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part of

The Muses of Mayfair Trilogy

from Harlequin Historicals. 

April 2010

 

 

A meeting of the Ladies Artistic Society at the home of Miss Calliope Chase and her sisters is rudely interrupted…

 

“Oh!” Calliope’s instructions were cut off by a sudden cry from her friend Lotty, who sat closest to the window.  She pressed her nose to the glass, leaning forward precariously.  “Oh, it is Lord Westwood!”

 

Those words—Lord Westwood—caused a great rush to the windows, silks a ribbons furiously a-rustle.  More noses and fingers pressed to the glass, unheeding of smudges and dignity.

 

“Oh!” cried Thalia.  “He is in his beautiful phaeton.  I wish Father would buy one for me.  I’m sure I would be a rare hand at the reins.  But Westwood appears to be in some sort of altercation with Mr. Mountbank.  How fascinating.”

 

Oh, what a great surprise, Calliope thought sarcastically.  Where Cameron de Vere, the Earl of Westwood went, altercations were sure to follow.

 

“Cal, Clio, come, you must see this.  It’s too amusing,” Thalia said.

 

Clio left off her scratching of pens across parchment and joined the others, peering down coolly as if observing some scientific demonstration.

 

Calliope did not want to go and gawk with her friends, as if they were all silly schoolgirls who had never before seen a man rather than the intelligent, rational women they were.  She did not want to give Lord Westwood the satisfaction of yet more attention.  Yet somehow she could not help herself.  It was as if a thick cord suddenly tightened around her waist, pulling her inexorably towards the window.  Towards him.

 

Calliope dropped the newspaper and strolled reluctantly towards the others, peering past Thalia’s shoulder to the scene below.  It was indeed Lord Westwood, his bright yellow phaeton wedged into traffic, at a complete standstill.  His matched bay horses snorted and pranced restlessly, as Mr. Mountbank, in his own conveyance, blocked Westwood’s way, shouting and gesticulating.  Mr. Mountbank’s face was an alarming shade of purple above his overly starched cravat, yet Westwood looked on with an expression of amused boredom on his ridiculously gorgeous face, as if the quarrel had nothing at all to do with him and he merely watched the action at Drury Lane.

 

“How very handsome he is,” sighed Lotty.

 

Handsome—well, yes.  Even Calliope had to admit that, albeit grudgingly.  Westwood was sometimes called “the Greek God,” and strictly from an aesthetic viewpoint it was all too true.  He could have been their Apollo statue come to warm, breathing life, if he were to shed his buckskin breeches and exquisite bottle-green coat.  He was hatless now, his glossy, sable-dark curls tossed by the wind until they fell in artistic disarray over his brow.  His skin was always a golden-bronze, his eyes dark and maddeningly unreadable.  But he was not so much a god as a young Greek fisherman, virile, earthbound, as secret as the deepest sea.

 

His hair fell away from his chiseled face, the sharp angles of his cheekbones and nose.  He leaned back easily on the cushioned seat, free as a corsair at the helm of his ship.  Passers-by paused to stare at him, as if drawn by the sheer life of him, yet he noticed not at all, so comfortable in his own skin, his own world.

 

Calliope reached up for the fringed edge of the satin drape, clutching at it to draw it over the window.  Before she could do so, concealing herself and all her unruly emotions, Lord Westwood glanced up and saw her there.  Saw her staring at him.

 

For an instant, it was as if a cloud passed over the Grecian sun.  He frowned, his velvety brown eyes narrowing.  Then, as swiftly as it came, the cloud vanished.  He smiled, a wide, white Corsair grin, and gave her a jaunty salute.

 

She spun away from the window—only to find Clio observing her closely.

 

Calliope adored her sister, but sometimes, just sometimes, she was a bit uneasy to be faced with those unerring, unwavering green eyes.

 

“You should stay out of the sun, Cal,” Clio said quietly.  “It makes your cheek so flushed.”

 

 

 

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