And the Miss Ran Away With the Rake - By Elizabeth Boyle Page 0,1

very respectable and previously sedate Cumberland Place, was a large residence that Henry had inherited from his mother, though he had yet to live in it. He, Preston and Hen (when she was between husbands) lived quite comfortably in the official London residence of the Seldons on Harley Street, just off the corner of Cavendish Square. With such a good address and all the comforts of a ducal residence, Henry saw no reason to strike out on his own.

Besides, he could collect an indecent amount of rent for his well-situated Mayfair house—though now even that was in question. He glared at his nephew again, but Preston was too busy studying his newspaper to notice.

Probably examining it for more gossip about, what else, himself.

Really, who wouldn’t blame Lady Taft for threatening to quit the lease, what with a bell that was ringing constantly from the steady arrival of these demmed letters?

All addressed to A Sensible Gentleman.

Well, right now he felt anything but sensible.

Henry shoved his seat back from the table and got to his feet. Crossing the room in a few quick strides, he caught up the first basket and strode over to the fireplace.

“Good heavens!” Hen exclaimed, jumping up. “Whatever are you doing?”

Even Preston put down his newspaper and gaped.

“What does it look like?” Henry said, poised before the grate. “I am going to burn the lot of them.”

Hen dashed across the room, a black streak in her widow’s weeds, and yanked the basket from his grasp. “You cannot do that.”

He tried to retrieve it, but this was Hen, and she was quite possibly the most stubborn Seldon who had ever lived. She turned so the basket was out of his reach and glared at him.

“The ladies who wrote these letters did so with great care. They are expecting responses. You cannot just burn them to suit your mood,” she said, looking down at the basket of notes she held. “You must reply to them. All of them.”

Too busy hoping that the overwhelming eau du floral rising from the pages would leave his sister overcome, Henry gave scant regard to what she was saying. All he could hope was that when Hen was out cold on the floor, he’d have enough time to consign them to the flames before she came to.

But not even the happy image of these annoying reminders of Preston’s prank roasting over the coals could overshadow what Hen was saying.

What she wanted him to do: answer them.

Henry stilled. Answer them? All of them?

A notion that Preston found quite amusing. “Yes, Henry, I quite agree,” the duke said. “You wouldn’t want to disappoint so many ladies. That would hardly be sensible.”

Henry ignored Preston and faced down his sister. “You can’t seriously expect me to write to all those women?”

“But of course! Each one of these poor, dear souls is awaiting your answer. Most likely watching the post as we speak.”

He let out a graveled snort at the image of lovelorn spinsters all over London—and from the return addresses, a good part of England—sitting by their front doors in hopes true love was about to arrive in a scrap of paper, sealed with a wafer. “That is ridiculous.”

“It is not,” Hen said, in that tone of hers that Henry knew all too well meant she would brook no opposition. Hen carried the basket to the table and began sorting through the feminine appeals. “Do you recall what I was like when Lord Michaels was courting me and how distraught I was when I did not hear from him for two days straight?”

Both Henry and Preston groaned at the mere mention of that bounder’s name.

Michaels being her second husband. There had been three to date—with her most recent venture, Lord Juniper, having died suddenly nearly six months earlier. Hence the widow’s weeds and the onset of Hen’s sentimental side.

“I had no idea if he loved me or not,” she declared, clutching a few of the letters to her breast, as if to make a desperate point. That is until the competing florals doused over the letters made her sneeze and she had to surrender the missives back into the basket.

“Didn’t stop you from marrying him when he did bother to show up,” Henry muttered. Then again, he’d never approved of Lord Michaels. A mere baron and barely that.

Hen sniffed. “Be that as it may, those two days, when I knew not what he was thinking, those were the longest, worst two days of my life.”

“Really, Hen? Isn’t that doing