Gavin Corey, the Earl of Thornbrook, has shed his rakish ways in the hope of winning Lady Louisa Adair’s heart, but neither she nor her parents consider him a suitable match. He convinces her to join forces with him to locate a missing family treasure by proposing a wager: if he finds the jewels, Lady Louisa must allow him to court her, but if she prevails, he must reveal the secret he’s keeping from her.
Lady Louisa might be the most sought after lady on the marriage mart, but she values her independence above all else and has no interest in giving up her inheritance to marry. As she spends more time with the charming earl, however, she starts to wonder if he’s worth risking her inheritance and her family’s disapproval… until she’s confronted with a scandal from his past.
Louisa had ordered tea to be served in the library. Thornbrook picked up a biscuit and popped it into his mouth, perhaps to delay reading more awkward passages. She contemplated doing the same.
“Is love really any different from lust?”
He coughed, and she thought for a moment she might have to pound on his back to free the obstruction. She poured tea into a cup and handed it to him. Nodding his thanks, he took a large gulp. Luckily it had been steeping for some time, so it hadn’t been too hot.
“I think this is an inappropriate conversation that would cause your father to throw me out of the house if he caught wind of it.”
She raised a brow. “But he’s not here.”
He glared at her. “Let’s just stick to the clues and ignore everything else.”
Louisa snorted. “Certainly, because that will be easy.”
He leaned down and whispered in her ear. “Behave.”
She shivered at his warm breath tingling across the shell of her ear.
After settling back into his spot, he picked up the journal again. “Didn’t the woman have any hobbies? Household responsibilities maybe?” He pulled out his handkerchief and mopped his brow. “I think I miss the boring recitations of the household accounts.”
Louisa narrowed her eyes. “Just read the next passage.”
He sighed dramatically. “‘He kissed his way down my neck. Liquid heat pooled between my legs, and when his hand slid up between my legs and touched my—’ I cannot read the rest to you.”
Louisa opened her mouth to speak. He jumped up and clamped his hand over the entire lower part of her face.
“Don’t. Say. A. Word. Not one.”
“But I don’t understand.”
Thornbrook made a strange, squeaky sound, then fell facedown onto the sofa. His body shook. “I should hope not,” he said, his voice muffled by the cushion.
Her stomach dropped. “Are you laughing at me?” It wasn’t her fault she didn’t have any knowledge of these sorts of things. Ladies weren’t supposed to, were they? Her confidence shattered, she turned away from him.
He popped up and pushed his hair back from his face, then took her hand. “I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing at the absurdity of our situation, with me reading the wildly inappropriate musings of your granny to you, a proper lady and the daughter of a duke. If they knew, your entire family would be lined up, each awaiting their turn to fillet me.”
She refused to meet his eyes. “No one seemed to mind when Isa read the journal.” She sounded like a petulant child, even to her own ears, but she couldn’t help it.
He brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “That’s different. She wasn’t family yet. I suspect her father and brother would have minded very much if they had known.”
“Her father died several years ago.”
“Yes, well, your father is very much alive and won’t hesitate to kill me.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ally has worked as a horse trainer, director of marketing and development, freelance proofreader, and a children’s librarian, among other things. None of them were as awesome as writing romance novels (though the librarian gig came closest). She lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with three kids, four dogs, a cat, a rabbit, and assorted reptiles. Oh, and her husband.
Ally likes to curse in Russian because very few people know what she’s saying, and spends most of what would be her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She has many stories in her head looking for an opportunity to escape onto paper. She writes historical romance set in Regency England and Imperial Russia.