Swim naked in the moonlight
Play in a high stakes card game
Ride an elephant
Be painted sans clothing.
Take a lover…
Lucy Merryweather has inherited a fortune—and her great-aunt’s list of unfulfilled wishes. What better way to honor her memory than by accomplishing as many of them as possible? And with Lucy’s family an ocean away in New York, nothing stands in her way—if one ignores the private investigator hired to spy on her.
Yet Cameron Effington is infuriatingly difficult to ignore…
As a reporter, Cameron is always looking for a good story. An American heiress running rampant between Millworth Manor and Mayfair is the perfect subject. Not to mention captivating. And extremely kissable. And if Lucy believes he’s a detective? Well, the truth should never get in the way of a good story—or hinder delicious, impetuous passion…
January 4, 1888
“You want to do what?” Jackson Channing stared at Lucinda Merryweather as if she had suddenly grown two heads. Which would have been most curious even here at Millworth Manor. Although from what Lucy had gathered during her stay thus far, it might not have been the oddest thing ever to have occurred at Jackson’s father’s ancestral estate.
“No, Jackson,” Lucy said firmly, resisting the urge to heave a long-suffering sigh. She had known he would not take this well. Apparently, it was one thing for Jackson to head toward the unknown and a life of grand adventures and quite another for Lucy to do so. Regardless, he no longer had any say in what she did or did not do. She settled into one of the chairs in front of the desk and cast him her most pleasant smile. “I don’t merely want to do this. I fully intend to do this.”
“You intend to somehow set right the regrets of a woman you never met.” Disbelief rang in his voice.
“That’s not entirely true. I did meet my Great-aunt Lucinda, but I was very young and simply don’t remember. She died when I was five.”
“There is no nonetheless, Jackson.” Goodness, the man made her want to stamp her foot in frustration. Fortunately she had given up such childish behavior years ago. Still, it would have been most satisfying. “I was named for my great-aunt and she left me her fortune, which I received on my twenty-first birthday.”
“Yes, I know that but—”
“There were no stipulations on the inheritance, if you recall. However, I also received a letter from Lucinda as well as a thin journal. A book of regrets, if you will.”
“Just because she had regrets does not mean that you are under any obligation—”
“I know exactly what it does and doesn’t mean, Jackson. And I do wish you would stop being so . . . so disapproving.” She glanced around the Millworth library and the numerous family portraits interspersed between endless shelves of books. Each and every portrait glowered with disapproval. “Although this does seem to be the place for it.”
“And do sit down.” She rolled her gaze at the ceiling. “I hate the way you’re standing behind that desk glaring at me.”
“I like standing. It gives me the advantage.”
“Not really.” She smiled sweetly.
He huffed, took his seat, and leaned forward over the desk. “I have known you for all of your life and I have always felt, well, responsible for you.” He paused. “Just because our circumstances have changed does not negate that responsibility.”
“Actually, Jackson,” she said in as kind a voice as she could manage. “It does.”
For years Lucy and Jackson, as well as their respective families, had assumed they would one day marry. But whenever the time had come to officially announce their engagement, there had always been some perfectly legitimate reason to put it off. It had slowly dawned on Lucy that perhaps they were not meant to be together. And perhaps deep down inside, both of them knew it. The realization had brought with it a great deal of relief. She truly loved Jackson and suspected she always would, but the affection she felt for him was not unlike that she had for her brothers. And it did seem to her if one was going to marry a man, the feelings one had for him shouldn’t be anything remotely brotherly.
Both their lives had changed when Jackson discovered the father he had long thought was dead was not merely alive but had no knowledge of his son’s existence. And discovered as well he was heir to an English title. When Jackson came to England with his newfound father to meet his family, it did seem that fate had handed Lucy the chance she had assumed lost forever. She had freed him from any obligation to her and set her own plan for her life in motion, at least tentatively. It was the specifics that were vague. But again fate stepped in and Lucy had jumped at the chance to accompany Jackson’s mother, Elizabeth, to England. Now that she was here, she had no intention of returning home to New York anytime soon. No intention of becoming once again the placid, well-behaved daughter of a director of Graham, Merryweather, and Lockwood Banking and Trust.
“You will always be my dearest friend,” Jackson said staunchly.
“As you will be mine.”
Poor, dear Jackson had fallen head over heels for a friend of his family’s. Unfortunately, she was as independent as she was lovely, and a few days ago both their hearts had been broken. Lucy had tried to talk to Jackson, to encourage him to go after the lady, but it was to no avail. He was as stubborn as the woman he loved. Still, Lucy firmly believed in the notion of true love and soul mates and destiny. And wasn’t the mere fact that she and Jackson were not together proof of that? Lucy was confident Jackson and Lady Theodosia would eventually find their way back to each other.
However, as there seemed to be nothing Lucy could do about Jackson’s life at the moment, it was time to turn her attention to her own.
“I am well aware that I am under no obligation to Great-aunt Lucinda, at least not legally, but I feel a, well, a moral obligation if you will. I was quite moved by the letter she left for me and by her regrets, but there was nothing I could do about it when you and I had our lives planned out for us. Now, everything has changed.” She shook her head. “I do not want to reach the end of my life and have a list of those things I wanted to do but failed to so much as try. The very idea terrifies me. I don’t want regrets of my own.” She met his gaze directly. “And if I don’t do this for her—for me— I know I will.”
“Perhaps . . .” He settled back in his chair and chose his words carefully. A deceptively casual note sounded in his voice. “You should do those things you’ve always wanted rather than those someone else wished to do.”
“Excellent, Jackson.” She fixed him with a firm look. “And just what do you suggest those might be?”
He shrugged. “I have no idea.”
“Unfortunately, neither do I.” She crossed her arms over her chest and drew her brows together. “Every bit of my life has been planned and expected up until now. I’ve never veered from the course set out for me. Why, I never even questioned whether you and I should marry. At least not aloud.”
“Nor did I,” Jackson said under his breath.
“But as I am no longer expected to marry you, I’m not sure what I want to do.”
“Surely you wish to marry someone someday?”
“Oh, probably someday, but at the moment . . .” She shook her head. “I feel very much like a bird who has at long last been released from its cage.”
“Thank you,” he said wryly.
“Come now, you know what I mean.” She waved off his comment. “Now that I am free, I have no idea what I want to do with my freedom. Until I determine that, it seems the best course is to do those things my great-aunt never had the opportunity to do.”
“I’m not sure that is indeed the best course. Still . . .” He studied her for a moment. “You haven’t told me what these regrets of your aunt’s are. I’m assuming the worst, you know. That they are all improper or scandalous or dangerous.” “Not all of them.” She had no intention of telling him everything on Lucinda’s long list, but she could tell him one or two items. “Some of them are a little silly and some are really rather sweet. For one thing, she always wanted to have a dog but was never able to have one as dogs made Great-uncle Charles sneeze. There are quite a few that are as innocent as that.”
His eyes narrowed. “But not all of them?”
“Well, some are a bit more daring.” She cast him an innocent smile. “But not substantially so.”
“I don’t believe you for a moment.” He shook his head. “I don’t think this is the least bit advisable, Lucy.”
“Why not? You’re going off to do exactly what you want. Aside from the notion of following in your father’s adventurous footsteps, your plans are even less definitive than mine. Why shouldn’t I do what I want?”
New York Times bestselling author Victoria Alexander was an award-winning television reporter until she discovered fiction was much more fun than real life. She turned to writing full time and has never looked back. Victoria grew up traveling the country as an Air Force brat and is now settled in a very old house in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, two allegedly grown children and two bearded collies. She firmly believes housework is a four-letter word, there are no calories in anything eaten standing up, procrastination is an art form, and it’s never too soon to panic.