Third Son’s a Charm by Shana Galen
Ewan Mostyn thinks a job as a duke’s daughter’s bodyguard will be easy—but Lady Lorraine has a few tricks up her sleeve that spark an undeniable passion
Fiercely loyal to his friends and comrades, Ewan Mostyn is the toughest in a group of younger sons of nobility who met as soldiers and are now trying desperately to settle back into peaceful Society. Ewan trusts his brawn more than his brains, but when he’s offered a job watching the Duke of Ridlington’s stubbornly independent daughter, he finds both are challenged.
Lady Lorraine wants none of her father’s high-handed ways, and she’ll do everything in her power to avoid her distressingly attractive bodyguard—until she lands herself in real trouble. Lorraine begins to see Ewan’s protectiveness in a new light, and she can only hope that her stoic guardian will do for her what he’s always done—fight for what he loves.
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When Ewan Mostyn is waylaid by Prinny, Lady Loraine uses the distraction to escape from her bodyguard’s watchful eye.
The next time Ewan saw Rafe he would give him a black eye. Whatever had possessed Beaumont to tell the prince regent so many damned tales about the exploits of The Expendables? About half of them were mostly true and the other half were truly fiction. Each had a kernel of fact—a location where the men had encountered trouble or a strategy they had used to outwit the frogs—but Ewan could hardly spend all night untangling Rafe’s embellishments.
As it was, he was uninteresting enough that the regent finally sought other amusements, but it took a good half hour for the prince to tire of Ewan’s one word answers. In all that time, Ewan barely kept his tone or his manner civil. Where the hell had Lady Lorraine gone? With a victorious smile, she’d melted away into the fawning sycophants that comprised the regent’s entourage. Ewan had been powerless to stop her, and now he’d been separated from her quite long enough for any number of men, not the least of which was his cousin, to abduct, harass, or ruin her.
Ewan looked for her among the dancers first. That was where she should have been. She had promised dances to no less than a flock of men, and Ewan had anticipated standing about the entire night, watching her twirl and flutter her lashes.
He stood on the side of the dance floor and studied the dancers, looking for her. He’d barely been there a moment before a man stepped in front of him. With a growl, Ewan glared at him.
“You are Ewan Mostyn, are you not?” the man asked, his face breaking into a smile that showed his crooked teeth. He had dark hair, a long nose, and small eyes.
Ewan inclined his head.
“Lord Basil Dottinger.” The man bowed. “We were at school together.”
Ewan merely stared at him. He’d gone to school when he was seven. He’d been there only a year before he was sent home. The excuse had been fighting, but all the boys fought at school. Everyone knew the real reason Ewan was expelled: he was unteachable.
“Do you remember me? We sat at the same table for meals.”
Ewan shook his head.
“Well, you wouldn’t. You didn’t stay long. Did your parents enroll you in another school?”
“No,” Ewan said. Heat prickled the back of his neck. The old humiliation washed over him again. This was why he avoided social engagements. He would never measure up to what the son of an earl should be. He was a dolt and a failure at so many things that came easily to other boys. And now he must stand here and have it thrown in his face. And he couldn’t even punch the man because the bloody Prince Regent would scream and faint at the sight of blood.
“Why not?” Lord Basil asked, but Ewan did not miss the sly smile on his lips. He knew why not. They all did.
“Go away.” Ewan turned his attention back to the dance floor and ignored Lord Basil. After a few more seemingly innocent questions that received no response, the man did go away. He retreated to a spot within earshot of Ewan and made jests to his friends at Ewan’s expense.
“Was he as much a dolt as you remember?”
“He can barely string two words together.”
“Poor fellow. I heard his father disowned him.”
“He’s only here tonight because the Duke of Ridlington paid Prinny to receive him.”
Ewan stiffened. That wasn’t true, was it? He felt his breath grow short, and the heat that burned his neck washed over his face. He wanted to storm out or to turn and fling each man through one of the windows. As he could do neither, he took a deep breath and balled all the pain into a tight knot.
Control. Restraint. Those traits had kept him alive in the war. This was just a different sort of battle.
Ewan forced his attention back to the dance floor. He could not waste his time with these petty men and their small worlds. Who the devil cared if they whispered about him or if Ridlington paid the Regent to receive him? He was here for a purpose, and at the moment, he couldn’t find her.
Lady Lorraine was not on the dance floor, where she should have been, and he was obliged to seek her elsewhere. He tried the area set aside for supper room and that for cards with no luck. If she’d had any sort of compassion at all, she would have taken up residence in the supper room where all sorts of delicacies had been laid out to refresh famished guests before the actual meal commenced sometime in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning. But Ewan had only enough time to snatch a biscuit and a glass of champagne, which he downed like water, before he had to search elsewhere.
And the elsewhere was obviously to be one of three locations—the lawns, the house itself, or the ladies’ retiring room. Heaven help her if she had allowed Francis or any other man to take her to the back of the house. If the chit got herself ruined on his watch he would throttle her.
Ewan couldn’t search the ladies’ retiring room by himself, so he opted to begin searching the lawns. He stepped out onto the terrace where he’d last spoken with her, walked its length quickly and swore when he did not spot her. She was in the damn house, and now he would have to murder whichever man had led her there.
He’d turned to do just that when the breeze carried the sound of a light, tinkling laugh his way.
Ewan turned back and peered out into the dark shadows cast by trees whose branches blew gently in the wind. The night was cold, and the prince had obviously thought the guests would prefer to stay close to the warmth of the conservatory and the myriad entertainments therein because other than the sconces lining the building and the path back to the house, he had not ordered any other means of light for the lawn or park. Consequently, Ewan could see nothing but tree trunks, the stubby shadows of bushes, and the vague outline of topiaries a little further away. Surely, Lady Lorraine would not have ventured into the gloomy, cold night. She had been wearing a flimsy white dress that bared her neck and enough of her bosom to force him to look away before he looked closer. The sleeves had been little puffs and her gold wrap was so insubstantial that he wondered why she bothered with it at all.
The laughter he’d heard might have come from any woman who had sought privacy with her lover in the shadows, but Ewan had to be certain it was not his charge. He would rather apologize to the couple for interrupting their tryst than to the Duke of Ridlington for losing his daughter.
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