Rescued by a Wicked Lord (Preview)

Chapter One

St James Square, London, 1816

The letter was propped up against the inkwell. As the Honourable Miss Jane Rayment – known to all as Jenny – entered her chambers that late afternoon, having just returned from an afternoon tea party at a grand house on Wimpole Street, she didn’t even notice it at first. Her mind was full of the croquet match and fine tea.

Jenny sighed heavily, taking off her pelisse. It had been a tedious afternoon. The afternoon tea had been hosted by Lady Norris, an old matron who loved nothing better than to gossip. The house had been filled with older ladies of a similar ilk. The only gentlemen in attendance had been foppish dandies who had pressed her into the game of croquet but ultimately disappointed her. They were all the same. And she was heartily bored of it all.

She turned around and suddenly saw the letter. Frowning, she slowly walked over to her desk, picking it up and turning it over in her hands. Curious. It wasn’t sealed with wax. Whoever had written the note either had decided not to bother with the formality or didn’t care to protect the contents of the letter. Her frown deepened. Farnham, the butler, had not told her she had received mail. And it was very out of character for him to place any mail in her chambers at any rate.

She opened the letter, reading quickly. As she progressed, the scrawled handwriting started to swim before her eyes. And a violent tremble possessed her, so bad that she could barely keep a grip on the letter to finish it.

Oh, dear Lord, she thought, feeling as if she was about to faint. She is ruined. We are all ruined!

Frantic, she read the letter again, hoping wildly that it didn’t say what she thought it said. But the handwriting and the message contained within had not changed in the second reading. It was still the same, laid out in front of her like a prophecy of doom. She could barely believe her eyes.

Jenny sank down into the chair at the desk, gripping the letter tightly. It was from her younger sister Margaret, known as Peggy to all. The Honourable Miss Margaret Rayment, the second daughter of a baron. A young lady of fine breeding and wealth, just like herself, who had been brought up properly and was expected to marry a fine gentleman in good time and in the proper manner. Just like she was. 

Except now, the whole world had suddenly been turned topsy turvy. 

Jenny forced herself to focus on the letter a third time. Her heart was racing wildly and she felt sick to her stomach as the appalling words came into focus once again.

Dearest Jenny,

I know that I will shock you with what I am about to tell you, but there is nothing I can do about it now. I must follow my heart. I know that you have always despaired of me, telling me that I must do my duty and suppress my instincts, but I am afraid they cannot be denied.

Dear sister, I am running away from home, to be with the man that I love with all my heart. A man who is kind and gentle and loving towards me. He will take care of me and it is my dearest hope that we can find a way to marry very soon. I know that our family will despair of me but it is for the best. I love you all dearly but it is my life and this is what I want.

You will probably wonder why I just did not stay and court my love in the proper way. The answer to that while he is the most wondrous man on this earth, I doubt that Papa would accept him as a suitor, and most definitely would not agree for us to marry. And we love each other too much to part. 

I do not wish to hurt any of you. Please believe me when I tell you that this is what I desire with my whole heart and the only path to true happiness for me.

Your loving sister,

Peggy

Jenny’s eyes filled with furious tears as she read the last line of the letter again. How could Peggy have done such a shocking and scandalous thing? How could she?

Anger was overtaking her shock now. A pure, righteous anger. Her younger sister Peggy, just eighteen years of age, had always been impulsive and imprudent. Jenny had always had to rein her in, tell her that she was behaving inappropriately. But Peggy was also incredibly kind and loving. She never set out to hurt anyone. Jenny had always been close with her, despite her impatience. The fact that her little sister had done something as enormous as this still took her breath away.

She gripped the letter so tightly in her hands it almost ripped. Peggy was self-absorbed and naïve. She fancied herself wildly in love with some gentleman or other every week. But even though Jenny had cautioned her to be more temperate with her affections, she had never believed that Peggy was susceptible to this. That she would conduct a secret love affair with an obviously inappropriate man and then run off with him.

She was ruined. They were all ruined.

The thought lodged into her mind again like a poisoned dart. It was the bald, appalling truth. As soon as word got out about Peggy’s misadventure, it would create scandal. Peggy’s chances of securing a good marriage would be gone…if they managed to get her back before she eloped. If she did elope then she must face the consequences of her choice. If the man was so inappropriate then her sister would never be accepted by good society again. Even if he was only moderately inappropriate her marriage would still be clouded by scandal forever.

But it wasn’t just what Peggy had done to herself. Her whole family would be tainted by association. Jenny’s own chances of securing a good marriage would be gone. Her family would be whispered about and shunned.

Jenny put her head in her hands, overcome. This was a disaster of truly epic proportions. What could she do to stem the bloodletting? How could her sister have done this?

Suddenly, her door burst open. Her mother was standing there. She looked stricken. Behind her stood Miss Jessup, who had a position in the household as a lady’s companion. Miss Jessup escorted Jenny and her sister to engagements when their mother wasn’t available to do it. The lady’s face was as white as chalk.

“Jenny,” cried her mother, entering the room. “Have you seen Peggy?”

Jenny stood up slowly, her heart racing wildly. It was all unfolding now. She recalled that Peggy had mentioned a walk in Hyde Park this afternoon, while Jenny attended the afternoon tea party. 

“Have you seen her?” pressed her mother, wild eyed. “Miss Jessup lost her in Hyde Park. She searched for over an hour but there was no sign of her.” She wrung her hands. “Dear Lord, has she been abducted by a white slave trader?”

Jenny shook her head. “No, Mama. She has not been abducted.” She held out the letter to her mother with a shaking hand. “This was on my desk when I returned this afternoon. Just read it.”

Her mother took the letter, reading it quickly. Her face drained of colour. She cried out, staggering towards Jenny, who lunged forward to support her. Miss Jessup was quickly in the room and by her mother’s side, supporting her as well.

“How could she?” Her mother’s voice as an anguished whisper. “Oh, my little girl! My Peggy! What have you done?”

Jenny felt sick to her stomach. “We must show this to Papa,” she said quickly. “Now. There is not a moment to lose.”

                                                                          ***

When they were all assembled at last in the parlour, Jenny handed the letter to her father. He had been sent for from his club on Bond Street and only just arrived home. Baron Rayment was ashen faced as he read the letter.

“This is disastrous,” he whispered, taking out a handkerchief and wiping sweat from his brow. “I know that Peggy is an impetuous girl but I never thought her capable of this.”

Jenny nodded. “I know. I was truly shocked as well.” She frowned, her stomach churning. “Peggy does not have a calculating bone in her body. I do not believe for a moment that this dastardly deed has been planned for weeks or months. I rather think she has been swept away and did it in the heat of the moment.”

Her mother moaned from where she was lying on the sofa. Miss Jessup was sitting by her side, holding her hand. The lady’s companion had just administered smelling salts to Lady Rayment. They had roused her briefly but now she was sinking back into her shock and pain.

Lord Rayment turned to Miss Jessup. “Tell us what happened, Miss Jessup. Do not leave even one detail out, however minute.”

Miss Jessup nodded. She was still very pale. “Yes, My Lord. We got to Hyde Park just after luncheon, leaving the carriage to walk along the river,” she said slowly. “Miss Rayment was in high spirits. She talked constantly, admiring some of the other ladies who were promenading. Then she stopped to talk with a small boy who was flying a kite.”

Lord Rayment nodded. “Go on.”

Miss Jessup took a deep breath. “She was talking to him for quite a while. I grew distracted and turned back to the river, watching a boat that was sailing along it.” She gave a strangled sob. “It was not for very long, Lord Rayment. Probably just five minutes. But when I turned back, she was gone. The boy was still flying his kite but Miss Rayment had vanished.”

Lady Rayment moaned. Jenny’s heart flipped over in her chest.

“I…I could not believe it at first,” continued the lady’s companion. “I asked the boy where the lady was who had been speaking to him. He merely said she had gone. His nanny did not see what direction she had gone in either.” She paused, taking another deep breath. “I stopped several people, asking if they had seen her. But none had. I was at a loss as to where to search. No one had seen her or knew what direction she had gone.”

Lord Rayment cursed underneath his breath. “And then?”

“I kept searching,” said Miss Jessup, in a strangled voice. “I searched for over an hour, stopping people to ask about her as I went. But no one had seen her and I could not find her.” She bit her lip, staring down at her hands. “Eventually I had to concede I had lost her and returned here immediately.”

Lady Rayment moaned again. “Oh, my Peggy! How could she have done this, husband?”

Lord Rayment was pacing the room now. “It is obvious that she planned to meet this…man at the park,” he said, in clipped tones. “She spoke to the boy with the kite to distract Miss Jessup. And then when the lady’s back was turned she seized her moment.” He paused. “She wrote the letter to Jenny and placed it in her room prior to the walk in the park. She knew she was going to do it when she got there.”

“Where is she?” cried Lady Rayment. “Where could she have gone?”

Lord Rayment’s lips thinned. “They are probably hiding out somewhere in London. It would make sense. It is a big city and anyone can disappear within its labyrinths if they desire.” He paused. “Unless they are already on the road towards Scotland to elope…”

“Gretna Green?” asked Jenny, her blood running cold. “I have heard that is the place where runaway couples go. They marry quickly over the blacksmith’s anvil and do not need their family’s permission.”

Lady Rayment sobbed quietly. “We are ruined. She is ruined. I cannot bear it!”

Jenny walked quickly to her mother’s side, taking her hand. “You must bear it, Mama. We have no choice now. We must stay strong.” She turned her face to her father. “What shall we do, Papa? There must be something!”

Her father stopped pacing. He held up his hands in a hopeless gesture. “They could be anywhere,” he muttered, shaking his head. “I am at a loss. I am unfamiliar with the backstreets of London. It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

Jenny frowned. “You are certain they will be hiding in an unsavoury area of London?”

Her father nodded grimly. “Of course they shall be, Jenny. If this man who persuaded her to run away could not court her in the proper manner then he probably he has limited funds. Apart from the fact that they would not wish to stay in any area where they might be spotted. In unsavoury areas they can just vanish into the crowd.”

Jenny rubbed her mother’s hand absently. Her mind was racing now. There was still time to salvage this. No one knew that Peggy had run away except her family and Miss Jessup. And she knew that the lady’s companion was stoutly loyal. She would not breathe a word of this to anyone.

“Do you have any idea who it could be, Jenny?” pressed her father. “Who she has run away with?”

Jenny shrugged her shoulders helplessly. “Peggy falls in and out of love on a regular basis,” he said slowly. “She develops infatuations quickly but soon tires of them, moving on to the next gentlemen. I must admit I have stopped listening to her as I thought it all harmless.”

Her father ran a hand through his hair. “It seems then that a scandal is about to envelop this family,” he said slowly, his voice heavy with despair. “We can only contain her disappearance for so long. Word shall leak out about it.”

Her mother suddenly sat up, wild eyed. “Can we just not say she is staying somewhere? That she has gone to the country to stay with my brother or some such thing?”

Lord Rayment sighed heavily. “We would only be delaying the inevitable, my dear. If Peggy stays missing, she will be spotted eventually. Or if she does actually elope, her marriage will become known.” He paused. “They will have to live somewhere, after all. Even if it is just in a hovel.”

Jenny’s heart filled with pain. She didn’t want such a fate for her little sister. Silly, impetuous Peggy who did not realise she was throwing away her life. She gritted her teeth. She would not let it happen. She must not let it happen.

Lady Rayment clutched her head in her hands. “Oh, it is too much! I cannot endure it!”

Jenny turned to Miss Jessup. “Would you escort my mother to her chambers? I think she needs to lie down.”

“Of course,” said Miss Jessup, helping Lady Rayment to her feet. “Come along, My Lady. We shall get you settled and you can have a nice long nap.”

“Thank you,” whispered Lady Rayment tremulously. 

Miss Jessup supported her mother as they left the room. When they were gone, Jenny stood up, facing her father.

“Leave it to me,” she said slowly. “I will find Peggy before scandal erupts. I promise you.”

Her father frowned. “How so, Jenny? You are not familiar with any place they may be hiding out with either.”

Jenny nodded. “No, I am not. But I know my sister, better than anyone.” She took a deep, ragged breath. “I am going to go to my room and think carefully upon it. There will be something Peggy said which will point us in the right direction. An offhand comment, a slip of the tongue. Something which is waiting to be discovered.”

Her father sighed heavily. “Very well. There is nothing more to be done this day.” He gazed sorrowfully towards the window. “It is dusk now. Soon it shall be night. It breaks my heart to think of my little girl out there…”

Jenny walked swiftly to him, placing a hand on his arm. “Do not worry, Papa. I shall find her and bring her home. I swear it to you.” She took another deep breath. “Mama shall be in bed for the evening now. She is too upset to come down again. Perhaps you could ask Cook if I could have dinner upon a tray in my room, while I ponder all this?”

Her father nodded. “An excellent idea. I will dine alone in my study as well. I do not think any of us have the heart to sit down to a family dinner.”

Jenny’s eyes filled with tears. “No. All of our hearts are broken.” She paused. “When I come down tomorrow I shall have a plan to find her, Papa. I swear it to you.”

“You are a good girl, my Jenny,” said her father, looking overwhelmed and very weary. “What would we do without you? You have always looked out for Peggy. It has not always been an easy task. And this is the greatest challenge of them all.”

He kissed her gently on the forehead. Jenny forced a smile onto her face before exiting the room and wearily climbing the stairs to her chambers.

When she was alone at last, she sat at her desk and opened the letter again. This time she read it with dispassionate eyes. She was searching for clues, as to who this mysterious man was, or where her sister had vanished to. But no matter how hard she searched, she could not find one.

With a sigh, she folded the letter, drumming her fingers on the desk. There must be a way to figure this out. But what?

She was so tired and overwrought she could barely keep her eyes open. All she wanted to do was crawl into her bed and rest her eyes, just like her mother was doing. But Lady Rayment had never been a strong woman. She had a nervous disposition, taking fright at the mildest things. And this was a real calamity. A true disaster. Jenny would have been astonished if her mother could cope with it at all.

Jenny took a deep breath, trying to focus. She didn’t have time to crawl into bed and escape this situation. Every single minute counted. Her younger sister was out there somewhere. She was lost in this vast city. That was if she wasn’t in a carriage heading to Scotland.

She frowned. No, she didn’t think she was. Peggy had not said in the letter that she was eloping straight away. What had she said? She opened up the letter again and found the reference she was thinking of.

He will take care of me and it is my dearest hope that we can find a way to marry very soon.

Jenny pressed her lips together. She had the worst feeling that the cad never intended to marry her at all. Perhaps he had sweet talked her into running away with him on the promise of it but it would never eventuate unless their father settled Peggy’s dowry. And how could he do that when they were nowhere to be found?

She tossed the letter aside. With a deep breath, she reached for a fresh sheet of parchment and the quill. She dipped it into the inkpot. She would write down anything and everything that occurred to her. Anything that might lead to Peggy’s whereabouts. It would be a start, at least. And then she would read through it and take it from there.

She took a deep breath, casting her mind back. Within minutes, she was scribbling away, so focused she lost track of time entirely.

Chapter Two

The next day, Jenny slowly headed down the stairs, towards the dining room. Her head felt like it was stuffed with rags. She had barely slept a wink. It had been very late indeed before she had finally blown out the candle and crawled into bed. When she had looked into her dressing table mirror this morning, she had been appalled to see dark circles under her eyes.

She clutched a piece of parchment in her hand, along with Peggy’s letter. It was her list of possibilities of where Peggy might be and who she may have run away with. But it was lamentably short. Even though she had toiled away at it for hours she kept hitting dead ends.

Her stomach growled slightly. She had been so intent on her task last night that she had barely touched the food that had been sent up to her on a tray. She exhaled slowly. She must eat – it was imperative that she keep her strength up if she was to conquer this mystery.

She pushed open the door of the dining room. Then she stopped short. Her father was sitting at the head of the table in his usual position. There was no sign of her mother. Instead, sitting next to him was a gentleman, buttering a piece of toast, as if he had not a care in the world.

She gasped. It was Harry Wycliff, the Viscount Dalrymple. Of all the people that could be sitting in here this morning, breaking their fast, she had not expected him.

She glared at the two men, her heart racing. What was he doing here? A gentleman that she despised more than anyone in this world.

They both stood up. “Ah, there you are, Jenny,” said her father, his voice thick with exhaustion. “I was wondering if you would come down. Your dear mother is still abed, I am afraid. She is not up to dining with us this morn.”

Jenny nodded cautiously. “I see.” She kept glaring at Harry Wycliff. “And what, pray tell, are you doing here, sir?”

Harry laughed easily. “You have such a pleasant way about you, do you not, Miss Jane? Such a charmer even first thing in the morning.”

Jenny glared at him harder. He knew how much she hated being called Jane. She was Jenny to everyone and always had been. He knew that perfectly well. But of course Harry Wycliff was only trying to rile her like he always did. It seemed nothing ever changed.

She studied him covertly. The same tall, broad shouldered figure. The same chestnut brown hair, spilling into his eyes. The same moss green eyes that were always laughing at her. She had not seen Harry Wycliff in an age – probably over a year, at least. And it was just as unpleasant as always.

“Sit down, Jenny,” said her father quickly. “Eat something.” He took a deep, ragged breath. “I have called upon Harry to assist us in finding your sister. We have been talking for over fifteen minutes now.”

Jenny sat down opposite them. Even though she had been desperately hungry, it seemed like her appetite had vanished again. Pursing her lips, she picked up a piece of toast, applying butter and jam. She was so furiously angry at this unexpected development that her hands were shaking.

Harry Wycliff ate his own piece of toast slowly, staring at her with curious eyes. As if she were an insect that had just crawled along his path, she thought fiercely. Suddenly, she was extremely conscious of how she must look. She had barely sat still for her toilette this morning. Her hair had been scraped back into a severe bun and she had wriggled into any old gown. With dismay, she stared down at it. It was creased and had an ink stain on one sleeve.

And she couldn’t even think about those dark circles underneath her eyes.

She chewed her toast, glaring back at him. She didn’t care. Let him see her at her worst. It was only Harry Wycliff, the most infuriating man she had ever met. And it wasn’t every day that she dealt with the disappearance of her only sister, was it?

Her father poured her a cup of tea, handing it to her. “Drink up, Jenny. You look as pale as a ghost. How did you sleep?”

“Like a baby,” she said, through gritted teeth. “How do you think I slept, Papa? Probably as well as you did.”

Harry gave a bark of laughter. “Quite understandable in the circumstances.” He finished his toast, picking up his teacup. “It seems dear Peggy is leading everyone on a merry dance indeed.”

Jenny stared at him sourly. “That is my sister you are talking about,” she cautioned. “I shall not have you disrespecting her, no matter what she has done.”

Lord Rayment sighed heavily. “Jenny, could you please lower your hackles,” he said slowly. “Harry is only here to help as I said. We do not want to scare him away before we have accomplished anything at all.”

Jenny sipped her tea, staring at Harry over the rim of the cup. “Why are you here, Harry? What could you possibly offer to this appalling situation?”

Harry lowered his teacup. “Actually, I can offer quite a lot,” he said slowly. “Lord Rayment has told me everything about what happened. Particularly the fact that Peggy and her mystery man are probably still in London.” He paused, watching her carefully. “I know most areas of London quite well. Including the unsavoury ones…which is where they will be, more than likely.”

Jenny’s face burnt. She didn’t like this one bit. She didn’t like the fact that her father had confided in Harry Wycliff about Peggy. It should be a family matter. And Harry Wycliff definitely was not family.

She narrowed her eyes. Harry Wycliff was like a thorn in her side that reappeared and caused her pain every now and again. He was the son and heir of the Earl of Hereford, one of her father’s oldest friends. She had known him since she was born. The two families didn’t spend a lot of time together but when they did, Harry had always been there. 

He was also a fixture on the London social scene. She ran in to him at various events. They usually ignored each other, or else Harry couldn’t resist baiting her. They had never gotten along. Jenny thought him at best insufferably conceited and at worst a degenerate. He had a fondness for dice and cards. And she had heard rumours that he liked to frequent bawdy houses as well.

“Really,” she said, through gritted teeth. “Well, I suppose you would know all the unsavoury areas, wouldn’t you?”

“Indeed,” said Harry, in a dry voice.

“He does,” declared Lord Rayment, not batting an eyelid. “I am afraid that I am ignorant of most areas on the other side of the Thames but I am awfully glad that you are not, Harry.”

Harry smiled. A small smile, almost secretive. Jenny felt like leaning over the table and slapping him across the face.

She rounded on her father. “Papa, I said that I would take care of this! And you agreed. I do not understand why he is here at all. He is not even family. It is ludicrous.” She lowered her voice. “We do not want word getting out about this.”

Her father looked astonished. “Harry is the son of one of my oldest friends,” he said. “I can count on his discretion.” He cleared his throat. “Well, what have you come up with, Jenny? Perhaps we might get a lead or two.”

Jenny opened the list, staring down at it. “It is not very much,” she said, biting her lip. “But it is a start I think.”

Harry leaned back in his chair, gazing at her steadily. “Do go on.”

She took a deep breath. “Well…I have made a list of potential men and a list of potential places she might have gone to. Which do you want to hear first?”

“The places,” said Harry, his eyes shining. “Because at the end of the day it does not matter who she is with as long as she can be found.”

Jenny frowned. “Very well.” She exhaled slowly. “There is her good friend Alice Bell. She moved with her family to Kent a year ago…”

“Unlikely,” interrupted Harry. “Alice Bell’s family are well to do. They would never harbour runaways no matter how close Peggy and Alice are.”

Jenny’s frown deepened. “I suppose you are right.” She bit her lip. “Then there is our old governess, Miss Davidson, who lives in Cheapside. Peggy was extremely close to her and has stayed in contact. Plus, Cheapside has the benefit of being in London and is not a fashionable area where Peggy might be seen.”

“No,” said Harry, rolling his eyes. “I remember your Miss Davidson. She was a prim old spinster devoted to going to church. She would never harbour a runaway couple who are not married. Apart from the fact that she lives in a boarding house with three other spinsters.”

“How do you know that?” cried Jenny. “Do you keep tabs on everybody?”

Harry smiled secretively. “Perhaps I do.” He leaned further back in the chair, so far that Jenny thought the legs might suddenly slip. “What do you have next?”

She sighed painfully, staring down at her list. “A bookshop called Moon’s on Harley Street,” she said slowly. “Peggy likes going there and has struck up a friendship with the proprietor, Mr. Moon. I think it a long shot, but it is worth a look…”

“No, it is not,” declared Harry, his eyes sparking with impatience. “Just because Peggy has bought a book or two from the man does not mean he would let her and her lover into his home. I know that shop. Mr. Moon lives above it with his family. A wife and five children, all crammed into three tiny rooms. They would not have room to swing a cat in there, never mind harbour two fugitives.”

“You truly do know London, don’t you?” asked Lord Rayment, in an admiring voice.

Jenny ignored her father, glaring at Harry. “I said it was a long shot. Do you want to hear my last idea on where she may be?”

Harry sighed. “Go on.”

Jenny stared down at her list, feeling irritable. This was one of the reasons she couldn’t stand Harry Wycliff. He was always so dismissive and thought himself superior in every way.

“Peggy has recently discovered charity,” she said, raising her chin. “She sometimes volunteers at a soup kitchen on the cusp of the Devil’s Acre.” She stared at Harry triumphantly. “A very bad area of London, you must agree. The lady she reports to is called Mrs. Daltrey. She lives not far from there with her physician husband.”

Harry sighed again, drumming his fingers on the table. “That might be your best shot. But still extremely unlikely. Do you know anything about this Mrs. Daltrey’s home? Chances are she has limited room and a houseful of children.” 

Jenny shrugged her shoulders, her irritation increasing by the second.

He shook his head. “Peggy would not ask anyone she knows for harbour, Jenny. There are two of them and she would not be able to trust they wouldn’t tell. That is why she and her mystery man will be hidden away in London at some cheap boarding house. It gives them anonymity.”

Jenny picked up her teacup, sipping it gingerly. It was cold. She placed the cup back on the table. Harry kept staring at her, in an almost amused way. Another wave of irritation overcame her. He was treating this as if it was just a harmless lark, when it was no such thing. 

“Let us turn to the potential lovers,” said Harry quickly. “Reel them off.”

Jenny’s flush deepened. Did he have to use that particular word? It made Peggy sound like she was an outrageous flirt…or even worse. Peggy might be many things, but Jenny refused to believe that she entertained men quite that closely. Her sister merely became infatuated easily but it was all innocent. Peggy was a romantic at heart.

She stared down at her list again. “Mr. Adolphus Barnwell. He admires Peggy and I think she might have been partial to him once…”

Harry gave a bark of shocked laughter. “Barnwell? You must be joking. The man is a milksop, attached to his mother’s apron strings. He would never have the gall or the recklessness to do something like this.” He waved his hand dismissively. “Next.”

Jenny glared at him. “Mr. Thomas Curry. Peggy was quite taken with him a month ago…”

Harry sighed. “No, Jenny. You are behind the times. Curry just announced his betrothal to Lady Agatha Hartwell, no less. He is on the rise and would hardly lose his rich, titled fiancée for Peggy.”

“Why not?” shot back Jenny, feeling perverse. “Peggy is every bit as lovely as she is! She might not have a title but she is the daughter of a baron!”

“It is no reflection on Peggy,” said Harry slowly, picking up another piece of toast and buttering it. “But let us be realistic about it. Peggy does not come with a substantial dowry. And Thomas Curry is a fortune hunter. He would not be turned by a pretty face when he has everything he ever wanted within his grasp.”

“Perhaps,” said Jenny, in a sour voice. “Well, I have only one other likely candidate then. It is Mr. Samuel Yorke. He and Peggy seemed close for a while, always dancing with each other at balls. She told me she thought him very handsome.”

Harry bit into his second piece of toast. “I think not. I know Yorke well. He actually has a very strong moral code when it comes to the ladies. He would never run away with anyone. He is strictly by the book, as they say. I rather think he is thinking about becoming a vicar.”

Jenny tossed the list aside. “Well, that is all I can think of.” She stood up, her back stiff with hurt pride. “I can see you both do not require me here at all. I shall leave you to it…”

She started to walk away.

“Jenny,” called her father, in an exasperated voice. “Will you please come and sit down again? I have not dismissed anything you have said. We are all on the same side here, after all. And three heads are better than two.”

She stopped, glaring back at them. She still wanted to flounce out of the room. Anything to get away from the insufferable Harry Wycliff, who thought he knew everything. But then she hesitated. She couldn’t let hurt pride stop her from helping to find her sister. Her father was right. They needed to all work together.

Sighing dramatically, she walked back to her chair, sitting down. It was all she could do to not stick out her bottom lip, in the manner of a sullen, sulky child. 

“This is what I propose,” said Lord Rayment, looking pained. “Harry has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of London. And you, Jenny, have a comprehensive knowledge of your sister. I think that the two should be brought together.”

“What do you mean?” asked Jenny, still feeling sullen.

“I mean that I want you two to work together on this,” continued her father, massaging the top of his nose. “I think that if you work together there is the greatest chance of finding Peggy and bringing her safely home. What do you both say?”

“I do not think that is a great idea,” said Jenny quickly, frowning.

“Nor do I,” said Harry, almost as quickly. “Jenny would only get in my way.” He gave her a brilliant smile. “I mean no offence.”

“None taken,” said Jenny sourly. “You would be in my way, too, I am afraid.”

There was an awkward silence. Jenny and Harry glared at each other across the table like two recalcitrant children, haggling over a toy. Jenny quickly looked away. She wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of thinking he had gotten beneath her skin in any way.

Lord Rayment rolled his eyes. “For heaven’s sake, this is ridiculous,” he said slowly. “You both are letting your pride stand in the way of the best outcome. I know that you both desire Peggy’s safe return. This is the best way to achieve it. Do it for my sake.”

Jenny stared closely at her father. He looked truly awful. His colour was still ashen and he had a panicked air about him. She was sure that he had barely slept. He was terribly worried about Peggy but he would be worried about Mama as well. And on top of that he was trying to keep the whole household from falling apart around them.

She looked back at Harry. He was looking a little shamefaced now, fidgeting in his chair. He refused to meet her eye. Instead, he looked at Lord Rayment, his gaze softening. 

“I suppose Jenny’s help would be good,” he said grudgingly. “She does know a lot about Peggy and how she thinks and might behave.”

Jenny sighed. “And I suppose your help would be good as well, Harry. Considering you are so intimately acquainted with the seedy side of London.”

He glared at her, but she didn’t react.

“Excellent,” said her father, beaming. “That is settled then.”

Jenny stood up. “I want to go and check on Mama,” she said. “Will you still be here after I do so, Harry?”

He nodded cautiously. “Yes, I think so. I will talk with Lord Rayment for a bit longer then try to put some feelers out there.” He sighed. “I have many connections around London. I just have to say the word to them and perhaps they may have seen Peggy and her lover around the traps.”

She smiled tightly. “Very good. Then I shall see you before you go and we can make some plans.” She paused. “Thank you for your help. It is most appreciated.” The last comment rang with insincerity, but at least she had said it.

Harry wasn’t fooled. He smiled tightly, obviously wishing that he wasn’t saddled with her any more than she wished she wasn’t saddled with him. What a truly unlikely investigating team they made.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” said her father wearily. “Miss Jessup has upped and left us. She headed off early this morning at first light, saying something about not wanting to be stuck on a sinking ship.”

“Really,” said Jenny, stunned. “Well, you can never tell with people, can you? I thought her so loyal.” She shook her head angrily. “I hope you do not give her a reference, Papa. She did lose Peggy after all. In daylight, surrounded by people. For all we know she may have been distracted for half an hour. She may have forgotten about Peggy entirely.”

She marched out of the room, feeling the beginning of a headache coming on. A truly thumping one that was starting to radiate outwards. If she wasn’t careful she would have to lie down with the curtains closed and that would be no good at all. She needed to be fresh and focused. Peggy’s fate hung in the balance.

First Peggy’s disappearance. Then she was saddled with Harry Wycliff. And now Miss Jessup had deserted them in their hour of need.

It was going to be a long, trying day indeed.


“Rescued by a Wicked Lord” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Miss Jenny Rayment knows that the threat of scandal is hovering over her entire family… Her impetuous younger sister has run away with a wicked man, leaving all of their futures hanging in the balance. She must be found and brought home, at once. When Jenny’s father suggests working alongside the son of an old family friend, she is violently resistant. For she knows the alluring Harry Wycliff of old and he has always been her enemy. She cannot work with him, even for the sake of her beloved sister. Can she?

A race through the dark streets of London to find a fallen lady begins…

Lord Harry Wycliff is no happier to be saddled with the spirited and stubborn Jenny Rayment than she is to be saddled with him. He only agreed to help find her sister as a favour to her family. He has always teased and tormented the enthralling Jenny and he certainly doesn’t like her any more than she likes him. Working side by side to find her errant sister is going to be a complete nightmare… is it not?

Hidden passion cannot be denied forever though…

As Jenny and Harry traverse the seedy streets of London, they discover they perhaps don’t know each other as well as they thought they did. The strange, fiery attraction that has most inexplicably arisen between them is real… but could it ever last when they started out as enemies? Yet just when it seems like Jenny might finally trust Harry, the world is turned upside down, once again…

“Rescued by a Wicked Lord” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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