Lord Jeremy Landon, Earl of Bennington, spent the last ten years rebuilding the ruined earldom he inherited from his scandal-ridden uncle. He has one final debt to repay. In lieu of money, though, he is manipulated into marrying a spinster…
Lady Eliza Burke is tired of living under the rule of a tyrannical mother. She’ll do anything to escape, even marry a man she doesn’t know—and a man her mother despises. Eliza doesn’t believe herself destined for love. Lord Bennington doesn’t believe he’s destined for happiness. Both are about to be tested by a scandal that could tear them apart forever.
She reached out to take his hand, warmth swirling in his veins at the unanticipated intimacy.
“Nothing more than too much coffee at breakfast, I’m sure.”
“You like your coffee, don’t you? At least you have that.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I mean you’ve got nothing in your life that you really live for.”
The pronouncement rankled. “I’ve worked—”
“Yes, I know.” She waved. “You have much to be proud of, my lord, that I would never dispute. But the only thing you do is work.”
“That’s the only thing for which I’ve had any time.”
“That’s the only thing for which you’ve given yourself any time. You treat life like it’s a game of subterfuge.”
“I suppose I’ll take your word for that one, my lady. Since you’re the resident expert on subterfuge.”
They went on in silence. His shoulders ached from tension. “I used to play the violin.” Lord save him. He didn’t need to tell her this—he hadn’t spoken of it in years. He had nothing to prove. Whatever she thought of him…he didn’t care.
He scowled and sighed. “I started lessons when I was a lad. And I hated them—every last second. I nally wore my mother down and nagled her help in convincing my father to let me abandon music all together. It wasn’t easy. My father was…a dif cult man.”
Eliza’s eyes were full of tender concern. She said nothing. Only waited.
Jeremy looked away and continued. “No sooner had I put down the instrument—forever, I’d thought—than I longed to pick it up again. After a year, I could stand it no longer, and demanded to resume lessons. But on my own terms and with a new master.”
That’s when they’d found Mr. Oswald, a man with a deep passion for music instead of a deep passion for petty punishments.
With Eliza’s hand over his, Jeremy allowed himself to feel the full measure of the guilt he’d pushed away for years, telling himself it no longer mattered because the estate and the family name were more important than anything else.
He didn’t want to let go, though—didn’t want to admit that perhaps he’d taken things too far. He raised his chin and withdrew his hand. “Music is nothing more than a frivolity.”
When she reached for him again, he pulled away.
“My lord…” Her was face full of concern, her voice soft. It would be so easy to kiss her now. To capture her lips with his and drink her long and deeply, inhaling the rosy scent of her. “I don’t think those things are frivolous. Least of all music. You’re entirely wrong on that score. Perhaps you should think about taking it up again.”
“It’s too late for that.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ingrid Hahn is a failed administrative assistant with a B.A. in Art History. Her love of reading has turned her mortgage payment into a book storage fee, which makes her the friend who you never want to ask you for help moving. Though originally from Seattle, she now lives in the metropolitan DC area with her ship-nerd husband, small son, and four opinionated cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves knitting, theater, nature walks, travel, history, and is a hopelessly devoted fan of Jane Austen. Please connect with her on social media!