The Lady Meets Her Match
by Gina Conkle
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Rough-around-the-edges Cyrus Ryland rose from humble origins to become England’s wealthiest citizen and most eligible bachelor. Called the King of Commerce, he thinks nothing of marriage until he hosts a masked ball and discovers an alluring woman hiding in his study. After one dance the lady vanishes, leaving behind a single shoe. The hunt is on, but finding her is only half the battle.
Claire Mayhew wants her hard won independence…a mid-town shop of her own. She resists the scorching attraction with Mr. Ryland — her new landlord, but Cyrus isn’t a man who gives up easily.
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“Mr. Ryland, on your first visit to my shop, you questioned my accounts. Now do you plan to inspect how I manage the messengers?” She was being a little tetchy, but that assessment of his touched a sore spot. “As long as I pay my rent come Friday, whatever else happens is no concern of yours.”
He cracked a smile. “Not afraid to put me in my place, are you?”
“As in reminding you that you’re my landlord and you’ve no business giving me such commentary? I’m happy to. I doubt you share your opinions with the male proprietors who rent from you.”
Frayed nerves and a morning fraught with mishaps put her on edge. To admit this to him would be akin to acknowledging a chink in her shopkeeper’s armor. She wasn’t choosing her words with care but let them flow nonetheless.
“Duly noted, Miss Mayhew. I admit I haven’t changed my mind on this venture of yours,” he asserted.
“At the table, even you acknowledged the dangers preying on women in London. At least my sister’s business proposition must prove some goodwill during this trial period.”
She heard him, but her vision caught on the curious red ribbon. Ryland glanced at the box under his arm, his stance relaxing.
“This is the other reason for my visit today,” he said quietly, holding out the wooden box. “It’s for you.”
Her gaze snapped up to his. “For me?”
Claire reached out, accepting the gift with cautious hands. She hefted the box gingerly up and down, checking the sides.
He chuckled. “I promise there’s no viper inside.”
“You bought me a ledger, didn’t you?” Her tone lacked all enthusiasm. A rectangular account book could fit inside the box. So would a shoe.
“If I did, you must agree a ledger would do you good.” His brows slammed together, a small vertical line forming above his nose. “But you won’t know until you open it.”
Gina writes Viking and Georgian romance with a softly sensual side. She loves history, books and romance…the perfect recipe for historical romance writer. Her passion for castles and old places —the older and moldier the better— means interesting family vacations. Good thing her husband and two sons share similar passions. When not visiting fascinating places she can be found delving into the latest adventures in cooking, gardening, and chauffeuring her sons.
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