A Good Man
Hope Fielding has been a lady’s maid to Mrs Greenhooke for the last three years. When Mrs Greenhooke’s nephew proposes marriage to her, she thinks her dreams have come true, only for them to turn to nightmares on her wedding night. Running from her depraved groom and his vicious valet, she accepts help from former dragoons officer, Harry Robinson.
Harry has a jaded view of women. As far as he is concerned, they don’t deserve a man’s consideration. Yet he finds himself helping the little lady’s maid who rescued him from attack in the London fog, and accepting her as that rarest of creatures – an honest female. But will he still think so when he learns her secrets? And will he be willing to stand up to her husband to protect her?
|Title||A Good Man|
|Release||November 8, 2016|
|Tags||Regency, Romance, rake, runaway, secrets,|
Deep shame filled him. He had been brought up to be better than that. True, Susannah’s duplicity had left him cynical, and the machinations of the ton had jaded his palate, but even so! He was a gentleman. When had he strayed so far from all that was expected of him that he could walk by and leave a woman in trouble to her fate? When had his honour shrivelled to nothingness, and his sense of right and wrong been lost? Self-disgust threatened to overwhelm him.
He heard a thud, a sleepy masculine groan, a small feminine cry. Perhaps there was still time for Harry to redeem himself.
He found her a few yards further along, kneeling, trying to push her spilled possessions back into the bag. Behind her, a man lay in a drunken stupor, his snores loud, the stench of cheap gin fouling the air around him. Harry stepped over him and crouched beside the woman.
“Are you all right?”
She did not look all right. Her bonnet was askew and long shanks of light coloured hair had escaped to flop over her shoulders. Her gloves and dress were ruined by the wet mud on the road and a smudge stained her cheek.
The woman shot Harry a venomous look, then tried to stand. Sodden skirts clung to her knees and lower legs, hindering her movement. He offered his hand. She did not take it.
Once upright, she took off the bonnet, shoved her hair high on her head and then placed the bonnet firmly over it, forcing it into place. She shut the bag and walked purposefully away.
Harry sighed. “Miss?”
She continued walking away.
“Wait.” With his long stride, he caught up with ease. “Let me escort you…”
“No, thank you.” The words were crisp and curt, her voice clear, educated. What the hell was she doing here?
“Miss, I don’t think…”
“No. That’s true. You don’t.” She whirled around to face him. Even in the misty night he saw the fury flash in her eyes. “I have no need for a…” She looked him up and down with contempt before spitting out the next word, “gentleman.”
“I am not what you are obviously looking for,” she said. “So leave me alone.” And she walked away.
“I am trying to apologise,” he told her.
She did not break stride.
“These streets are unsafe.”
The woman continued as if he had not spoken.
“At least let me see you to safety,” he called.
The fog turned her into a formless silhouette.
The woman did not want his help. She did not want anything to do with him. Harry could hardly blame her for that. He had behaved badly, made assumptions on the flimsiest of evidence, and the insult had obviously cut deep.
An hour ago, he would not have cared. He would have shrugged his shoulders and walked away, secure in his belief that this woman, like any woman, was a selfish, deceitful little baggage who would not only survive but thrive, and any man foolish enough to give her succour invited his own doom. It was the creed he had lived by since Susannah married a duke, and it had served him—and those friends he had enlightened along the way—well.
Why he felt differently about this woman, he could not say. Perhaps it was the honesty in her kiss, or the way she had refused his guinea, or the way she had swung that piece of wood in his defence and then looked so shocked afterwards.
Perhaps it was his shame. God knew, it should be.
Muttering a curse, he went after her again. He caught up to her as she reached a fork in the road and hesitated, looking first one way, then the other.
“Where is it you are wanting to go?” he asked. She looked over her shoulder at him. The meagre light of a street lamp made the fear on her face stark. Harry smiled and hoped he looked reassuring. “I can escort you.”
She turned her back to him, looked to the right, then seemed to make up her mind. She took two paces to the left.
“I don’t believe you want to go that way, Miss.”
There was a sharp hiss as she took in an angry breath. “Now you propose to know my destination.” The words were forced between gritted teeth.
Harry’s lips twitched and he fought the unhelpful urge to smile. “No, I don’t. But I know where you do not want to go. If you follow that road you will end up in St Giles, and even in daylight, that is not the sort of place in which a lady should be seen.”
The woman stopped. Her back was rigid, head held high. She took a deep breath, expelled it with a decisive nod, turned and headed the other way. Harry fell into step beside her, and she glared at him. “Please, leave me alone.”
“I’m afraid I cannot do that. It would be conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. I would not wish to be guilty of such a charge.”
“You already are, sir.” Angry boot heels rang on the hard packed road, underscoring her contempt.
Harry sighed and nodded. “I confess, I deserved that. But I have apologised.”
“Which in no way makes me feel better.”
“Nor me. At this moment, if you want to know the truth, I feel a thorough blackguard.”
“I should be horsewhipped.”
“Yes. You should.” The words were still curt but there was the merest hint of a smile in her voice.
Harry dared to hope.