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Authors: Amelia Grey

Tags: #Regency, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Historical, #London (England), #Romance - Regency, #Romance - Historical, #Fiction, #Romance, #Romance: Historical, #Historical Fiction, #Fiction - Romance, #Love Stories

A Hint of Seduction

BOOK: A Hint of Seduction
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THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

A HINT OF SEDUCTION

BERKLEY SENSATION / published by arrangement with the author

BERKLEY SENSATION edition / September 2004
BERKLEY SENSATION e-edition / January 2005

Copyright © 2004 by Gloria Dale Skinner.
Cover art by Wendi Schneider.
Cover design by George Long.
Interior text design by Julie Rogers.

All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.
Purchase only authorized editions.
For information address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

MSR ISBN: 0 7865 5460 6
AEB ISBN: 0 7865 5461 4

BERKLEY® SENSATION
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY SENSATION and the “B” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Titles by Amelia Grey

NEVER A BRIDE
A DASH OF SCANDAL
A LITTLE MISCHIEF
A HINT OF SEDUCTION

This book is dedicated to Kathy Baker for suggesting the title.
Thank you.

One

“Oh, for a horse with wings,” that I might fly from one party to another as the Season is upon us. This column shall continue to fill your lovely heads with nothing but delicious gossip from our most popular and our most notorious members of the ton. Should we begin with the blithe Lord Chatwin, who has let it be known again this year that he is not looking to make a match? But what about the other half of the Terrible Twosome? Is Lord Dugdale looking?

Lord Truefitt
Society’s Daily Column

“M
ERCIFUL HEAVENS
, C
ATHERINE
,
it’s not only dark as midnight here in the park, it’s freezing cold, too. It’s simply uncivilized to be out before daybreak.”

Catherine Reynolds looked over at her widowed half sister who rode beside her on a temperamental mare. In the months Catherine had been in London, she’d ceased to be
shocked by Victoria Goosetree’s constant complaining. Though the older woman would never breathe an improper word in public, she was more than ready to speak her mind in private.

“You’ll warm up soon, Vickie. I think just before dawn is the most beautiful time to be outside on a horse.”

“The devil it is,” Victoria grumbled as her mare snorted. “I can’t see a thing and I don’t think it’s safe.”

“You can’t see anything because you’re not looking, and with Mills riding behind us we are perfectly safe,” Catherine said.

She took a deep breath, filling her lungs with the crisp mist of air that wafted across their path. She caught the scent of wet foliage and sighed as it reminded her of home. Their groom remained quiet as he rode behind them, and when Victoria wasn’t talking Catherine could relax and enjoy the peaceful early morning sounds of Hyde Park.

“How much longer are we going to ride?” Victoria asked.

Catherine smiled to herself, remaining patient. Her mare nickered and shook her head as puffs of warm breath snorted from her nostrils. “We’ve been on the horses less than fifteen minutes.”

“Feels like hours to me. I allowed you to talk me into this for today, but I don’t think I should like to do it again.”

Catherine laughed but not loud enough that her petulant companion could hear. It was cold, but that didn’t bother Catherine. Having grown up near the northern coast, she was used to a climate where the chilling dampness never seemed completely to go away.

“You’re the one who insisted that I shouldn’t ride during the day when it is much warmer,” Catherine felt compelled to say.

Vickie snorted louder than the horse she was riding. “I was only trying to impress upon you that young ladies who are looking to make an excellent match shouldn’t sit a horse in any park during the Season.”

This was yet another reminder of her half sister’s belief in doing one thing in public and another in private.

“You should only be seen riding in an open carriage with a viscount, an earl, or perhaps a handsome marquis by your side. I don’t know why I allowed you to talk me into riding before daybreak. My feet are numb.”

Hyde Park was beautiful dressed in the magical misty-gray of predawn. Shadowed sky light filtered through tree branches and shone down on them. Shards of pink, gray, and dark blue were about to be born on the horizon, and Catherine looked forward to enjoying the birth of sunrise.

She had been in London over three months, and it seemed as if she had done nothing but be fitted for ball gowns and more ball gowns. She considered the amount of clothing ridiculous Victoria insisted she have for the start of the Season. And gowns were only the half of it. A lady had to select just the right gloves, bonnets, fans, and handkerchiefs, too. No one needed that many things to wear.

“Perhaps if we rode a little faster you’d warm up,” Catherine said, hoping to find a way Victoria could enjoy the outing. “How about it? Are you ready to let the horses trot?”

“I’m not sure I can. This horse doesn’t seem to be well schooled.”

Vickie’s mount nickered and stomped as if agreeing with her comment.

Catherine reached down her gloved hand and patted the warm, firm neck of the spirited animal she rode. Her mount needed no prodding. Vickie was right that the hacks
Mills had hired at a nearby livery weren’t well trained for riders.

Vickie’s mare was old and cranky, constantly fighting the bit, while Catherine’s mount pranced restlessly beneath her like a young filly not saddle worn. But to Catherine, any horse was better than not riding at all.

“Perhaps your horse senses that you are unsure with her, and she’s taking advantage,” Catherine suggested. “You need to take control. A canter will take some of the wind out of her. Tighten up on your reins like this and let’s ride.”

“Very well,” Victoria mumbled. “I’ll try anything to warm up.”

“Good. That’s the spirit.” Catherine gently urged her mount to pick up the pace. She turned back to Mills and motioned for him to follow.

Catherine had an excellent seat, having ridden since she was a young girl. She’d been forced to leave her favorite horse at her home when she made the trip to London by private coach.

Victoria was sixteen years Catherine’s senior, and with no close male relative, it was Victoria’s job to see that Catherine made an acceptable match before the Season’s end. But what Victoria didn’t know was that Catherine hadn’t come to London in search of a husband; she had come in search of her father.

Her real father.

She had three clues. The names of three men. She knew one of them was her father, and she intended to find out which one had refused to marry her mother more than twenty years before.

After the man whom she and everyone else always believed was her father, Sir Patrick Reynolds, passed away a
year ago, Catherine had found her mother’s journal among a box of books in the attic. The diary was in deplorable condition. Over the years dampness had eroded and smeared the ink in many of the entries and rodents had chewed up many of the pages.

But in the readable passages of the neglected diary, Catherine had come to know her mother’s deepest secret: The man she had married was not the father of the child she was carrying.

And that child was Catherine.

Lost in thought about her true mission to London, Catherine hadn’t realized that Victoria and Mills had fallen behind her until she heard a cry of help. Catherine had a difficult time reining in her horse but finally slowed the animal. She turned the mare around and headed back to find out why Victoria had stopped.

“What’s wrong?” Catherine asked as she halted her mount beside her sister. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, I’m fine, but something has happened to Mills.”

A moment of concern flashed through Catherine. She didn’t see Mills behind them, so she immediately headed back the way they’d come.

“Over here,” she heard the groom call out.

It was difficult to make out much of anything in the darkness, but Catherine could see that Mills was not on his mare. He was lying on the ground. She and Victoria stopped their horses. Dismounting from a sidesaddle was difficult, but Catherine managed to kick free of her stirrup and jump down from her mount.

She hurried over to the man and asked, “Are you injured?”

“My horse stepped in a hole and we went down. I think I broke my leg.”

“Sweet mercies,” she whispered. This was all her fault. “Just lie still. We’ll take care of everything.”

Victoria knelt down beside Catherine and asked the groom, “How bad are you hurt? Can you ride?”

“I don’t think so. I can’t move my leg and my horse is limping, too.”

Catherine had to come up with a plan of action fast. She looked at Victoria and said, “You stay here with Mills, and I’ll ride back and get the carriage for him.”

“I can’t let you ride alone in the park!” Victoria protested. “Not only is it too dangerous, it would be scandalous.”

“Nonsense,” Catherine said. “This is not the time to worry about either of those things. Mills is hurt. Besides, it’s no longer pitch dark. I’m a much better and faster rider than you. I know exactly how to get back to the carriage. I can return in half the time it would take you.”

Catherine watched Victoria’s brown gaze look down at the injured groom.

“I must have your promise that you will not stop for anyone or anything until you get to the carriage.”

“You have it,” Catherine said without hesitation.

“Then be off. Ride fast but be careful. It won’t do for you to be seen riding in the park unescorted even for a short time or for so worthy a cause.”

“I promise to be careful. Now come help me mount.”

With Victoria’s help Catherine managed to climb back onto her horse and head in the direction where they left the carriage. She often rode alone on the hills and countryside where she’d grown up, and she had learned early to always be aware of her surroundings so that she could find her way home.

BOOK: A Hint of Seduction
10.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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