Downstairs, Emily had gained the sudden attentions of four young gentlemen: Lord Macestone, Lord Wilderspin, Lord Ashenhurst, and his twin brother, Lord Boone. They had rattled off their names so quickly, she was not positive if the cheerful blond gentleman standing in front of her was Ashenhurst or Macestone, but at the very least she knew he was the one with a brother.
Emily was usually not so scatterbrained. She had been distracted when they had approached her. Lady Fiddick was expecting her to join her in the ballroom for another round of introductions, but she had begged a moment of privacy. Her plan had been to find refuge in one of the smaller parlors upstairs, but her admirers had cut off her escape.
“How long will you be in London?” one of the brothers asked. She could not tell them apart. They were identical in every aspect, even their waistcoats. Perhaps it was a private game between them to keep everyone guessing which one was which.
“At least a month,” she replied, unwilling to give them too many details about herself or her family. These gentlemen were dreadfully sweet, but she deduced that she was older by two or three years.
“What parks have you visited?” the dark-haired one who looked like the youngest of the four queried.
To her left, the one with light brown hair said, “You must take a carriage in Hyde Park.”
“You should let us take you,” said the blond twin she was beginning to perceive was the leader of their merry band.
Emily glanced at him sharply. “I beg your pardon?”
“Provide escort, he means, Miss Cavell,” the gentleman with the brown hair and blue eyes said, this time to the right of her.
When had he switched positions with the other one?
She glanced over her right shoulder. Which one was he? Macestone, Wilderspin, or Ashenhurst? Just keeping an eye on all four of them was making her dizzy.
“It is very generous, but I have family in town,” she replied.
Lord Boone looked at her with a guileless expression on his face. “Wouldn’t your family be pleased that you are making new friends?”
“Of course they would. That isn’t the point,” she protested. “Now if you will excuse me, gentlemen, I must return to my friends.”
“Tarry with us awhile longer,” the blond she decided was Lord Ashenhurst entreated. “The ballroom is too crowded for a decent conversation. Why don’t we adjoin to the gardens?”
“A splendid idea,” his brother said, moving to stand beside his twin. “It would give us more time to persuade you that our intentions are honorable.”
A sudden hiss and sputtered curse from behind made Emily spin around. The action revealed several unpleasant facts. First, she noted that two of her companions had liquid dripping from their faces and hair, and, second, there was an unexpected tug on her skirt. She glanced down and noticed that someone had used fishing hooks and line to tie several old shoes to the hem of her skirt.
This was nothing more than a prank. She glared at the two who had been standing behind her. “How could you!” she said, trying to decide if one or both deserved her anger.
Neither one of them was paying attention to her. In fact, all four of them were looking at the balcony above them. Puzzled, she lifted her gaze—and her lips parted at the sight of Lord Chillingsworth.
“How careless of me,” he said, not sounding very apologetic. “Someone might have gotten hurt if the glasses had slipped from my fingers. It would have been tragic if those handsome visages had been scarred.”
Lord Boone elbowed his brother. “Do you know who that is?” he whispered.
“Quiet,” his brother ordered, staring boldly at the gentleman who had interrupted their fun.
“It’s Chillingsworth,” replied the dark-haired Lord Macestone. “Very few men have the courage to face him in a duel or in the ring.”
“Ah, I see my notorious reputation has reached the ears of you reckless puppies,” Lord Chillingsworth said silkily.
Copyright © November 2013. Excerpt from TWILIGHT WITH THE INFAMOUS EARL by Alexandra Hawkins. Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher or Author.
He was not hunting the lady. Not in the manner the earl was implying anyway. Aye, he had every intention of introducing himself to her. He would charm and tease the lady until she lowered her defenses, and then he would find out why she had focused her ire on Nox. The club had nothing to do with young Katie’s plight, so she should have no quarrel with the gambling hell. And if he could not soften her opinion on Nox, then he would think of something else. He could offer her a friendly warning that his club was off limits to her crusade.
Or he could seduce her.
Kissing Miss Emily Cavell would be more entertaining than issuing threats. More satisfying, too. He was confident in his skills as a lover. Even an innocent like her would find pleasure in his arms.
Frost grinned at the notion of bedding the lady. He had already made the decision to end his affair with Maryann, and there was no reason why Emily could not take her place in his bed. He could spend the next few months teaching her how to please—
“Fresh hell,” he muttered as his gaze narrowed on the four young gentlemen who had surrounded Miss Cavell. There was no doubt in his mind, the seventeen-year-olds were up to mischief and had handpicked their next quarry. Where was Lady Fiddick? She was supposed to be looking after her guest.
I saw her first, gents. She’s mine!
The sound of tinkling glass momentarily distracted him, as he noted a footman carrying a tray of sparkling wine had stepped onto the landing and was heading in his direction.
“May I offer you a glass of wine, milord?” the servant politely inquired.
Frost pressed his lips together as he considered his next move. “I’ll take two.”
* * *