Sunday, February 20, 2011



February 14, 1841, Northampton, England

Gavin Sinclair, Baron Dunleigh, was bored out of his mind.

Why had he come tonight, he wondered, as he watched a bevy of beautiful women whirl around the ballroom in their colorful gowns? He gazed at the guests milling around the lace-covered pillars festooned with red and white roses. All that was missing from the decorations were the ivy leaves advertising the occasion as a prelude to a proposal of marriage. That was the last thing in which he had an interest!

Gavin groaned. Wedlock. Every man here, himself included, had other things on their mind. Still, from the number of people attending this event, Lady’s Sutton’s Valentine’s Ball would be declared a smashing success. It mattered little if some fair maiden tricked her escort into proposing matrimony.

He glanced toward the front arch embellished with smiling cupids, golden arrows and festive hearts and sipped a glass of inferior champagne. How soon could he take his leave without appearing rude?

He patted the pocket of his jacket. At least tonight, he didn’t have to worry about his younger brother. Kenneth’s message had arrived before Gavin left for the ball. The note assured Gavin that although Kenneth had some unfinished business, he would sail on the Valiant Lady in ten days. It would free Gavin from a necessary trip to their Caribbean property.

About time Kenneth began to take an active part in their business enterprises despite his arguments.

“My Lord,” a voice behind him forced him to turn.

He spun toward the speaker. Lawrence Oxley, a good friend of Kenneth’s, stood before him, a worried look marring his effeminate features, his face flushed. Too much drink, or nerves.

“What is it, Lawrence?”

The young man hesitated. Gavin stifled a groan and waited for him to speak, hoping against hope that Kenneth was not involved in another fracas.

“Sir, I’m sorry to bother you, but...” He glanced at the crowd and murmured, “Someplace not so--so crowded?”

Gavin led him to a small alcove off the main hall.

“Better?” he asked.

The young man nodded and gulped--hard.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t keep this to myself a minute longer. Kenneth will want to kill me, but I do believe you ought to know.”

Gavin scowled. Damn! Kenneth was up to something, something not good. He’d been correct in assuming his younger brother was in trouble, yet again.

“Well, man, what is it you think I should know?”

Once again Lawrence cleared his throat. “He’s getting married. Going to Gretna Green.”

An Elopement! Gavin swore. The fool!


“Tonight, my Lord!”

The hot burn of anger raced through Gavin. How dare his younger brother try something like this?

Lawrence cowered before him and Gavin assumed it was because of his expression.

“I see…” His words rolled out of his mouth like bits of live coal.


“Midnight,” Lawrence croaked.

Gavin pulled his pocket watch from his vest and glanced at it.

“I could have used more time to stop this affair.”

“Sorry, my Lord. It took some time to find you.”

“I take it that you know who he intends to wed and where.” Gavin tossed the words out.
Damn! Kenneth had been nothing, if not trouble, from the moment Gavin assumed his care immediately after the death of their parents. Their verbal battles were legion.

Lawrence swallowed again, his Adam’s apple bobbing against his stiff collar, “Where, but not whom. Oh, I’ve seen the girl but I don’t know her name. She had her come out this year. You had to have met her.”

“I was at my Caribbean plantation last summer so I missed the season. Don’t you know anything about her?”

Lawrence seemed to be studying the floor for answers. Again, he cleared his throat.

“I know she was sponsored by Lady Sophia Palmer.”

Gavin swallowed choice words and slapped his hand against his forehead.

“Sophia Palmer. My Gawd, that woman is a menace, an eccentric of the first water. She’s anything but a lady. Have you no other information?”

“The girl’s father is in the military,” Lawrence murmured, as if that information might have some value.

“Anything else? Anything at all?”

Lawrence shook his head and eased out of the alcove. Gavin almost smiled at the boy’s apparent need to escape.

“All right,” Gavin said. “At least tell me where my brother is meeting this person.”


1 comment:

  1. Loved this excerpt! This is definitely something that I want to read:)