Now he was here again, smelling the wort and tasting the green beer. Thanks to her, it was as if nineteen years had melted away to nothing. Except that he no longer wanted to sacrifice his life to the brewery. The clerk appeared instantly in the doorway.

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Now he was here again, smelling the wort and tasting the green beer. Thanks to her, it was as if nineteen years had melted away to nothing. Except that he no longer wanted to sacrifice his life to the brewery. The clerk appeared instantly in the doorway. Gran had been right: Croft might be awkward with strangers and possess an odd manner, but he knew Plumtree Brewery inside and out.

Harper up here? And may I say again how sorry I am that I allowed that woman to get past me. You said not to let anyone know that Mrs. Everything is well. As Croft hurried off to fetch Harper, Jarret worried. Wright said she suffered from something called edema of the lungs and might never recover.

The thought of Gran dying made something twist in his belly. Even when she was fighting with them, she was the glue that held them together. It was unthinkable. Croft said you wished to see me?

Jarret gestured to the bottle of ale. A faint smile touched his lips. Mother had always been mortified by the fact that her mother drank brandy, a very unladylike thing to do. But Gran was unlike most women. Except, perhaps, for Miss Lake.

He scowled. The dark curls that framed her face had hinted at the lush waves of shimmering mahogany that undoubtedly lay beneath her jaunty bonnet. He liked earthy women, always had; he far preferred them to the elegant, gossipy bitches who populated society.

Miss Lake was the sort of female he could imagine dancing around maypoles and walking with her beau on the village green. The sort who considered any flirtation a prelude to marriage. It was exactly something Gran would do—try to get him to hire some pretty female brewer in hopes that the woman would tempt him into marriage, so Gran could still get her way. Miss Lake would certainly have been a good choice for such a plot.

Confound it all. Plumtree has been against it, but times are hard. Harper colored. Jarret stared at the few ounces left in the bottom. That will be all. If Lake Ale fails, forty men will lose their employment. A man could do everything right, and Fate could still jerk the rug out from under him. Now he had no choice. Plumtree must survive if his family was to survive, and it looked as if he was the only one who could make sure that it did.

No, it had to do more than survive—he had to make it stronger than before, so he could walk away at the end of the year without any guilt. Where he understood that life was unpredictable and nothing could be counted on. All I ask is that you present my proposal to your grandmother.

He snorted. Gran was even less likely to embrace the plan than he. A knock came at his door, and he looked up to find his friend Giles Masters standing there. With a smile, he jumped to his feet. You won, as I recall. To the detriment of everyone in the room. So there you have it—scintillating conversation and manly pursuits. A good bachelor is hard to find. Gabe convinced Pinter to join us.

Perhaps he could think better if he cleared his head. Miss Lake swam into his mind, her pretty eyes beseeching him for help, and he cursed under his breath. He could talk to Gran in the morning. Might as well do it tonight. Lead on. She was having a hard time keeping up with their long-legged strides without breaking into a run. Sometimes being short could be terribly inconvenient.

And she kept having to resist the urge to gaze at the wonders she was rushing past—the enticing millineries filled with the latest fashions in bonnets, the print shops with their outrageous and colorful displays, and the vendors hawking mouthwatering sausages or ornaments for fire stoves or even cures for syphilis. She blushed as she passed the latter. It took the gentlemen fifteen minutes to reach their destination. When it turned out to be a tavern, she halted in front of it, incensed.

Unless they were just stopping in for a drink before they visited their grandmother? That was possible. Now she had to decide: Wait out here until they came back out? Or go in? Night was falling, and London was notorious for its footpads.

Fortunately, it was early enough that the people entering the tavern tended to be workmen and couples seeking a quick supper. She kept her head down and ordered a meal, figuring that would allow her more time to linger. When they called for a pitcher and broke out the cards, she knew precisely what it was.

A night on the town. God rot Lord Jarret! He clearly had no intention whatsoever of speaking to his grandmother about her proposal. Now what should she do? The fourth man, whom they called Pinter, was a black-haired, raspy-voiced fellow with a quiet, almost somber manner. As best she could tell, Lord Jarret and his brother had been winning fairly steadily.

The other two men were grumbling about it. Curious to see what their game was, she rose and passed as close to the table as she dared. They were playing whist. She lingered near Lord Jarret long enough to see that he was quite good, which was probably why he and his brother were winning.

The man named Masters called for another pitcher of ale. Shall we up the stakes, give you a chance to win your money back? I need a good challenge. Curse Hugh for his weakness. She missed her sweet big brother.


A Hellion in Her Bed

Paxton put in. As they left the house, Jarret leveled a dark glance on her. He would after she and Sissy got done with him, anyway. They walked a short way in silence. Afraid that I might … try to kiss you again? And how odd that he would put that interpretation on it. It worked well to her purpose, so she should let him keep thinking it.


The characters are engaging even the stubbornly disinterested Lord Jarret is sympathetic ; the interaction among them is both fun and moving, and the plot holds enough suspense to keep the pages turning. But when they turned into a tavern, that hope was dashed. For a moment, she just stood there, incensed. Unless they were just stopping in for a drink first?

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