Wooing the Wallflower Excerpt (Regency Blackmail)


“Daisy,” her father bellowed. “Clean up all this infernal paint nonsense. Mr. Chapman will be using this room for the next few months.”

She winced at her father’s harsh tone, but made sure to acknowledge Mr. Chapman’s polite bow with a gentle nod. Not that her father had bothered to introduce them. Mr. Chapman must not be in line to an appropriately impressive title.

Stop that, she admonished herself. Father has your best interest at heart. It was just that their opinions of what was best were the exact opposite from each other.

Mr. Chapman, for instance, had a kind smile that put her at ease. Perhaps because he wasn’t there specifically to determine whether she would make a pleasant wife, there was no avarice in the appreciative glint in his eye. Unlike all the others.

She took a deep breath and faced her father. She didn’t know why this stranger could ‘need’ her sitting room, but she did know why she did. “But Father, I need this room for my painting. The light is perfect and I’ve already begun this aspect of mother’s garden. If I stop now, I won’t be able to capture the correct colors.” She gestured toward the canvas.

Nervousness caused her hand to tremble. Her fingers brushed the easel’s edge and it tilted alarmingly. Her attempt to right her blunder only succeeded in making the situation worse. She gasped as her precious art began a swift descent.

Out of nowhere, Mr. Chapman came to the rescue. His long arm reached past her shoulder and with easy grace, plucked the canvas away from the tangled wood of her easel which crashed to the dark wood floor. The racket was deafening, but her painting saved.

He didn’t stop there. With a smile, he said, “No harm done, I think.” He propped the canvas against the wall and proceeded to set the easel to rights.

“Thank you.” Relief flooded through her. She couldn’t tell her father, but the painting wasn’t just another pet project to keep boredom at bay. No, this piece was already bought, paid for, and due the following week. If she had to start over, she would most certainly miss her deadline. The ton may have no idea that she was the much sought-after artist known as ‘The Flower’ but she had worked hard for an impeccable reputation and she had no wish to sully it now. And, if she didn’t meet with her agent on the date they had established, that gentleman might seek her out at home. His commission was, after all, substantial. And that would never do.

Just the thought of her father finding out that she was the artist the entire ton had raved about this past Season filled her with dread. He must never know she was actually selling her art. Such an endeavor smacked of trade, and that would never do for a Worthington.

“Enough of this nonsense. Clean this up right this minute.” Her father turned his back on her and said to Mr. Chapman, “I’ll have a desk brought in for your use. Where would you like it?” He pointed to an area a dozen feet from where Daisy set up in front of the doors. “I suggest over there. You’ll get the most daylight.”

“That would be perfect, my lord. But please…” He picked up the canvas and placed it gently on the easel. “I have no wish to interrupt your daughter’s fine work here. I’m certain I can conduct my business quietly enough so as not to disturb her.”

Daisy’s eyes widened. So as not to disturb her? She couldn’t think of another time when any man seemed concerned with whether or not their actions might upset her plans.