Second Sons of London

As Spencer strode quick­ly along the pave­ment, he saw up ahead a woman turn the cor­ner and head in the same direc­tion he did. Rec­og­niz­ing her by her cloak as his neigh­bor, Spencer decid­ed to catch up to her and intro­duce him­self. He won­dered if she were the count­ess or one of the daugh­ters of the house­hold. It would be con­ve­nient if she were a daugh­ter and he came to know her even before the Sea­son began. She might make for a good count­ess. Already, he knew she enjoyed dai­ly exer­cise. She moved with pur­pose. If she were intel­li­gent and could hold a decent con­ver­sa­tion, his work would be done. He could offer for her before the Sea­son even began and not have to go through all the motions of court­ing a woman.

He had almost caught up to her when a fig­ure stepped out, bran­dish­ing a knife. In the still of the morn­ing, the thief’s voice car­ried as he said, “Gimme your coin, my lady. Now.”

Spencer start­ed to run as the woman replied, “I have none with me but I live just ahead. Come eat some­thing and we can talk.”

Was she mad—asking a rob­ber to dine with her?

He reached the pair and knocked the knife from the young thief’s hand before sound­ly punch­ing the bas­tard in the face. The boy crum­pled to the ground.

Turn­ing to the lady, expect­ing her grat­i­tude, he was stunned when she slammed her palms into his chest, knock­ing him back. Spencer stum­bled a moment and then regained his balance.

What the bloody hell did you just do?” she demanded.

Wh-what do you mean?” he sput­tered. “I just saved you, Woman.”

Saved me?” Her bright blue eyes flashed in anger at him. “From this poor girl?”

Girl?

Lady Ada­lyn turned and caught sight of Everett. She crossed the room with pur­pose and slammed her hands into his chest, push­ing hard against it.

Anger sim­mered in her eyes when he didn’t move and she cried, “What the bloody hell did you do to my cousin?”

I … didn’t do any­thing,” he stam­mered, want­i­ng to pro­tect Miss Goulding’s privacy.

That is an out­right lie. Louisa’s cheeks were flushed with embar­rass­ment.” Lady Ada­lyn paused. “Oh, my heav­ens. You took advan­tage of her, you bastard.”

She slapped him hard, total­ly catch­ing him off guard, and he stum­bled back a step.

I will kill you, Cam­den!” she shout­ed, rais­ing both hands.

Everett knew she meant to claw his face or attack in some man­ner. He grabbed her wrists and forced them down. She tripped and fell into his chest but quick­ly recov­ered, jerk­ing free and rais­ing her hand to strike him again.

No, you don’t,” he said, wrap­ping his arms about her so that her arms were bound to her side.

The trou­ble was that she was now flush against him. Her soft breasts pushed against his chest. She wrig­gled, try­ing to escape, mov­ing against him so that his man­hood began to stir. That won­der­ful, intox­i­cat­ing vanil­la scent enveloped him, going straight to his head.

Her beau­ti­ful face con­tort­ed with rage. “You are a bloody scoundrel. You aren’t fit to speak to Louisa, much less touch her. Don’t think you will wed her. I won’t allow it. Do you hear me? Now, let go of me, you bloody oaf. Or I’ll—”

Everett slammed his mouth down on hers.

He didn’t know what else to do in order to qui­eten her. She wasn’t the kind of woman who would lis­ten to rea­son. She already thought him guilty of some ter­ri­ble sin against her cousin.

Instead, he quick­ly real­ized he want­ed to sin.

With her.

I am sor­ry we seemed to have got­ten off to a bad start. If I did any­thing to cause this rift, I apologize.”

She stud­ied him a long moment. “I still believe you to be a rake, my lord, but some­where in there is a good man. Else you wouldn’t be such a close friend to Everett. I apol­o­gize for being waspish with you. I feared that Everett and Ada­lyn might try to force us togeth­er dur­ing the  upcom­ing house par­ty. I know she is hold­ing it to find me a husband.”

Or me a wife,” Owen coun­tered. “That’s what Ev thinks.”

The col­or rose on her cheeks, mak­ing her very appealing.

I am sor­ry that I have made this all about me. They are con­spir­ing on both our behalves.”

He grinned. “Then per­haps we should unite, Miss Gould­ing. I have no desire to enter a state of mat­ri­mo­ny at this point. Per­haps we can stick togeth­er dur­ing this house party.”

How so?” she asked, her brow fur­rowed, mak­ing her very attractive.

You can shep­herd away any young lady set­ting her sights on me. I will steer away any rogues that show an inter­est in you.” Owen smiled charm­ing­ly. “And I will sing your prais­es to any gen­tle­man that you find interesting.”

Hmm.” She con­sid­ered his propo­si­tion. “That might not be such a bad idea, my lord.”

Owen. If we are to con­spire togeth­er in this endeav­or, I would like you to call me Owen.”

Owen,” she tried out.

He found he very much liked the way she said his name.

So, we would pro­tect each oth­er and our inter­ests?” she asked.

Yes, indeed. I do plan to flirt because that is what I do when women are around. I can’t seem to help myself. How­ev­er, you can help me avoid being found in any kind of com­pro­mis­ing posi­tion. I will keep the rogues from you and only encour­age those you might have an inter­est in.”

Your pro­pos­al is intrigu­ing, Owen.”

It’s bloody smart if you ask me,” he quipped. “What do you say, Miss Goulding?”

She smiled bril­liant­ly. “I say that you should call me Louisa.”

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*Excerpt com­ing 2022

 

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