The Marquess and the Maiden(7)

By: Robyn Dehart

“Why are you smiling?” he asked.

“Thinking about all the trouble you’re going to have trying to find a bride.” She couldn’t very well tell him she’d been imagining doing him bodily harm. “If you are serious about finding a wife, you might want to heed my advice.”

“I shall keep that in mind. Good evening, Lady Harriet.” He bowed, then walked away from her.

He might be ridiculously handsome, but he was also a ridiculous fool believing such nonsense.

Damnation if she wasn’t still distractingly pretty. Her pale green dress fell seductively off her shoulders, revealing a creamy expanse of her lovely skin and enhancing her abundant cleavage.

Pretty or not, she obviously misunderstood the way union    s in this town worked. Perhaps that was why she was still unmarried herself. Women married men all the time for nothing more than a fat purse. He shouldn’t have any problem at all finding a willing bride.

His mother had suggested he go tonight to catch a glimpse at the current Season’s debutantes and other misses who were on the market. But he’d noticed Harriet as soon as he’d entered the ballroom, and everyone else had fallen away. He’d immediately approached her. Now he was ready to retreat home, or even lose himself in a hand or two of cards at Benedict’s.

He wasn’t so daft he didn’t realize that there was much about him that women wouldn’t find desirable. His limp and subsequent cane being the primary reasons. But he also knew the wealth would more than make up for it. He knew of men twice his age with a third fewer teeth and less hair who had married debutantes. Granted, he did seem to evoke a certain amount of discomfort around younger women. Perhaps he should set his sights on an attractive widow. Damned if he didn’t want to do this. He should have made his mother arrange something and be done with it.

She had tried, once upon a time. He could have already been married, a voice reminded him. To Harriet. He allowed himself to consider that thought for a while. What would it have been like to marry her nearly six years ago when he’d been penniless and she’d been doe-eyed and eager?

Would her agreeable nature have made her pliant in his bed? Likely. Blood shifted, making his pants tighter than was comfortable. She was different now. Tonight, he’d seen something more in Lady Harriet, something he hadn’t those years before. A feistiness that he seemed to bring out in her. He was certain that would translate to pure unadulterated passion. His cock twitched at the thought.

Harriet had a sassy mouth, one he could easily imagine kissing. And a body made for fantasies, ones he knew he’d indulge in later tonight.

But that didn’t mean he should trust her advice.

Chapter Two

It had been more than a week since her encounter with Lord Davenport, and Harriet was annoyed with how much her thoughts had been consumed with him. Thankfully, though, today was her meeting with the Ladies of Virtue. She had been a member of the secret organization for a little over four years. Outwardly, everyone believed them to be a group of do-gooders, raising funds and tending to the needs of the less fortunate. And they certainly did their fair share of that. In truth, though, they were a group of specially trained women who could move seamlessly through the streets of London and discreetly tend to crimes such as pickpocketing.

She loved being a member of the Ladies of Virtue above all things and lived for their weekly meetings. But even that hadn’t rid her thoughts of the infuriating marquess. The truth was, she had thought of little else, and she’d concluded it wasn’t merely him she found so bothersome, but everything he represented. His flagrant spending was disgraceful, especially in a world where there was so much need.

She’d come up with a plan to tackle that problem, but she needed the help of her fellow Ladies. If she presented it the right way, no one need know she’d devised this with Lord Davenport in mind.

Today’s meeting had ended nearly an hour earlier, and she and Agnes and their friend Iris had stayed behind, as they were wont to do, to play a few hands of cards. They often had additional items they wanted to discuss with one another, and Ladies of Virtue business was always safe in Lady Somersby’s parlor.

Harriet took a sip of her tea and eyed her opponents. After her annoying confrontation with Lord Davenport, an idea had germinated in her mind.

“I’ve been thinking about what we discussed at last week’s meeting,” Harriet said. She glanced down at the cards in her hand, but the numbers seemed to blur. “About how we work so hard to rid the streets of violence and sin and yet it seems to be festering among the very elite of Society. It seems to me we are in a unique position to do something about that.”

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