"Elizabeth, surely you know how attached I've become to you," Lord Dothingley was saying.
She took a deep breath. Really, she must get a hold of herself. What was wrong with her,
Lord Dothingley was a fine man. A good catch. Everyone said so. Best of all, Mamma said so.
And wouldn't it be just lovely to finally be done with Mamma's nagging, Mamma's lecturing, and
Mamma's continual parade of eligible gentlemen? Indeed, it would. If only she didn't need to be
married to someone like Lord Dothingley to gain such peace in her life.
Not that she didn't imagine herself happily wed at some point to someone... but why couldn't she
possibly imagine Lord Dothingley in that role? Who did she want instead? No one in particular,
of course. She was not given to romantic fancy, after all. Still, if she had ever dreamed of
someone—not that she ever had, of course—she had to admit it would not be Lord Dothingley.
It would be someone like...
Her glance had strayed out the window, searching for something to distract her, to help her
forget these foolish jitters and get her mind back onto things at hand. Her mind, however, was
completely unprepared for what she saw. The jitters became worse.
The rush of late morning traffic had created a clutter. Several carriages were caught up in it and
people were causing some measure of disturbance. There, in the midst of the chaos, was a
gentleman of supreme calm. He sat still, quite content and fully unconcerned, ignoring the bustle
around him as if he could brush it aside on a whim.
His curricle was new, painted in deep forest green with glittering gold-colored wheels. His two
matching greys danced anxiously, but he held them masterfully with just one hand while his
other hand drooped lazily over the back of the seat beside him. That empty seat seemed quite
vacant, and tempting.
Yes, he was a gentleman indeed. He was elegantly dressed in the height of fashion, yet
somehow maintained an untamed quality that Elizabeth was quite unfamiliar with. His dark hair
was thick, and seemed to fight rebelliously with the warm spring breezes, yet his rakish hat
remained perfectly in place. The brim sent just enough shadow over the man's face to make him
a bit mysterious, but not enough to quite hide his eyes.
She could see these eyes easily. They were aimed directly at her, peering through her window
and watching her with unabashed intent. One eyebrow rose slowly as he realized she had
caught him staring. He smiled just the slightest bit.
Good gracious! That stranger on the street was staring at her in her own home! How rude! How
appalling! Worse, she realized she was helpless to look away. And Lord Dothingley was still
lolling at her feet, stroking her hand and begging for... well, her hand.
"Please, Miss Wheaton. Do me the honor of making me the happiest man in the world. Please
She had to get away, had to get out of this room and collect herself. What was wrong with her
that she should be such a ninny all of a sudden? That man on the street was no one. She'd
never seen him before. Surely if he were anyone she'd have seen him, met him at some event
or other. And he was rude! Oh, so very rude to keep gazing at her this way.
She was a lady, not some bit of muslin for him to gawk at in amusement. Indeed, she had other
things to consider. Important things! She had to say something... Lord Dothingley was waiting
for an answer. Er, what was the question?
"You do have an answer for me, don't you?" he questioned.
"Yes, yes of course," she said, proud of herself for finally dragging her eyes away from the man
on the street.
It was a bit painful to take her sights off that particular gentleman and put them back onto Lord
Dothingley with his rumpled cravat, greasy complexion, and almost non-existent chin, but she
did it. And she smiled.
He smiled, too.
In fact, he leapt to his feet with only a slight stagger that trampled but three of her toes, and
then lunged to pull her smotheringly into his embrace. She choked, but she doubted he could
hear it. She had a mouthful of cravat.
"I am so happy, my dear! You will see, you will never regret this. I will make you the best
Husband! Good heavens, what had she just done?
She glanced outside. The gentleman was still there, still sprawled contentedly in his seat as the
road began to clear. And he was still watching her.
Oh, but what nerve! He ought to be ashamed, staring this way. Instead, though, he merely
raised one corner of his lips and nodded toward her. Just as the traffic began to move again, he
gave her a wink. A wink of his eye! As if she were a common... Well, thank heavens he was
leaving and she would never see him again.
Pity she couldn't quite say the same about Lord Dothingley. Drat. Now what was she going to
Excerpt from MISS WHEATON'S WHISKERS
How could one little lie--the tiniest whisker--cause so
much scandal? But one lie leads to another, and now
Miss Wheaton is wrapped in the arms of a notorious
Duke! Will her tangle of falsehoods lead her to ruin, or
will Miss Wheaton's whiskers lead to true love?
Miss Wheaton's Whiskers