Home > Kiss Me Like a Rogue

Kiss Me Like a Rogue
Author: Shannon Gilmore




An orphaned cottager with the look of an angel is what he’d called her. But he was the angel, rescuing her from homelessness and then generously leaving all his assets to her upon his death.

Fredda St. George’s day started with a secret. Not a funeral. Not the service where she buried the kindest man she’d ever known. But a secret. The one he left her with, the one that had the power to sink her, strike her down, destroy everything he had tried to do for her. Henry knew he was dying when they married. She knew it too; that’s why she married him. And that was the problem.

His dreadful family wished nothing more than to declare their marriage false by proving her a fortune-hunting urchin, but Fredda and Henry had been friends for some time. They were close and happy together despite his illness. When her parents died, he’d taken care of her else she’d have been walking the streets. She had no family. Not anymore. So, Henry made her his family, and she loved him. Oh, not like a wife loves a husband—they were not lovers. No, they had something more profound, more meaningful, and long-lasting. They had hope and faith in one another. Respect and loyalty. All the things that Henry’s relatives did not understand. Vultures, one and all. They had never visited him. Freddie had been happy to care for him, not just because she owed him so much, but because she loved him like the family she never had.

Now she sat on a pew alone in the front row of the church, waiting for the cavernous echoing room to empty. Under the black silk veil of her widow’s weeds, she had no more tears. In truth, she’d been mourning for months, and she couldn’t wait to return home to Henry’s country seat, the house she’d eventually lose to the next heir. But that was a year away if Henry’s will held up. She was in for a fight because his family would never stop.

With a deep sigh of relief, having heard the last clip of shoes echoing in the foyer, Freddie stood, her handkerchief clutched in her hand. Not even the minister had stayed with her. It would seem that urchins, orphans, and cottagers’ children were not worthy of this lethal high society’s fickle regard. She was still Baroness Fredda Danderly, but even in that, she was like a rotting apple at the bottom of the barrel.

“Lady Danderly?” A woman dressed in mourning clothes, complete with a veil to rival Freddie’s, stood blocking the aisle to her right.

“Yes.” Her voice came out quiet, reserved, when really she wanted to scream and bolt. “What can I do for you?”

“My condolences,” the woman said without pretense, then handed her a note wrapped like post.

Freddie looked at the expensive folded vellum in her hand, then back to the woman who was now halfway to the double doors leading to the lobby. She turned the note over and studied it. There was no writing on the outside, just a wax seal with WWL melted into it. She slipped from the building through a side door and found her way to the rented carriage she’d arrived in that morning.

It was a cozy seat for two and a comfortable ride for one. She’d hidden the note in her handkerchief for reasons she could not name. At last, alone, she pulled back the fine linen embroidered with spring-green ivy. The tiny stitches felt like a fond memory under her fingertips. She turned the strange note over again, looking for any clue to the content, like a warning, then she took a deep breath and cracked the seal.

Dear Lady Danderly,



The Wicked Widows’ League would like to extend their deepest condolences for your loss. It is a grave sorrow and deepest pain to afflict such a young woman. We here at the League would like to offer our services to you should you find yourself in need of any kind. We do specialize in the reinvention of self, which means something different to every widow who graces our doorstep.



You are welcome to visit yourself upon us at this address on Brook Street. We only ask that you tell no one. We are a private and discreet order; I’m sure you understand. Your information is always confidential. We are here in record number if and when you need a friend. As for the name of our establishment, it represents the inconsistent rules that women must comply with, and some may consider our standards wicked. We consider our standards necessary, reliable, and healing.



Yours respectfully,

The Wicked Widows’ League



It was the word healing that got her.

Healing. What could they mean by healing? She folded the note over and carefully placed it in her black velvet drawstring reticule hanging from her wrist.

Back at her rented town house, she read the note again. Discreet, confidential, friend, reliable, healing, all words that jumped off the page, but none more so than the reinvention of self. She could use that one. The calling card from the note showed an address just blocks from where she stayed in London.

Close enough for a walk.

“My lady,” said Mr. Newhouse, the steward who’d made the trip to London with her. “You have visitors.”

Today? It had to be her in-laws, Henry’s sister and brother. They’d been chomping at the bit to accost her again. No doubt their solicitor would attend them in case she said something that might condemn her position. She gave Mr. Newhouse a pointed look.

He simply nodded. “It is Miss Suzanna St. George and a companion.”

The solicitor. “Tell them I’m not in. They won’t listen to you, but be sure not to lead them in here. Put them in the farthest salon while I slip out. I cannot bear to speak with that woman. Not today.”

“Understood, madam.” He turned to leave, then pivoted back, standing sharply at attention. “And might I add, we at Tradewind Manor stand with you.”

Her sister-in-law’s dull voice screeched past the salon and down the long hallway, allowing Freddie to slip away unnoticed. Thank the good Lord for Newhouse. She bolted down the front steps, throwing her veil over her face. It would take only minutes for them to realize she had left, but by then, she’d be around the corner and out of sight, and they’d be ignorant of her direction.

With her face obscured by her veil, no one expected her to greet, nod, speak, or acknowledge any passersby. Some looked at her with pity. Others pretended they didn’t see her at all. Funny how she’d become accustomed to the lack of attention simply because she’d grown up an orphan. Being ignored was her talent.

The red-painted door was the only notable thing that stood out from the lovely, well-kept townhome of the Wicked Widows’ League. She was shown into a parlor papered in pink silk and embossed with a velvet paisley print. The sofa matched the walls. The drapes matched the sofa. And the polished wood floor was covered in a carpet of thick, woven wool that matched the pale pink chiffon sheers that lined the drapes. It was a cheerful room that made Freddie feel conspicuous in her widow’s weeds.

“Someone will be with you shortly,” a stately man said. She assumed he was the butler if the League employed one.

Avoiding the sofa, she walked the perimeter, picking up knick-knacks, a porcelain figurine of a woman walking with a little girl, a glass paperweight with a crimson rose inside, a candlestick entwined with little chubby cherubs, which she was still holding when a woman entered the room.

“I’m sorry, I was just admiring it,” she said, hoping the woman didn’t think her a thief.

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