A Scandalous Elopement
The Marquis of Templeton has faced every sort of danger in his work for the King, but chasing after a wayward spinster who's had the effrontery to run off with the wrong man hardly seems worth his considerable talents. But when the heiress in question is none other than Lady Diana Fordham, Temple is about to meet his match. Tempestuous and passionate, headstrong and opinionated, the lady is everything a man should avoid...
A Dangerous Plan
Diana has no intention of making Temple's assignment easy. In fact she has every reason to turn his life upside down -- just as he did to hers when he broke her heart years ago. Now it's Diana's turn to give Temple a lesson in love, from a teasing glance to a scandalous embrace. However, as she leads him on a merry chase from London to Gretna Green, they soon realize that a kiss once given is hard to forget, and a rekindled passion is impossible to deny.
It was, by all accounts, a rather typical night at White's. The men of London's social elite had gathered together for another evening of drinking and gambling and bragging to their hearts' content.
Who would have guessed that these rarefied members of the ton were about to witness the scandal of the Season?
As usual, the most crowded spot in the great room was around the Marquis of Templeton, or as most people called him, Temple. Not exactly the proper address for a man who by chance, or rather by birth, was the Duke of Setchfield's heir, but Temple he was, and, many suspected, Temple he would always be.
Cut off by his imperious grandfather from any family funds because of his wastrel ways and because he wouldn't bend to the duke's constant demands, he made do as he could, by being the perfect houseguest, the best of company.
In short, he was invited everywhere.
There were advantages to having the marquis as a part of one's social event. He knew all the gossip. He could spot an ill-tied cravat across a shadowy room faster than a Bow Street runner could collar a pickpocket. With the aid of his trusty lorgnette, he could tell whether a man's coat had been stitched by Weston or by a country tradesman copying the master tailor's latest trends for half the price.
If you needed to know what color was best to wear to Lady Brickton's fête, which young miss had the plumpest dowry, or from whom to obtain the finest, fittest, and best polished Hessians, then Temple was your most capable confidant.
So it was that the marquis moved through the ton like a blithe and welcome breeze, invited everywhere — for it would never do to snub a future duke — and laughed at for the follies, foibles, and bill collectors following in his wake. He lived his life without an apparent care in the world, as long as one discounted his agonizing search for a tailor who would overlook his continual lack of funds.
In truth, he was a man to be envied.
In truth, he was a man living a singularly calculated lie.
So while he stood in White's, the living example of all that was wastrel and foolish about the ton, his mind was far away on more pressing matters. Problems so urgent that few would have thought they'd find anyplace to lodge amongst all the wool and lint that most believed made up the interior workings behind the marquis' engaging smile.
Especially considering his current subject of discussion — a lecture to young Lord Harry Penham on how to select the perfect valet.
The jest lay in the fact that Penham, on his first Season in town and a greenling in every definition of the word, obviously knew nothing of the fact that Temple had never hired a valet, let alone that he couldn't afford the services of one.
Temple's only servant was a disreputable one-eyed man who drove the marquis' carriage and ran his errands. Elton was recognized by one and all, and most held him in fearful regard, for it was rumored that Temple had bought the man off a scaffold — if only to have a loyal servant who wouldn't mind an infrequent salary.
But obviously Penham knew none of this, for he hung on Temple's every word as if he were receiving Holy Scriptures.
"What agency are you using?" the marquis asked, his lorgnette tapping at his chin. "For you'll never find the right fellow without the help of a good agency." He eyed the disgraceful state of the younger man's cravat and made a tut tut noise that signaled his wholehearted disapproval. "Let me guess, you've retained Fogelmann's?"