When faced with losing his inheritance, notorious rake Lord Julian Luvington sets his sights on Lady Sara. She’s as respectable as they come, just what his father ordered. But the lady shall not be easily won. She’s determined to marry for love or not at all, and she’ll do anything to obtain the freedom granted to men. A blackguard like Lord Luvington could destroy her hard-won reputation, but marriage to him also offers her the opportunities she can’t achieve on her own. What’s a lady to do? When Lord Luvington refuses to abandon his pursuit, Lady Sara proposes an arrangement. Only the price may be more than either bargained for. Lady Sara could lose more than her social standing and Julian could lose his heart.
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Sarah stood and arched her back as the quartet started a new tune. Two dances left. No doubt Lord Shillington would seek her out soon…and then Lord Luvington.
Good heavens, the mere thought of dancing the final waltz with him set her nerves on edge. Her hands began to tremble. No way did she believe his intentions innocent. She took a deep breath and steeled herself as Lord Shillington approached.
He bowed. “Shall we?”
Sarah forced a smile and threaded her hand through his offered arm. At least Lord Shillington was not an admirer, just a family friend. The dance would prove more pleasurable for that. So long as he did not step on her toes.
Sarah moved in tune to the music while Lord Shillington led her through the dance. She could not help but search out Lord Luvington in the crowd, knowing their dance came next. He stood near the veranda door, and their gazes locked for an instant before Shillington turned her around. She nibbled her bottom lip. Refusing the dance would be considered poor manners, something she had never been accused of. Sarah sighed.
“What bothers you, Lady Sarah?” Genuine interest reflected in Lord Shillington’s gaze.
Other than her brother, Lord Shillington was the only gentleman with whom she could speak freely. He never judged her, nor did he share her musings with others. However, did she want to discuss this with him?
“Clearly something has you riled. You can tell me, whatever it is. Perhaps I can be of assistance.”
“It’s nothing.” Sarah glanced back at the veranda for a moment. “Only, how well do you know Lord Luvington?”
Lord Shillington’s mouth quirked in a teasing smile. “Has a gentleman finally captured your fancy?”
“Goodness, no,” she said without thought, then blushed at her rudeness. “But he did sign my dance card.”
Shillington twirled her, and when she came back into his hold he said, “Lord Luvington is a fine chap. I play cards with him at White’s on occasion.” He blinked. “I likely should refrain from telling you any of this.”
“Any of what? Gentlemen play cards all the time.”
“Yes, of course. What I was about to tell you is of a different nature.” His cheeks tinted pink.
Much like her, Lord Shillington was seen as a pillar of good moral behavior among the ton. Clumsiness plagued him and gained him quite the reputation, but no one questioned his character.
“Now you simply must tell me.” Sarah batted her eyelashes and formed her lips into a pout.
“He is rather…popular among the fairer sex.”
“A rake, you mean.”
He glanced away for a breath before meeting her gaze again. “No matter. A dance will be fine.”
“Even if it is the last waltz of the evening?”
“Even so.” Lord Shillington spun her and brought her back into his arms. “There now, don’t you feel more at ease?”
“Yes, thank you.” How would she survive a dance with such a man?
The quartet ended their song, and he led Sarah over to Lord Luvington. “I hear you have the pleasure of Lady Sarah’s last dance.”
“Indeed I do.” Lord Luvington held his arm out to her.
She glanced up at him before accepting it. Her stomach gave an unwelcome flutter. Warmth spread across her chest and cheeks as she imagined everyone in the ballroom staring at them. He led her to the middle of the dance floor and gathered her into his arms as the quartet resumed playing.
“Relax, my lady. It is only a dance.”
Mortified, she tipped her chin. “I am relaxed.” How had he known she fretted? Sarah took a deep breath and let it out slowly with a glance around at her peers.
“If this is you being relaxed, I pity those exposed to you when you are not.” His smile did uncomely things to her insides. “On my honor, this is only a dance.”
“I do not believe you have any honor, my lord, nor am I fool enough to believe this an innocent dance.” She glanced up at him. “You want something from me.”
He grinned. “Perhaps I do.”
“You are wasting your time, sir.”
“Unless, of course, it is simply a dance.”
“You just stated you want something from me.” Sarah balled her free hand in the fabric of her skirts. If she were less of a lady, she would slap his face for toying with her.
“No, I said perhaps I wanted something. Which means I could very well want nothing.” He arched one dark brow and a chestnut lock of hair flopped onto his forehead.
Good heavens, no man should be so attractive. Sarah stared into his green eyes. “Enough of your games. Tell me what you want, Lord Luvington.”
“Yes, tonight,” Sarah bit out through clenched teeth.
“Tonight, I want to hold you.” His rakish grin made her heart nearly stop.
Sarah blushed at the implication and glanced at the couples dancing nearby. She did not wish to continue this discussion.
He pulled her scandalously close and leaned in until his lips brushed her ear. “Tomorrow, I want to get to know you better.”
The waltz ended, and before she could form a thought, he released her and walked off, leaving her standing there alone.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Mariel dreams of days gone by when life moved at a slower pace. She enjoys taking pen to paper and exploring historical time periods through her imagination and the written word. Her hobbies include reading, writing, crocheting, traveling, photography, and spending time with her family. Some of Amanda Mariel’s favorite places in the continental U.S. are Harper’s Ferry West Virginia and Sea Brook New Hampshire. She loves the history that surrounds them and visits every chance she gets. Amanda Mariel lives along the Lake Huron shore line in northern Michigan with her husband and two kids. She holds a Master of Liberal Arts Degree with a concentration in literature and has a long standing love affair with sugary junk food.