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IT BEGINS WITH A KISS
by Eileen Dreyer

Genre: England, Historical Romance

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“You have no right to stop me,” she said the minute the door to the Old Lamb’s private parlor closed behind them. 

The décor inside was basic but clean; whitewashed, half-timbered walls and wood floor with a worn hook rug, a fire laid and a bottle of wilted flowers on a table by the window. There was barely enough room for him, the three girls and Bart, his tiger, who guarded the door. The other driver had been left to see the horses changed.

Hands clenched around an abused reticule, dusty bonnet already in hand, Miss Ferguson faced Alex like a warrior bent on taking his head. Magnificent, he couldn't help but think. And she didn't even know it yet. One day, he thought, she would have men dropping at her feet like stunned deer. Even now, her beauty still nascent, he could feel the definite thrum of attraction. How sad, he thought, that he wouldn't be around to flirt with her when she discovered her power. 

Behind Miss Ferguson, Pip and their other friend stood at attention like guardians. “Oh, but I do have the right to stop you, Miss Ferguson,” he said, crossing his arms. “You are Miss Ferguson?”

Mimicking his pose, Pip crossed her own arms. “Fiona, may I introduce my stuffy, overbearing, humorless brother, the Honorable Alexander Knight. Alex, this is my friend Fiona, of whom you've heard so much.”

Miss Ferguson glared at him as if she would prefer to see him in irons.

Pip nodded to the third girl. “And my friend Sarah Tregallan.”

Courtesies were exchanged as if they stood in Almacks instead of the parlor of a coaching inn. 

“How old are you, Miss Ferguson?” Alex asked.

“Sixteen. What does it matter to you?”

He sighed. “It matters to me because I recently received a communication from your brother asking me to keep watch over you. He is...out of touch.”

Fiona Ferguson shared that same expression all younger siblings had for elders. “Ian has been out of touch for three years now. Why would he suddenly choose to involve you?”

“Because I'm his friend. I am happy to share the responsibility.”

“You’re not that much older than I, surely.”

He wanted to smile at her bravado. “I am all of five and twenty, child, and already responsible for your friend Pip and our two siblings. One more won’t matter.”

“Thank you,” Miss Ferguson said, pulling herself to full height, which put her damn near at eye level with him. “But I have no desire to be someone's chore.” 

Alex had met imperious women in his time. Miss Fiona Ferguson could match any of them, with her gimlet green eyes and iron-straight posture. She even spoke with the same perfect upper-class accent her brother used, her brogue only peeking through as she got agitated. 

She would have made a hell of a Scottish queen, Alex thought. Better than the ones they'd had, certainly. In a few years, she would be formidable.