As this is due to be released next week (January 14th), I thought it an appropriate time to share a preview.
In this excerpt, Hugh has been prevailed upon, yet again, to accompany his mama and sister to an evening entertainment. To his delight, he discovers his dutifulness is rewarded by the unexpected presence of one Colonel Theo Lindsay.
Conversation successfully diverted, Hugh relaxed and enjoyed his sherry until it was time to leave for the ball that the Bonds were hosting to puff off their second daughter. His hopes that he would spend some time with James were quickly dashed, for his brother proved very much in demand for dancing as his regimentals had their inevitable effect. Hugh was left to circle the room, exchanging conversation with any number of people with whom he would have been happy never to have conversed. But as he was listening to the Dowager Countess of Royston yet again holding forth on her son’s many qualities, he caught a flash of dark green through the throng, and his head rose as he searched. He had not been mistaken—Lindsay was across the other side of the room, looking as dashing as ever as he returned some young miss to her seat.
Hugh hastily extracted himself from the Dowager’s clutches and attempted to carve a way through the crowds without looking too particular in his aim. He was foiled at every turn, for his attention was claimed with unusual enthusiasm as he went. An unguarded comment from Mrs Laversham betrayed the real reason for his sudden popularity—by falling into conversation with him, they hoped James might happen by and join them. He wondered at that, for it was known that James was to marry Miss Drury. Perhaps it was not matrimony they sought, but simply the diversion afforded by a good-looking young man in a scarlet coat.
Hugh was so turned about by the time the next set of dances ended that he had lost sight entirely of Lindsay. He retreated to the edge of the room, seeking a wall to stand against, only to find a hand placed in the small of his back and Lindsay’s voice close against his ear. “Escaping already, Fanshawe? I cannot permit that. We must present a united front if we are to prevail.”
Smiling, he turned his head. Lindsay looked even more handsome than Hugh had remembered, the silver buttons on his uniform coat sparkling in the light and his grey eyes filled with warmth along with the lazy amusement they so often showed.
“Does your united front permit a strategic regrouping?” Hugh asked.
“Music to my ears, Fanshawe. What have you in mind?”
“I was thinking a glass of punch and perhaps some cool air in the hall.”
“With a tactical brain like that, I can’t think how you have not yet been gazetted as general.”
Procuring a glass of cold punch each, they escaped to the hall that ran the length of the house. It proved to be a busy thoroughfare, used by those seeking to move to the card room or the dressing room, or simply to take some cooler air. In unspoken agreement, they moved to the far end and the large window onto Grosvenor Square, where they would not be disturbed. As Hugh turned to speak to Lindsay, he spied a familiar and extremely unwelcome figure reaching the top of the stairs. Stanton was here, and although Hugh thought he cut a most peculiar character in his striped waistcoat, he was fairly sure Sophia would be less discriminating in her taste.
“Damn it,” he said, momentarily forgetting he was in company.
Lindsay followed his line of sight. “Ah,” he said. “I had the impression the other night that Stanton was dangling after your sister.”
“In a manner of speaking,” Hugh concurred grimly.
“I suspected as much. Perhaps what gave me the first clue was when he likened her eyes to the beauty of stars sparkling like bright diamonds in a sky of black velvet and her smile to the sunrise that graced the dew of Eden’s first dawn.”
Hugh turned a revolted eye upon him. “No,” he begged. “No, for God’s sake, even he would not be so—so—”
“Lost in the poetical throes of passionate romance?” Lindsay suggested.
“I was about to say making a cake of himself,” Hugh said. “But Sophia—I am sure that no matter how handsome she might think him, she would never hear such nonsense without succumbing to giggles.”
“It’s possible I exaggerated his words a little,” Lindsay confessed. “Perhaps he merely mentioned how prettily her eyes shone and that her smile could light the room.”
“Well, that’s bad enough,” Hugh said indignantly. “What sort of a fellow spouts such claptrap?”
“I take it you have never courted a lady,” Lindsay said. “At least, not successfully.”
Hugh choked on his punch. And then something, whether honesty or some inner demon, prompted him to answer. “No, I never have.”
Lindsay fastened his eyes on Hugh’s suddenly, and the look in them was such that Hugh found it difficult to breathe.