Nebraska Center for Writers

by Connie Crow

Janette struggle to maintain an attentive posture. Cousin Beatrice was correct. The weeks since her "coming out dance" at the Pavilion had been filled with visitors. Several Viscounts and even the occasional Marquis had come calling, vying for her affections. Meadow View's rose garden paths were becoming quite worn from all the strolling she'd done with the various hopefuls, but not one had captured her heart.
She really should be more cooperative. Lord Worthingham was doing his best to hold her attention and "do the pretty", as her Grace had described the behavior of saying things that were supposed to flatter and impress her. What a shame it wasn't working. She'd evidently missed something important, from the expectant look on his face. "Forgive me, Lord Worthingham, I must have been wool gathering. You were saying?"
"I was saying, my dear, that the roses nearly match the lovely gown you're wearing today. The Guilworth rose garden is a perfect setting for you."
She smiled and tried to flutter her fan as her cousin had suggested. Lud, what a trial. This was just nonsense. If he were impressed by this behavior, she'd not be able to stand him. "Thank you, Lord Worthingham. Don't you think..."
The sentence remained unfinished when a sharp crack echoed over her shoulder and the head disappeared from the cherub adorning the fountain next to her. Janette's scream echoed throughout the garden and she dropped like a stone to the ground. Lord Worthingham dove over the bench and into the clump of rosebushes behind, seeking protection from the sudden attack.
Drew's voice echoed from inside the house. "Toddy! Stop him."
In an instant, strong arms scooped her up. Drew's whisper buzzed in her ear. "Are you all right?"
She nodded, unable to answer. His arms tightened around her. "Don't be afraid, I have you."
She slid her arms around his neck and he whisked her inside, leaving Worthingham sitting amid the bushes. She could feel his heart pounding in time with hers. Keeping her head tight to his chest, she wished she could stay right there forever. Her voice came as a whisper, "Someone is really shooting at me, aren't they?"
"It does seem so. But don't worry. I won't let it happen again."
She raised her head to meet his concerned gaze. "Thank you for rescuing me. I can't imagine who would want to hurt me. Did Toddy catch the blackguard?"
"We'll have to see. I'm keeping you right here, until he returns."
Janette suppressed a smile. It felt so right to be in his arms--to be within the circle of his protection. She'd never felt like this before, never in her whole life. No one had ever made her feel so safe, so secure, even though she'd evidently been shot at--again. She realized his breathing had slowed and he was just standing there, holding her, his cheek against her hair.
This was a bit unseemly, even under the circumstances. He seemed in no hurry at all to release his grasp. She trembled with pleasure at the press of his strong fingertips against her ribs. Reluctantly, she broke the stillness of the moment. "I believe I am all right, Drew. You may put me down now."
He raised his head to look deep into her eyes. "Are you sure?"

Reprinted with permission
from No Place for a Lady
Copyright © 2008
by Connie Crow
Awe-Struck Books

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