A Bachelor’s Pledge
By Penny Hampson
The woman who haunts his dreams
Secret agent Phil Cullen is upset when he discovers that the young woman he rescued from Mrs Newbody’s establishment has absconded from his housekeeper’s care without a word. Thinking he has been deceived, he resolves to forget about her… something easier said than done.
The man she wants to forget
Sophia Turner is horrified when she is duped into entering a notorious house of ill-repute. Then a handsome stranger comes to her aid. Desperate that no one learns of this scandalous episode, Sophia flees to the one friend she knows she can trust. With luck, she will never see her mysterious rescuer again.
But fate has other plans…
Months later, Phil is on the trail of an elusive French agent and Sophia is a respectable lady’s companion when fate again intervenes, taking their lives on a collision course.
Traitors, spies, and shameful family secrets - will these bring Sophia and Phil together… or drive them apart?
Heart-warming romance combined with action-filled adventure make this third book in Penny Hampson’s Gentleman Series a must-read for all lovers of classic Regency fiction.
The door rattled and Phil looked up. ‘Enter.’
He wondered what Mrs Dobson wanted now. The door moved on its hinges, and a head appeared round it – a head that most definitely did not belong to his housekeeper.
‘Mrs Dobson told me that I’d find you in here.’
Phil leapt to his feet. ‘Come in, Miss Hart. I trust you slept well? Have you breakfasted yet?’
Her gaze flickered over the room as she answered in softly modulated tones. ‘Thank you, yes, Mr Cullen, to both your questions. I’m afraid I have rather overslept. I’m usually up at first light.’ She was seemingly satisfied with the state of his study. Who indeed would not approve of such a well-ordered temple of industry, with its tidy desk with neat piles of papers and shelves of carefully arranged books? A smile lit up her face as she added, ‘Mrs Dobson was kind enough to bring me a tray when she woke me.’
Phil’s eyes widened momentarily. It wasn’t usual for his housekeeper to indulge his friends. It occurred to him that perhaps Mrs Dobson had just been making an exception for the higher sensibilities of such a charming female. Seeing Miss Hart in daylight, he had to admit that she looked very charming, especially when she smiled. Ordering his thoughts to behave, he smiled back at her.
‘Come and sit down, Miss Hart.’
He pulled out a chair for her and perched himself on the side of his desk. His gaze took in her dainty, reddened hands as she ran them over her skirts in a futile attempt to smooth the creases. Her dress, though shabby, was clean and well repaired. He noted that her dark chestnut hair, which he recalled as being rather unkempt the previous night, was now tied back in a neat bun. She raised her head, and for the first time he had an excellent view of her face. The pallor of her cheeks, which he attributed to her confinement by the despicable Mrs Newbody, contrasted with the dark lustre of her hair. Her striking blue eyes peered at him with a peculiar intensity and what he could only describe as a hint of anxiety. It was difficult for him to drag his own gaze away. In short, she was attractive – not a beauty, but definitely not a hardship to gaze upon.
‘I suppose I’d better decide what is to be done with you, Miss Hart.’ He knew he’d said the wrong thing when two spots of colour appeared in her cheeks.
‘I beg your pardon, sir?’ Her eyes flashed as she spoke, and he was taken by surprise at her tone: suppressed anger, if he was not mistaken. Though why should she be angry? He’d rescued her from that awful place, hadn’t he?
‘What is the matter, Miss Hart? I’m merely stating the obvious. I will need to come up with a place of safety for you. You can’t stay here.’ No, she definitely couldn’t stay. His was a bachelor household.
Her blue eyes narrowed. ‘I agree, Mr Cullen. But I will decide—’
He cut her off. He was in charge here. ‘What are you talking about? You’ve told me you don’t have any family. You do not know London. How can you possibly decide for yourself? Leave it to me, why don’t you?’ He disguised his irritation at her impertinence with the smile he’d withheld previously. A smile that usually got him out of tight spots. It didn’t work now. Miss Hart continued to glare at him. If looks could kill, he was sure he’d be lying dead on his Turkey carpet by now.
‘You probably think you know best, Mr Cullen, but really’ – she rolled her eyes – ‘do you expect me to wait mute until you decide where I should be sent to live the rest of my life? Be reasonable, please.’ Her words were coming out through clenched teeth, he could tell. He’d not expected her to argue. Indeed, he’d anticipated only gratitude for his help and thought she’d be ready to accept any suggestion he made.
This was the second character misjudgement he’d made in less than a week, and in his line of work it was something he should excel at. First the lad Jack and now Miss Hart. His jaw tightened. As a gentleman, it was his role to protect any female in his care. Why was she being obstinate when all he wanted to do was ensure her safety? His self-confidence dissolved in a mist of uncertainty. Playing for time, he pushed himself away from the desk and paced to the window, hands clenched by his sides. Gazing at the scene outside, he instinctively knew Miss Hart’s head had turned to follow him. Damn it! He could feel her eyes burning into the back of his skull.
He got his irritation under control and turned to face her. Yes, as expected, she had turned in her chair and was looking at him with those penetrating blue eyes. Her legs, he noticed, were outlined under her dress as she’d twisted in her seat – quite shapely legs, in fact. He dragged his eyes away and tried a different tack.
‘What would you like to do then, Miss Hart? Have you any ideas?’
The bright blue eyes widened momentarily before turning away. The once-pale cheeks were now delightfully flushed. ‘Erm… well, I haven’t a firm plan as yet.’ There was a lingering hint of defiance as her gaze returned to his. ‘But I’m sure I will think of something.’
He hid his smirk behind his hand as he pretended to clear his throat. ‘Well, why don’t you go and ponder on it in the drawing room while I carry on with some urgent business? I shouldn’t be above an hour. We can discuss the matter in more detail then. There should be some reading material there to keep you occupied should you get bored after you’ve come up with your plan.’
Miss Hart looked as if she was about to argue, and then her mouth clamped shut. She nodded her head and stood up, giving him a brief flash of her eyes from beneath lowered lashes before she turned to the door.
‘Very well, sir.’
By the slump of her shoulders as she departed the room, he had the satisfaction of knowing that she’d bowed to his superior knowledge of how things should be ordered. His world tilted back onto its axis.
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A Bachelor’s Pledge
Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.
Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a historical mystery/romance and the first in The Gentlemen Series. An Officer’s Vow soon followed and the latest in the series is A Bachelor’s Pledge.
But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published earlier this year by Darkstroke.
Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).
Connect with Penny:
Blog • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads • Amazon Author Page.
Thank you for featuring me on your blog, Mary Anne!ReplyDelete