response to those words from his father. Everything is not well at home and he
finds himself in a bit of a fix. A little warning that his father had made
tentative arrangements for his marriage would have been nice but Luke really
wishes it had been anyone other than the young lady chosen. After all, Phoebe
Ramsey had always been an annoyance and any time they had spent together had
resulted in physical injuries for one of them.Â Just when Luke thinks he’s escaped that particular future, he
finds himself courting a young woman he doesnâ€™t want, a furious best friend who
wants a duel to satisfy honor, and the responsibility of finding who and whyÂ someone had caused an accident for his mother.Â
to write her own. Among her favorite authors is Jane Austen, Sir Arthur ConanÂ Doyle, and Georgette Heyer.
Satisfied there was nothing untoward in my appearance, I made my way down to the drawing room, where my family always gathered before a meal. I passed a maid carrying a covered tray, Mamaâ€™s meal. I pursed my lips, not liking the thought of my mother eating alone night after night.
I could hear my family, Philippa above all the others, long before I reached the doorway. When I pushed the door open, she was in the middle of demonstrating some bit of silliness she had done earlier in the day. Stooped over in a ridiculous position, she glanced over and her face brightened with a broad smile.
â€œLuke!â€ she exclaimed as she straightened herself. â€œYou look so grown up!â€
â€œYou are generous, Philly,â€ I said with a wry smile. I faced the rest of the group. Father was sitting by the fireplace with my older brother, George, standing at his shoulder. â€œFather, George. I hope I havenâ€™t kept you waiting.â€
I’d arrived downstairs several minutes early, so I was surprised when Father said, â€œIâ€™m not the one to whom you should apologize, Lucas.â€
Turning, I took a moment to study the seated woman. Her appearance was nothing like the kind of lady Iâ€™d believed my brother would choose as his wife, though she was pretty by any personâ€™s standards. Her hair was blonde and curled around her face. Her figure was admirable, but it was the expression on her face that sent chills down my spine: one of judgment and disdain.
â€œYou must be my new sister. I am delighted to meet you, maâ€™am. Welcome to the family.â€
She shifted her blue-eyed gaze to my brother, refusing to acknowledge my greeting. â€œRosamund, may I present to you my younger brother, Lucas,â€ George introduced formally. â€œLucas, this is my wife, Rosamund.â€
â€œSo, the rapscallion brother finally decided to do his duty,â€ Rosamund said, returning her gaze to me. â€œMister Lucas Bywood, I wish I could say it is a pleasure, but your reputation precedes you.â€
Surprised by this greeting, I tried not to allow her words to annoy me. She could only have heard me described as a scapegrace from my family, but surely it was only said in a jocular manner! I may have chosen my own course in life, but I was by no means the disgrace to the Bywood family as she was implying.
â€œMy dear sister Rosamund â€”I may call you Rosamund, may I not?â€ I stepped forward, caught her hand, and brought it up to my lips. The shocked expression on her face almost made me burst out laughing, but I controlled my features. â€œI have no doubt you will ensure my brother lives with absolute propriety.â€
â€œWhat do you mean by that?â€ George demanded, bristling as he stepped closer.
Rosamund pulled her hand free of my grip. â€œNothing at all, George,â€ I said, taking a step back. I glanced around the room and commented, â€œHow quiet it is without Mama, Jane, Celia, and Jo here.
â€My three older sisters had married before I had left for my Grand Tour, so I should have been accustomed to the reduced number of our family for dinner. Perhaps it was the lack of Mama that made me feel the change. The room just felt darker than I remembered it ever being.
â€œIsnâ€™t that the nature of families, Master Lucas?â€ Rosamund asked primly. Her referring to me as â€œMaster Lucasâ€ made my lips twitch. Only servants called me that, and I doubted she would appreciate the comparison. And why was she referring to me as if I were a child? â€œChildren grow up and make their own homes. You will, quite soon I am told, make a new start with your own bride.â€
â€œSoon, you say? Iâ€™m afraid you have been misinformed, Rosamund. I have no intentions of settling down anytime in the near future.â€ I was amused by the notion until I saw my fatherâ€™s face. And Georgeâ€™s face. And Philippaâ€™s face? When it seemed no one else was amused, I stopped laughing. â€œHave I missed something?â€
â€œYou are engaged to Phoebe Ramsey, are you not? George told me you were.â€