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Monday Puzzler > Puzzler: 17 April 2019

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message 1: by Leigh-Ayn (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1128 comments Hi guys!
A puzzler for your guessing pleasure!
I have had this book on my kindle for ages but only just started reading it!

Had someone asked Heroine Surname at the age of twelve what she expected to be doing fifteen years later, she would’ve listed three things.

One, writing a pamphlet on the greater intelligence of females compared to males—especially males who were brothers.

Two, indulging in as much raspberry trifle as she pleased.

And three, breeding spaniels so that she might have an endless supply of puppies to play with.

She’d been very fond of puppies at twelve.

But that was before the Nameless tragedy, which had torn her family apart and nearly killed her eldest brother, Brother.

Everything had changed after the tragedy.

Which was possibly why Heroine’s twelve-year-old self could never have predicted what she was actually doing at seven and twenty: working as an agent of the ancient secret society of Wise Women.

Heroine hurried along the London street toward Wapping Old Stairs. At the last cross street she’d realized that they were being followed. She glanced at her charges. Nursemaid was a nursemaid only just turned twenty. The girl was red faced and panting, her mouse-brown hair coming down around her damp cheeks, her eyes wide with terror. In the nursemaid’s arms was Baby B, the seventh Earl of B.

Age one and a half.

Fortunately His Minute Lordship was asleep in Nursemaid’s arms, round cheeks pink and tiny rosebud mouth pursed.

Behind them were two disreputable men who looked very much as if they were stalking Heroine and her charges.

Heroine racked her brain, trying to think of a plan of escape. The day was sunny. Seagulls screamed above the Wapping streets. She and Nursemaid walked parallel to the Thames, only blocks away, and the fetid smell of the river was strong in the air.

She estimated that it was less than a quarter mile to Wapping Old Stairs. The street was busy at this time of day. Carts rattled by, filled with foreign goods brought through the Port of London. Smartly dressed merchants and ship captains bumped shoulders with staggering sailors already in their cups. Working-class women made sure to avoid the sailors, while women who worked the streets made sure to accost them.

Heroine chanced another look behind.

They were still there.

The two men might simply be traveling in their direction. Or they might have been sent by Badguy B, Baby’s paternal uncle, with orders to bring back the baby earl. If they took him, she wouldn’t have a second chance to rescue the toddler.

Or, of course, they might be Other Bad Guys.

Heroine’s pulse picked up at that last thought. The Wise Women had long been hunted by Other Bad Guys —nasty, superstitious fanatics who knew about the Wise Women and believed they were witches who should be burned.

If the followers were either Other Bad Guys or B’s men, she had to do something soon, or they’d never make it to the stairs.

“What is it?” Nursemaid asked breathlessly. “Why do you keep looking back?”

“We’re being followed,” Heroine told her as a huge black carriage came around the corner, moving toward them at a snail’s pace due to the crowded street.

Nursemaid moaned and hitched His Lordship higher in her arms.

The carriage door bore an ornate gold crest Heroine didn’t recognize. Not that it really mattered. They needed safety and a place to hide from the men. Whoever the aristocrat in the carriage was, Heroine was certain she could stall him for a minute or two.

That was all they needed.

She seized Nursemaid’s arm. “Run!”

Heroine darted behind the carriage, pulling Nursemaid along with her.

There was a shout from the men following them, and the carriage shuddered to a stop.

On the far side of the carriage she dragged Nursemaid to the door, wrenched it open, and shoved both nursemaid and baby inside. Heroine leaped in, slamming the carriage door behind her.

She landed on hands and knees and looked up.

Nursemaid was sitting on the floor of the carriage, cowering away from a large yellow dog, who appeared to be regarding the maid with surprise.

Miraculously, Baby, the tiniest earl in all the land, hadn’t woken.

The gentleman beside the dog stirred. “I beg your pardon?”

At least that was what he said. What he quite obviously meant was, “What the bloody hell?”

Heroine tore her gaze from the dog and looked up into cerulean eyes framed by thick black eyelashes. Lounging on the squabs, his legs stretched clear to the opposite seat, was Hero Surname, the Duke of H.

The man who had helped destroy her brother Brother.

Heroine’s breath seized, her eyes dropped, and she saw something else.

The bastard was wearing Brother’s signet ring.

Her gaze snapped back to his, and she waited for him to shout her name. For her true identity to be revealed after five long years of hiding in London.

Instead his expression changed not at all as he said, “Who are you?”

He didn’t recognize her.

He and Guy Nameless had been Brother’s best friends. He had seen her every week of her life until the Nameless tragedy. She’d once vowed to marry the swine. Of course she’d been twelve and that was before he’d nearly gotten Brother killed, but even so.

He didn’t recognize her.

What a complete and utter ass.

Heroine straightened her bonnet and glared up at the duke. “You are not Lady P.”

The duke’s eyebrows snapped down. “I—”

“What,” Heroine said with rather enjoyable ire, “are you doing in Lady P’s carriage?”

Said carriage lurched and began moving as Baby woke with a whimper.

Outside a man cursed.

Heroine made sure to keep her head below the level of the open window.

Someone pounded on the carriage door.

Hero looked from Heroine to Nursemaid and the baby and then back to Heroine again.

Holding her gaze, he stood.

Heroine stilled.

Nursemaid and the baby sobbed.

Hero leaned over Heroine and glanced out the window before shutting it and drawing the curtain. He resumed his seat, a muscle twitching in his jaw as his right hand dropped to the dog’s head. “I don’t know what trouble you might be in or why those brutes are after you.”

Heroine opened her mouth, desperately thinking of a story.

The duke held up his hand. “Nor do I care. I’ll take you to Westminster. After that you’re on your own.”

Hero was offering to help them, two strangers? That didn’t make sense from the man who had so coldheartedly abandoned Brother.

But she had no time to ponder his vagary.

“Thank you,” Heroine said, the words like acid etching hatred on her tongue. “But that won’t be necessary.” She looked at Nursemaid. “I’m going to jump out when next the coach slows. I want you to wait to the count of twenty and then follow.”

“What of the child?” the duke interrupted imperiously. “Surely you don’t wish to endanger the both of them by ordering her to jump from a moving carriage?”

“Then stop the coach for her,” Heroine replied sweetly.

For a second they locked gazes. His face was wrathful. Obviously he wasn’t used to being given orders by anyone—a woman least of all.

Too bad.

Heroine leaned close to Nursemaid and murmured in her ear, “Remember to head for Wapping Old Stairs and to look for the woman wearing a black cloak with a gray hood.”

“But what of you?” Nursemaid whispered frantically.

Heroine straightened and gave the girl an encouraging smile. “I’ll find you, never fear.”

“Oh, miss—”

Heroine shook her head firmly, bussed the baby earl on his adorably fat cheek, and winked at the duke. “A pleasure, Your Grace.”

Then she leaped from the carriage.

She stumbled when her boots hit the cobblestones, and for a ghastly second she thought she might go under the carriage wheels.

But she recovered.

message 2: by Irisheyes (new)

Irisheyes | 892 comments I haven't read this. I would remember it. Sounds very interesting... can't wait for the reveal.

Stacey is Sassy (staceyissassy) | 1221 comments Nope, definitely don't know it but I'm interested. :-)

message 4: by Chocolatesoup (new)

Chocolatesoup | 355 comments No idea but sounds good

message 5: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2059 comments Mod
One of my favorite authors

message 6: by Susan (new)

Susan (susaninaz) | 984 comments Oh, I read this a month ago. Like you, it sat on my e-reader a while. Excellent scene: she needs his help to escape, but darn it--he has Brother's cherished ring on his finger!

message 7: by Daniellegn (new)

Daniellegn | 195 comments sounds spectacular!

message 8: by Manda (new)

Manda Collins (manda_collins) | 1878 comments Mod
But what is it???

message 9: by Susan (new)

Susan (susaninaz) | 984 comments It's Not the Duke's Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt.

message 10: by Leigh-Ayn (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1128 comments Thanks Susan! Apologies guys! I have not been well and forgot I had put a puzzler up lol

message 11: by Manda (new)

Manda Collins (manda_collins) | 1878 comments Mod
Oh no! Hope you're feeling better, Leigh-Ayn!

message 12: by Stacey is Sassy (new)

Stacey is Sassy (staceyissassy) | 1221 comments Leigh-Ayn wrote: "Thanks Susan! Apologies guys! I have not been well and forgot I had put a puzzler up lol"

It's that wonderful time of the year. Look after yourself, and I hope you feel better soon. :-)

message 13: by Leigh-Ayn (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1128 comments thanks guys! xxx

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