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A LADY MOST LOVELY
by Jennifer Delamere

Genre: England, Historical Romance

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“Mr. Poole, I came out here to do some riding.”

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?” He looked down as if to reassure himself that he was indeed on horseback.

“I mean some real riding. I assume that magnificent beast knows how to do more than walk slowly enough for an old lady to keep up?”

He gave her an amused grin. “I thought the purpose of coming to Rotten Row was simply to see and be seen.”

“Well, then, let’s show them something.”

What had gotten into her? She had no idea. The words were out of her mouth before she could think—a truly unusual thing for her. He had disarmed her in so many ways.

He looked down the green. “To that elm tree, then.”

She followed his gaze to a line of a dozen or more trees. All elms. “Which elm tree?”

But her words were lost in the pounding of his stallion’s hoof beats as he raced away. So it was going to be like that with “Just Tom,” was it? With a surge of excitement that temporarily erased the troubles weighing on her, she sent her mare into a gallop and chased after him.

What was he doing? He shouldn’t be racing, and certainly not out here. He’d picked a straight and clear path, but these society folk could easily wander into his way without notice. He’d seen that in his previous rides here—including yesterday, when he’d nearly run down a careless slip of a man who was busy ogling and preening for two ladies in a passing carriage.

He listened for the sound of her horse behind him. She was there all right; she’d caught up to him with no trouble. Of course, he had not let out his horse to his full speed, but he was going quite fast. Miss Vaughn must be a good horsewoman. That she was doing it all sidesaddle raised his admiration even more. He thought it a stupidly dangerous custom, but she seemed to have mastered it. Even so, he slowed his pace. He did not want to endanger her by causing her to go too fast. If the horse should stumble....

She caught up and passed him, the silk scarf from her hat flying in the breeze.

What spirit the woman had! He had not been lying when he said he’d learned the hard way to wait before rushing into anything. Yet she made him want to throw all caution to the wind.

He was glad she had passed him. Now he could watch her as she raced down the green in front of him. She was secure in the saddle. Her form showed years of real practice, not just the minimal lessons required of any society miss. She must love riding as much as he did. He began to have visions of the two of them riding alone together in an open field, with Margaret in a much simpler dress, not the voluminous riding habit she was wearing now. Her hat would be gone, and her long brown hair would tumble down, accentuating the luscious curves of her backside—

Dear Lord, not only was he racing, he was now having unhealthy thoughts about another man’s intended bride. She came to a stop near one of the elms, then turned to face him.

Still chiding himself soundly, he brought his horse to a halt next to hers.

Her face was flushed and her green eyes flashed like the glimmer of the hot sun on the Indian Ocean. “Is this the elm tree you were talking about?”

“Yes,” he said, his heart beating wildly. “I reckon it was.”

“I seem to have won this race. What a shame we had not placed a wager.”

“I think we got that attention you were after.” Tom indicated the pedestrian path, where a group of people had gathered to watch their gallop across the green. “Doesn’t that worry you?”

“Why should it?” She gave a brief toss of her head. “I attract attention wherever I go.”

“I can see that.” Tom said, unable to keep an appreciative grin from his face.