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MY LADY IS A THIEF

The Secret Life of Holland Foxx

THÉRÈSE A. KRAEMER


Copyright Therese A. Kraemer 2017

Published by Spangaloo



Spangaloo Edition


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This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, events, incidents, and places are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, people, or events is purely coincidental


Cover Design: James Blanchette

Ebook Formatting : Alan Thriete

http://spangaloo.com



Contents

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY-FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

TWENTY-SEVEN

TWENTY-EIGHT

TWENTY-NINE

About the Author

Other Books


White Shoulders made her home

in the Black Forest all alone.

She’d been alone since the age of eleven

when her parents died and went to heaven.

Now at nineteen she no longer wept

as she tended her garden neatly kept.

Turnips, onions and beans grew wildly,

near the clear brook that ran by idly.

White Shoulders never went hungry a day,

but there were times sadness came her way.

One winter’s night, by the hearth she sat...

knitting mittens and a winter’s hat.

She was frightened by a knock at her door

since no one ever knocked there before.

From: White Shoulders, Black Bear, and The Four Winds




ONE

The Thief


South Hampton, Long Island, 2017

“I love Halloween,” Holland Foxx said to her reflection as she studied herself in the oval mirror. She shoved her shoulder length hair under the cotton cap that came with her costume. The party would be filled with the richest people on Long Island. It was a once a year tradition and she had taken a job with a catering business. The women were given antique apparel, dressing up as maids in the eighteen hundreds. Her gown was a mite short because of her five foot ten inch height, and a bit lose because of her willowy figure, but it would suffice. Last year she had made off with a king’s ransom in jewelry from her talent of lifting the necklace of the women’s neck when they were tipsy after a few cocktails. Men’s rings were also easy when flirting with them in the hallways. Dirty old farts thinking that they had gotten away with taking the liberty of fondling the help when their wives were not around.

Tonight, she’d collect another good heist. She put the mask in her apron pocket and headed out to the catering store as platters of food were loaded into the restraint’s truck. She went to help as her heart beat with excitement. At twenty-six, she had mastered the art of stealing items from people but the talent hadn’t come easy and she’d been arrested twice for shop lifting at the early age of fifteen. Twice, she had spent a few years in a juvenile detention center for minor theft. She had to be careful, three strikes and she’d be in the poky for a very long time. She hadn’t been caught since her teenage years, and she had gotten very good at evading the police.

“Hi, I’m Sofia, you’re late we’re almost done loading the truck.”

Holland blinked. “Huh?” she looked into the smiling face of a pretty brunet.

“Sorry to startle you,” the girl apologized.

Holland returned the smile. “That’s okay Sofia I was just in another world. Sorry to be late, my mother called just as I was leaving” she fabricated.

“No problem, wasn’t criticizing, just stating a fact. Never seen you before, first time?”

“Yeah, again I apologize for my tardiness; my mother was drilling me again on why I haven’t been home for a long time and if I found any eligible men,” she continued her falsehood. “She claims she wanted to be a grandmother while she was young enough to enjoy grandkids.”

Sofia snorted, “You have a Jewish mother too; such mother hens,”

“No, mines Italian; same difference, I suppose.” They laughed and finished loading the truck.

As usual the big mansion was filled with upper-class snobs having a good time. A band was playing loud music, drowning out conversations and the popping of the champagne corks, but her eyes were the only thing she needed to see what was going on. She cared little of what the rich-snobs had to say or drink. By the end of the evening, her apron pockets would hold enough gems to get her a good profit.

Bermuda, here I come. Days in the sun, relaxation; life was good and so profitable! What else could a gal ask for?

As she passed around trays of hors d’ oeuvre and caviar thankful that she had no taste for fish eggs she kept a keen eye open.

“Sorry,” she apologized after bumping into a tipsy-lady, then placing the diamond bracelet into her pocket that already held a few rings and necklaces. It was time to go, her task was done. As she placed the tray down, her heart stopped. Looking at her with interest was a familiar face; Patrolman Slater, a cop who had arrested her the first time. He frowned as if was trying to recall where he had seen her before, then he tilted his brow, looking at her uncertainly.

Maybe he won’t remember you. You were much younger. She hoped her thoughts were right.

He was dressed in a suit, also looking a bit older, probably work-stressed. Of course, as luck would have it, just then someone yelled, “My diamond necklace is gone!”

Slater turned to see the lady and it was then she noticed Slater was wearing an earwig and she assumed that he had been hired for security. The lady clutched her neck and he turned in Holland’s direction again. Slater’s eyes narrowed suspiciously and this time recognition appeared on his features; he quickly spoke into his cuff. There was no doubt in her mind that he was calling for backup. He reached for his sidearm and started heading in her direction.

Run! Her mind ordered her to move her feet and she ran into the kitchen, bumping into a waiter with a tray of food. He and the food went flying and she mumbled, “Sorry.” Then passing a rack of plates she knocked it over blocking Slater’s path and she headed for the nearest exit which was the way she came into the kitchen. Running through the doors, she bumped into Sofia, nearly toppling them over.

“What’s wrong?’ asked the girl.

“Sorry, can’t explain but there’s a man chasing me, please do not tell him which direction I’m heading.”

“Okay…but..?” Sofia stammered.

As Holland headed for the front doors she spied another plainclothesman scanning the room and her way out was blocked. She headed for the stairs, foolishly thinking how she always wondered why the bad guys always ran up to the roof. Now she knew, as she, they had no other choice.

As she reached the second floor, the weight of the apron was holding her down and she couldn’t be caught holding the bag, um, pockets full of stolen jewelry on her person. With a curse, Holland untied the apron strings and ran into a room. She tossed it under a bed and ran to the window. Luckily, it opened but when she discovered she was up high on a narrow ledge, she gasped. She didn’t fear heights but she did fear breaking her neck. She had to think. Quickly, she climbed back in and locked the door hoping to give her more time for her plan. Stripping the bed, she tied the sheets together and around her waist hearing someone banging on the door.

Is this the best idea you can come up with? asked her conscience.

Do you have a better one? she argued foolishly. It works in the movies?

The voice in her head had no smart reply.

Again as she climbed onto the ledge Holland said the only prayer that popped into her head. Now I lay me down to sleep and pray…She lowered herself down hoping she had tied the knot securely around the bed post. It was two feet short and she fell and crashed landed on her ass in a bed of flowers. She looked up to see Slater looking down at her.

She didn’t waste time to rub her smarting butt and headed down the winding driveway. Running into the road, hearing sirens she turned to see the headlights of an oncoming car. Like a deer blinded, she stood frozen for what felt like an eternity. She then raised her hands before her face as if she could shield herself from the imminent danger. Pain wracked her whole body as she felt herself flying into space.And, then blackness vanished anymore thoughts.


“Is she dead?” asked someone. The voice was male and seemed to be coming from a distance away.

“What happened?” asked another; a female this time.

Holland felt as if her body had gone through a shredder; she ached in places she didn’t know existed. Some sixth sense brought her fully awake but she was afraid to open her eyes knowing that she was probably surrounded by the police.

“Where the hell did she come from?” barked a deep voice and she winced wondering why he sounded so agitated.

“Oi do not know sir. ‘Twas as if she just appeared out o’ nowhere,” said another. “Suddenly, a flash, like lightnin’ started the ‘orse an’ after Oi controlled the beast, Oi jump off the carriage quickly. There she was just lyin’ there. Is s-she d-dead?” he stammered. “Oi did not see ‘er yer lordship, Oi’m truly sorry.”

“’Tis all right, Baron, no one will blame you for this.”

Holland thought that the poor man, this Baron, really sounded upset. And then his words came back. Horse? Carriage? The last thing I saw was headlights from an oncoming car. Lordship? Did someone come to the masquerade party in a horse drawn coach dressed as royalty? Had I missed a chance in stealing something really worth a king’s ransom? Bummer!

Stop thinking foolishly, you have more problems right now! her inner voice lectured. She answered herself with a woeful groan as the penetrating quixotic haze began to diminish.

“She’s alive,” said the deep voice. Someone grabbed her hand and a shiver went through her making her eyes snap open. Dear Lord, she had died and gone to heaven. The most mind-blowing-handsome man, with golden-brown eyes and a secret expression was looking down at her. His face was bronzed by the sun. As much as her body ached she could not keep from staring into his lips that were firm and sensual.

Damn, where has he been all my life?

Mistress, can you move?” he asked.

Move? She wasn’t sure but she would rather not. She wanted to remain here just gazing at him. When she didn’t answer, his hand came down over hers possessively and he picked her up in his strong arms. She could feel his hard muscular chest under his shirt. And he smelled so good; she really must be in heaven because it would be a shame if this man was in hell. But then, if they were in Hades this wouldn’t be so bad, she mused with a sigh.

She knew she was not thinking logically, but she was confused. Where was she? She had noticed when he carried her to a vehicle that her surroundings were not familiar and she was no longer in the country, but in a city. Something strange was going on but she ached too much to ponder seriously over it. Maybe she was in a coma?

“My lord, she’s dressed as a maid,” informed the one called Baron. “She must work for some family close by.”

“We will take her home Baron and I’ll have my doctor tend to her and then in the morning I’ll have my friend at Scotland Yard look into it.”

“Aye, sir, as ye wish,” the servant nodded.

Holland was gently placed on the plush seat of a coach and the handsome stranger sat across from her. She heard the whip snap over the horse’s flank, causing the carriage to lurch forward. She fell back against the seat and cursed softly. She raised her eyes to find him watching her, studying her closely.

“Can you speak? What is your name?”

She swallowed hard and nodded. “I cannot recall,” she lied.

“I am sorry for the accident. I know you must be in shock, where does it hurt?”

“All over,” she rasped. “But I do not think anything is broken, just bruised and I do not blame you for what happened. I cannot explain it but I do not come from here and I do not know how I got here.”

He rubbed his square chin for a moment and said, “You are in England and I’m taking you to my estate in the country.”

England? Her stomach knotted. What the hell was going on? She felt as if she was in one on the Twilight Zone series.

“Yeah right, and I’m Elizabeth, the Queen of England!” she scoffed. “Aren’t you taking this to an extreme? Did you hire an actor and rent this coach to play the part of an um, whatever you are dressed up to be? Either I bumped my head so hard or I’m in a parallel universe. Look, whoever you are, you can let me go.”

The man made no response save for raising his dark eyebrow a fraction and rubbing his clef-chin. He seemed to be seriously mulling over her request. Then he gave her an inflectionally charming smile and damn she wished that he had not done that. That smile went straight to her heart giving it palpitations, double time.

Finally, he spoke. “Sorry mistress, but I feel responsible. Can you tell me the name of your employer? I am Lord Paxton Barrette, Earl of Wellington. And the queen of England is Queen Victoria.”

She shook her head. No way in hell! She feared to ask but she did, deciding to play along with his charade. What year is this?”

He drew in his dark brows and gave her a strange look as if she had asked a silly question but he said, “This is the year of eighteen hundred and forty-two. Today is Sunday, May 10th. ”

Her heart fluttered in her chest. She was definitely in a coma or she had been knocked into another time and month. Coma was more likely; she’d settle on that deduction for now. And then, she thought for a moment over the buzzing in her head and decided, until she could figure this out, she’d say that she was abducted.

“Well, err, Paxton I…”

He cleared his throat rudely. “It’s Lord Paxton, or my lord, mistress!”

She snorted and seeing the anger in his eyes, she quickly apologized and corrected herself. “Um, Lord Paxton, I was taken, but I don’t know why and by whom. I was at a costume party held by a rich friend,” she lied. “I’m not wealthy by any means; at least I don’t think so. I was invited by my, um…girlfriend,” she continued to fabricate, hoping she sounded sincere. “Someone must have thought that I had money. Well, too bad for them, no such luck. I was chloroformed and apparently they discovered the truth and left me somewhere in an alley. I was dazed and wondered into the street where, um…you, err, well, you know the rest.”

She had to give herself credit; she even believed the story herself.

Again he scratched is manly chin He had auburn hair, reminding her of a glossy-coated Irish setter. “So, you are not a maid, just dressed as one, you say? At a party, you say? That may be all well and good, but you still cannot recall your name. Strange? And by your accent, you are not from England. You sound like a Yankee, to me. I have to assume that you came here to visit someone.”

She took offence to the way he said Yankee. She knew an insult when it hit her on the head. She stiffened and her nostrils flared slightly as she took a deep breath before she spat, “Do you have a problem with Americans?”

“No, I was just making an observation off your speech pattern. Sorry if I offended you.” His mouth curved with a roguish charm.

She then felt a bit ashamed for coming off so catty; his apology was sincere. “Still, you are in no condition to be left alone. You can stay at my estate until we can figure this out.” She tilted her head slightly as she took in the importance of his words. He was right; she did have much to figure out. But if the large diamond ring on his pinky is any proof of his wealth, she might just take her time. And a day with this hunk of a male specimen wouldn’t hurt.

She licked her lips studying the hunk and mused, when the world hands you lemons, you make delic-i-o-u-s lemon aid.




White Shoulders laid her knitting down just right,

and asked who knocked on her door that night.

No answer came, so she pressed her ear

on the cold door with uncertain fear.

Who is it...I ask once more?

Answer me...or leave my door!”

A poor wet traveler,” was the reply.

Please let me in so I can dry.”

Upon opening the door to see who was about,

a big, black bear quickly stuck in his snout.

From: White Shoulders, Black Bear, and The Four Winds



TWO

An Awakening


The conversation ceased on both sides and Holland sat back, studying the surroundings as they drove out of the city. They passed rows of houses that filled the skies with smoke and soot coming out of the many chimneys; talk about pollution, bah!

She was glad to get out into the country where the air was fresher. She inhaled a deep breath and released it slowly. The next thing she knew she was poked gently on her knee and she was startled. A bit mortified for falling asleep she was annoyed at herself.

“Sorry,” she murmured, and then she wondered why she found it necessary to do so, but she was not herself and he was staring at her so intently. Her emotions were in a dither. She was not one to get embarrassed easily. Good grief! She needed a stiff drink!

But she discovered when he helped her out of the vehicle; it wasn’t a drink she needed but to be in his bed. Damn, he caused her innards to stir like no other man had ever done, and she was not unfamiliar to man’s touch.

Cool your libido girl; remember what century you are in. Play it cool, and I mean it literally! Damn, she had to be controlled by a twenty-first century conscience!


His home was a mansion, almost like the one she had been working in just a while ago or maybe over a century ago, but it was huge and beautiful. The only difference was the furniture, but of course it would be furnished in the eighteen hundreds. She found that she liked the décor better than modern furniture. It had a romantic feel about it, which only made her want to jump his bones more. Oh, why did he have to be such a hunk? She was an ardent reader of romance novels and again she wondered if she could be in a coma dreaming that she was in a novel where all the men were drop dead handsome. Well, then she could play the part of a virgin. Besides, she had the advantage, she know how to make a man want her without him having a clue that she pulling him into her bed.

She was introduced to two servants; an elderly gentlemen who answered the door. He was Simon, the man servant; and a young woman Vicki, her personal maid.

Her own maid! Well, why not, she thought. This was her coma, her fantasy.

The bedchamber was luxurious. There was a large bed piled so high with white and turquoise pillows. The canopy of eyelet lace appeared to float over a satin bed coverlet spread of dark turquoise. A large chest of drawers, a wardrobe, opened to expose it housed of great deal of clothes, for someone short a slim. A kidney shaped table stood by the window, half-obscured by lace curtains where a few ornate bottles of perfume, a round silver mirror, brush and comb set, a vase with a single yellow rose sat. She smelled it, and it actually had a sweet scent. A low table by a claw-foot tub held soap and it sat in a corner of a room with a folded screen beside it for privacy. It was definitely a room out of the past.

Vicki offered to assist her changing into a nightgown but she declined saying she would disrobe and sleep naked. Vicki didn’t say anything; her expression had said it all. Holland didn’t miss the shocked look on the servant’s comely face and her deep blush. She had to bite her inner cheek not to bust out laughing at Vicki’s reaction to her immodesty. Well, so be it, she liked sleeping in the nude and she might have to conform to doing many things in this era but this wasn’t one of them. Holland was told that the wardrobe held many gowns for her choosing.

If ye need any assistance, ma’am, please pull the cord.”

“Thank you Vicki, I’m sure I’ll be fine for the night.”

“Aye, ma’am,” she nodded and left.

She stood alone for a few minutes in the room before she eyed a door and was glad to find a small bathing room adjoined it. There was a large copper tub and washstand. To her dismay, the most important thing in there was missing; the toilet. Groaning aloud, she cursed knowing she had a dilemma.

Houston, we have a problem!

Well, think girl, what did the heroines do back then?

Shit, they peed in a chamber pot.

Well then…you have your answer!

Crap!

Yes, and that too.


Holland didn’t wake disoriented to her new surrounding; she knew where she was by the pungent order of her own urine under the bed. Damn, this fantasy in turning into a nightmare! She groaned and wiped the crust out of her eyes clearing her vision. The morning light slowly filled the room.

What now? She pondered.

There wasn’t much she could do but pull the cord. Holland wrapped the sheet around herself, and then she scooted behind the screen to sponge off her body. She walked around the screen as Vicki was carrying out the pan she peed in. Good grief, how mortifying and to think she was a modern gal. Please someone wake me up!

“Mornin’ ma’am, did ye sleep well?” Vicki asked as if she was just carrying a bowl of soup in her hands.

“Um, yes, thank you.” She opened her mouth to apologize for her bodily function but clamped it shut. Why embarrass herself further, apparently the girl was used to this and didn’t find it offensive. It was time for her to buck up and conform somewhat to this century.

“Oi’ll be back t’ ‘elp ye dress mistress.”

“Okay,” Holland replied, not wanting to shun the servant’s help again, she owed her that much. Besides, when in Rome…

As she waited she opened the double doors of the walnut armoire amazed at the beautiful gowns and she wondered who they belonged too. Did the hunk have a wife? Dear Lord, she hoped not, she may be a thief but she didn’t steal other woman’s husbands. Well, at least not yet.

Do not go there girl!

In less span of time than it took her to mull over her stressful thoughts Vicki was once again in the room bringing with her, her sunny smile. Holland wasn’t in the mood to be this cheerful but she put on a good front for the servant. Standing in front of the armoire Vicki asked if she had decided on which gown to wear.

Holland sighed and murmured, “There are too many to choose from. I’ve never had or seen so many beautiful gowns. I’m afraid I’m not used to your custom of what to wear. Where I’m from we dress differently.” She left out what century she lived in. “We’re not so formal in my country.”

Vicki came over and explained that there were dresses for the day, for evening, and for walking. Some were made from Chinese silk, satin, soft muslin and brushed velvet. She decided to choose the simple muslin gown of pale green. Vicki frowned at her choice but didn’t comment, her expression said it all. Under the gowns, on the floor of the armoire were many colored slippers, a few pairs of half-boots of which she knew wouldn’t fit her size nine and a half shoe. And then the servant opened a trunk to reveal petticoats, bloomers, shifts and hose. She had to mind before going to bed to fill the basin with pitcher water and rinse out her black lace panties and hang them on the bed post along with her bra, which did not need a rinsing.

She was in a quandary of what to do because she had already shocked the girl by sleeping in the altogether; how was she to refuse all those undergarments and no one in her era wore stockings anymore. She thanked Vicki but she knew if she didn’t tell the servant now about refusing to wear all those undergarments, she’d have to do so later and that was out of the question. Besides, women in this time also wore corsets; no freaking way!

“I know this will shock you too but women in my country do not wear much under their dresses, except for maybe a slip and bra.”

Bra?” Vicki forked her fine brows totally confused.

Holland indulged in a deep breath and released it slowly. This was harder than pulling teeth. “Yeah, um, brassier; a shorter version of a corset,” she explained knowing she was making as much sense as two and two adding up to five. Then she showed the girl what she was talking about and the poor thing just gave her a blank stare.

“Look, I’m sorry, and I really appreciate your help so do not take offense but I’d rather dress myself. Again things are different where I come from and I’m sure if you were in my position you would also feel as I do. Please tell your master that I do not need your service.”

God, she felt awful seeing the hurt expression on Vicki’s pretty face…but hell!

“Oi will deliver the message t’ ‘is lordship, mistress.”

Holland was now alone with a huge amount of guilt resting on her shoulders.

Do not be afraid...please remain calm.

I’m injured...I’ll cause you no harm.

My paw was caught in a trap yesterday…

and I looked for assistance along the way.

If you help me get it off my painful paw...

I promise not to bother you anymore.”

White Shoulders couldn’t let a creature die;

her kind heart knew she had to give it a try.

Opening the door to let the bear inside,

she saw ice covering his furry hide.

From: White Shoulders, Black Bear, and The Four Winds



THREE

A New Life


Paxton had just begun to read about some news of Parliament, in the world’s first fully illustrated weekly newspaper marking a revolution in journalism and news reporting. He read of the great fire of Hamburg on May 5th that lasted until May 8th destroying one third of its buildings in the Altsladt, where fifty-one people perished. It started at Eduard Cohen’s cigar factory. He also read about Queen Victoria’s fancy dress ball at Buckingham Palace.

He thought the news was very interesting as he placed his empty tea cup on the desk when a voice made him look up from reading the morning papers.

“Excuse me m’lord might Oi ‘ave a word.”

Vicki was standing there mutilating her apron. She was pale and looking as if she was ready to have the vapors.

“What is the problem, Vicki, are you ill?”

“Nay, Lord Barrette, but the woman refuses t’ um, she said she does not want to wear, um…” Her knuckles were turning white from her stranglehold on her apron.

Paxton slapped the papers onto the desk more forcefully than he had intended and it made the poor girl nearly jump out of her skin.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, “but please, whatever is making you so frightened, I do not bite.” He rose and steered her to a chair. “Now, sit and calm yourself. Blimey, if the house is not on fire, it cannot be that bad. What is it that my guest refuses to do?”

This time her pale face tinted a bit pink. “She refuses t’ wear,” she swallowed hard, “ladies unmentionables.”

Although a bit shocked, and the woman’s behavior was strange to say the least,

Paxton had to restrain himself from laughing. He made light of the situation by saying, “Blimey, is that all,” he replied disinterestedly and waved his comment away and stated, “It’s all right Vicki; my guest had a bit of a scare and was hit on the head. She’s probably not in her right mind. Do not over concern yourself now and run along,” he insisted with a wave of a hand.

“But, she also said t’ tell ye that she does not want my ‘elp, an’ she insisted on wearin’ ‘er own, unmentionables.” She cleared her throat and mumbled so softly something about them being…her cheeks turned pink and she did not finish her though.

This time Paxton sighed but again promised the servant that he’d straighten this matter out and not to worry, and that she was not in trouble. Vicki didn’t look convinced and he told her to take the day off and to visit her mother.

That seemed to pacify her a little.

Paxton sat down and went back to his newspaper before the servant interrupted him. But this time he merely stared at the newspaper not seeing anything but this mysterious woman’s beautiful face. Although, there was no mistaking her chin of iron determination, her nose was straight, short and charming. And her blue eyes that had haunted his dreams all night.

She was a rare beauty. Hair, the color of walnuts, and those eyes; the devil himself could become a saint just by looking deeply into them. They were so light that he wondered if God had run out of paint when coloring them, leaving her eyes looking Angelic. The woman’s beauty was heavenly.

Paxton shook his head. He had to bring himself back to the present because Doctor Phillips was due to arrive by ten A.M. to examine the lady. He hoped she’d not provide him trouble as she had to the maid. Just then the woman of his thoughts stood by the doorway. She wore a celestial blue satin with an overlay of tulle and seeded pearls sewn in the bodice. He had to smile, she looked fetching in her attire though the dress was a mite short for her tall frame. His eyes remained on her trim ankles longer than a man should be staring if he was a gentleman. But Paxton never considered himself a fool not to enjoy the beauty of a female’s exposed limbs. He also noticed that she wore no stockings and put on her own shoes. Intriguing to say the least; he could only imagine what she looked like under the dress since Vicki’s announcement that she refused to wear anything under the garment. That vision of her nakedness made his pants feel a mite tight and he cleared his mind and swallowed the limp in his throat. He waved her forward inviting her to come to him.

“I’m happy to see that some color was returned to your face. Please sit.” He offered, watching the rise and fall of her breasts, wishing he would stop imagining what she looked like under the fabric. The muslin dress fit her snugly and she left a few button unbuttoned to show off a slight cleavage. He had not realized until now how tan her skin was, unlike the ladies of London.

The earl stood, an air of command excluded from him as he motioned to the chair by his desk. The earl was so disturbing to her in every way that she almost lost her train of thought. . She sat and managed to say, “Sorry to rise so late.”

“No need to apologize, you had a frightening experience, m’dear. Have you recovered any of your memory?”

Holland didn’t answer him and he watched her wondering if she might. She was mulling over his question deeply and decided to tell the earl her name. She did not want to be put her in an asylum to be locked up in some looney-bin and the key thrown away. She needed him as an ally until she could figure out what the hell was going on in her life. She bit her bottom lip and nodded.

Yes, I woke up this morning recalling my name, Mr. Barrette.” It was her perfect sincerity that made him cock his head to one side and study her in this new light. “Wonderful!” he cried. “And call me Lord Paxton. So now, what shall I call you?” His lips parted in a dazzling display of straight, white teeth. Steady girl, such an attraction would be perilous.

She cleared her throat, “Holland Foxx, Lord Paxton.”

“Well, Miss Foxx, I’m sure you are hungry and soon my physician will attend to you to make sure you are all right, physically that is.”

Even though Lord Paxton had the right to think she was mentally unbalanced, the notion that he believed her to be was hurtful. She liked him, maybe a little too much, but, until she could prove she was stable, she would not be able to get him to trust her.

“I assure you Lord Paxton, I am well and the bump on my head has shrunk a bit. My loss of memory doesn’t prove that I’m mentally unfit.” Her chin came up and her defiant action served to prove she meant what she said. She knew she came off sounding very insulted that he assumed she was unbalanced and she immediately regretted her hostility. “Sorry, but like I said, I’m fine, but I will let your doctor tell you himself.”

If he was offended he didn’t show it. Holland squirmed feeling a mite uncomfortable in her seat, feeling as if she were sitting in an electric chair under his scrutiny. She had not missed the fact that he was staring at her very intently; if she didn’t know better she would have believed that he was trying to picture her unclothed. Unconsciously, she clutched her dress to cover her cleavage. She then sucked in a deep breath, wondering why she suddenly felt shy. She knew she wanted to jump his bones but how does a female handle a male in this century?

One problemo at a time lectured her smart-self. Besides, he’s a man and men are easy, as you well know. Just then her mind did a little disrobing of her own. She quickly put his naked body out of her mind and decided to quickly change the subject curious to whose room she was in and clothing she was wearing. She hoped it wasn’t his wife’s, or maybe his mistress’. She couldn’t decide which one bothered her more; or why it should.


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