My Fair Lily

By: Meara Platt

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


First and foremost, to my husband Neal, for his constant support while I spent hours in my pj’s, hunched over my laptop, paying little attention to him or my share of chores around the house. Heartfelt thanks to the amazing, and deservedly successful, writers in my life: the talented good and evil twins Pamela Burford and Patricia Ryan (okay, you’re both evil, happy now?); to Stevi Mittman, who can write a hilarious mystery and still make the best angel food cake I’ve ever tasted; to Jeannie Moon, who was always there to help, even while working full time and meeting impossibly tight deadlines; to Marilyn Levinson, a great critique partner and multi-talented writer; to Bertrice Small, our very own Queen Bee—she invented the kick-ass heroine, and is an inspiration to us all; and last, but definitely not least, to Jennifer Gracen, who believed in me. Hugs to my Booktrope creative team: Laurel Busch, Samantha Williams, Greg Simanson, and Jennifer Gracen, who worked so hard to make this dream come true; and to Kenneth Shear, Jesse James Freeman, and Katherine Sears, who generously opened the Booktrope door for me.





To my father, and my mom, the fabulous Lily

To Neal, Adam, and Gigi, the loves of my life.





CHAPTER 1


Mayfair District, London

April 1818



“JASPER, YE BOLLIX! No!”

Lily Farthingale had just passed through the front gate of her family’s fashionable townhouse to turn onto Chipping Way when she heard a deep, rumbling bark, followed closely by a repeat of the man’s frantic shout. In the next moment, she was knocked to the ground by the biggest, hairiest excuse for a dog she’d ever set eyes upon, more of a muddy brown carpet with legs and a playfully wagging tail.

“Ugh! Get off me!” Lily cried, but the dog paid no heed, too excited and happy to contain his joy. He stared down at her as though she were his favorite person in the world, even though she was now flat on her back in one of the many puddles left by the morning’s rain, her spectacles dangling off her nose. “I said, get—ew!”

The slobbering beast had begun licking her face, his tongue leaving a trail of drool across her cheek, her chin, and even more disgustingly, on her mouth.

She was still spitting his drool from her lips when the owner reached her side and unceremoniously lifted Jasper out of the way. “Och, lass! Are ye hurt?”

Only my pride. “I don’t think so. But I’ve lost my book.” More precisely, she’d lost the book she had borrowed from her elderly neighbor, Lady Eloise Dayne, and was on her way to return when attacked by the playful beast. It had flown out of her hands, and she had no idea where it might have landed.

“I’m that sorry, lass. My fault entirely.” The burly Scotsman knelt beside her, looming quite large, or so he seemed to her slightly dazed eyes— for he was broad in the shoulders and almost as shaggy as his dog. His reddish-brown hair was as thick and unkempt as his companion’s. His bushy growth of beard made him appear as daunting as a pirate.

“I’ll pay for the damage, of course.” He tried to straighten the spectacles on her nose, but then simply removed them when he couldn’t. “Ewan Cameron’s the name, and I’m in residence at... och, I’m not sure o’ that yet, but you can contact me through Eloise Dayne.”

“You know Lady Dayne?” Lily gazed at him in surprise, wondering how and where a man such as he might have met her respectable neighbor.

“That I do, lass,” he said with an engaging smile.

His lips were nicely shaped, and so was his jaw, what Lily could see of it beneath his beard. She ought to have been more than a little intimidated, perhaps afraid of this rugged stranger, but he’d mentioned Eloise, which meant he was no ruffian, though he quite looked the part.

He took gentle hold of her hand. “Can ye move?”

She nodded. “I’m sure I can.”

“Good. Be careful now. Put your arms about my neck, and I’ll help ye out of this puddle.” He spoke in a deep, rumbling brogue that she found surprisingly comforting. “Poor little thing, ye must be soaked to the skin.”

Up close, practically nose to nose, Lily could not help but notice his darkly sensual eyes, a deep, forest green with flecks of gray swirling within their depths. Mercy! “You mustn’t concern yourself, sir.” A little “eep” escaped her lips as his rough hands now circled her waist and his keen, assessing gaze locked onto hers. “I’m fine… truly.”

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