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Greetings of the Season and Other Stories

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194 pages5 hours

Summary

Excerpt from Greetings of the Season:

“Dashed if I can figure why everyone gets in such a pucker over this Christmas shopping nonsense.” Bevin Montford, the Earl of Montravan, paused in the act of putting the last, critical fold in his intricately tied neckcloth. His valet, standing by with a second or—heaven forfend his lordship be struck with a palsy or such—a third starched cravat, held his breath.

“Why, the park was so thin of company this afternoon, you’d think the ton had packed up and gone to their country places weeks early,” the earl complained to the mirror. “Where was everyone? Traipsing in and out of shops as if the British economy depended on their spending their last farthings.”

The earl finally lowered his chin, setting the crease in his neckcloth. Finster, the valet, exhaled. Another perfect Montravan fall. He tenderly draped the reserve linen over the rungs of a chair and reached for his lordship’s coat of blue superfine, just a shade darker than the earl’s eyes.

“And now here’s Coulton, crying off from our dinner engagement,” Montravan went on, shrugging his broad shoulders into the garment. No dandy, the earl refused to have his coats cut so tightly that he’d require two footmen to assist. He made sure the lace of his shirt cuffs fell gracefully over his wrists while Finster straightened the coat across his back. “I never thought I’d live to see Johnny Coulton turning down one of Desroucher’s meals to go shopping. Haring off to an Italian goldsmith in Islington, no less.”

Finster was ready with the clothes brush, making sure no speck of lint had fallen on the coat between his final pressing and his lordship’s occupancy. “I understand Lord Coulton is recently engaged,” Finster offered, more relaxed now that the more crucial aspects of his employer’s toilette were complete.

“What’s that to the point? The chit’s blond with blue eyes. Sapphires, obviously. Rundell and Bridges ought to be sufficient for the purpose.”

“Ah, perhaps Lord Coulton wished to express his affection in a more personal manner.”

“More expensive, you mean. Deuce take it, he’s already won the girl’s hand; there’s no need for such extravagance.”

“If the viscount is indeed visiting goldsmiths, he might wish to design a bit of jewelry himself to show his joy at the betrothal.”

“Claptrap. You’ve been reading the housekeeper’s Minerva Press novels again, haven’t you?” The earl turned from the mirror to catch his longtime servant’s blush. “Ah, Finster, still a romantic after all these years? I must be a sad trial to you.”

“Not at all, my lord,” the valet said with a smile, thinking of all the positions he’d been offered and had turned down. There could be no finer gentleman in the ton to work for, none more generous and none who appeared more to his valet’s credit than the nonpareil earl. Of course, Lord Montravan was a bit high in the instep, his valet admitted to himself, but how not, when he’d been granted birth, wealth, looks, and charm in abundance? No, Lord Montravan’s only fault, according to the loyal Finster, was a sad lack of tender emotions. Still, the valet lived in hope. He passed the silver tray that contained the earl’s signet ring and watch fob, the thin leather wallet, and the newly washed coins. He also proffered, by way of explaining Lord Coulton’s defection, “L’amour.”

“Larks in his brainbox, more likely, getting himself into a pother over a trinket for a wench. And those other clunches, the ones who were too frenzied for a hand of cards at White’s yesterday, nattering on about where to find the perfect fan, the best chocolates, the most elegant bibelot for madam’s curio. Gudgeons, every last one of them, letting their wits go begging over this nonsensical holiday gift giving.”

Finster cleared his throat. “Ah, perchance the gentlemen find the difficulty more in the expense than in the selection. The ladies do expect more than a bit of trumpery at this time of year,” he hinted.

The earl sighed. “What, dished again,

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