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At the Queen's Summons

Cover of At the Queen's Summons

At the Queen's Summons

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Feisty orphan Pippa de Lacey lives by wit and skill as a London street performer. But when her sharp tongue gets her into serious trouble, she throws herself upon the mercy of Irish chieftain Aidan O'Donoghue.

Pippa provides a welcome diversion for Aidan as he awaits an audience with the queen, who holds his people's fate in her hands. Amused at first, he becomes obsessed with the audacious waif who claims his patronage.

Rash and impetuous, their unlikely alliance reverberates with desire and the tantalizing promise of a life each has always wanted--but never dreamed of attaining.

Feisty orphan Pippa de Lacey lives by wit and skill as a London street performer. But when her sharp tongue gets her into serious trouble, she throws herself upon the mercy of Irish chieftain Aidan O'Donoghue.

Pippa provides a welcome diversion for Aidan as he awaits an audience with the queen, who holds his people's fate in her hands. Amused at first, he becomes obsessed with the audacious waif who claims his patronage.

Rash and impetuous, their unlikely alliance reverberates with desire and the tantalizing promise of a life each has always wanted--but never dreamed of attaining.

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    "How many noblemen does it take to light a candle?" asked a laughing voice.

    Aidan O Donoghue lifted a hand to halt his escort. The English voice intrigued him. In the crowded London street behind him, his personal guard of a hundred gal-lowglass instantly stopped their purposeful march.

    "How many?" someone yelled.

    "Three!" came the shout from the center of St. Paul's churchyard.

    Aidan nudged his horse forward into the area around the great church. A sea of booksellers, paupers, tricksters, merchants and rogues seethed around him. He could see the speaker now, just barely, a little lightning bolt of mad energy on the church steps.

    "One to call a servant to pour the sack—" she reeled in mock drunkenness "—one to beat the servant senseless, one to botch the job and one to blame it on the French."

    Her listeners hooted in derision. Then a man yelled, "That's four, wench!"

    Aidan flexed his legs to stand in the stirrups. Stirrups.

    Until a fortnight ago, he had never even used such a device, or a curbed bit, either. Perhaps, after all, there was some use in this visit to England. He could do without all the fancy draping Lord Lumley had insisted upon, though. Horses were horses in Ireland, not poppet dolls dressed in satin and plumes.

    Elevated in the stirrups, he caught another glimpse of the girl: battered hat crammed down on matted hair, dirty, laughing face, ragged clothes.

    "Well," she said to the heckler, "I never said I could count, unless it be the coppers you toss me."

    A sly-looking man in tight hose joined her on the steps. "I saves me coppers for them what entertains me." Boldly he snaked an arm around the girl and drew her snugly against him.

    She slapped her hands against her cheeks in mock surprise. "Sir! Your codpiece flatters my vanity!"

    The clink of coins punctuated a spate of laughter. A fat man near the girl held three flaming torches aloft. "Sixpence says you can't juggle them."

    "Ninepence says I can, sure as Queen Elizabeth's white arse sits upon the throne," hollered the girl, deftly catching the torches and tossing them into motion.

    Aidan guided his horse closer still. The huge Florentine mare he'd christened Grania earned a few dirty looks and muttered curses from people she nudged out of the way, but none challenged Aidan. Although the Londoners could not know he was the O Donoghue Mór of Ross Castle, they seemed to sense that he and his horse were not a pair to be trifled with. Perhaps it was the prodigious size of the horse; perhaps it was the dangerous, wintry blue of the rider's eyes; but most likely it was the naked blade of the shortsword strapped to his thigh.

    He left his massive escort milling outside the churchyard and passing the time by intimidating the Londoners. When he drew close to the street urchin, she was juggling the torches. The flaming brands formed a whirling frame for her grinning, sooty face.

    She was an odd colleen, looking as if she had been stitched together from leftovers: wide eyes and wider mouth, button nose, and spiky hair better suited to a boy. She wore a chemise without a bodice, drooping canion trews and boots so old they might have been relics of the last century.

    Yet her Maker had, by some foible, gifted her with the most dainty and deft pair of hands Aidan had ever seen. Round and round went the torches, and when she called for another, it joined the spinning circle with ease. Hand to hand she passed them, faster and faster. The big-bellied man then tossed her a shiny red...
About the Author-
  • Susan Wiggs is the author of many beloved bestsellers, including the popular Lakeshore Chronicles series. She has won many awards for her work, including a RITA from Romance Writers of America. Visit her website at www.SusanWiggs.com.

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At the Queen's Summons
SUSAN WIGGS
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