-like.”

And the parlor maid mentioned the neighborhood where her sister had settled, and Lady Josephine took note.

***

Lady Hermione, meanwhile, traded a couple of last Season’s tea gowns for several working girls’ outfits—hearty country woolens, well-     made but serviceable, some rough capes against the cold and a few pairs of sturdy walking shoes. She told a maid at the Glaston Arms, the smart London townhouse of the Glastonbridges, that the clothes were for charity.

Just before the Academy disbanded for Christmas, she wrote,

Dearest Josie,

I think our plans are just about complete. Write His Grace your father that you have accepted a holiday invitation with me. I understand he is traveling in Portugal now, so likely he will be glad for you to join other celebrations.

When other families are picking up their daughters in their carriages, find one that is going to London and can drop you at the Glaston Arms. Make as little fuss as possible about it.

From here, we will change into our disguises and set off surreptitiously on our adventure! We should be fine, because I have about £15 in pin money for us (I know that Ducky keeps tight control over yours).

Ever your friend, Hetty

Fifteen pounds might be two years’ salary for a parlor maid. They would be fine for money.

They were already using their new names with each other, the ones they hoped would disguise their identities in London.

***

All went as planned. Dressed in working girls’ clothes, their hair pulled back into simple buns, they went looking for lodging in a “respectable-like” women’s boarding house.

Mrs. Rosie McCurdy, originally of County Galway, Ireland, had lived long enough in London to know a few things. But she could not quite figure out these two girls.

For one thing, their manner of speech was odd. Sometimes they dropped their “h’s” like Cockneys; other times, they sounded as posh as Princess Charlotte.

They said they were workers. But they kept to no fixed schedule, and they often slept through Mrs. McCurdy’s hearty breakfast. Moreover, they insisted on sharing their room only with each other, instead of in a group of four or more. They used a full pound coin to pay their first month’s rent—unheard of! Mrs. McCurdy had to go to her lockbox to bring them their change, in shillings, pence and farthings.

Which was reality, the Cockney speech or the posh affectations? And if they were indeed working, how did they earn their money? Mrs. McCurdy resolved to keep a strict eye on them.

***

London, unchaperoned, was an exhilarating experience for the girls. They walked everywhere in the crisp winter weather, thankful for their sturdy second-hand shoes.

They saw the Tower of London and remembered their schoolbook lessons about the wives of Henry VIII. They marveled at Westminster Abbey, and they tiptoed in hushed reverence around St. Paul’s Cathedral.

With the money in Lady Hermione’s pocket, they bought food from street vendors. They enjoyed the cockles and mussels sold on straight pins at the Thames’ docksides.

They wandered through countless parks, then had their midday meal of rough bread, pickle and cheese at public houses, washed down with a glass of ale.

A tired-looking woman holding a child started chatting with them one day in the middle of a busy street. She said there was colder weather coming on, and it would be hard on the boy, who easily caught the croup.

Lady Hermione was soft-hearted. She began telling the mother how she could ease the child’s croup by filling the room with steam. As they talked, a carter with boxes was crossing the road, and he stumbled into the women, spewing profanities at them for blocking his way.

Lady Hermione and Lady Josephine tried to help the other woman up. But the child escaped from his mother’s grasp and ran into an alleyway. The mother rose and ran after him, yelling for him. Both disappeared from view.

It was a few minutes later that Lady Hermione’s hand felt for the pocket sewn into the side of her gown. It had been slit, as if by a razor. Before Lady Josephine’s eyes, she went white.

“My God, Jo,” she said. “All our money. It’s gone. We’ve been robbed.”

 They stood there and thought for a few minutes. “Was it the carter, do you think?” Lady Josephine asked. “Or the mother?”

“It could as easily have been the boy,” Lady Hermione answered. “They train them early, you know.”

“Well, no matter,” said Lady Josephine stoutly. “We shall now have to find work. We’re working girls, after all!”

“At   least  we   paid Mrs. McCurdy a month in advance,” Lady Hermione said glumly.

“Except now we will actually have to eat those dreadful, greasy breakfasts!” laughed Lady Josephine.


Chapter Two


Madame Vallencourt of Paris (more accurately, Sadie Brown, born years before on the London docks) could scarcely believe her luck. The proprietress of a very successful milliner’s shop on the edge of Mayfair, her hardest task was hiring girls of decent breeding to give her shop “tone.”

And now she had found two such girls. Josie Johnson and Hetty Glump—the names no doubt as fictional as her own—had shown up that morning in response to the discreet advertisement in her window.

Madame noted that neither girl had the callouses on her hands associated with manual labor. They both spoke well, as if some education had passed their way. Were they runaways, perhaps: a couple of parsons’ daughters escaping unpleasant marriage prospects or burdensome family obligations?

Madame did not care. The girls said they were of age and new to London.

She placed them first in the back room with her other trimmers. She found their sewing stitches small and neat. Convent girls, perhaps? Then, sensing they might wear the hats even better than they trimmed them, she tried them out in the front of the shop with the customers.

They were an instant success. Their manners were demure and unobtrusive. Still, no sooner did a patron see an elegant feathered hat atop Hetty’s ice-blonde, upswept curls, or a perky bonnet setting off Josie’s brightly shining eyes, than that customer wanted the hat in at least three colors.

Business was soon booming. Within a week, Madame gave each girl a substantial raise, along with a black silk dress more suitable than country woolens for attracting high-end customers at the front of the shop.

***

With money once again in their pockets—much more carefully guarded, now!—the girls decided to spend an evening at Vauxhall Gardens.

Usually, this extraordinary pleasure park on the south shore of the Thames was shuttered during the colder months. But with the New Year’s re-opening of Parliament and resumption of the social Season, the owners were offering the public the park’s glories for a few select winter evenings.

Lady Josephine and Lady Hermione did not hesitate. Who knew where they would be by summer? And they had often heard of this place, full of odd amusements and exhibitions, where the ton and hoi polloi mixed freely along the lanterned, shrub-lined walks.

They set off at twilight and traveled across the Thames by boat with a throng of other Londoners.

“Look!” cried Lady Josephine. “The whole park just came to light!” And it was true—as if at a signal, glimmering lights suddenly shone everywhere, creating a festive, holiday air.

They disembarked from the boat and began their explorations. There was the Egyptian exhibit, with its mummified statuary and its exotic, costumed dancers. There were fire eaters and jugglers, ten-foot men and Pygmy ladies. The Russian band played a lively number that had couples dancing freely among the hedgerows.

Lady Josephine was hungry, but Lady Hermione advised avoiding the formal supper pavilion—prices on the bill of fare looked high, and there did not seem to be any unaccompanied ladies dining in the boxes. Instead, the girls nibbled on snacks, familiar and unusual, being sold by vendors around every corner.

It was a magical night for girls their ages, one not meant ever to end. But the crowds seemed to be disbursing, so the girls finally decided to make their way back to the river landing to catch the next boat.

As they stood in queue, Lady Josephine felt a stout, foul hand slip behind her and grab one of her buttocks, squeezing hard. She screamed loudly. She had never been touched in such a way before, and it was disgusting. As she screamed, she caught her shoe on a tree root, and she fell to the ground. Falling, she caught a glimpse of the molester, a small, greasy fellow, running away down the path.

She vaguely thought she might hit her head on the riverbank rocks. But before she could reach the ground, a strong set of arms caught her and cradled her.

“Are you all right, then, Miss? We saw what the loathsome fellow did—but are you hurt in any way?”

She opened her eyes, then almost swooned again. For it was the face from her fantasies: the piercing, deep blue eyes, the firm, chiseled features. And it was those dreamed-of broad shoulders protecting her; those powerfully muscled arms holding her aloft as gently as if she were a kitten.

“Charley! Paddy!” he called out in a tone of command, and a couple of good-looking young toughs appeared from nowhere. He’s like a genie, she thought woozily, summoning up his minions.

“Begging your pardon, Miss,” said one, touching his hand to the front of his woolen cap in salute.

“—but we’re that sorry for your trouble, now,” said the other.

The second one must be Paddy, given the purity of that brogue. His accent was sweeter, more lilting, than that of Mrs. McCurdy.

“Enough of the blarney,” said their leader. “Get down the path and lay hands on that animal. Teach him a bit of a lesson. We can’t have young ladies in London treated so shamefully.”

“He wore a red neckerchief, I seen it,” said Charley. And the two of them broke into a run down the hedge-lined path. “No worries, Miss, we’ll find the bliddy cove!”

Lady Josephine’s protector asked again, “Are you hurt, Miss?”

She pulled herself together enough to say, “Just...just my left ankle. I must have sprained or twisted it on the way down.”

“Forgive me, Miss, I mean no impropriety,” he said, as he reached down, lifted the edge of her skirts and palpated the sore ankle.

No man has touched my legs before. She shivered in anticipation. His hands, although calloused and scarred—particularly across the knuckles—were strong and well-shaped. They were also very gentle.

“It doesn’t seem that aught is broken, Miss,” he said reassuringly. “Can you try to stand, if I help you up?”

“I can try to help, also,” said Lady Hermione, who had been hovering near her friend.

“Forgive me, but I did not catch your names, Misses…?” The blue-eyed man seemed a little startled that he now had two, not just one, young ladies to deal with.

“This is—” Lady Hermione hesitated just an instant, and the man’s face seemed to register her hesitation, although he said nothing. “This is Josie Johnson, and I am Hetty Glump.”

“Miss Glump. Miss Johnson,” the man acknowledged with a bow of his head.

He seems so much better bred than his companions, Lady Josephine noted to herself. “And you, sir? May we know the name of our savior?”

“I’m christened Ashton Smith. But you may often hear my friends call me ‘Ace.’”

“Mr. Smith, we are ever so grateful for your aid.”

“Not at all. Think nothing of it. But may I suggest, Miss Johnson, that we get you into a standing position to avoid further stares from the boat queue. There, now, Miss Glump, prop up her other arm on your side. Shall I summon the authorities, so you can file a report on that fellow?”

“No!” Lady Josephine said in horror. “No authorities, please! I’m fine, now, honestly.” I can just imagine my lord Papa’s face, if he were to hear of this! And our London glory days would be over immediately.

Once again, Mr. Smith’s face seemed to note something unusual in her fear of attention from “the authorities.” But again, he said nothing.

Just then, Paddy and Charley came back up the walk. “Did you find the scoundrel, lads?” asked Mr. Smith.    

“Indeed we did, Ace,” said Paddy cheerfully.

“Took ‘im behind the bushes and gave ‘im a right pastin.’ Broke that paw in a few places, too. I doubt ‘e’ll be gropin’ too many ladies fer a while,” Charley said in more bloodthirsty tones.

“Good men,” said Ace. “Now get yourselves back to the John Bull and wait for me there. I will escort the young ladies home safely.”

 “Sure, and don’t some fellas keep all the best jobs fer themselves?” Paddy said darkly.

***

They crossed the Thames. Mr. Smith helped them in and out of the boat with great dignity. On the other side, he hailed a hansom cab, for which he insisted on paying.

“But we can pay!” Lady Hermione protested. “We are already too deeply in your debt. Besides, we are working girls,” she said proudly.

Mr. Smith smiled. What a charming smile—such even, white teeth, Lady Josephine observed.

“Working girls, is it?” Mr. Smith teased. “Now, let me guess: you, Miss Glump, are, in fact, a first soprano at the Opera House. And you, Miss Johnson, are a prima ballerina with the Royal Ballet. Although it will be noted in Society papers tomorrow morning that, to London’s disappointment, you will be required to stay off your feet for a few days.”

The girls giggled. “No, no,” said Lady Josephine. “We’re just milliners. But very good ones. We work at Madame Vallencourt’s shop, near Mayfair.”

“Well, if I ever need a bonnet, then…,” said Mr. Smith. And the girls broke into uproarious laughter.

“Come to us, then,” said Lady Hermione, her usual dullness slipping away under the influence of the man’s charm. “We’ll give you a discount!”

Before long, they were within sight of Mrs. McCurdy’s boarding house. “It’s the red brick one, down there,” said Lady Josephine. “But, Mr. Smith, you can’t bring us to the door—our landlady is strict—”

“Oh, I know about landladies,” said Mr. Smith. He rapped on the cab’s partition, so the driver could signal his horses to stop. “I’ll take my leave here. Drive on, cabbie!” And he jumped out and walked in the opposite direction down the London street, whistling softly between his teeth.

Lady Hermione explained to Mrs. McCurdy that her friend’s ankle had been sprained. “Sure, the poor dear!” the landlady commiserated.

They put her to bed, with cold compresses to bring down the swelling and dull the pain.

But Lady Josephine felt no pain. Her whole body was on blissful fire, recalling one man’s touch. Mr. Smith. Ashton. “Ace.”

Will I ever see him again? He was the one for me, I know he was.

And heedless of the pain to her leg, she writhed on the little bed, remembering his hands gently caressing her ankle, imagining those hands moving upward, upward, to her thighs and beyond. Lady Hermione, thankfully, was fast asleep after the evening’s excitement. But Lady Josephine could not sleep.

Is he thinking of me now, as I am imagining him?

I must see him again—but how? He knows where I live and where I work. I know nothing of his whereabouts.

She almost groaned aloud at the frustration of being a woman—of having to wait to be pursued, instead of pursuing freely herself.

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  • I am eager to see what escapades Josephine gets up to during the season. I am trying to picture how the body guard will blend in at teas and balls. I look forward to reading this book which is sure to be full of adventure and mystery.

  • Girls back then had to hide whatever they imagined. Sneaking around was totally taboo and unthought of.
    These two are breaking so many of societies rules that you can’t help but laugh at some of their antics.
    I personally can’t wait to see what happens next.

  • VERY good beginning!
    There might be an extra ‘her’ in this opening sentence though….”Or that she would be one he has held her in his arms before.” It doesn’t make sense to me.

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