Lord Devereaux's Lady
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by Blaise Kilgallen
Description: A bored nobleman, his friend, and a penniless orphan conspire to win a wager that turns a country bumpkin Into an elegant Regency lady.
eBook Publisher: Awe-Struck E-Books/Awe-Struck E-Books, Inc., 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: February 2009
9 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [293 KB]
Reading time: 164-229 min.
Because of Reverend Bottomwell's stirring sermons about good Samaritans, Cassie felt no trepidation when Cassie entered the woman's furnished rooms.
"Take off yer wet things afore you take sick, gel, and get comfortable. Tea'll be ready in no time."
After removing her own bonnet and outer clothes, Prudence meandered behind Cassie. She quickly helped the cloak from Cassie's thin shoulders. She grimaced at the filth imbedded in the fabric, but draped the damp and smelly garment over a hook on a hall tree.
Settling a kettle to simmering on the grate, Prudence asked, "Now, isn't that better?" She peeked over a fleshy shoulder, keeping a weather eye on her mark. "Would ye like to wash up a bit, dearie?" she went on. "Ye look a little worst for wear. Go on. There's a basin and an ewer full of water and a bar of soap in the back room. Yer welcome to use it."
Cassie thanked her and limped down the short hall to a bedchamber. Thankful at last to scrub mud and stinking odor off her hands was a gift by itself. She had wiped the soles of her shoes as she entered so as not to bring filth inside Mrs. Goodbody's rooms. Slowly gimping back into the warm parlor, Cassie sat on the edge of an overstuffed chair. Her feet, cold and sore inside the ill-fitting footwear, throbbed. Breathing in an audible sigh of relief, Cassie took her weight off them.
Glancing around, Cassie appraised the woman's small parlor. An alcove held a kitchen along one wall. A small coal fire was stoked; heat from it warmed the room. Chilled to the bone, to Cassie it felt wonderful to get off the street and not be drenched with cold and dampness.
"Er ... Mrs. Goodbody," Cassie began. "Can you tell me how to get where I need to go?" Her question was aimed at the woman's broad back. "I hope it's nearby. 'Tis number twenty-two Mount Street."
Prudence turned from the stove. The girl was busy untying limp ribbons while removing her bedraggled bonnet. Satisfied the chit had made herself to home, Prudence grasped the hat from Cassie's cold fingers and hung it on a hook next to her smelly cloak.
"All in good time, dearie," she answered with a smile.
With dimpled knuckles resting on ample hips, Prudence circled the chair where Cassie perched before coming to stand in front of her. "My, you are a pretty one!" she chortled, chucking Cassandra under the chin with a stubby finger. "Ye look as fresh as eggs just arrived from the country, ye do!"
Cassie blushed. "Aye, ma'am. I came to London from Kent this mornin'. I'm to be hired as a scullery maid," she added, proudly.
"Ah, is that so?" Prudence's heavy eyebrows arched when she smiled. "Who knows, dearie? A pretty gel like ye, mebbe ye'd like something better for yerself instead of bein' a scullery drudge." The woman winked. "Lookie here, let me take a good look at ye, eh?"
Prudence motioned to Cassie to stand up. She strolled around the girl again, looking her up and down as if she were purchasing a milch cow or a nanny goat.
It was then Cass noticed Prudence's hands flash with several jeweled rings; one pudgy finger tapped several times against her rounded chin. Two sharp eyes examined her for signs of flagrant flaws.
Prudence Goodbody determined Cassandra was slightly under twenty years of age, of medium height, a bit too thin but if fed, her voluptuous curves would tantalize a man's lust. Her youthful face was still somewhat childish. However, she'd soon be beautiful in the eyes of a discerning male who knew what to look for.
"Did yer folks send ye up to Town?" Mrs. Goodbody inquired, eager to know if anyone would be asking about the girl or her whereabouts.
Like the country girl she was, innocent and naive, Cassie replied truthfully. "My mam and papa are both gone. Dead and buried some months ago from influenza." Cassie swallowed, suppressing her grief. "There's only my sister and me still alive."
"Hmm? No other family, no close relatives that might help ye?"
"None I know of, ma'am."
"Och, 'tis a shame, then. Ye and yer sister orphans with nobody to look after ye." Prudence rearranged her features into a sympathetic expression.
The chit's creamy skin had nary a blemish, Prudence noted. Her evenly-spaced teeth were snowy white, not tinged with yellow stains like other whores she had sold. A certain wealthy gentlemen with whom she dealt regularly would never endure a woman's bad breath while in his bed, even if his own was not the sweetest.
A few strands had escaped from the unflattering bun Cassie had shaped on her nape. Her hair was thick and dark, shiny as a raven's wing. Wisps curled forward over the girl's cheeks. Prudence's eyes lit up when she examined the girl's classic profile and those lush pink lips.