Madcap miss, p.1
Madcap Miss, page 1
Books by Claudy Conn
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Excerpt: Courting Kit
About Claudy Conn
More about Claudy Conn’s Books
Books by Claudy Conn
available at smashwords.com
Oh, Cherry Ripe
Rogues, Rakes & Jewels
Taffeta and Hotspur
After the Storm
Witches, Warlocks, and Dark Magic
Hungry Moon Series
Hungry Moon: Quicksilver
Hungry Moon: Destiny
Hungry Moon: Jodi
Prince in the Mist (Novella)
Aaibhe—Shee Queen (Novelette)
Catch & Hold—Legend
Through Time Series (time travel)
The Complete Legend Series
Claudy Conn’s Bestselling Regencies
By Claudy Conn
Copyright © 2015 by Claudy Conn
Edited by: Karen Babcock
Cover Artist: Kendra Egert
All rights reserved
Published in the United States of America
Excerpt: Courting Kit
Copyright © 2015 by Claudy Conn
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No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
Names, characters, and events depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.
~ One ~
SCOTT HANOVER DID not stand on ceremony when visiting Easton Manor. In fact, no one at the manor could remember a time when he had done more than wave himself inside.
Perhaps this was due to his boyish charm or the warmth of his smile or the undeniable truth that he was held in open affection by Miss Easton and, therefore, all her staff.
As far as the Easton staff was concerned, she was their darling, one they had watched grow from infancy. They had become quickly accustomed to young Scott and Felicia playing as toddlers together as they mothers enjoyed tea, and from there the two babes developed a comfortable and cozy friendship as they grew into young adults.
So it was with ease that Scott marched past Dasset into the open hall and called in stentorian accents, “Flip, you zany! Where the deuce are you?”
He waited only for a moment of silence to advance before he turned to the elderly but stately retainer and asked amiably, “Where has she gone off to now? She was supposed to meet me by the pike twenty minutes ago.”
Dasset sighed and shook his head. “Something dreadful has happened, sir. It was the morning mail.”
“Dreadful, you say? The morning mail?” Scott’s dark blond brows arched with surprise over his fine blue gaze. “What mean you? Where is she?”
“Miss Felicia was overset by something she received in the morning mail,” Dasset attempted once more to explain. “You and Miss Felicia, I know…are close, so you might know better than I where she went off to.”
Scott knew the last two years had been difficult for Felicia. She had lost her father more than twenty-three months ago, and it had been sudden. The doctor couldn’t even name what had taken him. Shortly after that, her stepmama had taken ill and died. Felicia had always told him she was sure her stepmama had fallen ill and died from a broken heart. She had been close to both of her parents and it had been a sad shock to lose them one immediately after the other in this way.
Scott had stood beside her throughout this ordeal. He was only a few months older than she, and both were still so young. He had already turned one and twenty, but she had about two months before she would attain her majority. He thought about this as he contemplated the butler and demanded, “What, dash it, Dasset, was in the mail?”
“That is just it. We don’t know.” Dasset sighed heavily. “Miss became very agitated and ran out of the house.”
“Who was the letter from?” Scott was like a dog with a bone he was bent on having.
“From the Duke of Somerset,” replied Dasset.
“Good Lord!” exclaimed Scott, putting a hand through his uncovered blond locks. “What could her supposed guardian want now? He has never bothered with Flip before now. All she ever got from him was some curt message after her stepmama’s funeral.” He frowned darkly.
“I am sorry, sir, I didn’t see …” offered Dasset sadly. Then he brightened. “I don’t think, however, that she took her horse.”
“Did she not? Right, then, I know where she went,” Scott said, moving with some determination towards the door.
It didn’t take him long to make his way to where he was sure his friend would be. When he caught sight of her, he stopped for the fraction of a moment to measure her mood.
Felicia, whom he had always called Flip, looked like no more than a hoyden of a girl, sitting with her knees pulled up to her chin under a worn day gown of faded blue muslin. Green grass whipped in the wind all around her, and he t
* * *
Felicia hugged her calves, unaware that her friend was presently making his way through the tall grass to her. She had been quite overset and had nearly sobbed over her dilemma.
She looked down at her simple gown of blue muslin and at her feet encased in comfortable but well-worn boots and sighed. If anyone was to take her seriously, one day soon she would really have to dress more like a lady.
The news she had just received was an example of how she would be treated like a wayward child otherwise, and she wasn’t.
How could she bear it? That awful man was coming to take her away from her home, no doubt marry her off to some horrid person just to be rid of her. At least that was what his letter had hinted at.
He hadn’t bothered with her in so long. Why now? And why take her to Swindon, away from everything familiar, away from her friends?
How could she bear it?
How dare he?
She was mistress of herself, mistress of her home, and past the age where she needed a guardian. She would, after all, turn one and twenty in just two months.
Deuce take him for an odious old man. He hadn’t bothered with her since her stepmama’s death. Why should he do so now?
There would be the devil to pay if he tried to bully her into doing something she could not, would not, like, and no one could force her into marriage. No—she would run away first. That was what she would do: run and stay out of his clutches until she turned one and twenty!
What had gotten into the old fidget’s head to bother her now?
Hunting season was upon them, and she so enjoyed working the hounds. Her life was here in her home … with Scott and all her servants, who were more family than servants.
Her parents had been wrenched from her, but at least she still had her home. He could not force her to go to some awful place, could he?
Yes, he could. He could threaten to send away her staff. His letter hinted that he would brook no argument. Was he ruthless? She had heard about such men.
She had to keep out of sight for two months, but how?
She shaded her eyes from the sun as she heard someone approach and then heard Scott call out, “There you are, you miserable little thing!”
She jumped to her feet and hurried towards him. “Scott!” she cried out.
“Did you forget you were supposed to meet me so we could go into town and have a look at old man Crull’s new black and tan?”
Flip took his hands and shook them. “Scott!” she wailed.
He freed his hands and put his arm around her and patted her. “Eh? What is all this, monkey-girl?”
She sniffed and looked up at him. “He is coming to get me.”
“What? Who, the duke? Whatever for? After all this time? Well, upon my soul. Why? What does he want with you? I don’t think I like this. Sounds havey-cavey to me.”
“Precisely. Why would he come now, when I am so close to reaching my majority? Scott, I think he wants to marry me off. Take me to Swindon where I have no one to stand up for me and marry me off,” she said distractedly.
“By Jove. He can’t do that,” Scott objected.
“Well, he thinks he can. In his letter he says something about my being on my own and how it isn’t right and that I should be safely wed by now. I know what it is. He means to secure my fortune for one of his relatives.”
“Well, really! That is too much,” Scott exclaimed. “What the devil does he mean to do—marry you off as though you were chattel?”
“Precisely. I won’t go with him, Scott. This is my home, and he can’t make me go with him, but he says in his letter that he will dismiss my servants if I put up a fuss. He must be the most odious man alive, and why did my stepmama make him my guardian? He can’t take me off kicking and screaming, can he? But I can’t allow him to dismiss anyone of my people … Scott, I must run away.”
“Well, what suddenly got into him? Why now?”
“I told you. Maybe he thought he had time, and suddenly he realized that I am about to come of age and my fortune will be in my hands—not his.”
Scott frowned and shook his head. “Why take this tone? What makes him think you would not agree to go with him?”
“He wrote me when I first lost Mama that as soon as he could he would come and fetch me. I answered that I preferred to stay here and that I could not accept his very kind offer.”
“He wrote back and said that when he was ready and able he would fetch me and that he would brook no arguments,” Felicia answered on a sigh.
“Oh-ho, I can only imagine what you answered,” Scott said with a shake of his head.
“I told him that I was getting on very well and that I would not leave my home and friends, and I thanked him again.” She shrugged. “I didn’t hear from him after that, and that was months ago. Now this letter!” She dug it out of her pocket and shook it at him.
Scott took it, read it, and made a low whistle. “He doesn’t realize he is dealing with a girl who is not at all biddable. In fact, I would think even a meek sort of creature would bolt at these words. Dashed well should have given it some thought before writing such a thing. After all, you had only just lost both your parents. Seems to me to be a bit of a scoundrel.”
“I knew you would understand,” she said and sniffed.
“Why would he take you to Swindon of all the damnable places?” Scott asked in horrified accents. “Nothing there … outlandish place … it makes no sense.”
“I am of the opinion that whoever he wishes to marry me off to resides in Swindon,” Felicia said meaningfully.
“Devil you say! Fiend seize him,” Scott exclaimed.
“Says it is not to be thought of … me … here alone without protection. Says I am a wicked girl for misleading him. He says—”
“Hold!” Scott interrupted, his hand up. “How the bloody hell did he find out you are unchaperoned?” He narrowed his eyes with his thoughts. “I hope it wasn’t m’father that blabbed.”
“T’was Old Pudding Face who wrote and told him.”
“The dowager Hatfield?” he growled. “That old busybody. But … how did she know? Didn’t think she knew. Didn’t think anyone knew. Thought everyone had been diddled with that story we put about saying your elderly cousin had come to stay.”
“Hmmm …” Felicia took hold of the long strand of black hair that had blown across her face and shoved it behind her neck. “So did I, but she has stopped by more times than I can count, especially lately, asking me about my cousin and why she never sees her about.” Felicia sighed. “She must have put it all together, for she wrote to the duke and actually told him I invented a nonexistent cousin and that I am running amok. At least he says that he was told that. See …” She pointed the paragraph referring to this and then wrung her hands. “Scott, it wouldn’t be so very bad if he wanted to give me a London season, for I have always thought that might be fun, but I am sure he means to marry me off to some horrid relative in Swindon and be done with me.”
“Upon my soul!”
“You see there …” She pointed to yet another paragraph of shaky handwriting. “He says he means to arrange and secure my future. Oh, Scott … what am I to do?”
He patted her shoulder. “Buck up, ol’ girl. We’ll think of something. Bound to, you know.”
“You don’t understand. There isn’t any time at all. Somehow this letter must have been delayed in the mail. It was written over two months ago. I am only surprised that he hasn’t arrived before his letter. Perhaps he fell ill—he is old.”
“Two months? Blister it! Well then, the old fidget has f
She eyed him with sudden hope dawning. “Do you think so? He is rather ancient, and maybe you are right and he did forget? That would be wonderful.”
“There, you see, nothing to worry about,” Scott said.
“Unless he was delayed by some business or other?”
“Adore you, monkey-girl. You know that, but, well, while we are the best of good friends, I’m not sure we could make a match of it … however, as I have always said, I will stand by you, and to keep you safely out of Swindon, well, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
Felicia’s eyes watered, and she flung herself at him and hugged him close as he patted her back. She pulled away and answered, “You big, silly love.”
He gulped nervously. “Does this mean you accept?”
She laughed and pulled away. “You needn’t look so terrified. No, sap-head, no, I shall spare you and decline your very obliging offer.”
He sighed with undisguised relief but said, because he was ever a gentleman, “It answers, you know. We get along, and so few married couples do. Besides that … I should never have to lose you when you get married if you were to be married to me.”
She laughed. “No chance of losing me married or not. There is more a chance that I will lose you when you get married.”
He scoffed, “Never!” He sighed and tried again. “It does answer.”
“No, it does not. We are friends, not lovers,” she returned on a sigh.
“We could be both,” he said and colored up.
She hugged him fiercely. “Some girl will be so lucky one day to have you as a husband, but not I.”
He pulled a face, obviously taking exception to this. “Why not you?”
“Because, I have already told you, we are friends—no, more like brother and sister,” she said and eyed him meaningfully.
He released a long, heavy sigh. “Aye, true, though a man could do worse than to have you as his bride, and besides that, we would go on very well together.”
She laughed and offered, “I fancy you would need more than friendship, dear Scott.”
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