Kate Noble

If I Fall

Every great romance comes with a risk…

After a duke's betrayal, the resilient Sarah Forrester reinvents herself as the Golden Lady: society's leading light, the beautiful and witty life of the party. It's all a façade of course-one that protects her from another intimate disloyalty. When her old friend, Lieutenant Jackson Fletcher, returns to London, he is determined to rediscover the true and trusting Sarah he once knew. It'll take more than a kiss and a promise. It might even call for an innocent and necessary deception.

Then Jackson is enlisted to help capture the lead suspect in a murder— a man who happens to be Sarah's most ardent suitor. Jack must continue the deception, and weathering this newest and gravest betrayal will be Sarah's ultimate test. But as Jack's passion for her grows, he must also reveal his own secrets. And as the killer turns his attention to his pursuers, more than love and trust is put at risk.

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April 3, 2012    •    Berkley Trade
ISBN-10: 0425247112   •    ISBN-13: 978-0425247112

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Noble Notes

If I Fall» Lieutenant Jackson Fletcher’s ship, the HMS Amorata, is listed as a 6th rate banterer class ship. The rating of the ship does not refer to its quality, but to its size. 6th rate was the smallest, a frigate, carrying only 20-24 guns. (In contrast, a 1st rate ship of the line could have over 100 guns.) Banterer-class ships were built in 1806-7 for use in the Napoleonic Wars. Only six such ships were built (the Amorata is a fictional seventh), and most were broken up after the war -- 6th rate frigates were phased out of the British Navy after the Napoleonic Wars, as they were considered too small and 5th rate frigates became more used.  The Amorata escapes that fate, and sails for another seven years.

» The very first scene of If I Fall is actually the same as the penultimate scene in Follow My Lead. However, it is told from a different character’s perspective.

LACMA dress» The Royal Naval Academy – which Jack attends from the ages of 13 to 16 – was also attended by Jane Austen’s two brothers, Francis and Charles. But unlike Jack, the Austen brothers were born 20 years earlier and therefore they saw combat in the Napoleonic Wars and gained a great deal of prize money and success. Both Francis and Charles eventually became Admirals.

» Sarah Forrester’s persona as the Golden Lady stems from having seen this dress in the LACMA Fashioning Fashion exhibit. It’s Portuguese, from 1825, with metallic embroidery of palm fronds on silk. I saw this dress and thought that no one could ever be pitied wearing this dress.

» For more Noble Notes, check out the Dear Reader letter in the back of If I Fall!

» And find more information on how Kate’s books are connected, via this handy guide!

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If I Fall

News and Reviews

“…besides being a delight and thoroughly winning, the book is 300 pages of confirmation to what I’d suspected, and now know: The Regency belongs to Kate Noble, and it’s in very, very good hands.”  

- All About Romance (posted May 2012)


“Their romance takes a sweet turn and, along with the exciting ending, I enjoyed this one!”

- USA Today (posted May 2012)


“Noble Mixes humor, poignancy, murder and mayhem in a quick-paced charmer.”

- Romantic Times (posted May 2012)


If I Fall is another terrific historical from the talented Kate Noble”…” This one joins all of Ms. Noble’s previous books on my keeper shelves and, like the others, is one I highly recommend!”

- The Romance Dish (posted May 2012)


“If I Fall has a dynamic story line, unique twists and turns to a stunning plot, rich decadent settings weaved around a cast of characters who spring from the page with their intoxicating dialogue making this reader a devoted fan for life.”

- Romantic Crush Junkies (posted May 2012)


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If I Fall

“Bloody hell,” Whigby breathed, as their rented hack pulled up to the address that had been written on Lady Forrester’s note.  “Are you sure this is it?”

The townhouse on Upper Grosvenor Street was much the same as the others that surrounded it – pristine white, three stories, with columns that lined the doorway, and supported the upper level balconies.  Wrought iron fencing lined the properly along the more public sidewalk, protecting the pansies and tulips that sprung up in wide Grecian urns that sat as centurions guarding the steps up to the heavy front door. 

The main difference between this townhouse, and the others that surrounded it, was the half dozen gentlemen in their best black coats that bickered with the butler for entrance.

“Its number Sixteen,” Jack said, his eyes flicking automatically to the letter in his hand, checking once again.

“Maybe it was written ill?” Whigby asked, but Jack shook his head.  No, there was no mistake, this was the house.

“Maybe someone died and they’re paying respects!” Whigby cried. 

Jack shot his friend a look.

“Of course, that would be terrible,” Whigby was quick to amend. 

“Well, I suppose we best find out what’s going on,” Jackson said, opening the door to the hack and letting himself down, while the coachman disembarked from his seat and helped unload Jackson’s trunk.  Whigby alighted as well.

“Do you want me come with you?” Whigby asked.  “You know… to pay my respects?”

“No one has died, Mr. Whigby.” Jackson assured his friend (at least, he hoped no one had died).  “Go on to your uncle’s, I’ll be fine.”

“You have my direction if you need it,” Whigby extended his hand, and Jack shook it. 

Then Whigby, in a show of emotion not uncommon to that larger fellow, pulled Jack into a fairly rib-crushing hug.  “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Whigby…” Jack wheezed, “It’s not a funeral… And you’re crushing me.” 

If I Fall“That’s right!” Whigby replied, releasing Jack so quickly that the air rushed back into his lungs.  “Keep hope!”

And then, Whigby turned to reenter the hack to convey him to his uncle’s, a few spare blocks away.  But perhaps he should not have been so free with his condolences, because the hack had already started to rumble down the block, with Whigby’s trunk still up on the back.

“Oy!” Whigby yelled after the coachman, taking to a run.  “Wait for me!”

Jack, shaking his head, turned to front door of number Sixteen.  And the men there that blocked his path.

They were a variety of ages, from just out of university to those with white hair.  But all the men wore their money: Jackson saw at least three gold cravat stick pins and seven watch fobs.  They eyed his rumpled Naval uniform with severe distaste.

Jackson narrowed his eyes, and stepped into the gauntlet.

“They come fresh off the boats now?” one man murmured to a friend.  “I’m amazed they get the gossip sheets out at sea.”

“What’s amazing is that he thinks he stands a chance,” his friend replied, sniggering.

Jackson kept his eyes straight ahead, ignoring these men.  Their talk made no sense to him, but their manners did.  They didn’t think much of him.  Well, the feeling was mutual.

Jackson reached the butler, who stood guard at the door with a hulking figure of a footman.  Normally, the door would be opened with the butler standing inside, but here, they had gone so far as to stand outside the door, keeping it barred. 

“I’m sorry sir, but the Forresters are not receiving today,” the supercilious man said, his nose in the air.

“Then why is everyone else here?” Jackson asked before he could think better of it.

He was met by chuckles from the peanut gallery behind him.

“We are staking our place in line!” one of the younger ones cried.

“Making sure people see us here,” one of the others drawled.

“Besides, they have to come home sometime,” another – the sniggering one – said, clamping his hand on Jack’s shoulder, trying to pull him back.

If I FallOne look from Jack, had that man removing his hand forthwith.

 “I have an invitation,” Jack said, directing himself only to the butler. 

But that sentence elicited raucous laughter from the men behind him. 

“Of course he does!”

“And I’ve a recommendation from Prinny himself!”

“We all do!”

Jackson reached into his pocket produced the letter from Lady Forrester – as he did, the men behind him grew uncommonly quiet.

The butler perused the letter with an unseemly amount of leisure.  (Jack felt certain that the old servant took no small amount of pleasure in the power he wielded.)  Then, with a curt nod to the burly footman beside him, he handed the missive back.

“If you’ll follow me, sir,” the butler said, as the door behind him opened with silent efficiency.

Cries of outrage came from the assembly.

“What?”

“You can’t mean to admit him!  I’m a viscount!”

“I’m with him!  We came together!”

But of course, these were ignored, and shortly silenced by one flex of the footman’s muscles, as he took up the central position as Jackson, hauling his own trunk, followed the butler inside.

“Wait here,” the butler intoned, leaving him to go seek out his mistress, Jackson assumed.

Jackson removed his tricorn, shaking out his sandy hair into something resembling neatness.  He pulled at his cuffs, straightened his coat, like the nervous schoolboy he used to be.

Alone in the foyer of the Forresters’ London home, he was immediately struck by a sense of déjà vu.  He had never been in this house before, but he had been in this position before, long ago.

If I Fall

There is little more frightening to a thirteen-year-old boy than being removed from all you know, he thought, letting himself drift into memory.  Even the horrific, tantalizing prospect of thirteen-year-old girls compares little to no longer being in the daily presence of your parents, the paths you know to the village where everyone knows you.  Even when one begs their father to let him go to sea, those faces fading away makes a thirteen year old boy feel like nothing so much as a thirteen-year-old man, but without any means by which to handle the transition.

Luckily, Jack’s father knew something of being young and alone, and wrote a friend for help. 

He tugged nervously his cuffs.  They were already beginning to come up short, even though his mother had sewn his Naval College uniform not three months ago. He was already a tall boy, as a first year cadet towering over most of the second years and even some of the thirds...  and in a career where he was constantly told to stand up straight, he could do little to hide it. 

When Jack crossed the entrance of Crawley Manor, the Forresters' country residence not five miles from Portsmouth, he had been expecting an inspection.  Therefore, for the whole week leading up to this moment, he had been very careful with him uniform. His white pantaloons were spotless -- a feat in and of itself for any thirteen-year-old boy, let alone one who had grown so increasingly nervous over the course of the week that he had spilled his food not once but twice at mealtimes.  But somehow he had managed to keep everything from the top of his hat to the heel of his shoes in good order.  Which was of the utmost importance, as he was to meet his possible future patron today.

Jack did not know what a future patron might want to know of him.  He only knew that when he finally convinced his parents to allow him to attend the Royal Naval College, Jackson's father had written to his old school friend Lord Forrester, and asked him to look in on the boy every once in a while, as he was unable to do so in Lincolnshire.  As Jackson's father was always writing to great men asking for patronage for anyone of his and Mrs. Fletcher's charitable causes (for Mr. Fletcher refused to yield to expectation of being a retiring country vicar, instead choosing to involve himself vigorously in the cause of war orphans and widows), Jack thought nothing of it. 

He'd expected, at most, a letter from Lord Forrester.  Instead, he had received an invitation.

As he was admitted to the hall, and tried very hard not to be awed by the grandeur of the house.  But how could he not be?  Marble and oak lined the massive room, making even the smallest sound, from his footsteps to a gasp he hadn't managed to contain, echoed across the space.  When the butler went to fetch his master, Jackson couldn't help but poke is head around the corner, and peer into an even larger room!  Why this one room must have been bigger than his entire house!  After a few moments, Jack decided it must be the sitting room, for receiving callers.  And there were plenty of places to sit, he thought, making sure to keep his mouth from hanging open in a gape.  There dozens of sofas and chairs and things that look so fine they would surely break if he touched them.  He briefly glanced at the ceiling, two stories above.  How did the ceiling stay up in so massive a space?  Churches have flying buttresses and the like, reinforced pylons, but this place just seemed to soar high above.

He wondered for the umpteenth time that week just what on earth was expected of him.  Surely, people that lived in a house this intimidating would look down at him as nothing more than a… charitable annoyance.  

If I FallHe had edged his foot into the sitting room, when he heard it.  It sounded like a fork striking a glass, but somehow…human.  It must have been the echo, he thought, but it almost sounded like a giggle.  He immediately straightened to attention.  But when no one emerged, his curiosity won out again, and his gaze returned to the sitting room.  Where, if he was not mistaken, one of the heavy velvet drapes was twitching.

Unsure if his mind was playing tricks on him, Jackson thought it best to ignore the twitching curtain, and instead remain at attention.  Surely, that's what a man like Lord Forrester would want out of a cadet he sponsored.  Someone who obeyed the rules, and stayed where he was told, and...

And there was that giggle again!

Finally, he couldn't help it any longer.  Perhaps some ruffian had snuck in and was hiding until he could thieve everything out of this room in the dark of night.  Which Jack could not allow.

And so, he went over to the window, and drew back the curtain dramatically, his hand going automatically to his side, where his sword rested... which of course was not there, as he had no sword. 

Instead of a thief however, Jack found two girls.  One far littler than the other.

"Hide and Seek!" cried the littlest, who could not have been more than three, with dimples and curly blonde hair that bounced when she shrieked with laughter.

"Not yet, Mandy!" the elder girl said in a hushed voice.  She looked about nine or ten, and whereas her hair matched the youngster's in shade, it was straight and plaited down her back.  She looked up at Jack with the biggest green eyes, twinkling with mischief.  "We're hiding, don't tell," she whispered to Jack.

"Hiding from what?" he asked.

"Will you be quiet?" came a hushed whisper from the other side of the room -- a brown, curly head popped up, freckles gone mad upon her nose and cheeks.  "Papa will find us without any trouble when he hears you talking.  And Mandy, you're supposed to hide somewhere by yourself!"

But little Mandy just shook her head, and inched closer to her sister.

"She couldn't find any place to hide," the elder girl whispered back.

"Of course she can, Sarah. You just baby her. Mandy, you're small enough to fit in the cabinet, go over there."

But Mandy simply shook her head and burrowed further. 

"Wait, are you playing some sort of game?" Jackson asked, utterly bewildered.

If I FallThe eldest -- Sarah -- blinked back in surprise.  "Of course we are.  Haven't you ever played hide and seek?"

"Well, I..." before Jack could appropriately answer that question, which would have been embarrassingly in the negative (his mother, while a kind woman, did not approve of games where nothing was learned or made useful) footsteps where heard in the hallway beyond.

All three girls went rigid with excitement, and popped back into their hiding places. 

Just then, a barrel of a man came thudding through the hall, his posture that of an ogre about to attack.

"I know you're in here!" he cried, a stern expression on his brow.  When he saw Jack however, his expression cleared and he straightened. 

"Oh!  You must be Dickey’s boy!" he cried, his face no longer that of an ogre, but an easy smile on his face.  "Forrester.  Very pleased to have you in my home."

"Er... yes, sir," Jackson said -- straightening to attention and bowing at the same time, which ended up as merely awkward.  "My father is Richard Fletcher.  I am Jackson Fletcher, and... they told me to wait in the hall, but I --"

“Happy to have you!  How is the Naval College treating you?”

“Good,” Jack said, unable to keep his voice from breaking embarrassingly.  And then, when Lord Forrester made no reply… Jack couldn’t keep himself from rambling.  “Its different than I expected: I wanted to go to sea first, but my father didn’t want me on the ocean with no training and two wars going on – and it seems we would not have been able to obtain a King’s Letter in any case.  But my years at the college count toward my required six as a midshipman, so it’s not lost time…” 

But Jack saw that Lord Forrester's attention had wandered from himself to just over his shoulder.

And the curtain that twitched ever so slightly there.

And suddenly, Jack found himself playing the game too.

"Ah, Lord Forrester," he said, inching himself ever so slightly to block the view of the curtain.  "I am so terribly honored that you have invited me to dine.  Indeed, I did not expect such kindness..."

"You didn't?" Lord Forrester asked, his surprised attention back to Jack.  "Nonsense, my boy.  Your father was one of my good friends at school.  And how is the good reverend?  We were all shocked that he went into the Church instead of the law… all the way up in Lincolnshire, of all places!  He would have made an excellent politician."

If I Fall"Yes, well, my father always says he would much rather be doing than telling everyone else what to do."  Jackson quipped, and turned red in the face before he could stop himself.  After all, Lord Forrester sat in Parliament!  He was one of the tellers, not the doers!  He had just insulted his possible future patron!

Luckily, Lord Forrester just leaned his head back and gave a hearty laugh. 

“That sounds like old Dickey.  And it goes without saying that I would see his son properly fed for at least one Sunday dinner."  Lord Forrester nonchalantly sidestepped Jackson, so he was no standing next to the curtain.  "And I think you'll be pleased with the menu.  We will be serving that rarest of all delicacies..." he reached his hand back behind the curtain.  "Little Girl!"

Lord Forrester whipped the curtain back, revealing Sarah and Mandy who began to shriek and run.  While Sarah ran with direction and aplomb, little Mandy could do barely more than run on short legs in a circle. 

Lord Forrester trotted after her, making sure to not catch her in good time.  Because as she shrieked, she giggled, and Lord Forrester kept saying "I'm going to get you and serve you up!" and she simply shrieked more.  Then Mandy ran behind the couch, and the other brown-haired girl had to get up and run, lest she be discovered too.  Soon the entire room was filled with running girls, chasing fathers, and hysterical laughter.

No, he had not been expecting this at all.

Jack shook his head ruefully.  Had he ever been that young and frightened?  Waiting in a hall and surprised to learn that young ladies of rank played hide and seek with their fathers.  Although the pit that existed in his stomach when he had been thirteen and waiting in a Forrester foyer was uncannily similar to the one that rested there now.

He scuffed his toe on the marbled floor, the squeaky sound echoing off the marble tiles.  Given the clamor of well dressed gentlemen -- ‘holding their place in line’ -- that existed just outside the front door, it was alarmingly quiet in the Forrester’s townhouse, with only the tick of a grandfather clock to keep him company.  He did not expect a reception by any means.  He hadn’t written a reply to Lady Forrester’s letter, as they had docked in London before any such note would have arrived.   But as that damned grandfather clock ticked on, he did begin to wonder if the supercilious butler had forgotten him.

“Perhaps he stuck his nose too high in the air, and it got caught on a cobweb,” Jack mumbled allowed, mollified by the echo that followed.

Jack was just about to try one or the other of the heavy doors that stood on opposite sides of the main If I Fallhall, when the thudding of adolescent footsteps broke the silence, and a gasp floated down from the top of the stairs.

“Jack!”

And before he could formulate a thought, Jackson found himself practically tackled by the young lady as she ran down the stairs and threw herself into his arms.

“Sarah?” he asked, disbelieving.  The last time he had seen Sarah Forrester, she had been twelve, and just beginning to gain in height and womanly virtues.   But this young lady that wrapped her arms – tightly – around his waist…

“La!  Do be serious, Jackson! It’s me! Amanda!”

Amanda?” he couldn’t help but cry.  Jackson immediately pulled away, and stared down into her face.  “But Amanda’s the youngest!”

She laughed at that, which was followed by a decidedly unladylike snort.  She covered her mouth quickly.

“My governess keeps telling me I have to not laugh if I’m going to laugh like that – but its too funny, you thinking I’m Sarah!”

Once given the benefit of a longer look, Jackson recognized the blonde curls down the back and slightly shorter dress style that exemplified youth.  And he recognized the dimples that had been ever present on the child Amanda shining forth on the cheeks of the young lady in front of him. 

“Well, you’ll have to forgive me, Miss Amanda,” he teased as he gave a smart bow.  “The last time I saw you, you barely reached my waist.  I didn’t expect anyone quite so tall.”

Amanda immediately hunched her shoulders ,trying to make herself smaller.  “I can’t help it,” she said mournfully.  “Mother is afraid I’ll be taller than any gentleman who might wish to dance with me.  Miss Pritchett – my governess, you know – has recommended they restrict my food so I stop growing.”

Jack refrained from shaking his head.  Talking to females – especially fifteen-year-old ones – was always trickier than one expected.

“Well, I still have some inches on you, so I suspect you should feel safe to keep eating for a few weeks or so.”

  Amanda giggled and slowly her shoulders came back up to her full (remarkable) height.

“What brings you to visit?” Amanda asked, as she waved at the butler, who had magically reappeared and seemed to be eyeing Jack’s trunk with distaste.  “Take that to one of the guest rooms, please, IF I FallDalton,” she instructed, before a quizzical look crossed her brow.  “Whichever one my mother would say. You are staying, aren’t you?” she turned her gaze to Jackson.

“Your mother wrote me, and asked me to do so,” Jackson replied.

“She did?” she replied, then shook her head, making her curls bounce.  “I wonder that she didn’t tell me – but then again, no one tells me anything anymore.” 

“Anymore?” he replied as he offered Amanda his arm, which she took with girlish joy.  They moved with absolutely no purpose whatsoever, to the drawing room.

The first, and indeed only thing that he noticed in the drawing room, was the overwhelming amount of flower bouquets, of every variety, on every surface.

If Amanda had been wearing mourning clothes, he would have thought Whigby was right and there had been a funeral.

“Ever since the Event, everyone gets very quiet when I come into the room.  I saw my mother elbow my father in the stomach when they thought finally started talking about something interesting!”

The Event.  The importance with which Amanda imbued those words made Jackson pause.  Perhaps it was the disappointment Lady Forrester gave vague reference to in her letter.

“And then, when we came to town again,” Amanda continued blithely, “or, more accurately, after Everything Changed, everyone’s been too busy to think of telling me what on earth is going on!”

Jackson followed Amanda’s conversation as best he could.  Again, he could hear the emphasis she gave the words ‘everything changed.’  Talking to teenagers was like learning a new language, and Jack had to be careful to pick up on the cues.  Finally, he asked, “So you don’t know why there are a half dozen gentlemen loitering on your doorstep?”

“Oh, them.” Amanda rolled her eyes.  “They’re always there.  You would think they would take the hint but panting after Sarah is something of a badge of honor, I gather.”

“Panting after Sarah?”

“Mama likes to think I don’t know of course, but Bridget constantly grumbles about how Sarah’s swains have made it so she can’t even get in our front door, and they should be shot as trespassers.  But then Mama says ‘what a thing to say!’ and Lady Phillippa says ‘it would certainly make the papers,’ but she says it like making the papers is a good thing.”  Amanda paused long enough ring for tea, frown quickly, and then smile again.  “But maybe it is a good thing, because Bridget never been mentioned, and I don’t think she likes it.  But enough about all that, I want to hear about you!  You’re so tan – were you in the West Indies?  The East Indies?”  She practically tore his arm off she clutched him so tightly in her excitement.  “Did you meet with any pirates?!”

If I FallBefore Jack could answer – or even realize that Amanda had stopped her monologue and begun asking questions – a commotion could be heard in the hall they had just vacated for the comfort of the drawing room.

It was the sound of a half dozen lovesick swains making their unhappiness known as feminine voices uttered sweet regrets… followed by a quick slam of the door.

“I’m telling you, we should shoot them.” an acidic young lady’s voice pierced the drawing room door. 

“Oh Bridget, its sweet,” came another voice, this one lighter, more relaxed. 

“Besides, Viscount Threshing is out there.  Terribly bad form to shoot a viscount.”  Came another female voice, this one soft and yet authoritative.

“Well, I cannot help but be glad that the afternoon is over – driving in the park is meant to be relaxing!” This voice he knew, Jack thought with a smile.  It was undeniably Lady Forrester’s.  He and Amanda made a move to the door, edging it open wider, to peer out into the hall. 

There, he was met with the sight of four colorful peacocks, doffing hats and gloves and spencers and packages to a number of mute ladies maids, in a mad whirl of movement and color that blinded the audience to little else. 

But as the layers were shed, and four ladies emerged, their conversation did not stop, and Jack found his eye drawn automatically to the form of the golden-blonde one in light blue dress. 

She was stunning, elegant… but cool.  Frighteningly so, as if the world were on her string and she hadn’t decided yet whether or not to cut it. 

“That’s Lady Phillippa Worth,” Amanda whispered in his ear.  “Everyone says she’s the queen of society, but I don’t think the actual queen would like to hear them say that.”

Ah, that must mean that the grumbling brunette in green was Bridget (indeed, he would have recognized Bridget’s freckles anywhere – as he did her dark curls, which matched Amanda’s lighter ones), and the tall blonde in the smart violet was Sarah. 

Even thought they stood in full view at the drawing room door they had yet to be noticed.  The women were too invested in their own conversation.  It allowed Jackson the opportunity to observe his fill.

He paid particular attention to the one in violet. Her face had turned out very angular, and she was quite polished.  Funny, he never thought of Sarah as city polished.  Strangely, Sarah didn’t seem to be suffering from an extreme disappointment.  Stranger still, she was the only one who did not remove her spencer and hat – in fact, she waved the footman away when he came to take them from her.

Surely he would have contemplated further – surely he would have figured it out… but at that moment, the lady in blue turned and Jackson saw her full face.  And he lost his breath.  She had a face If I Fallmade for whimsy, for mischief.  But it had been schooled -- or perhaps tricked, with rouge or powder or other women’s secrets – into an expression of haughty superiority. 

But… there was something familiar about those green eyes…

“Really, Bridget,” the one in blue – Lady Phillippa – said, as she turned to admire herself in one of the foyer’s mirrors.  “You shoot one of those gentlemen, you could very well be shooting your future husband, and then where would you be?”

That face full of freckles came up, a hot anger burning across her cheeks.

“I’ll never marry a man who mooned after you, thank you very much.”

A pretty pout crossed the taller girl’s reflection.  “You may not have that choice,” she said sweetly.  Too sweetly.  Jackson couldn’t help but feel a little for Bridget as she huffed passed the other women and stomped up the stairs.

But then… why would Bridget be so rude to a guest?  And why would Lady Phillippa retaliate so?

“Well, I should be going!” said the lady in violet – obviously not Sarah, if she was leaving – as she took a few of the parcels out of the pile that had amassed in the hall.  Hers, presumably.  “I will be seeing you at the Langston’s card party this evening, yes?”

“Will Sir Langston let us play Vinght-Un, not just boring old whist?” the blue-clad Lady Phillippa asked to her reflection in the mirror. 

“It is the only reason we shall deign to attend,” the violet one responded with air-kisses, followed by prolonged good-byes.

“Amanda, who is the woman in the purple?” Jackson asked in a low whisper, trying not to attract attention.

“I told you, that’s Lady Phillippa Worth!” Amanda explained.  “Look, she’s almost as tall as me.  Isn’t her gown exquisite?  When I’m of age, I’m going to wear a gown in just that color.”

But Jackson didn’t hear anything else.  He was dumbstruck, because if the lady in purple was Lady Phillippa, the queen of society, that meant the one in blue, with the face made for mischief but schooled into snobbishness, who was so absorbed in her reflection she didn’t notice the way she wielded power – or more likely, didn’t care --  

“Sarah, you should be kinder in how you speak to your sister,” Lady Forrester chided.

The one with the familiar green eyes…

“I’m sorry mother,” the one in blue replied, “but I was merely stating the truth.  If she is determined to be unhappy with life then nothing I say or do will change that.”  Then she smiled brightly, and turned from the mirror, her reflection having finally met with approval.  “Now, we simply have to find a dress in my wardrobe to go with this reticule we purchased – I insist on using it this evening for my Vinght-Un winnings!”

Thus Lady Forrester was successfully diverted, and took her daughter’s arm to begin a chatty stroll up the stairs to prepare for the evening’s festivities. 

“See?” Amanda said, a little sadly, as they watched their retreating forms.  “I told you they don’t realize I’m in the room sometimes.”

Jack could only nod.  His mind was too consumed by one topic:  that even though he was proven wrong, there was no way that that beautiful, snobbish, mean creature was the Miss Sarah Forrester that he had known.

Or, at least, that he’d thought he’d known.

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