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by Melissa McCann
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: Lady Winifred Westerly has her heart set on marrying Richard, Viscount Danleigh. Unfortunately, the obstacles to their happiness seem to multiply daily. Bad enough that Winifred is known to half of London as "Flighty Freddy," but Dickie's reputation is rather shocking as well, and now Dickie's mother, the notorious Mrs. Picket, has come back to England and installed herself in the same house with Dickie's father the Duke of Darke's Reach. Freddy's over-protective father and godmother have forbidden her to marry into such a disreputable family. Something must be done. Will Lady Fred be able to rehabilitate her fiance's family by convincing Devil Darke to remarry his divorced wife, or will an accusation of murder separate her from Dickie forever?
eBook Publisher: Awe-Struck E-Books, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: January 2006
16 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [260 KB]
Reading time: 175-245 min.
In her tall house on Grosvenor Square, Lady Georgina Evans followed Lady Winifred down the stairs and into the front hall.
"And after the trouble I had convincing your father to permit this visit, I expect you to take the matter seriously."
"Which matter is that?" Lady Winifred Westerly murmured, turning in a circle in the effort to coordinate reticule, shawl and parasol--all of which seemed determined to escape her.
Lady Evans shook her walking cane in the air. "Stop gyrating, girl. I mean the matter of your reputation in that house of scandal and iniquity. You're to keep Peebles handy at all times and stay away from Danleigh and his scapegrace father the duke, and whatever you do, you're not to get engaged to marry any of 'em."
This was a difficult directive to obey since, while Freddy and her cousin Richard, Lord Danleigh, were renewing a childhood acquaintance, Dickie had proposed marriage to her, and Freddy had accepted. However, Freddy made a point of never fighting a battle she couldn't win. If her guardians didn't know Dickie had proposed to her, they couldn't reject his suit.
This would have been quite all right except that just as Freddy returned from a visit to her cousins, scandal had erupted over Dickie's mother, a divorcee widowed after her second marriage. The former Duchess Darke had reinstalled herself at her first husband's estate, Darke's Reach. Dickie might have been an eligible parti despite his father's rakish reputation, but the latest antics of his mother made him totally unsuitable in the eyes of Freddy's father and godmother.
Freddy captured the shawl only to lose the reticule somewhere in its folds. "I'm sure you needn't worry, Godmama. I hardly ever get engaged to anybody."
Freddy had been invited to stay a week at Darke's Reach and celebrate the duke's birthday. Her guardians had been inclined to shield Freddy from scandal, but Lord Westerly never cared to have his daughter in his house, and Lady Evans claimed to need a respite before the season began. Since Freddy wisely displayed no unusual interest in the invitation, she had been allowed to go.
As it happened, however, Freddy had a particular reason for wishing to go. Her family would never approve Dickie as a husband under the present circumstances. Therefore, the duke must remarry his estranged wife. It was the quickest way to defuse the scandal that threatened Freddy's plans, and she intended to settle the matter before she left Darke's Reach.
"Don't be pert." The diminutive Lady Evans' face folded into a wrinkled scowl. "The Duke is a rake, and his son is hardly any better after knocking the sense out of young Inglestock at Jackson's. If you receive one more blow to your reputation, your father will give up trying to marry you and pack you off to the country."
Freddy sighed. "He is always promising, but then he is forever disappointing me." She took stock: reticule in the left hand, parasol in the right, and she thought she could get to the carriage before the shawl got underfoot again. "Goodbye, Godmama. I promise not to marry anybody before I come back."
"Give me a kiss." The old woman turned one withered cheek, and Freddy stooped to kiss her. "Go on, then, girl. I declare the only reason I'm letting you go is to have a little peace and quiet before the Season begins."
* * *
Monotonous afternoon rain blundered among the brass monkeys on every roofpeak, and streaked the lighted windows as Lady Winifred Westerly and her maid climbed the stairs of Darke's Reach. The black oak door stood ajar like an afterthought.
Peebles peered around the edge of the door into the dark hallway. "A strange way to run a household, that's what."
Freddy tilted her head. "Perhaps I should knock anyway."
"Allow me, my lady." Peebles gave the knocker a genteel tap.
"No one is going to hear that, Peebles. Give it a good rapping." Freddy applied herself vigorously to the knocker.
No one came. Rain dripped into the blonde curls over Freddy's left eye and reduced them to a bundle of frizzy ringlets. The crescent-shaped scar from a childhood accident marred the white skin above her left eye. "I should think I am about to catch a chill," Freddy said.
Copyright © 2005 by Melissa McCann