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The Scandal

The Scandal by Melissa McCann
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Lady Winifred Westerly has agreed to marry Richard, Viscount Danleigh. Unfortunately, they just can't manage to overcome their families. Bad enough that Winifred is known to half of London as "Flighty Freddy," now Freddy's self-absorbed mother--the Scandal of London--has been accused of murdering her lover, Sir Taverner. Quite unreasonably to Freddy's way of thinking, her father and godmother have forbidden her to marry Dickie on the grounds that his reputation is nearly as shaky as her own. They want her to marry someone steady and sensible who will curb her wilder impulses. To this end, both Lady Evans and Freddy's father the earl are throwing their own contenders at Freddy's head in the hope she will agree to marry her father's crony Lord Fordweather, or her godmother's selection, Mr. Montgomery.

There is nothing for it but for Freddy to once again unravel the disaster, prove her mother's innocence and nab the real murderer.

Awe-Struck Publishing; March 2006
184 pages; ISBN 9781587495441
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: The Scandal
Author: Melissa McCann
 
Excerpt
An elderly woman, so hunched and wrinkled with age she might have been a gnome in the straight-backed chair by the fire, let out a shriek. "Abominable. Inexcusable. Do you know what she has done now?" Freddy said, "No." Lady Evans snapped the pages of the Morning Post. "Come to a bad end. I said it time and time again. ‘Come to a bad end,’ I told her mother. Told your father, too. ‘A mistake to marry her,’ is what I said to him." Freddy tilted her head. "You mean Mama." Heavy footsteps thumped on the stairs as though someone were taking them two at a time. The parlor door opened, and an elegant, blond gentleman with well-shaped lips and eyes looked into the room. "Well, here we all are. There was no one at the door so I let myself in. Georgiana Evans, you look splendid." Lady Evans raised her cheek. "Mr. Cobb, since when have you run tame in my house?" Mr. Cobb crossed the room and delivered a kiss to the withered face. "Since I read the morning paper. I note you have already seen it. What do you intend to do about it?" He nodded toward the battered paper at Lady Evans’s feet. Duchess Darke snorted. "She is planning to cower in the country with Cousin Winifred until it blows over. Come and greet me properly, Artemis dear." Artemis Cobb obliged the duchess with a respectful buss on the cheek. "You can’t be serious, your grace. Is she serious, Georgiana?" He turned an inquiring eye to Lady Evans. "I’m too old to sit about pretending to be deaf while scandalmongers whisper about me behind my back, and the good Lord knows Winifred’s reputation won’t stand the strain." "That reminds me. Delightful to see you again, Lady Winifred. You are in looks as always." Mr. Cobb awarded Freddy a wink and a bow over her hand. Freddy regarded him gravely. "Have you come to tell us about Mama’s adventure?" Lady Evans stared at her goddaughter. "Winifred, did I hear you call murder and blackmail an adventure?" Freddy furrowed her brow. "Or did I mean misadventure?" Lady Evans sniffed. "I don’t know how I can expect to find Winifred a husband with this hanging over our heads, but I do hate to turn tail and run." The duchess dimpled. "I shouldn’t worry about finding Cousin Winifred a parti this season. I’ve a feeling she will satisfy you at last." Lady Evans threw the last of her paper aside. "That’s quite enough of that. You might as well come out and say it." The duchess, Cobb and Freddy all stared at her. "Wouldn’t melt butter in your mouth, would you, Laura. I don’t miss the signs. You say Winifred will be no trouble to me this season. You say I’m sure to get her off my hands this season. Mr. Cobb shows up kissing everybody except Winifred. Treats her with perfect propriety, but I’ve caught him winking and nodding at her every time he thinks my back is turned. Winifred’s gone and made a secret engagement, and you knew about it all along." The duchess flushed. "Oh dear. I didn’t think you would guess so soon. We wanted to break it to you gradually. But really, Georgiana dear, surely it’s not so bad as all that. They’re very much in love, and it’s a brilliant match for her." Lady Evans stared. "A brilliant match? He’s a wastrel, barely acceptable in society. Winifred’s reputation is none too steady as it is without her marrying a notorious dilettante." The duchess shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "True, Richard has had some unfortunate adventures, but he didn't mean any harm, and his motives were misunderstood." Lady Evans squinted her wrinkled face together. "Laura, what are you talking about?" The duchess hesitated. "What are you talking about?" "I’m talking about Winifred getting herself engaged to marry Mr. Cobb." A moment of shocked silence followed. Cobb broke the stillness with a laugh. "Georgiana, how could you suspect me of such an underhanded dealing? Lady Winifred isn’t engaged to me." Lady Evans turned her basilisk eyes from one person to another. "Then what are you winking at her for? And what is Laura talking about?" Artemis Cobb cleared his throat and glanced at Freddy for permission to speak. She pretended she did not see him. He sighed. "The truth is I’m standing in for my friend Danleigh." Lady Evans glared at the duchess. "Your son?" Laura Darke nodded. Cobb continued. "Lady Winifred has pledged herself to marry Richard Ansley, Marquis of Danleigh."