“Oh, bother, Giles. Look who’s arrived,” Montgomery, the Duke of Stanton, hissed loudly.
As Giles Corliss, the Marquess of Trahern tipped up his confounded black mask, he glanced first over at his friend, only to find the Duke scrunching his short body behind a white marble statue in a vain attempt to go unnoticed. The stocky little man’s bright yellow jacket and red waistcoat made him hard to miss.
Giles should have known it was only a matter of time before the affable Monty embarrassed them.
Ignoring the Duke’s precarious position, Giles turned his interest toward the entrance of the Parker’s ballroom. He knew there were few people Monty disliked enough to hide from. But spotting a glimpse of Lord Lyle’s portly frame circling the crowded room, he agreed with his friend’s urgent assessment of the situation, though not his method for avoiding the problem.
“Get out from behind there, Monty.” Giles sighed, looking down at where his friend had wedged himself. “If Lyle is here, he probably shares our suspicions—the Brazen Angel will be here tonight.”
Monty eased out from his hiding spot. His mask perched crookedly at the end of his nose, while below it his mouth twisted in a lopsided and apologetic smile. Straightening to his full, though limited height, the little man meticulously adjusted his jacket and mask.
Giles took a deep breath. It was bad enough the Brazen Angel had infected half the men of London, but this craze for masquerades she’d launched was getting out of hand. It seemed that every hostess now wanted to throw a masked party in hopes of entertaining the Brazen Angel, as she’d been quickly dubbed. “Whatever was I thinking when I agreed to help you find this woman?” He yanked off his mask and tossed it behind the statue.
Monty grinned. “Easy. Our poor life here in London bores you, pure and simple.”
He couldn’t agree more. “I’d still be on the Continent if Father hadn’t died. And now —”
“Now you have to marry and secure an heir for all those titles and lands. Don’t we all one day, my friend.” Monty shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t we all. And Lady Sophia, well, I can only extend my best wishes.”
“Heartfelt, I’m sure.” Giles knew he couldn’t keep avoiding his betrothed, but when all the descriptions he’d gathered hinged with the same hesitant ‘best wishes’ and ‘nice girl, that one,’ finding the courage to meet the future Lady Trahern failed him.
If he didn’t know better, he’d think he’d been summoned home for discipline rather than his nuptials.
“What is it, a month away? Lucky man.” Monty coughed.
“You find something amusing about me being married?”
“You would if you were in my shoes,” Monty continued, his lips twitching. “I don’t have Dryden breathing down my neck to see an heir procured. I certainly wouldn’t want that dour old man accompanying me on my wedding night to see the deed done.”
“I don’t think the situation is as bad as all that.”
Monty shrugged his shoulders. “Well, I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Once you marry that girl, you’ll be off again, with your shipping concerns.” The little man snorted. “As if I don’t know what Dryden’s got you doing. Too bad, old Stiff Breeches,” he said referring to Lord Dryden’s nickname, “promised your father to see you wed. Cagey old fellow, your father. He knew Lord Dryden was a man of his word.”
Giles found his mood souring, as it always did when someone pushed the subject of his upcoming nuptials. It was bad enough his father betrothed him to a girl he’d never met, now this lazy life in London threatened to dull his mind. No wonder he’d jumped at the opportunity to solve the mystery of the Brazen Angel. If anything, the exercise would keep his skills honed when he returned to duty. He scanned the room with a practiced gaze, all but ignoring the parade of ladies in their colorful gowns edging past him. Since his arrival in London, it had been like this at every social function. At first he’d carefully cultivated a reputation for being dangerous, until he discovered that only attracted the fortune-hunting beauties in droves. Not even the announcement of his betrothal held them at bay.
Betrothed. Giles shuddered. “How will we spirit her away with Lyle watching every move we make?” Monty wheezed in his familiar high-pitched squeak.”
“We still have time to call the authorities and turn her over. After all, she did rob you.” Giles didn’t try to understand his friend’s obsession with finding London’s most notorious woman. Built like a bulldog, Monty also possessed the temperament of one. Once he latched on to an idea, he refused to let go, no matter how outrageous. “I will not turn her over to the authorities and neither will you. Not after you’ve seen her.” Monty took a glass from a passing tray. “Besides, the money doesn’t matter. Though I doubt Lyle or Rostland would agree with me.”
Giles nodded. The Brazen Angel had taken London by storm over the past few months. He had thought her nothing but a foolish rumor — wishful talk to enliven a rather dull season. That was until Monty’s encounter with her a month prior. Brazen the lady was indeed. Offering herself for seduction, she left her victims in a drugged stupor while she robbed them blind. The lady was also a master of disguise, having appeared as Death at a masquerade for Lord Lyle, at the theatre as a demure miss fresh from school for Lord Wickham, and stranded by the roadside for Lord Rostland. With each of these notorious lechers, she had the uncanny ability to tap into their most hidden fantasies.
But in Monty’s case, it appeared she had meant herself for another man. As his friend explained the day after his encounter, still clutching in his hand her trademark token, a scented handkerchief, he had met her outside the opera. Another lord had been about to assist her, but Monty, ever the gentlemen where lovely ladies were concerned, cut the young man off, offering his services first. She’d lost her companion, or so she said, and was unable to enter the opera. She confessed she had no coins for a carriage home and refused to tell her name or family connections, because, she said, she’d deceived her parents to go out with a young man they found unsuitable.
“Could your Grace please help me,” she asked so prettily, tears rimming her eyes.
“I still can’t believe you took her home,” Giles commented. “What were you thinking?”
“What was I to do?” Monty shot back. “The poor thing was overcome. I thought if I revived her with some sherry, she’d tell me who her family was and I’d send for them. How was I know to that by sharing a glass with her I’d end up lying on the floor, the hapless victim, rather than her hero.”
Monty had awakened with a crushing headache, only to discover his watch and pocket money missing, along with the extra measure of gold he kept hidden in his study. Giles shifted from one leg to the other. “A handkerchief, a hint of perfume, a potion for leaving a man unconscious, and a fondness for a full moon. And you expect me to find this woman? It sounds more like a witch hunt.”
“I’m beginning to think Lord Dryden’s trust in you is misplaced. A month and you’ve got nothing. I would think you would have had her by now. And if you don’t find her soon, I’ll be a sight richer.” Monty grinned again, referring to their wager. “Maybe I’ll offer my services to Dryden while you’re on your honeymoon.”
“I could find this woman if you and the rest of her victims could refrain from waxing poetic on her beauty. Believe it or not, I need a better description than somewhere between ‘just out of the convent’ and ‘wonderfully mature.’ You might as well describe every woman in this ballroom.” Giles crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at Monty. “An accent,” he said, a look of surprise on his face. “I remember it now, she spoke with a slight accent. French, perhaps. But you know me and languages.”
“Are you sure?” Giles couldn’t help but feel skeptical.
“Yes. Yes,” he insisted. “She had an accent.”
Giles looked around the room. There were probably three to four hundred people, filling the Parker’s ballroom to capacity. How easy it was to slip in and move about undetected. Hadn’t he done the same thing in the French court time and time again? “With this crush, she’d be able to meet her prey and leave without anyone noticing.”
“So, you still think someone in this room is her next victim?” The Duke shook his head. “I hate for her to take these risks. All she had to do was ask me for the money.” “This ‘Angel’ isn’t looking for a protector. She just wants the money.” Giles studied the crowd. “But for what is the true question.”
Monty took another glass of wine from a passing servant. “When you see her you’ll have your answer. The dress and jewels she wore that night must have cost a king’s ransom.”
“No one risks so much for clothing and jewels. Any man could provide those comforts.” Giles took the glass from Monty’s hand. “No more of that. Clear heads prevail, and tonight we need our wits to flush out our prey.” Monty frowned as Giles set the drink down on a small table. “Our best bet is to wander. Keep your ears open and listen carefully. Her voice may be the only way to recognize her.”
As they worked their way through the room, Monty broke the silence between them. “Oh, this is worse than I thought!” He nodded toward Lyle, who had been joined by Rostland. The nefarious pair tipped their glasses toward Giles and Monty. “It would be a might easier if they weren’t looking forher as well.”
“I couldn’t agree more.” Giles looked across the room at their adversaries. Being part of the Full Moon Club, as her victims were dubbed, was considered by many to be a prize distinction. Lyle and Rostland hadn’t viewed it that way. They’d made it very clear to anyone who would listen that they intended to make the lady pay in their own particular manner.
The hunt for the Brazen Angel had quickly become a personal challenge, as had past dealings between them. An icy pit chilled Giles’ gut. He couldn’t think of anyone who deserved the kind of fate Lyle and Rostland planned for the lady.
“They won’t find her. Not tonight.” Giles nodded to a passing acquaintance. “Watch this.”
A young man stepped up to Lord Lyle and whispered something. Lyle swung around and headed toward the door with Rostland following hot on his heels.
“Should we go after them?” Monty asked.
Giles shook his head. “No. Young Lord Harvey owed me an enormous sum from the tables last night. His debt is free and clear for his work tonight.”
Monty grinned. “What have you done?”
“Bait and switch, my good man. Lord Harvey told Lyle that he’d just come from a party at the Farnways where there is a woman who fits the description of the Brazen Angel. By the time they arrive, the fake lady will have left with Lord Harvey’s cousin. It should take Lyle and Rostland hours before they find they’ve been had. By then we should have the Angel safely hidden away.”
Monty, who’d found another drink, gulped down the remaining libation. “I wish I had your confidence. What makes you think we’ll find her first?”
“Because I wagered more than I care to lose that I could.”
For the next hour the two men worked their way through the crowded ballroom, but their search was to no avail. Monty slipped in and around the guests. Giles, with his height and broad shoulders, had a slower time of it. But his height gave him the advantage of being able to see Monty’s red head bobbing along in front.
“Lord Trahern! Lord Trahern, is that you?” an elderly woman called as she barged her way through the ballroom.
Distracted, Giles nearly collided with Monty who’d stopped short to allow another woman to pass by.
“Excuse me, my lady,” Monty said with a low bow to the young woman.
Giles looked directly into her eyes. Though she wore a mask like everyone else in the room, behind the concealing white satin sparkled a pair of startling sapphire eyes. Her lashes fluttered as if in recognition, as if she knew him intimately. The sensation of it, as if she had touched him, rocked him out of his usual composure and into a stunned silence.
She looked back at Monty, who was still blathering away with his apologies. “There was no harm done, Your Grace. If you’ll excuse me,” she answered softly, her voice accented. Monty and Giles did a double take, then stared at each other before looking back at the woman as she disappeared into the crowd.
“That’s her,” Monty breathed. “Giles, it’s really her.” “Lord Trahern, I must speak with you,” blared an anxious voice behind them.
Giles turned to find himself facing the unmistakable Lady Dearsley. Unmistakable not so much by her formidable size, but by her ever present yellow turban and strident tones. He turned back to Monty. “Follow her, quickly.” Giles tried to avoid Lady Dearsley’s onslaught but he wasn’t fast enough. He’d done a good job of eluding the woman and her sisters since his return. But now, of all times, she’d finally succeeded in trapping him. Though nearing her seventieth year, Lady Dearsley moved with the speed of a young girl, too fast for Giles to slip into the overwhelming crowd. She wrapped her meaty arm around his, anchoring him in place.
“Lord Trahern, I have been trying to see you for the last three days.” Lady Dearsley sent him a censorious frown. “It’s time we made the final arrangements. The wedding date is only a month away and you need to sign the agreements.”
Curious stares followed in Lady Dearsley’s wake. Instead of cursing his father aloud for entangling him in this betrothal, Giles tried smiling graciously at his future relation. This marriage would mean his return to the service. But right now, even that welcome thought placed a distant second to the brief image of the Brazen Angel that burned hotly in his mind.
“How nice to see you, my lady.” He strained a glance over the woman’s feathers and turban hoping to catch sight of Monty. “Is your niece here this evening?”
Lady Dearsley shook her head. “Sadly, she became indisposed and could not attend. She is a very delicate girl, a fact I hope you remember when you are married. That she is delicate.”
Giles took a deep breath. “How can I forget, Lady Dearsley? With your ever vigilant reminders, I am sure not even the King with his shortcomings could forget such an important fact.”
“Just so you remember that she is delicate,” the woman added one more time. “Now since it seems you are here in London, as is my dear niece, and I know you must be anxious to meet her before the wedding. Under the circumstances though, it might be better if—”
Giles nodded his head in distracted agreement to whatever she blathered on about. Across the room he spied Monty waving frantically for him and pointing toward an adjoining room. Without thinking he stepped rudely around the lady. Her endless chatter faded as excitement coursed through him. The Brazen Angel was trapped, for the room she had entered had no other exit than back into the ballroom.
Their shared glance still held him captive with its witchery. Now, he found himself like Monty, unable to contain his curiosity about the lady.
But his escape came up short, Lady Dearsley latching on to his arm with the fortitude of a sailor on holiday. “Then you are agreed, my lord? I can expect your solicitor tomorrow afternoon? My niece will be so excited to know her future is to be so secure.”
Prying his arm out of her iron grip, he nodded absently again. “Yes, yes. That will be fine. Tomorrow afternoon,” he repeated without another thought in her direction.
Giles quickly cut his way through the crowd. He didn’t care about the quelling coughs and sniffs which followed in his wake.
Suddenly, quicker than he expected, the milling aristocracy parted and he came face to face with his prize. This second sight of her stunned him back into an adolescent state of awe. He swallowed slowly.
All of her victims’ poetic, flowery descriptions hardly did her justice. In the flickering light from the chandeliers, her artfully designed hair shimmered with a silver hue. Over this rich creation of curls sat a tall hat, the wide brim riding low over her face. Undulating white feathers dipped even lower, successfully concealing what few features her white mask didn’t cover. Around her neck wound two strands of thick pearls, their luster competing with the rich glow of her creamy skin. The rounded curves of her breasts pushed to the top of her low bodice. Her fashionable skirts ballooned out from her waist, ending just at her ankles. In a room filled with the bold colors of fashion, her choice of white and silver made her stand out.
She looked as fragile as porcelain. A deception he didn’t trust for a minute.
“Excuse me,” she said, her skirt brushing against him.
At the rustle of the fabric, Giles snapped to attention. “May I offer you my assistance?” He held out his arm to her.
She shook her head slightly. “No, thank you.”
Giles did not miss the dismissive tone, nor the slight accent to her speech. Though fluent in many languages, he too had to admit he was stumped as to its origin. “Oh, I insist, my dear lady.” He took her hand and settled it on his forearm, holding her in place. “Besides, you appear to have been left alone. I wouldn’t call myself a gentleman if I didn’t help a lady in distress.” She tugged her arm to free herself, but Giles only held on that much tighter.
“My lord, your reputation precedes you. My escort will not appreciate your efforts.” Again she turned her face from him, obviously searching the crowd for someone.
Her next victim, Giles guessed.
“And who is your escort? Perhaps I have seen him recently.”
Her sensuous pink lips pursed in concentration. “That is none of your concern. Now if you don’t release me, I’ll make a scene.”
“I doubt that,” he stated confidently. “A lady like yourself, so concerned with appearances, wouldn’t want to attract such untoward attention.” He started to stroll through the crowd, dragging her toward a side door. “Tell me your name, for I have a feeling before the evening is out we’ll be old friends.”
She did not reply.
“No name?” he teased. “What a terrible shame. Since I have never seen you before, I can only guess that you are a princess from a faraway land, which would account for your accent and striking sense of fashion. Am I right?”
As they made their halting procession through the room, Giles towing her along and the lady beside him resisting his forward momentum, he began to sense a change in her. Subtle changes, not obvious to anyone else, he realized as he found his body and mind watching and anticipating her every move, no matter how small. Her face upturned, allowing him a chance to study her. Her hand on his arm relaxed, while a flirtatious light sparked in the startling blue of her eyes. Her lips came alive, their enticing fullness widening to an engaging smile. She leaned closer to him, until her shoulder brushed ever so slightly against his arm. For once, Monty hadn’t been exaggerating. The woman was an angel to behold. And he felt himself falling under her tempting spell.
“I would like to be so forward as to introduce myself,” he said. “With your escort unavailable to do the honors, I am-”
The Brazen Angel didn’t need any introduction to the man at her side. “—you are Lord Trahern,” she finished. “As I said, your name and reputation precede you.” And did it ever, she thought. Of all the men to interrupt her this evening why did it have to be this one? She must get rid of him, and quickly. His gaze was too penetrating and at the same time too familiar to be risked. If he saw her through her painstaking costume, everything would be lost.
“While your tone sounds like an insult, I instead will be honored that such a lovely lady knows me.” He smiled graciously.
It should please her to have finally met the man who had puzzled her for so long. A year or so ago, she’d seen a boyhood portrait of him at his family home, Brynewood. Ever since that fateful afternoon, she’d been fascinated by the determined slant of his mouth and dark eyes.
What kind of man had this stern child become? she’d often wondered. Now she knew. He was the same brooding, handsome and devilish type of man she and her sisters had giggled and dreamed of eloping with when they’d been growing up. But in the safety of their convent school, she’d never realized the dangerous passions a man like this could evoke in the corner of a woman’s heart. His fingers, warm and firm, closed over her wrist with strength and authority. Hands that could guide a woman’s body into immortal danger—or heavenly release.
She drew a deep breath and tried to step away from him, to give her body the space it needed so as not to be entangled by his sensual presence. Nor had she expected the square cut jaw, or the wary look about him that said he’d seen enough of the world not to be easily deceived. It was an expression she understood well. She saw it every time she looked in a mirror. It also meant she must be very careful.
“You seem far away, my lady,” he said softly. “Perhaps it is someplace I could take you?” He studied her, his dark gaze assessing her as if he were cataloguing and memorizing her every reaction. “A quiet room where we could be alone?”
His suggestion ruffled down her spine in an anxious flutter and settled down so low in her soul it was indecent. Never in the last six months had a man’s invitation left her like this—like she wanted to follow him. More than flirtation lay hidden within his words. He was testing her. Trying to see if she would take his bait. This wasn’t the way it worked, she scolded herself. They followed her. On her terms. By her rules.
“Go with you?” She shook her head. “Not tonight, my lord. I have other plans.” Risking a glance back up into his dark eyes, she found they glittered like rich, dark emeralds, revealing nothing beyond their fire.
So what had she really expected to find?
“I’ve never been one to interfere with a lady’s plans. But I must warn you, I am not the only one in your way tonight.”
She stopped short, nearly tripping over her fashionably high heeled shoes. He did know who she was and why she was here. And he knew Lyle and Rostland were also after her. Though she’d weighed the risks of coming out so openly in this crowded ballroom, she’d bet her luck would hold through one more evening. Neither Lyle, nor Rostland, nor the man at her side could stop her. Not this night, her last as the Brazen Angel.
With the money she anticipated taking from her mark, she would be able to complete her work in France and let the mysterious lady fade into nothing more than the idle memory of foolish men. But first I’ve got to get rid of this nuisance, she thought, smiling up at Lord Trahern. How was it she had gotten rid of unwanted suitors who’d lured her as a young girl into one of the many secluded corners of Versailles? She smiled to herself. Her dear maman taught each of her three daughters the trick as they arrived at the French court.
Brazen and heartless in her desperation to separate herself from her captor, she brought the thick heel of her shoe down on top of Lord Trahern’s boot with every bit of weight and strength she could muster. He let out a loud curse. Even better, he let go of her arm. She didn’t hesitate, cutting into the astonished crowd without as much as a glance back. “A rat,” she howled. “There’s a rat loose.” Pandemonium broke out. Men and women alike, panicked and scattered in every direction. Picking up her skirts, she dashed through an opening. As if fortune smiled down at her, Lord Delaney nearly ran her over. Her mark. But she also knew enough of Trahern to realize he wouldn’t give up easily. She moved on Delaney without her usual set up.
“Please, my lord. Can you help me?” she begged. “I’m in need of assistance.” She didn’t wait for an answer, instead caught the pimple-faced lord by the arm and pulled him toward the front door. The man coughed and choked, but he didn’t protest.
He went right along with her. They always did.
Glancing back over her shoulder, she realized she hadn’t underestimated Lord Trahern—the man still pursued her. His stark tall form and unadorned black hair cut a distinct figure over the white powdered wigs and ornate hats of the other guests. Though he was having a difficult time getting through the chaos, she knew he wouldn’t let that deter him. Worst of all, a look of pure determination set his jaw and eyebrows into straight, hard lines.
She tugged her target’s arm even harder. She guessed she probably had no more than a couple of minutes before he caught up with her. Escape into the dark streets of London where it would be impossible to find them, was her only hope.
The young lord wheezed to a stop. “This pace, my lady. Can’t we rest for a moment?” Lord Delaney’s round eyes looked about to pop out of his florid face, his breath heaved in and out in big steamy clouds.
So much for saving her best lines for later, she realized.
“But my lord, I’ve heard it rumored that you—” Unable to stomach the remainder of her enticement out loud, she leaned over and whispered it into his ear. She finished her words with a heavy, dramatic sigh. “I do so hate to be kept waiting.”
The young lord groaned, his face turning an even brighter shade of mottled red, his eyes glazing over.
Yes, I can’t wait much longer, she thought, for your hidden treasure trove of gems and gold. She tugged him down the front steps and nearly pushed him into the carriage-clogged street. “Which one is yours?” she demanded.
Before her lust-addled victim could find his powers of speech, a deep voice called out from the top of the steps. “Are you leaving so soon, my lady?”
She glanced over her shoulder, and realized she’d overplayed her hand this time. Lanterns at either side of the door illuminated his dark figure. He loomed above her like the devil himself. While she didn’t believe for a minute he could be in league with Lyle and Rostland, his dangerous reputation was enough to send her cat-like senses on point. Taking one last wistful look at Delaney, a man whose secreted trove of gems could have ended her charade forever, she realized the best she could hope for tonight was to escape Trahern.
“I promise we will meet again,” she whispered to the wealthy, though perverted, lord. Blowing him a kiss, she dove between two carriages, the horses prancing nervously in their braces.
“But you can’t leave me now . . . I’m ready,” Delaney whined.
Weaving between carriages, she ran. Behind her, hard booted footsteps chased her onward. Her wide panelled skirts and high heels made the pace difficult, but she knew if she reached the open square at the end of the block, she’d be free. When her skirt caught on the edge of a carriage, she jerked to a stop, her fingers frantically tearing the fabric free.
Glancing back, she saw Trahern had stopped about six carriages back. For a moment they stood still. She could feel the tension rippling between them, binding them together in an ancient unity. As it had when she’d glanced at him in the ballroom. Now she understood what the union between them was. The hunter and the prey.
Even if she escaped him tonight, she knew this wouldn’t be the last time they stood like this, at cross purposes, separated by more than just a few feet. He would hunt her until he’d unmasked her, the dark challenge of his eyes promising that much.
“Wait,” he called out, holding out his hand. “I won’t harm you, just let me help.”
“Not bloody likely,” she muttered, shaking off whatever control he had over her and gathering up what remained of her skirt. She dashed past the last carriage and into the open square.
His deep voice boomed through the night like a church bell tolling the darkest hour. “You can’t escape.”
Let’s hope you’re wrong, she thought.
She stood in the middle of the street looking left and right.
Oliver, she prayed silently, where are you?
Trahern’s resolute pursuit echoed in the night with a steady and confident rhythm. At the corner, he stopped. “It seems you have nowhere to go.”
“Your overconfidence, my lord, is your weakness,” she replied.
Down the street, the thunder of hooves drew their attention. A plain dark carriage hurtled toward her as if out of control. She couldn’t help herself. She grinned at the shocked expression on Trahern’s face. With the carriage careening down the street, it must look as if she were about to meet her demise. The horses swerved at the last second and the carriage clattered to a halt.
“A pleasure to meet you, Lord Trahern,” she offered with a flirtatious tip of her head and shoulders. As if on cue, the door swung open. Without any thought for appearances, she dove in head first. The horses leapt forward, sending the coach lurching left and right, as the driver shouted at the animals.
A pair of firm hands hauled her forward, while behind her Lord Trahern’s curse followed her unlikely escape. Bouncing along on the floor of the carriage, it took a few seconds for her to realize she had truly escaped Lord Trahern. While she should be relieved, she couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that she’d had to flee from him so quickly.
“Sophia, I thought we agreed to choose only targets you could outrun.”
Still lying on the hard floor, Lady Sophia Maria Juiletta D’Artiers, pushed the brocade of her skirt off from her head so she could give her chaperone the withering stare the woman’s sarcasm deserved. Considering the way her heart pounded and her throat burned, she doubted she would be able to speak. A scowl would have to suffice. Sophia shoved back her voluminous skirts, ripped off her wig, and hoisted herself into the tufted seat. Their driver, Oliver, had the horses tearing along at a horrible pace, their hooves pounding against the cobblestones. Clinging to a strap, she glared at Emma Langston, her hired companion.
“My, my.” Emma shook her head. “Such an awful face. No wonder Lord Delaney chased you off like that. Oliver was quite clear in his information. Lord Delaney likes a woman who—”
She held up her hand to stave off the description. “There wasn’t anything wrong with Oliver’s information. Besides, that wasn’t Lord Delaney.”
“Well, I should hope not. We paid good money for it,” Emma complained, as she peered out the window trying to gauge if they had truly made their escape. “So who was that handsome rogue? He looked a fine sight better to pinch than Lord Delaney.”
Yanking off her gloves, Sophia tossed atop her discarded wig. “We will do no such thing. I want nothing to do with that man.”
“What was wrong with him? He looked rich enough.”
“He’s as rich as Midas.” She took a deep breath and tried to push away the last lingering sensations of his touch on her arm, and the way his rakish gaze left her weak in the knees.”
“So, you’ve changed plans before. Why not tonight? What was so different about him?”
“I didn’t think it would be all that wise to drug and rob my betrothed. At least not before our wedding night.”