Friday, March 5, 2021

A scandalous house party I was fortunate to attend!

Dear Sunday Reporter:

I find it imperative that I comment upon the house party to celebrate the May Day events at Lord and Lady Courtland’s home this past week. While I decline to name us for discretion among the ton, my husband and I are  always invited to the annual event. This year’s frolic was truly a romp!

One lady was known to have secluded herself with a man she barely knows. Another had a most unusual public argument with a gentleman who heretofore was her childhood friend and now, oddly, seems to be her lover! The bride whose wedding we were to celebrate ran off. We know not where, nor does the groom, poor man. And her friend, who has lost two betrotheds, one to casualty of war and another to a terrible catarrh, took up with the vicar and then she disappeared!

Now I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, what kind of party was this to be? 

One shudders to think of the consequences. 

One hopes all these young ladies recover their decorum. Further, one earnestly wishes these young men attend to their manners and their duties. Proposals are expected! Special licenses necessary! Weddings should be soon.

And my, my. I do look forward to next year’s May Day Frolic. Don’t you?


              A lady of fine repute



She believed she destroyed any man who loved her. 

Lady Willa Sheffield had beauty, education, charm, a handsome dowry…and a curse for killing any man who proposed. When she falls for a man who has favor with someone who answers all prayers, she questions if she’s right.

He would move Heaven and Earth to marry her.

Reverend Charles Compton has everything a lady could require: wit, ethics, good family and stable position. But no money and no title. And for a lady who is an earl’s daughter to wed well, she needs a man of some gravitas. But a vicar of a small parish—with rousing political ideas and little income—must move Heaven and earth to make a good future.

Who can doubt the determination or the inventiveness of a man in love?

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Who is a true heroine? What will she do to save those she loves?

A true heroine is not hard to find!

We know that!

Those who are true heroines were those who volunteered during World War One to help save lives of Doughboys!

Five intriguing questions about them!

1. Would you wash your hair in your helmet?

They had to because water was scarce!

2. Would you work in a foreign country for $50 a month?

That was the pay for a nurse, which was half what an Army private earned!

3. For that $50 a month would you work 12 or 24 or 36 hours straight?

As the fighting became more intense, nurses did stand and work hours and days on end.

4. Would you sleep in a hammock in a wardroom in the bottom of a merchant marine ship for 16 nights?

To sail from American ports, nurses did sleep in the holds of ships.

5.  Would you travel on a train for 24 hours which had no bathroom facilities?

American nurses did all of that! And more! 

I hope you will read about them in HEROIC MEASURES, on sale on KOBO until March 1!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Dear Mama, Not all Vicars are prudes! I know!

Amazon! KU!  99 cents Only on Pre-order NOW!

St. Andrew’s in the Field
Courtland Green

The gifts that the Good Lord had granted to Charles Compton, younger son of the Duke of Southbourne, had been many. Sound body, quick mind, kind father, loving mother, formidable education, stout-heart friends and few…if any, foes. He counted these regularly. One should, one would if one were the vicar of a parish with a congregation of one hundred and two souls who were, usually, moderate in their passions and hard-working for their master. Charlie—for he had always thought of himself in that informal way which was the address his mother had used—had come to his calling easily, at his father’s encouragement and at a young age. So when he had chosen to leave his first parish in Sussex and gone off to fight the wars in Spain and France, he’d done it out of as big a love, this time for Country and Crown. His service abroad had been long—years in fact. That it had also opened his eyes to the inhumanity of man to man was a dastardly result. Hard to swallow, really. So when he left the chaplaincy of the Army and returned home last year after Bony had abdicated, his displeasure with the failings of the human spirit had tempted him to leave the clergy altogether. Yet a man must be practical, eh?

And so he had resumed his morning practice of counting his blessings. Soon he was in search of his next assignment and soon took the offer of the Viscount Courtland. St. Andrew’s was a lovely chapel on the man’s estate. And the living he offered Charlie was extraordinarily generous, given the penury that most Anglican clergymen were thrust into upon taking a parish to themselves. That good fortune (not to put too much glory to five hundred pounds a year) was added to Charlie’s daily list.

Among those gifts he praised heaven for, no woman had ever appeared. Oh, he had enjoyed his early years as a young buck in London. His social status what it was, he had similarly well-bred friends and family whose invitations to balls and house parties he always accepted. He knew the One Hundred well. A duke’s son, you know, never lacked for acquaintances or opportunities. His friends and those who were not had marveled that he had decided to enter the Church. 

“Trade?” asked one of his second cousins. “Join me. Sugar from the Indies. I need help.”

But Charlie had declined adventure in the jungles of the New World in favor of the church.

“How can you get on?” his friend, Winston Fullerton had pressed him. “You’ll never have a penny to call your own.”

Money had never been lacking in Charlie’s life so at that point, he easily answered Fullerton that coin was not what made people happy.

“And marriage? Children?” Fullerton had continued. “What if you fall in love?”

“Love,” Charlie had answered, “could come in church as well as out of it.” Or he hoped that would be so. After all, he’d had a general introduction to the varieties of male-female attractions. He had experienced lust, a sad but true admission. Most of those incidents, however, had occurred in his callow youth and five times in Spain (yes, he recalled each one vividly) after imbibing more than a temperate amount of bad Spanish red wine.

Now he was thirty years of age and so, he began to doubt love might come his way. In fact, he doubted love in general came to men easily. He’d seen men slaver after nubile debutantes and wonder at the attraction. He’d seen others mad to possess another man’s wife, a widow or a doxy from the streets. Charlie had admired a few women for their beauty or their skills at cards. But no one woman had ever captured his imagination with a look or a word…or a quest for understanding.

So it was with surprise at himself that he found a woman, head bowed, in one of his pews one spring afternoon, her ebony hair an intricate crown upon her head, her long gloved fingers clasped together in plea, as she argued with God.

“I don’t see why you would do this.” She shook her head, her eyes squeezed tightly closed. “It’s really quite unfair, you know. I’ve been very good.”

He put one hand to the curved back of the sturdy oak pew. He should tell her he was here.

“I’ve been virtuous, Lord. Though who wants to be?” She raised her face. “I’d like a man to savor. A true love to climb into bed with. Just like Esme.”

What? Really? Esme Harvey was Viscount Courtland’s daughter. Esme had climbed into bed with… Oh, this is none of my business! 

“As her friend, I’ve stood by her through all her antics.”

Charlie smiled. A boon companion, eh? Well, hell. Ahem. We all need one of those. Or more!

“To my mother and father, I’ve been respectful. Obedient. Even to the point that now, I cannot be!”

If now she was going to confess sins, he should really make himself known.

“But you know that if I stop agreeing to marry, they will think me odd. I’m not odd!” She sat taller and the lovely line of her profile down the lone line of her neck to her charmingly generous points of her breasts was a vision that set his pulse pounding. And another part of his anatomy stirred to life too.

He raised his hand to announce himself when—

“I will kill them!”

What? Kill? Who?

“You cannot,” she seethed with despair and dabbed at the corners of her eyes, “you simply cannot betroth me to another man.”

No. Definitely not.

That hair, that perfect nose, those wonderfully full lips, that throat and those breasts belong to a man who could savor them…like me.

Friday, November 27, 2020

True heroines to honor!

Many of you know that I am unreal life Jo-Ann Power, that I write historical fiction and mysteries! I republish my 2013 novel, HEROIC MEASURES out January 18. And because of all the research I've done over the decades, I also serve as the curator for the U.S. National World War One Commission for ARMY NURSE COPRS.

Recently, I went to Fort Sam Houston here in San Antonio and took more pictures (most of them obscure and never before published) to show you just how marvelous these 22,000+ women were who traveled far from their homes to nurse wounded Doughboys and comfort the dying.

Please note the descriptions, many of them the originals on the photos. All are black and white and some have been reproduced over the century. But they show how courageous these women were to leave their homes, their towns and travel more than 3500 miles to serve their fellow Americans in need.

I hope you will read my novel, researched for decades, about them, HEROIC MEASURES. Find it here:





For Gwen Spencer, fighting battles is nothing new. An orphan sent to live with a vengeful aunt, Gwen picked coal and scrubbed floors to earn her keep. But when she decides to become a nurse, she steps outside the boundaries of her aunts demands…and into a world of her own making.

But that world has gone to war.

Volunteering for the Army Nurse Corps, Gwen promises to serve until the end of the conflict, no matter how long that is. She leaves her small hometown with her friends and sails away in the dead of night, chased by German U-boats. Ashore she discovers her new world is dangerous and demanding, helping doctors heal thousands of sick and injured Doughboys in primitive conditions.

Shes determined to overcome the heartbreaks and the challenges. Becoming an expert at anesthesia, she volunteers to go to the front lines with an acute care team. Braving bombings and the madness of men crazed by pain and despair, she surprises herself when she falls in love with a man she admires—and should not want.

Amid the chaos, she learns the measure of her own bravery to bear any burden, pay any price and claim the one man she adores as she becomes all that she desires.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

My dear lady, where do you hide your pistol? In your...fluffy...muff?

We've all seen the movie vamp who hides her tiny gun in her purse. Or the back of her jeans. Or slips her dagger into her fishnets. Yes?

But have you seen a lady with a gun in her muff?

Trust me. It will be the New Thing.


Because it was an Old Thing. This Old Thing is from 1805. In its own charming case, this .31 calibre Flint lock pistol was Just the Thing for a lady in need. If she were traveling alone, or about to accost a gentleman, or perhaps even defend herself from lecherous cads, she needed such a handy little item.

Many women carried them, concealed in their fur muffs. True.

My latest heroine, Miss Esme Harvey, has one. Her papa purchased it from a down and out French aristo who needed the money, you see. And Esme has always loved shooting...usually grouse, but she has no qualms about shooting a man if he gets too uppity.

And now, here is Esme with the man she is to marry...until she decides she shan't.

Why? Because Papa will suffer if she does. So will her husband. So she skips town the morning of the ceremony.  Tsk tsk.

Miss Harvey's Horribly Lovable Fiancé, Four Weddings and a Frolic, Book 3

Theirs was to be The Wedding of the Season!

Until the bride ran away and...

The groom chased after her.

Then she pulled her pistol on him…

And thankfully aimed poorly.

How can this escapade end, if she's marrying him for his titles?

And he's marrying her for her money?

Yet their affair appears to be the Romance of the Year?

Excerpt, All Rights reserved. Copyright 2020, Cerise DeLand.

By their fourth meeting—another ball—Northington had been introduced to Esme by a mutual friend. As he took her hand to lead her in a quadrille, he revealed that he’d come only because he’d learned she would attend.

“I’m complimented,” she said, as a challenge to cover her admission of delight.

“Good. Shall I ask you to call me by my given name?”

“You could.”

“Giles. Will you use it?”

“When it’s suitable.”

“You are careful.” He grinned. “I like that about you.”

“Evidently not careful enough. When we met, you found me alone in a most unsuitable place.”

“As you found me.”

She could not help the appeal of his charming mouth. “Did she find you?”

“He did.”

She rolled her eyes at him. 

“You should believe me.”

Time to admit the truth. “I want to.”

He inhaled, frustration ripe on his brow. “Let me talk to you in the hall.”


“Esme—I hope I may address you that way. The hall, behind the marble statue of our host, affords more privacy than here.”

Hope of being naughty with him made her tingle. “My lord, why would we need privacy?”

“Because Esme, I’d like to kiss you.”

She licked her lips.

“I see that idea appeals to you.”

“Are you always so bold with women?”

“Only you.”

Caution was a practice she rarely employed. With him, she should apply it. “I think we’ll wait.”

“Not long, Esme. Not too damn long,” he whispered as he devoted himself to perfection in the rest of the dance. 

That evening, she’d learned from her friends that in the past two years, he’d had two lovers, both wealthy widows. Now he was free of both.

So when he returned to sit beside her, he murmured, “Esme, darling, look at me.”

She’d given in. With such endearments, who could deny him?

His hazel eyes faceted into shades of desire. “I want to become friends.”

“We are.”

“More than friends, Esme.”

She shook her head. She mustn’t lose it. “You’re a marquess.”


“Not considered appropriate for me, a viscount’s daughter.” Furthermore, his father was an old roué. That man, it was said aloud and in gossip sheets, wanted a glorious match for his only son. Specifically, ‘glorious’ translated into rich as Midas. That criteria she fit.

“Will you count me out of your life because of my status?” He joked, appearing amused as well as seriously dismayed.

“You’re twenty-nine,” she said in accusation.

“I am. You are six years younger. Is there a problem?”

“You’ve waited rather a long time to—” Well, why not say the obvious? “A long time to look for a bride.”

“I’ve had other occupations.”

She harrumphed. Yes, she knew two of them, too. “Aren’t you getting long in the tooth?”

He chuckled, looked about and leaned closer. “Do you think me so doddering that I might be incapable of begetting—?”

“No!” She burned with the power of her blush. “No. I do not.”

He laughed whole-heartedly. “I am in want of a wife. And I have looked for one for many years.”

“With any results?”

“None. Until lately.”

So by their fifth meeting (at Lady Elsworth’s tea), they were jovial friends who appeared to one and all to sit and discuss the cartoonist Rowlandson’s ability to portray the ironies of the Royals. 

“May I call on you, Miss Harvey?” he had asked her when those in the room finally left them alone in their cozy corner. 

“Why?” she’d been bold enough to inquire.

“I find I need your company.”

She stared at him and dared not believe it. The way he made her breath hitch just by gazing at her told her that if he pressed his magnificent mouth to hers, if he touched her arm or (please, God) her breast or (yesss) her quivering thigh, she could dissolve into little puddles of goo. And that was no way to maintain one’s reputation, especially if one liked to ride out at dawn or drink three glasses of champagne without comment or censure.

“Have dull friends, do you, sir?” She challenged him. Had to.

“Too many.”

“What of the lady you met in the small salon at Lady Wimple’s?” She had to know from his lips if he was engaged in a new affair with anyone. She wouldn’t stand for him having mistresses. She couldn’t bear the competition. She was no Diamond, no Incomparable. But she had her assets. Good hair. A straight nose. Abundant breasts. So she’d brook no competition. Never. If he wished to marry her, he had to be hers, all hers…or not at all.

“Esme, listen to me.” In that crowded drawing room with dozens of the ton chatting on and noting every eye that drifted to every heaving bosom, he put a hand to hers and held it tightly. “That was no lady.”

Oh, how she wished to believe him. 

“May I call?” he asked once more, his face full of earnest hope.

“Yes.” She wanted him, as she’d wanted no other. “Tomorrow.”

And so he had. 

For three days in succession.

By the fourth day, her Mama (reading the air, Esme supposed) left them alone on some flimsy excuse. 

He moved to Esme’s side on the settee and took her hands. Into both palms, he’d placed hot little kisses. Her nipples had beaded. Her belly had swelled. And her head had swum as he threaded his fingers into her coiffure and placed his firm lips on her own. And oh, he felt like heaven.

“Darling, I want to marry you,” he whispered. His mouth traveled her cheek and he bit her earlobe.

She sank her fingers into his thick soft curls and kissed him back with an ardor that (afterward) frankly shocked her.

“That’s yes,” he stated with finality. “I know it is.” He stood up so fast she thought he’d been shot. He left her there, aching to have his hands on her everywhere. But to his credit, he went in search of a footman and asked for her father. Straight away, he asked Papa who gave his immediate approval.

And then, quick as you please, Northington had disappeared.

The man who had rushed her into courtship, who had teased and bantered and lured her to fantasies of lying abed with him naked, had simply vanished.

Then two weeks ago, he had reappeared at Courtland Hall with a special license in hand. He apologized for his absence, but gave no explanations. Then he had promptly taken her out into her mother’s parterre and had kissed her senseless.

“May second, I want us to wed, darling.”

Not a question. A statement.

And she—twenty-three and aglow from head to heart to breasts to quivering belly—was  in lust with him. She marveled, for she was no twit. No foolish woman whose daydreams ruled her life. No. She’d entertained numerous swains over the years. After all, she was a wealthy catch. She’d refused six gentlemen in marriage. She hadn’t found any of those fellows—titled, well-healed and accomplished in their own rights— interesting or even vaguely exciting.

But this man, this Northington, mesmerized her.

Truth be bald and bold, she pulsed to feel him wholly devoted to her. And soon, all things to her, dear and vital, tender and lusty, sacred and nakedly profane.

That, she concluded, or she was going to run off with him without benefit of marriage and allow him all sorts of liberties.

But that was two weeks ago.

And this morning as she looked out upon the rolling meadow, rosy in the rays of a rising sun, she questioned if her unmaidenly ardor to have him was enough to bind him to her for the next thirty or forty years.

Or did she need much more?

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A fine figure of a man...and other items to see with your quizzing glass!

You've heard the term, strike a pose!
In Regency London, many did. Including men. Beau Brummel fixed that in men's minds. And here to show you a few good examples which I chose for their rarity, are a few fine figures!
First, a portrait of a man, his daughter and her dog. The animal does seem carefree, doesn't he, so I thought him her dog.

Next a man and his date...or rather, his wife or sister. Dated 1807.

Here is a close-up of that garment meant to indicate personality or perhaps emotion, the waistcoat! Horizontal stripes, no less.

And stuffed to the brim, the fine figure of a man in his breeches, which are different from trousers, you see.

And the item that men as well as women used often to strike that pose or simply to see better! Attached to a chain or encased in a leather case, it could be worn about town with ease! Here, a very pretty one!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Do you like animals? In your romances? Historicals or other?

Each of us has an opinion of what is really a historical romance.




Any romance with erotic terms or tones?

I submit that one element I always love in a historical romance is an animal. They are independent minded and yet protect, rescue and simply endure all sorts of mayhem. Dogs work. Parrots. I've even used a chimp. REALLY, I did. But that was in a contemporary.

Today I show you a clipping from March 30, 1815 London newspaper about a little dog gone missing! The owner requests help finding the animal and even offers a reward. Two Guineas! 

Said doggie is a Blenheim spaniel, which is liver and white and resembles our modern-day Cavalier King Charles spaniel. In other words, a sweet-faced little dude.

Children with their puppies, Charles II period
A lady with her pet!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Enter for chance to Win 30+ historical romances plus e-reader! Easy!


Follow on BOOKBUB as many of these wonderful authors of historical romance as you wish and win books plus a chance to win all the books from these authors shown here AND a new e-reader!
A few clicks and you are in for great reading and hours of fun!
My giveaway is the rollicking good time in my romantic comedy, AUNT GERTRUDE'S RED HOT CHRISTMAS BEAU!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A royal wedding the world applauded...and then mourned!

Princess Charlotte, Princess of Wales and heir to throne of United Kingdom, married a war hero Prince Leopold of Saxe-Cobourg May 2 1816! 

She is a fixture in my story, Book 2 in this series, in A MAY DAY TO REMEMBER, because one of the characters in my story is to marry on that day too! 

This is the engagement portrait of the Princess and Leopold done in February 1816. When she met him much after the Battle of Waterloo (in which he fought and was a Russian officer), she was enchanted by him. He was quite dashing and so much more handsome than the Prince of Orange, to whom she was engaged, that she cancelled that arrangement and demanded to marry "her darling Leo."
Her wedding gown

She was a darling of the people and they rejoiced that her marriage was a love match. The couple married May 2, 1816 and retired to the country to become better acquainted. A few months later, she was pregnant...but like many first pregnancies, she miscarried.

In a few more months, she was once more enciente. In the later months of her pregnancy, her acchoucher (a much acclaimed male midwife) advised her to cut her consumption of food, walk more often and slim down. She was gaining too much weight and her limbs were swollen. He feared she would develop toxemia, an often fatal condition for a pregnant woman that increased blood pressure. He also feared the baby would be too large to deliver safely.

She went into labor and had a very difficult delivery. The baby, a boy, was born at 8 pounds. Soon after however, he died. While Charlotte initially seemed to recover, she soon developed symptoms of toxemia. She died a day later and the nation greatly mourned her tragic loss.

Her accoucher was so distraught that he committed suicide weeks later.

Her husband retired to the countryside to grieve. However soon he returned home to the Continent where the Allies soon awarded him for his service during the Napoleonic wars. They named him King of the Belgians. His descendants have ruled that country since then. All of them are offspring from his second wife, a daughter of the French King, Louis Phillippe.

Leopold has other claims to fame. He is one and the same man whom you have seen steer his nephew, Prince Albert of Saxe-Cobourg, to marry Queen Victoria.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Can you fall in love at first sight TWICE? Why not! Regency fun!

LADY FIONA'S TALL, DARK FOLLY stars a young lady who fell in love at first sight years ago...and she has not seen him since. Why not? He went off to war and so his disappearance is under stable!. The Napoleonic wars were a protracted set of battles against the French dictator, finally ending in 1815.

As soldiers return home to resume their normal lives, love affairs can blossom once more!

Here in this story, we see two people who knew instantly that they cared for each other...and had no opportunity to act on that attraction until now.

Begin laughing here!

For all in the series, go to my Amazon author page!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

A runaway bride, a handsome devil of a vicar and a lady who plans a grand affair! FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FROLIC and a nibble!

Attend here!
An injured lady always needs a good laugh…and a good man!
A nibble of my newest cherry! 

 Copyright 2020, Cerise Deland, LADY FIONA’S TALL, DARK FOLLY. All rights reserved.
A footman appeared at the open doorway with a tray of items piled high.
"And here is a man with the goods we need for that." Lord Charlton rose and stood aside for the servant to pass. "Over there is good."
When the man was gone, he surveyed the supplies. Drained his glass, put it aside and returned to her. He gazed at her, serious to a fault. "You'll have to raise your skirts once more."
Fifi drained her own brandy, put the glass to the table and inched up her skirts to her knees. "Enough?"
He smiled at her with a pure delight. "Well done."
"Set to work, sir."
"Pardon me?"
"My name is Rory. I invite you to use it."
"Oh, I shouldn't."
"Would you like to touch my bare foot?"
She fell back, laughing. “Only if you have nice knees. Do you, sir?”
She fixed him with a frank look. "Do you have nice knees? Rory?"
"I do. May I call you Fifi?"
Her mouth fell open. "Who told you that?"
"I heard your friend Mary call you that."
"Yes. I will be Fifi to you."
"And I shall be Rory to you. Only when we are together alone."
"Yes." His last two words sent quivers of longing through her. Years ago she had met him, valued him and felt her soul twine with his. Whatever her misperception of his identity, the commingling of her heart with his had not been wrong. Simply...postponed. Her imagination flew to what joys they might discover together in days ahead. She wished to rise up and hug him, kiss him. She cleared her throat, her cheeks burning in a blush as he sat down again before her, all his supplies of scissors and flannel, ice and burlap to hand. "Only then."
The tenderness of his words matched the sweetness of his ministrations to her foot. She sat, for the second time in her life, enjoying the brush of his fingers, the delicacy of his touch. Never knowing a hug or a kiss from her father, she'd not imagined men might offer that to any woman. In fact, what had drawn her to him that night so many years ago was his jovial nature as well as his genteel respect for her. For her as a young woman. For her. 
She not forgotten it. The thrill. The compliment. The comfort. Now she had it again...and she wished to never let it disappear again. She was content to sit and let him work his magic on her, heal her ankle, heal her heartache, heal her longing for him that had dwindled...but had never lost its lustre.
She sighed and noticed a figure in the doorway.
"There you are, Mary! Do come in. See what Lord Charlton is doing." She pointed to her swollen foot. "He claims to be an expert at healing twisted ankles."
Her friend approached, the wary look upon her face one of concern for her welfare. "Is that so, sir?"
Rory glanced up at her, a rueful arc to his brows, his hands still. "We are—I assure you, Lady Mary—perfectly respectable. Do note the door is open. I have not accosted your friend. Have I, Lady Fifi?"
"Not in the least," she said, absorbed in Charlton's wrapping of her ankle in a strip of flannel.
"You've done this often?" Mary inquired of him.
"Battlefield surgeons are few and far between, my lady. A commander must perform as leader, confessor, scribe and doctor."
"Of course." Mary seemed at odds as to whether to stay or go. "Will you come downstairs, my lord, after you finish here?"
"I will. So will Lady Fifi."
"Oh, no, I won't. I'm not going down there like this."
"Why not?" He paused, surprise on his face. "Does your ankle prohibit you from laughing?"
Fifi stared him down. Was he joking? "Never."
"Well then."
"You are irritating, my lord." Fifi crossed her arms, delighted to be cajoled into attending the others when she should claim the vapors, a megrim at the least. But she wanted to be with Rory. Anywhere.
She met Mary's gaze. "We'll adjourn to the salon soon."
He smiled at Mary. "A few more minutes, then."
Fifi smiled at her friend, hoping she'd leave them alone.
But Welles appeared and curtsied to them. The maid provided a suitable chaperone.
Mary dismissed herself. "I'll see you both downstairs."
He worked for a few more minutes on her ankle, smiling to himself the entire time. When he finished and drew down her skirts, he shot his cuffs and threw her a look of pride. "Are you ready to greet the other guests?"
"I am hungry." She tipped her head, marveling that her friends downstairs would see such a man honoring her with his attentions. "And I would say you are, too. Carrying me about must require Herculean efforts."
"When I look at you, I feel more like Paris."
"A man, bereft of all reason in the presence of the lady he adored."
That set her aglow. "You are becoming much too complimentary, my lord."
"Rory," he murmured so that Welles might not hear.
She cocked her head and whispered, "Rory."
"Between us," he said as he bent near to her lips, "I want only truth."
She caught her breath. Truth could ruin so much about their relationship. Truth that she had been girlishly attracted to him the minute she met him. Truth that she pined for him and, because of her vanity not to wear her glasses that night six years ago, she'd mistaken him for another. Truth that today she appreciated him more each moment as he rescued her from a wrecked coach and from the embarrassment of being crippled by her ankle injury. Truth that she should not encourage him to pay his attentions to her. But she wanted him to do that—and she wanted that at any price.
She locked her gaze on his. Her earnestness must match his. "I want it too."
"Marvelous!" He chuckled and scooped her up into his arms. His face, so close, elicited a grin from her. His eyes, so lively—his lips, so appealing—his cologne, so intoxicating—all combined to make him irresistible. She cupped his nape, the lure of him surging through her anew. 
"Kiss me, if you like," he murmured, his mouth a tempting morsel. 
"I'd like to." She considered the strong lines of his generous mouth. "Later."
“Away then! We must hurry the evening along!”
She threw back her head and laughed as she had not laughed in years. Perhaps, not ever.