You were right: desperation is a dangerous state of mind. It was desperation that drove me to London to salvage my family ' s reputation and finances in the first place. And it is desperation ' and perhaps a little desire ' that has gotten me into the situation I find myself in now.
You see, I ' ve become ensnared in the investigation of a traitor by Lord Dewhurst ' the most insufferable, sinfully handsome man I ' ve ever met. I know it is shocking, but in order to catch this spy and clear my name, I ' ve no choice but to play the agent ' s bride. Now I ' m desperate again to avoid his seductive words and searing looks. I pray that I can resist him, but I can make no promises. Oh, my dear friend, I know he and I are merely pretending to be wed, but the blush he can send all the way to my petticoats feels far too real!
Yours truly, Charlotte
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January 31, 2006
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Excerpt from Pride and Petticoats by Shana Galen
"It ain't proper. It just ain't proper. You acting no better than a brazen hussy," the dark-skinned woman beside Charlotte grumbled. "You hear me, Miss Charlotte?"
Charlotte stopped in front of a dilapidated gray building on Thames Street near London's Custom House. "Yes, Addy." She'd heard her maid loud and clear all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Six weeks of Addy's huffing and harrumphing, and Charlotte was ready to use the braided cords of her reticule to strangle the woman. Looking down at the small shabby pouch she held in one gloved hand, Charlotte mused that the frayed braiding would probably snap if she so much as yanked it closed too quickly. The slim strings had no hope of holding up against Addy's solid neck. Gingerly pulling the black reticule open, Charlotte glanced a last time at the smeared address on a crumpled yellow paper, then stuffed it back inside.
"Look around you, girl. This ain't no place for a lady," Addy said.
Charlotte took a quick survey of their surroundings and didn't argue. They'd been in London all of three hours and she'd yet to escape the smell of rotting fish, unwashed bodies, and stale liquor. She and Addy had departed their ship at the London docks, trailing their scant luggage behind them as they made their way past the Tower of London and into the city.
As they'd walked, the terrain and the inhabitants had become steadily rougher. Charlotte couldn't imagine this city at night. It was dangerous in the sunlight?or at least what passed for sunlight in England's fog-shrouded capital.
Thank George Washington that they had finally arrived. She tried not to wonder why the building before them looked more like a dockside tavern than a residence. "Well, we're here now," Charlotte said.
"We here? You ain't really going to knock on that door?" Addy asked. "Head hard as a cast-iron pot," she mumbled.
Charlotte frowned at her. "Oh, hush. You're the stubborn one. I keep telling you I'm trying to make things better."
"We can make do without no charity from Cade Pettigru. Troublesome rascal." She muttered the last.
"Addy, Cade is a good man, and he's been a good friend to our family for years. We can trust him, and we need his help." She didn't add that he was very likely their last hope.
Addy straightened to her full height, which was almost six feet. "Chicken spit. I satisfied with a roof a new shawl. Oh, and I could do with a heap of some simple home-cooked food."
Charlotte winced at the reference to the repulsive fare they'd endured on the long sea voyage. The main staple had been cabbage soup, and Charlotte, who'd never cared for cabbage, had been forced to abandon it for bread and water after one particularly noxious bowl made her violently ill. She, too, longed for the delights of home?cornbread, sweet potatoes, fried chicken. Most especially she longed for the warmth and friendliness of Charleston. She hated these English with their harsh accents and arrogant manners.