Seduction of a Proper Gentleman
By Victoria Alexander HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008 Victoria Alexander
All right reserved. ISBN: 9780061449468
He thought she was a beggar? Kathleen Mac David, granddaughter of the Countess of Dumleavy, stared at the coins in her hand. Indignation swept through her. A beggar? The arrogance of the man. No, the stupidity!
"I beg your par—" She looked up, the words died in her throat. The earl was already climbing into his carriage.
She watched it pull away and her annoyance faded. To be fair, and Kathleen was nothing if not fair, in the deepening shadows of the approaching night, and wrapped in the hooded cloak her grandmother had insisted she wear for luck—it had been passed down from grandmother to granddaughter for generations and therefore had a certain inherent power—perhaps it might be possible, if one were paying scant attention, to mistake a lady of quality for a beggar. And perhaps, if one incorrectly assumed a woman in an overly large, faded, well-used cloak was not a lady of quality, then the apparent lack of any kind of feminine accompaniment in the form of a forbidding chaperone might confirm that mistaken impression. Very well then. Kathleen started toward her carriage a scant few yards from where the Earl of Norcroft's vehicle had been parked no more than a minute ago. Perhaps the man wasn't an idiot, which was rather nice to know, all things considered.
Sheinstructed the driver of her carriage to return to the hotel, then climbed in and settled in the seat across from her aunt and alleged chaperone Lady Hannah Fitzgivens. If truth were told, it was often difficult to tell just who was chaperoning whom. Not that, as widows, either really needed a chaperone. Necessity aside, Hannah had insisted on accompanying Kathleen because, as she had said before they had left Scotland, it might be an interesting adventure.
"Well?" Hannah raised a brow. "Did you see him?"
"I did," Kathleen said slowly.
"And?" An eager note sounded in Hannah's voice.
"I didn't say a word."
"Oh." Hannah's expression fell, then brightened. "Are we following him then?"
"No, of course not. We're returning to the hotel. My intention was not to accost him, you know." "Not to accost him yet, you mean."
"I don't mean that at all. I simply wanted to get a good look at the man." Kathleen shrugged as if that was truly all that she had intended. Of course, they both knew better. Indeed, when he had stopped before her, Kathleen had been perilously close to throwing caution to the winds and introducing herself. Even in that brief moment, there had been the hint of something inevitable about the man. Utter nonsense really and attributable to nothing more significant than her grandmother's never-ending pronouncements and her own newfound belief in destiny and the absurd. Regardless, such a first meeting might be awkward and would be highly improper although she had never been overly concerned with propriety unless it suited her.
But he was a British lord with a long and distinguished title and it would not do to get off on the wrong foot with him. Still, Kathleen doubted there was a right foot. She sighed and settled back in her seat. Nothing about this venture was going to be even remotely less than awkward.
"But I thought you had a photograph?"
"An image captured in that excruciatingly long time one has to remain motionless for the camera to do its work has always struck me as being somewhat less than lifelike. Oh certainly it is exact, but it fails to capture . . ." Kathleen thought for a moment. "The humanity of a subject, if you will. The subject of a photograph might as well be an apple for all the life expressed in the resulting image." She shook her head. "It is not at all like a living, breathing person."
"And you found the living, breathing person . . ." Hannah paused in an annoyingly pointed manner. "Acceptable?"
"Yes, Aunt Hannah, I did." More than acceptable but she wasn't at all sure she wished to confess that yet. While his eyes had never met hers, even in the deepening twilight she had seen they were a rich blue and she had wondered in that instant what they would look like when he laughed. Or when he was angered. Or in the throes of passion, although that was not something it would be wise to dwell on at the moment and certainly not something she would tell her aunt. While the photograph allowed her to recognize his features anywhere, the lack of color coupled with the firm, unyielding expression that was mandatory for a photograph did not do justice to the Earl of Norcroft in the flesh.
His hair was not as dark as she had thought given the photograph, more a rich brown than a black. He was taller than she had expected as well, his shoulders broader, his stride determined. Oh yes, he would do.
"I assume, given your reluctance to do so before now, you were simply waiting to see the gentleman in person before proceeding with a plan. You do need a plan, my dear."
"Yes, you've mentioned that," Kathleen said under her breath.
Aunt Hannah was a firm believer in plans. She said most of the ills of the world could be laid at the foot of poor planning and claimed her first marriage to a wealthy Scottish lord was the direct result of a well-laid plan. That she had loved him with a passion that had lingered far beyond his death at a tragically young age had not been part of her plan. In the nearly quarter of a century since his demise, she had had any number of lovers but not another love. When pressed, she would say that was part of a grander plan which was not, on a divine level, especially well thought out. Continues...
Excerpted from Seduction of a Proper Gentleman by Victoria Alexander
Copyright © 2008 by Victoria Alexander. Excerpted by permission.
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