Tilda was minding her own business, nose buried in a book, when the curtain she was hidden behind was suddenly whipped aside and a man threw himself into her little alcove, yanking the curtain closed behind him.
"Excuse me," she hissed, and then the scoundrel had the audacity to clap a big, brutish hand over her mouth. Her outraged yell was thus muffled. The man wasn't even looking at her as he accosted her; his head was turned over his shoulders, giving all the appearance of intense concentration.
After a moment he relaxed and drew his hand away--just as well, as Tilda was about to kick him in an unfortunate place in order to force herself free of his grip.
"Explain yourself, my good sir!" She just had the presence of mind to keep it at a whisper.
"I don't have to explain myself," the man responded, also rather quietly.
Ah, American, she thought sourly, noting his accent. Of course.
After a moment, where she gaped at him and his horrible breach of propriety, and he simply studied her in return from behind his wire-rimmed glasses, he said, "Why are we whispering? Or rather, why are you whispering, as I know why I am?"
She blinked at him, scowled, and snapped her still open book shut. "My reputation would be irreparably compromised if I were to be discovered hiding behind a curtain with a man," she snapped, though honestly, this was common sense to anyone who wasn't American and thus, utterly lax with their morals.
And then, as curiosity got the better of her, "Why are you whispering?"
The man grinned roguishly and smoothed a strand of his fair hair back from his forehead. "I'm hiding from an enterprising Mama," he drawled. "Twice I've caught her trying to bewitch my tea." And then, offhand, "I'm a duke, you know. Can't tell you how many people have tried to snare me with a love potion."
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