All suffragette Esme Smith wants is respect. Her beau, American inventor Jed Reeve, may be more enlightened than most men, but lately his need to protect her is at odds with her need for independence. Esme begins to wonder if a modern woman can share her life with a man without losing some of herself.
With his courtship of Esme stalled, the last thing Jed needs is the pressure of saving the Prince of Wales. But when blueprints for a sonic destroyer fall into his hands, he uncovers an anarchist plot that could have deadly consequences.
While investigating the threats, Jed is determined to keep Esme out of harm's way, despite her protests. But when the terrorists capture Jed and demand a priceless emerald in exchange for his life, it's Esme who must draw on all her strength to save the day.
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"Esme Smith, I could spank you." Jed loomed over the rickety, round table where she sat trying to concentrate on the socialist speaker, whose thin voice was losing badly to the competition of a hurdy-gurdy and the pub patrons' drunken sallies.
She glanced up, startled, guilty, and then angry at that stab of guilt. Her heartbeat accelerated. She pressed her gloved hands to the table, then snatched them away. The tabletop was sticky with spilled beer even after the landlord had given it a desultory swipe with a dirty rag. Her sherry glass rocked perilously.
"I told you not to come here," Jed continued.
"That's right. You told me." She scowled up at him. How dare he stand there like some gunslinger from his native California, daring her to challenge him? Well, she intended to do more than challenge him. She'd set up her Women's Advancement League because she believed heart and soul that women should be mistresses of their own lives. No man, no matter how charming, intelligent and downright devilishly good-looking, was changing her mind.
"Hello, handsome." One of the pub's working girls sashayed up to Jed and stroked a none-too-clean hand down his lapel. "Looking for company?"
"No." He caught her hand and put it firmly away from him, then turned a look of blistering contempt on Esme.
She flushed. While she sympathized with the women forced by dire circumstances into prostitution, she hadn't been aware that such women worked at the Rootail Pub. Their presence had made her question whether Jed just might have possessed a valid point when he'd declared the pub completely unacceptable. She might be a suffragette, but she was respectable.
The working girl shrugged and her neckline slid impossibly lower. "If you change your mind..."
He ignored her. "We're leaving." It was an order.
"You can." Esme lifted her sherry glass but was careful not to actually sip any of the disgustingly sweet wine. "I'm staying." She replaced the glass carefully on the table.
A muscle in his square jaw twitched.
She smiled up at him, enjoying his frustration. His dictatorial attitude made defying him irresistibly satisfying. He could hardly haul her out of here without causing a sceneand Mr. Respectable wouldn't want to do that. "Jed, if you could move a fraction to the side...I can't see the speaker."
He spun on his heel to stride to the door.
Unfortunately, before she could toast her triumph in sweet sherry, the gentlemanand she used the term looselyat the next table put a hand to the working girl's bodice and, despite her slap and scream, tore it roughly. "Show us yer tits."
The ex-pugilist landlord moved forward to intervene.
Jed moved just as fast. "You are leaving, now."
"There's no need. The bully is being evicted and"
Jed swooped and pulled her up and out of her chair. She dug her heels in, grateful for her height and full figure. It made dragging her behind him a difficult proposition.
"If the little lady's unwilling." One of the drunks by the bar hitched his trousers and sallied forward.
A glare from Jed sent him stumbling back to his mates, who steadied him even as they laughed uproariously at his retreat.