The Hellion and The Heartbreaker

By: Jennifer McNare
Chapter 1

England, 1840

“Put me down this instant,” Scarlett demanded, her voice imperious despite the indignity of her current position, dangling head first over her eldest brother, Colin’s shoulder. Much to her chagrin, he simply continued to laugh as she thumped fruitlessly upon his back with her small fists.

“Well now, what do we have here?”

Scarlett immediately stopped pounding on Colin’s back and turned her head toward the voice. Her long red tresses swirled around her, standing out like brilliant flames against the white of Colin’s shirt as she hurriedly pushed them aside. It was Conner. She thanked her lucky stars that it wasn’t Tess, and knew she still had a chance. Although she adored Tess, her governess was no push over. Her harassed, yet much beloved brothers were much easier targets for the cunning wiles of her quick mind.

She watched as Conner approached, quickly altering the look on her face from mutinous to despondent. Her brother shook his head, grinning at her morose expression, not seeming the least bit surprised to see her hanging upside down over Colin’s shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

Still grinning, he stepped forward and playfully tugged on one of her curls. “What have you done this time, Minx?” he asked.

Scarlett felt a flash of ire at her brother’s assumption, but with a little effort she maintained the pitiful expression. “I haven’t done anything,” she whimpered with exaggerated dejection. “Colin’s just being an awful bully.”

To her extreme annoyance, Colin and Connor looked at each other with barely concealed amusement, rolling their matching blue eyes, the same blue eyes that she and all four of her brothers had inherited from their beautiful English mother. She looked away, her jaw tightening as she fought to control her rising temper.

“A bully am I?” Colin queried with a chuckle, grabbing Scarlett around the waist and setting her back on her feet in front of him. He cocked an eyebrow as she looked up and met his gaze, his expression skeptical. “Did I not just catch you trying to sneak out to the stables, young lady?”

Standing well over six feet tall, Colin was an imposing figure. Large and muscular, he seemed enormous in comparison to her small frame, but she didn’t fear him, not in the least. In fact, she adored him. At present however, he was the sole recipient of her rapidly increasing ire. She fought the urge to stamp her booted feet on the polished marble tile that spread the length of the large two-story foyer, knowing there was another, more effective method of getting her way. She turned toward Conner, gazing up at him through the thick veil of her long dark lashes, affording him with the saddest, most forlorn look she could muster, and then turned back to Colin. “I just wanted to see the new horses,” she said with a sad little pout, her voice conveying the perfect combination of contrition and desolation.

“Lessons first, Scarlett,” Colin stated firmly. “You know the rules.” He looked pointedly at Conner, the unspoken message was clear – stand firm!

Scarlett stood before her brothers in her typical garb, a wrinkled and worn long-sleeved cotton shirt, a hand me down from one of the twins, tucked into a pair of faded breeches, another hand me down, and a gleaming pair of black riding boots, custom made especially for her by one of London’s premier boot makers. They were her most prized possession. She cast her eyes downward, staring at the tops of her boots, brushing the toe of the right one lightly from side to side against the marble floor. As usual, her red hair was unbound and fell around her shoulders in a tangled mass of unruly curls. She heaved a long drawn out sigh, and then after a moment’s pause, made a small sniffling sound. When she raised her head, Conner and Colin’s expressions were nearly identical, expressions that said, not this time Scarlett. Her lower lip quivered, she gave another dramatic sniffle, and with a prowess that would have done the most skilled stage actress proud, a single tear rolled slowly down her cheek. Their stern expressions faltered, and so quickly that it was almost laughable, their resolve crumbled before her eyes.

“All right, but just this once!” Colin said, as Conner nodded his agreement.

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