The Lady Travelers Guide to Deception with an Unlikely Earl

CHAPTER ONE

 

London, January 1892

“Would anyone care to explain this to me?” Sidney Althea Gordon Honeywell looked up from the newspaper clippings spread before her on the table in her small dining room. “Well?”

Across the table, three of the dearest ladies Sidney had ever known stared back at her, the very picture of elderly innocence.

“Anyone,” Sidney prompted. “Anyone at all?”

“I think it speaks for itself, dear,” Lady Guinevere Blodgett said in a vaguely chastising manner.

Mrs. Persephone Fitzhew-Wellmore nodded. She and Lady Blodgett had long insisted Sidney call them by their given names—Poppy and Gwen—in spite of the nearly fifty-year difference in their ages as it made them feel terribly old otherwise and they weren’t at all fond of that. “I don’t really see what needs to be explained.”

The third member of the trio, Mrs. Ophelia Higginbotham—Aunt Effie—wisely held her tongue.

Sidney narrowed her eyes. “Youhave nothing to say?”

“Not quite yet.” Effie—her grandmother’s dearest friend and an aunt by affection rather than blood—smiled pleasantly. “I would rather hear your thoughts first.”

“No doubt.” Sidney studied the clippings on the table although there was no need. The words had burned themselves into her mind the moment she read them. “It appears we have a series of letters to TheTimesfrom—” she picked up a clipping “—the Earl of Brenton in which he alleges that I don’t know what I write about. That my stories are total fiction. That I’ve never been to Egypt. That I am in fact a fraud. And, as we all know—” she blew a resigned breath “—I am.”

“Rubbish,” Aunt Effie said staunchly. “You never claimed your stories were anything other than fiction.”

“It’s not your fault that the public decided your adventures were real,” Poppy added.

“Regardless, I should have corrected the mistaken impression the moment I became aware of it.” It still bothered Sidney that she had allowed herself to be talked out of doing exactly that.

When Sidney had begun writing her Tales of a Lady Adventurer in Egypt in an attempt to supplement her modest income shortly after her mother’s death four years ago, she had no idea her work would ever be published, let alone become popular. Sidney’s father died some thirteen years ago, leaving Sidney and her mother a cozy house near Portman Square and an adequate income from a small trust. Father no doubt assumed Mother would eventually remarry or at least that his daughter would find a husband, but Sidney had not had the opportunity. Mother never recovered from losing the love of her life and her grief took a toll on her health. It was left to Sidney to run their small household as well as care for her mother, a responsibility Sidney neither questioned nor resented.

“Your popularity did take us all unawares. But when your book was published with all of your previously published storiesfrom the Daily Messengerit did seem everyone was reading it and clamoring for more of your work. By then it really was too late.” Gwen shrugged. “It’s hard to undo something like that. No one ever believes it was inadvertent. We know you, of course, and we are well aware that you simply didn’t notice the attention your stories were receiving. You do tend to live in your own little world when you’re writing, Sidney dear.”

In hindsight Sidney felt like something of a ninny but writing did sweep her away to another world altogether. A world of adventure and romance that at times seemed more real than the London she lived in.

“Besides, we thought it was quite thrilling,” Poppy said, her eyes glittering with excitement. “Why, you’ve become famous. The Queen of the Desert and all.”

Sidney winced at the title her readers had bestowed upon her.

“And wasn’t your Mr. Cadwallender rather pleased that your readers thought your adventures were true?” Poppy pointed out.

“The man was ecstatic. He said it would make the stories more popular and I allowed myself to be convinced.” Sidney struggled to keep calm even as her future, her dreams, were crumbling around her. “I should have known it would come to this.”

Sidney still wasn’t sure how the public misunderstanding had happened. After all, the main character in Sidney’s stories was Millicent Forester, a charming young widow and intrepid adventurer who had lost her husband shortly after they arrived in Egypt. A woman confident and courageous and all the things Sidney was not. But while Millicent was nothing more than a figment of Sidney’s imagination, her writing was based on the journals of her grandmother Althea Gordon. Admittedly Sidney did take a fair amount of poetic license, and with each new work, her stories bore less and less resemblance to her grandmother’s experiences. Sidney wouldn’t have known anything about her grandmother at all had it not been for Aunt Effie.

It was shortly after her father’s death that Sidney first made Aunt Effie’s acquaintance. She was the wife of a military man who had then become an explorer and adventurer when his days of service to the Crown ended. Effie had met Sidney’s grandmother through mutual acquaintances. Years later, Effie would tell Sidney it was as if they’d each discovered a sister they never knew they had. They forged a friendship that would last the rest of Althea’s life. Much of that life was spent in Egypt with Sidney’s grandfather Alfred, locating and excavating ancient ruins and recovering lost artifacts. Althea regularly wrote her dear friend of their adventures and kept scrupulous records in the form of her journals that she would leave with Effie for safekeeping when she and her husband headed back to the desert.

It was through her grandmother’s letters to Effie that Sidney learned of her mother’s estrangement from her parents. It had always been something of a mystery and while Sidney was named in part for her grandmother, her mother had avoided further discussion. The Gordons were lost at sea when Sidney was very young and she never knew them. But with each of her grandmother’s letters the story of her life unfolded. Sidney’s mother had accompanied her parents on their Egyptian expeditions when she was a girl but grew to detest travel in general as well as the climate, the desert and all things Egyptian. When she was old enough, her parents allowed her to stay in England and attend school although, to read Grandmother’s letters, leaving her only child behind was a heart-wrenching decision. In spite of visits home to England, Althea and her daughter grew apart. Mother blamed Egypt and she never returned to the land of the pharaohs.

Effie became Sidney’s friend and, in many ways, her mentor. Neither woman thought it wise to let Sidney’s mother know of their relationship which did seem wrong but also necessary. There was no doubt Mother would not take it well and, given her fragile health, Sidney did want to avoid any upset. What would have been even worse in her mother’s eyes was that Sidney fell in love. Passionately, irrevocably in love with the idea of travel, of seeing foreign lands and, most especially, with Egypt.

From then on, Sidney read everything she could about the country, its past and its present. She took night classes at Queen’s College on Egyptian history and civilization, hieroglyphics and excavations, and all sorts of other fascinating subjects. She attended lectures and exhibits, often accompanied by Effie and her friends.

When Mother died, Sidney realized her trust would continue to keep a roof over her head but little else. Her dreams of traveling the world and at last seeing Egypt for herself would remain nothing more than that unless she came up with a way to generate additional income. Aunt Effie had not only encouraged her writing, but had brought her initial offerings to the attention of Mr. James Cadwallender at Cadwallenders Daily Messenger, the paper that now published her work.

“There’s really no getting around it.” Sidney shook her head. “His lordship is right. I am a charlatan, a fake, a fraud.”

“Don’t be absurd.” Effie huffed. “The fact that these adventures are not technically yours—”

“Although you doown the writing you based them on,” Poppy said, “so in the strictest definition of the term, one could easily argue that they do belong to you. Therefore they are yours.”

“—does not make them any less true, at the heart of it at least,” Effie continued. “Really, there are two points to consider here.” She held her hands up as if balancing a scale. “On one hand—” she raised her left hand “—you have never claimed you personally had these adventures. On the other—” she lowered her left hand and raised her right “—they are, more or less, true stories.”

“Although as Althea was married to Alfred, I suspect there were not quite as many dashing gentlemen in her experiences as Sidney has in her stories,” Poppy murmured.

“Millicent Forester is a young widow, Poppy,” Gwen pointed out. “It wouldn’t be any fun at all if there wasn’t the occasional dashing gentleman in her way.”

“They’re simply not your experiences,” Effie finished.

“And therein lies the problem.” Sidney sighed and shuffled through the clippings on the table. “Or one of the problems.” In her dismay over the earl’s scathing comments, she had completely ignored the rest of this disaster. “His lordship’s letters are not the worst of it though, are they?”

“They are dreadful letters,” Poppy huffed. “Simply dreadful.

Gwen sniffed. “Very nearly rude, I would say.”

“And yet—” Sidney’s tone hardened “—not the worst of it.” She moved several of the clippings to one side. “These are the letters from the earl.” She waved at the remaining clippings. “While these responses are allegedly from me.”

The ladies wisely said nothing.

“I did not write these.” Sidney narrowed her eyes. “Which begs the question of who did.”

Gwen, Poppy and Effie traded glances. Effie drew a deep breath. “It’s my fault I’m afraid. I started this. When that vile man wrote the first letter I should have ignored it.”

“But it really was rather boorish,” Gwen defended.

“And it did seem he was laying down a kind of gauntlet.” Aunt Effie grimaced. “So I picked it up.”

“And wrote him back?” Sidney’s voice rose. “In my name?”

“It seemed appropriate at the time,” Effie said weakly. “But, upon reflection, it might have been a mistake.”

Poppy nodded. “As it did seem to incite him. The man obviously has no sense of moderation. As you can see, the second letter was even worse.”

“He compares my stories to penny dreadfuls.” Sidney drew her brows together. “That’s not at all fair. My stories are adventurous but not nearly as far-fetched and melodramatic.”

“You’re right, he wasn’t the least bit fair.” Gwen nodded. “You can certainly see why we all felt it necessary to respond to that particular letter.”

“We did help Effie write that one. More than help I suppose. You might call it a collaboration.” Poppy winced. “As well as the one after that. We really couldn’t help ourselves. Someone needed to defend you. Why, the man even criticizes your style of writing.”

Effie shook her head. “We could not let that go unchallenged.”

“And you never thought to mention this to me?”

“We wanted to protect you, dear.” Gwen smiled.

“We did think his lordship would give up.” Effie paused. “Eventually.”

“But he hasn’t given up, has he?” Sidney glared at the older ladies. “No, in fact the man has challenged me to travel to Egypt and prove that I know what I’m writing about. If I fail, he intends to petition the Egyptian Antiquities Society to rescind my membership.” Sidney had paid little notice to the praise and attention her stories had received but being granted membership in the Antiquities Society a few months ago was an honor she cherished. Her grandparents were among the founding members of the society and, while she had not yet attended a society event, being a part of that illustrious organization was the very best part of her newfound success.

“Fortunately, we’ve given this a great deal of thought,” Poppy said. “Indeed, we’ve thought of nothing else since the moment we saw the earl’s latest letter this morning.”

“And promptly came here to tell you about—” Gwen gestured at the clippings “—all of it.”

“Not promptly enough, it’s after noon.” Sidney blew a long breath. This might well explain why she’d received a note within the past hour from Mr. Cadwallender requesting she come to the Messengeroffices at her earliest possible convenience. “Mr. Cadwallender wishes to see me and I suspect this is what it’s about.” She shook her head. “What a dreadful mess this is. What am I supposed to do?”

“You should definitely pay a call on Mr. Cadwallender,” Poppy said firmly.

Gwen nodded. “At once, I should think.”

“And then?” The most awful helpless note sounded in Sidney’s voice. She did so hate being helpless.

“And then.” Aunt Effie rose to her feet. “Then you shall go to Egypt.”

*

“I think it’s a brilliant idea.” Mr. James Cadwallender sat behind his desk in his office in the center of what had always struck Sidney as the sheer bedlam of the world that was Cadwallender’sDailyMessenger. The office itself was enclosed with walls of paneled wood beneath glass widows that rose to the ceiling, allowing the publisher to observe his domain while saving him from the endless cacophony of noise that was apparently the natural environment of reporters in search of news.

“Brilliant?” Sidney stared at the man. Didn’t he realize how impossible this was. “It’s not the least bit brilliant. It’s dreadful, that’s what it is. Positively dreadful.”

“Come now, Miss Honeywell.” Mr. Cadwallender chuckled. He really was a fine figure of a man with dark brown hair and eyes that were an interesting shade of amber. Sidney had always found him quite dashing although perhaps not today. “How is sending my very favorite writer off to prove she knows what she writes about anything less than brilliant. By Jove, I wish I’d thought of it myself.”

“Mr. Cadwallender,” Sidney said slowly, “surely you have not forgotten that my work is fiction.”

“Of course I have not forgotten but the public believes it’s all real. They believe Millicent Forester is a thinly veiled version of Mrs. Gordon.” He grinned. “And who am I to tell our loyal readership that they’re wrong.”

Aunt Effie nodded in agreement. She had insisted on accompanying Sidney for the sake of propriety although they both knew propriety was the last thing on the older woman’s mind. She simply didn’t want to miss what happened next and no doubt had orders from Poppy and Gwen to report back every detail. “And we would hate to shatter their illusions.”

“Exactly,” Mr. Cadwallender said.

“Their illusions will be more than shattered when the earl is proved right,” Sidney said sharply.

“But he won’t be proved right because you won’t let him.” Mr. Cadwallender leaned forward across his desk and met her gaze directly. “Miss Honeywell, Sidney, you and I both know you have never been to Egypt. We know your stories are loosely based on the life of your grandmother. But all those people out there who read your stories, who clamor for more, who adore every word you write, who’ve taken Millicent Forester to heart, they don’t know you aren’t her and have never stepped foot out of England. To them, you have led the life they have always dreamed of living. They count on you, Sidney, to lift them out of their tired, ordinary, everyday lives and bring them to the sands of Egypt. To allow them to take part in the discovery of ancient tombs. To illuminate the sights of that exciting land. Surely, you don’t want to deprive them of all that?”

“Well, no, I suppose not. But—”

“People don’t care if your stories are true or not.”

“Then why can’t we simply tell them the truth?” Indeed, that was exactly what Sidney wanted to do when she first realized her stories were being taken as fact.

“Because they will care if they think you lied to them.” He shrugged. “It’s the nature of things.”

“So the lie continues to grow?” Sidney couldn’t hide the stubborn note in her voice. This deception did seem, well, wrong.

“Not at all. This earl in his superior, condescending manner, has challenged your knowledge of Egypt and all things Egyptian. You are one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met on the topic. Why, you know things most people would never even think to ask. Doesn’t she, Mrs. Higginbotham?”

“Oh, she does indeed, Mr. Cadwallender.” Effie nodded. “She’s spent years taking classes with highly notable personages at Queen’s College. I wouldn’t dare to count the number of lectures on Egyptology she’s attended. Sidney is familiar with every Egyptian artifact on display at the British museum as well as elsewhere in London. And she reads everything that’s printed on the subject.” Pride rang in Effie’s voice. “I daresay there is no one better versed in anything pertaining to Egypt—past and present—than Sidney.”

“Thank you, Aunt Effie.” Sidney cast her a grateful smile. “Regardless of my studies and all that I’ve learned, the fact remains that I’ve never actually been to Egypt.”

“A minor point.” Mr. Cadwallender waved off her comment. “If anyone can pull this off you can. I have every confidence in you, Sidney. By the time you return—”

“I don’t recall agreeing to go.”

“Really, dear.” Effie leaned close and patted her hand. “I don’t see that you have any particular choice.”

“That’s not entirely true.” Mr. Cadwallender studied her for a long moment. “You have several choices. You can choose to admit publicly that his lordship is right—that you don’t know what you’re writing about—”

“And allow the beast to win?” Effie straightened in her chair. “Never!”

“In which case there would be a nasty scandal. You would lose your readers who would feel betrayed by you. Cadwallender Publishing and the Daily Messengercould not continue to publish your work. We do have a reputation to maintain.”

As the Daily Messengerdid seem to base most of its articles on little more than scandal and gossip, apparently reputation was in the eye of the beholder. “You’re the one who convinced me not to tell the truth when this misunderstanding began,” Sidney pointed out.

“Water under the bridge, Miss Honeywell.” He waved off her comment. “No sense fretting about what’s over and done with. We simply must move forward from here. As I said you have choices. Confess the truth and face the consequences—”

Effie shuddered.

“—or you can kill off Millicent and end the stories altogether—”

Effie gasped in horror.

“—or you can go to Egypt and make the Earl of Brenton eat his words. He started this—beat him at his own game. Prove to him and the world that he’s wrong. It would serve him right. Certainly, you’ve never been to Egypt in person but you can’t tell me your mind, your heart, your very soul hasn’t been there.”

“Her spirit.” Effie nodded.

“Exactly. Sidney.” Mr. Cadwallender’s gaze locked with hers. “Carpe diem. Seize the day. Isn’t this the opportunity you’ve been waiting for?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” Effie jumped to her feet. “She’ll do it!”

Sidney could only stare at her.

“Of course she will.” Mr. Cadwallender grinned. “I didn’t doubt it for a moment.”

Sidney’s gaze shifted between Effie and Mr. Cadwallender. He was right—she did have a choice. And an opportunity. This was her chance to set things right. To have the adventures, to be the heroine her readers believed her to be.

For the first time since reading his lordship’s challenge, the idea of travel to Egypt seemed not only possible but probable. And why not? She was a thirty-two-year-old spinster with no particular prospects for marriage. No family to speak of except for Aunt Effie and her friends. And absolutely no good reason not to at long last follow her heart. She had nothing to lose and at the very least, the adventure of her life to gain.

“Very well, then.” She swallowed hard. “I’ll do it.”

“Excellent.” He grinned. “The Messengerwill pay for all your expenses and we will, of course, send a reporter along.”

“A reporter?” Effie sank down into her chair.

Sidney widened her eyes. “Is that necessary?”

“Absolutely. This, my dear girl, will be the story of the year.” He paused. “Have you heard of Nellie Bly?”

Sidney shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

“You do need to get out more, dear,” Effie said under her breath.

“Nellie Bly is an American female reporter who attempted to travel around the world in less than eighty days a few years ago. She managed it in only seventy-two.” Mr. Cadwallender’s eyes sparkled. “It was quite a story. One that captured the imagination of the reading public in America and very nearly everywhere else. I anticipate the story of the Queen of the Desert’s return to Egypt to be every bit as profitable.”

Sidney’s brow rose. “Profitable, Mr. Cadwallender?”

“Profitable, Miss Honeywell,” he said firmly. “This story will increase readership and therefore generate greater revenue. Stories like this sell newspapers and books. While our mission is to enlighten and inform our readers, we cannot do so with inadequate funding. Nor can we afford to send our correspondents on trips to Egypt.”

“Regardless, don’t you think yet another observer watching my every move is dangerous?”

“I have every confidence in you, Miss Honeywell. If I didn’t, I would neither finance nor encourage this trip. In point of fact, being accompanied by one of my reporters is in your best interest.” He grimaced. “Frankly, if I don’t send someone along to document this venture, make no mistake, TheTimessurely will. I suspect you would prefer a reporter who works for me rather than a competitor who would like nothing better than to discredit all of us.”

“That makes sense I suppose.” Sidney sighed. This was becoming more and more complicated. “Will this reporter know the truth? About my experience with Egypt that is.”

“Absolutely not, Miss Honeywell.” Disbelief shone in Mr. Cadwallender’s eyes. “I would never allow one of my reporters to actively mislead the public.”

“Which means it’s up to me to actively misleadhim as well as the earl.”

“Oh, the earl isn’t going. While he is willing to publicly denigrate your work, he is not willing to see this through personally. He’s sending a representative, a nephew I believe, a Mr. Harry Armstrong. Apparently, Mr. Armstrong visited Egypt in his youth and now considers himself something of an expert. “

“Wonderful,” Sidney said under her breath.

“I strongly suspect the earl’s criticism was a direct result of his nephew’s prodding.” He paused. “You need to prove your legitimacy to Armstrong’s satisfaction. If, in his opinion, you do so, he will issue a public apology. If you fail, I’ve agreed to publish his book.”

Sidney widened her eyes. “He’s written a book?”

“Of allegedly true stories about his experiences in Egypt.” The publisher sighed. “God help us all.”

“One moment, Mr. Cadwallender.” Effie’s brow furrowed. “You’re saying that the very man who decides whether or not Sidney is who the public believes her to be, has a great deal to gain if he decides she’s a fraud.” Effie shook her head. “That’s extremely subjective and doesn’t sound the least bit fair to me.”

“Fair or not, that’s the challenge. Refusing it would be the same as admitting he’s right.” He met Sidney’s gaze directly. “You can do this, Sidney. Show the man around Egypt. Take him to the pyramids and maybe a tomb or two. Just enough to establish your expertise. It’s not as if you have to discover a pharaoh’s treasure.”

“But that would be perfect,” Effie pointed out.

“You have the knowledge and, I have no doubt, the courage to pull off an endeavor of this nature. To be the heroine of your own story. You areMillicent Forester. You need to remember that.” His tone softened. “We both have a great deal to lose if you aren’t successful. My family started Cadwallender Publishing nearly a century ago. I would hate to be the Cadwallender to preside over its demise.”

Sidney studied him for a long moment. Did she have the courage to carry off an escapade of this magnitude? Did she have the knowledge to step foot in Egypt for the first time and convince at least two people she did indeed know what she was doing? Still, aside from the deceptive aspect of it all, wasn’t this exactly what she had spent years preparing for? Isn’t this what she had always wanted? Didn’t she owe her readers at least a valiant attempt to be who they thought she was? And apparently, more than just her own future was at stake. She squared her shoulders. “I shall not let you down, Mr. Cadwallender.”

“Excellent.” Effie beamed. “The Lady Travelers Society will make the arrangements at once. Oh, we will be a jolly little band of travelers.”

“We?” Mr. Cadwallender shook his head. “I’m afraid you misunderstand, Mrs. Higginbotham. I will not be going along to Egypt.” He scoffed. “I have a newspaper to run.”

“Of course you do, Mr. Cadwallender. And no one would expect a man of your responsibilities to abandon his duties even for something as important as this. But I’m afraid you are the one who has misunderstood.” The glint in Effie’s eyes belied the pleasant tone of her voice. “My friends and I cannot allow our dear Sidney to wander off to the land of the pharaohs without the proper accompaniment. Chaperones if you will.”

Mr. Cadwallender’s brow furrowed. “Chaperones?”

“Of course. Lady Blodgett, Mrs. Fitzhew-Wellmore and myself will be joining Sidney’s party.”

“Not necessary, Mrs. Higginbotham,” Mr. Cadwallender said blithely. “Why, Nellie Bly went around the entire world completely on her own.”

Effie sniffed. “Miss Bly is American. Such things are to be expected from an American. Subjects of Her Majesty do not adhere to such slip-shod standards of propriety and deportment.”

“Might I point out that Miss Honeywell writes as Mrs. Gordon, a widow.” His lips quirked upward in a subtle show of triumph. “Therefore chaperones are not expected.”

“And might I point out that your less than reputable rivals might portray this venture—an unattached female, regardless of whether she is a widow, heading off on a journey of unknown length with a gentleman and a male reporter—as something rife with the possibility of inappropriate activity. Why, the entire venture would be fraught with the suggestion of scandal.” Effie shook her head in a chastising manner. “As much as your paper seems to delight in laying out all the juicy details of whatever scandal comes along, I wouldn’t think you would want the Daily Messengeritself exposed to that sort of thing.”

“No.” He glared. “I suppose I wouldn’t.”

“Chaperones will eliminate any hint of impropriety. Furthermore…” She ticked the points off on her fingers. “The other ladies and myself are all the widows of men who each spent a good deal of time in Egypt. They were, as well, honored members of the Explorers Club. Which means that we have a certain amount of credibility as observers. In addition, Sidney will need assistance, support if you will, to carry off this ruse successfully. I daresay we don’t want anyone else discovering the truth.”

“No, we do not.” He drummed his fingers on the desk. “I assume you expect me to finance your trip as well.”

“It does seem to me we are doing you a very great favor by accompanying Miss Honeywell.” Effie smiled, a triumphant gleam in her eye.

“It seems to me the word blackmailis more appropriate than favor.”

“Semantics, Mr. Cadwallender.” Effie waved off the comment. “One word is often just as good as another as long as the end result is the same.”

“As long as it’s the result you want?”

Effie smiled pleasantly.

Mr. Cadwallender heaved a sigh of resignation. “Very well, then.” He turned to Sidney. “How soon can you be ready to leave?”

Sidney thought for a moment. She had nothing to attend to. Nothing keeping her in London. Indeed, she could have her bags packed and be ready to go within a day or so. “As soon as the arrangements can be made, I would think.”

“Excellent.” He rose to his feet behind his desk, Aunt Effie and Sidney following suit. “I have no doubt this will be an extremely successful venture for you—for all of us, Miss Honeywell.”

“Thank you, Mr. Cadwallender.”

He opened the door and Aunt Effie swept out of his office, Sidney a step behind. They made their way through the sea of desks, frenzied gentlemen with ink-stained fingers and organized confusion, to the front lobby. Sidney barely noticed any of it.

“That went nicely, I think,” Aunt Effie said with a satisfied nod after they’d requested a cab.

“I daresay Mr. Cadwallender has never faced the widow of a colonel before.” Sidney grinned.

“Fighting for what you want has as much to do with knowing who you are and, of course, knowing what you want.” Effie’s lips curved in a satisfied smile. “Being the wife of a colonel is simply the icing on the cake.”

Sidney hesitated. “Are you certain you and the others are up to this?”

“Because we are no longer in the prime of youth?”

“Well, yes.”

“I assure you, Sidney, we are quite spry.” She paused. “There are two kinds of women in this world, my dear. Those who wave goodbye to others starting on grand adventures and those waving back from the window of a train or the deck of a ship.” Effie raised her chin. “It’s past time that Gwen, Poppy and I became the later. We too need to seize the day. Besides, this may well be our last chance.”

“And perhaps my only chance.”

“Then we shall have to make the most of it.” Effie grinned. “As Mr. Cadwallender is paying for it, we should make certain he gets his money’s worth.”

Sidney laughed. Good Lord! Thanks to a stuffy, arrogant, rude beast of a lord and his nephew she was finally going to Egypt. Certainly, given the amount of deception involved, it was not going to be easy. But it was past time to stop dreaming about what she wanted. Her very future was now at stake. In many ways, it seemed her life—her story—was just beginning.

And she could hardly wait to turn the page.

On Sale November 20, 2018

 

AMAZON          BARNES & NOBLE           BOOKS-A-MILLION           HARLEQUIN

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