Meet Robin Cooper

Meet the Hero Robin Cooper in this excerpt from A Ramshackle Start:

“The guests will arrive at any moment. She must be there to greet them with me. Quickly return downstairs and do all you can to distract any guests should they arrive before we get there.”
“Very good, sir.”
Robin shooed the butler away and then slipped quietly along to Tessa’s bedchamber door. He tapped lightly. “It’s only me,” he whispered urgently.
Light footsteps rushed toward the door from inside. “What’s wrong?”
“That’s what I want to know. You’re running very late, Tessa,” he warned. “The guests could be here at any moment.”
“I know, and I am so sorry.”
The door opened a crack, revealing Tessa had at least changed into her best blue day dress. This particular one was Robin’s favorite of all. It enhanced her blue eyes and complimented her pale skin. Her dark hair seemed different today, more intricately arranged about her head. The style made her more beautiful.
She leaned her cheek against the door. “Anna needed the hem of her wedding gown mended,” she confessed.
Robin sighed, eager for this day, this wedding, to be over and done with. He leaned toward Tessa, drawn to her as he always was. “And I suppose Mama couldn’t do it, or one of the maids, so you might dress, too.”
A soft smile touched her lips. “I volunteered. I want everything perfect for Anna’s big day.”
“I am sure everything will be perfect because of your efforts,” he agreed. “But the day will not end well if you miss the beginning of the festivities.”
“Her happiness means the world to me.” Tessa let go of the door and twisted her arm behind her back awkwardly. “I’ll be down as soon as I can, I promise.”
He frowned at how she continued to twist and stretch. “What are you doing behind your back?”
She groaned softly. “I cannot reach the very last button on this gown. I should have asked a maid to come up and help me change, after all.”
Robin smiled. “If it’s just the one, I can do it for you.”
She looked surprised by his offer. “Are you sure you wouldn’t mind?”
“Not at all. I’m more than capable of buttoning you up in a pretty dress.” And would become adept at getting her out of them, once today was over, if he had his way.
“There really is just the one button.” She smiled hesitantly. “Thank you, Robin.”
“No thanks are ever needed between us,” he promised and gestured for her to turn around.
The door widened as she turned slowly, still pointing awkwardly at the row of buttons on her back.
Robin almost laughed aloud at the mess she’d made of doing herself up. She must really have been rushing to change. He cleared his throat. “There’s a bit more of a problem here than you realize.”

 

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Meet Tessa Abbott

Book cover image of A Ramshackle StartMeet Tessa Abbott in this excerpt from A Ramshackle Start:

“I suppose if I am ever to marry, I will have to attract a suitor with my smile and my flirtatious wit,” she joked.
Anna hooted with laughter. “Timid little you? Flirtatious? I swear you and my brother are the two souls most likely to never be described as having great wit or to flirt, and certainly not ones to ever let anyone know your deepest, darkest feelings.”
Tessa liked Robin a great deal for all of those reasons, so she silenced Anna again with her hand over her mouth. She liked Robin’s quietness, his unchangeable nature, and also their secret conspiracy to dampen Mrs. Cooper’s theatrics. Robin claimed that no greater source of entertainment could be found in England than when his mother was outraged.
Tessa did agree with Robin perhaps too much, which unfortunately had rendered her somewhat invisible to him. Robin had never noticed that she’d fallen for him almost on the very day they’d met.
“Please say you will write to me every day. I dread to think of how much quieter you will become in that dreary place.”
Tessa very much dreaded living with old Mrs. Cooper, but she didn’t dare reveal how much. She didn’t want to spoil Anna’s wedding day tomorrow. “Will you be content to know I plan to run around the Begley Cottage once a week, laughing at nothing at all.”
“She’ll think you wild and might just send you back to us.” Anna huddled closer, resting her chin on Tessa’s shoulder. “I will miss you,” Anna whispered in her ear. “I tried to convince William to let you come and live with us in our new home.”
“I will miss you, too, but I would never follow you to your new home. You’re to be a newlywed.” Tessa fought back the tears by laughing. “I expect you will be too busy leading William a merry dance.”
Anna gave her a tight squeeze. “You may be right about William and me.”
Tessa’s tears fell, but she dashed them away with the back of her hand. Anna was loved. Tessa was not. She forced her sadness away. “When you marry William tomorrow, I want you to start off on the right foot. You’d better let him catch you a time or two.”
“Oh, I will.” Anna giggled softly. “I know what to do. Mother and I had the talk about doing my solemn duty to my husband the other night.”
Tessa twisted up and around on her bed to stare at her cousin in shock. “No!”
“Oh yes,” Anna chuckled evilly. “I have all the details that I know you’re dying to hear. Shall I tell you now so no one else can embarrass you?”
“Yes, please,” Tessa begged. She’d been waiting for, and fearing, the talk for as long as she could remember.
Anna leaned close and began to explain how a lady went to bed an innocent and woke up a woman with the hope of a family inside her—adding many intimate details of what happened between men and women in the privacy of a bedroom. Tessa was blushing twenty shades of pink by the time Anna finished. Tessa could only imagine her fantasy—the sandy haired Robin—touching her in that manner.
“Oh my,” she gasped.
“I couldn’t stop laughing at Mother’s expression when we met with William for tea after the talk. Every time her eyes dipped from his face, I wondered if she remembered what she said we would do together. It was simply too horrifying for words to contemplate.”
“I’m glad I missed it.”
Anna gripped her hand tightly. “You were stuck with Robin as he sorted through those old newspapers looking for that story he mentioned.”
Tessa smiled at the happy memory. Time spent alone with Robin was precious and very rare.

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