This very handsome earl…Is the one man she cannot fall for…
War widow Lily Walsh has left her aristocratic family behind, but she can’t deny her younger sister’s request to come to London to meet her fiancé. Though not a love match, Lord Sherborne is kind, amusing and ideal for her sister on paper. But as Lily gets to know him, she’s finding him alarmingly attractive! And the forbidden look in the earl’s eye shows the feeling is mutual…
The engagement between Lord Sherbourne, London’s most eligible bachelor, and Anne Devenish, London’s most beautiful and well-mannered young lady, is the envy of the ton. All might have been well but for Lily, Anne’s less than perfect widowed sister. Since her arrival in London, Marcus and Anne’s perfect engagement-of-convenience has been unravelling. In this scene Marcus and Lily find themselves forced to dance together. It is not a good moment for either of them…
‘Well, Lily Walsh, it seems you have no choice. You can waltz, yes?’
‘Well, then. Let us go to it.’
Lord Sherbourne sounded as reluctant as she and there was no amusement in evidence either in his tone or his face. He looked tired and rather grim and once on the dance floor they moved in silence to the rhythm of the dance.
Was he upset about Lord Wrexham and Annie? About being forced to dance with Anne’s unfashionable sister? Neither seemed to account for his unusual behaviour.
She ought to have felt insulted, but she felt worried instead. She wished she had the courage to ask him what was bothering him. No, she wished he would smile and say something annoying. She needed to find her balance again.
She’d never known anyone who upset her quite as much as this man and she was beginning to hate this feeling. Just moments ago she’d felt hopeful and confident and pretty and now she felt…
She had no notion what she felt except that it was uncomfortable. Her lungs were tight and her palms tingled like they did before an episode, except she wasn’t cold and there wasn’t that horrid rushing sound in her ears. If anything, she felt a crackling heat lick against her insides and, instead of the urge to push everyone away and slink into a corner, she wished he would say something, anything, to break this tension.
She felt as though she’d done something terribly wrong though she didn’t know what.
His hand on her waist, from the heel of his palm to the pressure of his fingers through the silky soft fabric. She could almost swear he was…vibrating. Or she was. As if they were dancing on a tuning fork.
He was far too close, too. She wanted to look up, but was afraid to, so she stared at the pearl pin hiding among the milky folds of his cravat. It brought back the memory of the tiny pearls on his mother’s locket laying on her palm in the hackney cab, a token of a bond through time.
Sensations piled one on top of another: his fingertips on her hand through her thin gloves, her own hand resting on his shoulder, warm and safe… And then her mind took her hand and slipped it under the dark wool and soft linen of his clothes, touching the warm skin beneath…
Only an awful, dreadful, traitorous person would be so aware of the man who was to be Annie’s husband. She gritted her teeth, trying to think of anything else, but she couldn’t stop it.
Sense was doing its best to catch up with sensation, like a messenger running after an advancing army, helplessly waving an order to retreat: Don’t go there! But her troops were in full forward motion, leaving the messenger behind.
One shouldn’t want to move closer, lean her cheek against the dark fabric of his coat, soak up his warmth and heartbeat. One shouldn’t have to fight against the urge to look at him. And one definitely shouldn’t imagine stopping right here in the middle of Lady Sefton’s ballroom, standing on tiptoe and touching her mouth to his to see if her worst fears were correct and it would feel horribly right.
The two words rang inside her like a bell underwater—muted but reverberating. She didn’t want this part of her to wake. It had sunk to the bottom of some muddy lake even before Tim died. It should stay there where it and she were safe.
The very last place it should choose to revive itself was in the middle of a fashionable ballroom—and the very, very last person who should revive it was Annie’s Lord Sherbourne.
She lost her step and his hand tightened on hers, his other palm moving against her waist, steadying her and bringing her a little closer. Above the cloying scent of perfumes and the acrid smell of heated bodies and souring wine she caught the same cool oak and pine forest that followed him about. As if he’d just this moment transported himself from the foothills of the Pyrenees.
She reached deep down into whatever reservoirs of strength she had left. She would stop this right here, right now. Face it and then wrench it out like a rotten tooth. She had dealt with far worse and she would deal with this, too.
Annie would never, ever know.
Thank you, Lara Temple and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
Lara Temple writes strong and sensual Regency romances about complex individuals who give no quarter but do so with plenty of passion. She lives with her husband, two children, and one very fluffy dog and they are all very understanding about her taking over the kitchen table so she can look out over the garden as she writes and dreams up her Happy Ever Afters.
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/LaraTempleAuthor
Amazon author page US: http://bit.ly/LaraTemple
Amazon author page UK: http://bit.ly/LaraTempleUK
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