Lady Rosabella's Ruse
Author:Ann Lethbridge

Chapter Five




What the hell had happened? His breathing just as ragged as that of a boxer who’d received a blow to the solar plexus, Garth bent down for the lantern and strode for the house. The kiss had been good. Better than good, it had been perfect. All right, perhaps he should have been more subtle about asking her what she wanted, but she’d been the one spouting nonsense about romantic love. He wasn’t going to pretend he felt something he didn’t.

He had felt something stir in his chest, though. A strong desire to possess as their bodies melded. She’d responded beautifully to his kiss. Even better than he’d anticipated. She’d kissed him like a courtesan and run off like a terrified virgin.

Women. Every time you thought you understood them, they shied off in another start. Perhaps she thought she had him fooled with that innocent face, as if he was some green boy new on the town.

A smile crossed his lips. Perhaps this was all part of her game. He’d encountered them all in his time, bold ones, shy ones and everything in between. Very few of them didn’t end up in his bed once he understood the direction of their carnal desires.

This one would be no different. In the end. One thing he wouldn’t do was chase after her. He would give her time, let her decide her next move.

He entered the house. There was no sign of Mrs Travenor, not even wet footprints. No doubt the sly little wretch had removed her shoes from the slender feet he’d noticed when she stood on the chair and deliberately teased him with glimpses of her ankles. Damn her.

She’d probably spent most of her married life sneaking out of her husband’s house to meet some man or other. Another womanly trait. Lord knew, he’d had enough of them offer to slide out and meet him in his time, and seen their disappointment when he’d refused.

Damn it to hell. Now he needed a brandy or he would never sleep. Because right now a certain part of his anatomy was expecting something it wasn’t going to get.

He cursed low and with feeling.

And then he recalled his other problem. Penelope.

He strolled up the main staircase and along the corridor leading to his room.

A burst of hope fired off in his chest at the sight of a figure lurking outside his door. Blast. The figure was male and was trying Penelope’s door.

‘Going somewhere, Bannerby?’ he drawled.

The man shot upright. ‘God, man, don’t you ever sleep?’

Garth smiled a nasty smile. ‘Not when there are profligates like you around.’

Bannerby glanced at the door and back at Garth. ‘I was worried about her. I thought to ask her if her headache had improved.’

‘At four in the morning?’

‘Her maid wouldn’t let me in earlier.’

Garth’s gut stirred with foreboding. ‘Did she make an assignation with you, through her maid?’

The other man grinned. ‘Is that any of your business?’

Damn the woman. Damn him for not keeping a closer watch on her. Damn him for being distracted by the thieving Mrs Travenor, actually, when he should have been doing something about Mark’s wife. He reached out and tried the door handle. The door remained firmly locked.

A door further down the corridor opened. Modestly wrapped in a heavy robe, Mrs Travenor stepped into the passageway. ‘If you gentleman don’t mind, some of us are trying to sleep.’

He almost laughed at her brazenness. He bowed instead. ‘Our apologies, Mrs Travenor.’

Her gaze dropped to his hand still on the doorknob. ‘As I understand it, Lady Smythe is not receiving at the moment. She is unwell.’

He wanted to curse. Instead he glared at his companion ‘That is also my understanding. Is it yours, Bannerby?’

The man shot him a glare and strode off down the corridor.

The light from the candle in the wall sconce caught the expression on Mrs Travenor’s face. Chagrin? She must have thought he and Bannerby were arguing over Lady Smythe.

He felt the urge to explain. Good God, he never explained himself to a female. Clearly, he was going to have to take swift action to get this one woman out of his blood. There was only one way to do break a woman’s hold. Get her into his bed. Once conquered, they lost their allure. ‘Goodnight, Mrs Travenor,’ he said silkily. ‘That is unless you wished to invite me in?’

She ducked back into her room and closed the door, a flimsy panelled block of wood transformed into castle wall, but the challenge lingered and they both knew it.

Something to look forward to on the morrow. He retreated to his chamber and poured a glass of brandy.





The next morning, Garth stood in the corridor, puzzling over the noises emanating from Penelope’s room. They sounded oddly hushed. His jaw tightened. Had she, despite his careful warding off of Bannerby, found a way to lure him into her bed?

He eyed the doorknob. Should he burst in and reveal her treachery once and for all? And if he did, would Mark believe him? His friend was remarkably obtuse when it came to his wife. And he used to be such a sensible chap.

The door opened. Garth prepared to confront the scoundrel.

Lil, Lady Smythe’s maid, stepped out into the corridor, closing the door softly behind her.

‘Lady Smythe not up yet?’ Garth asked.

Lil gasped, putting her hand to her chest. ‘You gave me a proper turn, my lord.’ She lowered her voice. ‘Got one of her headaches, she has. Started last night it did. Sometimes they last for days, they do. But this one don’t seem so bad.’

Really? Or was it a ruse? It wouldn’t be the first time she had faked one of her so-called headaches. It was how she had captured his friend. Sneaking out, when everyone thought she was ill in her bed, then getting caught so Mark had no choice but to do the right thing.

She had caught his friend in the parson’s mousetrap; Garth would be damned if she’d use the same trick to cuckold him. He pulled a silver shilling from his pocket and tossed it in the air.

Lil’s eyes followed the spinning coin.

‘I want the truth,’ he said sternly. ‘And this is yours. If you lie, I will know it and see you dismissed without a reference.’

The girl swallowed and pressed her hand to her heart. ‘I swear it, my lord. Couldn’t bear me drawing the curtains to let in the light, this morn. She’s always like that when the weather changes, poor little thing.’

The poor little thing had made mincemeat of his friend. ‘Are you sure?’

‘Her ladyship heard she was ill,’ Lil said, tossing her head. ‘She sent Mrs Travenor with some of her powders. She came by with them and that nasty little dog. You can ask her when she comes back from the village.’

Could he now? Something inside him smiled at the thought of asking Rose anything. It was the oddest sensation. He flipped the coin into the outstretched palm. ‘Let me know when your mistress feels better.’

‘Hopefully by this afternoon, my lord.’ The maid bobbed a curtsy and scurried off.

Did he believe her? Lil had been with Lady Smythe for years. He did not discount female loyalty as some men did, even if it was often misguided or plain wrong, but he knew lies when he heard them. Lil had been speaking the truth.

A smile pulled at his lips as he realised he had a morning to do as he pleased. And a fine morning it was, too. The sun was shining for once. The sky clear. And Mrs Travenor had walked to the village. Alone.

He kept remembering the little flashes of ankle beneath her skirts as she had vaulted on and off the chair. Pretty well-turned ankles and glimpses of elegant calf. Not to mention the way the echo of her kiss had left him tossing and turning for what had remained of last night. No doubt her intention. He looked forward to their next meeting alone.

Energised in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time, he ran lightly down the stairs and out of the front door. A whistle came to his lips and a sense of well-being buoyed his spirits. The woman delighted him enough, he didn’t care that she was a liar and possibly a thief.





After an easy half-hour stroll along a winding lane with high hedgerows full of cheerful birds, the first of a cluster of cottages heralded his arrival at the village. Still no sign of Mrs Travenor. Had he missed her?

He narrowed his eyes against the glare of the sun. If he remembered correctly, the post office lay at the centre of the small hamlet, and since there was only one road through it, she could not have returned without him seeing her. Unless she had taken a short cut across the fields.

Damn.

He had seen a stile leading to a footpath a short way back. And she did seem to know her way around the surrounding woods and fields. Perhaps that part of her story was true and she had lived near here as a child. He huffed out an impatient breath. Meeting her on the road was one thing, following her along a little-travelled path was so obvious as to be pathetic.

Yet the chance to tease her was simply just too tempting. And besides, he needed to keep an eye on her, find out what she was really up to.

He increased the length of his stride and soon leapt the stile he’d passed earlier. A barely discernible path led around the edge of a golden hayfield, which a few days before would have been ready for the scythe, but was now flattened here and there by last night’s rain.

The sweet scent reminded him of boyhood jaunts in Sussex with Christopher. Those times with his brother had been good. And there would have been more, if Christopher hadn’t been so sickly as a boy and Garth hadn’t been such a devil. In those days, he’d accepted their differences. Only later had he realised the truth. The truth of what he was and what that meant for his brother.

He shrugged off the unwelcome intrusion, instead focusing ahead for sounds of his quarry. He paused at the sound of excited yapping and then a yelp. He grinned. It seemed the dog was on his side.

The next stile led him into a field of young bullocks all crowded in a corner on the far side. Above their brown bovine heads he saw a wildly waving parasol.

Sweet Hades, it just got better and better. He broke into a run.

The young bullocks turned at the sound of his yell. Ruminative brown eyes took him in. As one they turned in his direction. He knew what they wanted. Food. ‘Off. Be gone, you stupid beasts.’ He slapped the closest one on the rump and it kicked out and took off. The rest followed blindly at a lumbering run, leaving a dishevelled Mrs Travenor, her bonnet askew, clutching the grinning pug to her chest.

Right now he’d like to change places with the dog. He lifted his hat. ‘Good day, Mrs Travenor.’

Her olive skin deepened in colour, her version of a blush. Hopefully because she remembered their encounter the previous evening and not because she’d been fleeing a herd of bullocks.

Her gaze wandered somewhere off over his left shoulder, as if she was trying to think of what to say. Her back straightened. ‘Thank you, my lord. I don’t know how many times we have passed through this field without any problem. This morning, Digger decided he didn’t like the look of one of those cows and ran at it.’ She closed her eyes. ‘I wasn’t watching and he pulled the leash out of my hand. I thought he was going to be trampled.’

‘I heard him yelp. Don’t tell me, you rushed in to save him. Very courageous.’ It was. He couldn’t imagine one of the women back at the house risking life and limb for a dog.

She gave an uncomfortable wave of her hand. ‘I should have been more careful.’ She looked up at him. She’d been crying. His fingers itched to touch her skin where tears had left a shiny trail on her face. He was afraid she might shy away, the way she had last night. The more he thought about it, the more he’d realised he’d rushed his fences.

The attraction between them was obvious, it was simply a question of slowing the seduction.

Garth reached out and tickled behind the dog’s ears. It closed its eyes in ecstasy. ‘Bad boy,’ Garth said. The creature wagged its stubby tail.

‘Stupid creatures. No matter how much I yelled they wouldn’t go away. Then you come along and off they trot as nice as you please.’

He almost laughed at the resentment in her voice. ‘I’m sorry. I am sure you would have prevailed in the end. Once they realised you didn’t have a bale of hay tucked away on your person, they would have become bored and wandered off. Perhaps I should have left you to it.’

‘Lord, no.’ She gave him a rather chagrined look. ‘I was glad to see you.’

The admission warmed him. ‘I think you would have been glad to see anyone.’

She chuckled. ‘You are right.’

‘I’m wounded.’ He put a hand to his heart. ‘You are supposed to say only I could have vanquished the beasts.’

She laughed outright then. A low husky sound in the back of her throat. It caressed his skin, sent his blood flowing south while his brain seized.

With some difficulty he managed to signify they should start walking.

She put the dog down and brushed at the mud on her black skirts. ‘What brings you out here so early in the morning?’

‘The sun,’ Garth said, watching her reveal the outline of her legs with each stroke of her gloved hand. ‘The country air. I must say I am surprised to see you up and about so early.’

‘I went to collect the post.’ She sounded oddly defensive.

A basket lay in the grass at her feet. It contained several letters, one of them open.

She picked it up and let go a sigh. ‘I was reading and didn’t hear the cows approach.’

‘Bullocks,’ he said. ‘Young males who have…er…lost their maleness.’

She looked at him blankly, then lowered her gaze, long black lashes shielding her eyes, but he was sure he saw the glimmer of that lovely smile of hers twitching at the corner of her mouth. ‘Oh. I see.’

A sign she wasn’t so averse to him as she made out. She certainly wasn’t averse to his kisses. He held out his arm. ‘May I escort you back to The Grange?’

She darted what he thought was a regretful glance at the open letter, but nodded and placed her hand lightly on his forearm.

The touch seared through his coat like nothing he’d ever experienced. His blood headed south again. He should find something to do with his hands or he might do more than offer his arm. ‘I’ll take the dog.’ He grabbed the leash halfway down and she let it go.

‘Thank you.’

‘I’m surprised they don’t send a footman for the mail,’ he said as they approached the next stile.

‘I have to walk the dog anyway.’

‘And it means you don’t have to wait to read your own mail.’

She bit her lip. ‘My sisters write once a week. I am always anxious for news from them.’

He helped her over the stile. ‘Perhaps you prefer to be alone to finish your letter.’ Now why the hell had he given her the chance to be rid of him? Perhaps it was the anxiety he saw in her eyes.

‘Oh, no, I had just finished when we encountered those…bullocks.’

‘Bad news?’

She glanced up at him from beneath the brim of her ugly black bonnet. Somehow it made her seem all the more alluring. Like a badly wrapped parcel with intriguing hints of the contents showing at the corners.

‘It is not important.’

A lie. He could see it in the flash of panic in her eyes as her thoughts went back to the letter. He hesitated, confused by a wish she would confide in him, by the desire to help. Surely his desires were all physical. ‘If there is anything I can do…’ he found himself saying.

The shake of her head was a disappointment. ‘They are at school in the north.’ Her hand flexed on his sleeve, a small movement, a slight tightening of fingers quickly relaxed, but it spoke of anxiety.

‘Are they not treated well?’

‘Well enough. I went there myself before…’

‘Before you were married,’ he finished. She glanced up at him, her almond-shaped eyes startled and large.

‘I— Yes.’ She swallowed.

Damn it to hell. She was lying again.

Those tears he’d seen had not been from the encounter with the bullocks. They had dried on her cheeks. His gaze dropped to the letter. The contents of the missive had made her cry. His lip curled. Was it sisters who wrote to her, or a lover?

It wouldn’t take much to discover the truth.

‘How many sisters do you have?’

She sighed. ‘Two.’

‘Younger than you, obviously, if they are still at school. Surely your parents…’

‘My parents are dead.’ She bit her lip. ‘I am responsible for their…for them until they are of age.’

For their what? He frowned at the almost imperceptible change in what she had been going to say. ‘An odd situation for a woman of your age, surely?’ He calculated her age at no more than twenty-three or four. ‘There must be other members of your family better situated to take on such a burden?’

She shook her head. ‘No one I trust.’ If anything, she sounded a little bitter as if there was someone, but they had failed in some way.

This time, she was telling the truth. Apart from that one small hesitation, every word rang true. The anxiety had been there all the time, he realised, a shadow in her eyes when he first saw her, and while she searched the house, but today it had developed into dread.

Bad news had arrived in that letter.

And she wasn’t going to confide in him. Not yet. If ever. He wasn’t the sort of man women trusted with anything important. A bitter taste filled his mouth at what he’d once taken pride in.

They paused while the dog halted to investigate a fallen tree stump. It lifted its back leg and then waddled on.

She took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders and smiled calmly. It was like watching someone draw down a screen, blurring the sharp edges of what lay behind. The smile was a mask. ‘Digger likes you,’ she said. ‘You are honoured. He hates everyone, except Lady Keswick.’

He had no choice but to follow her lead, to step back from her private life and return to civil conversation. ‘He likes you, too.’

‘He tolerates me. He has bitten the ankles of every gentleman who passed through the front door, except you.’

‘Wise dog.’ He bared his teeth. ‘He knew I’d bite him back.’

She laughed. The sound was a punch to his stomach, because he felt proud of that laugh. Because whatever troubled her, he’d managed to dispel the cloud for a moment. He’d felt this feeling before, but not for years. And never as strong.

Saints above, what was it about this woman that had him half-seas over? Dizzy like a drunkard because she had laughed at something he’d said. So what if she kissed like an angel and sang like one, too. There were hundreds of beautiful women in London and he’d sampled a good few of them without wanting to fall at their feet.

In the end, they’d all succumbed to his advances. This one was the only one who’d offered a challenge in years.

They broke into a clearing. Sun shafted down through the gaps in the canopy and bathed the grass and the cornflowers in golden light.

‘How pretty,’ she exclaimed. ‘None of these was open yesterday.’

She let go of his arm and strolled about, picking the flowers, her face glowing.

How on earth could he have thought her akin to a crow, or a nun? Never in his life had he seen anything quite so alluring.

He folded his arms and leaned against a handy oak tree, content to watch.





What on earth was she doing? Rosa picked yet another of the tough fibrous stalks and added the bright blue flowers to her growing bunch. Encountering him on her walk was the worst of luck. It had been ages before she’d been able to fall asleep after their kiss. Every sound outside her door had brought her upright in her bed with the fear he’d somehow arrive in her bedchamber. Fearing…or hoping?

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. A dark presence watching her pick wild flowers with heavy eyelids and a cynical smile. The bunch she had gathered looked scrawny and thin. She could hardly give up now, yet this was the last thing she wanted to be doing.

So why was she? Because he’d made her feel as if her skin didn’t fit, as if she needed to do something with her hands or find them back on his shoulders while she offered her mouth to be kissed. Because it had all felt so wonderful and made her forget.

His kisses made her feel hot all over and dizzy. For those few moments she had forgotten all her worries.

She still didn’t know what he planned with regard to her search of Gorham Place. If he was going to report her to the local authorities, surely he would have done so first thing this morning? At the very least, he would have already spoken to Lady Keswick. He’d done neither, which meant she was safe. For now.

She glanced down at the letter in her basket, the rounded handwriting of her sister, the crossed and recrossed lines spattered with inkblots revealing her agitation. Everything that could go wrong had done so. She’d gone to the post office, hoping Lady Keswick might have heard from her friend and found a terrified letter from her sister instead.

Why, oh, why had she borrowed that money?

Her heart stopped beating. She stared at the flowers trembling in her hand as she fought against the roiling in her stomach. She didn’t want to be picking flowers. She wanted to run. To hide.

But she couldn’t. She needed money. Lots of money.

Mechanically she picked another handful of flowers.

She’d known borrowing money was a risk, but the school fees were due and the doctor had refused to attend Sam without some payment on his account. With Grandfather deaf to her pleas for help and her certainty that Father would leave her well provided for, the decision had been simple.

That was months ago. Now the usurer had gone to the school demanding payment, waving the note she’d signed under the headmistress’s nose and threatening debtors’ prison for them all.

Meg’s letter was frantic.

Why had Father broken his promise? She understood why he’d married again, but he’d promised he’d take care of his first family. She’d looked everywhere in that house. Everywhere.

A flash of something passed through her mind. A long narrow staircase leading down into the dark. The cellar. She hadn’t looked in the cellar. Or the attic.

Could she possibly have missed the most obvious places after all? Grandfather would never go in the cellars or the attics. Father might not have been very practical, but he wasn’t a fool.

The urge to run and look swept through her. She could be there and back in a flash.

‘Are you done, Mrs Travenor?’

She whirled around. Stanford. She’d forgotten all about him. And Digger. She couldn’t go haring off to Gorham Place in the middle of the day; she’d be missed. And she could not for a moment let Stanford know she planned to go back. She had to let him think he’d won. That she was happy with her lot and enjoying his company. It was the only way to allay his suspicions.

She looked down at the flowers. ‘Yes. Yes, I’m almost done.’

She inhaled deeply, drawing in the air for the strength to get through one more day, the way she had when Father left them at the school, the way she had when he died.

Swiftly, she snapped off another stem and another. Added some greenery. Bound the bouquet with a twisted length of columbine. She marched back to the man watching her from beneath lowered lids. Her heart gave a lurch. He was just so blasted attractive. If her life had taken a different turn, they might have met in a ballroom in London. He might even have become her suitor.

Something hot and uncomfortable filled the back of her throat. Tears? Over a man like Stanford? Never. She was worried about her predicament. About her sisters.

And whatever it took, she would get them out of this mess.

Stanford straightened at her approach. He flicked a blossom with a dismissive finger. ‘Pretty enough, but not nearly exotic enough for you.’

A thrill raced through her blood. Unwanted heat, because she knew it meant nothing. He was amusing himself with a drab widow. For now, she’d play his game. She held his gaze and smiled boldly. ‘Flattery, my lord?’

He blinked as if startled, but recovered swiftly, flashing her that suave smile. ‘Never.’

She grinned at him. ‘Save it for Lady Keswick. She loves that kind of thing.’

‘And you don’t?’

The velvet was back in his voice. The soft teasing that drove something inside her into a wild flutter. Calm. She must remain in control, not let him get too close, while letting him think she might succumb to his charm.

And hoping she didn’t.

She cast him an admonishing look and started walking. ‘What woman does not like a compliment or two, my lord?’ she responded airily. ‘Or man for that matter. When it is sincerely given.’

He fell in by her side, leading the dog. ‘Are you saying I am insincere, Mrs Travenor?’

‘With you, I think it is hard to tell.’

His brow furrowed. ‘So you think I am sincere some of the time, or never at all?’

She laughed. ‘I think you reveal very little of your real thoughts, to be honest.’

His expression was arrested, sharp. ‘Nor do you, I think.’

She inclined her head in acknowledgement. ‘We all have things we prefer to keep private.’

‘I suppose you are wondering what I will do about last night?’

His directness startled a gasp from her lips. She shot him a quick glance. ‘I suppose I am.’

They reached the other side of the clearing and entered the cool of the woods.

‘I’m no telltale, Mrs Travenor. You found nothing. You took nothing. You assured me your search is over. So why don’t we forget all about it and enjoy what appears to be shaping up as a perfect summer’s day?’

Her stomach dipped to her shoes. She felt nauseous. He’d said exactly what she wanted him to say and she felt sickened by yet more falsehood.

They emerged on the lawn at the back of the house. She stopped and turned to face him, forcing herself to smile. ‘Thank you.’

Dark eyes gleamed wickedly. ‘Gratitude is a good place to start, Mrs Travenor.’ His mouth curved in a sensual smile.

Staring at that mouth, she swallowed, unable to move. He was warning her he wasn’t done with her. Reminding her that she only had to lean forwards a little to experience all those wonderful sensations in his arms.

She turned her head away, seeking to break his spell, but nothing shielded her from his heat, or the scent of his sandalwood cologne, a deep sensual musky scent that teased at her senses. She backed up, stumbling over Digger, who growled. ‘Then we can be friends?’

A soft laugh greeted her words. ‘It’s not friendship I want, my dear Rose. But it will do for now.’

Her heart rattled back to life. It seemed they’d reached some sort of understanding. He would chase and she would run. Oh, how she wished she could stand still.





By two in the afternoon, all the guests, including a rather wan-looking Lady Smythe, gathered in the drawing room looking for something to do. There would be no escape for Rosa today.

‘It is such a lovely day, why not ride out to some local beauty spot?’ Mrs Mallow suggested.

‘Why not a picnic?’ Fitzwilliam said, his round face beaming. ‘On the shore.’

The sea was a bare two miles away. ‘I love the sea,’ Mrs Phillips enthused.

‘There are no bathing machines there, old girl,’ her husband said.

‘A walk on the beach would be pleasant,’ Mrs De Lacy said. ‘After a day indoors.’ She turned to Lady Smythe. ‘That is, if you feel well enough?’

Lady Smythe smiled. ‘I thought I was going to have one of my sick headaches, but the powders Lady Keswick sent along did the trick. I am feeling much more the thing.’

‘Then it is agreed,’ Lady Keswick said, beaming. ‘A picnic on the shore it is. Rose, please ask Cook to put up some baskets. Have two carriages prepared. The ladies can drive, the men can ride. A sea breeze will do us all good.’

‘I must change,’ Lady Smythe said.

‘I’ll need my parasol,’ Mrs De Lacy announced.

The party broke up to prepare and Rosa started off to complete her tasks. ‘A moment, Rose, if you please.’

She had never heard such a stern note in her employer’s voice. Had Lord Stanford broken his word? Oh, why had she trusted the man? She should have gone to Lady Keswick first thing this morning and owned up. With sinking heart she went to stand before her employer. ‘Yes, my lady.’

The elderly lady peered up at her. ‘Are you quite well? You have dark shadows beneath your eyes.’

Lack of sleep. ‘I am fine.’

Lady Keswick frowned. ‘It’s not one of these young reprobates upsetting you, is it? You are worth ten of any of them.’

If only it was something so simple. She shook her head. ‘Perhaps, like Lady Smythe, I was affected by the stormy weather.’ Hope sprang into her mind. ‘Though I would prefer to stay at home today and rest, if I may.’ She could slip out to Gorham Place.

‘Nonsense, young lady. A sea breeze will put colour in those pale cheeks of yours.’

No point in arguing. Her employer never listened.

Lady Keswick cocked her head on one side. ‘And don’t wear black. You will be far too hot. I must say, I really am tired of those widow’s weeds of yours. Too gloomy by half.’

‘But—’

‘Your husband passed on more than a year ago. It is time you came out of mourning. You impressed Phillips with your singing yesterday, now impress him with your looks. Ellie told me you have other gowns.’

The maid assigned to help her dress. Rosa bobbed a curtsy. What could she say? And Lady Keswick was right. Because if she didn’t find the will, she needed a way to make more money than she would ever make as a companion.

Impressing Mr Phillips might indeed be the best course of action. Not that he would think her any great beauty.