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"Just what do you think you're staring at, Tyler Whately?"
Megan Penworthy's tone was unduly sharp, but then she had meant it to be. It was also, along with the look she turned on him, filled with haughty disdain, as if she couldn't abide the fellow. That wasn't true at all. She actually liked the Honorable Tyler Whately.
He was pleasantly handsome, with light blond hair that needed only a minimum of Macassar oil to control it, a trim mustache, and whiskers that weren't so long that they hid the strength of his jaw. His dark green eyes were rather nice, too. And he was not excessively tall, so that a poor girl had to crane her neck to look up at him. Nor was his body intimidating in its slimness, which was not to say he lacked strength. At twenty-seven, he was a young man with excellent prospects, not to mention a rather sizable estate inherited from his mother's side of the family.
Megan had no doubt whatsoever that Tyler would make a fine husband. She might even have set her own cap for him if her best friend, Tiffany Roberts, hadn't confessed soon after they'd met him, that she wanted him.
Those had been Tiffany's exact words. "I want him, Meg." The two girls had always spoken bluntly, at least to each other, and when no one else was around to be shocked by it. But Tiffany had been too excited that day to care if anyone else heard her. "This is truly the one. I've never felt so--so--when he smiled at me, well, the feeling was-damn, I can't describe it, but I swear I was going to faint."
"Probably your corset laced up too tight again," Megan had replied with a teasing grin. "Youknow you need at least a little room to breathe--"
"Oh, stop." Tiffany had laughed. "I'm perfectly serious. What do I do to win him, Meg?"
Just because Megan was the older by five months, she was supposed to have all the answers, but she knew next to nothing about that particular subject, though she was loath to admit it. After all, men fell all over themselves trying to get her attention. It was embarrassIng, especially since she never did anything to attract them. But after -two years of having every eligible male in the neighborhood come calling, she had finally concluded it was simply her looks, even though she had the most unfashionable hair color in the kingdom, an atrocious, gaudy, bright rusty-copper color, the one and only thing she had inherited from her father.
So Megan had drawn on common sense that day and said to her best friend, "Just smile and be yourself, and he won't have a chance."
And he didn't. Within two months of meeting her, the Right Honorable Tyler had been moved to propose to Tiffany. They were to be married on her eighteenth birthday, in a little less than three months. And no simple ceremony for this viscount's son. They would be doing it up grand right at the height of the London Season.
Considering how pleased Megan was for her friend, and what a fine fellow she thought Tyler to be, her churlish question to him should have surprised the affianced couple, whom she was chaperoning on the way to church this bright summer Sunday. It did, in fact, surprise Tyler, for her attitude toward him never ceased first to baffle him, then to irritate him, since he never did anything to cause it. It didn't surprise Tiffany in the least, but then she knew the reason for Megan's behavior.
Tiffany had appreciated it at first, when Megan had set out to make Tyler think she was the veriest bitch, for any young man Tiffany had ever been the least bit interested in had understandably fallen in love with Megan instead. It wasn't that Tiffany wasn't pretty. She was quite pretty; her blond curls and deep blue eyes were in the height of fashion. But pretty didn't stand a chance next to the kind of mesmerizing beauty that Megan had been blessed with. So Megan had set out at the start to make sure that Tyler's interest didn't roam elsewhere, most especially in her direction.
But Megan's rather unorthodox strategy had been going on long enough, that Tyler no longer just flushed and stammered apologies or whatever it was the outspoken Megan had taken offense at. He now fought back, and he was getting rather good at it.
As he flipped the reins sharply at the highstepping bay that was pulling the open carriage away from Tiffany's home, where he had picked up both girls, he remarked without looking at Megan again, "Why, I was staring at nothing at all, Miss Penworthy. Absolutely nothing."
Tiffany stiffened. Tyler had never been quite that cruel in a comeback before. Megan, she saw, took his reply to heart, blushing furiously and turning away so he wouldn't see that his barb had hurt.
Tiffany couldn't blame Tyler. There was just so much nastiness a man could take without getting nasty in return. No, it was Tiffany's fault for not putting a stop to Megan's scheme long before now. The reason she hadn't was that small kernel of doubt she still harbored that if Tyler ever saw Megan as she really was, he would become just as smitten as all the other men who were treated to one of her smiles.
But enough was enough. She was sure that Tyler loved her. And if she couldn't hold him by now, then she didn't deserve him, or more to the point, he didn't deserve her.