"Move that leg, girl!” the dowager Lady Craven hisses as she prods you with her cane. The two of you are sitting in the back of her rather shabby carriage on the way to your first social event since you started working as her lady’s companion more than a year ago. Sadly, this behavior is far from extraordinary, so you merely sigh and squeeze yourself into an even tinier part of the seat. At this point, one more prod and you would be making love to the carriage door.
“Such a miserable occasion. I can’t think why Evangeline is making us attend,” Lady Craven mutters.
“Well, it is for the widows and orphans of the war—” you venture to say politely, before being cut off with a glare that could strip paint.
“Did I sound like I wanted your opinion?” You know what’s good for you and stop talking immediately. Lady Craven continues on her tirade. “Truly, you are just as woolheaded as your grandfather was. Odious man! I have no idea what your grandmother was thinking when she married him—and with no fortune to recommend him, either! I daresay your late father was just the same, seeing as he didn’t see fit to provide for you after his death . . .”
Spending most of your time with Lady Craven has made you a master at biting your tongue, yet her cruel words about your beloved papa cut you to your core. Still, you depend upon the old dragon for your entire livelihood, so you have no choice but to grit your teeth and clench your fists into the worn fabric of your dress. An old castoff from Lady Craven, the frock is at least twenty years out of date, and you highly suspect that she chose it for you because the mustard-yellow color clashes horribly with your complexion.
“If it wasn’t for the affection I still hold for your late mother, I should have cast you out into the street! And what would you have done then, eh?”
You brood silently yet demurely.
“Probably try to find yourself a protector, no doubt!” she continues. “Just as you have shamelessly set your cap at Sir Charles Burley-Fanshaw. Though I doubt anyone would want to have anything to do with such a silly little chit!”
Your fists grip even tighter around the fabric of your skirts. The repellent Sir Charles is old enough to be your grandpapa and has indeed been sniffing around your person, looking no doubt for a pretty, compliant, and much younger bride. Still, would life in a loveless marriage be any worse than the one you live now?
The carriage arrives at your destination, and you are shaken from your gloomy thoughts—if only for a moment. Perhaps tonight will be the night when everything changes?
Do you accompany your tyrannical employer to the fundraising ball for the Society for the Protection of Widows and Orphans of the War? The company may be atrocious, but balls are fun! If so, turn to page 67.
Or do you run away from Lady Craven, only to find yourself with no other means of survival than to sell your young body into the cold, cruel night? If so, do not go to any other place in this book, for you will be utterly doomed and dead from syphilis within a year.
Sorry. This may be a choosable-path adventure, but as a penniless young unmarried woman at the start of the nineteenth century, your options are somewhat limited. They will get better, though! Turn to page 67.
Copyright © 2018 by by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.