Today's Reading

She stopped before completing the thought, but Leo knew what she'd been about to say. She'd expected him to come home last year. For his father's funeral. But Leo hadn't.

Poppy pasted on a smile. "In any event, I'm glad you're here now. Will you be staying long?"

Leo nodded. "I sold my apartment in London. I'm moving back permanently," he explained. "To be closer to my mother and to take over my grandfather's practice."

"That's wonderful," Poppy said brightly. "I wish I could introduce you to my husband, but he's in London at the moment. Our daughter, Alexa, and I will be joining him tomorrow and will stay for several weeks while we attend to some business matters."

"My mother mentioned that you've been helping the local fishermen expand their operations," Leo said. "She says that, thanks to you, Bellehaven will soon be the fishing capital of England."

"Initially, I simply wanted our fisheries to be able to compete with the new ships off the coast," Poppy said with a smile. "But I confess I like the sound of your mother's idea."

The duchess's gaze flicked to the dance floor where Kitty waltzed with a tall, dark-haired toff, and her smile faded a notch—as if she  didn't much care for the man. But that might have been wishful thinking on Leo's part.

He lifted his chin in Kitty's direction. "I see some things haven't changed. She still has legions of admirers." 

"Indeed." Faint lines marred the duchess's forehead, confirming his earlier impression. "The problem isn't so much with quantity as it is quality," she added vaguely.

Leo arched a brow. "You don't approve of her dance partner?"

Poppy's color rose. "I didn't mean to disparage the marquess. I'm sure the matchmaking mamas consider him a good match."

"But you don't?"

Poppy leaned closer and whispered, "Lord Hadenwood is handsome, charming, and wealthy," she began, as if these were strikes against him. "Accustomed to having beautiful young ladies falling at his feet. He flits between balls and soirees, leaving a trail of romantic conquests in his wake."

Leo grunted, indicating she needn't elaborate further. "He's a rake."

She shrugged helplessly. "Many young women are drawn to his type."

"Including Kitty?" he asked, fully aware that he was dancing close to a line.

The duchess hesitated. "I know your relationship with her has always been a bit..."

"Adversarial?" he offered.

She shot him a grateful smile. "Right. But you know her better than most. She is not easily manipulated, and yet, she's never been able to resist a challenge. I fear she'll be so engaged in idle flirtations, so knee-deep in battles of wits that she won't notice when a genuinely good and kind man tries to capture her affections."

Leo mustered a sympathetic chuckle. "So you're saying nice blokes don't stand a chance against rakes?"

"I would not go that far," Poppy said. "But I must admit that when it comes to winning a woman's heart, a man with a silver tongue, a wicked grin, and a dangerous air has something of an unfair advantage."

The duchess's words were still echoing in his head as Kitty twirled past him in a blur of golden curls and sea-green silk, tugging a piece of his heart along behind her. Maybe it was a good thing that he hadn't been able to pull her aside and tell her that he'd thought of her every day and dreamt of her every night.

Because if being nice was a curse, he was doomed. 

He didn't stand a chance in hell with Kitty Beckett.

Kitty prided herself on being able to spot a rake at one hundred paces, and her current dance partner, Lord Hadenwood, was a prime example from his tousled hair to his polished Hessian boots. The question was whether he was the right sort of rake for her.

Namely the sort who was practical enough to marry, kind enough to be a good father, and enlightened enough to support her career goals. She needed a man who was decent but who wouldn't demand all of her heart. Because she couldn't give it.

Some evenings Kitty felt as though she was on the hunt for a unicorn—and destined to find nothing but donkeys. 

"Tonight's ball rivals any that I have attended in London," the marquess said loftily. "I confess I am surprised."

"Bellehaven isn't so very far from civilization," Kitty teased. "I like to think that what we lack in culture we make up for with charm."

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...