Claire Tremaine, the widowed Marchioness of Derebourne, wears leather breeches, trains horses and helps the damaged ones find their lost spirit.
Chastain Warren, the Earl of Kensington, Chase to his friends, isn’t pleased when he learns he’s inherited the title of Marquess of Derebourne. Having recently lost his beloved wife and unborn child, the last thing he wants is to be attracted to Derebourne’s widow, but he is. This woman who wears breeches isn’t anything like the ladies he’s waltzed with in the ballrooms of London.
It doesn’t take Claire long to realize she wants this man, and when he resists, she comes up with a plan she calls The Training of a Marquess and works her horse whispering magic on Chase.
Chase entered the parlor and studied the woman standing at the window. She was as pale and fragile as he had imagined. Seeming to sense his presence, she turned. He had visited Greece on his Grand Tour—had stood on sand as white as sugar and marveled at the shimmering blue of that ancient city’s sea. The color of her eyes took him back to that moment in time.
She curtseyed. “My lord.”
Her gaze raked over him, her expression clearly meant to let him know she found him lacking. The skin on his neck bristled. Who was she to judge him?
“Lady Derebourne.” He bowed. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Startled, he quirked a brow. “Of course, why would you think otherwise?”
“I might think otherwise because you find me a burden. I might think otherwise because you don’t know quite what to do with me.”
He’d always been at ease around women, but this one confused him. “Lady Derebourne, please forgive me. It’s not my desire to upset you. You are correct, however. This was your home, yet no longer. So, you tell me, what am I to do about you? I do have some thoughts on the matter, but welcome your opinion. I’m all ears, my lady.” She stared at him with those deep blue eyes and he waited, surprisingly curious to hear her response.
She gestured at the tea tray. “You are correct, my lord. This is my home no longer. Shall we sit and have tea and some honest discussion?”
“As you wish.” She chose the sofa and he settled in a chair facing her.
Chase watched her perform the ritual, his gaze resting on her slim, elegant fingers as she stirred in the milk. The lady wasn’t at all what he’d expected. Her black widow’s weeds were not flattering and drained the color from her face, but he’d once been a connoisseur of women and saw her potential. With the right color of gown and artfully styled hair, she would be quite striking.
He glanced at her neck searching for any loose hair that would tell him its color, but no strands escaped the ugly lace cap. She caught him studying her and raised a questioning brow. Embarrassed, he shifted his gaze away, noticing the painting above the fireplace. His breath caught in his throat. The portrait was of her, and the man standing behind her must be
She was exquisite—a fragile, pale beauty that made a man want to cherish and protect her. The rose-colored gown she wore brought color to her cheeks and lips. Her hair was the color of moonlight and her eyes—her best feature—looked back at him in amusement. In his rogue days, she would have been a woman he would have been determined to possess. The man standing behind her had to be at least thirty years older.
“Was that Derebourne?” he asked.
There was no affection in her voice, and he found himself curious about their marriage. Ill at ease, he sipped tea and waited for her to set the tone of their conversation.
“I know this must be awkward for you, my lord. What does one do with an unwanted guest? I have the right to the dower house, but I don’t want to live there, and I doubt you much like the idea. So, do you give me time to make other living arrangements or do you show me to the door? Perhaps you think I might be desperate enough that I would agree to be your mistress. If it is the last, I assure you I am not. Desperate or agreeable, that is.”
Chase couldn’t find the words to respond. She had gone beyond the pale in insinuating he would be crass enough to take advantage of a grieving woman.
“Well, have you nothing to say, my lord?”
“Oh, I have much to say, Lady Derebourne,” he said, finding his voice. “You don’t know me, yet you feel free to malign my character. It is my understanding you have no family. I have no intention of showing you to the door without knowing you are safely settled elsewhere.”
His anger was so great he carefully set his cup down lest he spill the contents. “As for considering you for my mistress, it never entered my mind, nor will it. You are not my type of woman, Lady Derebourne. Your tongue is too bitter for my taste. Have I said enough, my lady? Yes, I believe I have.” He stood. “I think it best we continue this conversation tomorrow. Perhaps by then you will be in a better frame of mind.”
“As you wish, my lord. Dinner is served at six.”
“Please have a tray sent to me and my sons. I find I prefer their company tonight.” He walked out of the room and asked the butler to direct him to the twins’ rooms.
Claire fell back onto the sofa and buried her face in her hands. Bells in hell. She had handled that badly. From the moment the marquess entered the room her resentment had simmered. It wasn’t his fault she was going to lose her home and most likely her horses. It hadn’t helped that she had to force herself not to stare at him, and that had unnerved her. She had never met a man before that she would apply the word beautiful to. His hair was golden, his skin also golden as if he spent much time outdoors, and his eyes were the violet-blue of woodland bluebells.
What had possessed her to suggest he might want her as his mistress? A man like him would never want someone as inexperienced as her. She had never learned to control what came out of her mouth when she was angry but this time, she had gone too far.
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I love a tortured hero who believes he’ll never fall in love. What’s your favorite kind of hero, or who is your favorite book hero?
About the Author
Sandra lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Most days, you can find her with her fingers on a keyboard, her mind in the world of her imagination. It’s a land where romance and happy endings exist, a land where anything is possible.
Sandra is a 2013 Golden Heart® finalist for her contemporary romantic suspense, Crazy For Her, due out this fall from Montlake Romance. Crazy For Her is the first in a series, with Someone Like Her coming in 2015.
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