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RULES OF ENGAGEMENT: Governess Brides #3

Description

Rules of Engagement: Choose a bride from this year’s debutantes. Negotiate a settlement. Send an announcement to The Times. Inform the bride of her good fortune.

Rules of Respectability: Devon Mathewes, Earl of Kerrich, finds his income and family name imperiled by his notorious reputation. So he demands three things. A sensible governess who will not wish to visit his bed—he can’t be bothered to make love to every woman who wants him. An orphan he can adopt and seem to care for—his apparent kindness will cover him with respectability. And that his life not be unduly altered—the child and the governess should better his character without his participation.

Rules of Passion: As a condition of accepting the governess position, Miss Pamela Lockhart has rules of her own. Devon must at all times behave with propriety. She must be allowed to choose a suitable orphan. Most important, Devon must vow to never ever delve into Pamela’s past or appearance lest he discover the deepest secrets of her heart.
Of course, rules are made to be broken…

Rules of Engagement: Book #3 of Christina Dodd’s most popular historical series, The Governess BridesBuy RULES OF ENGAGEMENT with its “handsome” new cover for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, GooglePlay. And in paperback at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, Books-a-Million or your local bookstore.

Excerpt

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT is book number three in the highly acclaimed Governess Brides series and modeled on one of my favorite movies, Annie. A fantastically wealthy man adopts an orphan to improve his public image, and of course, he also hires a governess with the idea that he’ll never see the child. But between Miss Pamela Lockhart and the little girl she finds him to adopt, he’s forced to learn to love …

Miss Pamela Lockhart and Miss Hannah Setterington,
Proud proprietors of
The Distinguished Academy of Governesses
Of London, England
One of the finest in governesses, companions
and instructors to fill any need
Serving fashionable society on this day
July 1, 1840

This was the best day of the month. Payday.

Miss Pamela Lockhart gave a light-hearted skip as she made her way toward home. The residential London street might be prematurely dark from the rain, she might be chilled and wretched, and once again, she’d had to try and teach tone-deaf little Lorraine Dagworth how to play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" on the pianoforte, but she had easily collected the month’s fee from Lorraine’s mother. She had also, after a bit of struggle, collected from the aristocratic Lady Phillips. And finally, she had given Lord Haggerty’s son his dancing lesson and — while fending off both the younger man’s groping and the older man’s offer of an ignominious affair — secured the month’s reimbursement without offending either of the loathsome gentlemen.

Yes, a governess’s work proved difficult and occasionally abhorrent, but payday, glorious payday, made it all worthwhile, and as Pamela cut through the filthy, garbage-filled alley, she tipped up her head to the raindrops and laughed aloud — and stumbled to a halt.

Something snagged her skirt. A protruding board, perhaps, or …

A sharp point jabbed at her back and a rough voice snarled, "Give me that purse ye’ve got hidden in yer bosom, Miss, an’ I might spare yer life."

Pamela froze, heart pounding. That object … a knife! A thief held a knife to her back. He might stab her. She might die.

He wanted to steal her money.

The knife prodded her, and the man snarled right in her ear, sending the stench of gin and tobacco on the puff of foul breath. "I said, give me that purse. No denyin’ ye’ve got it, Miss. I saw ye at th’ green grocers payin’ fer them pretty strawberries."

She clutched the bag with her purchase. Rain sluiced endlessly down. No one remained in sight; everyone with any sense had hurried home to sit before their fire and toast their toes. Only she remained, bait for this footpad who planned to steal her beautiful, hard-earned, just-collected cash.

The blade jabbed again, and the thieving fiend grabbed her arm hard enough to bruise it. "Are ye a half-wit? I said give me yer money or I’ll kill ye."

Frustration roiled within her. Frustration, anger and despair.

The knife jabbed deeper.

She snapped, "Let me think about it."

#

Miss Hannah Setterington heard a knock on the front door of the Governess School — a still infrequent occurrence and one which brought her to her feet. The butler would of course open the door, but he had instructions to immediately bring any customer to her. She told their new student, Miss Murray, "Our housekeeper waits for you at the head of the stairs. She’ll show you to your bedchamber, and tomorrow you will join our other students in learning to be the kind of governess our school is proud to call our own."

Miss Murray recognized a dismissal when she heard one. She bobbed a curtsy, gathered her bag and went to the door. The girl was well bred and courteous, if unsure, and with training she would prove an asset to the school. She stood aside to let the butler Cusheon by. Then she stopped. Her mouth dropped open. And she gawked at the gentleman who trod on his heels.

Indeed, Hannah judged it a lucky circumstance Miss Murray had reacted as she had, or Hannah herself would have been the one dumbfounded. The gentleman, dressed in the height of fashion, was marvelously, languidly, seductively handsome. Tall and long-legged, he wore a dark blue suit that amply displayed his breadth of shoulder. He carried a gold-headed cane and wore gloves of leather dyed to match his suit. His black hair, trimmed close against his collar, hung in loosely curled and rumpled splendor over one side of his forehead. His aristocratically proud nose had been broken at one time — probably from a fall off of his pony, Hannah decided uncharitably. His eyes were so soft and brown a woman could lose herself in them, yet a sharp intelligence operated beneath their fathomless depths, for he summed up Miss Murray and dismissed her in a single glance. Then his focus sharpened on Hannah. He didn’t wait for Cusheon to introduce her, but bowed curtly. "Miss Setterington, I presume?"

Hannah took an instant dislike to the man. Rude, abrupt creature. "Yes, and you are …?"

"Devon Mathewes, the earl of Kerrich," Cusheon proclaimed, and only one who knew the old butler well could tell the earl’s presumption exasperated him.

The earl disdained to notice Cusheon’s displeasure, nor did he remain to observe Hannah's curtsy. Instead, he strode forward and trusted she would follow.

Of course she did follow, and Cusheon took up his guard at the door.

"How may I help you, my lord?" She made her way to her chair behind the desk.

Sinking into a chair in front of the desk, Lord Kerrich proclaimed, "I need a governess."

The front door of the townhouse again opened and quietly shut. Hannah hoped it was Pamela, for it was raining and almost dark. She worried about her friend and fellow owner of The Distinguished Academy of Governesses, out on the London streets day after day pursuing the jobs that kept the academy alive during its first crucial months.

But Hannah dared not take her attention off her client — a widower with children, she presumed. "You wish to hire a governess, and you have come to the right place. We supply only the finest governesses. How many children do you have?"

He reared back as if offended. "Good God, I don’t have a child!"

Hannah paused in the act of sitting. "My lord?"

"Don’t you understand, woman? I need a child, too."

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