She vowed to resist . . .
It's difficult enough for Lady Clara Stanbourne to run her London home for reformed young pickpockets without having to contend with a criminal rightnext door! The mysterious Morgan Pryce is obviouslydealing in stolen property, and she will never allowthe handsome scoundrel to lead the children astray.Pryce is very much mistaken if he believes her adelicate rose he can wilt with passionate, unspokenpromises. Now if only Clara could douse the fieryyearning the charming cad ignites inside her.
His heated caresses . . .
This bold, beautiful temptress is indeed a distraction--and Morgan wishes he could tell the exquisite Clarathe truth: that he is working undercover to break upa notorious crime ring. His mind should be on hisduty--not wondering how it would feel to hold Clarain his arms and taste her luscious lips. But nowthat she has entered into his most dangerous game,Morgan knows he must have her, despite the veryreal peril to his secret mission--andto his heart.
In Books or Work, or healthful Play
Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
Some good Account at last.
"Against Idleness and Mischief" Isaac Watts,
Divine Songs attempted in Easy Language
for the Use of Children
Lady Clara Stanbourne was descended from a long line of reformers and rogues. Her late father's side had produced Quakers and Whigs whose passion to effect change was surpassed only by their respectable station. Her late mother's side, the Doggetts, boasted a broad assortment of feckless scoundrels who'd gloried in gambling, delighted in debauchery, and wallowed in wild living. The Doggetts possessed no respectability at all except through their tenuous connection to the Stanbournes through marriage. Fortunately for England, the Doggetts had virtually died out. Only Clara's uncle Cecil, the card cheat, carried on the family tradition of wreaking havoc upon the unsuspecting and the virtuous. But he did it in America now, having fled England eight years earlier, when his cheating had landed him on the wrong end of a very large pistol.
Thus Lady Clara was surprised when she came downstairs on a bright spring Monday to learn that her uncle's American solicitor, a Mr. Gaither, had just arrived at Stanbourne Hall from Virginia. She didn't even know her uncle possessed something so lofty as a solicitor. Yet Samuel, her new footman, insisted that such a creature awaited her in the front parlor.
With a sigh , she glanced at the clock. "They're expecting me at the Home any minute. After my being away in the country for two weeks, they 'll worry if I'm late. I suppose you'll have to send a boy round with a note."
"Yes, m'lady," Samuel said nervously, looking very smart in his new footman's uniform. Samuel was her most recent success from the Stanbourne Home for the Reformation of Pickpockets. Though he was a bit short for a proper footman, he performed his duties well enough, which was all that mattered.
An eruption of barking from the front parlor warned that her aunt, Verity Stanbourne, had reached the parlor first. Clara hastened to the doorway, groaning to find her aunt's three beribboned miniature poodles dancing around the American. Poor Mr. Gaither teetered on rickety legs atop a footstool, crying, "Shoo! Go on, you beasts! Get away!"
Aunt Verity flapped her hands fruitlessly at the capering, yapping dogs. "Now, Fiddle, you mustn'tâOh, come away, Faddle! And Foodle, if you don't stop thisâ" She cast Mr. Gaither a helpless look. "See how you've upset my lassies?" They're all much annoyed, I tell you." A sharp woof preceded the entrance of an old spaniel bitch. "Lord have mercy, here comes Empressâstay put, Mr. Gaither! If she doesn't approve of you, she's liable to bite you!"
Clara crossed the room and threw herself into the midst of the dogs. "Down, all of you, this minute! No one's biting anyone." She glared at the poodles until the barking turned to whimpers and three curly heads drooped in shameless obeisance.
When Empress kept woofing at poor Mr. Gaither's feet, Clara added sharply, "That's enough, Empress," and the aging spaniel retreated to Aunt Verity's side.
Unfortunately, Clara could do nothing about the low growl the dog continued to emit. Empress had taken a distinct dislike to their guest, which boded ill for Mr. Gaither. The dog had an uncanny ability to judge people accurately. Whomever she growled or barked at was eventually shown to possess serious character flaws. Empress was so adept that Aunt Verity used her to sift out good applicants from bad when interviewing new servants. As a result, Stanbourne Hall's staff was the envy of all Aunt Verity's friends.