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Excerpt from THE MISTRESS

Working as discreetly as a pickpocket, Kathleen unscrewed her earring and dropped it on the floor. Oh, dear, she murmured. Ive lost

The gentleman turned. Dylan Kennedy had the sort of face Kathleen pictured when she read forbidden tales of chivalry and daring. Glossy hair set off the chiseled masculine jawline. The curves of his cheekbones and cleft chin were echoed by the shape of a mouth that looked nothing short of delicious.

He picked up the earring. Yours? he asked.

Thank you kindly, Sir. Brazen it out, she told herself.

Allow me.

Absolutely not, Kathleen whispered. Letting a man put an earring on her, in a room full of people, would expose her as a fraud entirely. No proper lady would allow such liberty. I shall retire to the powder room to put it on.

My dear, where is the fun in that?

Fun? she squeaked.

Isnt that why youre here? I havent introduced myself. Dylan Kennedy, at your service.

I know who you are. I also know you are heir
to a shipping fortune, just back from a lengthy tour
of the Continent.

You must have seen that in the Tribune.

And that youre seeking a wife, she added.

Ever since that was published, Ive been inundated by matrons trotting out their rich daughters. Not that I wouldnt enjoy a parade of maidenshe winked at herbut Ive narrowed my search. I desire a woman of rare accomplishment and depth. One who has red hair, flashing eyes and knows the words to the Ave Maria.

You are an unforgivable tease, she choked out, thoroughly intrigued.

He touched her elbow and leaned forward. I never tease. But dont worry. Your secret is safe with me.

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