“Are you all right, Miss?”
For a moment, for this moment, she was a normal young woman experiencing the attentions of a handsome young man. Heat crept up her cheeks as he held her hatbox out, and the burning had nothing to do with the sun. “I-I— Yes, I am. Thank you.” His blue-gray eyes seemed to bore into her.
“I am so glad. I was sure you were a goner there for a moment.” He flashed a brilliant grin liquefying Serena’s insides instantly. “Please let me introduce myself. I’m Mr. Brennan Whitling of Whitling Textiles Importers and Wholesalers.”
“How do you do, Mr. Whitling?” Serena allowed her lips to curve up ever so slightly. “I am Miss Serena Freemont.”
“It is a pleasure. Might I interest you and your”—he glanced around the bustling street as his grin faded in confusion— “chaperone in a cup of tea?”
A wave of horror swept over Serena. Chaperone? Harlots did not require one of those. “Oh, Aunt Henrietta is in the bookstore, and I fear she will be in there a very long time. I am certain she won’t notice if we slip off for a quick spot of tea.”
“Excellent! There is a lovely little shop just up the street.” A beautiful smile spread across his face, causing her pulse to quicken.
He escorted her up the block where they stopped at a quaint little teashop. They settled in at a table and ordered a pot of tea.
“What has you on Bond Street today, Mr. Whitling?” They sat in semi privacy at the back of the shop.
“Oh, I was visiting some of my customers and taking new orders. I am very glad I was there to help you, and by virtue of said assistance make your acquaintance.” Did his already deep voice grow huskier? Their tea service arrived, dispelling the moment.
“As am I. Landing on my backside in the middle of the street would have been rather embarrassing. But in truth, thank you for your assistance today, and now the tea.” She lifted her freshly prepared cup to her lips and took a dainty sip from the delicate china. Through lowered lashes, she watched his graceful movements as he prepared his own.
“It is my pleasure on both accounts. You seem familiar to me. Have we met somewhere before? A ball perhaps?”