Can he lose the disguise… and find himself?

 St. John Fotheringay-Phipps has nearly forgotten who he truly is. As the dashing, amusing dandy known to all in society as Fungy, he has hidden behind a mask of merriment. But he is reminded that there are pleasures beyond society — when he finds himself feeling responsible for the innocently lovely and fiercely intellectual Rose, the daughter of a famed archaeologist, and her charming, if socially inept, family.

Rose Grace knows that she cannot gamble with her future. She has suddenly been thrust into the role of mother to her two young sisters, companion to her brilliant, distracted father –and family savior.  She needs to do the right thing — to forget her own desires and quickly find a wealthy husband before the creditors come beating at their door. Then why is she distracted by the foppishly handsome Fungy, who seems so very irresponsible and pleasure-loving?  Surely he’s the last person whose advice she should follow!

Chapter One

There had to be more than this, Rose Grace thought to herself. There had to be some way for there to be more.

For forty minutes now she’d sat on the side of the ballroom, watching other people laugh and chat with friends, while her chaperone, her elderly Aunt Farmington, had slowly nodded off to sleep next to her.

Her aunt was supposed to be introducing her to people, but most of those in the ton she knew were now either dead or had moved to their country homes to live out the end of their lives in the company of their grandchildren.

Rose chastised herself. That wasn’t entirely true. Her grandmother’s sister did have some friends who were still among the beau monde. It was just that they were her aunt’s contemporaries, and so far none of them had shown any desire to introduce their younger relatives to Rose.

Sighing, twisting her bracelet around her wrist, and watching her own knee bounce up and down wasn’t going to get her anywhere. This was a waste of time. She was not going to continue sitting here.

She stood and joined her father, who was chatting with a small group of gentlemen. She scrunched up her nose—one of them was wearing too much cologne.

“Lord Pemberton-Howe, is this your daughter?” the man standing across the circle from her father asked, giving her a wet, loose lipped smile.

Rose’s father turned from the man to glance at her. “Er, your grace.”

Rose curtseyed, even though they hadn’t been properly introduced as yet. Her father’s social manners never were what one would hope, but then on an archaeological dig it didn’t really matter as much.

“Is there something wrong with your company this evening, Miss Grace? Or are you simply a very devoted child?” the gentleman next to the duke asked, smiling at her in a very paternal manner.

“Oh, there is nothing wrong with the company, sir. I’m afraid I just don’t know anyone,” Rose admitted, a little embarrassed at the fact.

“Where is your aunt?” her father asked, frowning over her shoulder. “I thought she was supposed to be introducing you around.”

“I don’t believe she’s used to staying out this late.” Rose turned around to glance at the woman in question whose head was now lolling awkwardly to the side.

“Oh dear.” Clearly her father had caught sight of her.

“Yes.” Rose turned back to the gentlemen and said with an apologetic smile and a shrug, “mia kaké arché kánei éna kakó télos

“I beg your pardon!” the duke sputtered. “Perhaps the reason why your aunt hasn’t introduced you is because you have never been taught how to behave in public.”

Rose’s mouth dropped open.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” her father started, his eyes narrowing with anger. Rose put a hand on his arm.

“She is nattering on in some strange, unknown language,” the man said, scowling down at her. “Either that, or she’s lost her mind and speaking gibberish!”

“Strange? Unknown…?” Lord Pemberton-Howe began. Even Rose had to admit confusion.

“Are you questioning me?” The elder gentleman turned on her father. The color in his face began to rise as well, as did the volume of his voice. “Perhaps you are unaware, sir, of the position I hold in society?” The gentleman accentuated his words by looking down his nose at her papa.

Rose cringed. Her father was not used to being spoken down to.

“And perhaps you, sir, should have had a better education!” Lord Pemberton-Howe’s voice carried strongly as well.

A short burst of laughter interrupted what was quickly becoming an ugly scene. Quite a few other people who had been standing nearby had turned toward them, eager to hear what the commotion was about.

“My Lord Duke, I believe the young lady was speaking Greek,” the laughing gentleman said. He was considerably younger than the duke, and quite a sight. His coat was dark blue and fit him so closely it looked as if it had been painted onto his broad shoulders. His waistcoat, which was elegantly cut, was a deep red shot through with silver thread and simply quite dazzling. He dripped with watch fobs, and a quizzing glass hung from a bright red ribbon around his neck. Rose had never seen anyone dressed so boldly before—it was as if he had taken all of the fashion dictates to quite another level. If she squinted past the brightness, he was probably an extremely handsome gentleman, but it was a little difficult to see his face properly behind the ridiculously high points of his shirt.

But, even more remarkable than his clothes, was his demeanor. He practically exuded ennui, speaking slowly, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. And yet, Rose felt that behind the bored façade, nothing seemed to pass by him unnoticed.

“Yes. Yes, that’s correct.” her father said. “A rather common quote, I would have assumed.”

The older man’s color started to fade back to normal. “Greek you say, Fungy? Can’t say I’ve ever actually heard anyone speak the language. Read it just fine,” he added pointedly at Rose’s father.

“Mind, sir?” the younger gentleman asked Lord Pemberton-Howe.

“What?” Rose’s father asked.

“Introduce us?”

“Oh! Yes, of course. Er, the Duke of Argyll, Lord Halsbury, Mr. Fotheringay-Phipps; my daughter, Miss Rose Grace.”

The duke nodded curtly to Rose, and Lord Halsbury, a slightly rotund older gentleman gave her a fatherly little smile. But Mr. Fotheringay-Phipps, the extraordinarily well-dressed gentleman who had come to her rescue, took her hand and raised it to his lips, sending Rose’s heart fluttering as the heat from his kiss scorched her fingers right through her glove.

And yet, while he was bowing, his bright blue eyes looked into hers with such good humor that Rose could not resist smiling back at him. She even felt an answering bubble of laughter springing up from inside of her. It was clear he had understood what she’d said.

This all seemed so odd to Rose. But somehow, she felt that this outrageously fashionable gentleman could understand. Somehow, he was the only one who seemed to understand that this was all a game—one he clearly enjoyed being a part of. It felt good to have such an unexpected ally.

“I am certain Miss Grace knows she should not speak in a foreign tongue in the presence of those who might not understand her,” Mr. Fotheringay-Phipps said, still keeping his mischief-filled eyes on Rose. “Clearly, she did not realize that not everyone would recall the quote. Euripides, is it not? ‘A bad beginning makes for a bad ending.’ But surely it is too soon to make such a dire prediction. You must give yourself at least a little more time, Miss Grace.”

“Is that what she said,” the duke muttered to himself.

“You are very kind, Mr. Fotheringay-Phipps,” Rose said, feeling her cheeks burn. How ridiculous she was being!

“Fungy, please,” he returned, “all my friends call me Fungy. And I do hope that you will soon call me friend.”

Oh, now she was really blushing. She ducked her head in a nod. How could one man be so charming! Surely, he was one of those her mother had warned her to stay away from.

Another gentleman standing at the edge of their group gave a little cough. “Er, couldn’t help but overhearing, but —the younger Miss Grace might benefit from a lesson in proper social behavior as well.”