If he wrote a book, the hero would damn well be heroic.

But with a mysterious past. Just to keep things interesting.

There would have to be a heroine, too. He liked women. He could write about one. What would he name her? Something ordinary. Joan, maybe. No, that sounded too fierce. Mary? Anne?

Yes, Anne. He liked Anne. It had a nice definite sound to it. But no one would call her Anne. If he were to write a book, his heroine would be adrift, without family. There would be no one to use her Christian name. He needed a good surname. Something easy to pronounce. Something pleasant.


He paused, testing it out in his mind. Sainsbury. For some reason it reminded him of cheese.

That was good. He liked cheese.

Anne Sainsbury. It was a good name. Anne Sainsbury. Miss Sainsbury. Miss Sainsbury and…

And what?

What about that hero? Ought he to have a career? Certainly Sebastian knew enough about the ways of nobility to paint an accurate portrait of an indolent lord.

But that was boring. If he were to write a book, it would have to be a cracking good story.

He could make the hero a military man. He certainly knew about that. A major, perhaps? Miss Sainsbury and the Mysterious Major?

Gad no. Enough with the alliteration. Even he found it a bit too precious.

A general? No, generals were too busy. And there really weren‘t that many of them running around. If he were going to get that rarefied he might as well throw in a duke or two.

What about a colonel? High in the ranks, so he would have authority and power. He could be from a good family, someone with money, but not too much of it. A younger son. Younger sons had to make their way in the world.

Miss Sainsbury and the Mysterious Colonel. Yes, if he were to write a book, that‘s what he would call it.

But he wasn‘t going to write a book. He yawned. When would he find the time? He looked at his small desk, utterly empty save for a cup of cold tea. Or the paper?

The sun was already starting to come up. He ought to crawl back into bed. He could probably get a few hours of sleep before he had to get up and head over to Harry‘s for breakfast.

He looked over at the window, where the slanted light of dawn was rippling through the glass.

He paused. He liked the sound of that.

The slanted light of dawn was rippling through the glass.

No, that was unclear. For all anyone knew, he could be talking about a brandy snifter.

The slanted light of dawn was rippling through the windowpane.

That was good. But it needed a little something more.

The slanted light of dawn was rippling through the windowpane, and Miss Anne Sainsbury was huddled beneath her thin blanket, wondering, as she often did, where she would find money for her next meal.

That was really good. Even he wanted to know what happened to Miss Sainsbury, and he was making it up.

Sebastian chewed on his lower lip. Maybe he should write this down. And give her a dog.

He sat at his desk. Paper. He needed paper. And ink. There had to be some in his desk drawers.

The slanted light of dawn was rippling through the windowpane, and Miss Anne Sainsbury huddled beneath her threadbare blanket, wondering as she often did, how she would find money for her next meal. She looked down at her faithful collie, lying quietly on the rug by her bed, and she knew that the time had come for her to make a momentous decision. The lives of her brothers and sisters depended upon it.

Look at that. It was an entire paragraph. And it had taken him no time at all.

Sebastian looked up, back at the window. The slanted light of dawn was still rippling through the glass.

The slanted light of dawn was rippling through the glass, and Sebastian Grey was happy.

Chapter One

Mayfair, London

Spring 1822

The key to a successful marriage," Lord Vickers pontificated, ―is to stay out of the way of one‘s wife."

Such a statement would normally have little bearing on the life and fortunes of Miss Annabel Winslow, but there were ten things that made Lord Vickers‘s pronouncement hit painfully close to her heart.

One: Lord Vickers was her maternal grandfather, which pertained to Two : the wife in question was her grandmother, who Three : had recently decided to pluck Annabel from her quiet, happy life in Gloucestershire and, in her words, ―clean her up and get her married."

Of equal importance was Four : Lord Vickers was speaking to Lord Newbury, who Five : had once been married himself, apparently successfully, but Six : his wife had died and now he was a widower, and Seven : his son had died the year prior, without a son of his own.

Which meant that Seven : Lord Newbury was looking for a new wife and Eight : he rather thought an alliance with Vickers was just the thing, and Nine : he had his eye on Annabel because Ten : she had big hips.

Oh, blast. Had that been two sevens?

Annabel sighed, since that was the closest she was permitted to slumping in her seat. It didn‘t really signify that there were eleven items instead of ten. Her hips were her hips, and Lord Newbury was presently determining if his next heir ought to spend nine months cradled between them.

―Oldest of eight, you say," Lord Newbury murmured, eyeing her thoughtfully.

Thoughtfully? That could not be the correct adjective. He appeared about ready to lick his lips.

Annabel looked over at her cousin, Lady Louisa McCann, with a queasy expression. Louisa had come by for an afternoon visit, and they had been quite enjoying themselves before Lord Newbury had made his unexpected entrance. Louisa‘s face was perfectly placid, as it always was in social settings, but Annabel saw her eyes widen with sympathy.

If Louisa, whose manner and bearing were consistently correct no matter the occasion, could not keep her horror off her face, then Annabel was in very big trouble indeed.