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From the sparkling ballrooms of Regency London to the wealthy glamour of the country house - let Stephanie Laurens be your guide! Kidnapped in the small hours, Miss Helen Walford had spent the day being battered and jostled, tied and gagged, trussed and trapped in a worn-out chaise. She was rescued by the infamous Martin Willisden - a rakehell who had been banished to the army, now scandalously raised to the rank of Earl of Merton! To add insult to injury, the proper Miss Walford had been forced into a compromising situation with her wicked saviour. Her only defence lay in anonymity. But captured by her beauty and bravery, the Earl of Merton knew that he had to find his mysterious lady.
masochism. It was certainly going to make sleep difficult, if not impossible. He crossed to where she sat, huddled rigid beneath the blanket. Sitting beside her, on his coat, he put his arm about her and gave her a quick hug. Then, ignoring her confused reluctance, he drew her down to lie beside him, her head resting on his shoulder, her curls tickling his chin. ‘Now go to sleep,’ he said sternly. ‘The mice won’t get you and you’re safe from the storm and you should be warm enough.’ Rigid with
protection, she was safe from him. Heaven help her later. But, of course, there would be no later. Helen stifled a sigh as reality intruded, impossible to deny. The future, for them both, was fixed. When he reached London, he would be the focus of the matchmaking mamas—with good reason. He was titled, wealthy and hideously handsome to boot. Their darling daughters would make cakes of themselves trying to catch his grey eyes. And, inevitably, he would choose one of them as his wife. Some
became aware that all the other occupants of the tap, six in all and all male, were likewise transfixed. Then, to her discomfort, a leering grin suffused the landlord’s face. Faint echoes appeared on his patrons’ faces, too. Simultaneously realising what a sight she must present, and the likely conclusion the landlord had drawn, Helen drew herself up, ready to defend her status. There was no need. Martin came through the door and stopped by her side. One comprehensive glance was all it took for
pounding of her heart. To her relief, Alvanley happily took up his tale. Helen tried to ignore the grey gaze from across the room, tried to keep her mind engaged with all manner of distractions, afraid that if she allowed herself to meet Martin’s eyes her fragile control would break. She could not let that happen—not in the middle of the Barhams’ ballroom. Aside from anything else, Martin in his present mood was perfectly capable of taking advantage of such weakness to force her either to
coolly to Helen and strolled into the room. Then he turned his attention to Hedley Swayne. ‘Swayne.’ With the curtest of nods, Martin acknowledged Hedley Swayne’s flustered bow. The man’s face was evidence enough that he had heard the rumours. Had he had the temerity to approach Helen with them? Martin decided that the sooner Hedley Swayne left, the safer it would be—for Hedley Swayne. ‘But I believe you were about to leave, Mr Swayne?’ Hedley Swayne swallowed. He glanced nervously at Helen.