Gladiators, cowboys, knights, dukes, princes and rogues. The heroes we love all in one set.
PRESENTING LADY GUS
By Sydney Jane Baily
Augusta Brenville needs a husband, preferably a wealthy one, to save her beloved estate. Unfortunately, holding onto her inheritance seems impossible when nary a suitor remains standing, nor alive for that matter. That is until a seasoned captain arrives, daring and intrepid . . . and a tad uncivilized for the lady’s liking.
For the sake of owning Thornbury Castle, Captain Rolf is willing to marry its rather awkward yet endearing mistress, regardless of her penniless state. First, however, he must thwart an assassin with a penchant for poison, fire, and arrows. Can he keep both himself and his betrothed alive until their wedding day?
Augusta sighed. So much for first impressions. She knew she looked ridiculous now and momentarily considered whether to pull the rest of her pins out and wear her hair all unfashionably down or try to put the three errant locks back up? Before she could make more of a mess, Millie had pinned her curls to resemble the rest of her hairstyle.
To top it off, Augusta’s knees stung terribly where they had come in crushing contact with the stone walkway. At least her future husband now knew what to expect in the way of beauty and grace.
Her husband! She raised her eyes to him. He was tall, as a royal army officer should be. He was young, too, perhaps in his late twenties or early thirties--praise be, she muttered. He was not ugly, nor did he look cruel. He was, however, dirty—extremely so. His hair, which hung long around his neck, was coated with dust from the journey and his face was smeared with grime, as were his worn clothes. Not at all what she’d hoped from a wealthy suitor.
Why had he not bathed at an inn the night before or at least stopped to wash in one of the many streams round about the area? For certainly, by the look of his wet pants, he had crossed a few on horseback. At the very least, he could have spat on a cloth and wiped his face.
Still, she smiled as he took her hand. She looked down to see how her hand looked in his and was shocked to see black under his fingernails. She swallowed and looked up at his face. It was pleasant, even handsome under the grime, she reminded herself. She heard Rolf clear his throat.
“Lady Brenville, reports of your beauty and charm do not do you justice.”
She couldn’t stifle the laugh. It broke from her, and she nearly choked. Poor man, what a thing to say, clearly rehearsed and so demonstrably wrong. As if anyone had ever reported anything of her beauty and charm. She laughed until tears came to her eyes. He was nervous, too, she realized. What a relief.
Rolf looked disconcertedly toward her father, who merely shrugged, hardly helping with his round face in a false smile. Finally, it appeared that Rolf understood he had not offended her, and he smiled too.
Augusta’s laughter died instantly. Buggers! She couldn’t help but stare at the dark hole where a tooth should be. At least it was not right in the front of his mouth. Some might view the gap on the left of his smile as quite dashing. And most likely, she consoled herself, he could whistle well.