Overview label

Gambling On A Scoundrel

Gambling on a Scoundrel — Out Now

London, 1861 – Everything seems to be going right for Temperance Bliss…

Lonely railroad heiress Tempy Bliss, a budding journalist, is elated– not only is she about to announce her engagement, but the illustrious Charles Dickens wants her to write an article about gambling for his newspaper! When casino owner Lucien Hamlin bans Tempy from his gambling palace once he learns of her profession, she begins to suspect a much bigger story is at hand. Lucien’s secretive behavior goads Tempy into uncovering the real story. If you enjoy gambling, check out this online casino free money. Are you UK based? If this is the case, you could check out the various, casino mobile apps to download from the IOS and Android Play store! Online gambling sites are becoming increasingly popular to play, especially if you don’t have access to a physical casino in your area. One thing that it could be important for you to know is how casinos are regulated so that when you’re looking for a casino site to use, you are able to make an informed decision. When it comes to gambling, make sure that you do it safely. It’s what Lucien would want. Or is it?

But Lucien Hamlin has a secret…

Lucien is a hard-driving businessman whose life is about to be upended by his unexpected inheritance of an earldom. It’s a fact he’d rather not have announced, and certainly not in newsprint, until after the sale of his casino. Lucien learned how to bet on sports at a young age and quickly realized a career in gambling would bring him a large fortune.

When suddenly, Tempy’s plans for her future come shattering down around her…

When Tempy receives a letter from Ernest informing her he’s fallen in love with a Frenchwoman, she vows to win him back. All she needs to do is become the kind of woman he can’t resist. In doing so, she learns more than how to walk and dress… she learns what she really wants out of life.

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Snippets

Put together an interesting storyline filled with intrigue and well written scenes with characters that capture your attention and have depth, then add the historical aspect and throw in a dash of romantic tension, and you’ve got Gambling on a Scoundrel. – Carra at Making it Happen book blog

I received this copy for free through Goodreads First Reads.
4 1/2 stars!
I absolutely loved loved this book!!! It takes place in 1861. It was a great and wonderful escape to another time and place!! It’s beautifully written and easy to follow. It’s a book you don’t want to put down, ever! I really really loved the characters!! I grew attached to them. I absolutely adored Tempy and couldn’t wait for the happily ever after with Lucien! Lucien is hot!!! In fact, I want him! 😉 I found myself rooting for them through out the whole book. I wanted to be there with them as their love story unraveled. If you love historical romances, and who doesn’t? I very highly recommend this book. You should read it, you won’t be disappointed! I will be looking for more Sheridan Jeane novels as I enjoyed this book immensely.– Elizabeth Ness

Excerpt label

Chapter One – Pink’s Tea Shop

Mayfair, London, 1861

French Tart Steals Bliss’s Bliss

The imaginary headline Temperance Bliss conjured from her fears mocked her as she hurried along the refined streets of Mayfair. Tempy brushed a tear from her cheek with the back of her glove, hoping any passers-by would assume it was a drop of rain. Her other hand clutched a letter pressed tightly against her corseted waist.

She needed to compose herself. One simply didn’t comport oneself this way in Mayfair. It wasn’t done. Lifting her chin, Tempy erased all signs of emotion from her face. The best way to regain her composure was to focus on honing her imaginary headline. Perfecting it always helped calm her.

Bliss Betrayed by French Tart

Slightly better, but still not quite right. Still not catchy enough.

How could Ernest undermine her in her moment of triumph? “I’ll always be here for you,” he’d said. But now…

She lifted a handful of her full, bell-shaped skirt to keep it from dragging through any of the puddles that had the temerity to form on the otherwise pristine sidewalks of this exclusive section of London.

Everything would be better once she reached Millicent. Her friend would know what to do. She always did. Millicent had the advantage of age and wisdom, although she probably wouldn’t like hearing those qualities ascribed to her.

Until then, Tempy’d keep working on that headline.

French Wench Banishes Bliss

That was more like it. Short and catchy. Plus, it worked with both meanings of “bliss.”

As Tempy rounded the street corner, she spied her destination, Pink’s Tea Room. She glanced up at the clock tower overlooking the square. Her punctual friend would likely already be sitting at one of the cozy tables.

She peered through the tea shop’s large window with its overly cheerful red mullions dividing the panes of glass and quickly spotted Millicent Kidman. As usual, her friend wore an ostrich feather hat perched on her graying upswept hair. It made her look like some sort of species of exotic bird. Millicent was pouring steaming liquid into her cup, and Tempy saw that a second pot sat before the empty chair across from her at the four-person table. Wasn’t that just like Millicent, to mother her on the rare occasions they were able to meet?

As she looked at the little white teapot that awaited her, a sense of comfort washed over Tempy. Her chest relaxed, and she was able to stand more upright. Millicent would help her make sense of all this.

Tempy entered the building and spoke briefly with the man in charge of seating the guests before wending her way between the tables to join her friend. Millicent looked up at her with a welcoming smile, but it quickly froze when Tempy lowered herself into the chair facing her friend.

“My dear, what’s wrong? You don’t look yourself,” Millicent said, keeping her voice low as she glanced around for possible eavesdroppers.

Tempy pressed her lips together, unable to bring herself to speak. What if some reporter saw how upset she’d become and decided to write about it? Even now, she could feel the pressure of fresh tears threatening to spill out, so she mutely handed over the letter.

Millicent peered at Tempy thoughtfully and then rummaged around in her reticule, extracting a small pair of reading glasses. She dropped her head a bit as she slid them on and turned away from the room so that the wide brim of her hat concealed her face from most of the other patrons. She’d only recently started using eyeglasses to read, and Tempy had noticed that she was still self-conscious about them. Millicent quickly scanned the letter, letting out a “humph” and frowning. Upon finishing it, she removed the glasses and peered at Tempy. “So, he’s gone and found someone else, has he? And he can’t be bothered to tell you in person?”

“After all, he is in France. Telling me in person would be quite a challenge.” She pressed her lips together. Why was she defending him?

Millicent didn’t even pretend to look forgiving and instead uttered another “humph.”

“He’s bringing her back to London with him, along with her parents.” She envisioned greeting him at the dock tomorrow only to have him rebuff her and introduce the French woman. How appalling. “At least his letter spared me the humiliation of meeting her as they disembarked the steamship.”

“You’ll forgive me for being blunt, but the least he could have done was not ask someone to marry him while still being promised to you.”

Tempy felt the blood rush to her face. “It’s not…I mean, we weren’t officially engaged.”

“Don’t be foolish. Everyone assumed the two of you would marry, including him. And he couldn’t be ignorant of the effect this news would have upon you. And yet, he has the gall to ask you to…Now let me get this straight.” She slipped her glasses back on and glanced at the letter. “‘…treat Clarisse like a sister and welcome her into your heart’?” Her voice ended with a squeak of outrage.

Upon hearing those words, Tempy’s chest began to tighten again and she glanced around to see if anyone was listening. They weren’t.

Perhaps she’d wake up and realize she’d accidentally stumbled into one of those opium dens she’d read about. An opium-induced hallucination would be vastly preferable to this.

But no. This was reality.

Tempy slumped back in her chair. Or at least, she slumped as much as her tight corset and the tiny chair would allow, which was very little. After a brief moment, she sat upright again to relieve the uncomfortable pressure on her ribcage. Then, she forced out the question she’d been agonizing over all morning. “Am I so unlovable? After all, Father never really cared about me and I have no friends other than you and Ernest. And now I don’t even have him. Is there something wrong with me?”

“Unlovable? You? That simply isn’t possible,” Millicent said, shaking her head vigorously. Her hat looked as though it were readying itself for flight with the way she sent its ostrich feather fluttering from side to side. “Please don’t measure your worth based on your father’s values. He was only interested in things, not people. His view of life was an extremely limited one.”

Tempy wanted to believe her. Really she did. But the evidence proved otherwise. Father had lavished his attention on Bliss Railways, on his employees, and even on other railroad men, but he’d been indifferent toward Tempy. He’d displayed the odd flash of interest in her at times, but it was always fleeting. She’d never fit in at home, and eventually she’d come to realize that she didn’t fit anywhere in London society either.

She shook her head. “I need to face the reality of my situation. The upper class might turn a blind eye to one or two eccentricities, but I have entirely too many of them to be accepted. Between my unwanted notoriety and my unfeminine interest in journalism, I’m a pariah.”

“You’re wealthy. That will make up for any so-called eccentricities you have.”

Again, Tempy shook her head. “It’s not as though I’ve suddenly been accepted since Father’s death. He might have left me with a large inheritance, but he made no friends when he was still alive. He was brash and untitled and he thumbed his nose at the peerage. Even worse, he didn’t even have the decency to inherit his wealth. He earned his money.”

Logically, therefore, Tempy should have been able to fit comfortably into the middle class, but her wealth and notoriety made her an outcast there as well. Who would risk associating with a woman whose name frequently could be found in the newspapers? They might find themselves mentioned there as well.

“Then they are all idiots.”

Tempy’s eyes widened for a moment at Millicent’s choice of words, and then she smiled crookedly. She took a fortifying sip of Darjeeling oolong tea, breathing in its subtle floral and citrus notes. A proper cup of English tea served as an excellent tonic for low spirits, but even better was Millicent’s staunch defense of her. The anger and hurt within Tempy began to ease.

Millicent, still watching her carefully, gave a satisfied nod. “I’m glad to see you’re recovering some of your aplomb. But I feel I must remind you that we arranged to meet today for an entirely different reason. We’re supposed to be celebrating your triumph.”

“Triumph?” Tempy said, nearly swallowing her tea the wrong way. “I haven’t even written the article yet.” She cleared her throat. “I’m hardly triumphant.”

“Of course you are, my dear. How many other women did Charles Dickens ask to write an article for his newspaper? Hmm? My guess is none, so by rights, simply being offered the project is cause for celebration.”

A bubble of pride rose within her. “You’re not far off the mark, but I’m sorry to disillusion you. He’s also having Eliza Lynn Linton write an article. Hers will be on pauper girls and workhouses.” Tempy set her teacup back on the saucer with a slight clatter of china.

“That’s why I’ve always liked Mr. Dickens. He’s such a forward-thinking man who isn’t at all afraid to give talented women an opportunity to write. I’m quite proud of you, dear. We should celebrate.”

“Celebrate?” Tempy tried to force a cheerful smile, but failed miserably. She let out a sigh. “I’ll try. Of course I’m thrilled about this opportunity. It’s what I’ve dreamt of for so long that I can hardly believe it’s happening. It’s just…well…,” she swallowed, “I can’t stop thinking about Ernest.”

Millicent covered Tempy’s hand with her own and gave it a comforting squeeze. “Of course I sympathize with you, darling. And I don’t mean to push you. But you must remember, you’re hardly the first woman to have her heart broken by a man. In London alone, there must be thousands of hearts breaking even as we speak.”

Imagining all that pain welling up throughout the city caused the band around her heart to tighten, so she tried to focus on Millicent’s voice.

“The offer to write this article has placed you at an important crossroads in your career,” Millicent continued. “You need to seize the rare opportunity Mr. Dickens is offering. You can’t let your emotions keep you from completing your work. That would only serve to support all of those naysayers who believe that women aren’t constitutionally suited to the workplace. Remember, there are other women who will follow in your footsteps, and you owe them your best work.”

“I wouldn’t dream of abandoning the article.” Did Millicent think she’d quit on writing the same way Ernest had quit on her? Never.

But she wouldn’t quit on Ernest either.

“I will complete it. I promise.” She shot her friend a look of grim determination. “But there is something you can do for me.” And Millicent wouldn’t like it.

“Anything. Tell me what I can do.”

“Help me win back Ernest.”

Millicent’s jaw dropped and then she quickly clamped her mouth shut with a clack of her teeth. “Win him back? But why?”

“I can’t bear to lose him.” There it was. As simple as that. Even considering living without him made her chest tighten. The thought of being alone…

“But my dear, after what he’s done to you, he’s hardly worth keeping. You deserve a man who values you for who you are. And Ernest Lipscomb is certainly not that man if he’s willing to treat you so shabbily.”

Tempy twisted her dainty handkerchief into a ball. “It’s not just Ernest,” she said in a soft voice. “If I lose him, I’ll be losing his entire family too.”

“Surely that’s not so. The Lipscombs have been like a second family to you for years. They’d never cast you off.”

“But they’d have to if he marries her, don’t you see? Imagine how awkward it would be to have me hanging about on the fringes of their family events: at Ernest’s wedding, or as they announce that they are expecting their first…,” her voice broke, “their first child. It would be terrible both for them and for me.”

“Then move on. You have other people in your life. Your happiness doesn’t depend upon Ernest.”

“I do? Who? Of course, there’s you, but you’re gone most of the time, so who else?”

“Surely your life isn’t so restricted.”

“You aren’t here often enough to know what my life has become, and I must admit, I haven’t wanted to talk with you about it on those rare occasions that we’ve met. But think about it. What other decent woman is willing to befriend me? I’m beyond the pale with most of polite society. On those rare occasions when I’m invited to some ball or other event, it’s painfully obvious that I’m welcome solely because of my money. The only women who dare speak to me are the mothers of desperate young men who absolutely must find a wealthy bride in order to save the family estate, or some such rot. Each of those mothers makes it painfully clear that I must stop writing as soon as I marry her darling son.”

“I hadn’t realized,” Millicent murmured, looking stricken.

Tempy rolled the balled-up handkerchief between her palms so that it began to resemble a pale cigar. “I receive fewer and fewer invitations over time. At this point, only the most desperate mothers even consider me as marriage material. Don’t you see?” she asked, looking directly into Millicent’s eyes. “If I lose Ernest and his family, I won’t have anyone left who cares for me rather than my money. I absolutely must win him back. He’s the only one who accepts me for me. Writing and all.”

Millicent’s brows dove into a deep V. “But Ernest says they’re engaged. He’s bringing back this Clarisse person along with her parents to meet his family.”

“I’m certain that once he sees me, he’ll come to his senses. What Ernest and I share goes deep. This woman must have bewitched him somehow, and I refuse to simply whimper and let him go. I plan to fight for him. If that French woman knows what’s good for her, she’ll stay on her side of the English Channel.”

The corner of Millicent’s mouth twitched. “Well, at least you’re beginning to sound more like the Temperance Bliss I’ve always known. You’re forever fighting lost causes and convincing the world to conform to your wishes. Your father called it stubbornness, but I call it passion. I don’t want to give you false hope, but I must admit, if anyone could win a man back by sheer force of will, it would be you.”

Those words teased a smile from Tempy’s lips. “You make me sound like Don Quixote. I don’t know if I should be flattered or offended.”

Millicent’s smile looked rueful. “I didn’t mean any offense, so please, be flattered. If only for the sake of an old woman.”

“Stop that,” Tempy said. “You’re barely fifty. That’s hardly ‘old’. You’re quite lovely.”

Millicent gave the smallest of shrugs. “Have it your way. But these reading glasses make me feel ancient,” she said, nudging the offending bits of glass and wire with her index finger so that they slid under her saucer. She poured more tea into her cup. “Enough about me. In your note you mentioned wanting to interview people at a casino, but I’m still unclear as to why.”

“Yes. The article.” She needed to learn more about how casinos operated. She’d had the seed of an idea when she’d first mentioned wanting to visit a casino to Millicent, but at the moment she couldn’t seem to wrap her head around it.

“Oh, Millicent, I feel much too scattered right now to be able to focus on my article. Ernest’s letter has pushed every other thought from my mind. Couldn’t we meet again tomorrow for tea?”

“I’m sorry, Tempy, I wish I could indulge your sensibilities, but today is my only opportunity to meet you socially. I need to leave town again on business. Why don’t you start by telling me why you need access to a casino?”

Tempy suppressed a sigh of disappointment and soldiered on. She lifted her teacup from the saucer as she gathered her thoughts. “Let me explain the context of my assignment first. You see, Wilkie Collins wrote a story that Mr. Dickens is publishing in his newspaper.” She took a small sip. It was rather tepid, so she set it back down. “Mr. Dickens plans to include news articles and editorials in his paper that focus on issues raised in the story.”

Tempy picked up the white teapot with a steady hand and added more tea to her cup to warm it. “In an upcoming installment, Mr. Collins reveals the heroine’s father led a dissolute life, gambling and marrying an…ahem…inappropriate woman.” She took a tentative sip as she paused. Ah, that was much better. Much hotter. “I’m to write an accompanying piece that looks into gambling and casinos from a woman’s point of view and examines the effects that gambling has on families. I’ll need to do research.” She paused, looking at the letter lying on the table.

“Stay focused on the topic at hand,” Millicent said in a tone as tart as unripe berries. “I invited a dear friend to meet us here. He happens to own a casino, and he’ll be the perfect resource for your article. With his help, you’ll be able to learn everything you need to know about gambling in London.”

“He’s coming here? Now?” Tempy’s eyes widened. Immediately, she smoothed her hands over her damp hair and then tucked a loose strand into place. She must look terrible, with puffy eyes and a red nose.

“You look fine. Stop fussing.”

At least she’d remembered to wear a hat today. That was yet another reason she didn’t quite fit in with society…she frequently forgot to follow its rules. It was too bad her hat was so small that it couldn’t conceal her face. Perhaps she could bring veils back into fashion.

Millicent’s gaze flickered toward the entrance behind Tempy. “I see him arriving. I’m sorry, Tempy. I meant for it to be a surprise.”

Tempy let out a sigh. Knowing Millicent, she should have expected something like this. But to be completely honest with herself, if Ernest’s letter hadn’t just arrived, she’d have been thrilled to meet the owner of a casino.

Come to think of it, even though Millicent had connections all over town, she’d never mentioned knowing a casino owner. Tempy opened her mouth to ask why, but stopped when she noticed the way Millicent’s face seemed to glow as she watched the man approach them. Was that a look of pride on her face? Why should this “dear friend” elicit that kind of a response? The journalist in her perked up.

Tempy resisted the urge to look over her shoulder and observe the man. That would be quite rude, and her former governess would have been horrified if she’d seen her behave so improperly. Imagining that old harridan’s critical gaze upon her, Tempy sat a bit straighter.

Since she couldn’t observe him as he approached, Tempy bided her time by imagining how the man would look. He’d probably be a bit older than Millicent, perhaps in his late fifties or early sixties. And as the owner of a gambling establishment, he probably looked rather elegant, with a bit of steel in his spine. Yes. And since he’d be used to running things and giving orders, he’d have that commanding, privileged air about him. Perhaps with a bit of oily charm, like a salesman or confidence man.

“Lucien. Thank you so much for joining us,” Millicent said, as the man arrived at their table.

Tempy raised her head to look up at him and found her neck craning. Her eyes widened in surprise. My, but he was tall, wasn’t he? And not old at all. She judged the broad-shouldered man to be around thirty, with thick, dark hair and a rather attractive smile.

She glanced at Millicent, noting the look of pride that continued to shine in her eyes. And the casino owner’s expression reminded her of a child hoping to please a favored adult. But why would this man, whom she’d never met in all the time she’d known her friend, care so much about pleasing Millicent? Of course, her friend often had that effect on people. Even Tempy frequently found herself trying to win her approval.

Seeing this endeared him to her.

But when those pale blue eyes turned to focus on her, his doting attitude disappeared. It was replaced by one of calculation that caused the hairs on the back of Tempy’s neck to stand on end. He was taking her measure, and he seemed to see much more than she wanted to reveal.

Feeling exposed, Tempy became aware of Ernest’s letter still resting on the table. She darted a hand out to sweep it up and then tucked it into one of the large pockets in her dress, hoping the movement looked casual, as though she were simply clearing off the table.

Millicent seemed unaware of the change that had come over the casino owner. Smiling with delight, she said, “Tempy, this is Lucien Hamlin, the proprietor of Hamlin House. Lucien, may I introduce my dear friend, Miss Temperance Bliss. She’s the writer I’ve been telling you about. Please join us.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said formally. He pulled out the chair to Tempy’s left. His long, slim fingers smoothly unbuttoned his black frock coat as he sat, allowing the bright scarlet fabric of his waistcoat to peek out. Satin, she would wager. And a wager would be appropriate given the man’s occupation. She’d heard of Hamlin House. It was a grand Mayfair casino that catered to the wealthy sons of the peerage. Their motto was ‘the best of the best,’ or some such rubbish.

Tempy’s lips felt tight as she forced a smile. “I’d like to offer my thanks as well, Mr. Hamlin. It’s very kind of you to take the time to meet with us. I must admit, Millicent has taken me quite by surprise by inviting you to join us.”

Tempy’s late governess would have approved of Mr. Hamlin’s erect posture. Tempy might have been wrong about most of her other guesses, but she’d been right about the steel in his spine. What was the name of that famous Spanish steel, finer than any other? Toledo? Yes, that was it. A spine of Toledo steel. Strong and hard, with just the right amount of flexibility to keep it from breaking.

Everything about the man seemed elegant and commanding. But there was also a faint weariness in his eyes, as though they’d seen too much in this world, and not enough of it had been good.

Despite his veneer of sophistication, Tempy sensed a deep power and menace in the man, and it made her mouth go dry. The meek and cautious part of her wanted to flee from him, but the inquisitive part of her was intrigued and wanted to learn more. This man was nothing like her sweet and unassuming Ernest. Of that she was thankful.

But wait. He wasn’t her Ernest anymore. He was someone else’s Ernest. Some evil French woman who’d stolen what was rightfully hers.

Tempy felt her lower lip quiver, so she pushed Ernest from her mind. She couldn’t think about him right now if she wanted to maintain this facade of normalcy.

Millicent glanced at Tempy and her eyes widened. She must have detected Tempy’s momentary lapse of composure, because she immediately jumped into the conversation with a great deal of animation.

“Ah, yes. I must admit, I didn’t tell Tempy I’d invited you here today,” Millicent said, as she touched Mr. Hamlin on the shoulder in an apparent attempt to keep his gaze focused on herself rather than on Tempy. Then she made a great show of calling their waiter to the table so that Mr. Hamlin could order tea.

It didn’t take long for Tempy to compose herself. Even so, there was something disconcerting about this man. Was it because he was a gambler?

“I understand that you’re the founder of Hamlin House,” Tempy said.

“Yes. I opened it about ten years ago.”

“I’ve heard it’s a beautiful establishment.” Her fingers itched to hold her pen and pad. This would be a perfect opportunity to take some notes.

“You’ve never been there?” Millicent asked. “You really must visit. It’s quite lovely.”

Oddly, Mr. Hamlin said, “Yes, you must,” while at the same time shaking his head “no.” She suspected that his body was showing her his true opinion on the subject. He wore a slightly pained expression. Apparently, he really didn’t want her to visit Hamlin House, but he was too polite to contradict Millicent’s suggestion.

Well, that was too bad. For him.

“Thank you, Mr. Hamlin. I believe I’ll take you up on that generous offer.” She continued to watch him as he frowned, but he said nothing.

An awkward silence fell over the table. Perhaps it would be best not to push Mr. Hamlin further on the subject of visiting his casino. It was apparent that he’d already regretted his polite agreement, since she’d used it as an invitation.

Tempy chose to make a tactical retreat from the topic and glanced at Millicent. “You mentioned you’re leaving London…,” she prompted.

Millicent nodded. “There’s an issue at one of the steel mills, and I need to meet with my manager there. Apparently, there’s some trouble with their coal supplier, and I need to intervene.”

“What type of problem?” Tempy asked. “Is it with transporting the coal? If so, perhaps I can speak to someone at Bliss Railways.”

“No. It has to do with the quality of the coal. They aren’t sending us what we need in order to heat the furnaces to the correct temperature. But thank you, though. You’ve been quite generous in helping me smooth over problems in the past.”

Tempy glanced at Mr. Hamlin and then back to Millicent. “Forgive me for asking, but it appears that you’ve known one another for a number of years. How is it that we haven’t met before this?”

“Oh,” Millicent said, looking slightly chagrined. “I must admit, I’ve broken a promise to your father by introducing the two of you. He didn’t approve of having his young daughter exposed to…, now how did he put it…, ‘the more scandalous aspects of society.'”

Mr. Hamlin arched his eyebrows. “I’m scandalous, am I?”

“You’re quite the scoundrel,” Millicent teased. “Don’t you read the newspapers?”

“Lies. All lies.” He glanced at Tempy as he said this, giving her a pointed look.

His expression confused her for a moment, but then, with a flash of comprehension, she suddenly grasped the source of his antagonism. The man must be worried about what a journalist might write about his casino. “I assure you, Mr. Hamlin, that not all newspapers are the same,” Tempy said.

“That’s the only reason I’m sitting here, Miss Bliss. Well, that and my respect for Mrs. Kidman. I’ve never found myself lambasted in All the Year Round for owning a casino. I hope that continues to be the case.”

Tempy felt a fiery blush rush to her cheeks and raised her chin. “Mr. Dickens doesn’t print a scandal sheet. You have no cause for concern on that account.”

Mr. Hamlin frowned at her response. “But you understand why I might worry, don’t you?”

“Of course. But I can assure you that you and your casino will not be the focus of my article. I’m interested in the ways that gambling affects women and families in general. Not you or your casino in particular.”

He still didn’t look convinced. The chill emanating from him was almost palpable. He must have been the victim of a great deal of bad press in the past.

Again, Millicent made an attempt to soothe the growing tension. “Speaking of bad press, have either of you ridden on the new horse tram on Victoria Street?”

“As a matter of fact, yes,” Tempy said, switching to the new subject with relief. “I tried it only a few days ago and found it most convenient. Why are so many people against it?”

“It’s mostly due to the fact that the rails they laid on the street stick up above the road surface and cause problems for every other vehicle,” Mr. Hamlin said.

Millicent frowned. “They should use one of the newer tramway track designs that cuts grooves in the street and then places the rails inside the grooves. Then everyone else who uses the road wouldn’t be so terribly inconvenienced. One of my steel mills produces them, and they’ve been quite successful.”

“Oh, no,” Tempy interrupted. “All of this talk about ‘track’ just reminded me.” She pulled a small watch from the pocket of her dress. “I have an appointment with Mr. Dickens and then I need to speak with Father’s lawyers. They want me to sign some business papers concerning the railway.” She pushed the button on the edge of her watch and the cover popped open. “I’m late,” she said, and rose to her feet. “I do hope you’ll excuse me. I look forward to visiting your casino.”

Mr. Hamlin quickly stood up as well, and Tempy had the distinct impression that he wanted to say something more, but then he pressed his lips together and nodded.

“It was a pleasure,” Hamlin said, and for a moment she wondered if he might actually mean it. There was something in his expression that hadn’t been there before.

Tempy blushed slightly as she made her good-byes, keenly aware that his gaze still lingered upon her.

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