It Started with a Scandal

By: Julie Anne Long

“And I will be your wife.”

“Are you certain of that, chérie?”

“Oh, yes. As you pointed out, I’m a gambler.”

“Ah, very good. And I have learned how to play the long game.”

“Perfect. Between us, we are certain to always win.”

It was then he kissed her, tentatively at first, as if it had been the very first time he’d kissed her.

And then he claimed her with a kiss so thorough and passionate that birds were flushed from nearby trees, as if a fire had begun below.

Her parents and Jack had, in fact, watched and heard the entire thing from the upper-­story windows.

“She takes after you,” her father said to her mother, who was dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief, and her mother elbowed him in the ribs.

THEY WERE MARRIED in the church in Pennyroyal Green by the Reverend Sylvaine. The wedding was attended by a very surprised but surprisingly sentimental Earl and Countess of Ardmay, and witnessed by happily weeping family members and servants.

And when they burst triumphantly from the church to the cheers of gathered onlookers, Philippe and Jack promptly climbed the bell tower together.

And then Philippe hoisted Jack up, and together they made that bell peal so joyfully it was heard in nearly every corner of Sussex.

And at the great celebration in the hall after the wedding, some noted that Seamus Duggan was a trifle more subdued than usual, and that his fiddle sounded a little more plaintive whilst playing the “Sussex Waltz.”

IN LONDON, LYON Redmond, also known as Mr. Hardesty, a successful trader, was preparing to board his ship when a man in midnight blue, silver-­trimmed livery strode up the gangplank.

All around their captain, hands went to swords and pistols, and the footman, to his astonishment, met a bristling phalanx of hard-­faced men.

The footman bowed. “I seek Mr. Hardesty.”

“I am he.”

He bowed.

“For you, sir.” The footman extended the message.

“Hold,” Lyon said to the footman, who had, with great but unfounded optimism, turned to leave.

Poor Ramsey, who had won the coin toss, remained obediently motionless, face admirably impassive, while the tips of a half dozen swords glinted in the sun at him.

Lyon broke the seal.

He went still.

“Pay the man,” he said absently.

Someone flicked a guinea at Ramsey. He caught it neatly.

Nine words.

She’s getting married on the second Saturday in May.

And thusly, Lavay discharged his debt to Lyon Redmond.

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