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Monday Puzzler > Monday Puzzler - Jan 30, 2017

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message 1: by Cheri (new)

Cheri (cvenable16) | 136 comments She was almost to the road when she heard the sound of wheels on the gravel behind her. Mr. Hero pulled the vehicle up beside her.

“Good morning, Miss Heroine.”

She didn’t think she’d ever seen a more handsome man. Contrary to her, he appeared well rested and ready for the day. His greatcoat was cut of the finest gray wool, and he wore it and his low-crowned hat with the dash of careless negligence. His boots shone in the morning light. What pleasure it would be to wear shoes made of such fine leather. For a moment, she was tempted to take him up on his offer. She started walking toward the road.

“I was hoping to catch you,” he said pleasantly, as if she hadn’t snubbed him. When she didn’t answer, he said, “Here, will you stop for a moment?”

“I’m sorry, I must reach the Bull and Crown in time to catch the post.” He pulled the phaeton in front of her, blocking her path. Heroine stopped. “All right then, what do you want?”

“To amend my offer,” he answered smiling, his teeth strong and even. “You see, I’ve thought about it, and I’ve decided you are right.”

“About what?” she asked, confused.

“Marriage,” he replied.

Heroine wasn’t certain she’d heard him correctly. “I beg your pardon?”

“You said your price was marriage.” Mr. Hero spoke calmly, as if they discussed the morning weather and nothing more. “I’ve agreed. I will marry you.”

It had been a long, disappointing night, and Heroine was in no mood for jests…especially since her heart did a little leap at the word “marry.” No one had ever made her an honorable proposal. She was too honest not to admit to a measure of excitement over receiving one. But she wasn’t a fool. He was almost blindingly handsome. Wealthy. Self-assured. Everything a woman could wish for in a man, including the fact that her toes curled when he kissed her. All he had to do was smile to set her pulse racing. She’d never met a man like him.

So it was with great pride that she mimicked his cavalier nonchalance, and answered, “You can’t agree to marry me because I didn’t ask you.”

“Yes, you did,” he shot back. “Last night you said your price was marriage.”

“I was telling you that I would not be kept.”

“Then I’m volunteering to marry you,” he replied smoothly. His eyes danced with delight, as if he had anticipated her answer. He was enjoying himself immensely — at her expense. She struggled with an urge to throw her valise at him. Seeing it hit him right in the head and knocking him off the high seat of the flashy, overpriced vehicle would give her no end of satisfaction.

“Why are you doing this?” She looked to the house. “Is this a dare you took with your cronies? Are they hiding in the windows snickering at the sight of you baiting the governess?” She gave him a look of pathetic sympathy. “Don’t you think you’ve caused enough havoc in my life?” She didn’t wait for an answer but backed up and started to walk around the phaeton.

“Miss Heroine, you misunderstand my intentions.”

He raised his gaze and gave her a look so knowing and so intense everything inside her melted — including her resistance. The hunting dogs, the house, her doubts…all vanished.

“I told you last night what I wanted,” he said, his voice low, hypnotic. “I haven’t changed my mind. I want you, Heroine, no matter the cost.”

And she wanted him. He stirred her senses in a way she’d not known before. Heroine grasped the handle of her valise with both hands. It was everything she could do to not fall into his arms.

“No,” she said, her voice so faint she doubted if he heard her, but she couldn’t speak louder. “I won’t marry you. I won’t marry anyone.”

She turned and would have run for those pillars except he still had a hold on her arm.

He pulled her back. “Why not?”

“Because I don’t believe in love,” she lashed out, wanting him to let her be. “And there is no reason to marry without it.”

The words had just tumbled out of her mouth. She had no idea where they’d come from until she thought of her mother, who’d loved the marquis. Or her stepfather, who had worshiped a woman who could never love him even after he took in her bastard child. Better to be alone than expose herself to the possibility of making the same mistake.

“Then why do poets sing of it?” Mr. Hero challenged.

“Because unrequited love makes such delicious tragedy,” she answered. “And don’t be such a prig. I doubt if you believe in love either. You strike me as too pragmatic.”

His quick smile made her knees weak. “Quite right, Miss Heroine. And yet every poet swears it must be worth the risk. I’ve taken more than my fair number of risks in my life. I’m not going to shy back from this one, especially when there is so much to gain.”

They stood practically toe-to-toe. If she leaned forward, she would be able to rest her head on his chest and hear the beat of his heart. Heroine feared she wasn’t as strong as her mother had been. She’d not recover losing in such a game.

Something of what she was thinking must have shown on her face because he asked, “What promise do you want from me? That I will never leave you? Very well. You have my word and my word is my bond. It’s had to be. Trust me, Heroine. Believe in me…”

Those were heady words to a young woman who had nothing to her name and nowhere to go. “…Be my wife.” Heroine could not refuse. He took the valise from her fingers, not waiting for her answer.

He turned her around toward his horses. “We’ll make arrangements in London.” She was conscious of walking beside him. He was strong and powerful, and she was safe. In some part of her mind, she wanted to retie the loose ribbons of her bonnet before she climbed up on the perch of that high-flying phaeton. She’d never been on one before, but her younger half brothers, the sons by her mother’s marriage, would think riding in such a sporting carriage all the thing. She used to race the boys around in the pony cart when they were little, before they went off to school and decided they were too old for games and too proud for their sister. Her stepfather would be shocked if she showed up married to such a wealthy man. In London, she might even cross paths with her real father.

Mr. Hero placed her bag in the phaeton’s boot and came around to help her up onto the perch. She placed her hand in his. He gave her fingers a small, reassuring squeeze. Heroine looked at him and, for a moment, wanted to believe in love. His eyes weren’t as dark as she thought. This close to him, she could see the shades of brown and a hint of green as dark as the forest — A shot cracked the air.

The horses, so well trained they had been standing in place while she and Mr. Hero had been talking, tossed their heads and took a prancing step away. Mr. Hero threw his arm around her, knocking her bonnet off her head as he pushed her to the ground.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Gunfire.” He scanned the trees lining the drive up to the house. She looked, too.

Mr. W_____ and two of his friends had already started the hunt, but they’d stopped when they’d heard the shot. She saw their figures silhouetted against the tree line. Even the dogs had picked up their ears and sniffed the air.

“I don’t see anyone,” Heroine said. “Are you certain it was a shot?” she asked.

“Yes. It hit me. In the back.”

message 2: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2056 comments Mod
Definitely haven't read this! How intruiging!

message 3: by Leigh-Ayn (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1122 comments OOOH! I haven't read this either!!!
I am a terrible person! I am giggling at the last sentence...

message 4: by Fluteak94 (new)

Fluteak94 I definitely need this book in my life right now! Can't wait for the reveal!!

Stacey is Sassy (staceyissassy) | 1220 comments I like the sound of this one :-)

message 6: by Janga (new)

Janga | 1070 comments Mod
I have an educated guess.

message 7: by Phoenix77 (new)

Phoenix77 | 346 comments This sounds so familiar but I can't place it. I look forward to the reveal

message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan (susaninaz) | 981 comments No idea, but he will have a month or so while he recovers from the gunshot to convince Heroine to marry him. At least she will get some new leather shoes out of the deal.

message 9: by Irisheyes (new)

Irisheyes | 892 comments When I first started reading I thought I had it, then realized I hadn't. LOL
So, no idea, but interested.

message 10: by Janice (new)

Janice | 30 comments I don't know this one, and I can't wait for the reveal. Governess and a wounded hero? Yes, please!!

message 11: by Janga (new)

Janga | 1070 comments Mod
Is it part of a five-book series? If I'm right, it is the first one.

message 12: by Charlene (new)

Charlene (charlenethestickler) | 320 comments I wonder if I know this one. If not, I need to make its acquaintance.

message 13: by Cheri (new)

Cheri (cvenable16) | 136 comments This week's puzzler answer is Temptation of a Proper Governess by Cathy Maxwell.

Janga, you are correct, it's the first in a series of five.

Anyone else read this series? Love Cathy Maxwell, I'm in the middle of reading (and re-reading) all of her books in order.

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