Today's Reading

"Yes, my Lord Gantry." Her slight Dutchy-island accent was intoxicating as were the green bits he now saw in her eyes. They surpassed topaz, more like polished agate stones.

"Why do these absentee Brits keep coming over here and scooping up the prettiest colored women?"

"Just lucky, I guess." Felton looped his arm with hers, leaning into her. "Miss Cecilia, I need a bit of help. I've lost my way looking for a girl like you. Would you do me the honor of escorting me to the ball?"

The lift of her brow made his palms more sweaty. He shouldn't have touched her, but he didn't seem to have another option, not with the gun being raised again.

The young lady went along with him this far, so Felton only needed a little more latitude to live. Well, that was what he'd begged with his eyes.

With her stare unchanged, he realized desperation wasn't one of her dialects.

"Sir, you don't remember your way or that we were to look at the stars before going to the ball?" Her voice was low, drawing him even closer.

"Yes, stars, Miss Cecilia. They are bright tonight." Felton feigned another stumble and towed her forward.

The more distance he could add between him and the soldier the better. Yet, if the fellow followed, it would give Johnson a better chance to escape. "Ma'am, you're a godsend. I've become completely lost."

Her smile returned, and she relaxed. "The subscription ball is in the building down the road, not the government building."

"Yes. My head was in the clouds waiting for you. Lead the way, my dear." They started down the dirt road with big wood buildings and large homes dotting the side. It was an easy gait, like they'd done many walkabouts or promenades in each other's company.

Straightening, slipping away from his buffoonish manner, Felton slowed and watched her wiggle in her beautiful tunic. "Tell me of these stars, beautiful one."

"Sir, I see your stupor has cleared up. Miraculous."

In addition to saving his hide, she was smart with a sense of humor. "Lucky, miss."

"You're welcome," she said in a whisper. "Well, I find walking very orienting when there's too much noise. Balls can be disturbing if my concentration is bad."

Very smart, to know how to restore one's sense of calm. "Thank you, miss." When he was sure they weren't being pursued, Felton took a full breath. They were halfway to this ball. He'd try to gain entry wearing boots; Almack's would never allow such.

"The soldiers enjoy giving everyone a hard time. It's better not to poke around. Save your adventures for the daytime when their actions aren't in the shadows. Where are you from?"

"England. It's a very fun place."

"That's what I heard. My sister married and left for that island last year. She's having so much fun, we haven't heard from her."

"That is a shame, ma'am, to lose touch." He peeked over his shoulder. No one pursued, but he didn't see Johnson. "I'm sorry. Were you truly out looking for stars?"

She stopped and pointed to the sky. "That is Cepheus. It looks like a house."

Felton craned his neck. "I suppose it is. My imagination is not great."

"It's not with most men." She started moving again.

He watched her. She was graceful, with hips rolling as if she heard some hidden music. "Wait, miss." He caught up and took her arm again. "The infantryman didn't seem to give you a hard time."

"No, they give us pretty colored girls plenty of problems. But my father is one of the wealthiest men in the colony. That keeps me from having problems."

He remembered Johnson's words. "Miss Cecilia Thomas? You're the one I'm here to see."

"Yes, that's my name."

"How might I repay your kindness?"

She squinted at him with stars reflecting in her bewitching eyes. "I need an adventure that will help me escape the next few hours. When I step into that ballroom, Papa will show me off like a prized sow to every headhunter that came to town. What am I saying? You're probably one."

"I understand your lack of enthusiasm. I have aunts that try to matchmake for my sister back home."

"Then give me a fun evening. Pretend to be madly in love with me. Keep all potential suitors away. Let me have an hour or two where I'm unbothered."

Felton looked back toward the government building. More soldiers had gathered. Johnson. Did he get away?

"That doesn't sound too hard, Miss Thomas."

This excerpt ends on page 14 of the paperback edition.

Monday we begin the book Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma.

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