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The drive ended in a large oval forecourt before the steps leading up to a semicircular porch shielding the large front door. A small, circular fountain stood in the center of the forecourt, directly opposite the door.

Rand drove his curricle into the forecourt and around the fountain and drew up beside the edge of the lawn opposite the front steps. He set the brake, then handed the reins to Shields and stepped down. "I don't know how long I'll be." He spotted a lad coming from the stables. "Perhaps an hour—maybe two. Do what you think is best."

Shields grunted.

Rand left him to deal with the horses and carriage and set off across the forecourt.

He'd taken only two paces when a muffled 'boom!' fractured the slumbering silence.

The sound came from inside the house.

Rand checked, then his face set, and he ran toward the house.

Wisps of vapor seeped out from around the door, then the door was wrenched open, and people—maids, footmen, and others—came streaming out, along with billowing clouds of steam.

Even as he raced toward them, Rand registered that none of those coughing and waving aside the steamy clouds seemed the least bit panic-stricken. He slowed as he neared the steps. Those escaping from the house looked at him curiously—then an older lady came tottering out, one hand clutched to her impressive bosom.

Rand leapt up the steps. "Here—take my arm."

The lady blinked at him, then smiled. "Thank you. No matter how often it happens, it's always a shock." The rest of those who had emerged from the house had gathered around the fountain and stood looking expectantly at the door. The matronly lady pointed down the steps to a bench set before the flowerbed along the front of the house. "I usually sit there and catch my breath."

Swallowing the many questions leaping to his tongue, Rand assisted the lady down the steps and guided her to the bench.

She sat with a heartfelt sigh, then looked up at him. "I don't believe we've been introduced, but thank you." She looked past him
at his curricle, then raised her gaze—now openly curious—to his face. "I take it you've just arrived."

"Indeed." Before Rand could give his name, a commotion in the open doorway drew his and the lady's attention.

Someone was attempting to propel a slender gentleman outside. He was clad in a long, gray inventor's coat and sported a pair of goggles, now hanging about his neck. The coat was smudged in several places, the gentleman's dark-brown hair was sticking out from his head in tufts, and he appeared rather dazed.

The person behind him prodded more violently, and staggering somewhat, the gentleman stumbled out of the steamy interior onto the front porch.

He was followed by a young lady. Scowling ferociously, she planted her hands on her hips and glared at the hapless gentleman.

Rand blinked, then looked again.

Slender, of middling height, with a pale complexion and fine features, clad in a sky-blue gown and all but vibrating with reined
emotion, courtesy of her stance, the young lady looked every inch a virago with rose-gold hair.

Rand had never seen a more fascinating creature.

"That's it!" the virago declared. Her voice was pleasingly low, yet presently carried the razor-sharp edge of frustrated ire. "Enough!" she continued, still addressing the gentleman, who was shaking his head as if to clear smothering clouds from his brain. "You have to stop! You can't keep blowing the wretched contraption up!"

The gentleman frowned into the distance. "I think I know what went wrong." He turned toward the virago, clearly intending to argue her point. "It was the feed—"

As the gentleman swung to face the young lady, his gaze landed on Rand, and his words died.

The virago followed the gentleman's gaze. She saw Rand and stiffened. Her expression blanked, and she lowered her arms to her sides. Along with the apparently dumbfounded gentleman, she stared at Rand.

The gentleman faintly frowned. "Good afternoon. Can we help you?" His gaze flicked across the forecourt, and he took in Rand's curricle—an expensive equipage drawn by top-of-the-line horseflesh. The gentleman's eyes widened, and he looked back at Rand.

This excerpt is from the paperback edition.

Published by MIRA, an imprint of Harlequin Books
ISBN: 9780778363255 eBook ISBN: 9781488082986
Text copyright © 2018 by Savdek Management Proprietary Limited
Cover Art Copyright (c) 2018 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover
art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All
rights reserved. (R) and (TM) are trademarks owned by Harlequin
Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.


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