Still unwed at twenty-one, an unconventional high-spirited woman finds her affections sought by a handsome, devilishly charming Earl, who is nicknamed "The Ideal" by the ton--for his combination of wealth and looks. Though at first she fights his advances, slowly she forms a heated alliance with him. But sparring with words soon turns into a succumbing passion...
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Untreed Reads, LLC
August 13, 2012
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Excerpt from Miss Treadwell's Talent by Barbara Metzger
""I have come, Miss Treadwell, to invite you for a drive in the park."
If Lord Hyatt had said he'd come to sack Rome, Maylene couldn't have been more surprised. In fact, if the large, haughty gentleman had declared war on some small country, challenged Max's ghost to a duel, or accused them all of heresy, she would be less astounded than at this polite offer. The fact that the Earl of Hyatt was in her mother's drawing room that afternoon, with no ducal friend to protect and with no séance scheduled, was amazing enough. And he was perfectly shaved. "A drive?"
He bowed his head ever so slightly. "A drive. In the park. You and I."
So now he thought she was stupid, besides greedy, grasping, and felonious. Maylene put down her pencil, which rolled off the desk. "You and I, my lord, have nothing to say to each other."
The earl bent to pick up the pencil, leaning over her closely enough to be heard by the other guests. "On the contrary, Miss Treadwell, I have a great deal to say. And I believe you would prefer to hear it in the relative privacy of the park rather than here."
Since the drawing room was filled with spirit-seekers, curiosity-seekers, and just plain seekers, Maylene had to agree. She'd been at the writing desk in the corner, taking notes, but now she could feel all of the company watching her. "Actually, I prefer not to hear whatever it is you feel inspired to say. I'd wager it will prove to be as unpleasant as your company last evening."
Studying the point on her writing tool, Hyatt drawled, "Au contraire, Miss Treadwell, my company last night was everything delightful."
Maylene could not miss his meaning. The man was a libertine! The sooner he was gone, the better for her pulse rate. "Good day, my lord."
The chit was going to refuse his invitation out of hand? In front of a pack of gullible gossipmongers? By George, she'd accompany him out the door if he had to drag her by that ridiculous mop of hair. The ribbon threaded through the blond curls was having as much effect as a rock had on a flowing river. "Has no one told you that it is discourteous to reject an invitation without a good excuse?"
She took out a fresh sheet of paper. "I am busy, and I do not like you." And she would not fuel her mother's aspirations. "Is that sufficient excuse?"
Hyatt sucked in his breath. "You are the most unmannerly chit I have ever met."
"And you, sir, are the most arrogant man I have ever encountered."
The pencil snapped between his fingers. "No wonder you are still unwed."
"How dare you! Especially since you are equally unmarried. Recall that it wasn't my betrothed who fled, my lord, but yours." She pulled out a drawer to find another pencil, but tugged too hard in her annoyance, and the drawer and its contents went flying. "Now see what you've made me do!"
Every other conversation in the room had died. Campbell gestured for one of the footmen to fetch a dust pan, but no one else was budging, waiting to see what happened next. Maylene was mortified. His lordship's previously pristine white shirtfront and brocaded waistcoat both had spots of ink on them. Heavens, now he would think her clumsy in addition to the rest of her faults, and deem Treadwell House a rag-mannered residence. At least the butler was not taking tea with the guests as he had last night.
Her traitorous mother came toward them, close enough to wipe an ink stain off Maylene's cheek. She was nodding her approval. "Wasn't that lovely of the earl to offer you a ride through Hyde Park, May? He asked my permission first, naturally. Such courtesy. I told him you would he delighted with the treat. You know you've been wishing to get out more, dearest, and the weather is quite perfect, for once."
"But Mrs. Ingraham's journals..."
"Have been missing this long, dear. They can stay lost another hour or so. Besides, I feel certain Max will have some information about them for us tonight. Or perhaps tomorrow." Lady Tremont floated across the room in a cloud of lavender gauze drapery, pausing to make an appointment with one lady and to answer questions about Max for another.
Maylene knew there was nothing for it but to accept the earl's invitation, not without making a scene, and she'd already done that. She could stall, though. "Perhaps we can go later, when my mother would be free to join us. She could use the fresh air and exercise also."
Socrates jerked his head toward the window, where Maylene could see a groom walking a pair of sleek chestnuts hitched to an elegant rig. An equipage like that hadn't been seen in front of Treadwell House since her father died. No, not even before. Baron Tremont never had enough blunt for such pricey horseflesh, and never had a good eye for it. Maylene was sorely tempted.
"Lady Tremont can come another time," Hyatt was saying. "But the horses cannot be left standing much longer. Furthermore, I brought the curricle today, and there is only room for two."
"Then I cannot come." Maylene was disappointed and relieved at the same time. "Such an excursion would be highly improper. I do know how Polite Society works, my lord."
"Then you should know that is perfectly acceptable for a young lady to ride with a gentleman in an open carriage in full view of the others. My groom will be chaperon enough, standing behind the seats."
Maylene waved her hand at the garnered guests. Unfortunately she was still holding the opened ink bottle. Now Hyatt had spots on his cheeks and chin. She blushed, but set the bottle down. "I cannot leave my mother to entertain alone, my lord. I shall have to refuse your so-kind invitation."
Hyatt reached across her to replace the drawer, his sleeve brushing the bare skin on her arms. "I never took you for a coward, Miss Treadwell."
He might think her foolish, feckless, and fraudulent, but Maylene would be damned before she'd let the Ideal think she was afraid of him. "I shall go fetch my bonnet, my lord."
Good, he thought, wiping his hands and face with the towel Campbell brought him. Then he wouldn't have to worry about a bird mistaking her hair for a nest. "