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Especially when hiring a new maid nearly lands him in the grave. Accused of kidnapping Emma by the man hunting her, Leo is willing to do anything to protect her. Even dig up the most painful aspects of his past. As they quickly realize, crashing a wedding is not nearly enough. The only way to unmask the greatest treason London has ever seen is by staying apart forever. He had risen quickly through the ranks. But here he was, back in London and about to return to the ancestral home.

The grim irony of all this is that my father all but threw me out the door of Menhiransten the last time I was home for refusing to lend him the blunt for a new carriage. Now I shall be obliged to take care of Menhiransten and all her people. She was a lot more profitable as a figurehead on my last ship. She died of childbed fever along with her infant daughter. Or, to put it another way, the late Duke had fallen in love with her.

His father and his mother had a wonderful relationship. Unfortunately, Lady Miriam had gone into the arms of the grim reaper some weeks before Leo declared his independence and ran away to sea.

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I am not sure whether I am more grieved for the loss of my kin or the loss of my ship. Damn, but I miss her deck already. Garth was a good man. He just had a little too much tutelage from my father. Had my mother been able to sway him just a tiny bit more, my brother would have done well. I believe I shall miss him after all.

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Leo walked away from the ceremony, leaving the priest, his cousins, and the retainers to finish decently burying his father and brother. It was rude, but he could bear no more of the false wailing of the mourners, the worried faces of the servants, and the general air of uncertainty. Leo was not poorly dressed. His impeccable mourning attire was from Scott, the tailor who did for many military men. The black broadcloth of his coat fit his broad shoulders perfectly, narrowing to a slim waist that required no corseting to look trim. The skirts of his coat shrouded neatly fitting breeches that were by no means as tight as was fashionable but were still well made and nicely fitted.

The clocks on his stockings were modest gray silk, depicting the standing stones from which his estate took its name. His shoes had sensible heels. The buckles were well burnished but plain. His dark brown hair was neatly cut militarily and topped with a well-made stovepipe hat of modest height. He did not stroll, but neither did he hurry toward the somber carriage that awaited him at the edge of the graveyard.


Each footfall was placed with calm authority. When he reached the carriage, he stepped up into it and settled himself on the comfortable leather seats. Taking his hat from his head, he leaned back against the cushions and closed his eyes. This was his third funeral of the day, the other two had been to pay respects to members of his crew lost in his last battle at sea.

They had won, and he had brought home both his own ship and the one they boarded, but it had been bloody hard work, with the emphasis on bloody. Too many graveyard visits today. What is next on my itinerary? The Prince Regent will not be in attendance, but. How did you manage to wrangle that, Hamilton? How could I possibly arrange such a thing? It seems that His Highness was called to an exceptionally important dinner across town. A certain lady has a new cook and called upon him for his opinion.

But I thank you. In fact, if I pace it just right, I might get to lay my head upon my pillow before daybreak tomorrow. Your presence is required by her Majesty, Queen Charlotte. It seems that tonight is presentations. Leo groaned. Hamilton permitted himself a small smile. Rather, I spoke with her secretary. He assures me that you need not dance, but merely attend. I believe the Widow Pearthorne will be in attendance.

I thought you knew.

The Project Gutenberg eBook of A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal, by Daniel Defoe.

He fell last fall, not long after you sailed. I am sorry to hear it. Captain Pearthorne was a good man. How is she carrying on? Everyone is in a twit because she has a very caustic way of looking at things, and all the members of the court are sure that they are about to be lampooned by her rapier wit. But as it happens, I have spoken with her.

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While she is not above letting the courtiers fret, she is actually writing about her experiences in France. Hamilton, if you would, please see if you can find some excuse that I might come away shortly after dinner. I believe that after brandy is served, you could handily make your excuses. The little secretary shrugged. We must don our masks and dance the social quadrille.

True enough, my friend. The carriage swayed, but it was nothing like the HMS Menhiransten as she rode the waves. Nor was he likely to be back onboard a sailing vessel any time soon. Miss Emma Hoskins surveyed herself in the dim, crackly mirror. Her sunny blond hair was neatly done up in a figure-eight knot, which was not at all modish but easy to manage on her own.


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She scarcely needed to wear a corset and was, therefore, able to get away with one that was only lightly boned and that laced up the front. Her gown was of her own design. The neckline was higher than was fashionable, cut well above her modest bosom. The lace edging was starched and pressed, creating a neat frill that framed her delicate skin. The soft, sprigged muslin of the gown was also starched and pressed in an effort to refresh the fabric that had, in truth, seen better days. She had high cheekbones, a generous mouth that seemed ready to laugh, and her blue eyes were framed in long, dark eyelashes that curled just a little at the corners.

These features were set in a delicate, heart-shaped face. The effect was such that she could have easily been cast as an angel or an abandoned castaway had she been inclined to take to the stage. Alas, such an undertaking was unlikely, even though Emma fancied that she might enjoy it. As the only daughter of Gilbert Haskins, Baron of Calber, becoming an actress was undoubtedly one of her many ambitions that were proscribed.

I might as well still be in the nursery with a governess. It would hardly be charitable to say that the Baron was a stingy nipcheese, but it would be accurate to say that whatever fortune he had rarely trickled down to Emma. Otherwise, he tended to ignore her. Since there was rarely a lot of money for new gowns, Mrs. Able, the housekeeper, taught Emma how to mend and eventually how to make her own clothing. Therefore, he was unlikely to be aware of any domestic arrangements.

She carefully inspected her kid slippers, making sure Rags, her nondescript, pint-sized terrier, had not nibbled any holes in them and lightly hopped down the grand front stairs just as she had done since she was ten—at least when no one was looking. Emma liked the way her soft slippers tapped on the marble stair, and the spring in her ankles as she jumped down from one step to the next.