The Legend of Lyon Redmond

By: Julie Anne Long

“I am sorry about the ‘dry up and blow away’ bit,” he muttered sheepishly. “I wrote it before we met, you see.”

“Of course.”

“And I thought it lent pathos.”

“It does give the song a certain dramatic structure, as it were,” she acknowledged.

Her ears were still ringing from shock and her hands were icy. She probably ought to sit down. Perhaps put her head between her knees.

“A structure!” he breathed. “Yes! You are an insightful woman, Miss Eversea.” His face lit with hopeful accord and a plea for understanding.

Olivia gave a start when someone behind her slid the flash ballad from her gloved fingers.

She turned swiftly. It was Lord Landsdowne, her fiancé, looking every bit the viscount in a flawlessly fitting Weston-cut coat, his silver buttons sparkling, his Hessian toes gleaming, his affable, unmistakable air of entitlement radiating from him like beams from a benevolent sun.

She turned a surprised and delighted smile up to him.

He didn’t see it. He was too occupied absorbing the little horror in his hand.

And before her eyes his face went slowly, subtly hard.

It occurred to her that she had known him months before they were officially engaged, and yet she’d never seen him angry.

Nor had the words “Lyon” and “Redmond” ever once been spoken aloud by either of them to the other since they met.

She, in fact, hadn’t spoken those two words aloud to anyone for years.

Oh, she supposed she’d resorted to the pronoun “he” once or twice, when it could not be avoided. As if Lyon were the Almighty. Or Beelzebub.

And surely this delicacy was ludicrous. Perhaps if she made a habit of tossing his name into idle conversation now and again, it would lose its power and become meaningless and strange, as any word will if you stare at it long enough.

On the other hand, the first night she’d danced with Lyon, she’d lain sleepless, thrumming with some unnamed new joy, and then she’d crept out of bed, seized a sheet of foolscap, and feverishly filled the front and back of it with those two words. They had spilled out of her like a hosannah, or like an attempt at exorcism.

They hadn’t lost any of their power then.

“Will ye put your signature to my composition for me then, Miss Eversea?” Mr. Pickles was all humility now. Or rather, three parts humility, one part commerce. “It might very well make me a rich man. I could sell it to the Montmorency Museum to show along with your brother’s, Mr. Colin Eversea’s, suit of clothes. The ones he was nearly hung in.”

Blast. She’d forgotten about Colin’s bequest. She sighed.

Someone was bound to fund a Museum of Eversea Ignominy one day.

“She’ll sign nothing,” Landsdowne said evenly. But his eyes were flints. “I’ll give you a shilling to leave here and never return.”

Olivia’s head jerked toward him in astonishment. He hadn’t yet looked directly at her or greeted her, which was both unnerving and intriguing.

Obviously his intent was to protect her honor.

Not to mention his own.

But she’d always found it well nigh intolerable when someone else spoke for her. And this was the first time Landsdowne had done any such thing.

They locked eyes at last, and she watched his soften, the way they always did when they landed on her.

“Oh, where’s the harm in signing it?” she coaxed him. “Perhaps if Mr. Pickles becomes wealthy he won’t need to sell more of these songs. And far be it for any of us to discourage an entrepreneur.”

“Miss Eversea, if I may interject? In the spirit of honesty, I fear I am at the mercy of the muse. My compositions burble forth like a spring from the earth, and riches are hardly likely to discourage them.” Mr. Pickles was the picture of contrite humility.

“Then tell me what it will cost to build a dam,” Landsdowne said grimly.

“We’ll have Madame Marceau fetch a quill,” Olivia soothed. “I shall sign it and leave it with her, with instructions to give it to Mr. Pickles after I’m gone for the day.”

She’d learned that her smiles were Landsdowne’s weakness, so she gave him one. Conciliatory and charming and warm.

And challenging.

He hesitated. As if he was contemplating countermanding her.

She stiffened her spine, as if bracing for a wind.

This was what marriage would be like, she realized. Countless little negotiations, both subtle and overt. Which the two of them, of course, would conduct in the most civilized manner imaginable, because two more reasonable adults had never walked the earth, and a more even-tempered man had never been born. And surely it would be balm after brothers who had dangled from the trellises of married countesses, gone to the gallows only to vanish from them in a cloud of smoke, married controversial American heiresses, and been shot at a good deal during the war.

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