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Monday Puzzler > Monday Puzzler- 30 April 2018

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message 1: by Okie (last edited Apr 29, 2018 08:52PM) (new)

Okie (okieb) | 2122 comments Mod
**posting early ladies.

Now the only question was how to retrieve the earring. If she knelt on the floor, she would return to the ballroom as dirty as a chimney sweep.

The back of the settee had been carved into an ornate pattern of flourishes and curlicues, with spaces wide enough to reach through. Tugging off her gloves, Heroine tucked them into the concealed pocket of her gown. Gamely she hiked up her skirts, knelt on the settee, and inserted her arm into one of the open work gaps, all the way to the elbow. Her fingertips wouldn’t quite touch the floor.

Leaning farther into the space, she pushed her head through and felt a slight tug at her coiffure, followed by the delicate ping of a fallen hairpin. “Drat,” she muttered. Angling her body, she twisted to fit her shoulders through the opening, and felt for the earring until her fingers closed around it.

As she tried to pull out, however, she had unexpected difficulty. The settee’s carved woodwork seemed to have closed aroundher like a shark’s jaws. Backing away more strongly, she felt her dress hook on something and heard a few stitches pop. She went still. It certainly wouldn’t do to return to the ballroom with a rip in her gown.

She strained and struggled to reach the back of her dress, but stopped again as she heard the fragile silk begin to tear.
Perhaps if she slid forward a bit and tried to back out at a different angle . . . but the maneuver only trapped her more firmly, the serrated edges of carved wood digging into her skin. After a minute of squirming and floundering, Heroine held motionless except for the fast, anxious jerks of her lungs.

“I’m not stuck,” she muttered. “I can’t be.” She wriggled helplessly. “Oh God, I am, I’m stuck. Blast. Blast.”

If she was found like this, it would mean lifelong ridicule. She might find a way to live with it. But it would reflect on her family and make them look ridiculous too, and it would ruin Cassandra’s Season, and that was unacceptable.

Despairing and frustrated, Heroine tried to think of the worst word she knew. “Bollocks.”

In the next moment, she turned cold with horror as she heard a man clearing his throat.

Was it a servant? A gardener? Please, dear God, please don’t let it be one of the guests.

She heard footsteps as he entered the summer house.

“You seem to be having some difficulty with that settee,” the stranger remarked. “As a rule, I don’t recommend the head first approach, as it tends to complicate the seating process.” The voice contained a cool dark resonance that did something pleasant to her nerves. Goose flesh rose on her bare skin.

“I’m sure this must be amusing,” Heroine said cautiously, straining to see him through the carved woodwork. He was dressed in formal evening clothes. Definitely a guest.

“Not at all. Why would I be amused by the sight of a young woman posing upside-down on a piece of furniture?”

“I’m not posing. My dress is caught in the settee. And I would be much obliged if you would help me out of it!”

“The dress or the settee?” the stranger asked, sounding interested.

“The settee,” Heroine said irritably. “I’m all tangled up in these dratted—” she hesitated, wondering what to call the elaborate wooden curls and twists carved into the back of the settee. “—swirladingles,” she finished.

“Acanthus scrolls,” the man said at the same time. A second passed before he asked blankly, “What did you call them?”

“Never mind,” Heroine said with chagrin. “I have a bad habit of making up words, and I’m not supposed to say them in public.”

“Why not?”

“People might think I’m eccentric.”

His quiet laugh awakened a ticklish feeling in her stomach. “At the moment, darling, made-up words are the least of your problems.”

Heroine blinked at the casual endearment, and tensed as he sat beside her. He was close enough that she caught his fragrance, a spice of amber or something cedary, wrapped around fresh earthy coolness. He smelled like an expensive forest.

“Are you going to help me?” she asked.

“I might. If you tell me what you were doing on this settee in the first place.”

“Is it necessary for you to know?”

“It is,” he assured her.

Heroine scowled. “I was reaching for something.”

A long arm draped along the back of the settee. “I’m afraid you’ll have to be more specific.”

He was not being very chivalrous, she thought with annoyance. “An earring.”

“How did you lose your earring?”

“It’s not mine. It belongs to a friend and I have to return it to her quickly.”

“A friend,” he repeated skeptically. “What is her name?”“I can’t tell you that.”

“A pity. Well, good luck.” He made as if to leave.

“Wait.” Heroine wriggled, and heard the sound of more stitches popping. She stopped with a sound of exasperation. “It’s Lady Colwick’s earring.”

“Ah. I suppose she was out here with Hayhurst?”

“How do you know about that?”

“Everyone knows, including Lord Colwick. I don’t think he’ll mind Dolly’s affairs later on, but it’s a bit soon before she’s produced a legitimate child.”

No gentleman had ever spoken so frankly to Heroine before, and it was shocking. It was also the first truly interesting conversation she’d ever had with anyone at a ball.

“She’s not having an affair,” Heroine said. “It was only a rendezvous.”

“Do you know what a rendezvous is?”

“Of course I do,” she said with great dignity. “I’ve had French lessons. It means to have a meeting.”

“In context,” he said dryly, “it means a great deal more than that.”

Heroine squirmed miserably. “I don’t give a pickle about what Dolly and Mr. Hayhurst were doing on this settee, I just want to be out of it. Will you help me now?”

“I suppose I must. The novelty of talking to an unfamiliar derrière is beginning to wear off.”

Heroine stiffened, her heart jolting as she felt him lean over her.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m not going to molest you. My tastes don’t run to young girls.”

“I’m twenty-one,” she said indignantly.


“Yes, why do you sound skeptical?”

“I wouldn’t have expected to find a woman of your age in such a predicament.”

“I’m almost always in a predicament.” Heroine jerked as she felt a gentle pressure on her back.

“Hold still. You’ve hooked your dress on three different scroll points.” He was pulling deftly at the silk pleats and ruffles.
“How did you manage to squeeze through such a small space?”

“It was easy going forward. But I didn’t realize all these dratted swirla—that is, scrolls—were set like backward barbs.”

“Your dress is free now. Try pulling yourself out.”

Heroine began to ease backward, and yelped as the wood dug into her. “I still can’t. Oh, blast—”

“Don’t panic. Twist your shoulders to the . . . no, not that way, the other way. Wait.” The stranger sounded reluctantly amused

“This is like trying to open a Japanese puzzle box.”

“What’s that?”

“A wooden box made of interconnected parts. It can only be opened if one knows the series of moves required to unlock it.”
A warm palm settled on her bare shoulder, gently angling it.

His touch sent a strange shock through her. She drew in a sharp breath, cool air swirling inside her hot lungs.

“Relax,” he said, “and I’ll set you free in a moment.”

Her voice came out higher-pitched than usual. “I can’t relax with your hand there.” “If you cooperate, this will go faster.”

“I’m trying, but it’s a very awkward position.”

“The position was your doing, not mine,” he reminded her.

“Yes, but—ouch.” The point of a scroll had scratched her upper arm. The situation was becoming intolerable. Spurred by the beginnings of alarm, she moved restlessly within the snarls of carved wood. “Oh, this is horriculous.”

“Easy. Let me guide your head.”

They both froze as a gruff shout came from just outside the summer house. “What the devil is going on in there?”

**i thought this was a good place to stop :D

message 2: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2102 comments Mod
A really good choice (but you left her name in).

message 3: by Okie (new)

Okie (okieb) | 2122 comments Mod
dang it! i see it. thanks, deb.

message 4: by Leigh-Ayn (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1207 comments ooh good choice!
I have definitely read this and think I have the right book!!

message 5: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (staceyissassy) | 1281 comments I loved this one, great choice. :-)

message 6: by Janga (new)

Janga | 1070 comments Mod
I don't love this one as much as its predecessor, but I still consider it a great read by one of the best and most gracious authors in the genre.

message 7: by Nicole (new)

Nicole (nikanne) | 222 comments If I'm right I just read the next in the series in which this Lady's habit of creating her own words was used as a means to identify a servant as really being staff of the family's household. Love this series!

message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan (susaninaz) | 1044 comments Never read this. Drat, the "reveal" is not until wednesday. I want this one.

message 9: by Irisheyes (new)

Irisheyes | 896 comments Good one! Loved this one and just about everything else this author has written!

message 10: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Hill | 487 comments Oh - I am honestly excited to find out! I have no clue though

message 11: by Daniellegn (new)

Daniellegn | 268 comments I just read this one, good choice :)

message 12: by Twiggy53 (new)

Twiggy53 (shellgame50) | 6 comments Finally know one! And one of my favorites, actually everything this author has done☺️

message 13: by Manda (new)

Manda Collins (manda_collins) | 1925 comments Mod
Yay! I know one!

message 14: by Okie (last edited May 01, 2018 11:14AM) (new)

Okie (okieb) | 2122 comments Mod
As many of y'all have guessed :D This week's MP is Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas.

message 15: by Manda (new)

Manda Collins (manda_collins) | 1925 comments Mod
Great choice, Okie!

message 16: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Hill | 487 comments Omg - I totally should have known that

message 17: by Leigh-Ayn (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1207 comments Rachel wrote: "Omg - I totally should have known that"

hahah YES!!!!

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