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Authors: Maureen Driscoll

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Never Miss a Chance

BOOK: Never Miss a Chance
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ALSO BY MAUREEN DRISCOLL

 

NEVER A MISTRESS, NO LONGER A MAID (KELLINGTON BOOK ONE)

DATING GEORGE CLOONEY

NEVER MISS A CHANCE

 

by

Maureen Driscoll

Copyright © 2011, by Maureen Driscoll

Cover design by Jennifer Omner, ALLpublications.com

Author photo by JBC Images, JBCimages.com

 

All rights reserved.  No part of this book may be reproduced
in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Author,
excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

This is a work of fiction.  Any similarities to persons
living or dead, business establishments, events or locales are strictly
coincidental.

To my mom.

For my love of reading and the many other lessons

you continue to teach.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

Thank you to Janice Minsberg, Anitra Evans and Melanie
Friedman for being brave enough to read the copy with the typos.   You ladies
have been inspirational and have given me the incentive to keep going.  To
Allison Clinton Rak – thank you for being such a great cheerleader.  And to
Adam Rak, here’s your name in print (but not actually on paper).

Thank you so very much to the readers who’ve embraced the
Kellingtons and given me so much encouragement along the way.  I was humbled by
your kindness and your efforts to spread the word about my books.  I truly
appreciate it.   I hope as much kindness and joy come your way as you have
given me.

Finally, thanks to Mike Eller for placing one of NEVER A
MISTRESS, NO LONGER A MAID’S more memorable quotes on an overhead projector.  I
have no words.  Although, obviously, I do.  Thank you for giving Helena High’s
class of ’81 a reunion for the ages.

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

 

 

 

 

London, July 1822

Not for the first time did Lady Elizabeth Kellington
consider how much easier it was to be a man than a woman.  A man wouldn’t have
to suffer with a corset and petticoats on an unusually hot summer day, stuck in
the study of his eldest brother the Duke of Lynwood.  Well, that wasn’t exactly
true.  Each of her older brothers – Ned, Arthur and Hal – had spent time
cooling their heels while waiting for Lynwood to berate them for some
transgression or another.  But none of them had done it while wearing stays.

At least Lizzie assumed they hadn’t.

And none of them had ever been in trouble for such a mild
offense.  Hal was often called on the carpet for his time spent drinking and
whoring – not that Lizzie was supposed to know about such things.  Arthur had a
tendency to lose too much money gaming.  And just a few months ago, Ned was
told to attend to an understanding he’d had since birth with a most unpleasant
chit.  Fortunately for all concerned, he’d found a way to end his association
with that shrew and marry the wonderful Jane, who just happened to be the
mother of his six-year-old daughter Vi.

And that was the way of the world.  Men got to drink, whore,
gamble and father children out-of-wedlock.  All she did was get involved just
the tiniest bit in politics and it was as if she’d run naked through Hyde Park. 
Of course, that would be one way to be rid of the accursed corset.

The door opened and Lynwood entered the room.  Slightly over
six feet tall, with black hair, blue eyes and a nose that had been broken at
least once, William Kellington, Duke of Lynwood looked every inch the powerful
aristocrat.  Dedicated to his three brothers and only sister, Lynwood had been
head of the family since the death of their parents more than a decade earlier. 
He was stern but fair and, unfortunately for Lizzie, had an uncanny ability to
know when someone wasn’t being completely truthful.

“I assume you know why you’re here,” he said, as he took a
seat at his desk opposite her.

“I suppose it may have something to do with my political
activities.”

Lynwood leaned back in his chair.  “I thought we’d come to
an agreement.  I would allow you to attend a few meetings, well chaperoned by
Aunt Prue and Miss Mariah, and you would remain quietly in the background.”

“Which is exactly what I did.”

“Am I to understand then,” said Lynwood, as his gaze
penetrated hers, “that you were as quiet as the proverbial church mouse,
sitting docilely in the background, not making your views known to anyone?”

“I’m sure I don’t appreciate being compared to a rodent, but
yes, I was quiet.”

“So you didn’t, perchance, make yourself known to the ladies
around you?”

Lizzie sat up straighter.  “I am the daughter and sister of
dukes, Liam.  I hardly need to make myself known to anyone.”

“And as the properly raised daughter and sister of dukes,
you do know that society frowns upon political agitation by ladies, don’t you?”

She hated it when he took on that insufferable tone.  She
narrowed her eyes at him in response.  “I would hardly call the meetings
‘agitation.’  They serve tea, for Heaven’s sake.”

“What about when the participants call for property rights
for women, easier access to divorce for wives who’ve suffered physical abuse at
the hands of their husbands and – of all preposterous notions – giving women
the vote?”

Inwardly, Lizzie froze.  There’s no way he could possibly
know, could he?  Even a man as well connected as her brother couldn’t have
obtained a copy of her treatise.  Outwardly, she smiled and brazened it out.

“One day we will vote, you know.  Women will run for office
and there’ll even be a female Prime Minister.”

“Heaven forfend.  That sounds like something only the savage
Americans would dream up.” 

Lynwood sat back in his chair looking for all the world like
a hanging judge.  But more severe.   He continued.  “I don’t need to tell you
that espousing such ideas here wouldn’t just be dangerous.  It’d lead to social
ostracism.”

“Even if I were to do such a thing, do you really think
anyone would dare to cut me?”  Lizzie watched her brother’s left eyebrow rise,
then matched it with one of her own.  “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m supposed
to meet Rosalind.  I promise we’ll speak only of ribbons, balls and embroidery. 
Unless you think even those subjects too controversial, then we’ll simply sit
and become the empty-headed chits so clearly preferred by nincompoop men.”

Lizzie got up to make her escape, then noticed Lynwood open
a drawer and pull out a sheaf of papers.  Her sheaf of papers.  It couldn’t
possibly be. 

“This nincompoop man,” said Lynwood, “made a very
interesting discovery today.  I found a copy of ‘Toward the Enlightenment of
England: A Treatise for the Reformation of Property Rights, the Rights of Women
in Marriage and Universal Suffrage.’  And if that title didn’t whet a person’s
curiosity sufficiently enough, the next line certainly would.  Because it seems
that the treatise was written by Lady Elizabeth Kellington.”

He tossed the pamphlet on the desk.  He was as displeased as
Lizzie had ever seen him.   He wasn’t yelling, which he used to do with some frequency
when she and her brothers had been in scrapes growing up.  He was quiet. 
Precise.  And frighteningly calm.

“Where did you get that?” she asked.

“I have my sources.”

“Aunt Prue?”

“Of course not.  She’d never show you such disloyalty,
although I wish in this instance she’d used a bit more common sense.”

Aunt Prue was their maternal aunt and devoted to the
Kellingtons.  She and her companion, Mariah Campbell, served as Lizzie’s
chaperones when needed.

“You mustn’t blame Aunt Prue.  She thought I was going to
publish anonymously.  Where did you get that?”

“Why is it so important to know how I obtained it?”  He
flicked the treatise away from him as if it gave off a most unpleasant odor.

“It just is.”  Lizzie picked up the papers.  She leafed
through them until she found what she was looking for, then smiled in relief.

Lynwood, adept at recognizing danger signs when it came to
his siblings, was instantly suspicious.  “Why are you smiling?”  

“You have an early copy.”

“There are more?” asked Lynwood, letting his composure slip
for the first time.

“I imagine by this time, there’ll be thousands more.”

“I beg your pardon?” he asked, as the color leached from his
face.

“It’s in the news sheets.”

Lynwood rarely shouted.  He almost never lost control.  But
this time he did both.

“You’re telling me this was published?”

“Of course.  What good would it do to have it read by only those
who agreed with it?  You can hardly change the world that way.”

Lynwood stormed past her and flung open the door. 

“Heskiss!  Being me the afternoon papers!”

A moment later, the long-time Lynwood House butler brought
in three newspapers.  Lynwood grabbed them. 

“Where’d you send it?” he demanded of Lizzie.

“Everywhere.  The Times refused to print it, being the
stodgy old twits they are, but the Examiner agreed to it.  And I believe the Mayfair
Express serialized it.  They were actually going to pay me.  But I knew you
certainly wouldn’t like that, so I turned down the money.  Do you think I
should’ve taken the blunt?  It might’ve been quite amusing.”

Lynwood flipped through the Examiner until he found what he
didn’t want to see.  Lizzie’s treatise.  And her name in bold letters.

The shock was profound.  And he was not a man easily
surprised. 

“You’ve gone too far this time,” he said, when he finally
found his voice.

“Oh come on, Liam.  I shall be fine.  I’m one-and-twenty and
I do have a brain in my head.”

“At times like this, I can doubt its existence,” he said,
putting aside the paper and looking at the sister he’d helped raise.  “This will
ruin you.   It’ll destroy your chances of making a good match.”

“You worry too much.  With my dowry, I could advocate giving
the vote to dogs and still make a decent enough match.”

As Lynwood looked at her, his anger receded and there was real
sadness in his eyes.

“No, poppet. You’re in trouble.  Serious trouble.  And I
don’t think you begin to know how much.”

Lizzie walked around the desk, then kissed her brother on
the cheek.  He could be an infuriating guardian, overbearing and annoying, but
she never doubted his love for her or the sacrifices he’d made from a young age
for the sake of the family.

“Thank you for worrying.  But I shall be fine.  You’ll see.”

Then Lizzie left the room, surprised she’d escaped the punishment
she’d felt sure Liam would dispense.

Lynwood watched her go, knowing she’d soon be punished more
than enough at the hands of the ton.  It was a terrible thing to know you
couldn’t always protect the ones you loved.  He just prayed she’d make it
through relatively unscathed.

*                    *                    *

She had the grace of a goddess, thought Marcus Redmond, Marquess
of Riverton, and not for the first time.  Lady Elizabeth Kellington, Lizzie to
her friends and family, of which he was truly neither, was a goddess.  Taller
than most women, she still only came up to his chin.  Black hair, vibrant green
eyes, and the ability to light up a room with her smile, Lizzie Kellington was as
close to perfect as anyone could be.  Well, she was rather outspoken and tended
to have some radical ideas, but Riverton had long suspected those were simply
the somewhat unpleasant byproducts of a mind that was utterly brilliant for a
woman.  And, to be honest, would stack up rather nicely against a man’s.

Unfortunately, she was also his best friend’s sister.  Which
meant she was strictly off limits. 

After coming out of Lynwood’s study, she’d passed by him,
stopping only long enough to exchange pleasantries.  She’d smelled of lemon and
freesia.  A lock of hair had fallen from its pin and she’d been perilously
close to having an eyelash drop into her right eye.  But he couldn’t warn her,
because she might’ve asked him to rescue the wayward lash.  And Riverton knew
he couldn’t risk any contact with her.  Because in his mind, there was no such
thing as innocent physical contact with Lizzie Kellington.         

So he’d kept his words to a minimum, even as he’d been
breathing in lemon and freesia and capturing all he saw in his mind’s eye.  One
day soon, she’d be married and gone from Kellington House and he’d torment
himself no further.  Although the thought of her given to another man was certainly
no comfort.

*                    *                    *

“I cannot properly countenance it,” said an astonished Riverton
moments later in Lynwood’s study, having just read Lizzie’s treatise in the Examiner. 
“The vote.  For women?”

“The vote.  Divorce.  Property rights.   The only thing missing
is a discussion of free love,” said Lynwood as he downed the rest of his
brandy.

Riverton sipped his drink, trying hard to put the notion of
Lizzie’s possible views on free love out of his head.  And failing miserably.  “You
must admit, it’s quite well written.  She has a remarkable mind.”

Lynwood looked as if his closest friend had turned
Bedlamite.  “Remarkable mind?  She has ruined her future.  At the moment, I
wish she had the intelligence of porridge and the demeanor of one of those
docile misses the mamas are always shoving our way.  Those chits wouldn’t
create a disaster like this.  They wouldn’t have the faintest idea of how to go
about it.”

 Riverton studied his drink.  “But if she were a docile miss
without a thought in her head, she wouldn’t be Lady Elizabeth.  Your sister has
a singular mind, an engaging personality, a joy for living.   While I question
her judgment in this case and disagree with her views, you cannot possibly wish
her to be anyone other than who she is.   A Lady Elizabeth without spirit would
be a great loss for us all.”

“You’re right,” said Lynwood.  “I would not wish her to be
other than herself.  But I fear for what will happen next.”

Riverton had no argument for that point because he knew the
course was never easy for anyone who strayed from society’s dictates.  Lady
Elizabeth Kellington was in serious trouble.  And she didn’t even know it.

*                    *                    *

Lizzie was adjusting the angle of her new bonnet, when her
bed chamber door opened and Rosalind Carson walked in.  Rosalind was four and
twenty, with average height, average build and remarkably pretty eyes that were
too often obscured by spectacles.  They’d been best friends since Lizzie’s
come-out when Rosalind had helped her fight off a foxed lordling’s advances.

“I thought we were meeting at your house,” said Lizzie. 
“I’m sorry I’m late, but Lynwood insisted I listen to his lecture.”

“So he’s seen it?” asked an anxious Rosalind, as she took
Lizzie’s hands in hers.  “You didn’t tell me you were going to publish under
your own name.”

“But why wouldn’t I?”  Lizzie squeezed her friend’s hands,
then motioned to the settee.   “I worked quite hard on it.  And if my position
in society lends greater weight to the cause, why shouldn’t I use it?  Up to
this point, being a duke’s sister has made me a target for toadies and fortune
hunters.  It’s about time I got to use it for something good.  Is it too late to
go to Gunter’s?  We have the Tarlington ball tonight and I can’t wait to wear
my new gown.”

Rosalind worried her lower lip, before turning a beseeching
glance on Lizzie.  “I don’t think you should go to the ball.”

“Whyever not?”

Before Rosalind could reply, the door swung open again and a
grave Aunt Prue and Miss Mariah entered.  Prudence Hamilton was the youngest
sister of the late Duchess of Kellington.  In her early ‘40s, she was still a
beauty and known for her warmth and wit, quite unlike their paternal aunt,
Agatha Darlington, the Countess of Crenshaw, who was known to only rarely smile
and was rather glacial in personality.  Mariah Campbell had been Aunt Prue’s
companion for almost two decades.  Quiet and shy, but a treasured confidante, she
was treated as a member of the family by the Kellingtons.

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