The Legend of Lyon Redmond

By: Julie Anne Long



She laughed.

“All these wedding preparations would shred even Admiral Nelson’s nerves, Olivia. Mine are usually unassailable, and I swear I can hear them groaning from the strain,” he confided. “Are you certain you won’t allow me to whisk you off to Gretna Green?” It was only half in jest.

“As tempting as that sounds, my mother and Madame Marceau would likely make a widow of me the day they found out. We’ve had a number of weddings in the family lately, but no pomp, and I think everyone believes they deserve a little pomp.”

“Oh, but we deserve pomp, too,” he teased gently. “And truthfully, my mother and sisters are both expecting and demanding it, too. Very well. Then at least allow me to take you to Ackermann’s for tea, or perhaps Twining’s when they’ve done pinning you, or whatever it is they do to women in there.” He gestured at the shop. “They’re both on the Strand and we’re so close. I knew you’d be here—I stopped by your town house and spoke a bit with your mother and your brother. It was . . . I’d simply hoped to steal some time with you.”

“I would love that!” she said quite sincerely. She loved wandering about Ackermann’s, poring over the new prints and sifting through the pretty little gifts they sold. She’d found her tortoiseshell card case there. “And please don’t consider it stealing time. I shall give it freely and happily.”

“Perhaps we can find a new print or two for our town house in Ackermann’s. I should like you to impose your taste upon it, since I haven’t any of my own.”

Our. They were going to be an our, too.

She’d have a new home. New furnishings.

A new . . . bed.

A new life.

“Nonsense. Your taste is excellent, if a trifle subdued. Be careful what you wish for—you may find yourself up to your ears in embroidered pillows.”

“It sounds comfortable. I’ll never fear stumbling in the house if I can anticipate a soft landing.”

She laughed. “Call for me in two hours? I should have been sufficiently tortured by the seamstresses by then.”

“Until we meet again, my dear,” he said, with a quirk of one brow, and bowed.

As he turned to go he tripped over the beggar’s foot, which was suddenly and inconveniently thrust outward.

Landsdowne swore softly and recovered aplomb neatly, and he was on his way.

Olivia bit back a smile and stepped into the shop at last.

Madame Marceau, whose name was French and purely fictional, and her long, pleasingly homely face pure Plantagenet, clasped her hands in delight when she saw Olivia, and then curtsied, and then wrung the very same hands in despair.

“Oh, Miss Eversea, I am so thrilled we’ll be pinning you into your wedding gown today. It will rival even Princess Charlotte’s! But you see, we have a bit of a predicament. The girl who assisted me, Mademoiselle Marie-Anne, has abandoned me suddenly—she came into some money and moved to the country like that!” Madame Marceau snapped her fingers. “And I have been called to see to an urgent matter in my other shop on Bond Street. Fortunately Providence has seen fit to provide me with the very competent new assistant just when my need is greatest. I am so sorry to be unable to see to you personally today!”

“Think nothing of it, Madame. I trust your judgment implicitly, and I’m sure your new assistant, Mademoiselle . . .”

“Lilette.”

Lilette? Olivia almost rolled her eyes. “. . . Mademoiselle Lilette will acquit herself admirably, as I know you would only employ the best.”

Madame Marceau beamed gratefully at this, and the mademoiselle in question appeared from behind her. She was small, pale, pleasingly round girl with soulful dark eyes and dark hair, which was scraped away from her face into a tight, sensible knot. Her severe, high-necked, exquisitely tailored dress implied only the clientele were allowed to shine.

“Mademoiselle Lilette, if you would be so kind as to assist Miss Eversea? I shall return as quickly as possible.”

“Mais bien sûr, Madame Marceau. If you would follow me, Miss Eversea.”

Olivia followed her and divested herself of her pelisse and dress behind a screen and slipped into what would be her wedding gown when she finally decided on the proper trim and all the millions of measurements were concluded. Mademoiselle Lilette dropped to her knees at Olivia’s feet with the torture instruments of her trade, pins and measure tape.

A shilling clearly hadn’t bought enough distance. The bloody song started up again outside.

Eight verses wouldn’t come close to addressing the millions of things she’d imagined happening to Lyon Redmond over the years. She wondered whether there were any verses about Lyon Redmond dying in a ditch. Certainly a good many things rhymed with “ditch.”

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