Authors: Ava Stone,Lydia Dare
Tags: #historical romance, #noir, #waterloo, #regency romance, #regency england, #regency, #soldier, #peninsular war, #ava stone
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
My Favorite Major
Copyright © 2012 by Ava Stone
Cover Design by Lily Smith
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without written permission.
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For Terry ~ You truly are one of the dearest men of my acquaintance. You are a wonderful friend who always has the best, most sound advice. I cannot thank you enough for talking me off the ledge more than once over the last few years and your legal expertise has been a godsend. I don’t know what I would have done without you. I wish you and Kendall all the best and many, many happy years. I only wish I was able to see you more often. I love you dearly.
Clayworth House, Mayfair – October 1815
The only thing worse than a Peninsular battlefield was a London ballroom, at least to Major Philip Moore’s way of thinking. Though the two locations did have striking similarities with enemy camps and cross purposes. And, of course, Philip had never reveled in being in either place.
Must you look so sour?” His oldest friend, Captain Russell Avery clapped a hand to Philip’s back. “We are heroes, but you’re still managing to frighten away all the pretty girls.”
Russell could have every pretty girl in London for all Philip cared. As he couldn’t have
girl, the only girl he’d ever loved, Philip didn’t particularly care about any of the others who flitted past him. “I thought you were betrothed to the Greywood chit.”
She didn’t write me as often as she promised.” His friend shrugged.
Philip snorted. “At least she didn’t marry some blackguard in your absence.”
True,” Russell conceded. “But I’m not married to her yet, and as she didn’t correspond as much as I’d expected, I think I shall act the role of a scout this evening and try to determine which young lady is the best kisser in attendance.”
Then won’t you be busy? Or leg-shackled to some other chit you barely know and ruin Miss Greywood’s prospects in the meantime.”
Russell touched a hand to his heart. “You do wound me, Moore. Do you have so little faith in my scouting abilities?”
Philip had seen Russell seduce Flemish beauties, Spanish señoritas, Scottish lasses, and Portuguese
. “No. I just think you’re forgetting that we’re home…in England.”
Russell laughed. “Oh, I am quite well aware of the fact,
. But the luster of a hero-returned is bound to dull eventually. Best to make the most of our situation now, while we can.”
Philip wasn’t quite certain when Russell had become so opportunistic. “What am I even doing here with you?”
Again, his friend laughed and gestured across the room to his sister, Cordelia, the Countess of Clayworth. “I believe Cordie browbeat you into attending, did she not?”
Russell was most certainly correct on that score. Cordie Clayworth had begged and pleaded with Philip to attend her ball. He’d only agreed after she promised him that Olivia and her disreputable husband wouldn’t be among the numbers. It was one thing knowing Olivia had married another while he was away, and another to have to see the happy couple paraded before him at every turn. “Cordie need not feel guilty on Olivia’s behalf. I certainly don’t hold her responsible for the situation.”
Russell sighed as though the topic had grown tedious. In all honesty, they had discussed the situation at length more than once. “She just wants you to find the blinding happiness she has found herself. So humor her, will you? Find some chit you can tolerate to stand up with at least once. Otherwise Cordie will plague you, on that you can be certain.”
Philip tapped his injured leg with his cane. “She could be Cleopatra returned, and I wouldn’t dance with her on this leg.”
You just insist on being maudlin, don’t you?” Russell grumbled. “If not dancing, then find some girl with whom you could enjoy a nice conversation. Or better yet, one who might actually bring a smile to your face, though I’m not sure if Cordie knows any miracle workers.”
Like a good soldier following orders, but mostly to appease his friend, Philip’s eyes swept across the throng of happy guests. No. Not one girl caught his eye. Perhaps it was still too soon. Or perhaps it would always be too soon. And then he spotted a blonde a few feet away and, if Philip wasn’t mistaken, she was laughing at
Her light eyes twinkled with undisguised mirth.
Perhaps there was something humorous behind him. Philip glanced over each of his shoulders, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. He looked back at the blonde, only to find her laughing even harder. She didn’t even try to conceal her amusement behind her fan.
Do I have something on my face?” Philip muttered, touching his cheek as he spoke.
Russell shook his head. “Just your nose.”
Philip scowled at his friend. “Amusing as always.” Then he gestured towards the giggling chit with his head. “I think that girl over there is laughing at me.”
Russell chuckled. “Must not know you. Nothing remotely funny about you.”
I am starting to wonder why we’re friends.”
Friends?” Russell feigned a shocked expression. “I think of you more as a brother.” Then he turned his attention to the girl in question. “Ah, Miss Amelia Pritchard. Don’t waste your time with that one, Moore.”
I wasn’t planning on it,” Philip replied gravely. He wouldn’t have even noticed the girl if she hadn’t been laughing at him, which certainly did not recommend her.
Brilliant decision. Substandard kisser,” Russell informed him and turned his attention back to the dancers. “Now Miss Dewhurst, on the other hand…”
Philip snorted. “Good God, Russ! How many of these girls
His friend shrugged. “And you doubted my scouting abilities.” Then Russell straightened. “Don’t look now, but my sister is headed this direction.”
Philip did look to his right to find that Cordie Clayworth was indeed headed in their direction. He smiled at his childhood friend who had become a beauty when he wasn’t paying attention. “My lady,” he said in way of greeting the countess and nodded his head. “You are more lovely every time I see you, Cordie.”
At his side, Russell scoffed. “There’s no need to flatter
Cordie playfully rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Philip. I was plagued with three of the most awful brothers.” She smiled graciously at him. “How refreshing to spend time with a true gentleman.”
Watch yourself, Cordie,” Russell warned. “Or you’ll have Clayworth making a dawn appointment with Moore.”
Philip glared at his friend for even broaching the subject, which was still a sore one where the two of them were concerned. “Well, if he does, I’ll be certain to get myself a much better second than the one I had the last time.”