King George sends his private investigator, an Irishman, Kieran Flynn, Lord Montsimon, on a mission, the reason for which is unclear. Is it a plot against the Crown? Or something entirely unrelated? Flynn’s inquiries lead him to the widow, Lady Althea Brookwood. Known amongst the ton as a rake, Flynn is rarely turned down by a lady, and when Althea refuses not just him but many other men, he becomes intrigued. After her neighbor, Sir Harold Crowthorne informs Althea that he means to take her country property, Owltree Cottage, by fair means or foul, she must search for help. The first man she turns to is promptly murdered and the second lies to her. That leaves Flynn, Lord Montsimon, a man she has been studiously avoiding. But Montsimon is decidedly unhelpful, and more than a little mysterious. Her only option is to seduce him. Althea has little confidence that she will succeed, especially as before her husband was killed in a duel, he often told her she was quite hopeless at intimacy. When a spy is murdered, Flynn wonders just what Althea knows and what her involvement might be with the man the king wants Flynn to investigate.
Aunt Catherine motioned with her fan. “Have you noticed the way Montsimon looks at you? If you play your cards right, you’ll be the one to tame him, my dear. Well worth the effort, I’ll wager.”
“How do you suggest I do that?” she asked, surprised at her curiosity.
“You take him into your bed. Eventually. But first, you play him like a salmon on a hook. You never promise what you won’t deliver, mind. That would not be sporting.” Her aunt’s cheeks flushed, and she vigorously applied her fan. “At first let him get to know you. Let him begin to want more from you than merely someone to warm his bed. When he can’t live without you, then…”
Althea gasped. Perhaps she’d misjudged her relative. “Aunt…”
Her aunt laughed. “You’re surprised?”
“I knew you to be wise and somewhat shrewd, but I never suspected you capable of such…” Failing to find a polite word, she fell silent.
“Shrewd is the word you’re looking for my dear.” Snapping her fan shut, her aunt smiled like a cat caught eating the custard. No doubt pleased to have stunned her. “You are of my blood, and just as smart yourself. You just need practice.” She gazed over Althea’s shoulder and opened her fan to cover her mouth. “Here he comes to ask you to dance. I would advise you not to shun him.”
To refuse Montsimon was bad ton when she’d been seen to be dancing earlier. Could she keep a man such as him at bay? He had all the charm of the Irish in his soft burr and the looks to go with it, a kind of loose-limbed grace and elegance. Althea refused to turn and watch him approach. Only when a pair of darkly clad legs of supreme length and shape stood beside her did she look up. His unusual, smoky grey eyes held a spark of humor. She admitted to not being entirely resistant to his élan, which she suspected came as easily to him as breathing. Humor was attractive in a man. It was wise to avoid him.
But there was no avoiding him now. He bowed over her aunt’s hand and then hers. “Might I have the pleasure of this dance, Lady Brookwood?”
His eyes held a gleam, which defied her to refuse. She lifted the corners of her mouth in a polite but distant smile. “Yes, my lord.”
If he were surprised she had accepted him so readily, he had the grace not to show it. The last time she had pleaded a headache.
Leading her onto the floor, he clasped a hand at her waist as the musicians began to play. Althea marveled that, in spite of his long list of lovers, no serious scandal had attached itself to him. In the ladies’ withdrawing room, women did talk, but only praise and regret had reached her ears. Silver-tongued, he bewitched them. She needed to develop some kind of armor against him, for they met often during the Season. She’d become a challenge she suspected, for few women would refuse him and she quite deliberately had done so. To keep a grip on her emotions, she settled her gaze on the dancers around them, and imagined she danced with the king, who held no attraction for her. It proved to be difficult; Montsimon’s wide shoulder felt hard beneath her gloved hand. He was slim, but she’d guess his body would be sinewy and strong. Her eyes drifted downwards.
When she looked up again, the invitation in his grey eyes almost robbed her of breath. A smile lurked on his handsome mouth.
“You are silent this evening, Lady Brookwood.” He swept her expertly around the floor. “I am used to at least a spirited exchange from you. My dancing displeases you?”
“Not at all, my lord. I’m enjoying the music. You dance extremely well.” As she supposed he did most things.
“An accomplished partner makes a man look good.”
“You are too gracious.”
His hand holding her gloved one tightened, settling her closer. “Too gracious? Would you prefer me not to be? I am of a versatile nature. I can be whatever you wish.”
She glanced up through her lashes. “I am gratified, my lord, that you desire to please me.”
“You have only to tell me what it is you wish of me,” he said, his tone persuasive, while his eyes held a wicked twinkle.
The music ended and couples began to leave the floor. Unaccountably hot, she tucked her hand into his arm. “My wish is for you to return me to my aunt, my lord.” How smug he looked. She would love to take men like him down a peg or two. She could never embark on such a scheme as her aunt suggested. It was too devious, even though she liked few men, and as for rakes, they deserved all they got.
“Ah, Lady Brookwood, you disappoint me. Here I was thinking there was more to you than being content with the dull life you appear to lead.” He looked down at her as they joined the rest to leave the floor. “I sensed a desire for adventure, romance. I’m sure I glimpsed it in your lovely eyes.”
“I am most concerned for your sight, Lord Montsimon. Perhaps a physician?” she said crisply, stung by his assumption that her life was dull. It would appear dull to such as him, she supposed, but that was how she preferred it.
He chuckled as he deposited her with her aunt. Without further ado, he bowed and left them.
“Well?” Aunt Catherine leaned forward.
“Did you arrange an assignation?”
Althea took up her fan and waved it in front of her hot face. “Of course I didn’t. It would have been most improper.”
“Silly girl. Do stop that action with your fan. You look as if you’re swatting at insects. You have missed an opportunity.”
“I declare you wish to live vicariously through me, Aunt.”
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Question: What does Althea suggest Lord Montsimon do about his sight?
About the Author
Maggi Andersen fell in love with the Georgian and Regency worlds after reading the books of Georgette Heyer. Victoria Holt’s Gothic Victorian novels were also great favorites. She has raised three children and gained a BA and an MA in Creative Writing. After husband David retired from the law, they moved to the beautiful Southern Highlands of Australia.
Maggi’s free time is spent enjoying her garden and the local wildlife, reading, movies and the theatre. She has recently taken up Bridge and keeps fit swimming and visiting the gym.
Maggi is a best-selling, multi-published author, and writes mysteries and young adult novels as well as her Georgian, Regency and Victorian romances.