The Songbird's Seduction

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Authors: Connie Brockway
mounted his noble forehead. “Then what happened?”
    “What happened?” Ptolemy frowned. What
had
happened?
    Before he quite realized it the words were spilling out, his forehead furrowed in an effort to sort out the events that had led to his black eye.
    “—and I took a step after her, the girl, and in doing so stepped on her hem and it
ripped
, the whole back of her gown ripped open to the waist—a shoddy bit of workmanship if you ask me—leaving her in a state of immodesty.”
    He regarded his grandfather earnestly. “Do you realize young ladies wear practically
nothing
beneath these new gowns?” He didn’t wait for an answer.
    “She said, ‘Do something!’ So, naturally, I obliged. I threw my coat over her shoulders and it was then that this boy decided I’d intentionally insulted her and hit me. And he wouldn’t have landed the blow except I was caught off guard. One doesn’t expect to be knocked out in a restaurant.” Ptolemy threw out his hands in an invitation to commiserate. “And that’s what happened.”
    “I see.”
    “Do you?” Ptolemy asked, abruptly sitting down on the edge of the wingback chair opposite his grandfather. “Because I’m not sure I do.”
    “And when you came to she’d vanished, hadn’t she?” his lordship said. “They usually do.”
    Ptolemy could think of no retort to this bizarre non sequitur and so made none. “No. She stayed there, all right, yelling in my ear and shaking me and insisting on helping me up even though she’s about as tall as that wood nymph statue in your garden, and with similar features, too . . .” He paused, considering, then shookhis head. “But not really. She actually looks a lot more like that shepherdess.”
    “Shepherdess?”
    “Yes. In your glass globe,” he explained distractedly. “Not physically, but there’s a quality of careless . . . I don’t know.” He shook his head, defeated by his inability to properly describe the girl.
    “As soon as I was on my feet she started in about the pen again, only her male friend had arrived by now—the one I mentioned who supposedly gave it to her—and he finally explained that he’d borrowed the pen off my table when I’d gone after Cornelia.”
    “Where was Cornelia going?”
    “Cornelia? Oh, she had a ticket to some lecture and it turned out Lionel did too, so they went off together. Anyway, she said—”
    “
Who
said?”
    “The girl, Grandfather. Please try to attend.”
    “Believe it or not, I am.”
    “Anyway, she said, and I quote, Grandfather, ‘Why didn’t you say so?’ and smiled with a sort of regal forbearance, like a queen forced to deal with a simpleminded peasant. Then she handed me my pen and
then
she vanished.”
    His grandfather clapped his knee. “I
knew
she would eventually vanish!”
    “
And
she took my jacket.”
    His grandfather nodded.
    “Why would she
do
that?”
    “Take your jacket?”
    “No, all the rest of it.” He felt like he was twelve again, trying to sort out the mystery of why the cook’s daughter had taken an inexplicable aversion to him when he’d returned from boarding school on one of his infrequent visits home, tossing her head and flouncing off whenever he said, “Hello.”
    “I haven’t the faintest notion,” his grandfather said with a broad grin. Why he should find the situation in the least amusing was beyond Ptolemy. “What’s her name?”
    “Name? Why . . . I don’t know.” An odd feeling of disquiet seized him at this realization.
    Ptolemy stood up, annoyed and exasperated. He’d already wasted enough time wondering about the girl. “Anyway, that’s how I came to have a black eye. Now that I’ve satisfied your curiosity perhaps you can satisfy mine and tell me why you sent for me.”
    His grandfather studied him for a long moment before replying. “I have an errand I need you to do for me.”
    “Of course. What is it?”

Ptolemy stopped in front of the wrought iron gate and tipped his dripping

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