Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the United Kingdom allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her Trouble. When she's not writing, Vicky enjoys reading, films, concerts, and, most of all, long lunches with friends. A native Texan, she holds degrees in English literature and marketing.
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He strolled over to her table. “Lucy?”
Her green eyes widened. “What are you doing here?” she said under her breath. A blush stole over her cheeks. “Sorry, that was foolish.”
“No, it wasn’t. I escorted my mother and cousins . . . I didn’t expect to see you here.”
She wouldn’t be here if she didn’t need the coin, but she couldn’t be earning more than a pittance.
“You are working?” he said. Brilliant, you just sounded like a complete idiot.
“Yes, isn’t it obvious?”
He smiled. “Well, yes. You are well?”
“I am,” she said. “And you?”
“A few minutes ago, I would have said tolerably well, but then I saw you and brightened considerably.”
“Flirting again, Your Grace?”
“Who me?” he said, putting his hand to his heart.
She looked over her shoulder and returned her gaze to him. “You had better go.”
He looked behind her.
“What are you about?” she said.
He grinned. “One of your curls escaped the cap.” She attempted to tuck it in.
“Don’t,” he said. “It’s rather fetching.”
“Please go. I cannot afford trouble.”
“No one is paying attention to us. May I have a glass of lemonade?”
“Of course.” She poured and handed the glass to him. He took a sip and puckered his mouth. “It’s terrible, but I should have expected it. Almack’s is well known for its lackluster refreshments.”
“One would think the ton would serve decent food and drink.”
“Believe me, no one comes here for the refreshments,” he said.
“Except you?” she said in a teasing tone.
He laughed. “I saw you watching the dancers. I wish you could dance with me.”
“I’m working.” She glanced over her shoulder again. “You had better leave before someone notices you’re talking to me.”
He glanced out at the crowd. “No one is paying the least bit of attention. Everyone is focused on the dancers.”
“Why aren’t you dancing?” she said.
“I would if you were free.”
“If you wish to flirt, I advise you to choose a lady of leisure. I must work.”
“I wish I could dance the rest of the night with you. I can’t, so I won’t dance at all.”
She shook her head. “I’m not the reason you’re avoiding dancing,” she said. “I know the patronesses changed the rules.”
“Yes, and I narrowly escaped dancing all night with a young lady out in her first season. I felt sorry for her. She couldn’t be a day over seventeen, making her much too young for the likes of me.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Aren’t you expected to dance?”
“I don’t care about expectations.”
She met his gaze straight on. “I wager your family does. I know courtships take place primarily on the dance floor.”
“When I decide to court a lady, I will choose the time and place. I make my own decisions, and I answer to no one,” he said.
She arched her brows. “Perhaps a higher power?”
He smiled. “Or a lower one.”
Her mouth twitched in a slight smile. “Does that make you a devilish duke?”
His shoulders shook with mirth. “Clever.”
A rotund maid walked out. “Lucy, give the gentleman a glass of lemonade and be done with it.”
Lucy winced and poured a glass. “Yes, Mrs. Thompson. I’m sorry.”
“It’s not me you owe an apology.” Mrs. Thompson regarded him. “She’s new, but that’s no excuse.”
He’d made trouble for Lucy, and he’d better undo the damage. “Mrs. Thompson, I beg your pardon.” Harry gave her his best flirtatious smile. “The lady did try to discourage me. I take all the blame. Do forgive me.”
Mrs. Thompson’s eyes grew as round as carriage wheels and her face turned pink. “Imagine me forgivin’ you. Carry on, Miss Longmore,” she said, and walked off.
Afterward, Lucy leaned toward him. “Please go now. I can’t risk losing my job.”
The devil. He shouldn’t have teased Lucy. Her words worried him, because she couldn’t be earning much. That only made him wonder how she was managing.
He wandered past the other tables, stopping occasionally to watch her. She and her grandmother lived in a rough neighborhood. That fact only increased his curiosity and his concern. Most likely, she held more than one job, because she couldn’t possibly survive on whatever pittance she earned serving lemonade.
When she caught him eyeing her, she averted her gaze. A lady approached, and Lucy served her a glass of lemonade. Afterward, Lucy looked out at the crowd as if determined to avoid him.
Once again, he was struck by the contradiction of her. He told himself to walk away and forget her, but he couldn’t. She was a riddle, one that he itched to solve, but that was not all. In truth, that one kiss had only made him want more. He wanted to pull her up to her toes and kiss her senseless. He wanted to hold her in his arms. He wanted her to surrender everything to him, but he mustn’t rush her. That one kiss had assured him she was an innocent.
The orchestra ended the tune with a flourish. The master of ceremonies called for silence. The guests moved closer en mass toward the dais where the patronesses sat.
Three ladies inside the refreshment room hurried out to join the throng. Harry consulted his watch. It was half past eleven. He turned around. Lucy was alone.
When he strode toward her, she eyed him warily. He set the half-finished glass of lemonade on the table and leaned closer to her.
“I want to see you again. Meet me at Green Park tomorrow.”
“Because I want to know more about you.”
She shook her head. “I do not think it is a good idea.”
“Who will know but us?” he said.
She narrowed her eyes. “What if one of your friends saw me with you? I can well imagine what they would think of me.”
“They’ll be at Rotten Row during the fashionable hour. No need to worry.”
A roar went up within the ballroom, followed by thunderous clapping. Harry turned around and saw his eldest cousin Mina and Lord Everleigh standing on the dais. “I had better go.”
“Yes, go, and please do not jeopardize my job again.”
He grinned. “I will see you tomorrow.”
“You’re awfully confident, but you are bound for disappointment.”
He looked at her over his shoulder, winked, and walked into the ballroom.
Page Count: 416 pages
Publisher: Forever (February 24, 2015)
WILL A FEW FLIRTATIOUS STEPS
Harry Norcliffe never wanted to inherit his beloved uncle's title. The rigidity of the ton, the incessant reminders from his marriage-minded mama that he must settle down with a highborn lady and produce an heir and a spare: it's all such a dreadful bore. So when his mother asks him to take part in a dancing competition, he patently refuses. The last thing he needs is another chore . . . until a beautiful, brilliant, delightfully tempting maid makes him rethink his position.
LEAD TO A SCANDALOUS SEDUCTION?
Most women would be over the moon to be pursued by a wickedly handsome-not to mention wealthy-duke like Norcliffe. But Lucy will not be any man's trophy. She could use a friend, though, and what begins innocently soon ignites into desire. As Lucy tries to resist Harry's scorching kisses, he makes an utterly irresistible offer. Enter the dance contest with him, and win a prize that could change her life forever . . . if falling in love doesn't change it first.
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