My Fair Lily 1st Chapter Release
Now that I have taken my winter coat out of storage and feel the nip in the air, my thoughts have turned to the upcoming holidays. Thanksgiving is a favorite of mine because it is a family holiday, full of noise, good cheer and constant chatter, traditional antipasto and pasta, and oh yes, there’s also turkey, roasted chestnuts, and pumpkin pie. My sister-in-law, Michelle Rose, is in charge of that day and she’s a magnificent cook (watch out Top Chef) - no one ever declines one of her invitations. Most important, from the moment I married into the family, she and my brother-in-law, Jack, welcomed not only me, but my parents and sisters. We’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with them every year since, even as our family has grown large in numbers and waistbands. The good parts of the Farthingale clan in My Fair Lily are taken from my family. I count my blessings to have so many wonderful, supportive, and sometimes meddlesome (okay, always meddlesome!) people around me and hope that in reading this first peek, Chapter One of My Fair Lily, you will feel the same joy about your family as I do about mine.
Chapter 1, MY FAIR LILY
Mayfair District, London
“JASPER, YE BOLLIX! No!”
Lily Farthingale had just passed through the front gate of her family’s fashionable townhouse to turn onto Chipping Way when she heard a deep, rumbling bark, followed closely by a repeat of the man’s frantic shout. In the next moment, she was knocked to the ground by the biggest, hairiest excuse for a dog she’d ever set eyes upon, more of a muddy brown carpet with legs and a playfully wagging tail.
“Ugh! Get off me!” Lily cried, but the dog paid no heed, too excited and happy to contain his joy. He stared down at her as though she were his favorite person in the world, even though she was now flat on her back in one of the many puddles left by the morning’s rain, her spectacles dangling off her nose. “I said, get—ew!”
The slobbering beast had begun licking her face, his tongue leaving a trail of drool across her cheek, her chin, and even more disgustingly, on her mouth. She was still spitting his drool from her lips when the owner reached her side and unceremoniously lifted Jasper out of the way. “Och, lass! Are ye hurt?”
Only my pride. “I don’t think so. But I’ve lost my book.” More precisely, she’d lost the book she had borrowed from her elderly neighbor, Lady Eloise Dayne, and was on her way to return when attacked by the playful beast. It had flown out of her hands, and she had no idea where it might have landed.
“I’m that sorry, lass. My fault entirely.” The burly Scotsman knelt beside her, looming quite large, or so he seemed to her slightly dazed eyes— for he was broad in the shoulders and almost as shaggy as his dog. His reddish-brown hair was as thick and unkempt as his companion’s. His bushy growth of beard made him appear as daunting as a pirate.
“I’ll pay for the damage, of course.” He tried to straighten the spectacles on her nose, but then simply removed them when he couldn’t. “Ewan Cameron’s the name, and I’m in residence at... och, I’m not sure o’ that yet, but you can contact me through Eloise Dayne.”
“You know Lady Dayne?” Lily gazed at him in surprise, wondering how and where a man such as he might have met her respectable neighbor.
“That I do, lass,” he said with an engaging smile.
His lips were nicely shaped, and so was his jaw, what Lily could see of it beneath his beard. She ought to have been more than a little intimidated, perhaps afraid of this rugged stranger, but he’d mentioned Eloise, which meant he was no ruffian, though he quite looked the part.
He took gentle hold of her hand. “Can ye move?”
She nodded. “I’m sure I can.”
“Good. Be careful now. Put your arms about my neck, and I’ll help ye out of this puddle.” He spoke in a deep, rumbling brogue that she found surprisingly comforting. “Poor little thing, ye must be soaked to the skin.”
Up close, practically nose to nose, Lily could not help but notice his darkly sensual eyes, a deep, forest green with flecks of gray swirling within their depths. Mercy! “You mustn’t concern yourself, sir.” A little “eep” escaped her lips as his rough hands now circled her waist and his keen, assessing gaze locked onto hers. “I’m fine... truly.”
“Can’t say as much for your frock,” he muttered, helping her to her unsteady feet, which must have been the reason he held on to her a moment longer than was necessary. He released her when she regained her footing, then retrieved his handkerchief, and was about to use it to dab the mud off her gown when he suddenly stopped and let out a short, strangled laugh. “Ah...er...och, lass,” he said, his hands hovering precariously over her breasts, “ye’d better... I can’t... no, I definitely can’t—”
Lily followed his gaze as it swept the front of her gown. Jasper’s muddy paws had left a perfect imprint on each of her lightly heaving breasts—like an officious clerk with his itchy fingers on a new ink stamp. Stamp! Stamp! The delicate lemon silk just delivered yesterday, which she had worn for all of ten minutes, was ruined.
The noticeable paw prints on her front were bad enough, but there were also splotches of mud along the length of the expensive fabric, and cold, murky water from the puddle in which she’d landed now seeped down her back.
Jasper, obviously feeling contrite, whimpered as he came forward and rubbed his head against her knees. Tufts of his hair ground into the ruined fabric, leaving it not only wet and muddy but now adorned with dog hairs.
Oh, perfect! What more can go wrong today?
And where were her spectacles? She recalled Ewan Cameron had taken them off her nose before he put his arms around her...and then she’d gazed into his eyes and simply forgotten about everything.
“Can ye walk on your own, lass? Shall I help ye into the house?”
“Thank you, Mr. Cameron. I can manage the rest of the way.” She couldn’t very well say it had been a pleasure to meet him, since it hadn’t been. Anyway, they hadn’t been properly introduced. “It was a most unusual... well, unexpected... encounter. I don’t suppose we shall ever meet again. Goodbye.”
She turned to walk back into the house, took a step, and squished. Took another halting step, then another. Squish, squish.
Her humiliation was now complete.
“Lass, I had better go with ye,” he said, clearing his throat and once again smothering the laughter Lily knew was desperate to burst out of him. “I can explain to your father. It wouldn’t sit right with me if ye were punished for something that was entirely my fault.”
“It isn’t necessary,” she insisted, holding her head up proudly even as droplets of water dripped off her nose. She wished he would stop acting kindly and simply go away.
The sooner this embarrassment was forgotten, the better.
Jasper, now standing between her and the Farthingale entry gate, began to whimper again.
“That’s right. Ye ought to be ashamed, ye great beastie,” his owner muttered. “Look at the mess ye’ve made of the pretty girl.”
As though understanding his every word, the dog gazed at Lily with the softest, most innocent brown eyes. His tail wagged hesitantly, once... twice. Oh, his big chocolate eyes! Too adorable to resist. Lily succumbed with a sigh. “You’re forgiven, Jasper. Now, to find my book—”
Jasper was off in a shot and back in a trice with the volume, a work written by the Scottish scientist Colin MacLaurin about sixty years ago on the theory of fluxions. Tail wagging, eyes gleaming with pride, he dropped it at her feet...and into the puddle from which she’d just emerged.
His owner let out an agonized groan. “Lass, I’ll pay for that, too.”
* * *
“Please don’t trouble yourself, Mr. Cameron. It was an accident and nothing more.”
Ewan Cameron stared at the girl with the prettiest blue eyes he’d seen in an age while she assured him that he was not responsible for his dog’s actions. Of course, he was. However, he held his tongue, preferring to replace the book and stylish gown—a yellow confection that made him think of lemon sweets—as soon as possible, rather than waste time arguing about it with the young thing who was soaking wet and probably shaken from the jolt.
He retrieved the book from the puddle while she busied herself wringing water out of her obviously ruined gown. He also noticed her spectacles on the ground where he’d earlier set them aside, so he reached down and stuck them in his pocket before turning his attention back to her. “Ma... Mac... lau...” he murmured, examining the book’s spine for the title. But he found it hard to make out the words, for they were smeared with mud and water stains.
“MacLaurin,” she repeated smoothly, casting him an encouraging glance. “There’s a symposium exploring his work on elliptic integrals at the Royal Society next week, and I thought to do a little studying on my own ahead of time.”
“You’re a bluestocking,” he said with a chuckle but quickly regretted his words. Though he meant it as a compliment, few females would take it as such. Och, it was a clumsy thing to say—but she didn’t seem to take offense.
“Yes, I suppose. I love to read... er, though many people don’t and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, not at all. Not being able to read, that is.” She cast him another encouraging glance.
“I enjoy it, too. When I have the time.” He frowned, thinking of how much work he had and how little time he had to attend to all of it while in London. “Lately, I’ve had very little.”
“Of course. I understand completely.” She cast him yet another sympathetic look.
“Ye do?” Suddenly, he realized the girl believed him an ignorant oaf, illiterate and probably unable even to dress himself. And why wouldn’t she think the worst? Ten days of hard riding from the Scottish Highlands to London, ten days of choking dust on the roadway, of not shaving and hardly bathing, had left him looking like the basest ruffian.
The clothes he wore, buff pants made of homespun and heavy brown jacket to ward off the Highland chill, were not in the least fashionable London attire. His brown leather boots were scuffed and stained from several years of use and abuse. His hands were rough and calloused, though he’d tried very hard to be gentle when helping the girl to her feet. To this young innocent, he must look like his heathen warrior ancestors, lacking only blue paint on his face and battle axe in his hand to complete the image. “Lass, may I ask your name?”
She didn’t appear ready to give it, but whatever she meant to say was drowned out by the sound of a carriage rumbling toward them. It turned out to be three gleaming black carriages rolling through the townhouse gate from which she’d emerged a short while ago, each led by a pair of high-stepping matched bays.
He let out a long, low whistle, admiring the horses and wondering who had picked them out. They were magnificent, but he didn’t bother to ask the girl standing at his side. It wasn’t something the pampered daughter of a wealthy household was likely to know. Then again, the young thing was not the typical society debutante. Och, she was pretty enough, but there was a scholarly earnestness about her that he found appealing, though a bit unusual.
A girl who looked remarkably like the one at his side, same black hair and striking blue eyes, popped her head out of the third carriage.
“Lily, you’re missing Lady Turbott’s tea!” she cried as it passed by.
He turned in dismay to the girl he now understood was called Lily. “Lass, it seems I’ve ruined your entire day.” “Please don’t give it another thought, Mr. Cameron. My family will never notice,” she assured him with a wistful sigh.
“I can no’ believe that.” Were she his daughter, gazing up at him with those vibrant eyes and the obvious intelligence behind them, he’d have a hard time forgetting her.
“Oh, they love me,” she hastened to explain, obviously noting his darkening expression. “I’m not at all neglected, as you can see by the quality of my new gown... well, no... never mind about that. My sister and I are identical twins, you see. I suppose it’s obvious. She’ll pretend to be me and no one will be the wiser. That’s all I meant by it. The arrangement has worked quite well so far. I’ve already missed several of these society affairs because of my studies and never been reprimanded for it.”
He quirked an eyebrow.
“Not that I’m proud of the deception, mind you,” she continued, the momentary downcast of her eyes revealing that she felt some remorse for her wrongdoing. “But the scholarly work is so interesting, and sometimes these affairs can be so deadly dull. Dillie—that’s my sister—doesn’t mind helping me out at all.”
“I’m surprised ye have no’ been caught yet. You’re not entirely alike,” he said with a shake of his head. “Your eyes are a more vivid blue than your sister’s, and your features softer, like the soft coat on a newborn lamb.”
She blushed. “Oh, that’s a lovely thing to say. Thank you. Er, you did mean it as a compliment, didn’t you?”
He nodded. “That I did, Lily.”
She slipped the book out of his hands. “I had better change my gown. Goodbye, Mr. Cameron. I hope Lady Dayne finds you a nice place to live."
Stay tuned for next week when I share Chapter 2! If you're in a hurry to read more Lily and Ewan, you can grab your full copy on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/10iphcL