What’s the harm in a little white lie?
Especially when it could carry so much good—a new life for a wounded soldier, catharsis after long years of war, and an opportunity for lady composer Olivia Delancey to finally hear her music played in public.
Newspaper publisher Will Marsh refuses to compound the sins of his father’s generation by taking money to print propaganda. But with the end of the wars in France and America, he needs something new to drive Londoners to grab his paper first. Why not publish the score of the “Tune That Took Waterloo,” by a wounded vet, no less?
As Olivia struggles to keep her secrets from this unsuitably alluring publisher, and Will fights to find the truth without losing his hold on this bright-eyed angel who has descended into his life, both discover another sort of truth.
Being the talk of London can be bad—or very, very good.
Olivia’s face mirrored her surprise. She had lost track of him for only a moment, and yet he had snuck all the way up on her. Had he caught her surreptitiously watching him?
“The music does not inspire you?” He gestured at Rosa, but his gaze remained on her.
“It does,” she said, trying to pull on her familiar careless-girl mask. “I must ask after her tailor.”
“That sentiment isn’t worthy of you.” He whispered, but he could have spoken aloud, as little attention as anyone was paying them in the midst of Rosa’s aggressive arpeggios. “Jealous?”
Her mask faltered. “I did not mean it so.”
“Then how?” He slipped to her other side, effectively cutting her off from Mr. Mellon, who did not seem to notice. Too close. She took a step to the side, turning to face her interlocutor.
“She is part of our family now.” Her voice sounded breathy, unsure.
“I heard you arranged this performance.” He stepped closer. “That shows a spirit of generosity, despite your words.”
“She deserves the opportunity. And it is right to salute Spain.”
“Our esteemed ally.” He nodded, leaning in. “But perhaps it is difficult, to see a woman who is allowed the freedom to perform, to create? Who can let her hair down in mixed company?”
He looked away from her a moment, gazing at Rosa. Olivia did not dare look away from him. She let out the breath she didn’t realize she had been holding. Her mind was addled; she was reacting too strongly to this man, to his words. To his smell, deep and rich. Sandlewood, but hints of the flesh within.
The corner of his mouth turned up. He teased her? The thought cast out her breath again. Her ears had a buzzing in them, unrelated to the passionate rhythm of the guitar.
He could read her. He saw far too much. She reached out to touch him, no, to push him away. He turned at her movement, stepping into the path of her hand.
A thrill of power coursed through her arm. It filled her center with energy of an unfamiliar sort. Unable to stop herself, she jumped. Then quickly looked around to see if anyone saw.
She could never make a scene. Not here in public. She took another step back, pulling her hands tightly behind her, as if they were tied.
Step by step, they sidled to the side of the great room. Toward the shadows.
“Are you disappointed your fiancé found someone else?”
“It isn’t that.” She was not quite sure she could call up a vision of Richard at the moment. Her awareness was centered on the man in front of her.
They passed the seven-foot-high sterling candelabra and into the shadows, far from the crowd. Olivia would not have believed she could feel so alone in the midst of a gala. Alone, but for one other.