Follow My Lead
Jason Cummings, Duke of Rayne is feeling the weight of his responsibilities – one of which is to get married. Being the most sought after bachelor in London can be trying, so who can blame him if he seeks refuge from the voracious hordes of young debutantes at the decidedly female-free Historical Society? Female-free, that is, until Winnifred Crane marches up to the door, demanding entrance.
Despite her prowess as a historian, Winn is denied membership to the Society. So she daringly offers an unusual bargain: if she can prove the authenticity of a certain painting, she’ll be granted recognition, fame, and respect. But to do that, she must go abroad. And to go abroad, she must have an escort, even a stubbornly unwilling one…
Jason has no desire to accompany Winn on her adventure across Europe, but even he is not immune to Winn’s passion for her profession. As the journey proves more difficult than planned, they must work together to stay one step ahead of their rivals… and the closer they get to the proof Winn seeks, the closer she and Jason become. But as their adventure turns dangerous, can Jason keep this headstrong bluestocking safe? And what will become of their growing bond when the adventure ends?
Read more about how Kate made her (surprisingly cheap) book trailer here!
» Beethoven’s Piano sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 is colloquially known as “The Appassionata”, named so for it’s tempestuous themes and dramatic execution. However, it was not first called The Appassionata until 1838 – and since Let It Be Me is set in 1824, I only ever referred to it as the No. 23.
» In their travels, Jason and Winn run into Gail and Evangeline Alton, and their father Sir Geoffrey. The Altons, (along with Mr. Henry Ellis, who also makes an appearance) are characters from Compromised. Although written first, Compromised takes place seven years after Follow My Lead, so when we meet the girls here, they are in their preteens.
» The Society of Historical Art and Architecture of the Known World is my fictitious version of one of England’s learned societies, such as the Royal Society, (which focuses on the sciences) and the London Society of Antiquaries, (which focuses on art and artifacts). Both societies were housed in the early 19th century at Somerset House, London, so I decided the Historical Society should have its rooms there as well. Both the Royal and the LSA still exist today, although housed at Carlton House Terrace, London, and Burlington House, Piccadilly, respectively.
» Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) is considered one of the preeminent Masters of the Northern Renaissance. Durer has always been a popular artist, but in the early 19th century, his popularity was reaching new heights. In 1828, the city of Nuremberg held a Durer Jubilee, on the 300th anniversary of his death. Obtaining a painting ascribed to Durer would have been a coup for an organization such as the Historical Society.
» Albrecht Durer’s house in Nuremberg still stands. Today it is a museum and a testament to his life’s work, and the life of a German Renaissance artist. It was purchased by the city of Nuremberg in 1825 (some sources site the date of purchase as 1828). Previous to that, it was privately owned and had fallen into disrepair. In Follow My Lead, Herr Heider, a Durer enthusiast, purchased the house with the intention to rehabilitate it. Herr and Frau Heider are of my own invention, as is Herr Heider’s collection of Durer letters and papers.
» Learn more about how Kate’s books are connected via this handy guide.
“If Austen were alive and writing novels today the result might be something exactly like "Follow My Lead," a wickedly witty and superbly satisfying romance.”
- John Charles, Chicago Tribune (posted July 2011)
"The classic titled-hero-falls-for-independent-bluestocking-heroine plot gets a refreshing spin as Noble propels her characters on a passionate, whirlwind adventure. It will keep readers thrilled and on edge until the very end."
- Library Journal (starred review) (posted Apr 2011)
"…this book is nearly perfect, and absolutely should not be missed. Kate Noble is an author to watch. If you've been craving a well-written road romance with an unusual setting, Follow My Lead is the book for you."
- All About Romance (posted Apr 2011)
"Ms. Noble gives us characters who, though not typical of the time, could have really existed, and puts them into creative, fresh adventures that make sense. Ms. Nobles' balancing act is worthy of a Wallenda."
- The Season For Romance (top pick) (posted Apr 2011)
"Follow My Lead is the best in what historical romance has to offer. If there's an author you should be reading, it's Kate Noble. This is one book that shines in every possible way."
- Babbling About Books and More (posted Apr 2011)
"…[Winn and Jason's] burgeoning friendship evolves into a believable and captivating love, the story evolves into an outstanding and memorable tale."
- Publisher's Weekly (starred review) (posted Mar 2011)
As the carriage rolled away from the Worth mansion on Grosvenor Square, Jason could not contain his relief. After being properly introduced to the most eligible of the upper ten thousand’s daughters, he needed to escape as far away as possible. To Timbuktu or the wilds of India. To the Americas or the moon. Or at the very least, across town.
And a drink. He could use a drink.
The tea had to have been the worst of it. Too sweet hot tea served on a very warm May day, and he must have drunk a large pond’s worth, while chatting to the Earl of Whomever’s daughter and Viscount Something’s niece. All he had wanted to do was run. His preference for flight at full alert. Jane moved him from one group of young ladies to the next, thankfully everyone on their very best behavior, no one trying to corner him behind shrubbery or tackle him in a locked cellar.
He shuddered at the memory. Really, the three Misses were enough to put a man off women altogether.
Not that the afternoon had been wholly terrible. Indeed, Jane introduced him to a number of young ladies who managed to flush and flutter at all the right moments, but also didn’t stammer, or threaten to faint – hell, a few managed to hold an easy conversation. One young lady – Miss Sarah Forrester, if he recalled correctly, had even managed to tease him.
“The south hedge.”
“Hmm?” his head had come up at her words.
“I think it’s likely the easiest means of escape.” Miss Forrester had raised her eyes to his, shy and laughing. She continued when he had managed to only blink in reply. “I can make a small distraction if you need. Then you can run for it.”
Jason was then left to be the one blushing and stuttering. “Is my discomfort that obvious?” he had said.
“No. Maybe. Maybe I scouted the south hedge for my own escape.” Miss Forrester laughed a little to herself. Just then, her mother’s voice had interrupted their thoughts.
“And you should see my daughter’s screen painting, Lady Worth, there is simply nothing like it!” she had been crowing to his sister.
“But alas, I fear I would be caught,” Miss Forrester had whispered.
The memory of that moment gave him comfort – if for no other reason than it was the one small success in a sea of bare survival. The question that Byrne had asked haunted him as the carriage racketed down the cobblestone streets towards the Thames and Somerset House. ‘Why are you doing this?’ ‘Because it’s what’s next.’
Because it’s what’s next. Such a broad, empty answer. Yes, getting married was next on the list of his life. He had taken up the role of Duke of Rayne. Had learned to manage the estates. And if he hadn’t found fulfillment, per se, at least he had a sense of accomplishment at the end of most days. Marriage was the next step. It would not be the death knell that all his (married) friends took unremitting joy in telling him it would be. Certainly not. It would, instead, cure this vague loneliness that had begun threatening the edges of his life. It would be a beginning. It would be what is next.
So why could he not quell that old, familiar urge to run and hide?
When that urge over came him, at least he didn’t have to run far. His driver lurched to a familiar stop, and his footman opened the carriage in front of Somerset House, a grand neo-classical structure that sat along the Thames, housing the great learned fraternities of the day: the Royal Society (known far and wide was the Royal), the London Society of Antiquaries, and Jason’s personal refuge, The Historical Society of Art and Architecture. Somehow, in the past few years of managing his estates, and oh, just being ducal, Jason had actually managed to complete his long overdue academic paper on the Damage to Medieval Architecture in European Cities after the Napoleonic Wars. Mostly from notes he had made when he had gone on his grand tour after graduating from Oxford. Maybe not with a First, but he had graduated, thank you very much. Dukes, he had been informed, had no use for Firsts.
And, once he had managed to have that pamphlet published (using his own printing establishment that he had acquired the controlling interest in just the week before, but published none the less) he had petitioned to and been granted membership to the Historical Society. And now, he was free to use the society’s offices and rooms at his leisure. It was essentially his club, but different from Whites’ or Brooks’, or the other gentlemen’s establishments that lined St. James. This club hosted some of the best minds in the country, and held some of its most interesting treasures, and best of all – absolutely no one there would dream of an offer of marriage from him.
He disembarked from the carriage, nodding to his driver. “This little adventure may take longer than anticipated,” he said, earning a cackle of good humor from Bones, his driver.
“That happened once,” Jason countered, but with a smile. Bones had been with him for years, through more than one misadventure, so his informality with his master was easily forgiven. “Go have supper,” Jason conceded. “But I expect you back here within two hours to collect me!”
Bones, not one to waste his master’s generosity, tipped his hat to Jason and put the horses into trot before the duke could change his mind.
Jason took a deep sigh of the utterly free. Finally. For the first time all day, he felt free of the exhausting task of trying to find a mate, free of the weight of being the Duke of Rayne – he could enter this columned and storied establishment a clean man, one whose only purpose was to improve and amuse his mind via other men of interest.
Of course, this was when – as Jason turned left in the courtyard towards the Historical Society’s wing – that he ran directly into the outstretched hand of the tawny haired lady that would turn out to be the cause of the absolute greatest tangle of his life.
Miss Winnifred Crane did not intend to smack the young gentleman. Truly, she didn’t. He simply, sort of ran into her hand. And really she shouldn’t be blamed for her hand being as outstretched as it had.
It had begun when she had rounded the corner from Aldwych onto Strand, some minutes before the stately carriage bearing the poor soul whom she accidentally smacked appeared. She had been so startled to come upon Somerset House so suddenly, the building that held all her hopes and aspirations, that for the barest of seconds, she lost her nerve.
She made it as far as the courtyard before she had to stop, had to take a moment to gather her strength.
“Do not become overwhelmed,” Winnifred whispered to herself, clutching her folio of papers to her chest. She wished briefly that she had worn her thick coat, as a chill ran down her spine. But the coat was unfashionable, and she at least had to try for what fashion she could afford in London. Besides, it was a warm day, and the chill could easily be ascribed to other sources than the weather. “You are not doing anything against their rules, nor against the law. You were invited. You even have a letter of introduction.”
As gentlemen in top hats and coats walked past her up and down the steps, more than a few giving a curious glance to the small woman paused at the central fountain, she hesitantly took the first few steps.
Somerset House was a large columned structure, one side lining the Thames, and the other folding itself along a courtyard of some impressive acreage. It was home to numerous endowed learned societies and government agencies and as such, it was almost impossible for Winn to know precisely where she needed to go.
The Naval offices were straight ahead, she knew, marked easily by the building’s central dome. But after that it became a bit hazy. She thought back to her father’s descriptions of the building. The Royal Society was… to the left? No, the right. It had a lovely exhibition hall, for those men who wished to see the progress of the world. The London Society of Antiquaries was its younger cousin, relegated to a few rooms in the attic and basements. So that must mean the Historical Society for Art and Architecture’s rooms were to the left of the courtyard.
She turned, and with the conviction of purpose, made her move toward her destination.
Until a oversized, strong hand grabbed her by the arm.
“Not so fast,” George Bambridge, her cousin, said in her ear, his breath coming in heavy gulps. He must have run very fast to catch up with her. Damn it all. If only she had not paused by the fountain! She would have been in the building, at her audience with Lord Forrester, and George would have had to vent his spleen in the street alone.
“You left me sitting in the park with bloody Mrs. Tottendale,” George said, once he finally managed to catch his breath.
“And she was supposed to keep you from following me,” Winn rolled her eyes. “How did you know?”
“That you’d come here? Winnifred, it’s been the only thing you’ve spoken of since coming to London.” George replied, smirking superiorly. “Nor are you that difficult to spot. Would you like to know why?”
“Because you’re the only one here in a skirt!” George cried. “And that’s because there are no women allowed into the Historical Society!”
“Yes they are,” she replied calmly. “For exhibitions, and lectures, women often attend.”
“Those are public functions.” The wispy dark hair that fell over George’s brow shook precariously. If he was not careful with his temper, he would reveal to the world his carefully hidden receding hairline.
“Women are not granted entrance to the Society’s main rooms as they are not granted membership. And I should know, I’m the one of us being considered for such.”
“There is absolutely nothing in their charter that forbids women,” Winn countered rationally.
“And how do you know so much about the Historical Society’s charter?”
“Because my father helped write it. And he told me.”
That flummoxed George, causing him to gape like a fish for some moments.
“Winnifred,” he began rationally, but his hand never letting go of her arm. “I feel responsible for you, not just as your only living relative, but I would hope, as something more. So please believe me when I say this is not a good idea. If you so ardently desire to be introduced to Lord Forrester, I will endeavor to have him invited to dine, and I’m sure he will find you and your infatuation with art history extremely diverting. But not here.” His voice lowered to a desperate whisper. “And not now!”
As Winn racketed from a weak queasiness to annoyance to utterly livid at George’s impassioned speech, she clutched her small folio of papers all the tighter to her chest. When he was finished, she spoke in a very low, very clear voice.
“George, if you want me to leave this establishment, you will have to physically drag me away, kicking and screaming.” Her gaze bore into his, so sharp it could cut diamonds. “In front of all these people you are dying to impress. Now, you may be a foot taller and five stone heavier than me, but do you really think imposing yourself on a tiny female in such a manner is something you should do?”
George paused. For the first time, he seemed to recognize where they were and the potential they had for making a scene. Right now, talking low to each other, they were just two ordinary people – although one suspiciously other-gendered – but all it would take is one scream and suddenly those men in top hats and coats who walked past with their noses in the air would know who they were.
And as Winn knew, for George, there was such a thing as bad press.
His hand slackened on her arm. Only slightly, but enough that Winn could wretch it away from him.
And smack said arm directly into the young man that was rushing past them.
“Amomph!” was the muffled, indistinguishable cry from said gentleman, who staggered back some paces.
“Oh my goodness!” was the sharp, anguished cry that came from Winnifred, as her folio fell to the paving stones, spilling its contents into disarray. “Oh no!”
“I was thinking the same thing,” winced the flame haired gentleman, as he squeezed the bridge of his nose in pain.
“Your… your grace!” stammered George, apparently recognizing the victim of Winnifred’s hand as a duke of some kind. Of course she would accidentally smack a duke, she thought, flushing red. But could not stop to curtsy. She had to collect her papers before they all flew away! Her articles… her letter of introduction!
“I’m so terribly sorry!” George was saying, attempting to bow and neaten the poor man’s coat at the same time.
“It’s quite all right,” His Grace was saying. “I knew I wasn’t going to survive the day without being smacked.”
“… I beg your pardon?” George asked.
“Nothing. And no harm done, I think.” He straightened to his full height, then apparently, having noticed Winn’s own distress, said, “Do you need any help, miss?”
“I…” she stooped to pick up another page, then another, “Oh dear, is that all of them?” She looked around wildly. And her heart stopped when she saw the lone piece of paper, floating in the fountain.
And by the folds in the paper, she knew which one it was.
“My letter!” she cried. She reached her arm out, but it was beyond her grasp. She was about to throw caution to the wind and climb over the edge into the fountain’s low pool, when a hand on her shoulder stilled her.
“Allow me,” the flame-haired duke said, and reached for the floating paper himself. He had her in height by a foot, but it was nearly out of his reach, as well. At last he managed that final inch, and handed the dripping page to Winn.
“Thank you, your grace,” Winn breathed, but she only had eyes for the paper. Please don’t let it be ruined, please don’t let it be ruined…
“No trouble – although now I know the benefit of using a walking cane.” He smiled, and then gave a short bow. “Miss...”
But Winn, her heart in her throat, could not answer. And so, George stumbled into the void.
“Crane, your grace.” He stammered, giving a short bow. “And I am George Bambridge, her cousin. I have often seen you in the Historical Society’s rooms, but you seem so engrossed, I did not like to interrupt you to introduce myself.”
“Ah. Well, as you seem to be aware, I am Lord Cummings, Duke of Rayne. And Miss, er Crane.” He turned to address her frozen form. “Are you quite well?”
But Winn was not well. Nowhere near it. Because…
“It’s ruined,” she managed in a small voice.
Her letter. Her letter of introduction written to Lord Forrester in her father’s own hand was nothing more than a bunch of squiggly, running black lines on wet parchment.
“I’m so sorry,” the Duke sympathized. “I take it the page was important.”
Important? It was everything. It was what allowed her to be here with legitimacy.
“It’s nothing, your grace,” George toadied, positioning himself by Winn’s side. “Just some notes, correct Winnifred? I apologize, sir, we should be getting back home, my cousin has… a dinner to dress to for. But, I was wondering sir, if you would be attending the lecture series this coming week?”
“No,” Winn said, distractedly.
“No?” the Duke replied, when George did not.
“No, I don’t have a dinner party to dress for. Nor am I leaving.”
“Winnifred…” George warned, his voice kept just under angry.
“I have an invitation, George.”
“Not any more, you don’t," he replied, flicking his eyes to the wet paper in her hand.
“Actually George, sadly that piece of paper is still dry.”
As a quizzical look crossed her cousin’s brow, the Duke’s eyebrow went up.
“An invitation?” the Duke said, his interest piqued. And in that moment, Winnifred recognized him. From a decade ago. Jason Cummings, Marquis of… something or other. Now the Duke of Rayne. And George was bending over backwards to impress him. Winn almost laughed aloud.
“Yes,” she said, her back suddenly straight, her purpose re-found. “I have an invitation to call on Lord Forrester at the Historical Society for Art and Architecture at my earliest convenience.” She narrowed her eyes. “And I find now remarkably convenient.”
And with that, she took her folio, her wet page held securely but at arm’s length, and neatly sidestepped George and the Duke, moving with all haste to the east entrance to Somerset House.
The two gentlemen fell into step beside her. George to her left, eyeing the damp letter in her hand, trying to make out what the bleeding ink might have been that Winn found so important, while the Duke kept pace to her right. He kept his hands behind his back and his head forward. And, was it possible, but was the man whistling?
As their feet struck the stone floor in symphony, she shot a glance at the duke’s profile. A lock of shockingly red hair bounced over his otherwise unexpressive brow – a last mark of boyishness in the fully formed man he now was. The barest of all smiles played over his lips.
“Is this amusing to you, your grace?” Winn asked with a scowl.
“Not at all.” Then he seemed to reconsider. “Well, somewhat. A little bit.”
“I assure you, my meeting with Lord Forrester is not at all amusing to me,” she replied, her chin going up.
“Oh I didn’t mean to imply that your situation was amusing. I simply find mine so.” At her quizzical look, he explained. “This is the closest thing to an adventure I’ve had in ages.”
Winn glanced up at him before smiling a little to herself. “It’s the closest I’ve ever been to an adventure.”
“Your grace, I have to beg you to not encourage her in this,” George interjected. “She does not know what she’s walking into.”
“Obviously, as we just passed the Historical Society’s door.”
The whole party pulled up short. Winn shot George a dark look, as the Duke indicated the door she was meant to enter.
The heavy mahogany weight of the paneled door loomed in front of Winn, its gravity pulling her forward – but her feet wouldn’t move. All she could do was stare at that door.
A small collection of gentlemen, moving along the corridor, had gathered at the sight of Winnifred and her two escorts. Small murmuring accompanied their shocked expressions.
“Do you see?” George addressed both Winn and his grace. “She’s already causing a spectacle and she’s not even through the door. I told you Winnifred, no lady has ever entered the Historical Society rooms.”
“And I told you there is no rule against it,” Winnifred countered, her eyes inexplicably flicking up to the Duke’s face.
“That’s preposterous,” George countered.
“Actually, that’s correct,” the duke replied, his eyebrows up, impressed.
“How do you know?” Winn asked, astonished.
“I read the charter. Well, I wasn’t about to join a club without knowing the rules,” the duke shrugged carelessly. “Call it a quirk. However,” he quickly redirected the subject, “Mr. Bambridge is also correct. Some rules are implied, Miss Crane.”
As George beamed, and Winn set her shoulders determined, the duke’s hand worked over his jaw, considering.
“But, I supposed our lack of specificity is your advantage, Miss Crane.”
George goggled at the man. “You… you cannot be taking her side!” And then, remembering, “Sir.” He took a deep settling breath, “I know you are a member and I a mere applicant, your Grace, but you are not an academic, and I am. And academic men like Lord Forrester are very aware of appearance. And they’re not going to appreciate my cousin’s appearance here. In fact they…” he turned away from the Duke and bent down to Winn.
“Winnifred, this is a mistake.”
“Let me make my own mistakes, George.”
And with that, Winnifred Crane marched forward, and took the door.
Well, what was a man to do, but follow?
Jason didn’t know why he was shadowing this terribly focused woman and her controlling cousin, or why he felt the need to interfere in their argument. But once enlisted, he couldn’t help himself.
Perhaps it was guilt over inadvertently ruining her apparently very important letter. Perhaps it was because she was the first woman in nearly two Seasons that did not look at him with some kind of expectation. Perhaps it was because, when her hand had made contact with him, it was as if she knocked the weight of the day clean off him – the dreary, boring day that had sat on his shoulders for so long. His dulled mind had sat straight up and said, “well, this is something interesting, at least.”
If she had been one of those bluestockings who banged against male-only institutions simply to make men feel as if they were absolute heels who kept the fairer sex low in esteem, it would have been a different story. But for some reason, he didn’t think that was her objective. Such women had a different posture than this tiny female.
And tiny she was – barely brushing Jason’s shoulder. She reminded him of nothing so much as a sparrow. And remarkably, all one color. Her tawny light brown hair was capped by a light brown straw hat, which was decorated by light brown ribbon. Her gloves were light brown leather, her spencer a somewhat darker mud. And when she nervously shot a glance in his direction, he was startled to find the lightest of hazel eyes. But everything else – it was as if she had never before sought to stand out.
But as she threw open the doors to the Historical Society’s great room, stand out she did indeed.
A number of men milled about, standing or sitting in clusters of chairs and sofas, having murmured discussions – whether they discussed the significance of illuminated manuscripts after the invention of the printing press, or a story in today’s Times, Jason was never to know. Because at the appearance of Miss Winnifred Crane, all conversation abruptly ceased.
He looked down at her – the little sparrow pale but unmoving. Her eyes flicked nervously down to the folio in her hands. But still she remained frozen to her spot.
And suddenly, Jason was taking the reins of the mischief.
He leaned down and whispered in her ear. “Just follow my lead, Miss Crane.”
That seemed to shake her out of her reverie. Just in time too, for the steward of the Historical Society, Edwards – who ran the inner workings of the society as efficiently as he did quietly – came up to Jason.
“Edwards, my man!” Jason called out jovially, giving the gathering audience a prologue to the play about to be performed. “I think we are in for an interesting afternoon!”
“Your Grace,” he greeted with a bow. “Madam,” he addressed Miss Crane, “may I be of some assistance?”
Code for ‘what the hell are you doing here’, Jason thought, squelching the impulse to smile.
To her credit, Miss Crane did not flinch at Edwards’ tone. “Yes, I’ve been invited to converse with Lord Forrester. Could you direct me to him?”
Edwards did not blink before answering. “I’m terribly sorry, but Lord Forrester is not in his offices this afternoon. Would you care to leave a card?”
Maybe it was the look on her face – a fragile breaking, presented with this quandary. Maybe it was the look on George Bambridge’s face – relief punctuated by triumph, as if he himself had stopped his cousin’s foolishness. But maybe, maybe it was that small part of his brain that still liked to make trouble, and hadn’t had the opportunity in so damn long.
But whatever the reason, Jason found himself the recipient of every deathly stare in the room when he said, “Really? But it’s Thursday. Lord Forrester is always at his offices here on Thursdays. Besides, I just came from a luncheon where his wife and daughter told me he was in residence.”
Edwards showed the barest of shocks before flicking his eyes from Miss Crane, to Jason, to another servant that stood by a door on the far side of the room. Lord Forrester’s office door. But that other man’s startled countenance offered no assistance. Edwards would simply have to extricate himself from this without his help, Jason surmised, only a little amused by the stoic Edwards being flummoxed.
“If Lord Forrester is not able to receive me today, I can come back,” Miss Crane piped up. “Every day. I don’t have much to occupy me, so I could simply stand here and wait all day.”
As George whimpered in mortification, Jason suppressed a chuckle. And then jumped into her scheme with both feet.
“Indeed?” he said, barely able to keep a straight face. “Would you care for a chair, while you wait? Perhaps some tea?”
“Oh no,” she smiled at him. “I would not wish to tax the Historical Society’s resources simply for me. I’ll have likely breakfasted before I arrived. But,” she rubbed her chin, pondering, “I do tend to get light headed and faint in the afternoons without some sustenance.”
“That we simply cannot have,” Jason replied. “Imagine a lady such as yourself, fainting from the length of your wait to attend to your meeting with Lord Forrester. What a terrible story that would be.”
“Well, then perhaps it would be best – yes, perhaps it would, if I were to have a chair and table – maybe a small settee, set here for me. Right here, in front of the main doors.” She grinned, then turned her suddenly bright eyes to poor Edwards. “A nice blanket over my lap, a tray of tea. I could even bring in my tatting, get that done while I wait.”
At the prospect of having a woman faint in their hallway while waiting for an audience – or turn the great rooms of the Historical Society into her sitting room, Edwards conceded a modicum of defeat.
“Perhaps Lord Forrester can be located,” Edwards assented in a low voice. “What name shall I give him?”
“Miss Winnifred Crane,” she said, her voice clear as a bell. That started a whispering. Winnifred Crane?, he heard from more than one cluster of gentlemen, who had been watching the entertainment with rapt interest.
“Crane?” Edwards’ eyebrow shot up.
“I’m the daughter of Alexander Crane,” she elaborated. And then, she said something so outrageous, so completely undoing, that it stopped all conversation in the room altogether.
“But his Lordship may know me better by a different name,” she spoke, her voice suddenly less steady, her face frightened and determined at the same time.
Edwards’ face remained impassive. Until she said...