Unraveling the Earl, Book 3 in the Idyllwild series:
The Earl of Hastings’s reputation as London’s greatest gift to the ladies has taken on a life of its own, one he is only too happy to live up to in one Mayfair bedchamber after another. Until he encounters a lady more interested in poking around his country estate than sampling his lauded charms.
Georgiana Buchanan is possessed of murky morals, skewed notions of right and wrong, a talent for dancing around the truth, and a penchant for crashing weddings, funerals and charity balls.
When Georgie catches Henry’s roving eye, she turns the tables on the arrogant scoundrel, introducing him to a world of sensual delights and unraveling his vaunted control before fleeing into the night.
Henry is determined to make the elusive Georgiana his mistress while the lady wants only to use his desire to further her own schemes. When they find themselves marooned at Idyllwild during a summer storm, they will both discover they’ve gotten more than they bargained for.
Henry grinned and released her, tossed a jaunty salute and turned away.
Georgie brought one hand up to shade her eyes, her gaze fixed on his retreating form, on the breadth of his shoulders, the shifting muscles of his backside and thighs, and the dancing of his golden curls in the breeze.
When she found herself counting his steps, she spun around and retreated into the house.
“Perfect timing,” Critchley greeted with tea tray in hand.
“That would make for a nice change,” she replied, striving to find a speck of amusement amidst the jumble of thoughts rioting around inside her head and the foreign emotions battering beneath her breast.
Critchley’s right brow arched up in inquiry and she wondered if he’d copied the gesture from his young lord before deciding it was likely the opposite.
“It seems that each time I think my timing spot on, I am proven terribly wrong,” she explained, hurrying through the parlor door so as not to force him to stand about holding the heavy tray longer than necessary.
“You’re young yet,” he replied. “It’s likely you’ll learn that time has a way of working itself out, coming full circle and landing you just where you were meant to be.”
“Why, Mr. Crotchety, you are a philosopher.”
“Don’t go telling anyone,” he cautioned, lowering the tray to the small table set between two rocking chairs. “Two sugars and more cream than tea, if I remember correctly?”
“You’ve a fine memory.”
“Young folks nowadays are in a hurry to grow up, to spread their wings and fly,” he said as he poured. “So certain they know the way of the world.”
“To be sure, I doubt I’ll understand the way of the world if I live to be a hundred years of age,” she replied, sitting in the chair that afforded her an unimpeded view out the window.
“And that is what makes you wise beyond your years.” He handed a cup and saucer to her and took the other seat, his bones creaking in an alarming fashion.
“You aren’t having tea?” she asked, balancing her saucer on her knee as Benedict had taught her during their first etiquette lesson.
“Bah, can’t stand the stuff.” He whisked a small silver flask from his breast pocket and held it out to her.
Georgie lifted her cup and watched him pour a dram in to mix with her pale tea.
“Now, you take his lordship,” Critchley said, settling into his seat and lifting the flask to his lips.
“I’d rather not, if you don’t mind.”
His eyes met hers over the shining silver. He swallowed and swallowed again before lowering the flask, capping it and tucking it back into his pocket.
Georgie sipped her tea and glanced toward the window.
“If Mrs. Porter is at home, she’ll keep his lordship there with her chatter long enough to hitch up the horses and make the journey to and from the village,” he said, watching her closely.
“No need,” she assured him.
“My carriage will be along shortly.”
“I don’t know that your lumbering box will make it, what with the roads being a muddy mess,” he warned. “We got stuck twice.”
“Hmm, good whiskey,” she said, ignoring his words entirely. Tag and Brain would come for her, should have been there as soon as the rain had ceased. “How is it you did not make the journey safely that first day, before the skies opened up?”
“Broke an axel just after we separated from his lordship, took until dark to see it repaired. By morn the rain was coming down in sheets,” he replied, crossing his hands over his chest and pushing off with one foot, setting the chair gently rocking. “Why won’t you take Lord Hastings?”
“No offense, but your master is a bumbling idiot,” she said.
“None taken,” he assured her. “But he ain’t near as bumbling you might think.”
“Bumbling enough,” she replied. “And quite blind to boot.”
“There is that,” he agreed.
Georgie lifted her cup and drained the contents as her carriage appeared in the distance, a small spot of black pulled by tiny horses, cresting one knoll and disappearing again.
“You’d be the making of the man.”
Her cup rattled as she lowered it to the fine china saucer and she hurriedly placed both on the table.
“Already you’ve changed him,” he continued. “Set him on the straight and narrow path.”
“I don’t know that I want to change him,” she began, waving one hand in the air in agitation.
“Like him just the way he is do you?” he teased. “Bumbling and blind.”
“Nor am I the sort of woman to set any man on the straight and narrow,” she replied with a laugh, refusing to give the kind old man a lie. “I’d be more likely to push him from the path and clap my hands in glee as he fell into a marshy bog.”
Where to find Lynne: