From the elegently appointed drawing rooms of London's most exclusive clubs to an imposing country estate in the heart of Dorset, comes a provocative tale of a free-thinking beauty, a dignified lord, and a mad impetuous love that defied all logic...
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January 01, 1991
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Excerpt from Rendezvous by Amanda Quick
1 There was no sound as the library door was opened, but the slight draft created caused the candle flame to flicker. Crouched in the shadows at the opposite end of the long room. Augusta Ballinger froze in the act of trying to insert a hairpin into the lock of her host's desk. From her damning position on her knees behind the massive oak desk she stared in stunned shock at the single candle she had allowed herself for illumination. The flame sputtered once more as the door was closed very softly. With a gathering sense of dread, Augusta peered over the edge of the desk and gazed down the length of the darkened room. The man who had entered the library stood quietly in the inky depths near the door. He was tall and appeared to be wearing a black dressing gown. She could not see his face in the gloom. Nevertheless, as she crouched there holding her breath, Augusta was aware of a deep, disturbing sense of awareness. Only one man had this effect on Augusta's senses. She did not need to se him clearly in order to hazard a guess as to who lounged there like a large beast of prey in the shadows. She was almost certain it was Graystone. He was not sounding an alarm, however, which was an enormous relief. It was strange how at ease he appeared to be in the darkness, as if it were his natural environment. Then again, Augusta thought optimistically, perhaps he saw nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps he had only come downstairs to look for a book and assumed the candle had been carelessly left behind by someone who had come down before him. For an instant Augusta even dared to hope he had not noticed her peering anxiously at him over the top of the desk. Perhaps he had failed to observe her there at the other end of the big room. If she was very careful she might still get out of this mess with her reputation intact. She ducked her head behind the edge of the heavily carved oak. She heard no footfalls on the thick Persian carpet, but a moment later the man spoke from no more than a few feet away. "Good evening, Miss Ballinger. I trust you have found something suitably edifying to read down there behind Enfield's desk? But surely the light is rather poor in that location." Augusta recognized the terrifyingly calm, unemotional male voice at once and groaned silently as her worst fears were confirmed. It was Graystone. Just her bad luck that of all the guests who were inhabiting Lord Enfield's country house this weekend, her discoverer was her uncle's good friend. Harry Fleming, Earl of Graystone, was the one man in the house who probably would not believe any of the glib tales she had carefully prepared. Graystone made Augusta uneasy for several reasons, one of which was that he had a disconcerting manner of looking straight into her eyes as if he would look into her very soul and demand the truth. Another reason she was wary around him was that he was simply too bloody damned clever. Frantically Augusta began sorting among the various stories she had planned to use in just such an eventuality as this. It would have to be a very clever story. Graystone was no fool. He was gravely dignified, chillingly correct, and at times solemnly pompous as far as Augusta was concerned, but he was no fool. Augusta decided she had no choice but to brazen out the embarrassing situation. She forced herself to smile very brightly as she looked up with a feigned little start of surprise. "Oh, hello, my lord. I did not expect to encounter anyone here in the library at this hour. I was just searching for a hairpin. I seem to have dropped one." "There appears to be a hairpin stuck in the lock of the desk." Augusta managed another amazed start and jumped to her feet. "Good heavens. So there is. What a very odd place for it to have landed." Her fingers trembled as she snatched the pin out of the lock and dropped i