Read an Excerpt
How to Engage an Earl
How to Become Invisible
Berkeley Square, London
Unlike her far more vibrant sisters, Miss Anne Royle had but one talent—and it wasn't one to recommend her.
She could become invisible.
Oh, not in the way of fairy tales, where one's form could magically spread upon the breeze.
No, her talent was much more subtle than that.
Anne simply had the ability to move about a bustling drawing room completely unnoticed.
She considered herself naught but a specter in London society, and rightly so. After all, no one ever sought out her company, or tried to catch her eye. She could stand directly in front of a grand lord or lady, or even a tray-bearing footman, and more likely than not, she wouldn't be noticed.
Sometimes it was as if she simply did not exist.
Anne usually viewed her reputed talent as the darkest of damning curses.
But not always.
Only a year ago, she and her sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, had shed their black bombazine mourning frocks and left their tiny village in Cornwall for the satin elegance of London's drawing rooms.
Their effervescent sponsor, Lady Upperton, in her zeal to see the sisters properly matched, had mandated their attendance at an endless ribbon of unnerving balls, routs, and musicales.
Anne was no fool. Immediately she realized the benefit of moving beneath the raised noses of the ton.
It freed her from much of the scrutiny and whispers her sisters endured due to scandalous suspicions swirling about the Royle triplets'royal parentage.
And tonight would be no different.
As she and her sister Elizabeth primped and dressed in preparation for the grandest society rout in recent history, Anne actually prayed for invisibility.
For within five hours' time, the course of her life, and her sisters', would depend upon it.
MacLaren House, Cockspur Street
Three hours later
"Oh, Anne, how you exaggerate." Elizabeth laughed and swooshed her frilly lace-edged fan through the air, waving off the claim as if it were a bite-minded winged insect.
"I tell you, I can walk through this very crowd and eavesdrop on even the most private of conversations. No one will notice me. No one."
"Can you now?" Elizabeth arched a dubious eyebrow at that. "And no one will see you?"
"Pish, posh. While your stealth is truly miraculous, you are hardly beneath notice."
Anne exhaled a long breath. Why did she even bother to try to explain it to Elizabeth? The flame-haired beauty would never really understand the truth of it. How could she?
The reality of Anne's gift was that she was rather plain, at least in comparison to her sisters. For what else could explain her unnatural ability?
Physically, she should have stood out among the petite ladies of the ton. She was as tall as most men, after all. Still, she hadn't been blessed with rich sable hair like the eldest of the triplets, Mary, or the glossy copper locks of her sister Elizabeth, who had followed Anne into this world several minutes later.
No, the hair crowning Anne's head in a mass of tumbling ringlets was the shade of flax, so pale that it was nearly absent of color.
Even her features were delicate and unremarkable, and her skin was as white as a polished ivory tusk.
Sometimes Anne mused that if she stood against a wall wearing the very cream-hued gown she had donned this evening, no one would see her. Her coloring would make her virtually indistinguishable from the plaster.
Hmm. She might even test that theory. Why, who knew? With the feat she would attempt in just two rounds of the minute hand, a new trick might be her saving grace in the event a quick escape was required.
In fact, it might be prudent to exercise her skills of stealth right this very moment, before . . . well, before she was called to action. Yes, that was exactly what she would do.
"Elizabeth, I vow, this very moment I could glide through this drawing room removing filled crystals of cordials from the fingers of unsuspecting guests, then leave them all wondering a moment later what had happened to them."
"No, you can't. You are merely having me on. I know you, Anne. But you must realize I am no longer your gullible, wide-eyed baby sister." Elizabeth chuckled into her hand.
"Still you doubt me. When will you ever learn, dear sister?" Anne caught up Elizabeth's gloved fingers and slapped her own fan into them. "I'll need both hands free. Now watch, my doubting miss . . . and be utterly amazed."
Laird Allan, the newly-belted Earl of MacLaren, opened the French windows, clapped a palm to his lady friend's round bottom, and firmly guided her into the dark passage.
Only one flickering candlestick glowed in the back hallway, and that was for the navigational sake of the additional staff engaged especially for tonight's rout. But the dimness just here suited Laird quite well.
"When may I see you again, Lady . . . er . . . my good lady?"
"Heavens, MacLaren, you don't even know my name, do you?" His lady friend straightened her frothy capped sleeves upon her smooth shoulders, then cupped her blushing full breasts and unashamedly readjusted their position inside her gown before looking up at him.
He raised his eyebrows and gave her a flat smile, to which she immediately responded with an overdone pout.
Laird sighed, in an equally false manner. "Please know, dear lady, my grasp of your name has nothing to do with how memorable you are. I am merely too deep in my cups to be able to retrieve it from my foggy mind, though I have no doubt your name is as lovely as you are. You'll forgive me. Won't you?"
She chuckled at that. "Now, now, do not fret, my handsome playmate." Reaching up, she pinched his cheek affectionately, then grinned. "Truth be told, I am not offended in the least. In fact, darling, I am rather relieved. If you cannot remember my name, 'tis less likely that my husband will learn of our . . . intimate little tour of your garden during tonight's rout, eh?" How to Engage an Earl. Copyright © by Kathryn Caskie. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.