Miss Richardson Comes Of Age (Zebra Regency Romance)

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Authors: Wilma Counts
in conversation with the Lambs.
    He found himself torn between wanting to linger at this group or that and the desire to meet as many of these people as possible. It occurred to him again that Luke had the right of it—he needed to get out more. He had not realized how starved he was for just such stimulating discourse.
     
     
    Annabelle had been shocked to see Lord Rolsbury turn up at Aunt Gertrude’s gathering—she had not thought of her hostess as “Lady Hermiston” in years. Actually Lord Wyndham’s aunt by marriage, the lady saw herself—and was readily accepted—as very much a member of the family of Marcus Jeffries, Earl of Wyndham. Aunt Gertrude also knew of Annabelle’s relationship to Miss Emma Bennet, for Lady Hermiston had been present at Miss Bennet’s “birth.”
    As might be expected, there were mixed reactions to Mr. Stephenson’s remarks.
    “It will never work,” Mr. Watson repeated.
    “A whole network of rails throughout England?”
    “Preposterous! ”
    “What a marvelous idea.”
    “Who will pay for it?”
    Annabelle had been only mildly interested in the concept of rail transportation, but she listened with increasing interest as Mr. Stephenson outlined the advantages of such. Faster, less expensive, and more —these words dotted the engineer’s speech. When it was over and the questions had died out, the company drifted back into small groups to discuss the prospect of rail transport and then to push on to their own favorite topics. Annabelle found herself unexpectedly standing next to Lord Rolsbury at the refreshment table.
    She hesitated only a moment when she saw him obviously considering the struggle of trying to cope with a plate and a glass—and his walking stick. “May I offer you my assistance, sir?”
    He gave her a look of mild chagrin. “I seem in need of it.”
    She took charge. “You take the glass; I can handle both plates and my glass.” She looked around. “Ah. There is a free spot at that small table over there. I shall join you as soon as I manage to snatch one of those apricot tarts before they are gone.”
    He did as she said and stood waiting for her to join him. As he leaned near her to push her chair in, she caught a faint scent of the woodsy-pine aroma of what must have been his shaving soap. He even smells like the outdoors, she thought.
    “Here. I brought you one, too.” She placed a tart on his plate.
    “Thank you.” He gave her a teasing grin. “Partial to apricot tarts, are you?”
    “Oh, yes! They are above all my favorites.”
    “I shall keep that in mind.”
    She was amazed at how much such an innocuous comment pleased her. The room at large buzzed with conversation and they were surrounded by other people, but there was a special intimacy to their sharing this small table.
    “What did you think of Mr. Stephenson’s remarks?” she asked conversationally to cover her nervousness.
    “I am inclined to think there is a great deal of merit in them. However, such a project as he envisions will not be easy.”
    “Impossible, perhaps?”
    “No,” he said. “We are seeing steam power put to more and more uses—in our knitting mills, for instance. But those are private entities. Mr. Stephenson’s project will take a tremendous amount of interest—not to say effort and funding—on the part of public entities.”
    “You do not speak only of Parliament, do you?” She saw him raise his brows at this question.
    “No. I do not. It must also involve bankers and businessmen. The sheer logistics will be staggering—mate—rials, right-of-way struggles—staggering!”
    They sat in silence for a moment. Then, sounding a bit hesitant, he said, “Miss Richardson, I wonder if I might enlist your aid on a project of my own?”
    “If I may be of help, certainly.”
    “I gather you are familiar with the writers in this room—and their works?”
    “Yes-s-s . . .” It was her voice that sounded hesitant now.
    “Are you also familiar with the

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