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Only You

Only You

CHERYL HOLT does it again with another fast-paced, dramatic tale of seduction, passion, and romance. This time, love blooms on a lazy, decadent trip down the Nile!

Lady Theodosia Postlewaite, known as Theo to her family and friends, has always had the worst luck. On the night her betrothal was to be announced, she was unwittingly caught in a compromising situation. With her engagement ended and her reputation in tatters, her incensed father demands she flee the gossip by accompanying her dour, grumpy aunt on a sightseeing trip to Egypt. Theo reluctantly agrees, and she’s determined to spend the months abroad proving she possesses the highest moral character. Most especially, she vows to never so much as speak to a handsome man ever again.

Soloman Grey has lived in Egypt for the past decade. His own scandal chased him out of London, and he’s built a new life for himself as an adventurer and explorer. Because of the gossip that ruined him, he doesn’t trust anyone, and he constantly vows that he’ll never so much as glance at a pretty woman ever again.

But when Soloman meets Theo, he’s dragged into her world in a dozen ways he never intended. She’s beautiful, funny, and lonely, and he can’t resist. Yet, he’s the bastard son of an earl, so he could never be worthy of her. When her relatives would do anything to keep them apart, dare he risk all to have her for his very own?

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Rachel, The Reading Cafe

5 out of 5 for this reader folks!

Ah… nothing like a good book that delivers what I like to refer to as a lazy read. So easy to flip page after page (or in my case the e-reader screen) when a story just naturally captivates and flows so well. ONLY YOU by Cheryl Holt is a historical romance with maybe a side of erotica (some may think so) that collides two souls that were seriously made for one another. I can see reading this on the beach this summer, or swinging on a hammock in the breeze. Just pure indulgent reading. LOL

Lady Theodosia Postlewaite is an English lady who has had her life mapped out for her. She is going to marry (insert stuffy so wrong for her Englishmen) because her father says it’s so. On Christmas Eve, just before her betrothal is announced, Theo hears some ladies gossiping about her soon to be fiance, and his mistress he has no desire to give up. These mean girls rip Theo to shreds behind her back (little did they know they were heard), but they also open Theo’s eyes to the kind of life that is waiting for her with this marriage. Theo is naive, lonely, obedient and she is just going through the motions of life without thinking she is missing out on any thing special. When she is caught in a chance encounter with another man, her betrothal is broken, she is ruined and sent off with Auntie Dearest on what she believes is exile. It just so happens to be life changing and one heck of an adventure.

Soloman Grey… SIGH! I really like Soloman Grey. Soloman is considered a bastard in polite English society, but he is a recognized bastard. He is embraced by his father, loved by his father and before he his father passes away, Soloman is given guardianship of the estate on behalf of his legitimate baby brother. When Soloman’s baby brother disappears, everyone assumes Soloman took care of business in order to inherit the family fortune. He is completely shuned and in order to escape the assumptions and mutters and downright rudeness of polite society, he willingly leaves England, which to some, means he confirms his guilt.

Both Theo and Soloman paths cross in Egypt. I suppose this is a quest of sorts… a quest of self discovery and healing. While Soloman tries his hardest to stay away from Theo he eventually just gives in to this incredible woman (although there is lots of taking and giving on both ends ..lol). It’s like neither of them knew that they needed the other until they experienced what it is like to have each other. Friendship and a one hot romance soon follows as we get a tour down the Nile River.

Add in some adventure, exotic foreign experiences and a big fat middle finger to polite society (when they get to that point, I swear I high fived my ereader …lol) and you have one fantastic book. I love historical romance that throws anything proper out the door, and allows for characters to bloom in a strange setting, and this is exactly what Cheryl has allowed her lead characters to do. Both came into their own and brought out the best in the other. Of course there is some angst and danger, and some serious jerkfaces, but I will not go into any of that as you can find that out for yourself.


“Rose” that Ruled all…Magnificent! I LOVED it and forever will”

Rachel at Romancing the Book:

Review: Cheryl Holt weaves an incredibly fresh and poignant romance that spans the London ballrooms and Egyptian Pyramids. Lady Theo is refreshing for a regency heroine. Innocent yet startlingly blunt, she is everything that Solomon Grey doesn’t expect from a London Ball room, which makes sense since they meet on the streets of Cario, Egypt.

The scene is set perfectly and while I’ve never been one to enjoy regency romances that take place outside of London—I found myself completely enthralled with Theo and Solomon’s story.

Both are fleeing scandals at home, there’s a common bond and an immediate chemistry that sizzles the pages. Of course that is short lived once Solomon’s past comes back to roost—they might be in Egypt, but his name is famous world wide.

I can’t even explain how many times I wanted to shake my kindle and beg for Theo to just see past all of that—which early on—she actually does. It’s the hero who claims he’s anything but, and it’s Solomon that the reader ends up being frustrated with.

Along with two other secondary stories, this book brings so many plot points that it would be easy to get lost in it if Miss Holt didn’t have her craft down to an absolute art. I was completely lost in this native land and didn’t want to leave even though I became extremely frustrated with all the moving parts.

So here’s the jist:

Theo was caught in a situation that labeled her basically a woman who no man would marry even though NOTHING happened, and sent away to her cousins/aunt in Cairo. But in this situation Solomon is notorious. Deemed a murder of his baby brother, he’s fleeting the ballroom accusations of the London scene, only to discover that no matter how far away he gets, his past follows him. And upon meeting Theo, rather saving her from herself—again—suddenly it’s not so horrible to have a taste of home, even if that taste is from Theo’s sweet lips.

At first it was hard for me to LIKE them together only because he seemed so intent on scandalizing her and pushing her away which of course just made the heroic moments he had that much sweeter.

Danger, adventure, mischief and romance run wild in this exotic regency romance that has everything we have come to expect from such a talented author like Cheryl Holt! Once I started the book, I didn’t want to put it down! Each page was an adventure, and the characters were shockingly real and relatable, along with the mystery woven around Egypt, and the gossip thick in the London Ballrooms. Once again, Cheryl Holt has woven story that will stay with the reader long after the last page is finished!

CHAPTER ONE

Three months later…

Theodosia stood in the middle of an Egyptian bazaar.  The hot desert sun beat down, the crowd swirling around her.

Even though she was away from England, she was dressed in what she viewed as a normal British costume such as she would wear on a cool, rainy autumn afternoon in London.  But the heavy gown, shawl, bonnet, petticoat, stockings, shoes, and corset were totally inappropriate for the excessive temperature.  Although she had a very hearty constitution, she truly wondered if she might faint.

The air was so heavy she couldn’t catch her breath, and as she studied the native women passing by, she couldn’t help but be jealous of their attire that appeared much more comfortable and thoroughly suited to the elements.

They’d been in Cairo for three days, and they were still settling into their hotel, so she hadn’t had a chance to acclimate to the climate or assess her wardrobe’s functionality.  Yet clearly, changes would have to be made.

“Look, Theo.”  Her cousin, Fenton, pointed to a booth.  “Wouldn’t you like to have one of those scarves?”

“I would actually.”

“You could buy one for Mother too.  Perhaps if we return with a gift, it will improve her mood.”

“Yes, it just might.”

Though Theo didn’t say so, she didn’t think anything could improve his mother’s mood.  His mother was Theo’s aunt, Edna Wallace.

From the outset, the journey should have been an adventure.  After all, they were on their way to tour the pyramids.  First, they would tarry for a month at an archeological dig being run by Edna’s friend, Cedric Webster, who was a famous archeologist.  Then they would sail even farther down the Nile to explore other ruins.

But the trip had been partially organized as an excuse for Theo to flee her scandal with Lord Trent.  With gossip and disgrace spurring them to slink out of London—practically in the dead of night—the entire expedition had commenced on a sour note, so they probably shouldn’t have expected a good outcome.

The whole voyage, Edna had been grouchy and quarrelsome, and with their finally arriving, her disposition wasn’t any better.  If a new scarf could have any effect, which Theo doubted very much, she was certainly ready to make the attempt.

She stepped to the booth where the scarves were piled high, the beautiful fabrics and colors so vibrant that she wished she could roll around on them merely to feel the silky textures on her skin.

It was a hard decision to select just one, and the vendor was eager to entice her.  He kept showing her different and prettier designs, and ultimately she tried to walk away, but it only encouraged him.  Apparently, he believed she was haggling over the price.

She wasn’t sure that was the case, but it seemed to be.  She didn’t speak his language and he didn’t speak hers, and she chastised herself for getting immersed in a situation she couldn’t control or understand.  Why had she presumed it was a sensible idea to leave the safety of the hotel and go shopping?

Their hours trapped at the hotel had been boring and stultifying.  They’d languished on porches, fanning themselves and waiting for Edna to arrange for transport down the Nile.  When Fenton had suggested a visit to the nearby market, Theo had jumped at the opportunity to join him, but they shouldn’t have ventured out.

She glanced around to inform him that their excursion was over.  He should have been right behind her, but he wasn’t there, which was completely typical and she should have absolutely anticipated.

Fenton was ten, and he’d grown up in boarding schools in England while Edna had spent the years in India with her husband, Colonel Wallace.

The Colonel was recently deceased, Edna a widow, and she was struggling to figure out how to be a mother to Fenton, but he wasn’t interested in being mothered.  He didn’t like to be told what to do, so they constantly bickered and snapped.  Theo suspected too that he caused trouble merely to garner attention.

Edna hated to seem overly strict, so she ignored Fenton’s mischief.  If Fenton had sneaked off and left Theo, it would simply be another prank in a long line of pranks he wouldn’t stop playing.

She scanned the crowd and thought she saw him flitting away toward the street.  At least she thought he was headed toward the street.

They’d been escorted to the bazaar by porters from the hotel who’d stayed in the courtyard by her rented chair so they could loaf in the shade under the trees.  Fenton and Theo had entered the marketplace by themselves, but she was swiftly realizing she shouldn’t have been so reckless.

She hurried after Fenton, and the scarf vendor shouted comments that had to be curses.  From her clothes and mannerisms, it was obvious she was a foreigner, so he’d likely hoped to cheat her and was angry he hadn’t had the chance.

That was the lesson Edna had ceaselessly imparted about Egypt.  They weren’t to trust anyone, and every native person should be deemed capable of horrid behavior.  Theo wasn’t so condemning in her opinion of the locals.  So far, her interactions had been limited to employees at the hotel, and they’d been friendly and courteous and many of them were fluent in English.  If wicked conduct was swirling, she hadn’t noticed.

She rushed along, being swept into the throng of people, but with her being just five-foot-five in her stockings, it was difficult to get her bearings.  She assumed she’d see the stone arches that marked the entrance, but they never came into view.

For a moment, panic assailed her.  She was alone at a bazaar in Cairo, without a maid or chaperone, and her sole male companion had abandoned her to her own devices.  Fenton would be back at their rented chair, chortling with glee over how he’d tricked her.

But Theo wasn’t a flighty girl, wasn’t the type to panic.  She was a very elderly twenty-three, and for most of her life, she’d been alone.  Granted, it had been at her father’s Oakwood estate where she’d been an only child.  With a deceased mother and an absent father, there’d been few adults to fret or boss.

She’d always set her own schedule, made her own plans, and kept her own appointments.  She’d never had a servant trailing after her, and she wasn’t about to suffer an attack of the vapors simply because she’d been caught in an awkward situation.

She might suffer an attack of heat stroke though.  The temperature was insanely hot, and she was perspiring, sweat dripping off her face.  She slipped into an alcove where there was a bit of shade.

She took stock of her condition, wondering what to do, and she studied the crowd, anxious to see someone who looked as if he might speak English.  Before too much time had passed, a local man approached.  He was short and cleanly barbered, attired in a suit much like those worn by the employees at the hotel.  He halted in front of her and bowed.

“If this one may be so bold as to inquire,” he began in heavily accented English, “is the young lady lost?”

“Yes.”  Theo flashed a wan smile.  “I was separated from my cousin, and I can’t find the main entrance.  I have porters waiting for me.”

“The entrance is there.”  He gestured vaguely.  “May this one show you the way?”

“I would appreciate it very much.”

“Which hotel is your staying?”

Initially, the convoluted wordage threw her, but she figured it out quickly enough.  “The Hotel Cairo.”

“Very good, very good.  If you will please to follow me?”

“Yes, certainly.”

He started off, and she hastened after him, remaining very close so they weren’t separated.  Yet rapidly it became clear that—despite his claiming the entrance was nearby—it was much more of a distance than she’d predicted.

They twisted and turned deeper into the bazaar.  The alleys were loud and crammed with people, animals, and merchandise.  After so many weeks at sea, the frantic activity made her dizzy.

She reached for his coat, having to tug several times before he glanced back.

“How much farther?” she asked.

“Not far, not far.”

“I’m very hot.”

“Soon there.”

He continued on, and she hesitated, then marched after him.  The crowd thinned, the booths ending, and an exit appeared, but the stone arches were nowhere in sight.

They were deposited onto a deserted street, another alley really.  The hoards were left behind, and it was eerily quiet.  He motioned for her to walk to the right, but off in the other direction, she saw the stone arches.

She stopped, and he stopped too.

“You’re heading the wrong way,” she told him.

“No, no, I know this place.”

“My cousin and porters are back there.”

“No,” he said more sternly.  “You must come with me.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t.  Thank you for your assistance, but I can get there on my own.”

Suddenly, he wasn’t quite so cordial or accommodating.  He smiled a smile that made her skin crawl.

“You must be doing as I bid you.”

“I don’t think so,” she firmly stated.

“And I am thinking you will.”

He clasped her arm and dashed off.  For the first few strides, she was so shocked at being manhandled that she went with him, but swiftly she regrouped and pulled away.  He grabbed her again and whipped her around.

“I am happy to be taking you where you must be,” he said.

“I don’t wish to go with you.”

“This Hotel Cairo, we leave for it now.”

“We most certainly don’t.”

He tightened his grip, and this time there was no pretense that he was escorting her.  He clamped a palm over her mouth and dragged her farther into the warren of deserted streets.

She struggled to escape, but to no avail.  He wasn’t much bigger than she was, but he was thin and wiry.  She bit him very hard, and he yelped in pain and released her just long enough for her to lurch away.  But she tripped and fell to the cobbles, skidding on her hands and knees, hearing a tear in the fabric of her skirt.

Before he could grab her yet again, she managed a blood-curdling scream and had just scrambled to her feet when, from behind her, a very British male said, “Having a problem, Akbar?”

“No, no, Sahib.  I am helping the mistress to her hotel.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes, yes.  Ask her.  She will tell all.”

“I’m sure she will,” the man retorted, “but why am I betting her version will be a tad different than yours?”

Theo’s bonnet had vanished, and her blond hair had tumbled down.  She pushed it out of her eyes and whirled to gape at her rescuer.

His shoulders were broad, his waist narrow, his legs very, very long.  He was tall, six feet at least, and his virile presence seemed to fill the entire alley.

He was dressed causally, in a flowing white shirt, tan trousers, and knee-high black boots.  He wore a hat with a wide brim that shaded his face, but she could see that his hair was black, his eyes very blue.  His skin was bronzed from the sun as if he’d been in Egypt for a lengthy period, but he was definitely British.  There was no mistaking that accent.

To her great delight, he was heavily armed, a large pistol dangling from a holster on one hip, and a leather whip dangling from the other.

“Are you all right, Miss?” he asked without glancing at her.

“Yes, I’m fine.  A bit banged up, but I’m fine.”

“Yes, Sahib,” her tormentor said in a fawning tone, “the young lady is very fine.  So I’ll just be going.”

The slimy cur moved as if he’d scoot by them, but quick as a snake, her savior seized him by the neck, lifted him, and pinned him to the side of a building.

“If I cross paths with you again today, Akbar,” he hissed, “I’ll kill you.”

“Sahib!  You cannot be meaning to—“

“I will kill you, Akbar.  I’ve warned you before, and next time I won’t waste my breath.  Next time, I’ll simply slit your throat, and the world will be rid of you.”

He released his grip, and Akbar slid to the ground.  He was kicked in the ribs, hard jabs that had him gasping in agony.  A few brisk lashes of the whip added insult to injury, then he was allowed to slink off like the dog he was.

Theo gawked at her brave champion, and she’d never been more stunned.  She’d grown up in a place where etiquette and decorum were practiced in every situation.  People never quarreled because there was never an issue worth quarreling about.  She’d never previously witnessed a physical altercation, had never seen one man hit another, had never seen a whip applied in such a punishing manner.

She was fascinated and extremely glad that—whoever he was—he’d appeared at just the right moment.

“Thank you,” she said.

She’d expected a courteous you’re welcome, but he glowered and snapped, “What the hell were you thinking?”

“Ah…ah…what?” she stammered.

“Akbar is a criminal and a slaver.”

“He’s what?”

“A criminal.  A slaver.  You must have heard the words before.”

“Of course I have.”

“He preys on unsuspecting tourists.  Why on earth would you trot off with him?”

“I didn’t trot off!” she huffed.  “I was lost, and he claimed he’d guide me to my porters.”

“I’ll just bet he did.”

“He did!” she insisted.

With the excitement ended, she felt as if she might burst into tears, but with him being so horrid, she refused to prove herself weak and weepy.  She was eager to locate the stone arches, retrieve Fenton, and head to the hotel so no other calamity could occur.

“Thank you again, sir,” she said, mustering her dignity.  “I believe I can find my way on my own.”

“You’re not walking back alone.”

“Well, I don’t want to walk with you.”  She was very rude for what had to be the first time ever.

“With how your luck is running, some other miscreant will snatch you, and you’ll vanish into thin air.  A few weeks from now, we’ll discover your body floating in the Nile.”

“I’ll try not to let it happen,” she said through clenched teeth.

“You won’t be able to stop it.”  He nodded toward the entrance to the bazaar.  “Come.  I’ll show you to your porters.”

“There’s no need.  Really.”

“Be silent, and allow me to escort you.”

He started off, and she went with him.  She didn’t like him, but she wasn’t about to lag behind.  She’d been in Cairo for all of three days, and she’d already had more adventure than she hoped to experience for the remainder of her life.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Theodosia Postlewaite.  What’s yours?”

“Soloman Grey.”

Soloman Grey…

A bell rang somewhere in her distant memory, as if she’d heard of him before, but she couldn’t imagine where or when it would have been.  She peeked up at him, deciding he was older than she was, probably thirty or so, and he looked older than that, as if he’d suffered some painful blows over the years.

“Have we met, Mr. Grey?”

“No.”

“I thought I recognized your name.”

“I suppose so.  Most people know it.”

He didn’t expound, and she asked, “Who is your family?  Are you from London?”

“An eternity ago, I lived in London, but my past is of no consequence to you or anyone.”

Well, he’d told her, hadn’t he?

If he was trying to pique her curiosity so she’d query him further, he was vastly mistaken.  She had no intention of being cordial.

He was magnificent and dashing, and he was definitely tough and brave, like a character out of a romantic novel, which meant she had no desire to chat.

After the debacle with Lord Trent, after she’d learned how dangerous a handsome man could truly be, she had no reason to pretend any interest.  She’d traveled to Egypt with her Aunt Edna to escape the gossip, to restore her tattered reputation, and she would exhibit pristine behavior at all times.

Mr. Soloman Grey could jump in the Nile for all she cared.

“How did you end up lost?” he asked, just when she wished he’d be quiet.

“I was shopping with my cousin, and we were…separated.”

She could have waxed on about Fenton, about his personal problems, about his dire need for attention, but she wasn’t about to air any dirty laundry in front of a stranger.

“How were you separated?” he inquired.

“I’m not sure.  I simply turned around and he was gone.”

“How old is your cousin?”

“Ten.  Why?”

“Where was your maid?”

“I don’t have one.”

“You were in the bazaar with your ten-year-old cousin?  That’s it?”

“Yes.”

He halted and glared.  “Are you a dunce?  Are you a fool?”

“No.”

“Then are you deliberately trying to get yourself killed?”

“Killed!  Honestly, Mr. Grey.”

“This isn’t London, Miss Postlewaite.”

“I realize that.”  She could have added, and it’s Lady Theodosia to you, but why bother?  She didn’t intend to ever see him again.

“The city is filled with cut-throats and pick pockets, with murderers and thieves.  You’re lucky I came along when I did.”

“Yes, I am, and I’ve thanked you, so you can cease lecturing me.  I’m feeling plenty wretched and I don’t need you making me feel worse.”

Very much against her will, tears surged into her eyes and dripped down her cheeks.  The prior few months had been a lengthy slog of misfortune:  her naïve encounter with Lord Trent, , Hedley immediately severing their engagement, her father’s rage, his demand that she sail to Egypt with Edna to let the rumors die down.

Despite Theo insisting nothing had happened with Lord Trent, no one would listen to her.  She’d believed an abrupt departure from England would simply exacerbate the impression that she was guilty of misconduct, but her pleas had fallen on deaf ears.

It was typical that her initial foray onto the streets of Cairo would end in disaster, and she beginning to suspect cursed.

More tears flowed, and as she swiped at them, he scowled ferociously.  “Are you crying?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t abide a maudlin woman.  Stop it.”

“You’re a veritable fount of compassion, aren’t you?”  She didn’t want to cry anymore than he wanted her too.  She took several deep breaths, calming herself sufficiently that she could carry on a conversation.

“The brigand who accosted me?  Mr. Akbar?”

“Yes.”

“You’re acquainted with him?”

“I am.  This isn’t the first time I’ve caught him harassing a Brit.”

“He was adamant about absconding with me.”

“He definitely was.”

“What might he have done?  Have you any idea what he was planning?”

“I wouldn’t presume to explain.  The possibilities are too shocking to describe to a young lady.”

“Oh.”

She fought off a shudder of dread, not keen to be apprised of any details.

Throughout the voyage from England, Aunt Edna had expounded about foreign lands and the perils a traveler could face, how quickly a female could land herself in a jam without even noticing she had.

Theo hadn’t paid attention to the warnings, had rolled her eyes and ignored her aunt’s preaching.  Edna had spent decades in India, and she had very staunch opinions about the lower classes.  Clearly, Edna had experience and knowledge that Theo needed to heed.

She wouldn’t venture out again on her own, wouldn’t be stupid or reckless.  Most especially, she wouldn’t join any excursion suggested by Fenton, and she had to quit being such an easy target for his pranks.

Her palms were stinging, were cut and bleeding from when she’d fallen to the cobbles.  Her skirt was torn too, a few stitches at the waist having ripped loose.  There were dirt stains at her knees, and the toes of her shoes were scuffed.

It dawned on her that she’d left her bonnet behind, and momentarily she wondered if she should request they go back for it, but she didn’t.  She couldn’t imagine he’d oblige her.

He saw her scraped palms, and he frowned and clucked his tongue.  Like the gallant she wouldn’t have supposed he could be, he produced a white kerchief and handed it over.  She pressed it to her skin, wincing over the fact that she was hurt.

“Is that your only injury?” he asked.

“Except to my pride.”

At her reply, he barked out a laugh, and it didn’t sound as if he laughed very often.  “Then I expect you’ll survive.”

“I expect I will too.”

They were approaching the stone arches, and Fenton dawdled in the crowd, looking into the bazaar and watching for her to follow him out.  He was grinning, appearing cocky and proud of himself for having sneaked off without her.

Suddenly, she felt very tired as she was forced to admit how awful the trip would constantly be.

She was trapped with Fenton and Edna.  With Edna’s daughter, Susan, too.  Susan was twenty and had grown up under the same conditions as Fenton, with Edna away in India, and Susan enrolled in boarding school in England.

The three of them were practically strangers.  Edna didn’t know how to parent her two children, and Susan and Fenton didn’t know how to act around her or how to accept her rules and regulations.  The whole situation was fraught with stress and misunderstanding, and as they sailed down the Nile to the isolated, desert archeological digs, it would only get worse.

She wished the past year had never happened.  She wished she’d never gone to London to stay with her father.  She wished she’d never let him arrange her engagement to Hedley.  She wished she’d never been dim-witted enough to dawdle with Lord Trent in that dark parlor on Christmas Eve.  She wished…wished…

Oh, what was the point?  She’d been banished to Egypt with her aunt and cousins, and she couldn’t return home until Aunt Edna decided sufficient time had passed for the scandal to have waned.

Theo simply had to buck up and cope with the consequences.  There was no use complaining or feeling sorry for herself.

“Could I ask you a favor?” she said.

“Yes, but I likely won’t grant it.”

“Could we claim I fell back there?  I don’t care to have anyone learn of the episode with Mr. Akbar.”

“Why?”

“Why do you think?  If I confess that my cousin and I were separated and that I was accosted by a lecher, I’ll never hear the end of it.  I’d rather pretend none of it happened.”

“Fine by me.”

He shrugged, and she exhaled a sigh of relief.

If he’d demanded Edna be told, Theo would have died from mortification.  And he’d competently dealt with the problem, hadn’t he?  He’d given Akbar a thrashing, so there was no reason to raise a huge stink.

Fenton glanced over and saw her, and his smug grin immediately became solicitous and concerned.

“Theo!  Where have you been?  I’ve been searching everywhere.”

“Have you?” she groused.

“I turned around, and I couldn’t find you.”

“I couldn’t find you either.”

“You didn’t buy a scarf for Mother.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Would you like to?  I’m certain she’d be happier if we brought her a gift.”

The little cur!  He actually assumed she’d agree to being tricked a second time!  Well, Theo was completely gullible and his mischief always worked, so why wouldn’t he try again?  He thought his shenanigans were funny.

“No, I don’t want to get a scarf,” she said.  “I’m very hot, and I want to go to the hotel.”

“Have you suffered a mishap?  Where’s your bonnet?”

“I…lost it.  I fell.”

“My goodness,” he ingenuously commiserated.  “Were you hurt?”

“No.”  She stared across the busy courtyard to the spot where their porters had sworn they’d wait, but she couldn’t locate them.  “Where are the porters, Fenton?”

He oozed innocence.  “Aren’t they over in the shade?”

She wouldn’t be surprised if he’d sent them away in the hopes that he could annoy her further.  Nor would she be surprised if they’d simply grown bored and left.

She blew out a heavy breath.  Why, oh, why was she in Egypt?  Why, oh, why was had she let herself be roped into a lengthy holiday with her relatives?  She barely knew them and didn’t like them very much, and the close proximity was quickly wearing thin.

She peeked up at Mr. Grey, and he was studying Fenton, his censorious gaze roving over Fenton’s features.  He was taking the boy’s measure and seemed to have figured out his wicked temperament.

Fenton was blond and blue-eyed, tiny and slight, so he looked younger than he was.  He had the face of a cherub, which was why it was so easy for him to cause trouble, and he was always able to deny culpability.

Mr. Grey was a hard nut to crack though, and he asked Fenton, “How were you separated from your cousin?”

“I have no idea,” Fenton replied.  “One minute she was right next to me, and the next she wasn’t.”

He couldn’t hide a smirk, and Mr. Grey turned to Theo and said, “Shall we leave him here and see if he can get himself back to the hotel by himself?”

Fenton’s jaw dropped.  “You can’t do that!”

“Can’t I?” Mr. Grey fumed.

“I’ll tell my mother,” Fenton warned.

“So tell her.”  Mr. Grey gave a dismissive shrug.  “I think it would be amusing to abandon you.  What’s your opinion?” he asked Theo.  “Is he smart enough to get back on his own?  Or would he have his throat slit in some alley?”

“We’re not leaving him,” she said, wishing she had the temerity to behave so reprehensibly.  “How can I hire a chair?  The porters who brought us were from the hotel, but it appears they’ve departed.”

At the news, Mr. Grey’s expression was thunderous.  “I’ll have a conversation about it with the manager.”

“Again, Mr. Grey, how will I accomplish the hiring of porters?  Who would aid us?  Can you point them out?”

“I’ll handle it for you, Miss Postlewaite.  It’s obvious I can’t let you go off on your own.  There’s no predicting what sort of jam you might land yourself in.”

“I’m perfectly capable of getting myself to the hotel without incident.”

“Are you?”  He scoffed.  “You just admitted you can’t so much as rent a chair without assistance.”

“Besides that small problem, I can manage.”

“Sure you can, Miss Postlewaite.  Sure you can.”

He whistled to some men, and they rushed over.  In a matter of seconds, Theo and Fenton were deposited in the chair, and they’d started off.

Mr. Grey trotted with them, and while Theo tried not to glance out, not to notice how vigilantly he assessed the route, she felt safe with him standing so close and was very, very glad that he’d insisted on accompanying her the rest of the way.

 

Click on each letter to read the full text.

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+ Reviews

Rachel, The Reading Cafe

5 out of 5 for this reader folks!

Ah… nothing like a good book that delivers what I like to refer to as a lazy read. So easy to flip page after page (or in my case the e-reader screen) when a story just naturally captivates and flows so well. ONLY YOU by Cheryl Holt is a historical romance with maybe a side of erotica (some may think so) that collides two souls that were seriously made for one another. I can see reading this on the beach this summer, or swinging on a hammock in the breeze. Just pure indulgent reading. LOL

Lady Theodosia Postlewaite is an English lady who has had her life mapped out for her. She is going to marry (insert stuffy so wrong for her Englishmen) because her father says it’s so. On Christmas Eve, just before her betrothal is announced, Theo hears some ladies gossiping about her soon to be fiance, and his mistress he has no desire to give up. These mean girls rip Theo to shreds behind her back (little did they know they were heard), but they also open Theo’s eyes to the kind of life that is waiting for her with this marriage. Theo is naive, lonely, obedient and she is just going through the motions of life without thinking she is missing out on any thing special. When she is caught in a chance encounter with another man, her betrothal is broken, she is ruined and sent off with Auntie Dearest on what she believes is exile. It just so happens to be life changing and one heck of an adventure.

Soloman Grey… SIGH! I really like Soloman Grey. Soloman is considered a bastard in polite English society, but he is a recognized bastard. He is embraced by his father, loved by his father and before he his father passes away, Soloman is given guardianship of the estate on behalf of his legitimate baby brother. When Soloman’s baby brother disappears, everyone assumes Soloman took care of business in order to inherit the family fortune. He is completely shuned and in order to escape the assumptions and mutters and downright rudeness of polite society, he willingly leaves England, which to some, means he confirms his guilt.

Both Theo and Soloman paths cross in Egypt. I suppose this is a quest of sorts… a quest of self discovery and healing. While Soloman tries his hardest to stay away from Theo he eventually just gives in to this incredible woman (although there is lots of taking and giving on both ends ..lol). It’s like neither of them knew that they needed the other until they experienced what it is like to have each other. Friendship and a one hot romance soon follows as we get a tour down the Nile River.

Add in some adventure, exotic foreign experiences and a big fat middle finger to polite society (when they get to that point, I swear I high fived my ereader …lol) and you have one fantastic book. I love historical romance that throws anything proper out the door, and allows for characters to bloom in a strange setting, and this is exactly what Cheryl has allowed her lead characters to do. Both came into their own and brought out the best in the other. Of course there is some angst and danger, and some serious jerkfaces, but I will not go into any of that as you can find that out for yourself.


“Rose” that Ruled all…Magnificent! I LOVED it and forever will”

Rachel at Romancing the Book:

Review: Cheryl Holt weaves an incredibly fresh and poignant romance that spans the London ballrooms and Egyptian Pyramids. Lady Theo is refreshing for a regency heroine. Innocent yet startlingly blunt, she is everything that Solomon Grey doesn’t expect from a London Ball room, which makes sense since they meet on the streets of Cario, Egypt.

The scene is set perfectly and while I’ve never been one to enjoy regency romances that take place outside of London—I found myself completely enthralled with Theo and Solomon’s story.

Both are fleeing scandals at home, there’s a common bond and an immediate chemistry that sizzles the pages. Of course that is short lived once Solomon’s past comes back to roost—they might be in Egypt, but his name is famous world wide.

I can’t even explain how many times I wanted to shake my kindle and beg for Theo to just see past all of that—which early on—she actually does. It’s the hero who claims he’s anything but, and it’s Solomon that the reader ends up being frustrated with.

Along with two other secondary stories, this book brings so many plot points that it would be easy to get lost in it if Miss Holt didn’t have her craft down to an absolute art. I was completely lost in this native land and didn’t want to leave even though I became extremely frustrated with all the moving parts.

So here’s the jist:

Theo was caught in a situation that labeled her basically a woman who no man would marry even though NOTHING happened, and sent away to her cousins/aunt in Cairo. But in this situation Solomon is notorious. Deemed a murder of his baby brother, he’s fleeting the ballroom accusations of the London scene, only to discover that no matter how far away he gets, his past follows him. And upon meeting Theo, rather saving her from herself—again—suddenly it’s not so horrible to have a taste of home, even if that taste is from Theo’s sweet lips.

At first it was hard for me to LIKE them together only because he seemed so intent on scandalizing her and pushing her away which of course just made the heroic moments he had that much sweeter.

Danger, adventure, mischief and romance run wild in this exotic regency romance that has everything we have come to expect from such a talented author like Cheryl Holt! Once I started the book, I didn’t want to put it down! Each page was an adventure, and the characters were shockingly real and relatable, along with the mystery woven around Egypt, and the gossip thick in the London Ballrooms. Once again, Cheryl Holt has woven story that will stay with the reader long after the last page is finished!

+ Sample Chapter

CHAPTER ONE

Three months later…

Theodosia stood in the middle of an Egyptian bazaar.  The hot desert sun beat down, the crowd swirling around her.

Even though she was away from England, she was dressed in what she viewed as a normal British costume such as she would wear on a cool, rainy autumn afternoon in London.  But the heavy gown, shawl, bonnet, petticoat, stockings, shoes, and corset were totally inappropriate for the excessive temperature.  Although she had a very hearty constitution, she truly wondered if she might faint.

The air was so heavy she couldn’t catch her breath, and as she studied the native women passing by, she couldn’t help but be jealous of their attire that appeared much more comfortable and thoroughly suited to the elements.

They’d been in Cairo for three days, and they were still settling into their hotel, so she hadn’t had a chance to acclimate to the climate or assess her wardrobe’s functionality.  Yet clearly, changes would have to be made.

“Look, Theo.”  Her cousin, Fenton, pointed to a booth.  “Wouldn’t you like to have one of those scarves?”

“I would actually.”

“You could buy one for Mother too.  Perhaps if we return with a gift, it will improve her mood.”

“Yes, it just might.”

Though Theo didn’t say so, she didn’t think anything could improve his mother’s mood.  His mother was Theo’s aunt, Edna Wallace.

From the outset, the journey should have been an adventure.  After all, they were on their way to tour the pyramids.  First, they would tarry for a month at an archeological dig being run by Edna’s friend, Cedric Webster, who was a famous archeologist.  Then they would sail even farther down the Nile to explore other ruins.

But the trip had been partially organized as an excuse for Theo to flee her scandal with Lord Trent.  With gossip and disgrace spurring them to slink out of London—practically in the dead of night—the entire expedition had commenced on a sour note, so they probably shouldn’t have expected a good outcome.

The whole voyage, Edna had been grouchy and quarrelsome, and with their finally arriving, her disposition wasn’t any better.  If a new scarf could have any effect, which Theo doubted very much, she was certainly ready to make the attempt.

She stepped to the booth where the scarves were piled high, the beautiful fabrics and colors so vibrant that she wished she could roll around on them merely to feel the silky textures on her skin.

It was a hard decision to select just one, and the vendor was eager to entice her.  He kept showing her different and prettier designs, and ultimately she tried to walk away, but it only encouraged him.  Apparently, he believed she was haggling over the price.

She wasn’t sure that was the case, but it seemed to be.  She didn’t speak his language and he didn’t speak hers, and she chastised herself for getting immersed in a situation she couldn’t control or understand.  Why had she presumed it was a sensible idea to leave the safety of the hotel and go shopping?

Their hours trapped at the hotel had been boring and stultifying.  They’d languished on porches, fanning themselves and waiting for Edna to arrange for transport down the Nile.  When Fenton had suggested a visit to the nearby market, Theo had jumped at the opportunity to join him, but they shouldn’t have ventured out.

She glanced around to inform him that their excursion was over.  He should have been right behind her, but he wasn’t there, which was completely typical and she should have absolutely anticipated.

Fenton was ten, and he’d grown up in boarding schools in England while Edna had spent the years in India with her husband, Colonel Wallace.

The Colonel was recently deceased, Edna a widow, and she was struggling to figure out how to be a mother to Fenton, but he wasn’t interested in being mothered.  He didn’t like to be told what to do, so they constantly bickered and snapped.  Theo suspected too that he caused trouble merely to garner attention.

Edna hated to seem overly strict, so she ignored Fenton’s mischief.  If Fenton had sneaked off and left Theo, it would simply be another prank in a long line of pranks he wouldn’t stop playing.

She scanned the crowd and thought she saw him flitting away toward the street.  At least she thought he was headed toward the street.

They’d been escorted to the bazaar by porters from the hotel who’d stayed in the courtyard by her rented chair so they could loaf in the shade under the trees.  Fenton and Theo had entered the marketplace by themselves, but she was swiftly realizing she shouldn’t have been so reckless.

She hurried after Fenton, and the scarf vendor shouted comments that had to be curses.  From her clothes and mannerisms, it was obvious she was a foreigner, so he’d likely hoped to cheat her and was angry he hadn’t had the chance.

That was the lesson Edna had ceaselessly imparted about Egypt.  They weren’t to trust anyone, and every native person should be deemed capable of horrid behavior.  Theo wasn’t so condemning in her opinion of the locals.  So far, her interactions had been limited to employees at the hotel, and they’d been friendly and courteous and many of them were fluent in English.  If wicked conduct was swirling, she hadn’t noticed.

She rushed along, being swept into the throng of people, but with her being just five-foot-five in her stockings, it was difficult to get her bearings.  She assumed she’d see the stone arches that marked the entrance, but they never came into view.

For a moment, panic assailed her.  She was alone at a bazaar in Cairo, without a maid or chaperone, and her sole male companion had abandoned her to her own devices.  Fenton would be back at their rented chair, chortling with glee over how he’d tricked her.

But Theo wasn’t a flighty girl, wasn’t the type to panic.  She was a very elderly twenty-three, and for most of her life, she’d been alone.  Granted, it had been at her father’s Oakwood estate where she’d been an only child.  With a deceased mother and an absent father, there’d been few adults to fret or boss.

She’d always set her own schedule, made her own plans, and kept her own appointments.  She’d never had a servant trailing after her, and she wasn’t about to suffer an attack of the vapors simply because she’d been caught in an awkward situation.

She might suffer an attack of heat stroke though.  The temperature was insanely hot, and she was perspiring, sweat dripping off her face.  She slipped into an alcove where there was a bit of shade.

She took stock of her condition, wondering what to do, and she studied the crowd, anxious to see someone who looked as if he might speak English.  Before too much time had passed, a local man approached.  He was short and cleanly barbered, attired in a suit much like those worn by the employees at the hotel.  He halted in front of her and bowed.

“If this one may be so bold as to inquire,” he began in heavily accented English, “is the young lady lost?”

“Yes.”  Theo flashed a wan smile.  “I was separated from my cousin, and I can’t find the main entrance.  I have porters waiting for me.”

“The entrance is there.”  He gestured vaguely.  “May this one show you the way?”

“I would appreciate it very much.”

“Which hotel is your staying?”

Initially, the convoluted wordage threw her, but she figured it out quickly enough.  “The Hotel Cairo.”

“Very good, very good.  If you will please to follow me?”

“Yes, certainly.”

He started off, and she hastened after him, remaining very close so they weren’t separated.  Yet rapidly it became clear that—despite his claiming the entrance was nearby—it was much more of a distance than she’d predicted.

They twisted and turned deeper into the bazaar.  The alleys were loud and crammed with people, animals, and merchandise.  After so many weeks at sea, the frantic activity made her dizzy.

She reached for his coat, having to tug several times before he glanced back.

“How much farther?” she asked.

“Not far, not far.”

“I’m very hot.”

“Soon there.”

He continued on, and she hesitated, then marched after him.  The crowd thinned, the booths ending, and an exit appeared, but the stone arches were nowhere in sight.

They were deposited onto a deserted street, another alley really.  The hoards were left behind, and it was eerily quiet.  He motioned for her to walk to the right, but off in the other direction, she saw the stone arches.

She stopped, and he stopped too.

“You’re heading the wrong way,” she told him.

“No, no, I know this place.”

“My cousin and porters are back there.”

“No,” he said more sternly.  “You must come with me.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t.  Thank you for your assistance, but I can get there on my own.”

Suddenly, he wasn’t quite so cordial or accommodating.  He smiled a smile that made her skin crawl.

“You must be doing as I bid you.”

“I don’t think so,” she firmly stated.

“And I am thinking you will.”

He clasped her arm and dashed off.  For the first few strides, she was so shocked at being manhandled that she went with him, but swiftly she regrouped and pulled away.  He grabbed her again and whipped her around.

“I am happy to be taking you where you must be,” he said.

“I don’t wish to go with you.”

“This Hotel Cairo, we leave for it now.”

“We most certainly don’t.”

He tightened his grip, and this time there was no pretense that he was escorting her.  He clamped a palm over her mouth and dragged her farther into the warren of deserted streets.

She struggled to escape, but to no avail.  He wasn’t much bigger than she was, but he was thin and wiry.  She bit him very hard, and he yelped in pain and released her just long enough for her to lurch away.  But she tripped and fell to the cobbles, skidding on her hands and knees, hearing a tear in the fabric of her skirt.

Before he could grab her yet again, she managed a blood-curdling scream and had just scrambled to her feet when, from behind her, a very British male said, “Having a problem, Akbar?”

“No, no, Sahib.  I am helping the mistress to her hotel.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes, yes.  Ask her.  She will tell all.”

“I’m sure she will,” the man retorted, “but why am I betting her version will be a tad different than yours?”

Theo’s bonnet had vanished, and her blond hair had tumbled down.  She pushed it out of her eyes and whirled to gape at her rescuer.

His shoulders were broad, his waist narrow, his legs very, very long.  He was tall, six feet at least, and his virile presence seemed to fill the entire alley.

He was dressed causally, in a flowing white shirt, tan trousers, and knee-high black boots.  He wore a hat with a wide brim that shaded his face, but she could see that his hair was black, his eyes very blue.  His skin was bronzed from the sun as if he’d been in Egypt for a lengthy period, but he was definitely British.  There was no mistaking that accent.

To her great delight, he was heavily armed, a large pistol dangling from a holster on one hip, and a leather whip dangling from the other.

“Are you all right, Miss?” he asked without glancing at her.

“Yes, I’m fine.  A bit banged up, but I’m fine.”

“Yes, Sahib,” her tormentor said in a fawning tone, “the young lady is very fine.  So I’ll just be going.”

The slimy cur moved as if he’d scoot by them, but quick as a snake, her savior seized him by the neck, lifted him, and pinned him to the side of a building.

“If I cross paths with you again today, Akbar,” he hissed, “I’ll kill you.”

“Sahib!  You cannot be meaning to—“

“I will kill you, Akbar.  I’ve warned you before, and next time I won’t waste my breath.  Next time, I’ll simply slit your throat, and the world will be rid of you.”

He released his grip, and Akbar slid to the ground.  He was kicked in the ribs, hard jabs that had him gasping in agony.  A few brisk lashes of the whip added insult to injury, then he was allowed to slink off like the dog he was.

Theo gawked at her brave champion, and she’d never been more stunned.  She’d grown up in a place where etiquette and decorum were practiced in every situation.  People never quarreled because there was never an issue worth quarreling about.  She’d never previously witnessed a physical altercation, had never seen one man hit another, had never seen a whip applied in such a punishing manner.

She was fascinated and extremely glad that—whoever he was—he’d appeared at just the right moment.

“Thank you,” she said.

She’d expected a courteous you’re welcome, but he glowered and snapped, “What the hell were you thinking?”

“Ah…ah…what?” she stammered.

“Akbar is a criminal and a slaver.”

“He’s what?”

“A criminal.  A slaver.  You must have heard the words before.”

“Of course I have.”

“He preys on unsuspecting tourists.  Why on earth would you trot off with him?”

“I didn’t trot off!” she huffed.  “I was lost, and he claimed he’d guide me to my porters.”

“I’ll just bet he did.”

“He did!” she insisted.

With the excitement ended, she felt as if she might burst into tears, but with him being so horrid, she refused to prove herself weak and weepy.  She was eager to locate the stone arches, retrieve Fenton, and head to the hotel so no other calamity could occur.

“Thank you again, sir,” she said, mustering her dignity.  “I believe I can find my way on my own.”

“You’re not walking back alone.”

“Well, I don’t want to walk with you.”  She was very rude for what had to be the first time ever.

“With how your luck is running, some other miscreant will snatch you, and you’ll vanish into thin air.  A few weeks from now, we’ll discover your body floating in the Nile.”

“I’ll try not to let it happen,” she said through clenched teeth.

“You won’t be able to stop it.”  He nodded toward the entrance to the bazaar.  “Come.  I’ll show you to your porters.”

“There’s no need.  Really.”

“Be silent, and allow me to escort you.”

He started off, and she went with him.  She didn’t like him, but she wasn’t about to lag behind.  She’d been in Cairo for all of three days, and she’d already had more adventure than she hoped to experience for the remainder of her life.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Theodosia Postlewaite.  What’s yours?”

“Soloman Grey.”

Soloman Grey…

A bell rang somewhere in her distant memory, as if she’d heard of him before, but she couldn’t imagine where or when it would have been.  She peeked up at him, deciding he was older than she was, probably thirty or so, and he looked older than that, as if he’d suffered some painful blows over the years.

“Have we met, Mr. Grey?”

“No.”

“I thought I recognized your name.”

“I suppose so.  Most people know it.”

He didn’t expound, and she asked, “Who is your family?  Are you from London?”

“An eternity ago, I lived in London, but my past is of no consequence to you or anyone.”

Well, he’d told her, hadn’t he?

If he was trying to pique her curiosity so she’d query him further, he was vastly mistaken.  She had no intention of being cordial.

He was magnificent and dashing, and he was definitely tough and brave, like a character out of a romantic novel, which meant she had no desire to chat.

After the debacle with Lord Trent, after she’d learned how dangerous a handsome man could truly be, she had no reason to pretend any interest.  She’d traveled to Egypt with her Aunt Edna to escape the gossip, to restore her tattered reputation, and she would exhibit pristine behavior at all times.

Mr. Soloman Grey could jump in the Nile for all she cared.

“How did you end up lost?” he asked, just when she wished he’d be quiet.

“I was shopping with my cousin, and we were…separated.”

She could have waxed on about Fenton, about his personal problems, about his dire need for attention, but she wasn’t about to air any dirty laundry in front of a stranger.

“How were you separated?” he inquired.

“I’m not sure.  I simply turned around and he was gone.”

“How old is your cousin?”

“Ten.  Why?”

“Where was your maid?”

“I don’t have one.”

“You were in the bazaar with your ten-year-old cousin?  That’s it?”

“Yes.”

He halted and glared.  “Are you a dunce?  Are you a fool?”

“No.”

“Then are you deliberately trying to get yourself killed?”

“Killed!  Honestly, Mr. Grey.”

“This isn’t London, Miss Postlewaite.”

“I realize that.”  She could have added, and it’s Lady Theodosia to you, but why bother?  She didn’t intend to ever see him again.

“The city is filled with cut-throats and pick pockets, with murderers and thieves.  You’re lucky I came along when I did.”

“Yes, I am, and I’ve thanked you, so you can cease lecturing me.  I’m feeling plenty wretched and I don’t need you making me feel worse.”

Very much against her will, tears surged into her eyes and dripped down her cheeks.  The prior few months had been a lengthy slog of misfortune:  her naïve encounter with Lord Trent, , Hedley immediately severing their engagement, her father’s rage, his demand that she sail to Egypt with Edna to let the rumors die down.

Despite Theo insisting nothing had happened with Lord Trent, no one would listen to her.  She’d believed an abrupt departure from England would simply exacerbate the impression that she was guilty of misconduct, but her pleas had fallen on deaf ears.

It was typical that her initial foray onto the streets of Cairo would end in disaster, and she beginning to suspect cursed.

More tears flowed, and as she swiped at them, he scowled ferociously.  “Are you crying?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t abide a maudlin woman.  Stop it.”

“You’re a veritable fount of compassion, aren’t you?”  She didn’t want to cry anymore than he wanted her too.  She took several deep breaths, calming herself sufficiently that she could carry on a conversation.

“The brigand who accosted me?  Mr. Akbar?”

“Yes.”

“You’re acquainted with him?”

“I am.  This isn’t the first time I’ve caught him harassing a Brit.”

“He was adamant about absconding with me.”

“He definitely was.”

“What might he have done?  Have you any idea what he was planning?”

“I wouldn’t presume to explain.  The possibilities are too shocking to describe to a young lady.”

“Oh.”

She fought off a shudder of dread, not keen to be apprised of any details.

Throughout the voyage from England, Aunt Edna had expounded about foreign lands and the perils a traveler could face, how quickly a female could land herself in a jam without even noticing she had.

Theo hadn’t paid attention to the warnings, had rolled her eyes and ignored her aunt’s preaching.  Edna had spent decades in India, and she had very staunch opinions about the lower classes.  Clearly, Edna had experience and knowledge that Theo needed to heed.

She wouldn’t venture out again on her own, wouldn’t be stupid or reckless.  Most especially, she wouldn’t join any excursion suggested by Fenton, and she had to quit being such an easy target for his pranks.

Her palms were stinging, were cut and bleeding from when she’d fallen to the cobbles.  Her skirt was torn too, a few stitches at the waist having ripped loose.  There were dirt stains at her knees, and the toes of her shoes were scuffed.

It dawned on her that she’d left her bonnet behind, and momentarily she wondered if she should request they go back for it, but she didn’t.  She couldn’t imagine he’d oblige her.

He saw her scraped palms, and he frowned and clucked his tongue.  Like the gallant she wouldn’t have supposed he could be, he produced a white kerchief and handed it over.  She pressed it to her skin, wincing over the fact that she was hurt.

“Is that your only injury?” he asked.

“Except to my pride.”

At her reply, he barked out a laugh, and it didn’t sound as if he laughed very often.  “Then I expect you’ll survive.”

“I expect I will too.”

They were approaching the stone arches, and Fenton dawdled in the crowd, looking into the bazaar and watching for her to follow him out.  He was grinning, appearing cocky and proud of himself for having sneaked off without her.

Suddenly, she felt very tired as she was forced to admit how awful the trip would constantly be.

She was trapped with Fenton and Edna.  With Edna’s daughter, Susan, too.  Susan was twenty and had grown up under the same conditions as Fenton, with Edna away in India, and Susan enrolled in boarding school in England.

The three of them were practically strangers.  Edna didn’t know how to parent her two children, and Susan and Fenton didn’t know how to act around her or how to accept her rules and regulations.  The whole situation was fraught with stress and misunderstanding, and as they sailed down the Nile to the isolated, desert archeological digs, it would only get worse.

She wished the past year had never happened.  She wished she’d never gone to London to stay with her father.  She wished she’d never let him arrange her engagement to Hedley.  She wished she’d never been dim-witted enough to dawdle with Lord Trent in that dark parlor on Christmas Eve.  She wished…wished…

Oh, what was the point?  She’d been banished to Egypt with her aunt and cousins, and she couldn’t return home until Aunt Edna decided sufficient time had passed for the scandal to have waned.

Theo simply had to buck up and cope with the consequences.  There was no use complaining or feeling sorry for herself.

“Could I ask you a favor?” she said.

“Yes, but I likely won’t grant it.”

“Could we claim I fell back there?  I don’t care to have anyone learn of the episode with Mr. Akbar.”

“Why?”

“Why do you think?  If I confess that my cousin and I were separated and that I was accosted by a lecher, I’ll never hear the end of it.  I’d rather pretend none of it happened.”

“Fine by me.”

He shrugged, and she exhaled a sigh of relief.

If he’d demanded Edna be told, Theo would have died from mortification.  And he’d competently dealt with the problem, hadn’t he?  He’d given Akbar a thrashing, so there was no reason to raise a huge stink.

Fenton glanced over and saw her, and his smug grin immediately became solicitous and concerned.

“Theo!  Where have you been?  I’ve been searching everywhere.”

“Have you?” she groused.

“I turned around, and I couldn’t find you.”

“I couldn’t find you either.”

“You didn’t buy a scarf for Mother.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Would you like to?  I’m certain she’d be happier if we brought her a gift.”

The little cur!  He actually assumed she’d agree to being tricked a second time!  Well, Theo was completely gullible and his mischief always worked, so why wouldn’t he try again?  He thought his shenanigans were funny.

“No, I don’t want to get a scarf,” she said.  “I’m very hot, and I want to go to the hotel.”

“Have you suffered a mishap?  Where’s your bonnet?”

“I…lost it.  I fell.”

“My goodness,” he ingenuously commiserated.  “Were you hurt?”

“No.”  She stared across the busy courtyard to the spot where their porters had sworn they’d wait, but she couldn’t locate them.  “Where are the porters, Fenton?”

He oozed innocence.  “Aren’t they over in the shade?”

She wouldn’t be surprised if he’d sent them away in the hopes that he could annoy her further.  Nor would she be surprised if they’d simply grown bored and left.

She blew out a heavy breath.  Why, oh, why was she in Egypt?  Why, oh, why was had she let herself be roped into a lengthy holiday with her relatives?  She barely knew them and didn’t like them very much, and the close proximity was quickly wearing thin.

She peeked up at Mr. Grey, and he was studying Fenton, his censorious gaze roving over Fenton’s features.  He was taking the boy’s measure and seemed to have figured out his wicked temperament.

Fenton was blond and blue-eyed, tiny and slight, so he looked younger than he was.  He had the face of a cherub, which was why it was so easy for him to cause trouble, and he was always able to deny culpability.

Mr. Grey was a hard nut to crack though, and he asked Fenton, “How were you separated from your cousin?”

“I have no idea,” Fenton replied.  “One minute she was right next to me, and the next she wasn’t.”

He couldn’t hide a smirk, and Mr. Grey turned to Theo and said, “Shall we leave him here and see if he can get himself back to the hotel by himself?”

Fenton’s jaw dropped.  “You can’t do that!”

“Can’t I?” Mr. Grey fumed.

“I’ll tell my mother,” Fenton warned.

“So tell her.”  Mr. Grey gave a dismissive shrug.  “I think it would be amusing to abandon you.  What’s your opinion?” he asked Theo.  “Is he smart enough to get back on his own?  Or would he have his throat slit in some alley?”

“We’re not leaving him,” she said, wishing she had the temerity to behave so reprehensibly.  “How can I hire a chair?  The porters who brought us were from the hotel, but it appears they’ve departed.”

At the news, Mr. Grey’s expression was thunderous.  “I’ll have a conversation about it with the manager.”

“Again, Mr. Grey, how will I accomplish the hiring of porters?  Who would aid us?  Can you point them out?”

“I’ll handle it for you, Miss Postlewaite.  It’s obvious I can’t let you go off on your own.  There’s no predicting what sort of jam you might land yourself in.”

“I’m perfectly capable of getting myself to the hotel without incident.”

“Are you?”  He scoffed.  “You just admitted you can’t so much as rent a chair without assistance.”

“Besides that small problem, I can manage.”

“Sure you can, Miss Postlewaite.  Sure you can.”

He whistled to some men, and they rushed over.  In a matter of seconds, Theo and Fenton were deposited in the chair, and they’d started off.

Mr. Grey trotted with them, and while Theo tried not to glance out, not to notice how vigilantly he assessed the route, she felt safe with him standing so close and was very, very glad that he’d insisted on accompanying her the rest of the way.

 

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