About the book
She is fire and ice. He fears the cold but craves the burn...
Thieves and brigands hardly scare Miss Sarah Foxter.
To be an active member of the Mohocks, a gang that helps the poor is the only pleasure for the extraordinarily brave and exceedingly reckless daughter of a well known wealthy merchandiser.
Joshua Edington, the Marquess of Manworth and well-known bachelor, has the reputation of being a little bit of a player. Just arrived in Bath, he finds nothing exciting. Until he finds himself bewitched by a woman unlike anyone he has ever met before.
But Sarah's double life is not the only thorn in their side. Someone knows of their relationship and their disapproval soon turns deadly.
Running from an enemy with no name and no reservations, their only hope lies in a single unexpected clue: Sarah's peculiar birthmark that throws them back in time to a secret that has been kept under lock and key for decades...
Sarah waited in the corridor by the garderobe, swiping irritably at the wisps of golden hair that kept falling into her eye, from her messy upswept coiffure. She was trying to look as if she was awaiting her turn to use it, as a serving girl hurried past, chamber pot in hand and disappeared behind some servant’s stairs.
Sarah waited until her footsteps had faded away before following her, walking on her toes so her slippers did not make any noise. She thanked the angels for her petite frame that allowed her to move around fairly unnoticed as her hazel eyes darted from place to place to alert to any approaching threats. She reached the second floor undetected and stood behind a statue in an alcove, listening intently.
No sound disturbed the heavily carpeted corridor, apart from the music drifting up the stairs from the brightly lit ballroom on the ground floor. The melodic tinkles were accompanied by a cacophony of voices no doubt engaged in exchanging the latest on dits. No servants scuttled about up here, as the entire household was busy below, entertaining their guests. She had to dodge a few footmen dressed in the red and gold uniforms that represented the Norwood crest, as she negotiated her way up here, but none were visible now.
Sarah straightened up to her full if insignificant height, smoothing down her fairly muted cinnamon-colored gown and strode down the darkened corridor as if she had a very particular destination in mind. She walked with purpose, her head held high, her step sure. Trying each oak door as she passed, she searched for the locked one, knowing how particular these people were about their possessions.
The Norwoods were a well-known ton family; what most people did not know or simply ignored, was that they derived most of their wealth from providing ships for the transatlantic slave trade. Sarah felt no guilt in relieving them of their ill-gotten gains.
She tried the next door and found it closed.
“Eureka!” she murmured before extracting from her person a master key. Brenden had liberated it from the butler’s pantry and passed it on to her as he walked around, serving guests at the ball. Once she had the jewelry, she would cover it in the scarf that was currently wrapped around her waist as if it was a cummerbund, and place it in the dumbwaiter.
Her accomplices were stationed below to receive the goods.
There was Edmure who was waiting in the kitchens to snatch it up and slip out through the back door. He’d been employed as a footman the week before in preparation for this party and so he would not be out of place. He and Brenden would keep working at the manor house until they were inevitably dismissed to avoid suspicion. Edmure and Brenden had been with her father’s gang, the Mohocks, for three years now. She knew they could be trusted.
She eased the door open and crept into the room. As expected, it was some kind of study, all dark oak wood and numerous cabinets. She went straight to the portrait opposite her and moved it aside. Sure enough, there was a safe on the other side.
“Yes!” she gave a little skip and then proceeded to get it open. Finally figuring out how to open it, she gave a little whoop when she saw the collection of velvet pouches arranged haphazardly. She picked one up and opened it to find a ruby necklace. She picked another to find emerald earbobs, diamond rings, even a gold and diamond diadem.
She took them all.
Wrapping them carefully in her yellow silk scarf, she crept down the hall toward the room at the end. Listening carefully at the door, she ascertained that the room was empty before creeping in and placing the scarf in the dumbwaiter. She went to the window and whistled like a starling before hurrying out of the room and disappearing downstairs like smoke.
She was nothing but the daughter of a merchandiser, who was only given entrée to ton occasions because her mother was the daughter of a Baron. Nevertheless, she had a more difficult time filling her dance card than the other ladies. She didn’t mind; it gave her more time to do what she was there to do.
Nevertheless, she sidled up to the corner, and did her time as a wallflower, using her fan to maximum effect and giggling with the other ladies. They did love to gossip and it was a good way to know who had acquired new jewelry, was having money troubles or generally would make a good target.
Sarah’s main task was to gather information that the gang could use to carry out their job. Lately, she’d pushed for more, taking time to practice with William so she could move in and out of places unnoticed.
She left after two more dances, knowing full well that nobody would care either way. She was not a person of consequence, did not possess a large dowry, she was no diamond of the first water–just another social climber undoubtedly seeking a titled husband.
She slipped into her carriage, driven by another member of the Mohocks, Jackson Cook. He took her home, where she found her father waiting.
“Did you have a good evening?”
“Yes, Father. Did you get the package?”
“I did. It’s already been forwarded for sale.”
Sarah smiled. “That’s good.”
“You did well. The package was heavy.”
Sarah’s smile widened. “We might be able to feed the blighters until Christmas.”
Gregory Foxter nodded. “Indeed. Perhaps even the New Year.”
Sarah skipped in happiness. “Well…I shall say goodnight.”
“Good night my dear. Don’t forget to kiss your Mother goodnight.”
Gregory sat back and sighed, shaking his head. He was not in favor of Sarah taking such an active part in their more…illicit activities, but she was a stubborn girl who was not willing to listen to reason.
Gregory knew that it was his own fault. He was the one who indoctrinated her with his beliefs and told her stories of his past. He should have known what would happen. He should have predicted that she would want to help–her heart was soft and compassionate despite the harsh veneer she affected in company. Knowing that she could help the less fortunate by simply attending parties and relieving the household of some ill-gotten gains…it was difficult to convince her to remain in the background.
Every time she participated in one of their jobs, he stayed up, pacing and worrying until she came home. Her mother on the other hand, liked to wait up in bed until she heard their daughter’s footsteps passing by to go to their room.
Gregory’s last memories of his own mother consisted of him pacing by her bedside while keeping an eye on the door. He had lived in a slum ruled by a gang named the Nasty Boys with his younger sister and their mother when he was a young boy. On nights when pickings were slim, they sometimes raided houses in search of food, coins, whatever they could find. The more vulnerable the household, the more likely they were to be raided. By the time the dark of winter made the prospect of a merry Christmas even gloomier, they had already suffered three visits from the Nasty Boys. Gregory felt the pressure of being the oldest and feeling as if he had failed to protect his family.
When his mother's weak voice jerked his attention back from his brooding and back to their harsh reality, he knew that he had to do something or else risk losing them both. That’s why he grabbed his threadbare coat and his flute, off to see if he could make a few coins for himself.
One of the first things that Gregory had learned on the streets of London was that one could not wait to be saved by anyone. His father died of consumption when Gregory was four and poor Emily was little more than an infant. He had left his wife and children to fend for themselves with no protection. Gregory had to find a way to survive and care for his family on his own.
On the streets, there was no room to muse about mythical saviors that would fight the establishment on behalf of the people of Cheapside and save them from their misery. There were only the thoughts of food and shelter and sleep that occupied Gregory's mind as he ventured out to search for something for them to eat.
Chewing the baccy was said to curb hunger, or so he had been told. He espied an abandoned snuffbox a few feet away from its snoozing owner. He snatched it off the footpath and ducked behind an edifice.
The first inhale left a bad taste in his mouth but Gregory chewed determinedly before spitting. No one was around to tell him it was a good try for his first time. But then again, there was nothing notable about a lad chewing tobacco in this part of the town.
He hated the taste since it was similar to everything else in this city; dirty and disgusting. And just like everything else, he adapted to it.
Winter was the worst time of year for Gregory in particular as it was winter that took his mother from him. Emily was small enough that their neighbor in the shanty took her in–not out of the goodness of her heart. Every day, she sent Emily out as a chimney sweep. But at least she had somewhere warm to sleep and food to eat.
Gregory’s first winter living on the streets was one of the harshest that London has seen. He had been looking for food for days and had been barely managing to get by.
Gregory hadn't realized how much closer he had moved toward London's downtown as the cold settled in but he found himself in an alley off one of London’s most hectic streets.
He sat on the cold ground watching people flit past the entrance of the alley, going about their evening with no thought to anyone else. No one spared a glance for a young boy shivering under the thin scarf that he used as a makeshift blanket.
He turned back to the snuff box. At least it brought with it a welcome distraction from his miserable existence.
He was so exhausted. Maybe if he just shut his eyes for a short while, he could forget the hunger pangs.
“Hey, lad, wake up! Up you get or you'll likely freeze to death.”
Gregory shook the lethargy off blinking as he tried to see who was speaking to him. His vision was a little hazy but his right shoulder pricked as if there were eyes on him.
In the normal course of events, Gregory would never have let anybody get so close to him undetected. Too many happenstances had made it necessary for Gregory to be a light sleeper. He was always ready for fists to fly at a moment’s notice.
“Come on, lad, get up,” the man whispered, “You can't be falling asleep in the snow like that. Get up!”
There was an urgency in the man's voice that made Gregory leap to his feet. He rested against the wall on his left side, turning to face the stranger.
He looked like Saint Nicholas. That is if Saint Nicholas was scrawny, his beard had more brown than white, and he wore rags instead of a red suit.
Saint Nicholas was just a story they tell to stupid rich children who celebrate Christmas with gifts and food and other lavish things.
Gregory did not know why he chose to put his trust in this stranger. It could have been because there was no other option aside from freezing to death. It may have been because it was Christmas Eve and Gregory needed a miracle.
He told himself it was the former.
Gregory swayed and the stranger noticed that he could barely walk without the wall's support.
“Come here, lad,” the man wrapped a supporting arm around Gregory's shoulders and helped him.
“I haven’t seen you around here before. Quite unfortunate when street urchins like you are out here on their own. One thing you have to know about living on the streets, lad, is no one gives a tinker’s damn about us. No one is going to save you. But that does not mean we cannot watch out for each other.”
Gregory looked up to see the telltale glow of a fire. A ragtag group of people both adult and children, dressed in rags, were huddled around the burning barrel.
A few people greeted the man as he brought Gregory into the circle.
“Here you go, lad. That'll warm you up and you can forget your troubles for a bit and lighten up! It's Christmas, after all,” the man clapped Gregory on the back with one hand and held a bottle in the other.
“It's Christmas Eve, you gabster!” a joking voice in the crowd said.
“Oh, shut it, Andy, I’d bet you a chicken dinner you don't even know what year it is,” came the irritated retort from the rotund woman standing next to him wrapped up in so many layers that Gregory could not truly discern her shape. They were all like that; just shapeless blobs of dirty cloth and dull blinking eyes.
“Aw, Eliza, you know I was just pullin' your leg...” the man and woman bickered while most of those around them looked on with entertained smiles.
Gregory took the proffered bottle and drank some of the bitter liquid quickly. He didn't ask what it was but it scorched a bit as he swallowed it and also momentarily stopped the shivering so he could guess.
He gazed into the fire bowled over by the recognition that it really was Christmas Eve. He thought dimly of the year before and how different Christmas had been with his mother.
Gregory let the boisterous laughter distract his thoughts.
As he took a few more drinks from the not-so-mysterious bottle and became much warmer, as a result, it was he who began entertaining the circle with anecdotes.
For the first time in a while, Gregory was not consumed with worry.
For the first time in a while, Gregory was fine.
It was a fortnight before his scanty coffers that he mostly replenished from among the rubble was depleted and he was faced with the choice to either go hungry or try to take his chances on the streets.
It was not really much of a choice.
He was conversant with the streets at least. Gregory had played in them before. He had been a delightful young boy playing a homemade flute and employing his clear young voice to full effect on the corner. Using what he had to make sure they were fed when his mother came up short. People recognized him as they passed, and the few who knew him tossed him an extra few pennies for his loss, and for a couple of weeks, he scraped by.
After a year alone, however, and growing increasingly disheveled and dirty, the pity or admiration dried up. No more was he a charming boy but merely a dirty disgusting one. The summer months came and went, and he was not making enough to live on.
The first gold and orange vegetation began to appear, signaling the start of autumn and bringing with it, a desperation to his performances. For all that he was still fledgling; sociable, and amiable, his melodies were tinged with fear. Now, as merchants shut down for the winter months and his clothes tattered, the case in which he kept his flute worn, he could not pretend to be anything.
Now he was truly one of the street urchins, too emaciated, sunken-eyed and desperate. He hated that he looked the part because even a bright smile and a wink could not disguise the way his hands shook with hunger. Now, rather than attract people to him with his melodies, he repelled them. Their eyes slid away from him, and he knew his time was up.
Eventually, as the desperate and terrified do, Gregory turned to stealing.
Road Frequently Traveled
Gregory Foxter stepped into his house, and slammed the door behind him simply because he was too tired to be gentle about it. It had been a long day at the office full of answering correspondence and making sure his expected merchandise was going to be on time. He was expecting silks and spices from India and China, tobacco, precious stones, and tea from various territories around the African continent as well as Indonesia.
It took quite a lot out of him to ensure that everything was proceeding as planned and he had lost his temper more than once in the course of the day. But now his desk was cleared and he was able to focus on his family’s impending move to Bath for the summer, where all the ton not participating in the Season would be enjoying the sun and taking the waters.
He was expecting to make quite a good haul from his trip.
Of course he would leave a few members of his gang in London to round up the spoils of the marriage mart–no sense in leaving that very fertile mine untapped. But his main targets would be in Bath this summer and therefore, so would he. He had already rented out suitable accommodations for their stay and was looking forward to the time away from London.
“Mr. Foxter, I did not hear you come in,” his ward, William Rooney said, clearly being sarcastic, as Gregory entered the parlor. William folded the paper he was reading and put it aside, getting to his feet so as to pour Gregory a drink.
Gregory sighed. “Long day.”
“Indeed. Well, hopefully this glass of brandy will go some way to making it better.” William handed him the drink and he took a grateful sip, his eyes closed, the better to savor it.
“Where are the girls?” he asked.
“I believe they are packing. I was banished long ago from their presence so I cannot say for sure.” William grinned at him, and Gregory appreciated the light-hearted jest from the usually intense young man.
“I expect you were getting underfoot.”
“I believe I was compared to an overexcited puppy.”
Gregory snorted, eyes still closed. “Overexcited? You?”
“That was my exact take on the matter.” William’s smile widened with satisfaction as Gregory opened his eye a slit to peer at him.
“They’re probably the overexcited puppies,” he consoled.
“Very likely, Sir.” William got to his feet, “I understand that we leave first thing in the morning. Is there anything you need me to do before then?”
Gregory shook his head, “No no. Just make sure the men understand what their targets are while we are away.”
“I will, Sir,” William said and left the room.
“And don’t drink so much you fail to get back on time,” Gregory called as he heard William open the front door. His ward only laughed before closing the door behind him. Gregory knew that he would probably stay all night at the tavern, drinking and wenching. After all, he could sleep in the carriage on the way to Bath. It was the way of young men, and Gregory did not begrudge him the chance.
“Good evening, Father,” he peered over his seat to find his daughter, Sarah, grinning smugly at him from the doorway. A wave of affection blew through him and he smiled fondly at her.
“Finished packing, my dear?”
“Not quite. Mother has sent me to make sure you are fed and watered. But I see that William has beaten me to it?”
Gregory raised his glass in a toast. “He at least made sure I was watered. If you wish to feed me, I have no objection.”
Her laughter tinkled about the room like a thousand prisms of bright light, “All right then, Father. Give me but a moment and I will have your dinner to you.”
“Will you and your Mother not be joining me at the table?”
She inclined her head to the side, looking nothing so much as a playful pixie, winking in and out of the mortal realm. “Of course we shall. We have never let you eat alone, have we?”
“What about all your packing?”
“I expect Mama’s maid can finish up. She is just being over-fussy at this point. You will be doing her a favor by giving her a reason to stop.”
“Well then, let us eat.”
The mantua-maker had just left, delivering a few ball gowns for their time in Bath. Admittedly, the town was much less formal than London but there were still standards to be maintained.
They were to leave in an hour and she still had a few things left to pack. She gathered her things together as the maid of all work came to collect the luggage and convey it to the carriage. Before she knew it, they were on the road.
They already had a pile of invitations for various gatherings that would take place in the next week or so.
“Lord Cochisle is not one I’ve heard of before. Why not?” she leaned forward, hazel eyes trained on her father as her mother pretended not to listen.
“Oh, he spent a large part of his life in India, as the viceroy. He acquired his wealth in the colonies, by grabbing land and enabling policies that were to his advantage. It worked very well for him, and once his term was done, he was able to retire in comfort with his family in Bath.” Her father told her as they rode.
Sarah nodded, determination to be part of this mission hardening into certainty. The worst men were those who took advantage of those under their care.
“Papa, I really think I am ready to lead on this mission. Let me in on the planning, please.”
“Not yet, my princess. You’re too young yet. Take your time and learn.”
“No, Sarah. Enough.”
Sarah subsided with a sigh of frustration. It was difficult to get her father to see her as anything approaching an adult. He was very protective of her. She knew it was because of just how harsh his own childhood had been, but she was beginning to chafe against his restrictions.
Lord Cochisle received notice that the Marquess of Manworth was due to arrive in Bath that week and decided that it was the perfect time to throw a ball to open the season. Granted, his daughter was no debutante, indeed, she had come out four years ago and was beginning to feel a little desperate with the lack of proposals.
True, the Marquess was known as a bit of a rake, but his prospects were excellent and if his daughter was clever, his rakishness could work in her favor. It was not his place to advise her on the intrigues of snaring a gentleman, but he was sure her mother had sat her down.
Being in Bath rather than London during the season meant that there was less competition. His daughter might be a bit of a shrew but she also had clear, rosy-hued skin and large blue eyes. Her long golden hair was always expertly coiffed and her deportment was perfect.
She was exactly what a future Duke would look for in a bride and the Viscount was determined to give it to him.
Joshua Edington, the Marquess of Manworth, sat at the head of his dining table in high dudgeon, looking through the myriad of invitations that already awaited him. He had barely been in town for one night, and already the misses and their mothers were clamoring for his attention. It was most annoying. Worse yet, it was Sunday morning and so he would be expected to make an appearance at mass. He straightened his cravat and smoothed down his wig as he got to his feet.
He was a tall man, athletic, his broad shoulders taking up enough room that all his jackets had to be tailored specifically for him. His dark hair and overwhelmingly vivid, deep-blue eyes tended to attract the attention of all the green girls while their mothers were more interested in his prospects.
He knew it was the way of the ton, but having grown up with very little in terms of familial affection, he had the secret dream that he might find love with the woman he chose to marry. This was proving as difficult as wading through all the grasping, simpering, white-gown-clad, twittering hopefuls that plagued his existence. Being a Marquess was a very attractive prospect for most of these ladies.
Joshua sighed, shaking his head as he straightened his blue jacket with gold epaulettes and strode to his carriage. Perhaps the Lord had a message for him. He would listen attentively at mass and see.
As soon as he set foot in the church, there was a flurry of movement even though no one did anything more than turn their heads to nod at him, or smile behind their fans. He studiously avoided making eye contact with anyone, making sure to stare steadfastly forward at the clergyman as he spread incense over the altar.
He folded his hands neatly over his lap and listened to the solemn intonation as the pastor droned on. To his right, he could feel eyes heavy on him, almost willing him to turn and meet them. To his left, there was an incessant shuffling, as if someone were fidgeting without ceasing. He took a deep breath, ignoring them both.
When the pastor asked them to stand for the Lord’s Prayer, he did so, and his eyes were caught by a wisp of blue muslin to the front of him. He dropped his eyes slowly, expecting to find yet another simpering girl, batting her lashes at him. Instead he met an amused hazel gaze that rested on him with frank regard, the fan in her hand moving slowly back and forth, almost as if she had forgotten it was there.
When she saw that he had noticed her, her smile softened and widened into something less amused, more commiserating. She quirked an eyebrow and then her eyes slid to his right, no doubt indicating the fidgeter who was currently the bane of his existence. He could hardly resist smiling back.
She was not familiar. He was quite certain he had not seen her before. Her blue muslin gown was simple enough, and did not speak of immense wealth. Nevertheless, though simple, it was appropriate for the occasion. After all, one did not come to church to show off. His eyes moved over the people she was with, a fairly tall gentleman, old enough to be her father, a younger man, who kept flicking her possessive glances. Perhaps a brother or an affianced. Judging by her blatant regard for his person, he highly doubted she was promised elsewhere. Or perhaps he preferred to think that way.
The older woman on her other side, with gold-and-silver hair carefully arranged in a coiffure was most likely her mother. Unlike the girl whose limbs were devoid of any adornment, the mother wore a simple pearl necklace with a ruby clasp.
Hmm, definitely quality then…but who are you?
Joshua suspected that finding out might make his life a whole lot more interesting. The girl had turned back to the front and was seemingly absorbed in the pastor’s words. Joshua sought to emulate her example but his eyes kept returning to her petite frame as if drawn by magnets.
Eventually though, the mass came to an end, and Joshua watched the girl walk out with her family. She was smiling at something her mother said to her and Joshua noted the tiny craters in her rosy cheeks. The girl had dimples. Her hazel eyes sparkled with mirth as she walked away and it was all Joshua could do not to follow her at once. He tightened his grip on the seat, looking fixedly forward until they had left the church. He would not give in to these alien feelings like some gauche gobblecock deep in calf love.
No, first he would find out who she was, and why he had never seen her before. Then he would find a way to get an introduction.
Sarah tried to banish the tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed man from her mind but he persisted in sitting at the forefront, seemingly winking at her mischievously. She did not know who he was but from the reaction he had elicited as he stepped into the church, she could only conclude that not only was he a gentleman, but he must be some sort of high ranking nobleman. His clothes had given no clue as to his birth. No large rings bearing a family crest, no crown or brooch or other ornament that announced a person of significance in the vicinity.
He had arrived alone so she could only assume he was as yet unmarried. That and the excited twitterings of all the single ladies in the church. Why she was even wasting time thinking about him, she did not know. He held no interest to her. He was not a target. She did not need to study him.
She certainly could not afford to fall under the spell of such a gentleman. For one thing, it was sure to come to naught. Even on the outside chance he was interested in the daughter of a lowly merchandiser; a man who dabbled in commerce…there was no way he could possibly tolerate being associated with a thief.
For the first time since she was sixteen and begged her father to let her help him in his…extracurricular activities, she felt a twinge of regret. She had always assumed that when the time was right, she would meet a like-minded man, who would not hesitate to join the Mohocks and continue the important work they were doing.
A gentleman, a member of the haute ton, had never featured in her plans for the future.
They did not feature in her present either.
Somehow she could not convince herself that she meant it.
Oh well, I shall probably not see him again in any case.
Something twisted in her belly even as she thought it. She hoped fervently that it was relief but she was terribly afraid that it might be disappointment. She looked out the window as the carriage ambled down the cobbled streets toward Yald Hall, their residence for the duration of their stay. They had quite a bit of planning to do in order to be prepared for the jobs they had targeted. Lord Cochisle’s residence needed to be put under surveillance.
They had to know all the ways in and out, how many servants he had, and how many he might need on the night in question. If they were very lucky, Brenden might be able to get himself employed at least for the evening. It was always an advantage to have a man on the inside. Finally, they needed to know where the family jewelry was kept. It was all very fine to attempt to steal jewelry that was being worn on the night in question, but very rarely did the gentry bring out their best finery for such an occasion.
Sarah knew that there were at least two more gang members in town. They kept away from Yald Hall, choosing to meet Gregory under cover of darkness to get their orders and deliver their messages. As far as the townspeople were aware, Gregory was a wealthy merchandiser, come to take the waters as did many London families. In that way he was able to obtain invitations. The nobility might frown on anyone who did an honest day’s work, but they were not above taking advantage of them where possible.
Many members of the gentry had gone through Gregory’s company to sell items when they would rather not be associated with the whole sordid business that was buying and selling.
Once they got home from work and had eaten nuncheon, William and Gregory retired to the study to make plans. Sarah loitered outside the door, hoping for an invitation to go in, but none came.
Eventually William came out and saw her there. He smiled indulgently, taking her arm in his.
“Come, Sarah, let us take to the air,” he said pulling her along. She did not try to resist but let him drag her out of the house, pausing only to grab her hat and umbrella.
“Are you going to tell me what you’ve decided?” she asked, a little poutily.
William laughed. “You do hate to be left out, don’t you?”
“It’s not that! I am old enough now. I can be useful to you in planning!”
“You are old enough,” William said, his watery blue eyes regarding her thoughtfully, “Old enough to be married, and beginning a family of your own.”
Sarah huffed in annoyance. “That again, Willy?”
“What then, Sarah?” he snapped, his face very close to her own, “Will you be a spinster forever? Subvert your life to the cause?”
“Papa got married! It is not impossible to continue this work and have a family.”
William snorted. “Well Papa Gregory is a man. You are not.”
“If he can do it, I can do it too.”
William sighed. “You are a stubborn little booby are you not, Sarah?”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “If I am, then so are you, Willy.”
He drew her closer to him by pressing on her hand. “I am trying to help you.”
“Yes, well don’t.” she snapped her teeth together, looking the other way although she kept her arm in his. They walked in tense silence for a while before William sighed, and squeezed her hand.
“I am sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
She shrugged, a bit sulkily. “It is fine. Are you going to tell me what the plan is then?”
William sighed with resignation. “Brenden shall go over to the Cochisle residence on the morrow and speak with the butler. He shall tell him that he has heard of the ball and hoped to be taken on as temporary staff along with his brother.”
“Isn’t it risky to do so? Will the butler not remember him after?”
“No, no. Servants come and go all the time. They shall likely be dismissed as soon as the ball is done and the workload is not so large. The key is to be as inconspicuous as possible.”
“What if he is not hiring?”
“Well then I shall find one of the pretty maids and seduce her into giving me the information I need,” William grinned rakishly.
“And what about me? What should I do?” Sarah asked.
“You will have yourself invited over to visit with Lady Vera and find out as much as you can about the ball, and anything else that we might need to know. I understand she loves to talk; you should not have any trouble obtaining the full guest list from her so we can know what kind of haul to expect.”
“I understand that the family is quite well-regarded in Bath. Everybody who can will probably show up,” and before she could stop it, Sarah’s mind went to the tall, dark and handsome gentleman. Might he be there too? He did not look inclined to appear at places where he might encounter eligible ladies. Sarah almost snorted with laughter remembering how uncomfortable he had looked in the church.
She could not blame him, poor fellow. When the marriage mart wanted to get its claws into a man, it was difficult to escape. Although she did not understand why he would want to.
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