Scandal, outrage, ruin, rapture ... Who knows where one kiss can lead?
Miss Emery's Establishment for the Education of Genteel Young Ladies
"I don't see why he has to be allowed in," Lady Philippa Knolles complained to her cousin, Miss Felicity Langley, as they crept down the back stairs of their school.
"Pippin, when the Duke of Parkerton sends his brother to perform an errand of such a delicate nature," Felicity explained, "one cannot simply bar the door to the man. Even if he is a disreputable ...a horrible ... "
"Rake," supplied Felicity's twin sister, Thalia, who brought up the rear of this illicit party. Tally, as she was known, was not one for delicacy of words, and besides, she was rather excited at the prospect of getting a look at such a man.
To Tally the word rake conjured all sorts of dreamy possibilities, like pirate or highwayman or smuggler. And the very notion that Miss Emery had banished the entire school to their rooms for the afternoon until their "visitor" had departed was just too much to bear.
A rake at Miss Emery's? Why, it was like history in the making, a moment not to be missed.
"Really," Tally had declared, "how does Miss Emery expect us to recognize this sort of man if we have never seen an example of one?"
Felicity had readily agreed. Pippin had been a bit more hesitant than her daring cousins, but in the end, she'd relented and joined the party, if only because she too held a secret curiosity about the infamous rake, Lord John Tremont.
"Who was it that Lord John ruined?" Pippin asked.
"Miss Miranda Mabberly," Felicity supplied without hesitation. "He kissed her rather inappropriately at the opera."
Felicity's knowledge of the ton never ceased to amaze Pippin, especially given that up until two years ago, the Langley sisters had never even set foot in England, having spent their entire lives traveling the world with their father, Lord Langley, a distinguished member of the Foreign Office.
"Oh, dear," Pippin said. "If that is so, why didn't he just marry Miss Mabberly?"
Tally finished the story, for at the moment Felicity was timing their descent to ensure that they didn't run into the headmistress or one of their other teachers, especially their decorum teacher, Miss Porter.
"Miss Mabberly was betrothed to the Earl of Oxley at the time," Tally whispered. "Oxley cried off when he learned what happened."
"And Miss Mabberly?" Pippin asked."What of her?"
Tally shrugged. "I don't particularly know. Probably the usual in those circumstances. A fatal decline, banishment from good society, not that it really matters, she was ruined after all."
"How dreadful!" Pippin whispered.
Not to let the story pass without her own stamp upon it, Felicity added, "I daresay Miss Mabberly ended up in some Eastern harem or married off to some Colonial merchant." To Felicity, either fate was of equal degradation, considering her own matrimonial aspirations were nothing less than to marry a duke, thus having earned herself the nickname of "Duchess" at a very early age.
Taking another look down the stairwell, and seeing that the coast was clear, she waved her accomplices to follow her.
Down the steps they crept and then dashed across the hall and into a nearby closet. Having feigned a megrim earlier, Felicity had been excused from Miss Porter's class and had used the time to remove the buckets, mops and brooms that usually filled the tiny space.
After they wedged themselves in, Tally looked about their quarters...