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    Have you never had a lady refuse you before?

    David glared at her. Of course not!

    How very gratifying for you, my lord, she said. I am delighted to think that I

    have enlarged your exerience so easily.

    He was furious now at having made such an idiot of himself. hat I meant was

    that a lady of "irth and virtue should not say such things. I have aologi#ed for

    mis$udging you.

    %nd you would know a vast deal a"out roer young ladies, my lord, retorted

    &ohie. I've no dou"t that you $udged me on exactly the same "asis as you $udgeyour mistresses!

    He told himself that he was shocked, or ought to "e. (ut he was conscious of a

    rile of amusement and admiration for the little sitfire)

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    TORONTO NEW YORK LONDON

    A!TERDA "AR#! !YDNEY HA$%R&

    !TO'KHOL ATHEN! TOKYO #LAN ADR#D

    "RA&%E WAR!AW $%DA"E!T A%'KLAND

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    CONTENTS

    * + - / 0 1 2 *3 ** *+ * *- *

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    ELIZABETH ROLLS

    was "orn in 4ent, "ut moved to 5el"ourne, %ustralia, at the age of fifteen months.

    &he sent several years in 6aua 7ew 8uinea as a child, where her father was in

    charge of the defense forces. %fter teaching music for several years she moved to&ydney to do a master's in musicology at the 9niversity of 7ew &outh ales. 9on

    comleting her thesis, :li#a"eth reali#ed that writing was so much fun she wanted to

    do more.

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    'ha()er One

    ;ady 5aria 4entham viewed her only surviving great

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    &he fixed him with a steely glare. %s for looking u your friends, you have my

    full ermission to look em u. On the dance floors! % very unladylike snort escaed

    her. ho knows, if you run across 6eter Darleston in town, then he might even hel

    you! Erom all I can see, he's em"raced the married state again with what I can only

    descri"e as vulgar enthusiasm! hich should "e a lesson to you. ?ust "ecause you had

    some stuid "oy =he firm lis closed a"rutly.

    ;ady 5aria 4entham stared at him in dis"elief. &o that's it, she said slowly.

    Cou thought ?ames offered for Eelicity, knowing how you felt a"out her. =hat's whyyou $oined the army and stayed away all these years. (ecause you thought ?ames had

    urosely stolen your "ride. Eor heaven's sake, "oy! Cour mother suggested the

    match to ?ames. If he'd known how you felt, he'd never have offered for her!

    Her nehew $ust gaed at her in stunned silence. &he didn't really exect an

    answer. He'd never "een one to confide, even as a "oy, and she didn't think he'd

    changed all that much. ;ord, so he'd "een "laming his "rother all these years for

    suosedly stealing a hussy who'd have "roken his heart! ell, he knew the truth

    now and nothing more she could say on that head would "e of the slightest use.

    &o she returned to the main thrust of her argument. Cou do intend to marry, I

    assume, HelfordB 9sing his title, she reasoned, would remind him of his duty. Hewas not merely the Honoura"le David 5elville, younger son, any more. He had

    resonsi"ilities)to his name, to his eole. He must not "e allowed to shirk them on

    any count, certainly not for the memory of his "rother's wife, a woman who had "een

    dead for more than a twelvemonth. % woman who, if the "oy were to "e totally honest

    with himself, had not actually cared for him in the least.

    His $aw set hard, Helford answered. %s you say, %unt 5aria, I have no choice in

    the matter.

    &he relaxed. 8ood. He was going to "e sensi"le.

    @ery well, then. =here are "ound to "e any num"er of ersona"le young ladies out

    this &eason. I will>7o!

    % frosty glare greeted this summary interrution of her detailed and all

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    ;ady 5aria ermitted herself an amused smile. Fan you indeed, HelfordB Erom

    all I've heard, you're a little out of ractice with the ladies)

    =he hell I am! exloded Helford.

    ith the ladies, I said, dear "oy, urred ;ady 5aria sweetly, not in the least ut

    out "y her nehew's choice of language. I've not the least dou"t of your exertise

    with the "rass

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    His memory lurched "ack to the day Eelicity's father had calmly told him that he

    had received a "etter offer for her hand, that he was not to aroach her again. %n

    order which he had not the slightest intention of o"eying. He had not found out who

    the lucky suitor was until he had reached home that night after riding all day in a

    thundering rage, fuming as he laid his lans for rescuing his love from an unwanted

    marriage.He'd found out when he got home, muddied and exhausted, and discovered ?ames

    cele"rating with their mother. Shehad known. Had tried to exlain to him later that

    ?ames, with his title, had a "etter claim to Eelicity's hand and fortune. &he had smiled

    gently, cynically, when he'd cried out that he loved Eelicity. Had told him that he

    would find another attractive fortune one day. He'd never soken to her again.

    =he next day he'd managed to intercet Eelicity on her morning ride with her

    groom. &he'd seemed very em"arrassed to see him and when he'd insisted on riding

    ahead with her, had agreed very reluctantly.

    He could remem"er her light voice now. (ut, David, dear! Cou cannot exect me

    to marry you in the face of 6aa's disleasure. hy, he has ositively ordered me tomarry ?ames. =here was a "rief, regnant ause, during which he'd assimilated the

    variance of her claim that her father demanded the match, with her unruffled tone and

    demeanour.

    &he continued. e must "e sensi"le a"out this, David. %fter all, once I have

    fulfilled my duty and rovided ?ames with an heir, there is nothing to sto us) I

    mean, if we were discreet. Innocent

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    =he next morning he'd left, only ausing to ask ?ames if he'd urchase him a air

    of colours, and from that day to this he hadn't steed across any threshold "elonging

    to his family. ?ames had looked u##led at his reAuest, "ut had agreed immediately

    with the easy generosity that had always characterised his dealings with his younger

    "rother.

    %nd he hadn't known. Helford swore "itterly. 7o wonder ?ames had "een sou##led, articularly "y his refusal to come home after that. His refusal to come to the

    wedding. :ven knowing the truth a"out her motivation, he had still found that the

    thought of seeing Eelicity married to his own "rother was un"eara"le.

    (y the time he'd come to his senses and realised that he'd made a fool of himself,

    he had "een too roud to come home. %nd he could not have "orne to see Eelicity, to

    "e reminded of the callow youth who had loved her only to discover that his idol had

    feet of clay. %ll during his years in the 6eninsula and then in @ienna at the :m"assy

    odd scras of gossi had filtered through to him. &cras which told him he was far

    "etter off out of marriage with her. Or with anyone.

    7ever again had he made the mistake of caring for a woman. =hey were toys,laythings. He avoided marriagea"le females like the lague, seeing in them only

    reminders of his own foolishness. %nd now he'd have to marry after all. @ery well. &o

    "e it. (ut it would "e on histerms. =he terms Eelicity had taught him so effectively.

    His "ride would "e a woman of "irth, "eauty and fortune. %nd irreroacha"le

    conduct. He was damned if he would rovide cover for a high

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    ?ust at the moment his anonymity suited him erfectly. =here was an odd

    satisfaction in "eing a"le to view his world almost as though he were invisi"le to

    rying eyes and immune to gossiing tongues. He felt as though he were free to

    o"serve, not yet art and arcel of the glittering ;ondon world which all too soon

    would know of his return. 7o dou"t "y the time he had "een "ack a week the news

    would "e out and any num"er of eole would "e claiming long acAuaintance. In fact,he rather thought he could count on ;ady 5aria to sread the glad tidings.

    He strolled ast &tehens' Hotel, wondering idly if any of his friends were inside

    "ut not sufficiently interested to find out. =his feeling of "eing invisi"le was very

    leasant. 7o one had seen him at all!

    His feeling of invisi"ility was ure illusion, of course. hatever the gentlemen

    might do, it was not likely that any lady could ossi"ly ass "y an unknown

    gentleman of his Auality without o"serving him very closely, al"eit surretitiously.

    7aturally one would not like to stare and "e thought a vulgar hussy, "ut one could and

    did cast a fleeting sideways glance at the tall, owerful figure, moving with such

    leonine grace and dressed with such uno"trusive elegance.=he illusion of invisi"ility continued as far as ?ackson's (oxing &aloon. It might

    have continued even further had it not "een for Helford's o"servation of an entirely

    new henomenon. 7ever "efore in that distant time that had known him as a freAuent

    and welcome visitor at ?ackson's had he seen such a large dog sitting atiently outside