Genevieve Stafford watched, smiling, as her brother led his new bride onto the floor for their first dance. “I’ve never seen Alec look so happy.”
Her grandmother let out a small, ladylike snort. “One would think Alec could have waited a few months at least. A hasty marriage is always cause for gossip, and when it is to a nobody, people are bound to talk.”
“People would talk no matter who Alec married or how long they waited,” Genevieve reminded her.
“I suppose it is inevitable when one is the Earl of Rawdon. Still, there’s no need poking a beehive with a stick. I had hoped Rawdon would choose a more appropriate bride, given the scandal his first engagement provoked.”
“One can hardly blame Alec for Lady Jocelyn’s behavior.” Genevieve quickly came to her brother’s defense.
“ ’Tis a logical consequence of Alec’s considering only how a woman looks, instead of her birth or family or character.”
“Alec does love beauty,” Genevieve admitted. “But there is more to Damaris than that.”
#LINK<>#The countess cast her a sideways glance. “Taking up the cudgels for Alec’s wife now, too? As I remember, you wanted him to marry Damaris no more than I did.”
Genevieve felt a flush rising in her cheeks under her grandmother’s scrutiny. The countess had a way of making her feel as if she were five years old with a stain on her skirt. “I did not want him to be hurt again. I feared Damaris was an adventuress who would leave him once she’d gotten what she wanted. He would have been devastated.” Her grandmother would never know how close Alec had come to that state when he thought Damaris had left him. The countess had been carefully shielded from the tumultuous events at Castle Cleyre. Genevieve went on carefully, “I—I came to see that I had been wrong about her. The important thing is, Damaris adores Alec, and he loves her.”
“Pfft. Love.” The countess waved away the notion. “Alec has a regrettable tendency toward poetic notions.” She frowned at the thought of this shortcoming in her grandson. “At least you are not given to such nonsense.”
“No, of course not.” Genevieve was unaware of the little sigh she uttered.
“Ah, Felicity!” Real pleasure in her voice at last, the countess turned away to greet her old friend Lady Hornbaugh. “I wondered where you had gotten to.”
“Thought I’d slipped off for a nap, eh?” Lady Hornbaugh trumpeted. “I considered it, I’ll tell you that. Nothing like a vicar’s sermon to cure insomnia, I always say. Hallo, Genevieve.”
#LINK<>#“Lady Hornbaugh.” Genevieve greeted her grandmother’s friend with polite deference, though inside she groaned. Whenever Lady Hornbaugh—with a voice that could be heard across any ballroom and of an outspoken bent—was around, Genevieve lived in dread of what she might say.
“You drew a nice number of guests,” Lady Hornbaugh went on, nodding and surveying the room. “Who is that with Sir Myles?”
Genevieve glanced over. Sir Myles Thorwood was making his bow to two women standing beside a well-dressed blond man. Good humor shone from Myles’s dark-lashed, golden-brown eyes, almost the same shade as his sun-kissed, light brown hair. His full, expressive mouth was, as usual, curved up in a merry grin. He was impeccably dressed, his broad-shouldered form showing to best advantage in the formal black attire. He was not as handsome as some—Lord Morecombe, for instance, who had the looks of a Lucifer—but it was generally agreed that Sir Myles Thorwood was possessed of an indefinable, irresistible, and apparently unending supply of charm.
“Flirting, as always.” Genevieve frowned. She was, she knew, one of the few people in the ton who was not beguiled by Sir Myles. The man had been one of her brother’s closest friends for years, but Genevieve and Myles rarely met that they did not find something upon which they disagreed.
“That is the Earl of Dursbury. Excellent family, of course. Never a whiff of scandal.”
“So that’s the new earl. Knew his father, of course—and #LINK<>#a dull dog he was.” Lady Hornbaugh raised her lorgnette and stared unabashedly. “Then the beauty beside him is his stepmother?”
“Yes. Dreadful woman.” Lady Rawdon sniffed.
Genevieve studied the attractive woman now chatting with Sir Myles. Lady Dursbury’s lustrous, dark hair was done up in an intricate arrangement of curls; her eyes were large and a soft, doelike brown. Diamonds winked in her earlobes, matched by the pendant around her throat. She wore a round gown of deep plum silk, her full, white bosom swelling above the lace-edged neckline. Genevieve could not help but contrast the woman’s curvaceous figure to her own tall, narrow frame.
“The old earl died a year ago, as I recall, so she’ll be out of her year of mourning. She’s been stuck out in the country since she married Dursbury, and now, I’ll wager, she intends to make a come-out of her own. Who’s the young chit with them?”
“Miss Halford,” Lady Rawdon said. “She was old Dursbury’s ward. Lived with them since her father died a few years ago. It’s said her ladyship is very fond of her.”
“Harry Halford’s daughter? I warrant Lady Dursbury is fond of her, then.” Lady Hornbaugh let out one of her boisterous laughs. “Girl’s worth a fortune. Shouldn’t wonder if Dursbury #LINK<>#has a mind to marry her.”
Genevieve’s grandmother shrugged. “She’s a plain little thing. And I’ve never heard that Dursbury was cash-strapped.”
“No. Still, never bad to have more. Mayhap Sir Myles has a mind toward the heiress, as well,” Lady Hornbaugh speculated.
“Myles?” Genevieve repeated, startled, then laughed. “Myles is not the marrying sort.”
“He is a dreadful flirt, of course,” her grandmother agreed. “I have seen him break many a foolish young girl’s heart.”
“You malign the young man,” protested Lady Hornbaugh, who obviously had a soft spot for Sir Myles. “He’s not at all unkind. Quite the opposite, I’d say.”
“I did not say it was his fault. I don’t suppose Sir Myles can help it if silly girls melt at his smile or think his compliments mean undying devotion. Thank goodness Genevieve had too much sense to pay attention to his blandishments.”
“Sir Myles never flirted with me,” Genevieve pointed out. “He was too loyal a friend to Alec. Not, of course, that I wanted him to.”
“Still, no matter how much he enjoys his bachelor state, Sir Myles must marry one day,” the countess remarked. “He has that whole brood of sisters, no brother to follow him or produce an heir. But I cannot imagine he would be interested in so plain a chit as Miss Halford. The widow would be more his style.”
“Dursbury’s stepmother?” Genevieve asked. “But she is older than Sir Myles, surely.”
“Three or four years, perhaps. Married young to an old man,” her grandmother summed up succinctly. “I imagine the lady’s charms would outweigh that.”
#LINK<>#“It certainly doesn’t seem he finds any fault in her,” Genevieve said tartly.
“And Lady Dursbury returns his interest,” Lady Hornbaugh responded gleefully.
Lady Dursbury’s face was glowing, her eyes sparkling, as she chatted with Myles. The woman leaned forward to put her hand on his arm, smiling up into his face. Genevieve felt a twinge of annoyance, an emotion not uncommon where Sir Myles was concerned, and she turned away, looking out across the large assembly room.
“It’s no wonder,” Lady Hornbaugh went on. “Thorwood’s a handsome young devil. Don’t you agree, Genevieve?”
“What? Oh. Yes, I suppose,” Genevieve said with great indifference, wafting her fan. “I have known him so long, I scarcely notice.”
“Not notice!” Lady Hornbaugh hooted. “Good gracious, girl, now you have me worried about your eyesight.”
“I suggest we cease discussing the man,” her grandmother put in, “as he is making his way toward us right now.”
Genevieve glanced over to see that Myles was, indeed, striding across the floor toward them, smiling. Her spirits rose in anticipation. Her verbal skirmishes with Myles were always invigorating, no matter how irritating the man could be. And, she was honest enough to admit, it was rather pleasant to watch him walk.
“Lady Rawdon.” Myles made a perfect bow to the women. “And Lady Hornbaugh. Lady Genevieve. I cannot believe my good fortune to find three such lovely ladies unattended.”
#LINK<>#“Flatterer,” Lady Hornbaugh replied without a hint of displeasure, and rapped him lightly on the arm with her fan. “As if we did not know that ’tis the presence of only one young lady that brought you over to visit us. ’Tis Genevieve who draws the young gentlemen.”
“I fear you mistake Sir Myles,” Genevieve said drolly. “He has no preference for me or any other particular lady. He is like a butterfly, drawn to all the flowers.”
Myles’s eyes gleamed gold with amusement. “Lady Genevieve! You are implying I am fickle?”
“I would not say fickle. Merely . . . indiscriminate.”
He laughed. “My lady, you have a cruel tongue.”
“I would say a truthful one.”
“Nay, I cannot allow you to count yourself so low.”
“Myself? I believe we were discussing you, sir,” Genevieve shot back.
“But if I am indiscriminate in my tastes, then my desire to ask you for this dance would cast you among the vast lot of young ladies whom I admire. And you must know that you are on a level quite above them.”
Genevieve could not keep from chuckling. “You are a complete hand.”
“That I may be. But will you give me your hand for this dance?” He extended his arm to her.
Genevieve took his arm, and they started toward the center of the floor. “Rather cocksure of yourself, I must say,” she told him. “Offering me your arm before I answered.”
“Oh, I knew you would dance with me,” Myles said with a grin. “You cannot resist.”
#LINK<>#“Indeed?” Genevieve raised an eyebrow. “You count yourself so charming?”
“No, but I know that however obstinate, haughty, and disagreeable you may be, you love to dance.”
Genevieve drew in breath to shoot back a sharp retort, but instead she laughed. “You are an excellent dancer,” she admitted. “Indeed, it was you who taught me to dance.”
“I might have known you would not remember. No doubt it is more difficult when one has danced with every young lady of the ton.”
“One must practice, after all.” Myles grinned and leaned his head toward her in that way he had perfected, as if the woman on his arm were the only woman in the room. “But ’tis always memorable to dance with you.”
“Don’t try to cut a wheedle with me.” Genevieve rolled her eyes. “You just told me you did not recall. It was one summer when you and Gabriel came with Alec to Castle Cleyre. Grandmama had quite despaired of my learning to dance properly. My dancing tutor had left in a snit.”
Myles let out a bark of laughter. “Chased off by the rough edge of your tongue, no doubt.”
“He was an oily little man,” Genevieve shot back indignantly. “He tried to kiss me one day—and I was only thirteen!” She stopped, realizing that Myles’s teasing had led her to touch on a most indelicate subject. It was one of Myles’s many annoying qualities—somehow when she was around him, she found herself blurting out the #LINK<>#most appalling things. Fortunately, Myles rarely seemed shocked, no matter what she told him.
“I am surprised Alec didn’t have his hide.”
“I did not tell him, of course. I was afraid he might kill the little weasel, and I would not have wanted Alec to go to gaol, of course.”
“Of course. Why didn’t you get Alec to teach you to dance?”
“He wasn’t as good a dancer as you. Gabriel was quite good also, but I had such a mad tendre for him that I stumbled all over my feet whenever he was near.”
“Your girlish dreams were for Gabe and not me?” Myles raised his hand to his chest dramatically. “Lady Genevieve, you wound me.”
Genevieve laughed. “Then you may take consolation in the fact that you rank well above Gabriel now.” She glanced over to where Lord Morecombe and his wife, Thea, stood talking and laughing with Alec and Damaris.
“Ah, Genny . . . can you not forgive Gabe yet?” Myles asked in a more serious tone.
“He turned against my brother.” Genevieve’s blue eyes flashed in a way Myles had witnessed often enough in Rawdon, reminding him how close the Staffords still were to their fierce and autocratic ancestors. “The Morecombes broke Alec’s heart, and it was not just Jocelyn’s tossing him aside that did it. Alec believed Gabriel was his friend. You do not know how it was, growing up in the castle. There were no children of proper birth #LINK<>#anywhere around, and a Stafford could not be friends with a servant or a tenant’s child. Father would have had his hide.”
“I think it was not only Alec who found it lonely at Cleyre,” Myles said gently.
“Oh, well . . .” Genevieve glanced at him. Myles could be disconcertingly perceptive at times. She shrugged carelessly, erasing the heat from her voice. “I did not feel it as Alec did. When he went off to school and you and Gabriel befriended him, it meant a great deal to Alec. For Gabriel to accuse him of frightening Jocelyn into running away—even going so far as to suggest that Alec might have harmed the silly girl! It wounded Alec deeply.”
“Yet Alec has forgiven him.” Myles nodded toward the two men, deep in conversation.
“Yes. Well . . . Alec has a warmer heart than I.” Genevieve smiled ruefully. “Mayhap he has more of our mother in him. It is enough for him that Gabriel apologized for his accusations.”
“Gabriel was in a good deal of pain himself at the time,” Myles reminded her. “He feared his friendship for Alec had led him to push his sister into the engagement.”
“Gabriel’s sister was as foolish as she was selfish, and the fact that she died as a result does not change her into a martyr. For Alec’s sake I will try not to dislike Gabriel. But I shall never forgive Jocelyn.” Genevieve’s eyes flashed, her jaw setting.
“What a lioness you are! I can only pray that I will never be the object of your enmity.”
#LINK<>#“Don’t be absurd. You would never turn your back on Alec. No one can deny your loyalty.”
“Despite my many other shortcomings.” Myles grinned. The music struck up behind them, and he held out his hand. “Enough talk of feuds past. Come, Genny, let us dance.”
Genevieve smiled and went into his arms.
When Myles returned Genevieve to her grandmother’s side, Lady Rawdon had been joined by Alec and Damaris, as well as Lord and Lady Morecombe. Morecombe bowed politely to Genevieve, though he shot her an ironic glance that said he knew full well her true feelings about him. Genevieve returned his greeting without the iciness she would normally have employed. After all, she had told Myles she would try to like him, and since his wife was Damaris’s best friend, the Morecombes would clearly often be around. She smiled at Gabriel’s wife with more warmth. Genevieve had been around Thea several times the past few days as the wedding preparations demanded, and somewhat to her surprise, she found herself liking the woman.
Alec was smiling, as he had been all day, and his blue eyes, even lighter than Genevieve’s, were bright with happiness. Impulsively, he reached out and pulled his sister into a hug, the affectionate gesture surprising them both.
“I am very happy for you,” Genevieve told him quietly.
“Thank you.” Alec released Genevieve, grinning. “No doubt ’tis a great relief for everyone, given the state of my company the last few weeks.”
#LINK<>#“You were a bit of a bear,” Genevieve agreed drily. With Damaris here in Chesley the past month preparing for the wedding, Alec had roamed the halls of Castle Cleyre like a ghost—albeit a testy and combative specter.
“He is always a bit of a bear,” Damaris put in, smiling up at Alec in such a way that it turned her words into an endearment.
“I suppose I was a trifle irritable,” Alec allowed, earning a derisive laugh from the others.
As the group chatted, laughing, Genevieve saw Thea draw Sir Myles aside. Thea spoke a few words to him, nodding toward the other side of the room. Genevieve looked in the direction she indicated and saw a young woman sitting stiffly beside an older lady, watching the dancers. Myles nodded, smiling down at Thea, and excused himself. Genevieve watched as he strolled across the room and bowed to the young lady, then led her out onto the floor.
“That was kind of you,” Genevieve commented as Thea moved over to stand beside her.
“Oh. ’Twas little enough. I can always rely on Myles’s good nature.” Thea absently reached up to stuff a cinnamon-colored curl back into place. Genevieve had yet to see Lady Morecombe when at least one or two of her wildly springing tresses weren’t trying to escape their moorings. “I intend to steal you away as well.”
“Me?” Genevieve asked, surprised.
“Yes. We must whisk Damaris from Alec’s side—no easy task, as you can see—and help her change into her traveling dress.”
#LINK<>#“Oh,” Genevieve said blankly.
“That is what the friends of the bride do, isn’t it?”
“Oh. Well, yes, I—I suppose so. I’ve never—I haven’t any—” Genevieve stopped, flushing. “I mean, I have friends, of course. Just not of that sort.” With every word, she was making more of a fool of herself. It was so difficult talking to people she did not know, particularly when, as Thea was apt to do, they did not follow the well-worn grooves of polite chitchat. Genevieve pulled herself straighter, retreating into the cool reserve she had always used to cover her awkwardness. “One does not, really, in the city.”
“No doubt it is different here in Chesley,” Thea agreed cheerfully, taking Genevieve’s arm in a firm grip and pulling her toward Damaris.
Startled, Genevieve went with Thea and watched, somewhat bemused, as she slipped an arm around Damaris’s waist, then, laughing and shaking her head at Alec’s protests, led the new Lady Rawdon away. Thea and Damaris chattered merrily as they went up the stairs, and Genevieve followed behind them, uncomfortably aware that she should enter into their conversation, yet unable to think of anything to say.
They were talking about Damaris and Alec’s upcoming honeymoon trip to the Continent. Traveling abroad was a topic on which Genevieve knew she could say something, unlike the books the two had discussed yesterday, but every sentence she came up with sounded stilted in her head, and by the time she had formed one that did not, the topic had changed to Damaris’s trousseau.
#LINK<>#“I hadn’t nearly enough time to buy a full one,” Damaris said with a sigh as they entered her bedroom. “But at least I managed a few new dresses.”
Spread out on the bed was her carriage gown, a handsome creation of vivid blue in a high-collared, vaguely military style, accented by large frogged fastenings down the front. Genevieve sucked in her breath in a spontaneous burst of admiration.
“Oh, Damaris! It’s wonderful.” Genevieve went forward to examine the dress more closely. Dissimilar as the two of them were, Genevieve and her new sister-in-law found common ground when it came to fashion. She reached out to smooth her fingertips across the material. “Such a beautiful color. It will look perfect on you.”
“When I return, you must borrow it sometime,” Damaris told her, adding with a sparkle of humor, “After all, I wore your frocks often enough at Cleyre.”
“I wish I could.” Genevieve sighed. “But you have the coloring for it. I would look like a ghost walking. Years ago, when I first came out, I wanted desperately to wear something bright.” She heard the wisp of longing in her voice and quickly added, “But of course Grandmama was right. Pale colors suit me best.”
“You should wear it anyway,” Thea told her firmly. “I have foresworn all my old dull dresses.”
“I have heard love does that to people,” Damaris said with a teasing glance at her friend.
Thea laughed. “Yes, I suppose it does. I recommend it for everyone.”
#LINK<>#“Well, all one has to do is move to Chesley. You met Gabriel here, and I met Alec.” Damaris turned toward Genevieve. “You should look around, Genevieve; your future husband may be among the guests.”
Genevieve was not certain what Damaris meant but smiled politely.
“It isn’t Chesley,” Thea protested. “It’s Saint Dwynwen.”
“Saint who?” Genevieve asked. “I’ve never heard of him.”
“Her. She was a Welsh saint.”
“The patron saint of love,” Damaris added. “There is a statue of her in the church. Did you see it? In the side chapel, where the tombs are.”
Genevieve vaguely remembered a rather battered wood sculpture. “It’s, um, rather old?”
Thea laughed. “Older than old. We have no idea when it was carved. A local knight took it from a Welsh shrine during some campaign or other in Wales. He also brought home a Welsh bride. He was quite smitten with her, you see, and claimed that his prayers to this saint had been rewarded.”
“It’s a very romantic story,” Damaris said. “But the local legend is about what happened after that.”
“What happened?” Genevieve asked, intrigued.
“It is said that when one prays before that statue with a true and earnest heart, love will come to you,” Thea explained.
Genevieve raised a skeptical eyebrow. “And do you know anyone to whom this actually happened?”
“Yes. Me,” Thea said simply.
#LINK<>#Genevieve had no idea how to respond. She turned toward Damaris. “And you did that as well?”
“Oh, no. I was doing my best to avoid love, not find it,” Damaris replied drily.
“Well, I am certain it wasn’t Alec who did so.” Genevieve giggled at the thought of her large, fierce-visaged brother kneeling before an ancient statue to pour out his heart.
“Mm. It seems a bit unlikely,” Thea agreed. “But perhaps one doesn’t need to ask, only to have it in one’s heart.”
Alec’s heart, Genevieve knew, was as romantic as anyone’s, however he appeared. Her heart, on the other hand, was that of a true Stafford. She smiled faintly. “Then I fear it is quite useless for me.”
It took a good deal of time and what Genevieve’s grandmother termed a “raucous display” before the new bride and groom were on their way. Genevieve smiled and waved with the rest of the guests, but she could not deny the little clutch of loneliness in her chest. She had not lost her brother, of course; she knew she could always rely on Alec. But it would not be the same.
“Everything is changed now,” her grandmother said, echoing Genevieve’s thoughts in a manner that no longer surprised Genevieve. The countess turned and started back into Damaris’s house. “We must think to your future.”
“Must we?” Genevieve asked.
“Of course.” The countess sat down, allowing herself the first small show of weakness since the wedding began. #LINK<>#“The gossip Alec’s marriage will engender makes it even more imperative that you marry well.”
“I? Marry?” Genevieve turned toward her grandmother in surprise.
“Yes. The family’s reputation will suffer, of course, once people learn about the matter of Damaris’s unfortunate birth. Your marriage to a man of excellent name would do much to counter that.”
“But . . . I have no plans to marry.”
“Not yet. You needn’t look shocked, Genevieve. Surely you do not expect to remain a spinster?”
“Well, no, certainly not. But I had not thought of marriage . . . anytime soon.”
“There has been no need to think about it until now. But you are twenty-five years old, my dear. Not on the shelf, of course, but still . . . there’s the matter of children to consider.”
“Children?” Genevieve responded weakly.
“Goodness, Genevieve, there’s no need to parrot my words. I am simply reminding you that it is time. With Alec taking a bride, you will no longer be the hostess of Stafford House. You won’t run Rawdon’s household. You will scarcely enjoy giving over the reins to another woman. But, there, we don’t need to discuss it now. Plenty of time later.” Lady Rawdon turned away and scanned the remaining guests, and her hand went to the pocket of her elegantly simple dress. “Oh, dear. I seem to have lost my spectacles.”
“Your pince-nez?” Genevieve asked in surprise. The countess wore the little glasses only for close work.
#LINK<>#“Yes. They must have slipped out of my pocket at the church. Be a dear and fetch them for me.”
Pausing only long enough to pick up her cloak, Genevieve walked to St. Margaret’s, a squat, stone, square-towered church that lay across a small footbridge from the rest of the village. Inside the empty church lit only by the rays of the afternoon sun, Genevieve went to the front pew, where she and the countess had sat. There was no glint of the spectacles, though she ran her hand over the cushion to be sure, then squatted to search beneath the seats. Genevieve sighed and stood up. It wasn’t like her grandmother to be forgetful—or wrong, for that matter. But Genevieve could not imagine why the countess would have sent her on a fool’s errand, either.
Whatever the reason, Genevieve was glad to have a little time to herself to think about her grandmother’s startling words. The countess was right, of course. It was time that Genevieve married. However pleasant Damaris might be, she was accustomed to running a household; she would not leave the reins of her new home in Genevieve’s hands. And Genevieve was not the sort to relish living in a house under another woman’s control. It was not as if Genevieve had planned never to marry. She had always expected to, presumed she would . . . at some point in the future. But that point was now.
Genevieve sighed and strolled across the church into the small side chapel. Narrow, stained-glass windows cast a dim glow over the chamber, lighting the recumbent #LINK<>#effigies on the tombs of a long-dead lord and his lady. Against one side wall stood a cracked and battered wooden statue of a saint next to a rack of votive candles and a prie-dieu. This had to be Thea’s saint. She walked over to the roughly carved statue. It was even more humble than the rest of this country church. Here and there were faded traces of the paint that had once adorned it. A crack started at one shoulder and ran several inches down the figure’s chest. It hardly seemed the sort of thing to inspire a legend. She wondered if, as Thea believed, true love came to those who yearned for it. Not Staffords, of course. And yet . . . she could not help but think of her brother’s face as he danced with Damaris, the sharp lines softened, his eyes alight. Or the way they had looked at each other in the church today as they said their vows. Something turned in her chest, piercing and hot and cold, all at once. What must it be like to know that emotion? To lay one’s heart in another’s hands?
She swallowed against the choking sensation rising in her throat. Feeling faintly foolish, she picked up one of the tiny sticks beside the flickering votive candles and lit a candle from the flames of another. She knelt, carefully holding her skirt so it would not catch and tear, and clasped her hands in front of her on the padded leather bar.
Genevieve glanced at the plain statue beside her. Crudely carved though it was, somehow the artist had made the face kind, even understanding. Genevieve turned back to the flames dancing in their small red-glass cups.
#LINK<>#“Dear God,” she whispered, “pray send me a husband. The right husband,” she added hastily. But what did that mean? “A man of substance and good character.”
What else should she say? Surely the Lord would know the proper qualities her husband should have. The man must come from an old family; that went without saying. While he did not need to be a Midas, a certain amount of money was necessary. Not too old. Certainly not a rattle like Lord Farnsley’s son. But neither would one want a bookish man like Thea’s brother, say, who always prattled on about Roman ruins and such. Someone who could ride; she could not imagine spending her life with a man who did not love horses as she did. A man who was responsible and aware of his duty. Presentable in appearance. He need not be an Adonis like Gabriel Morecombe, but she would, after all, have to see him day after day. She imagined for a fleeting, wistful moment how nice it would be to have a husband who could make her laugh like Sir Myles did or who had his charm or his grace on the dance floor—but of course those were hardly necessary qualities in a husband.
She scowled into the candles. The flames were creating little gold and black spots in her vision. It occurred to her how peculiar she would look if anyone walked in. It was altogether silly—as if one could summon up a proper husband just by kneeling and asking for one.
A door slammed, and Genevieve jumped to her feet, her heart suddenly pounding in her chest. She stepped out into the nave of the church.
#LINK<>#A blond-haired man stood at the door, peering inside. Lord Dursbury. Presentable. Well-bred. Sober and responsible. And a lineage almost equal to her own.
“Ah, there you are,” he said cheerfully and smiled. “Lady Rawdon sent me to find you. Did you find what you came for?”
Genevieve smiled back at him. “ I believe I have.”
Her brother Alec, Earl of Rawdon, has joyously wed his true love, but Genevieve Stafford anticipates no such unabashed emotion on her wedding day. The icily beautiful aristocrat is to marry Lord Dursbury, and love is not part of the bargain. But when someone frames Genevieve in a cruel scheme, the scandal shatters her engagement and her respectability. So why has Sir Myles Thorwood gallantly offered to marry her? Handsome, flirtatious Myles is her opposite in many ways, yet he understands her the way no other man ever has. Trumping her expectations of a loveless marriage, Myles shows Genevieve just what it means to be man and wife . . . but are his attentions mere kindness or true devotion? Will their passion endure for more than a passing season?
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