The Earl of Amhurst has returned to his estate in search of a wife and, more importantly, an heir. Simon Devere isn’t interested in some comely, simpering creature. A beautiful woman only brings heartbreak and ruin, and Simon’s disfigured visage is proof enough of that. No, he wants a wife who is unattractive and undesirable—and the homelier, the better.
But nothing about Lady Henrietta Beauchamp is homely. She is lovely and sweet…and struggles to mix with polite society when she would so much rather have plants for company. And yet Simon is her only hope for keeping Plumburn Castle in her family’s possession. Even if it means marrying a man she doesn’t love.
It’s an impossible and unlikely match…unless this awkward beauty can bring hope back into a solitary beast’s life.
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He should leave. Now. His body lusted after her. He was sprung and ready to pounce should she give him the slightest inclination of her interest.
She shut the door behind her and nibbled on her lip. “I have been mulling over Miss Saxton’s symptoms. And I must confess, along with the unearthed licorice root and my missing stores, not to mention your theory—”
“My theory?” he asked.
She nodded. “I fear someone may be, as you theorized, purposefully harming your guests.”
“An interesting theory, but one I have yet to prove.”
“Have you any notion as to why someone would wish to harm them?”
“Can you think of none?” He stepped toward her and fingered one of her glossy black strands. Soft, and smooth, her hair slipped over his skin.
Her gaze caught his. “Your, your past?” she whispered.
“My past, my present, my future.” His hand fell to his side. “My insolent arse of a brother would like to inherit. Society deems me too damaged to forgive. And my injury”—he let out a low laugh—“is a continual reminder that I am not…” He let out a long sigh.
“Not what?” she breathed.
He turned away from her toward the darkness. “It is late, Lady Henrietta. Should someone find me in your room—”
“I would confess to inviting you in. It is on my invitation that you are here.”
He spun around, his gaze searching hers. “Yes. And one that ensures your selection as my bride.”
“I did not pull you into my chambers to force your hand.”
He lifted a brow. “No? You have no desire to claim Plumburn as your own?” God, he was a fool. He had actually believed she might want him here for unselfish reasons.
“Of course. My father’s memory is here. In this house.”
“But it is the current earl whom I desire.”
Simon’s heart beat fast in his ears. Impossible. She couldn’t possibly mean what her words inclined. This was a ploy. A trick to lure him into her bed. And God help him, he was her willing prey.
“You would give yourself to a maimed man? In possession of only one eye?”
“I wish to give myself to you, my lord. Your injury matters not. ”
He let out a low bark of laughter. “You say that with confidence, though I wonder if you were to see what lies beneath the patch, whether you would be so eager with your offer.”
She stepped toward him, her palm resting against his chest. “I would.”
His breathing slowed as he held her piercing gaze, seemingly daring him to do, what he’d always considered the impossible. That, however had been before Henrietta had unflinchingly offered herself to him. If she was to bare all to him, he had an obligation to do the same.
Reaching behind his head, he untied the black strings, holding them on either side of his head. With a deep breath, he lowered the patch.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After viewing her all-time favorite love story, “Anne of Green Gables”, at the impressionable age of ten, Frances Fowlkes has been obsessed with affable boy-next door heroes, red-heads, and romance stories with lots of “highfaluting mumbo jumbo” written within their pages. It only seems natural then that she married the boy who used to pull on her curls in her high school English class, had not one, but THREE red-headed boys, and penned multiple love stories with bits of flowery prose.
When not writing, Frances loves spending time with her family, fangirling, and planning her next vacation.
Frances Fowlkes, originally a northern mid-westerner, now lives in the southeast with her ardent hero of a husband, three playful and rambunctious boys, and one spoiled standard poodle.
A self-professed Anglophile and summa cum laude graduate of LeTourneau University, Frances Fowlkes combines her passion for happily-ever-afters with her interests in both American and English histories.