on October 2nd 2018
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Lady Adina Gordon, Countess of Rathcavan, is taking the opportunity of celebrating her birthday to bring three select heiresses to her home to play matchmaker for her grandson and his friends.
Laethan Ross Gordon, Earl of Rathcavan, has long held a secret tendre for one lady from the moment he saw her in her father's home. He spent the next three years making himself worthy of her, hoping she might one day care for him. Lady Isabel Halden has been untrusting of any young man since a failed attempt at abduction, leaving the gossip writers to be incredibly cruel in their treatment of Isabel, dubbing her Lady Ice.
Nathaniel Santiago spent five weeks in London getting to know Miss Penelope through their common love of horses. Then one day he was gone. Miss Penelope Fenwicke felt she'd met the one man in the world who understood her best because they shared a common love for horsemanship. When he disappeared she feared for his life and prayed daily for his safe return. And when he did, he managed to betroth himself to her cousin!
Eamon Ramsey wasn't born rich, nor was he titled. He was an ambitious man, and partner with his cousin and their friend in the rail-producing mill they started. He also wasn't nearly the lady's man he led his friends to believe. The night he sees Lady Charlotte Brightman enter the great hall at Lyden Castle, he didn't want to pretend to be anything. All he wanted was to be her man. Lady Charlotte had always been the gawky one of the three fates. Dubbed "unremarkable and standoffish" by gossip writers they predicted she would never marry, no matter the size of her dowry. When Mr. Gowrey invites Charlotte on an early morning ride, she thinks he's just being polite because their friends were marrying. But he had other ideas--until the weather turned on them.
It took one matchmaking old woman to bring these three couples together and to help them realize that love and happiness are greater when you can share it with your best friends.
“How are you enjoying your stay thus far, Lady Isabel?” He wanted to know first if she might be happy at Lyden, before he sentenced her to life here.
“I’m having a wonderful time,” she said. “The castle is like walking through a living museum.” She looked up at him and blushed. “I don’t mean… That is… I enjoy history very much, and just now when you were explaining the about the abbey’s past, I found it exciting and sad at the same time. I was sad for the pious men who lost their lives defending their faith, yet a part of me thought it was wonderful that those who did survive wanted to rebuild and continue the practice of their faith, and the silver and gold smithing which brought their abbey money.”
“When I was a child and my uncle was earl,” Laethan stopped before the humped, vine-covered ruins of what might have been an altar in the private chapel, “we would come to Lyden. Being an only child at the time, I loved the grand tales the other children who lived on the estate would tell me of a treasure buried by the prior before the second Viking raid.
“No one has ever found that treasure. I now believe it was something the older boys told the younger ones in order to get them out of their hair when they wanted to woo a lass, or had chores to finish. God knows it kept us digging around all these ruins for hours every day.”
“It kept you out of trouble then?” she asked, the laughing tone of her voice seducing him without her even knowing it. He could listen to her all day and never tire of her. She was sharp, and had a way of being witty in an understated way.
“I suppose you could say that, yes.” He maneuvered her against a wall without ever touching her. With just one step, he put himself mere inches from the kiss he was going to take. “I want to kiss you, Isabel.” Laethan focused on her soft, pink lips, now moistened by the tip of her tongue as it ran over the surface, enticing him to do the same.
“If you wish me not to kiss you, say the word and I will escort you back to your friends.” She didn’t appear to be frightened of his request. That had to be a good sign.
He took that short step nearer to her and placed a hand on each side of her head. Laethan could feel the warmth of her breath as it rose upon leaving her lungs, he could smell the lemony-lavender scent of her soap, her hair piled atop her head with soft curls escaping the pins.
Laethan waited for her reply, and as he was about to step away thinking maybe he was wrong about this… this… attraction between them, he heard her softly-spoken reply.
“I want you to kiss me, my lord,” she whispered, “because I have imagined you doing so from the night we met.”
Before the last word was out of her mouth, Laethan lightly touched his lips to hers. “So have I, my… Isabel.” Her name came out on a sigh, surprising him for not the first time when he was in her presence. But what made this moment different from all the others was the realization that he wanted the lady more than he needed the dowry.
He traced his tongue over her lips and tasted the sweet, fruity punch she’d had. When her lips parted his tongue accepted the invitation, and Laethan explored the smooth planes of her straight teeth, tasting more of her and enjoying the playful dueling of tongues as he continued to plunder. Her breathing quickened as his did. He would get carried away by her innocence if he didn’t stop himself. So he broke the kiss, and stepped back, trying to recover his senses.
Isabel dropped her forehead onto his chest, panting as she fought for breath, exactly as he did.
“I am so sorry, Isabel—” Laethan began, only to be cut of by Isabel.
“I don’t know what came over me, my lord,” she stammered, hiding her face from him still. “I know you must think me forward and ill-mannered, but…”
“If that was forward and ill-mannered then let me die in just that way, in your arms.” He couldn’t believe she was apologizing to him. “I was the one in the wrong, if there was any wrong in that kiss. But I do not believe there was.”
“Stop,” she whispered into his chest. “You’re teasing me.”
“I assure you I am not. And while I could prove to you the state of arousal you have me in, I should like to save your delicate sensibilities. Your brother or father might call me out.” And that was the absolute last thing he needed, because Laethan wanted her very, very much.
“You must think that I have—” her voice trembled, almost as much as her body was. “—done this sort of thing before. But you must know that I have not. There has never… ever…”
“I believe you.” Laethan stopped her. “It is obvious.”
A flaming blush crept up her face, and he knew he’d embarrassed her by pointing out her lack of experience, and it was his turn to explain and apologize if he’d offended her.
“I didn’t mean that the way it sounded,” he said. “It’s just that… I want more from a relationship, and because of our positions and our families, we have to follow a certain decorum, and I… I am not the sort to stand around and wait for things to fall into place. I’m the kind of man who does what I must to get those things, to make those things happen.”
Her expression changed faster than the lowland weather on a spring afternoon. Suddenly she was no longer the sweet, innocent lass. As he’d discovered—quite by accident—her mettle.
“Things?” Her back suddenly went rigid as she straightened, then ducked under his arm. “Do you think I’m a possession to be had? Because, my lord, I assure you I am not a thing to be won, bought, or manipulated for your pleasure. I am a human, a woman, a lady. I have a—”
“No, no… Isabel… That isn’t what I mean at all.” God, he was making such a mess of this. “I promise you my intentions are honorable and I would never dishonor you by treating you with anything less than the respect you deserve.” He had to find a way to say the words without sounding too much like a crazy romantic, which he wasn’t.
“Marry me, Isabel. I know we do not know much about the other now, but we will grow to, if you agree.”
Her eyes grew wide and her mouth fell open, as though unbelieving of what she’d just heard.
“I desire you, Isabel,” he said, placing his heart before her, “as I’ve never desired a lady before. And I have from the moment I first set eyes on you.” She didn’t have to know that the first time was three and a half years before, because that was time was spent to make himself worthy of her.
She was silent—her face now an unreadable mask. Likely because she’d had so many other proposals of marriage before his. He was willing to bet she compared his to the others and deemed it unworthy also. Well, Laethan had never begged for a lady’s attention. He gave it his all, and he’d not ask again if she refused him. While he’d never wanted another, he wasn’t going to grovel. Not like the gents he’d read about in the papers—all of them making arses of themselves falling at her feet, and begging for her hand in marriage.
After a minute of quiet, he turned his back to her to compose himself before he returned her to her friends. Her extended silence was all the answer he needed. Obviously she had no desire to be his countess. Perhaps she had a loftier title in mind, being the only daughter of a very politically powerful and incredibly rich man. Sad sot that he was, he couldn’t control his randy cock that still wanted this lass something fierce, but knowing it remained hidden behind the folds of the plaid and the sporran he wore, he felt safe enough escorting her back to the crowd.
Without meeting her gaze, he half turned and offered her his arm.
She didn’t take it. Instead, she came around him, and stood before him. “My parents have said I can marry for love. And, while I am honored that you might consider me as your countess, I will never settle for a marriage where there is no chance for love to grow.” Her brown eyes began to fill with tears, though they didn’t spill over.
Looking at her was breaking his heart, and he prepared himself for the letdown he knew was coming with her next breath.
“If you can tell me that you believe there is the tiniest seed of hope for love to bloom between us, then my answer is yes.”
The gut punch wasn’t the one he was expecting. When he realized what she’d said, he straightened, throwing his shoulders back. Then his face broke into grin so broad his face hurt.
“Really?” he asked, wanting to be absolutely certain he’d heard her correctly, and praying she was speaking earnestly. “If this is yes, you are mine forever, because I couldn’t bear to let you go.”
“I hope you never let me go, my lord.” Her face beamed, radiating her joy, and in turn making him the happiest of men. “Because I think marriage is just the prescription to put us both out of our misery.”
He kissed her again, but this time only a short, sweet kiss because a group of ladies from the picnic rounded the corner and witnessed their brief moment of intimacy. They immediately stepped apart, but held onto her hand because he didn’t want to let her go.
“Come back to the tent with us, ladies,” Laethan said, “and you will hear the very happy news.”
In FATED LOVE, three best friends get married at the same time.
Would you have wanted to share your wedding day with your friends and WHY or WHY NOT?
Best answer wins a $25 digital Amazon gift card!