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A Lady Never Tells(4)

By:Candace Camp



“If I may be so bold, Miss Bascombe. You and your sisters are—well, this is not a very savory area, I fear. Are you by chance lost?”

“No.” Mary straightened her shoulders and returned his gaze. “We aren’t lost.”

Behind her, one of her sisters let out an inelegant snort. “No, just stranded.”

“Stranded?”

“We got off the ship this afternoon,” explained the youngest-looking of the Bascombe sisters, turning large gray-green eyes on him. Her voice lowered dramatically. “We are all alone here, and we haven’t any idea where to go. You see—”

“Lily!” Mary cut in sharply. “I am sure that Mr. Winslow isn’t interested in hearing our tale.” She turned to Sir Royce. “Now, if you will be so kind as to hand back our case, we will be on our way.”#p#分页标题#e#

“Sir Royce,” he corrected her gently.

“What?”

“My name. ’Tis Sir Royce, not Mr. Winslow. And I will be happy to return your case.” He plucked it from Gordon’s clasp and handed it to Mary but kept hold of it, saying, “However, I cannot simply walk away and leave three young ladies alone in this disreputable part of the city.”

“It is all right, really,” Mary argued.

“I insist. I will escort you to …” He paused significantly.

“An inn,” Mary said firmly, and tugged the case from his hand. Her chin went up a little. “Indeed, we are most grateful for your help, sir. If you will but direct us toward an appropriate inn, we shall not bother you anymore.”

Sir Royce bowed to her, schooling his face to hide his amusement. Her words were a dismissal as much as a thanks, he knew. Well, he thought, Miss Mary Bascombe might find dismissing him was easier said than done.

Mary watched as Sir Royce stepped into the street and casually lifted his cane. To her amazement, a carriage a block down started toward them. She turned back to him with a newfound respect.

She had not been sure what to think when she first saw this elegantly dressed gentleman standing in the thief’s path. He had hardly seemed the sort to engage in any sort of rough-and-tumble with the fellow who had just stolen her precious satchel. Yet, with seemingly no effort, he had tripped up the thief and given her back her case. And now he had managed to conjure up a hack for them in this uncongenial place.

Mary studied Sir Royce. She had never seen anyone with quite his air of sophistication and elegance. His clothes and boots were impeccable, and he moved with a sort of languid grace that bespoke a man of leisure. Yet it was plain to anyone with eyes that the shoulders beneath his jacket were broad and the thighs encased by his tight-fitting pantaloons were firmly muscled. This was not the effete, weak aristocrat she had heard more than one American describe as a typical British man.

She must have been staring, for Sir Royce offered her a smile. Mary’s stomach fluttered in a most disconcerting way. It was absurd, she told herself, that Sir Royce’s smile should have such an effect on her. Indeed, if she was honest, everything about the man, from his thick blond hair to his leaf green eyes, seemed to affect her in an unfamiliar way. It simply was not like her to be so strongly aware of a man’s looks—much less to feel her pulse speed up when he smiled at her. What was this peculiar warmth that curled deep within her as she gazed at him? And why did that dimple in his strong chin seem so appealing?

Sternly, she pushed such thoughts from her head. This was no time to turn foolishly girlish. She had heard tales of the sorts of people who lurked in cities, just waiting to swindle the unwary—or worse.

“How is it that you are able to summon a hack so easily?”

He raised an aristocratic eyebrow at her tone. “Suspicious, Miss Bascombe? You are probably right to be so. But I am not a white slaver patrolling the docks for lovely young American girls to abduct. And it is no hack, but my own carriage. I came in it because I was searching for young Gordon here, and I was unsure in what state I might find him. I had no desire to escort him home afoot if he was, um, a bit worse for the wear.”

“Oh.”

Mary studied him. There was no way to know if Sir Royce was trustworthy. But he had, after all, tripped up the thief and returned her case to her, which indicated that he was a law-abiding sort. And while this Gordon fellow with him was most oddly dressed, Sir Royce appeared eminently respectable. Even to an unpracticed eye such as hers, his glossy boots and elegant coat bespoke a man of wealth, and his bearing was certainly that of a gentleman. He could be all pretense, she supposed, but she and her sisters outnumbered him; surely he could not overpower them all. Besides, they had nothing that anyone would wish to steal—that thief would have been severely disappointed when he opened her case and found it contained nothing but documents. She had heard tales of white slavers, of course, but Mary could not believe that a white slaver looked and acted as this man did.#p#分页标题#e#

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