The Advent of Lady Madeline: Excerpt

He had his future all planned out–until she turned it upside down…

There you are!” Lady Juliana Lyons exclaimed thankfully, as she lifted up the skirts of the counterpane. “Here, puss, puss, puss…”

The front half of her vanished under Hugo’s bed, then emerged some moments later, clutching a squirming tortoiseshell cat to her chest.

“She must have got in while my valet was bringing in my trunks,” Hugo remarked to the tall, dark-haired Lady Madeline Lyons, who was regarding her sister and the cat with mingled relief and exasperation. “And then slipped under the bed unnoticed. I didn’t notice, until I sat down on the bed myself and heard her cry out. It was—a most extraordinary sound.”

Lady Madeline’s lips twitched into a reluctant smile. “It is indeed. I hope you weren’t too startled, Lord Saxby.”

“Not in the least,” Hugo assured her. He certainly wasn’t about to tell his host’s lovely daughters that he’d all but jumped out of his skin on hearing that piercing caterwaul.

“Thank you so much, Lord Saxby,” Lady Juliana said breathlessly, scrambling to her feet. “I’m sorry Volumnia’s been such a nuisance. But she’s only like this because she’s going to have kittens!”

Good God! Hugo eyed the cat with fresh alarm, noticing that she was indeed noticeably enceinte. Even further along than Charley was. He doubted that his sister would appreciate the comparison. “Er, is the blessed event due to occur soon?”

Lady Juliana regarded the cat critically. “I can’t be sure. Maybe in the next day or so?”

“As long as it’s not in anyone else’s chamber! She had her last litter in our brother Gervase’s bed,” Lady Madeline explained to Hugo. “He expressed himself—rather forcefully about it, then and now.”

“He threatened to turn her into a muff,” Lady Juliana reported with a giggle, cuddling her pet close. “And to do the skinning himself.”

Hugo felt a decided twinge of sympathy for Lord Gervase. The beast—Volumnia?—made a baleful sound between a mew and a growl that her mistress ignored.

“Well, now that you’ve got her, Ju, we should be on our way,” Lady Madeline said, rather pointedly. She turned to Hugo. “Thank you, Lord Saxby, for your assistance. We apologize for disturbing you.”

“Not at all. I was glad to be of help.” He paused, then surprised himself by inquiring, “I shall see you at dinner, then, Lady Madeline?”

Her eyes widened fractionally. “Yes, at dinner. Good evening, my lord.” She ushered herself and her sister out of his room.

Hugo closed the door, leaned against it bemusedly. Barely two hours since his arrival at Denforth Castle, and things were already proving more—eventful than he was accustomed to. Not in a bad way, though he hoped the rest of the family livestock weren’t in the habit of invading the guest chambers!

Although it was almost worth the trouble, he mused, if it brought such enchanting visitors as the Lyons sisters to his door. Lady Juliana looked no older than twelve, but she was already a charmer, with that bright hair and those sparkling blue eyes. No doubt she’d have suitors by the dozen when she made her debut and started thinking about young men instead of cats.

Lady Madeline’s looks were equally striking, though she was a very different type from her sister. More like her mother the Duchess, whom Hugo had finally met on his arrival: the same dark hair, fine bones, and ivory complexion—even the same air of self-possession. But while Her Grace’s eyes were hazel, Lady Madeline’s were closer to green. Perhaps with a touch of blue, Hugo mused, remembering his first good view of them. Or grey.

Changeable eyes. Sea-colored eyes. Lady Althea had blue eyes—light and pretty as a spring sky. He could not recall them being any other color but blue.

Not that there was anything wrong with that, he told himself hastily. Blue eyes were lovely and—in Lady Althea’s case—made a perfect match with her butter-blonde hair and pink-and-white complexion. Just what one would expect in an English rose.

He ignored the voice in his head that insinuated that the unexpected could be lovely too. And that English roses were not the only flowers in the garden. Pushing that traitorous thought aside, he summoned Gibson to help him dress for dinner.


Reviews

“Madeline and Hugo are both appealing characters… and their romance is touching and smoothly written…. What I liked best about the story though, was the unusual dynamics of Madeline’s family.”–Janine Ballard, Dear Author

 


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