He has secretly admired her from afar…
England, 1811. When John Merrick, the Earl of Corbeau, is caught in a locked storeroom with Lady Grace, he has but one choice—marry her. He cannot bear to tarnish any woman’s reputation, least of all Lady Grace’s.
She has lost everything but her dignity…
Lady Grace Landon will do anything to help her mother and sisters, crushed and impoverished by her father’s disgrace. But throwing herself into the arms of her dearest friend’s older brother to trap him in marriage? Never.
Corbeau needs to prove that he loves her, despite her father’s misdeeds. After years of being an object of scorn, not even falling in love with Corbeau alters Lady Grace’s determination to not bring her disrepute upon another. However, if they don’t realize that the greatest honor is love given freely without regard to society’s censure, they stand to lose far more than they ever imagined.
It was one of those days. After burning his tongue on his first sip of morning coffee and in quick succession overturning an entire pot of ink on himself, he should have retired to a dark corner. More than anything, he should have steered clear of his friend Max’s ridiculous game.
Too late. He’d found himself in about the worst possible place with the last person in the world with whom he could wish to be trapped in a confined space.
And if he knew his host, the game was a thinly veiled cover for an opportunity for Max to find a quiet place to steal a kiss from one of the ladies.
Now Corbeau was not only locked in a storeroom but also locked in a storeroom with Lady Grace. He studied her in one of those interminable silences that always reared its ugly head when he was within ten feet of the woman.
Trouble was, he never wanted to stop looking at her. The simplicity of her sprig muslin day dress set off her quiet allure, as strong today as when he’d first seen her.
Around her, his composure never failed to flee. If anyone could be said to know what a tree must feel like, it should be him. Being around her made him wooden, and not always in terms that might hope to pass for gentlemanly.
Life was a cruel mistress. It wasn’t like Corbeau was free to remedy the situation, by, say, offering for her. She’d made her feelings for him only too abundantly clear, and he’d sworn to himself he’d always honor them.
He had a single goal: hide how much he wanted to be near her. But trying to conceal his feelings only exacerbated his utter dearth of social graces.
“Well, I daresay we won’t go hungry.” She was smiling at him as she spoke.
His balls tightened. Please, mercy—not now. “We can’t be discovered.”
“You might wish to spend the remainder of your days here, my lord. I reserve the right to want differently.”
“No, you don’t understand. You and I are together in a locked room. Alone.”
The word “alone” was all it took. It conjured images—did things to him. Physical things. Things that might prove useful lurid fodder for when he was by himself in bed tonight.
Whatever effect she might have on him, he did not have on her.
“A room locked from the outside.” She spoke offhandedly, as if stating the obvious. “I hardly think anyone will look askance on a simple mistake.”
He shook his head. “It’s a risk I can’t take.”
Instant regret at the careless words stung him, even before she sobered and drew her book close against her chest. She kept her gaze level, but her voice dropped a notch.
“It’s not our fault.”
Hell. Was he a gentleman or a pigheaded blunderer?
“I mean for your sake, of course.”
She seemed to pick up on his meaning. “Oh, I think we all know my reputation is quite safe with you, my lord.”
The unsated male in him roared, insisting upon the satisfaction of proving himself once and for all. Nothing was so provoking to the demands of reason than this madness inside. Corbeau had nothing to prove, not to anyone. Not to her, not to the world, not to himself.
He kept in his current place next to the door. Internally, however, he found himself losing footing, the last remnants of the steadiness for which he prided himself slipping away.
“Safe enough with me?” His tenor had sunk to a steely low.
Her brows crossed. “I implied no challenge by what I said.”
“Really, my lord, you’re being quite—quite…”
“Quite not yourself.”
“And what am I?”
She halted a moment, thinking as she gave him a puzzled look. “Not this, my lord, certainly.”
Corbeau lifted his chin to stare down at her. “What if I were after a kiss? What then?”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have a B.A. in Art History, I can sound out Attic Greek (plus or minus) and even tell you what one or two of the words mean, and I am the world’s worst administrative assistant. My love of reading has turned my mortgage payment into a book storage fee, which makes me the friend you never want to ask you for help moving. I have an unusual gremlin problem — as in, my fingers are chock full of the little buggers. This all adds up to the fact that the only thing I can be when I grow up is a writer.
Thankfully, I got a lucky break in life. I found a man with a superpower. He sees all these things I’ve listed as desirable qualities. Instead of running as far away as possible, he married me. We even have a few cats. For reasons of privacy, the felines have requested I keep their identities secret…all except Sulu, who requires supplicants (i.e., you) to pay homage. Food is preferable, but tummy petting will do in a pinch.
Oh, and we live in Metropolitan Washington, DC, which is pretty darn awesome due to the high concentration of the world’s best romance writers living in the area. I am endlessly pleased and grateful to count myself one among this fabulous community.