Today's Reading

He was a scoundrel. He was doubtless upstairs right this instant, otherwise engaged in something that he couldn't tear himself away from. Something that involved two people, heavy breathing, perspiring, grunting . . . lots of grunting . . . And now, with her interruption, he would have to put his clothes on and—

The parlor door opened suddenly.

Prue startled like a rabbit caught in the garden with half a cabbage in her grasp. The dish went flying. Petals rained down everywhere. And gravity brought the spinning creamware down directly toward her head.

She squeezed her eyes shut, preparing for it to hit. Hard. And yet . . . it didn't.

When she opened her eyes again, she saw the staid butler holding the bowl in his grasp.

Apparently, he was much quicker than he looked.

Then, as if this type of thing happened all the time, he merely set it down on the table and said, "Right this way, Miss Thorogood."

"Actually, there's been a mistake." She shook her head and immediately crouched down to the rug, nervously scooping up as many petals as she could. The bowl may not have struck her on the noodle, but she had some sense knocked into her nonetheless. "I should never have come."

"His lordship is waiting, ma'am. There's no need to fret over the petals." He gently, but firmly, took her elbow to assist her in standing.

Awkwardly, she transferred her handful into his. "Right. Well. Be that as it may, I really must go before I disturb his lordship from whatever it is that I'm . . . disturbing."

The butler followed her hasty retreat into the foyer. "Would you care to leave a card or a message?"

"I think not."

Reaching the door, her nervous hand fumbled with the latch. And just before she could finally manage to open it . . . she heard a familiar drawl behind her.

"Leaving so soon, Miss Thorogood? Is that any way to greet an old friend?"

Chapter 1

A month earlier

If the carriage went any slower, they'd be traveling back in time.

Leo Ramsgate, Marquess of Savage, muttered a curse beneath his breath and snapped his pocket watch closed before he tapped on the hood. "What appears to be the problem, Rogers?"

"Sheep, milord."

Ah. That explained it, he thought with a glance through the rain- dappled window toward the rolling hills of the verdant Wiltshire countryside. He wondered—and not for the first time—why he'd agreed to escort his former paramour to Bath. Typically, when an affair ended, it was over and done with for good. And yet, here he was, waiting for sheep.

As they came to a complete stop, a heavy sigh drifted across the carriage. "Will I be so easy to forget, Savage? No, don't answer that. You'll only say something detached and uncaring to make me feel guilty for my part in this premature separation of ours. Yet you never take any blame for pushing me into the arms of another man."

Thus far on their journey, Lady Chastaine had held fast to two topics of conversation—the weather and their 'misunderstanding,' as she put it. If she wasn't scourging the rain for frizzling her auburn coiffure and the dreary gray atmosphere for doing nothing to complement her complexion, then she was relentlessly denying any culpability for her adulterous tryst. Had her excuses been a dead horse, she would not only have beaten it but dismembered and buried it in the deepest pit from which nothing could return.

He stared back at her with the bland nonchalance he'd perfected over the years. "Am I as ruthless as all that?"

"More," she said with kittenish petulance.

He called up to Rogers again. "Any news to report?"

"There appears to be . . ." His words were drowned out by the excited barking of a dog, agitated baahs and the hollow clanking of a copper bell.

Leo opened the door to the drizzle and peered ahead, trying to discern the cause for himself.

Unfortunately, from his vantage point, all he could see was a flock of dirty-arsed sheep.


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