on March 20th 2017
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A wallflower by nature, Jane long ago accepted she would become a spinster. Perhaps such a fate was for the best. After all she’d witnessed firsthand how miserable marriage could make a lady. Still she dared to dream-that is until she finds herself thoroughly scandalized by a lord with the manners of a wild boar.
After Caleb Wesley, The Earl of Keery, failed to protect the one person who’d counted on him, he embraced his role of blackguard. He holds his vices close-light skirts, gambling, and liquor-and has no intention of giving them up. Even after he accidentally ruins a lady and is forced to offer marriage.
Two people brought together through an unwanted circumstance discover something neither one believed they'd ever have. Can they let go of their old hurts and beliefs long enough to embrace the gift fate bestowed upon them?
He glanced at the mussed bed, then raked his gaze over her body before meeting her eyes. “It seems you welcomed me with open legs, madam.”
The chill in his tone sliced through her. To think she was bemoaning the fact they had not made love mere minutes ago. Anger flared to life, burning her from the inside out. She jabbed finger into the bone and muscle of his chest. “That is an invitation you shall never receive from me! You are a blackguard unfit for the company of ladies.”
“If that is true, it is a damn good thing there are no ladies present.” He pulled his shirt over his head.
“There seems to be a shortage of gentleman as well.” She bent to retrieve his breeches before flinging them at him.
The door swung open behind her, spinning her around. To her horror, her brother and his wife had entered her room, worse still, the Countess of Bailey, an older woman renowned for her gossiping, stood wide-eyed in the hallway. The blood drained from Jane’s face as she averted her gaze to the pained glass window wishing she could fling herself out of it.
“Explain yourself,” her brother, Henry, demanded of Lord Keery. Claudia remained behind her husband, her hand on her chest and her mouth agape.
Jane’s heart pounded head spun with all the excuses she could make, but no words came. Nothing she could say would make any difference. She stood in the middle of her room in nothing more than a chemise with a more than half naked man. Hells bells! She was ruined. Her cheeks burned with embarrassment.
Claudia moved to the door and pushed it shut, closing off the Countess’s view as well as any other houseguests who may come upon them. “Do lower your voice, Henry. Is it your wish to see Jane ruined?”
“Keery has already seen to that, I daresay. Bloody hell, the countess stood witness to this…this atrocity.” His attention remained riveted on Lord Keery. “You took advantage of my sister. Have you nothing to say?”
Jane found her strength and rushed forward. “All is not as it appears. I swear it on my life.”
“Silence!” Henry bit the word out from between clenched teeth, his eyes burning with unsuppressed anger.
Jane pressed her lips together, but stood her ground. She could not allow Lord Keery to shoulder all of the blame for their predicament—not when she’d been a willing accomplice.
Henry removed his glove and slapped it across Lord Keery’s cheek. “I challenge you to a duel.”
Lord Keery stepped back to lean casually against the dressing table. “There is no need for that, Shillington, for I intend to do right by your sister.”
Jane’s stomach lurched as she took in his words. Doing right by her could only mean one thing. Lord Keery wanted to marry her. An hour ago, she would have thrilled, but now the prospect terrified her. She fought through the fog and pinned Keery with her gaze. “I would not marry this scoundrel were he the last man on earth.”
Her brother jumped in, his gaze as condemning as her own. “You forfeited any say in the matter, dear sister, the moment he entered your chamber.”
Keery shook out his wrinkled breeches. “I will procure a special license right away.” He pulled them on, tucked in his linen shirt, and secured them. “Just as soon as I find the remainder of my clothing.”
Jane fisted her hands, wanting to scream. How could he be so casual? His nonchalance further enraged her. He no more wanted to wed her than she wanted a rogue with the manners of a wild boar for a husband. Fuming and flustered, she went about the room collecting his garments before pushing them against his chest. “Do not bother. I refuse to marry you, regardless of what my brother demands.” Even as the words left her mouth, she knew they were untrue. She could not refuse his offer when doing so would bring shame upon her entire family.
Henry took hold of her arm and gave a gentle shake. “That is quite enough, Jane. You will marry Keery. Not another word from you unless it is ‘I do’.”
Lord Keery, clothing in hand, moved toward the door. Before he took his leave, he turned back and flashed her a rakish grin. “It seems you do not have a choice in the matter, my future bride.”
Jane was perplexed and enraged by his contradictory behavior. Why offer her marriage to save her reputation one moment only to ruin her good name the next moment by leaving her room in so shocking a state of undress? “Surely you do not intend to go out there like that.”
His mouth hitched up into a devilish grin. “Whyever not, when you are already compromised?”
And, at that, he took his leave.
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