Dutiful daughter Faith Baxendale just wants to please. Faith isn’t as adventurous as her younger sister, Hope, gadding about the Continent with their aunt, nor as rebellious as her elder sister, Honor, who planned to become a card sharp. And Faith couldn’t lose herself in her art like sixteen-year-old, Charity. Even Mercy, at ourteen, shows more backbone!
After Faith’s first Season ends, her father urges her to marry the man of his choice. But when Lord Vaughn Winborne, a neighbor Faith had a crush on while still in the schoolroom, arrives home for the Brandreth’s hunt ball, surprising even to herself, Faith is drawn again towards a man her father would never consider.
The youngest Brandreth male, Vaughn, is the black sheep of the family. His elder brother, Chaloner, Marquess of Brandreth, still looks upon him as a reckless youth, and Vaughn is determined to prove him wrong.
A chance comes in the form of a scandal not of Vaughn’s making, and he must learn to trust Faith, who, when all’s said and done, has always known her own mind.
Lord Vaughn appeared before her.
“I believe you promised me a dance, Lady Faith.”
Faith felt that tingling in the pit of her stomach again as his bold gaze roamed over her. “I did, my lord.”
Behind Vaughn’s shoulder, Lord Fitzgibbon stood holding the glass of lemonade, his mouth open. Well, Fitzgibbon did not have any right to her yet, and as her father was not present to object, she took Vaughn’s arm and they joined the dancers on the floor.
Vaughn gazed down at her. “You’re not going to marry that mincing milksop, are you?”
“That’s hardly your affair, my lord.” Faith wasn’t sure what upset her most, Vaughn’s brazenness or his description of Fitzgibbon. Lord Fitzgibbon did not mince, but she did wish he might cut the apron strings. Perhaps once married….
“That’s showing some spirit,” Vaughn said approvingly. His vibrant green eyes grabbed her gaze and held it. “But you know I’m right.”
She raised her chin. “I certainly do not. Who would you suggest I marry then, anyone here tonight?”
Vaughn glanced around the floor. “Lord Brocklehurst?”
Faith choked. “He is close to fifty.”
“Mm. Sir William Forest?”
She firmed her lips, fighting a grin. “Hardly.”
“Perhaps not. Forest is hard on wives. He’s just buried his third. Dear me. Not much to choose from, is there?” aughn said regretfully. He placed his Arm around her waist and took her hand as the musicians struck up. “Perhaps you’d better have me.”
He laughed at the ridiculous pronouncement, but Faith still drew in a breath, fearing she would miss a step. “I believe my father would prefer me to marry Sir William.”
“Ah, a cruel thrust, Lady Faith. You don’t spare a man’s feelings.”
“I believe your shoulders are strong enough to bear it.” Faith instantly regretted her words, as her hand rested on his shoulder and she could feel the strength and warmth of him through her glove.
“I remember what a thin, feisty child you were,” Vaughn said with a glint of humor warming his eyes. “You used to climb a tree like a monkey.”
Her face heated. “I was never thin, and it’s extremely bad manners to suggest it.”
“You’d prefer I uttered flowery compliments?” He cocked a brow. “I’m sure you get enough of those.”
Faith did, but she was happy to receive more, and from him especially. “And I would prefer not to be reminded of my past misdemeanors.”
“I quite agree.” He bowed his head with a rueful and very charming smile. “I apologize.”
Vaughn was an accomplished dancer. She was aware of the female gazes following them as they turned on the floor. She’d caught that wicked gleam in his eyes and didn’t believe his apology for a minute. He was outrageous.
Why did he refuse to bow to society’s conventions?
“I could list your misdemeanors, my lord,” Faith said, “but I’m afraid the dance won’t be long enough.”
Vaughn chuckled. “What would you know of such things, Lady Faith?”
“You have been the subject of village gossip for some time.”
His eyes gleamed beneath a fringe of thick, dark lashes. “Indeed? What has been said about me?”
She shook her head. He was incorrigible. “Nothing that would please you, sir.”
“Ah, my luck in life, I fear.” He did not look particularly put out. “My brothers have all been exemplary, never put a foot wrong. It behooved me to add some color to the family.”
“You’ve made a remarkably good job of it,” Faith said, unable to keep the laughter from her voice.
“You have a lovely laugh, like water bubbling over rocks in a brook.”
“My goodness! You are waxing lyrical, my lord.” She enjoyed the gleam of interest in his eyes that she’d never found in Fitzgibbon’s anxious gaze.
“I am not inclined to reciting poetry, I confess, but should you wish it, I seem to remember something of the poetry drummed into us at Eton. Now…what about this?
Come away, come, sweet love!
The golden morning wastes,
While the sun from his sphere
His fiery arrows casts,
Making all the shadows fly…
I can’t remember the rest, and I’ve no idea who penned the poem.”
Faith fought to hide her disappointment. It was far too brief; she could have listened to his husky tones for hours.
“I declare you make a mockery of flirting, sir.” Many men had flirted with her, but oddly, even though Vaughn
had his tongue firmly in his cheek, the moment somehow eclipsed any of the others.
“What would you have me say? That your nose is perfection? It is.”
Faith had to laugh. “My nose is far from classical; it tips up at the end.”
“I find classical beauty rather cold and boring.”
“I wonder if that’s true. Beauty is fascinating. The Ancient Greeks certainly thought so.”
“I doubt statues ever stirred a man’s lust like a flesh and blood woman, even an Ancient Greek’s.”
Faith widened her eyes. “My lord! You should not say such things.” She looked around hastily at the dancers nearby. No one seemed to have heard. “I fear women are seldom satisfied with their appearance. Mercy has a perfectly straight nose, and yet she wishes for a tip-tilted one. She has devised a strap with wires attached that hook onto her ears. She believes it will be effective if she uses it every night until her come out.”
“Oh please don’t mention it to her,” Faith said, aghast that she’d told him. She found trustworthiness in Vaughn’s handsome eyes, which, annoyingly, drew her into indiscretion.
He grinned. “I promise but shall watch the development of Mercy’s nose with interest.”
The music ended, and Faith became aware of where they were, surrounded by couples preparing to promenade from the floor. She’d felt as if they were the only two people in the room.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maggi Andersen began her writing career almost 20 years ago, after gaining her Master of Arts in Creative Writing. Since then, her novels have been on the Amazon Regency 100 Bestsellers lists many times. Maggi writes historical romance, contemporary romantic suspense and young adult novels. She and her husband, a retired lawyer, reside in a
quaint historical town in the Southern Highlands of Australia where they feed the assorted wildlife. They support the RSPCA and IFAW. You’ll find animals often feature in her books.