Redeeming the Roguish Rake

By: Liz Tyner

CHAPTER ONE

Thumps sounded on the stairs outside the bedchamber. Foxworthy sat straight, covers falling to his waist, just as the door swung open. He looked at the visitor’s hands first. No weapons. He raised his glance to his cousin’s face. Andrew wore one of those grim-lipped spectacled looks even though he didn’t wear spectacles.

‘Stop swearing,’ Foxworthy said. ‘I do not abide such language.’

‘If so, that’s your only virtue and it’s one more than you had last week.’ Andrew paused.

‘I’m on an improvement regimen.’

‘About time. You look ghastly. As though you’ve not slept a night this week.’

‘A bit of tiredness on my face and the ladies flutter about with suggestions on how to make me feel better. I can’t complain.’

‘I just heard about your little escapade.’

Foxworthy nodded his head. ‘A priceless moment I will not forget.’ And he doubted anyone would let him from the look on his cousin’s face. However, at the moment, he simply could not recall it. He’d danced a lot at the soirée—that he remembered. He’d decided to take a turn with every woman in attendance and in the short time of the dance, discover what was most endearing about her. Then Lady Havisham, all of elbow high to him and feisty as a tavern wench, had told him she could drink more than he. Since he’d started much earlier than her it was a difficult competition. She’d conceded defeat and he’d placed a kiss right on the top of the knot of her grey hair and she’d said she wished she had a grandson just like him, only smart and handsome.

He put a hand on his head. ‘The woman must have been pouring it into her reticule.’

‘You proposed.’

‘I did?’ He checked his cousin’s eyes to see if he told the truth. ‘To Lady Havisham? I can’t imagine she’d be foolish enough to say yes.’

‘You don’t remember?’ Andrew snorted. He kicked the base of the bedpost, but the frame didn’t move. ‘You don’t remember?’

‘Not at the moment.’ Fox pushed himself from the bed. Pain shot through his knee. He moved to the mirror, favouring the leg.

‘Millicent Peabody,’ Andrew continued. ‘Bended knee, in front of six witnesses.’

Fox smiled, remembering. ‘Yes. It was quite romantic. I only wished I’d had a red rose, but the proposal was unplanned.’ And he was going to pay for the rather dramatic crash to one knee. It played to the group well, but he wasn’t sure if the pain was worth it.

Andrew choked and swung around on one foot, looking away from Fox. ‘So why must you do it?’

In the mirror, Fox examined his face. ‘I do look like I could use a drink.’

‘Why did you propose to Mrs Peabody in front of everyone?’

Andrew moved closer, eyes tightened. He expected an answer.

‘Millicent Peabody’s husband was being such a toad.’ Fox tossed the words out. ‘Earlier, he told everyone in the card room that he could not abide how frumpy she’s grown since the children arrived. Mrs Peabody is lovely and her husband is too daft to know what a treasure she is because he’s chasing every tart in town.’

‘Nonsense.’ Andrew’s eyes darkened. ‘You do it so you’ll be mentioned in publication. Your sodden brain believes you must rival Lord Byron for attention.’

‘Exceed. Exceed Byron,’ Fox said, lips turning up. ‘This proposal even put tears in one debutante’s eyes.’

‘Fox,’ Andrew spoke softly, crossed his arm across his waist, rested an elbow on his other arm and tapped his fingertips against his lips. ‘How many times have you proposed to a married woman?’

‘It is not the quantity, it is the quality of proposals.’

‘How many times now have you publicly proposed to a married woman?’ Andrew repeated, voice rising.

‘I can’t very well propose to an unmarried woman. Might distress her when I don’t show up at the wedding. Proposing to a married woman is more sensible.’

‘To everyone except the husband.’

Fox quickly pulled on a shirt. ‘That may have entered my mind, but I discounted it. Too minor to concern myself with.’

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