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It Takes a Hero
By Boyle, Elizabeth
Avon BooksISBN: 0060549300
She held me spellbound from the first moment I spied her. For it was like a spark fell from heaven and lit my heart afire. I fear I will never be whole again without her in my life.
Lieutenant Throckmorten to
his batman, Thomas Rivers
in Miss Darby's Daring Dilemma
The Season of 1817 should have begun like any other, in fact it should have been the most engaging Season in ages. Napoleon was no longer a threat. English officers and gentlemen alike were ready to celebrate, and more importantly, many were of a mind to marry.
The mothers of unwed daughters throughout the land should have been in alt.
Instead they were in a panic.
Their daughters were refusing to cooperate. Refusing to be wed!
Who had ever heard of such a notion? Not marry? Why not just declare oneself a savage and be done with the matter.
Well, such foolishness wasn't to be borne. Especially not by Malvina Witherspoon, Countess of Tottley, the mother of Lady Lucinda. She hadn't spent a fortune sending her darling daughter to Miss Emery's exclusive school only to have her arrive home and announce that she would never take a husband.
"It is all this wretched Darby creature's doing," Malvina declared one morning to a circle of equally desperate mothers. "And it is time we put a stop to this nonsense once and for all."
Heads nodded enthusiastically, since they knew the countess had good reason to want to see this state of anarchy put to an end.
If the rumors were true, and most likely they were given the ungodly hour Lady Tottley's summons had arrived, Lady Lucinda had refused, yes, refused, the young and handsome Lord Barwick, heir to the Hemswell dukedom.
There wasn't a moment to lose. It could very well be one of their daughters refusing such an eligible parti. And so it was that the good mothers of London had gathered together to formulate a plan of attack. The author of the Miss Darby chronicles, known only as M. Briggs, was probably hated with more ferocity and incurred more wrath by the occupants of Lady Tottley's morning salon than Boney at the height of his despotic reign.
The murmurs of complaint and gossip were interrupted by a discreet knock at the door. Crumpton, Lady Tottley's infamously stodgy butler, poked his long nose through the crack in the door. "Ma'am, there is a gentleman here who claims to have been invited."
His tone spoke volumes. That he no more believed the man in question was a gentleman, nor that this interloper had been invited.
So it was a rare treat for all those in the room to see Crumpton's mouth fall open in dismay when her ladyship responded with an enthusiastic wave of her hand.
"Send him in at once, Crumpton."
"But, my lady," the butler protested, "this ... this ... person isn't accepted. I have it on good authority that he's considered -- "
"Don't be such a ninnyhammer, Crumpton," the countess said. "These are desperate times and we can no longer cling to social boundaries if we are to see the world righted."
Fans fluttered and more than one slanted glance asked the same question.
Who had Lady Tottley invited that had Crumpton in such a state?
They didn't wait long to find out, for a few moments later the door opened a second time, swinging inward in defiance to the soft, hallowed confines of this oh, so very feminine sanctuary.
As their savior entered, filling first the doorway, and then, in many ways, the room with his long-legged stride and wide shoulders, there was a soft echo of gasps and even a few sighs at the sight of this all-tooinfamous man.
His dark gaze sped around the room, examining and discarding a hasty inventory of property and persons as if he suspected that danger lurked close at hand.
Not that the man wasn't receiving the same detailed inspection from every woman in the room. It wasn't his fashionable dress that caught their attention, for he wasn't wearing anything of note other than plain buff breeches, scuffed and stained boots, and a black worsted jacket.
No, it was the man beneath the plain and unnoticeable wrappings that couldn't be so easily hidden.
And what a man he was.
A hairsbreadth past thirty, Raphael Danvers stood well over six feet tall and his presence left no one in doubt that he was a man in his prime. Oh, he may have gained his proper English name and citizenship from his illustrious father, Baron Danvers, but his dark mien and rakishly foreign good looks spoke of thousands of years of Spanish nobility -- hawkish, penetrating eyes, a jaw line hammered and tempered from a Castilian forge, and a masculine fire that emanated from him like the unforgiving Iberian sun.
Since his return from the Peninsular wars, there hadn't been a happily married, matronly, or thankfully widowed woman in London who hadn't wondered what it would be like to bask beneath his raw, untamed heat, strip the unfashionable clothes from his muscled body and see just how unacceptable Rafe Danvers could be.
And to Mr. Danvers' credit, he was inclined to indulge them.
"My lady," he said, nodding his head slightly to the countess.
She should have been miffed that he hadn't managed a decent bow, but she knew, like most everyone else, that Rafe's long years at war and unconventional upbringing had not garnered a healthy respect for his betters. Besides, at present, she was doing her best to set aside her own decadent notions of a deserted hunting lodge, ten foot snow drifts, and Rafe wearing only a ...Continues...
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