Rules for Reforming a Rake(4)

By: Meara Platt



What was the expression? No good deed ever goes unpunished? Gabriel watched in horror as an arc of liquid shot from the naked imp onto his shirt front, planting a disgustingly warm, yellow stain on the once immaculate white lawn fabric.

He didn’t know whether to laugh or rage. He’d been undone. Brought to his knees by an infant and an incompetent guardian.

“Oh, dear,” the girl said, closing her eyes and groaning. “I’m so sorry. So very, very sorry.”

So was he. He ought to have listened to Ian, but not because the Farthingale women were dangerous. It seemed all Farthingales were dangerous. Young. Old. Male. Female.

The family and their servants were to be avoided at all costs.

“We’ll pay for the damage, of course,” she continued in obvious distress, her eyes remaining firmly closed, as if not seeing the damage would somehow make it go away. “We’ll replace whatever needs... er, replacing. Please have your tailor send the bill to Miss Daisy Farthingale. I’ll make certain it is paid at once.”

Gabriel’s heart stopped beating. Yes, it definitely stopped. And then it began to beat very fast.

“You’re Daisy?” he mumbled, his tongue suddenly as numb as the rest of his body. Not that he cared who she was, or what Ian had warned. He wasn’t afraid of any female, certainly not this incompetent slip of a girl.

She opened her eyes and graced him with a gentle, doe-eyed gaze. “I am.”

Very well, Ian was right. She was a force to be reckoned with, but so would any woman be with glistening blue eyes, pink cheeks, and cream-silk skin.

“Sir, may I be so bold as to ask who you are?”

“I’m late, that’s what I am.” He plunked Harry in her arms and hastened to his grandmother’s house.





CHAPTER 2




A lady must be witty and clever, for a rake is always enticed by good conversation.


DAISY STOOD at the front door of Lady Eloise Dayne’s elegant townhouse, tightly gripping the shirt in her hand. The massive carved oak door swung open and Lady Dayne’s gray-haired butler stepped forward. “Miss Daisy?”

She managed a small smile. “Good afternoon, Watling. How are you today?”

“Better than you, by the look of you,” he said, gazing down at her in that perfectly expressionless manner only the finest butlers master.

“Indeed, I’ve had a terrible day.” She let out a deflated sigh ending with a small, wincing groan.

His expression instantly mellowed. “Oh, dear. Oh, dear. Is there anything I can do to help, young miss?”

“Thank you, Watling, but I need to see Lady Dayne at once. Or rather, her visitor.” She tucked a stray strand of her hair behind one ear, knowing she looked a fright even though her hair was now tied back in an unfashionably simple ribbon that felt as though it were already coming undone. Her new gown of pale blue velvet was still damp from her misguided attempt to bathe the children. Dark blue splotches dotted the delicate bodice and skirt.

His gray eyebrows shot up. “Ah, I wondered about his state. So you’re the cause.”

She shook her head sadly as he ushered her in. “I’ve left Pruitt in charge of the children, but can’t expect him to keep them at bay for very long. Did Lady Dayne’s visitor relate what happened? I brought him this shirt... it belongs to Uncle George, but he won’t miss it. I thought it might do until his own is laundered. Is the gentleman very angry?”

An unexpected smile formed at the corners of Watling’s mouth. “He didn’t say. If he is, I’m certain he’ll get over it.”

“Yes, I suppose he will.” She followed the kindly butler into the winter salon, a small and rather cozy room filled with ornate French-style furniture, flowers, and sunshine. There was usually a fire blazing in the hearth, but Daisy noted the lack of one today, for it was warm for late February, even for Eloise, who was elderly and easily took a chill.

“I’ll advise her ladyship that you are here.”

Daisy smiled in gratitude and didn’t have long to wait before Eloise burst through the door, sailing toward her in a billowing mass of ecru satin. The lace ruffles at her throat and cuffs flapped in the breeze like raised sails on an English frigate as she wrapped Daisy in her arms. “You poor child! You’ve had quite a day!”

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