Edmund Caruthers, London barrister and gentleman, defies his father and his class to represent the poor. With few paying customers, he struggles financially. He’s frustrated his betrothed won’t set a date to marry him.
Dolly Wycliffe dreams of becoming a famous milliner. She loves Edmund, but the life of a society matron isn’t for her. Edmund’s family and friends remind her that a girl who makes hats can’t become the wife of a distinguished barrister.
When a woman is found murdered in fashionable Mayfair, their two worlds collide. The victim is a shop girl and Dolly enlists Edmund’s help to find the killer. Edmund keeps a friend’s involvement a secret and Dolly realizes the toffs have rules they’re unwilling to break.
Is their love enough to overcome the obstacles ahead? Will marrying be a decision they’ll both come to regret?
Standing this close to Edmund Caruthers, her heart fluttering, the rest of her body reacting with scandalous desire, she didn’t want to be respectable.
Or, for that matter, a lady.
He poured a ladle filled with lemonade into two pretty cut-glass cups and handed her one.
Although Edmund rarely took anything seriously, she could tell by the set of his jaw and his piercing stare he was serious now. Beyond serious, for the subject of setting a wedding date had become a sore point between them. They had been engaged for more than six months, in secret, but it seemed like only yesterday when he’d proposed marriage. What a wonderful day that’d been.
“Are you all right?” Edward’s gaze made her flood with heat.
She smiled. “Why do you ask?”
“You are quiet this evening,” he said.
She knew precisely what he was after. She kept his ring on a ribbon tied around her neck. Her hand went reflexively to the top of her corset where the ring rested, ready to take its place on her finger. When that would be, if ever, she couldn’t say.
Dolly couldn’t live in his world. She would always fear, as she did now, of being caught out. She could suffer the humiliation for her own sake, but she wouldn’t subject Edmund to their scorn.
“You haven’t answered my question,” he said.
“More like an observation.”
He sipped his punch. “Alas, I stand corrected.”
She looked into his eyes. She did not doubt his love for her. Did he appreciate the difficulty of the obstacles ahead? What if they were insurmountable?
“You have been very patient,” she said. “More patient than I deserve.”
His gaze clouded. “Tell me why you won’t set a date for our wedding.”
She sighed. “You know perfectly well I must work for a living.”
“I thought the discussion about your career was settled. I will not expect you to give up the milliner’s shop or stop making your exquisite hats.”
“You may not, but others will.”
He looked away and tightened his jaw. What she’d said vexed him.
She continued. “Society frowns on women working. As a wife, I will be expected to stay home.”
“You place too much importance on what others think,” he said.
“Of course I do. It is a necessity of being in trade. I make hats. What my customers like is crucial to whether I sell them or not.”
Edmund shifted his feet. He could not refute the truth of what she’d said.
Dolly wouldn’t embarrass him in front of his friends by engaging in an argument. “This is not the time and place to discuss such an important matter.” She put down her drink on a side table. “We should instead be celebrating Herbert and Cecilia’s good fortune.”
“There never does seem to be a good time,” he answered with irritation.
She didn’t know what more she could say to convince him. She didn’t belong here. Surely he knew that. Why did he persist thinking society would accept her after they were married? Was it some kind of game to him, a challenge to family and friends?
She took his drink from him and set it next to hers on the table. “Sir, would you like to dance?”
His sullen expression disappeared. Happily, Edmund never stayed cross for long. He took her hand and led her to the middle of the dancers.
Drawing her closer, he put his hand at her waist. Not an embrace exactly, but thrilling just the same.
“I consider myself a lucky man.”
She rested her arm on his shoulder. The scent of his shaving cream reminded her of a walk in the park. She looked up into his eyes and saw a hint of amusement in the glint in his eyes and the quirk of his mouth, as if the matter of setting a date was settled. It was easy for him to believe all would be well because he’d never known failure.
He guided her to the rhythm of the music: one, two, three, and her heart beat the same rhythm. She put her troubles out of her mind and enjoyed herself in the arms of a splendid fellow.
Edmund would be the first to admit the evening had gotten off to a bad start. He blamed himself. The Pemberton’s soiree contained people Dolly didn’t know, apart from Herbert and Cecilia. They’d landed in a sea of social sharks ready to bite at the least provocation and Dolly had every reason to be apprehensive.
The music ended with a flourish and the assembly clapped. He twirled his true love one last time.
She threw back her head and laughed.
Ah, that’s better.
She detached herself from his grasp. The heat of the room and the exertion, and dare he think, his close proximity had brought color to her face, especially to the apples of both cheeks. He found himself transfixed by her glowing skin, dark penetrating gaze, and perfect mouth.
He thought himself the happiest man alive. The only thing that could make him happier is for her to set a wedding date. Her lips parted, ready to speak. Had she made a decision?
Herbert approached them bearing drinks. “Here you are.” He handed one of the glasses to Dolly. Edmund took the other.
His friend’s timing couldn’t have been worse but there’d be other moments this evening. The Pemberton’s ballroom was alive with romance and Edmund would take advantage. He felt certain he would have his answer tonight.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sarah Richmond is an award winning Historical Romance writer. Born in the mid-west, she now resides in Southern California with her husband and Welsh corgi. Sarah is an avid fan of the University of Michigan football, movies from the 1940’s and 50’s, and enjoys having lunch with her friends