"An imaginative romance woven around an unusual, but true, event in history."
Reviewed by Suan Wilson
Posted May 16, 2007
Historical | Romance
Newly crowned Princess Josefina Embry arrives in London
with her family to gain loans for their Central American
country. Her father has assigned her the task of marrying
the all-powerful Sebastian Griffin, Duke of Melbourne.
Josefina plays her part well as a seductress who
challenges, argues and tempts Sebastian. Everyone else bows
to his wishes, but Josefina confronts and upsets his famous
control. Weaving a tangled web of lies, Josefina draws
Sebastian deeper into her complicated life. Josefina has
never questioned her father or his directives. She believes
his version of truths, until Sebastian has her questioning
her own motives and responsibilities.
Sebastian can trace his family history almost to the
beginning of England. He takes his duties seriously and
works tirelessly improving laws and strengthening England.
Since his beloved wife's death, he has no interest in
remarrying. His free time is devoted to his young daughter,
whom he adores. When Prince George makes him advisor to the
new King of Costa Habichuela, along the Mosquito Coast,
Sebastian, the paragon of virtue, stumbles when he meets
Josefina. Instant lust consumes him.
The battle of wills begins! Sebastian's once-frozen heart
thaws as he demands Josefina's surrender. The part of
Sebastian's brain that still works screams that something
is not right with Josefina and the Embry entourage. When he
discovers the truth, Sebastian must use all of his skill to
keep Josefina from the hangman's noose.
Ms. Enoch found an unusual, yet true, event in history and
penned an imaginative tale. With creative plotting, she
keeps readers guessing to the very end, wondering how these
two characters will resolve the lies and treachery between
them without Sebastian losing his honor.
Lust is a Sin . . .
Sebastian Griffin, the Duke of Melbourne, has raised his
younger siblings, seen to it that they made correct
matches, and basically kept everyone in line. Seen as the
most powerful man in England, Sebastian has a reputation
for propriety and has maintained a scandal-free life.
Josefina Katarina Embry is a beauty, to be sure, but she
claims to be the princess of a faraway country. While she
dazzles the ton with her wit and charm, Sebastian suspects
she's up to something. And he's determined to expose
her . . . if only he wasn't so distracted by her brazen
sensuality and the irresistible allure of her kiss.
Sebastian knows an affair will lead them into scandal, but
will the most powerful man in England risk all for a
princess of dubious lineage . . . or will he allow a most
sinful desire to rule his heart?
From the expressions on the faces of the troop of soldiers
who marched up from the Horse Guards, someone was in for a
bloodbath. With a silent curse Sebastian Griffin, the Duke
of Melbourne, galloped past them, reaching his destination
a half mile in front of the soldiers. Not much distance,
and not much time.
He pulled his bay stallion to a halt and swung to the
ground. â€śWhoâ€™s in charge here?â€ť he yelled into the wall of
noise before him, scarcely noting his two younger brothers
and his brother-in-law riding up behind him.
â€śThat would be me,â€ť a guttural voice came from the front of
the angry crowd. A stout man dressed as most of his fellows
were in the worn clothing of farmers and other members of
the working class pushed his way through his way through to
Sebastian on one side of the crowd. â€śWhat dâ€™you want, boy?â€ť
Boy. No one had called him a boy in seventeen years, since
heâ€™d inherited the dukedom at the age of seventeen. He
lifted an eyebrow. â€śI want to know why you think that
battering down the gates of Carlton House will gain any of
you either food or sympathy for your cause.â€ť
â€śAnd who the bloody hell are you, to ride up on your fancy
horse with your fancy friends?â€ť the fellow demanded.
Sebastian ignored the question, instead turning to face the
second group of riders just arriving. â€śBuy every food item
in the market at Picadilly,â€ť he instructed his
secretary. â€śHave it delivered to Westminster Abbey.â€ť
Rivers nodded, turning his gelding. â€śRight away, Your
â€śJennings, go with him. I want blankets and a selection of
clothing for any who might need them.â€ť
â€śFast as the wind, Your Grace.â€ť
When he faced the large fellow again, a portion of his
belligerent expression had been replaced by confusion. â€śSo
you think you can give us some bread and a shirt and weâ€™ll
go away? That is notâ€“â€ś
â€ťThere are what, three hundred of you?â€ť Sebastian broke in,
taking a moment to look at the dirty, hungry, desperate
faces in the crowd and resisting the urge to check over his
shoulder for the soldiers. â€śGo to Westminster, and Iâ€™ll
meet you there. We will sit down like gentlemen and discuss
how to keep your people well and fed until your fields can
be replanted and the irrigation situation improved.â€ť
â€ťIf you persist in attacking the Prince Regentâ€™s residence,
he will be forced to summon soldiers for his own
protection.â€ť He held the manâ€™s gaze for a moment. â€śYou have
children here, sir. Do not make this worse. Not when I give
you my word to help you make it better.â€ť
â€śI still donâ€™t have your name, sir . . . Your Grace. Donâ€™t
know that I trust a nobleman.â€ť
â€śI am the Duke of Melbourne. If you know anything about me,
you know that when I give my word, I do not break it.â€ť
The fellow took an abrupt step forward. Both Shay and
Zachary moved in, but Sebastian motioned his brothers back.
These people were desperate, and looking for someone on
whom to take out a seasonâ€™s worth of frustrations. Damn
Kesling for ignoring the plight of people whose farms
bordered his estate. With a measured breath he held out his
The muscles of his jaw jumping, the farmer shook it. â€śIâ€™m
Brown, Your Grace. Nathan Brown. And I have heard of you.â€ť
â€śI will meet you in the Abbey in two hours, Mr. Brown.â€ť
Brown nodded. â€śIâ€™ll be there.â€ť
At Mr. Brownâ€™s encouragement, the crowd began to move east,
in the direction of Westminster Abbey. Several of them
grabbed his hands, and he smiled and nodded at them as they
passed. As the last of them left the Carlton House gates,
he took a deep breath.
â€śWell done, Seb,â€ť his youngest brother, Lord Zachary
Griffin, commented. â€śConsidering that I only had one pistol
with me, that might have been a bit sticky.â€ť
â€śMm hm. Shay, go tell the Rector of St. Margaretâ€™s that the
Abbey will have guests for a day or two.â€ť
His middle brother turned for the Abbey. â€śOn my way.â€ť
Sebastian swung back up onto Merlin. â€śSo am I. I have a
meeting in two hours.â€ť
His brother-in-law, Valentine Corbett, Lord Deverill,
flashed him a grin. â€śWhat do you do on mornings when youâ€™re
not rescuing the monarchy and feeding the poor and the
â€śI feed Zachary, which can be nearly as perilous,â€ť he
returned, trotting over to have a word with a shaken-
looking secretary of Prinnyâ€™s as the man appeared on the
far side of the gate, flanked by a half dozen equally
unnerved royal guards. â€śThe rest of you go back to whatever
you were doing. Green will stay with me.â€ť
His groomsman nodded, and the rest of his group departed,
Zach and Valentine last. Though he pretended not to, he
could hear their muttering about the chances he took and
what might have happened if Mr. Brown had been armed with
more than righteous indignation. As far as he was
concerned, though, as a duke, and in particular as the Duke
of Melbourne, he was doing no more and no less than his
duty to the Crown, and to the people of England. And that
was how he spent every morning. And afternoon. And evening.
Once he left Carlton House, passing the soldiers less than
a street away from the Regentâ€™s residence, he slowed the
bay to a civilized trot more suitable for navigating
Mayfair. Three streets down they turned onto Grosvenor
Square and then up the gated drive of Griffin House.
Sliding out of the saddle, Sebastian flipped the reins to
Green and strode up the front steps as the groom took
Merlin around the house to the stable.
As he reached the front door it opened. â€śI trust you were
successful, Your Grace?â€ť the butler asked, stepping back to
allow Sebastian entry.
â€śThankfully, Stanton. Is my daughter awake yet?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t believe so, Your Grace. Shall I send for her?â€ť
â€śYes. I want to see her before I leave for Parliament. When
Rivers returns, please inform him that weâ€™ll have to
reschedule our luncheon meeting for tomorrow. I need to be
at Westminster Abbey today.â€ť
â€śVery good, Your Grace.â€ť
Handing over his hat, gloves, and caped greatcoat,
Sebastian strolled into the breakfast room. On the
sideboard generous piles of bread, fruit, and sliced meats
awaited his selection, while the London Times had already
been ironed flat and set by his place at the head of the
table. He chose his meal and then seated himself to read
about the latest tariff agreements reached between Britain
and the United States, averting any possible renewal of
hostilities between the two countries. According to the
news writers, apparently His Grace, the Duke of Melbourne,
had pressed the government until it came to its senses.
â€śFor the moment, at least,â€ť he murmured to himself,
gesturing for coffee. One of the pair of footmen hurried
forward to pour a steaming cup. Sebastian inhaled deeply
before he took a sip. Thank God for the Americas.
â€śI was awake, Papa,â€ť an lilting young voice came from the
doorway, and he looked up.
â€śGood morning, Peep,â€ť he said, grinning. â€śYou look very
At nearly eight years of age, Lady Penelope Griffin had
begun to develop her own sense of fashion, and this morning
she wore a bright yellow muslin dress dotted with white
flowers, and a matching yellow hat covered with a profusion
of white daisies. She curtsied to him before she pranced up
for a kiss. â€śI am very fetching, arenâ€™t I?â€ť she returned,
adjusting her hat.
â€śI take it you and Mrs. Beacham are attending Mary Haleyâ€™s
birthday party, then?â€ť
â€śYes. Iâ€™m giving Mary a matching white hat with yellow
â€śYou will be the loveliest young ladies in London, then.â€ť
She took a peach and two toasted slices of bread from the
sideboard, then sat at his elbow. â€śI think we will be.
Might I invite Mary over to tea tomorrow?â€ť
â€śI thought you were having luncheon with your aunties
tomorrow,â€ť he said, covering his slight frown.
â€śOh, yes. I forgot. My schedule is frightfully busy these
days, you know.â€ť
For a moment Sebastian gazed at his dark-haired, gray-eyed
daughter. It physically hurt to think that in ten years or
so her schedule would include outings with beaux and
evenings at soirees where he would watch her dance with
eager young men.
â€śVauxhall has acrobats tomorrow evening,â€ť he said a little
abruptly. â€śWhy not ask Mary and Lord and Lady Bernard if
theyâ€™d care to join us there?â€ť
Peep bounced in her chair. â€śAcrobats? And jugglers?â€ť
â€śI believe so.â€ť
â€śYes, please!â€ť She took a large bite of peach, then looked
at him sideways. â€śBut you know that Maryâ€™s aunt is
visiting, and sheâ€™ll want to join us, and then sheâ€™ll want
to marry you.â€ť
Wonderful. â€śWell, in that case, perhaps weâ€“â€ś
The breakfast room door opened. â€śGood morning, all,â€ť his
youngest brother, Zachary, said, sauntering into the room
and heading directly for the sideboard.
â€śWhen I said you should go home, I meant your home,â€ť
Sebastian observed, smiling at his brotherâ€™s back.
Obviously Zach had been designated to make certain the
family patriarch had returned home in one piece.
â€śCaroline has a morning sitting with the Duke of York. She
said my presence would remind him of you, which would
remind him that heâ€™s not very well liked in the House of
â€śIs that because he had favors from that chit, and she made
him promote all those soldiers?â€ť
Good God. â€śWhat do you know of that, Peep?â€ť Sebastian asked
his daughter, sending an annoyed glance at Zachary as his
brother took the seat opposite her.
â€śUncle Shay said that the Duke should learn to keep his
trousers buttoned, and he wouldnâ€™t owe women favors. Did
she sew up his trousers for him?â€ť
â€śExactly,â€ť Zach put in, chuckling. â€śThe end result of all
this being that I get to come to Griffin House and have
breakfast with my favorite niece.â€ť
She shook her dark curls. â€śYou shouldnâ€™t say that. What if
Aunt Nell and Uncle Valentine heard you? They would be hurt
that you donâ€™t like Rose as much as you like me.â€ť
â€śYes, Zachary, how would you ever explain to your sister
that her daughter is inferior to mine?â€ť Sebastian prompted,
lifting an eyebrow and for the moment pretending that he
wasnâ€™t supremely grateful to have a bit of adult company
about for other than preventing riots. Since Shay had
married last summer, things had been . . . He shook
himself. None of that, now.
â€śWell, Rose is lovely, of course, but sheâ€™s only five
months old. You have to admit that her conversation isnâ€™t
Penelope laughed. â€śThatâ€™s because she doesnâ€™t have any
teeth yet.â€ť She reached across the table and patted her
uncleâ€™s hand. â€śDonâ€™t worry. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ll like her better
when she gets a bit older.â€ť
Zachary smiled back at her. â€śIâ€™m sure I will. And I
appreciate your discretion.â€ť
â€śOf course. I donâ€™t want Uncle Valentine to punch you in
â€śThank you. Neither do I.â€ť
They chatted about nonsense until Sebastian pushed away
from the table. â€śDo you have a moment, Zach?â€ť he asked.
His brother stood. â€śCertainly. Peep, Iâ€™ll give you a
shilling if you put marmalade on that slice of bread for
â€śTwo shillings,â€ť she said, reaching for the jar.
Sebastian stepped across the hallway to the morning room
and half-closed the door as Zachary joined him. â€śPeep
wishes to ask Mary Haley to Vauxhall tomorrow night. Her
aunt, Lady Margaret Trent, will likely be joining us.â€ť
Zach made a face. â€śI thought you were going to ask me to
help you with Mr. Brown and his very annoyed friends. Of
course Caro and I will join you at Vauxhall.â€ť
Sighing in relief, Sebastian clapped his brother on the
shoulder. â€śMr. Brown is simple. Lady Margaret I want to
keep my distance from.â€ť
â€śAs if any of us want old pinch face added to the family.â€ť
â€śHm.â€ť He lifted an eyebrow. â€śNot likely to happen
regardless of your chaperoning services.â€ť
His brother reached back to close the door the rest of the
way. â€śAre you well, Seb? I mean . . . aside from your
occasional morning acts of heroics, with just you and Peep
living here now, itâ€™sâ€“â€ś
â€ťI am not having this conversation.â€ť Sebastian clenched his
jaw. â€śSo whatever youâ€™re implying, donâ€™t trouble yourself.â€ť
â€śI see. My apologies. Are you still bringing Caro and me to
the Elkins soiree, then, or shall we fend for ourselves?â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll be by with the carriage at eight.â€ť Sebastian studied
the view out the front window. â€śAnd Iâ€™m well. Iâ€™m adjusting
to a smaller household. Again.â€ť To anyone outside of his
family, he never would have admitted that much.
Zachary cleared his throat. â€śItâ€™s just . . . Donâ€™t bite my
head off, but within the past two years Nell, Shay, and I
have all married. You . . . I donâ€™t wish to see you sad
when weâ€™ve all found such happiness.â€ť He shrugged. â€śI know
Iâ€™m not saying it well, but I do remember, you know. I
remember you four years ago when Charlotte died. Just
because weâ€™ve moved out doesnâ€™t mean weâ€™ve abandoned you.
â€ťFor Godâ€™s sake, Zachary,â€ť Sebastian retorted, using every
ounce of his infamous self-control to keep his voice cool
and level, â€śIâ€™m not an invalid. Donâ€™t try to put yourself
in my boots. Iâ€™ve been the head of this family for the past
seventeen years. Once youâ€™ve held that responsibility for
even a day, then you can empathize. Until then, youâ€™ll have
to take me at my word.â€ť He took a step closer. â€śNow, if
youâ€™ll excuse me, I have to leave for Parliament, then take
luncheon with three hundred angry farmers and their
Without another word he brushed past his brother, pulled
open the door, and returned to the breakfast room. â€śPeep,
my love,â€ť he drawled, putting a smile back on his
face, â€śpromise me that youâ€™ll tell me all about the party
today when I return.â€ť
She stood up, and he squatted down to hug her. â€śI promise.
Youâ€™ll be home for dinner?â€ť
â€śI should be home well before that.â€ť
â€śAnd then youâ€™re going to that ball with Uncle Zachary and
â€śI have to, Penelope.â€ť He hugged her tighter. â€śWhen I give
my word to be somewhere and then donâ€™t make an appearance,
it hurts peoplesâ€™ feelings.â€ť That didnâ€™t even begin to
explain it, but his daughter still had plenty of time to
learn the nuances of being a Griffin and a dukeâ€™s daughter.
â€śVery well,â€ť she said with a deep sigh, releasing him. â€śI
love you, Papa.â€ť
â€śAnd I love you, sweetling. Be good.â€ť
â€śI will try.â€ť
â€śBloody, short-sighted, penny-pinchingâ€“â€ś
Drawing his frayed temper back under hard control,
Sebastian slowed his exit from the hallway outside the
House of Lords. In all the years heâ€™d been attending
Parliamentary sessions, he could only recall a handful of
times heâ€™d escaped the building without being hounded for
some reason or other. After the way heâ€™d spent the luncheon
break, though, he was almost eager for this one. â€śYes,
The viscount trundled up the hallway, stopping two feet in
front of Sebastian and reeking of some kind of French
cologne that did little to disguise his over-ripe body
odor. He tightened his control further to keep from taking
a step backward.
â€śMelbourne, I thought you were more progressive-minded than
â€śYou claim to care about the welfare of the common people,
and yet every time Prinny asks for funds for one of his
follies, you vote to support him. I donâ€™t understâ€“â€ś
This conversation again. â€śPerhaps you could explain to me,
Kesling, why it is that every time a vote arises which
places a tax on property, the resulting government income
to be used for public relief, you vote it down. And that
doesnâ€™t even begin to explain the callousness with which
you treat the people who live on your own land.â€ť
â€śWhy should the burden be placed on us, simply because of
an accident of birth? Itâ€™s hardlyâ€“â€ś
â€ťAh, thatâ€™s the problem, then,â€ť Sebastian cut in. â€śMy birth
wasnâ€™t an accident. Iâ€™ll explain it to you â€“ once. In order
for the United Kingdom to remain a power in this growing
world, we must be able to progress. For that we need
citizens who are educated and content. And in order for the
rest of the world to see us as a power, our government must
appear to be healthy. This government, therefore, supports
its monarch and its people. Or it will, for as long as a
Griffin remains in the House of Lords. Good day, Kesling.â€ť
He turned on his heel.
The front door of Griffin House opened the moment his coach
stopped on the drive. â€śStanton,â€ť he said, stepping to the
ground, â€śhas Lady Peep returned yet?â€ť
â€śNot yet, Your Grace. But you have a note from Carlton
The duke lifted it off the silver salver and opened it in
the doorway. â€śWhen did this arrive?â€ť
â€śTwenty minutes ago, Your Grace.â€ť
He turned around again. â€śTollins, wait there,â€ť he called,
stopping the coach before it could head around to the
stables. Sticking the note in his pocket, he reclaimed his
hat and gloves. â€śPlease let my daughter know where Iâ€™ve
gone, and that Iâ€™ll return as soon as I can.â€ť
The butler inclined his head. â€śOf course, Your Grace.â€ť
With a sigh Sebastian headed back into the streets of
Mayfair. He had a good idea what Prinny wanted; whatever
the events of the morning, the Regent continued to be
obsessed with finishing his pavilion at Brighton regardless
of how empty his coffer might be. And today had been the
preliminary vote in the House of Lords
Somewhere along the way Sebastian had moved from being a
staunch supporter of the monarchy to being Prince Georgeâ€™s
confidante and advisor. Despite the occasional
inconvenience, it did give him some additional control over
the course of the country. And it let him into what seemed
to have become a secret: If one could overlook his
occasional tantrums and frequent, theatrical dramatics,
Prinny was a bright fellow with exquisite taste.
As soon as he arrived at Carlton House one of the
attendants ushered him into the formal white room, which
was odd. The white room was for guests, and heâ€™d long since
ceased being anything that formal. Obviously Prinny had
something in mind, though, so Sebastian walked to the
window that overlooked the garden and waited.
He was still standing there five minutes later when the
door opened again. â€śMelbourne!â€ť Prinnyâ€™s familiar voice
came, â€śI hadnâ€™t realized you were here. No doubt you have
some pressing matters to discuss with me.â€ť
Sebastian faced the Regent, masking his confusion with a
smile as he realized Prinny had a dozen people following
him into the room. Ah, so now he was an ornament for
tourists. â€śI do, Your Highness,â€ť he agreed, bowing.
â€śIâ€™ll be with you in just a moment, then,â€ť Prinny
returned. â€śFirst, I would like to present His Majesty
Stephen Embry, Rey of Costa Habichuela. Also his wife,
Queen Maria. Your Majesties, His Grace, the Duke of
Melbourne, one of my closest advisors.â€ť
The man standing at the forefront of the entourage stepped
forward and offered his hand. â€śVery pleased, Your Grace,â€ť
he said, in an accent that sounded distinctly Cornish.
Hm. As far as Sebastian knew, Cornwall had not seceded from
England and altered its name. â€śYour Majesty,â€ť he returned,
In addition to his accent, the rey was tall with yellow
hair, a golden moustache, and decidedly English features
despite his Hispanic title. He wore a striking black
military-looking uniform, as did the four men who
surrounded the group. His was differentiated by a narrow
white sash over his left shoulder and tassled at his right
hip. Several obvious military decorations adorned the sash,
all of them dominated by a simple green cross at his breast.
Unlike her escort, the lady with her hand on the reyâ€™s arm
was clearly of Spanish decent â€“ tall, black-haired, olive-
skinned, and brown-eyed. Queen Maria, undoubtedly.
â€śMay I ask where Costa Habichuela is located?â€ť he asked
after a moment, focusing on the rey.
â€śAh, glad you asked,â€ť Embry returned, smiling. â€śWeâ€™re on
the eastern coast of Central America. A wondrous place,
really. I was greatly honored when the Mosquito King deeded
it to me and my heirs.â€ť
This was the third country to be formed in South or Central
America over the past year and a half, then. â€śThe Mosquito
King,â€ť he repeated. â€śThat would put your territory along
the Mosquito Coast.â€ť
â€śYes, very good, Your Grace. You know your geography.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s a much less well-known fact, however,â€ť a soft,
feminine voice slid in from the left of the rey, â€śthat the
area is named after a group of small islands known as the
Mosquitos rather than after the insect.â€ť
Sebastian turned his head. Brown eyes gazed into his. Deep
brown, like rich, newly-turned soil in the springtime, set
into a face the color of fresh cream, smooth and flawless.
And her hair, long and loose with a hint of curl, the
flowing mass as black as ravenâ€™s wings.
â€śYour Grace,â€ť the reyâ€™s voice broke in, â€śmy daughter,
Princess Josefina Katarina Embry.â€ť
Blinking, Sebastian mentally pulled himself back. He felt
distant, off balance, as though heâ€™d been staring for an
hour â€“ but it must have been less than a minute. â€śYour
Highness,â€ť he intoned, bowing.
She returned a shallow curtsy, her eyes glittering as
though she knew precisely the effect sheâ€™d had on
him. â€śYour Grace.â€ť
â€śThe rey and his family are here to secure some loans,â€ť
Prinny put in. He clapped his beefy hands together. â€śYou
know, Melbourne, you would be the perfect contact for that.
Iâ€™m appointing you British liaison to Costa Habichuela. How
do you like that?â€ť
Not much at all. â€śIâ€™m honored, Your Highness,â€ť Sebastian
said aloud, setting a cool smile on his face. â€śIâ€™m not
certain how much actual assistance Iâ€™ll be able to provide,
but Iâ€™m happy to lend my advice â€“ such as it is.â€ť
â€śSplendid. Youâ€™re attending the Elkins soiree tonight, are
â€śI had planned to.â€ť
â€śThen youâ€™ll escort our new friends there. Unfortunately, I
have a previous engagement, or I would do so, myself.â€ť
For a moment Sebastian wondered whether Prinny considered
just how much legitimacy he was granting this new country
by involving the Duke of Melbourne in their introduction to
London Society, but in almost the same instant he knew the
answer. What Prince George saw was an opportunity to
impress a few foreigners with his generosity and influence.
â€śIt would be my pleasure,â€ť he said, because at the moment
he didnâ€™t have any alternative.
â€śIâ€™m afraid Queen Maria and I also have a previous
obligation,â€ť the rey said with an apologetic look.
Thank God. â€śIâ€™m sorry to hear thâ€“â€ś
â€ťPrincess Josefina, however, will do a fine job of
representing Costa Habichuela in our stead.â€ť
â€śYes, it would be my pleasure,â€ť the rich voice came again.
A responding shiver ran down Sebastianâ€™s spine. â€śThen tell
me where youâ€™re staying, and I shall be by at eight
â€śJosefina, please see to it,â€ť the rey said, turning to ask
Prinny about one of the many white marble figures lining
â€śWeâ€™re presently lodging at the home of Colonel Winston
Branbury, until we find a suitable consulate,â€ť the princess
said, taking Sebastianâ€™s arm.
â€śBranbury. I know it.â€ť He didnâ€™t want to stand still, so he
walked them away from the others, toward the nearest window.
â€śGood. I would be incapable of providing directions,â€ť she
continued with a smile, â€śbeing a stranger to London,
He found himself staring at her mouth, at her full lips
with their slight Spanish pout. â€śDonâ€™t worry yourself,â€ť he
forced out. â€śMy coach will arrive at Branbury House
promptly at eight.â€ť
Her smile deepened. â€śI do like a prompt gentleman. Rumor
has it, Your Grace, that you performed some heroics this
Sebastian shook his head. â€śI performed by duty. Thatâ€™s all.â€ť
â€śAh. Gallant and modest.â€ť
Attractive â€“ mesmerizing â€“ as she was, Princess Josefina
conversed in the same way, and seemed impressed by the same
things, as any other woman of his acquaintance. But those
eyes . . . â€śMy gallantry has yet to be proven,â€ť he said,
freeing his arm from her fingers and glad she wore gloves.
He had the distinct feeling that her flesh would burn his.
He backed to the door. â€śUntil this evening.â€ť
Out in the corridor, Sebastian leaned back against the wall
to catch his breath. He felt abruptly as though heâ€™d run
all the way from Marathon. What the devil was wrong with
Firstly, he should have realized what Prinnyâ€™s intentions
were and excused himself from participating. Secondly, he
was not some fresh-faced schoolboy. He was four-and-thirty,
for Godâ€™s sake. And heâ€™d set eyes on pretty chits before.
Heâ€™d married one. And he hadnâ€™t felt as . . . off-kilter
since then. Even ordinary conversation with her felt unique.
Shaking himself, he pushed upright and headed for the front
entrance of Carlton House. Heâ€™d been put in an unfortunate
position, but he would deal with it in the same way he did
everything else in his life â€“ swiftly and efficiently. As
for the rest, heâ€™d turned ignoring anything other than
family and business into an art form. Putting Josefina
Katarina Embry aside would be no challenge at all. He
wouldnâ€™t allow it to be.
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