Gravos (the dragon) means the world to my son. When he first rescued Gravos he said it was “A dream come true” – and indeed, it was for us as a family because my son went from being a grumpy, non-communicative teenager to a person you could talk to. Gravos has now been part of the family for ten months and as each day passes the bond between boy and dragon deepens.
Before Gravos came to us he lived in a small outbuilding and spent all day/ night staring at the back of a closed wooden door. He had no stimulation apart from the roar of jet planes landing at Heathrow, and as a result was withdrawn and shy. Because of my son’s patience and devotion, Gravos is slowly discovering his self-confidence and starting to interact with us and his new world.
My son is adamant that routinue is key to gaining Gravos’ confidence: and there’s the rub. With my son away for 10 days at a school camp, you-know-how has the responsibility of encouraging a shy lizard to eat, to bath him (every other day, on a vegetable feed day), handling him (on live food days), waking him at 7 am precisely (yes, I thought that to!) and putting him to bed (heat lamp off 9.15pm, UV light off 9.30pm) and cover the viviarium with a dressing gown overnight. Thoughtfully my son left 2 pages of written instructions pinned to his bedroom wall…and as he succinctly wrote at the end of page two: “That’s it… until tomorrow.”
In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge.
When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. So if Lord Ryevale can lie, so can she… with disastrous consequences.
Ryevale's mind raced. At last, the opportunity he'd been craving; no more reporting gossip but something real and tangible, as well as a chance to travel, to meet foreign powers and to be at the hub of decision making. This is what he needed; here was the solution to his listlessness.
Lord Liverpool continued. "But we have one problem... Lord Bruton, is concerned about his daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. With her father away she becomes an obvious target for kidnappers wishing to halt negotiations. He needs someone to watch over and protect her. If needs be, to guard with his life."
Lord Ryevale's eyes widened as he realized the true nature of the task; dreams of negotiations and secret pacts came crashing down round his ears. "Me? You want me to nanny his daughter?"
Bruton's eyes narrowed with antagonism, and Lord Liverpool placed a restraining hand on his arm. "John, 'tis a natural enough reaction to the request."
A noise like a growl issued from Bruton's throat. "If you think I'm happy, Ryevale, you are much mistaken. But I need to know Verity is safe, and Liverpool assures me you are the best."
"So you see," Lord Liverpool continued gravely, "you would be doing the country a great service."
A slow smile cracked Ryevale's lips. "You are aware of my reputation, my lords?"
Bruton all but snarled, "Indeed. But Lord Liverpool explained that you cultivated superficiality to gain the confidence of traitors and spy on them."
"Indeed, a mostly accurate appraisal."
"And in these circumstances, even I must agree it provides the perfect cover. Who would think twice about a gentleman with a liking for ladies setting his cap at an attractive young woman such as my Verity?"
Ryevale kept his own counsel on the accuracy of the latter statement: to his mind, frumpy and disordered were more apt descriptions.
"No one suspects you are a government agent, leaving you well placed to protect my daughter."
The logic was irrefutable.
"And let me add that if you in any way molest my daughter, it will be my personal mission to see to you are never welcomed in society again. You will be blackballed from all decent clubs, a social outcaste without friends. I will have your estate confiscated and your family ruined. Understood?"
"Most clearly, my lord."
The Prime Minister interjected. "Lord Bruton has my personal assurance that you will be the perfect gentleman at all times. Besides if any whisper of inappropriate behavior reaches my ears, you will be incarcerated in the Tower for a very long time..."
"My actions will be impeccable, as if Miss Verrinder were my own sister."
At least Ryevale felt confident on this score since plain, bookish young women did not inspire him to seduction.
"It goes without saying that Verity will remain ignorant of your assignment. I do not want her alarmed. If she realizes my job puts her in danger, she will be distressed for my safety, and I cannot countenance that."
An altogether more practical thought occurred to Ryevale. The one and only time he'd encountered Miss Verrinder she'd been decidedly unimpressed. How to put this concern tactfully to her father? "What of the young lady in question? The scheme relies on her welcoming my company. We may not get along."
A rare smile flickered across Lord Liverpool's face. "Surely you aren’t losing your touch? What of that famous Ryevale charm?"
"Very good, my lord." Ryevale bowed, acknowledging the Prime Minister's point. If anyone could turn a young woman's head, he could.
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Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is passionate about history, romance and cats! She is housekeeping staff to five cats, two sons, one husband and a bearded dragon (not necessarily listed in order of importance). “Verity’s Lie” is Grace’s fourth novel.
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