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Today, I bring you Lady Chandler’s Sister, the third book in the Twins’ trilogy, a romantic suspense set in 1820 England, five years after the end of the Napoleonic War and the first year on the throne for George IV. An overview on Wikipedia provides the following events of importance for 1820. Key to my story, are these events:
For those of us who write Regency era tales, on 29 January 1820, George IV of the United Kingdom ascended to the Throne on the death of his father George III (after 59 years), ending the period known as the English Regency, which began in 1811 when Prince George served as Prince Regent for his ailing father.
Over 1–2 April 1820, a Proclamation, signed “By order of the Committee of Organisation for forming a Provisional Government”, is distributed in the Glasgow area, beginning the “Radical War” in Scotland. The following day, around 60,000 – particularly weavers – stop work across a wide area of central Scotland. Disaffection spreads to the West Riding area of Yorkshire
The Rockite movement has taken root in Ireland. In early 1821, it was probably William Courtenay’s lack of interest in his 34,000-acre estate around Newcastlewest in County Limerick that helped light the spark that became the explosion of Rockite violence. Alexander Hoskins was appointed as agent to look after the Courtenay estate. Living like a lord and behaving like a mafia boss, Hoskins evicted many tenants and treated others harshly, to the extent where he could only go about his business with a police guard. Nevertheless, his enemies succeeded in murdering his son, Thomas.(Irish Examiner)
These are all important facts for the hero of the story, Sir Alexander Chandler, for he is the head of one of the offices overseeing sedition, treason, and the like for the Home Office. The problem is Sir Alexander suffered a traumatic “accident” some six months prior (part of the plot of Book 2, The Earl Claims His Comfort, and he has no memory of what occurred upon a lonely Scottish road.
Sir Alexander Chandler knows his place in the world. As the head of one of the divisions of the Home Office, he has his hand on the nation’s pulse. However, a carriage accident on a deserted Scottish road a year earlier has Sir Alexander questioning his every choice. He has no memory of what happened before he woke up in an Edinburgh hospital, and the Unknown frightens him more than any enemy he ever met on a field of battle. One thing is for certain: He knows he did not marry Miss Alana Pottinger’s sister in an “over the anvil” type of ceremony in Scotland.
Miss Alana Pottinger has come to London, with Sir Alexander’s son in tow, to claim the life the baronet promised the boy when he married Sorcha, some eighteen months prior. She understands his responsibilities to King and Crown, but this particular fiery, Scottish miss refuses to permit Sir Alexander to deny his duty to his son. Nothing will keep her from securing the child’s future as heir to the baronetcy and restoring Sir Alexander’s memory of the love he shared with Sorcha: Nothing, that is, except the beginning of the Rockite Rebellion in Ireland and the kidnapping of said child for nefarious reasons.
An impressive ending to the beautifully crafted Twins’ Trilogy – Starr’s ***** Romance Reviews
Love. Power. Intrigue. Betrayal. All play their parts in this fitting conclusion to a captivating, romantic suspense trio. – Bella Graves, Author & Reviewer
Lady Chandler’s Sister: Book 3 of the Twins’ Trilogy
Award-Winning Finalist in Fiction: Romance category ~ 2019 International Book Awards
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
“Sir Alexander?” his assistant shook Alexander’s shoulder, and his head jerked up in alarm. “It is I, sir. Bradley.”
Alexander’s conscious mind accepted control, and he left the now familiar, yet constantly disturbing, dream behind: There had been a girl, and she was screaming for his assistance, but somehow he was restrained, and then there was the combined sound of horses shrieking in pain and of the ripping of wood about him. After that, all turned black. He had thought the images of what had occurred in Scotland would no longer haunt him, for it had been months since they had flashed before his eyes at the most inopportune moments or had crept into his always restless sleep. Today, for a brief second, he could hear the cry of men in pain and see the blinding flash of light hitting the silver encrusted knob on the top of his walking cane—the one supposedly no one had seen after the accident, the harsh white light spinning in tight circles as the cane flipped end-over-end. The walking stick had been a gift from his father on Alexander’s sixteenth birthday, and it grieved him to have lost it. “I apologize, Bradley,” he murmured, as he sat straighter. “I have had very little sleep of late.”
“Perfectly understandable, sir.” Bradley retrieved the displaced papers from Alexander’s desk. “The months since George IV’s coronation in July and the passing of the Queen Consort in August have been filled with more dissent than any of us would like.”
Alexander ran a hand through his hair to set it in place. “We must not forget, Bradley, without the dissent, there would be no need for our services in the Home Office.”
His assistant moved toward the door. “Then we must say a prayer for more economic, social, and political distress.” Sarcasm marked Bradley’s style, which was one of the reasons Alexander had employed the man. Although their relationship was relatively new by the standards of those customarily employed by the Home Office, Bradley kept Alexander sane by pointing out the absurd.
“I do not think we must beg our dear Lord for additional turmoil,” Alexander cautioned. “Humanity is quite adept at creating opposition.”
Bradley caught the latch. “Your coach will be at the main door in thirty minutes, sir. You are to have supper at the Duke of Devilfoard’s house this evening. His Grace will frown upon your being tardy.”
“The only thing upon which Devilfoard does not frown these days is his grandson. You would think Devilfoard fathered the child rather than Lord Malvern.”
“His Grace can name the future of the dukedom. It is the way of the aristocracy,” Bradley observed as he made his exit.
Alexander sighed heavily. For more than a year he had felt the emptiness in his life, and paying attendance upon Devilfoard and Malvern would only exacerbate the depth of loneliness marking his days. He supposed his regrets had something to do with losing his most cherished companions to blessed matrimony. He was a single in a world where a man of his age was expected to marry. Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, Alexander’s long-time chum from their years at university, had known marital felicity for two years, and Malvern and his marchioness had produced the duke’s grandson and secured the dukedom for two more generations. Alexander expected tonight’s supper would include an announcement of another McLaughlin making an appearance sometime in the new year.
“And Remington will know fatherhood in the spring and perhaps a son upon which to bestow the earldom,” Alexander spoke his qualms aloud as he rose to look out his window upon the patch of brown below. “My most loyal friend Levison Davids has claimed his marital comfort in the form of Miss Comfort Neville, an aptly named and compelling woman, and the earl has never appeared more content. Where does that leave me? An empty Town house and country estate. My mother serving as my hostess when matters require me to entertain. I cannot recall the last time a woman of merit piqued my interest. Hard to appreciate a woman’s finer qualities when I spend my days, and many of my nights, analyzing the possibility of sedition against the Crown.”
With a shrug of resignation, Alexander retrieved his coat and hat. He had chosen this life when he had refused to sell out his commission in the army and had returned to England in those final days of the Napoleonic action to serve his country in a different manner. For years he had known satisfaction in his life, but, of late, the promise of “completion” remained elusive.
“It has something to do with what occurred in Scotland,” he whispered to the icy pane, as he shot a final glance toward the bit of December sunshine searching for a place to mark its arrival. Nothing had been the same since the day he nearly died on a back road in Scotland. Perhaps if he could remember what had occurred—whether his injuries had been a result of a freak accident or whether they were from something more sinister—he could move forward. For now, he was simply treading water. Not drowning in misery, nevertheless, not moving forward in his life.
He took out his pocket watch to check the time. He would be early for his coach if he went down now, but Alexander thought it would do him good to claim a bit of fresh air, not that London was known for its clean air; yet, he would be away from his office desk and the doldrums haunting him there.
“When you finish transcribing the letter to Lord Liverpool, you are excused for the evening,” he instructed as he passed Bradley’s desk on his way out of the suite of rooms housing his division of the Home Office.
“The letter is complete,” Bradley assured him. “I am simply waiting for the courier from the Prime Minister’s office.”
Alexander nodded his understanding. “I have an early appointment tomorrow. I shan’t be in until ten.” He left Bradley making notations in an appointment ledger.
Reaching the outside, Alexander paused to suck in a fortifying breath before crossing to a spot upon the walkway paralleling the building. Before he settled his back to the wall, he examined the area. He had always been careful, which had proven providential while he was on the Continent serving under Wellington, but since that maddening incident in Scotland, he had come to take extra precautions.
Nothing appeared from place, although the street was always busy with tradesmen, gentlemen, and those of the canting crew. Cautiously, he glanced to his left to notice a woman’s approach. She held the appearance of intent upon her features, and the idea of his being her “intent” sent a shiver up his spine. He stirred restlessly. He thought to leave. To return to the safety of his office. The need was absolute and unquestionable, but he made himself remain in place, shoving aside the panic of a few seconds prior.
She was not dressed in the first tier of fashion nor was she of the working class. It was as if she were a woman from time—but whose time—the cut of her dress beneath her cloak appeared to be of the fashion of some twenty years prior, and Alexander experienced a twinge of regret at not holding the lady’s acquaintance. It would do him well to speak to such a breathtakingly beautiful woman. To engage her in conversation and to enjoy a few minutes respite from his recent downheartedness. Instinctively, he swallowed hard against the rising interest gnawing at his chest.
“Pardon, sir,” she said in a voice that could likely tame a wild beast, and he was instantly prepared to do her biding.
“May I be of service, miss?” he asked dutifully before shooting a glance to the street behind her. There was no sign of a maid or a companion, and he wondered if she meant to proposition him. Was she a lightskirt? He customarily did not lie with those of the demimonde, but he might make an exception in her case. There was something about her that had his body on alert.
She did not respond. Instead, her gaze boldly met his. She was taller than he had expected, and at such close proximity, he could easily view the myriad of emotions crossing her features. “I’ve a small matter of which I’ll be requiring your assistance,” she announced.
There was a soft Scottish burr lacing her words, and Alexander experienced an odd sense of danger scrambling up his spine. The flash of light from the dream raised its ugly head again and stole away the image of her person for what could not have been more than a second, but which felt much longer. He blinked several times to bring her again into focus. Performing a variety of duties for the Crown, he had spent much time in Scotland, and he recalled them all except what was reportedly the two in the last seventeen months. Somehow, they were connected, but from what he had learned of the first journey to Edinburgh, there could be no connection. Unlike the first, which was meant as a holiday of sort, the second one had been shorter and more violent. After a carriage accident and a long recovery in an Edinburgh hospital, he now sent men to perform the duties he would have customarily assumed. Rather than performing the tasks himself, several of his best men completed the investigation into those who had attacked Lord Remmington. Yet, Alexander was never satisfied with the outcome of the investigation or the resulting all-encompassing fear he felt with just the mention of the word Scotland. He could not shake the feeling that something was missing from the findings, something that had left him more than a little disenchanted. He was a man who routinely turned every stone, and there was a gaping hole in his memory that taunted him.
Even as he opened his mouth to speak to her, the memory flitted just out of reach, drifting closer and then darting away. He swallowed a second time. “Have you no servant, ma’am?” he asked. Was she a married lady or not?
“Maude waits beyond.” She gestured toward an older woman whom he had not noted previously, a fact that had him again examining the area for dissidents. The older woman, who held a bundle close to her chest, stared at him, refusing to lower her gaze, something few in service dared to do, and Alexander could not help but tense when she shifted the weight of whatever she carried. Was the item a well-concealed weapon? His gaze swept the area for others whose attentions were squarely upon him, but he found none. He wished to view his carriage’s approach, for danger crackled upon the crisp December air, and he suspected he would require the assistance of Mr. Clarence, his coachman, and Roberts, his footman.
“Should I hail you a hack?” The words came out gruffer than he intended.
She fixed her eyes upon him. They were the most enchanting shade of green he had ever beheld, but even as he thought so, another’s eyes appeared in his memory, not green, but hazel, yet equally as enticing. He gave his head a hard shake to clear his thinking. Beyond the color, the woman’s eyes were marked by frantic weariness—dark circles marred the pale skin of her cheekbones.
“I thought…” She never had the opportunity to explain what she thought, for a gunshot rang out, and the bullet ricocheted off the brick some two feet above his head. Alexander caught the woman to him, shoving her to the ground to shield her with his body. Pure chaos filled the air. Screams. People running. The braying of a donkey. A dog barking repeatedly. He waited for another attack. His nerves taut. His mind racing as if it were a thoroughbred set free at the Derby. But other than the cries of those upon the street, there was no second round.
He turned his head to look upon the scene. People had halted their flights, and although apprehensive, they looked around for the source of the threat. “I believe we are safe,” he said with more calm than he felt. Gently, he assisted the woman to her feet. “Are you injured?” Again, she possessed no opportunity to respond. A dozen of his agents rushed from the building.
“Are you well, sir?” Eaton asked as his men took up a protective stance.
“Just a bit dusty. The bullet struck the wall above my head. Mark a sighting and have our men work their way backward to discover where the culprit stood when he took the shot. Ask those still about what they know. Was it an accident or purposeful?”
The woman turned to grasp his lapels in tight fists. “Attack?” she pleaded. “Why would anyone…” She spun frantically in a circle, searching the crowd. “Maude? Where is Maude? Greer? Please God!”
He caught her shoulders and turned them to where the older woman crouched in the doorway of a nearby building. The one called Maude still clutched her bundle close to her chest. He spoke softly in the lady’s ear, “Permit me to see you from the area. Do you have a coach nearby or do you require public transportation?”
He should have known that the day would prove foul. The mood that had taunted him throughout the long hours he had been enclosed in his office should have warned him this day would not end well. For a third time, he never learned her response. A second shot off to his right had him catching the woman’s hand to drag her along behind him. Reaching the point where her maid hid in the shadows, he called, “Follow us. I have a coach up ahead.” He could see Mr. Clarence pulling up on the reins as the matched horses balked at the onslaught of people running at them. Reaching the coach, Alexander jerked open the door before lifting the woman to shove her inside. He turned to see the older woman struggling to keep up with them.
The younger of the two knelt at the opening. “Hand it here,” she instructed as the elder thrust the bundle into her mistress’s arms.
With that, Alexander lifted the maid into the coach. “Find us a means from this place,” he ordered Clarence, before following the ladies inside. “Roberts, be at the ready.” His coach lurched forward before moving cautiously through the throngs.
While the women huddled together, he slid across the seat to peer out the window as his men stopped his coach’s progress when they noted his crest on the side. Eaton appeared at the opening. “Discover anything?” Alexander demanded.
“Harmon caught the shooter,” his agent reported.
“Pass along my gratitude to Mr. Harmon,” Alexander ordered. “Place the assailant in a cell. Once I have seen the ladies to safety, I will return.”
“Aye, sir.” Eaton stepped back to motion Alexander’s carriage through the barricade his agents had formed outside the Home Office.
He settled back into the squabs to look upon the pair on the opposing bench. The elder woman sat with her arm about the other while the bundle rested upon the younger’s lap. The elder held a resemblance to the younger, and he realized the pair were more than mistress and servant, as he had first assumed. There was a relationship he had not expected.
“I must apologize for my earlier rough handling of your person,” he said dutifully. “I doubt you expected such ill treatment when I offered my assistance.”
“I would have expected nothing less than honorable care from a man of your consequence,” she stated.
He frowned. What did this woman know of his consequence? “Where might I have Mr. Clarence set you down?” he asked, but his mind was already thinking upon his return to his office to learn more of the shooter’s motives.
The two women exchanged a questioning glance. “We’d not thought of rooms, sir. We did’nae consider the need.” The younger woman’s accent proved more pronounced than he previously thought. Her hands stroked the bundle upon her lap. He belatedly realized whatever she carried inside was wrapped in an exquisitely trimmed blanket.
“I find it is my turn to know confusion,” he admitted. “You are newly arrived in London?”
“Have you no relations with whom you may reside? What of your bags? Surely you own more than the clothes upon your back?” he studied the woman more carefully. Had she approached him in hopes he would choose her for his mistress? Newly arrived in the Capital? Was she seeking a protector? More than one country miss was known to apply her skills at seduction. It was the way of the City.
“The coachin’ inn’s mistress promised to store our bags till we discovered a place to stay. Aunt Maude and I did’nae know where we should begin our search,” she answered readily, which was at odds with how stiffly she held her shoulders. “We’ve only one relation in the Capital.”
“I am more than familiar with all the areas of London,” he offered. “Without wishing to speak an offense, perchance if you could describe what type of lodging you require, I can be of assistance.”
Another worried glance passed between the women. “We’ve vary few funds, sir,” the one called Maude disclosed. Her accent was thicker than her niece’s.
He glanced out the window. Mr. Clarence appeared to be circling the streets framing the Home Office. Alexander had yet to provide the driver with directions for the women. “I find I must again break with propriety,” he stated. “I do not understand how two women could consider the idea of coming to London being the best for their futures.”
“It be necessary,” the younger of the two declared. “Our choices be few. The road south was the only logical one.”
He despised enigmatic answers. Yet, before he could demand an explanation, Maude caught the younger’s arm. “Be you injured,” she said anxiously. “Why did’nae you speak of it?”
Alexander’s gaze narrowed upon the blood oozing from the woman’s forearm. He snatched his handkerchief from an inside pocket and shifted to where he could tend her. “Any injury is dangerous,” he grumbled as he wrapped the cloth about her arm. He knew personally how even the smallest cut could be as dangerous as a sword through one’s chest. It had taken him some two months to heal from the injuries he sustained in Scotland. “We must have it examined. It does not appear as if the bullet pierced your skin. Likely a piece of the brick cut you.” He tapped upon the hatch. When his coachman responded, he instructed, “Chance Hall, Clarence.”
“There is no need,” the woman protested.
“There is a need,” he corrected. “My mother is in residence, and you have your aunt. I can afford to see you settled for a day or two.”
Exhaustion claimed her features. “If you insist,” she whispered, but there was a hint of indecision in her tone.
He sat back upon the bench. Why had he volunteered to assist the woman? To go so far as to take her into his home? Demme! He did not even know her name! It was not as if he thought to claim this stranger to wife, which would be the only reason an established bachelor would escort a female into his home to take his mother’s acquaintance. He cursed the fact he possessed a strongly developed sense of protection. Such was why he had known success in his role at the Home Office, but this was a whole different matter.
Instead of looking upon her again, Alexander chose to stare out the coach’s window. He knew the lady studied him, and he considered rescinding his invitation, for deep in his soul he knew this encounter was more than it appeared. Yet, there was no means for a gentleman to withdraw an offer of charity. Perhaps his mother would insist he place the women in a hotel instead of housing them at Chance Hall. If so, he could save face while avoiding what he feared was some sort of deception being practiced against his person.
Within minutes, Clarence eased the coach to the curb before Chance Hall. Roberts opened the door and set down the steps. Alexander exited and turned to assist the women down. He expected the younger, but found himself assisting “Aunt Maude,” who turned to accept the bundle. The way each woman reverently passed the covered treasure spoke of its importance in their lives. From its size, he expected the covered package held a cherished clock or sculpture. Perhaps they thought to sell it in order to stake their time in the City. The manner in which they passed it from one to the other said the item was quite fragile.
“Roberts,” he instructed, “fetch Doctor Dalhauser. The lady was injured in today’s incident.”
His long time footman cocked an eyebrow, but said, “Yes, sir,” before he darted along the street to bring the physician. He understood his servants’ curiosity, for Alexander rarely took an interest in any woman. He had no time for performing the pretty to woo a potential bride. And this particular lady was definitely not from his circle of acquaintances.
Once the elder held the covered bundle safely, the younger permitted him to lift her down. Despite fearing she executed some sort of duplicity, Alexander permitted himself the pleasure of leaving his hands upon her waist a little longer than necessary. He noted the blood still seeped from her wound when she placed her hand upon his shoulder for balance. There was a chance the injury was deeper than it first appeared. Even so, he admired how she played off the pain and the wound’s insignificance. Most women he knew would be in hysterics.
“Please. Let us go inside.” He noted the flakes of snow peppering the cobblestones. “The streets will soon become impassable.” He caught Maude’s elbow to steady the woman upon the steps so she would not drop her possession. “Clarence, I mean to return to the office before dining with Devilfoard tonight. Return in an hour.”
His coach edged its way toward the mews behind the row of upscale houses. Alexander suspected more than one of his neighbors had spied upon him and the two unfashionable ladies he escorted inside. His name would be upon the lips of multiple Society hostesses this evening.
Once within, he assisted the younger of the two with her cloak while his butler did likewise with the elder. “Mr. Tyler,” he instructed, “the ladies will join us this evening. Prepare two rooms.”
“Oh, no,” the younger lady protested. “One room will be sufficient. Aunt Maude and I will share the quarters.”
Alexander thought to object, but he permitted the woman her manipulations. Why should he care if she and her aunt would know less than a pleasurable rest? “As you wish,” he said politely before instructing his waiting servant, “Roberts is fetching Doctor Dalhauser for the lady.”
“Is my mother in her favorite drawing room?”
“Yes, sir. Lady Chandler asked on the time of your arrival only a quarter hour past.”
Alexander nodded his understanding. His mother thought his choice to join the Home Office foolish for a man who had inherited a wealthy baronetage. She thought he should be overseeing his country seat rather than planning a means to protect the British government. She often expressed her dismay at his sense of duty to country and lack of duty to his title. It was not as if Alexander ignored his responsibilities to his manor house, the farms, or his cottagers, for he oversaw every detail personally. Ignoring his obligations was not in his nature. He simply preferred, at least until the last few months, to reside in London and be about the government’s business rather than to live at his manor house.
“Show Dalhauser in when he arrives.”
He escorted the ladies into the drawing room before it dawned upon him that he could not provide his mother their identities.
“Alexander,” his mother called from a chair before the hearth. She had yet to look in his direction. “I feared you would be tardy for your evening with the duke and duchess. I asked your man…” The words died upon her lips when she viewed his company.
“Good evening, Mother,” he said with more calmness than he actually could give credit. He had never accepted anyone into his home until he was well-acquainted with the person. His mother would pronounce this situation extraordinary. Against his careful nature, he had invited two strangers into his private quarters. Two women who could rob him or worse. He wondered if his mother had not the right of his lack of intelligence of late. “I brought two guests.”
“I can see that,” his mother countered. She rose gracefully. “Perchance you would care to make the introductions.”
He shot a glance to the women, who stood some two feet removed. The younger’s urgent gaze said he should know her identity, but for the life of him, he did not. Hers was not a face he thought anyone could easily forget. If he had ever taken her acquaintance, he would remember her. “I fear I …” he began.
Sadness crossed the lady’s expression, but she responded as if nothing unusual had occurred. “I believe Sir Alexander still plays the role of Galahad. I had a most unfortunate accident earlier. Your son insisted I be treated by his physician.” She gestured to her arm where his handkerchief encircled it. “I’m Miss Alana Pottinger.” He noted how her aunt’s head did a double take, but the older woman recovered her expression quickly. “My aunt, Mrs. Steele, and I be newly arrived in London.” Although the lady pronounced the necessary words, Alexander had the feeling something was not quite right. Had she just practiced some sort of fabrication?
“From Scotland?” his mother inquired with a lift of her brow.
“I suppose my accent appears more prominent in an English drawing room. My father was Scottish, and I was raised in Scotland, but my mother was a gently bred English woman.”
“My question was not offered as an offense,” his mother said in apology. “It is just that my son…”
Alexander interrupted. “Please come in where it is warmer. You will discover Lady Chandler is very fair spoken. My mother prefers I not take myself off to Scotland again. The last time I was there, I had a carriage accident that laid me up for several months.”
This time it was the younger who reacted; she reached up as if to cradle his cheek in comfort—studying him with what appeared to be turbulent emotions, but then thought better of her actions and hid her hand behind her back.
Once more, anxiety skittered up his spine. Although concerned, he did the proper thing: He settled the pair in opposing chairs near the fire. “May I take your package, ma’am?” he asked the elder with an encouraging smile. “I will place it here upon the floor at your feet.”
Miss Pottinger’s aunt hesitated before relinquishing the bundle into his grasp. It was lighter than Alexander had expected. “Be gentle,” Mrs. Steele cautioned.
“Absolutely,” he assured the woman before gingerly placing the bundle upon the floor.
At that moment, Mr. Tyler showed Dalhauser into the room. “Heard of your skirmish today,” Dalhauser announced without preamble. “Roberts assured me you were not again my patient.”
“Was there an altercation, Alexander?” his mother questioned in sharp tones. “I do not like all these demands for reform.”
Alexander attempted to soothe her worries. “It was just a man deep in his cups. Mr. Harmon easily captured him. Nevertheless, the scoundrel wounded Miss Pottinger. Permit Dalhauser to tend the lady. I expect both Miss Pottinger and Mrs. Steele could do with tea after their ordeal.”
While his mother arranged for the tea service, he moved closer where he might view Dalhauser’s work. Studying the surgeon’s long fingers, without thinking, Alexander rubbed the furrow marking his brow. Such was a nervous habit he had yet to conquer. The lady looked up into his eyes, and for an elongated second, time held its place. Nothing stirred. Not the crackle of the fire. Not even the sound of his breath or hers. Then she schooled her features. Her anxiousness settled into a deliberately constructed calm, all the fears she had displayed not a second prior were gone, wiped away and replaced with delicate perfection. Instinctively, his brow crinkled in annoyance. He certainly did not require another responsibility in his already demanding life, but he held the distinct feeling he had inherited one. The problem was he possessed no idea whether the lovely Miss Pottinger was friend or foe.