Excerpt from The Genuine Article

     "I could wish that we had our new clothes now, Marian. Did you see how elegant that lady in the carriage looked? Such beautiful fur she had on her collar! And the feather! It drooped at just the right angle. Do you think I will ever reach such heights of sophistication?"
     Since her half-sister Jessica had stopped growing at age fourteen, she wasn't likely to reach any heights at all, but Lady Marian Lawrence conscientiously refrained from mentioning that fact. She was already learning her new role well, she decided in a moment of self-congratulation. The old Marian would have said what she felt without thinking.
     "There is no use in spoiling a good gown until we are somewhere to be seen. You know there is no money for more. And you know you are always spilling something on your bodice or dragging your hem in the mud. Poor Lily cannot remove all those stains, especially with the silks."
     Jessica looked resignedly out the window at the rapidly falling twilight. They had stopped early for fear of the thunderclouds lining the horizon. That meant they would not arrive in London for another day. "I know you have said we will arrive early to give us more chance to choose, but do you really think we will take, Marian? Whatever shall we do if we do not?"
     Marian didn't have to look in the mirror to know she would not take. Her dark hair, eyes, and complexion were not at all the thing. Worse than that, she had the tongue of an adder and a mind quicker than that of most men. If men despised anything more than a woman smarter than they, she didn't know what it was. But Jessica had no such problems.
     "You will take, Jessie, there is no doubt of it. You will look just like the fashion plates, all golden slenderness and dimpling smiles, and your nature is as sweet as any gentleman can desire. You will have swarms of beaux. You need only choose a rich one."
     Jessica clasped her hands anxiously as she turned back toward the room. "But I am not clever like you, and not only do I not have any dowry, I do not have any family connections."
     Admittedly, that was the fly in the ointment, but Marian did not say so. "Nonsense," she disagreed. "Our mother has the very best connections, else how would she have married my father? If she can capture a marquess, you surely deserve an earl."
     Marian was quite determined to save them from penury by herself. Jessica was too tenderhearted to take any wealthy man who came along, but Marian was no such thing.
     She was clever. She could determine what a gentleman liked in a woman and be that, just long enough for him to fall for the act. He would be wedded faster than he could speak the words.
     She had already decided that was about the only way to do it. Her wayward tongue would otherwise give the game away sooner or later.
     Still, there was Jessica to reassure. "We shall both be married by June, just you wait and see. Now let me find Lily and see what detains our dinner."
     Since the chambers were so small. Lady Grace and their maid had taken a separate room from Jessica and Marian. Not wishing to disturb her mother if Lily were already downstairs, Marian hurried down the narrow hall.
     Her mother had not been well since the death of her second husband. Marian was quite certain it was the pressing worry of their non-existent finances that had her in the dismals. Once they restored the family's security, Lady Grace would be fine.
     The front room of the inn was fairly deserted at this hour. Most of the patrons had settled in for the evening meal, either in the tap room or in private parlors. Apparently the last coach had already gone through.
     Lady Marian Lawrence glanced down at the worn wool of her brown traveling gown and decided no one would look twice at her if she went toward the kitchens. She wasn't dressed much differently from a servant.
     Before she could act on that decision, the inn door swept open with a rush of wind and rain, and a voice called, "Miss! Don't leave yet. Be so good as to tell me if there is room left in the inn. I don't fancy traveling farther in this."
     Startled at being addressed in such a manner, Marian turned to gape. The new arrival wore the caped driving coat of a coachman and seemed to have lost his hat. His linen was loose and unstarched, and his boots were coated in mud. He wasn't better attired than she.
     He was of an unseemly height, and the haughty arrogance of his handsome features was reflected in his manners. No doubt he thought himself God's gift to women. Marian had little use for men and less for scoundrels.
     "'Tis a pity then. Mayhap you'll enjoy the stable instead." She started for the kitchen once more, but a large gloved hand caught her shoulder and swung her around. She glared at him in astonishment.
     "Whatever have I done to deserve such treatment?" He released her shoulder and began to peel off his soaked gloves.
     "You exist. That should be sufficient reason." Without excusing herself, Marian turned on her heels and once more sought refuge in the rear of the inn.
     "I trust you don't need this employment," he called after her, "for I mean to tell your employer of your behavior."
     Fury colored Marian's cheeks that he could think her no more than a common servant. She was the daughter of a marquess! Her gown might not be of the best quality, but surely he could see she was no ordinary maid. Without stopping to think, she swung around to face him again.
     "I thought you a braying jackass when first you entered. I must congratulate myself on my perceptiveness. Please do talk to the landlord. I will be happy to speak to him personally and tell him I heartily recommend the stable for you. That's where we always keep the animals at home."
     Reginald Montague's eyebrows shot up toward his hairline as the young woman stalked out of sight in the direction of the kitchen. He had undoubtedly made a foolishly hasty judgment, but the young lovely had retaliated with an unexpected and totally unladylike vehemence.
     Still, he couldn't help grinning just a little at her retort. Perhaps if she had been less lovely he would have found it less humorous. But delivered from rosy lips surrounded by a creamy complexion and enhanced by a wealth of very dark hair, the set-down achieved a certain savoriness he could appreciate.
     Perhaps she was some lady's maid. If so, she was probably as unattainable as the lady herself.
     Shrugging off the incident, Reginald rang the bell for the innkeeper. He seldom had the opportunity to exchange insults and witticisms with the fairer sex. He didn't see any particularly good reason to begin now, or he would chase her down into the kitchen and see if she took as well as she gave.
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