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Authors: Andrea Pickens

A Stroke of Luck

BOOK: A Stroke of Luck
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A Stroke of Luck

The Intrepid Heroines Series

Book Three

 

by

 

Andrea Pickens

Awarding-winning Author

 

 

 

 

 

Published by
ePublishing Works!

www.epublishingworks.com

 

ISBN: 978-1-61417-529-2

 

 

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Please Note

 

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.

 

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Copyright © 2014 Andrea DaRif All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.

 

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Chapter 1

 

"This was
not
one of your better ideas, Stump."

"Ssshoshoorraysir." Stump sounded as if he were gargling salt water.

Which, in fact, he was. But then, the Duke of Prestwick's hand caught hold of his valet's collar and lifted him above the cresting wave.

"S-sorry, sir," he repeated, coughing up another mouthful of seaweed and brine. "If the storm hadn't sprung up out of nowhere, and if I still had me other hand and if—"

"And if pigs could fly..." Prestwick, too, was silenced for a moment by the flying spray. "I might be sitting comfortably before a roaring fire, a silk dressing gown around my shoulders and a decanter of fine French brandy at my fingertips—Pfaaahg!" After swallowing a mouthful of stormy ocean, he spit out an oath. "Bloody hell! Why the Devil did Uncle Aubrey have to stick his spoon in the wall?"

"You may have a chance to ask him." Stump's head was submerged for an instant. "Sooner than you might wish."

"That's what I like about you. Always so damn optimistic," growled Prestwick.

His valet's chin dropped to his chest, more from contrition than the force of the waves. "Sorry, sir." Given the fact that the ex-soldier had served him since he was a mere sprat, the duke had insisted his companion eschew the more formal forms of address when they were alone.

"You have every right to be madder than a wet hen over this," went on Stump. "Knowin' how you hate to endure the dirt and dreadful cooking of a coaching inn, not to speak of sleeping on scratchy linen, I thought that making the journey aboard your private yacht, with all the comforts of your own things and your own servants, would be far more comfortable than the hardships of the northern roads. Things were goin' along right as rain..."

"Would you mind not mentioning that particular subject?" grumbled Prestwick. As if on cue, the heavens opened up with a torrent of stinging drops, causing him to wince.

Undeterred by his employer's barb, Stump continued on. "Until this tempest kicked up. The thing is, you would have been fine if you had gone below when Captain Sullerton gave the warning. Why the Devil did you jump in after me? Should have let my old bones sink to the bottom and cried good riddance."

"Hmmph. Who else would know exactly how I like my coffee in the morning, or the precise amount of starch to add to my neckcloths or the exact shade of navy merino wool I favor for my riding coat?"

As Stump had been part of the ducal family entourage since he was in swaddling clothes, there was precious little the valet didn't know about him, thought Prestwick, a wry twist tugging at his lips. His own father, a much-lionized military hero, had somehow thought it an excellent idea to assign a battle-scarred veteran to duty watching over a toddler, rather than allot the task to a proper nursemaid.

No doubt, he added with an inward sigh, hoping the experience would forge the heir to the august Prestwick title into the same blade of tempered steel as his progenitor. What a crushing disappointment it must have been to him that his son had turned out to be a rather frail child, one with much more interest in the quiet contemplation of classics than the clash of sabers or the howl of the hunt.

Prestwick's mouth thinned. After the first few attempts to put a six-year-old through some brutal test of manhood ended in naught but arguments and tears, his father had become even more distant—both physically and emotionally. Between attending to his social duties in London, hunting in Scotland and overseeing his various estates in Devonshire, the fifth duke had rarely spent a moment with his firstborn. It had been Stump who had put the Prestwick heir on his first pony, guided him through the scrapes and stumbles of childhood, and nursed him through the various fevers that had wracked his puny form.

Slowly but surely, the sickly child had grown out of his ailments. By late adolescence, he had become a good deal stronger, and although he was still on the lean side, his height of over six feet and the breadth of his shoulders were now nothing to sneeze at. He had also become an excellent rider and a crack shot—perhaps in an effort to effect a rapprochement with his pater.

The attempt had been futile.

It was probably just as well, admitted Prestwick to himself, for the two of them had been as different as chalk and cheese. A hard, acetic gentleman, his father loved the spartan toughness of military life while he was the exact opposite, preferring music, literature, art, along with the creature comforts of costly silks and fine linen.

And the softest of cashmere wool. Which he wished was enveloping his shoulders at that moment, rather than a sodden mass of wet melton. Weston would no doubt expire on the spot at the sight of what had happened to one of his perfectly crafted coats.

BOOK: A Stroke of Luck
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