SEDUCING THE EARL

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Get Book Two in the exciting Dangerous Lords series – spies, passion, and mystery await!

John Haldane, Earl of Stathairn, first met Lady Sibella Winborne before he left to fight Bonaparte on the Peninsular. He intended to pursue her upon his return, but his war experiences ruined that plan. Instead, disturbed by nightmares, he chooses to associate with tavern wenches and gambles his time away while he continues to spy for the Crown.

But the lady remains on his mind.

He can’t quite let Lady Sibella go. Amazed that she has not yet married, John keeps her close as a friend, seeking her out at balls and riding with her in the park. But any thoughts he might have harbored about marrying the beautiful and smart Lady Sibella vanish after his friend and fellow spy is slain.

The game changes.

Determined to find his friend’s murderer, Strathairn faces a new mission – has the treasonous Frenchman, Count Forney, returned to wreak havoc? It is believed he drowned escaping England years ago. Or, worse… is there a new plot afoot to drive the people to revolution?

Lady Sibella Winborne has remained single well past her first season, despite several offers of marriage. Her many siblings have always aided her to deter unwanted suitors, but the family now believes it’s time she wed. Her elder brother, Chaloner, Marquess of Brandreth, insists on it. He has found the perfect suitor, Lord Coombe, but Sibella doesn’t warm to him. Is it because she harbors a strong affection for a blond-haired gentleman? Strathairn makes every other man seem ordinary. While she wants to set up her own household and have children, she can’t give up on Strathairn. When they’re together, the air sizzles. But does he look at every woman the way he looks at her?

Join John and Sibella on their unforgettable journey to their happily ever after!

Other books in the Dangerous Lords series:

The Baron’s Betrothal
Seducing the Earl
The Viscount’s Widowed Lady

Governess to the Duke’s Heir

Eleanor Fitzherbert’s Christmas Miracle

 

Review

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
??
I just adore Maggi Anderson’s writing , she has a wonderful way with words ,that make her books a must with me .
This is an emotional adventure, with a little betrayal , murder and Mayhem thrown in , and a massive dollop of love and romance for good measure .
Sounds like the perfect recipe to me .
This is the second in the series and is Sibella and John’s story .

Maggie Whitworth

If this is indeed book #2 of a series may it go on and on,…
Keep your wits about you as you read for Maggi intersperses only a very few clues and you must be sharp to find them.
Destiny beckons for Sibella and John although their road to happiness is far from smooth. Sibella’s large, boisterous family is a joy, particularly her younger sister Maria with whom she shares a close bond. While separated in age by six years their temperaments are well matched. Maria certainly does not vociferously object to Sibella’s penchant for intrigue.
And mystery and curiosity abound and pop up in several unexpected places. Ms. Andersen’s book moves along at just the correct pace and if this were a paperback I would be eagerly scanning each page as it flew by.
I must cite that Maggi’s incredibly extensive research is very evident. This adds so much flavor to the story that it made me acutely aware of how few author’s invest the time to do so.
I eagerly anticipate further work from this gifted and multi-talented author.
It was a joy to receive this book for free from eBook Discovery. As always, I will post my sincere and honest review and am extremely grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Amazon Reviewer

If this is indeed book #2 of a series may it go on and on,…
Keep your wits about you as you read for Maggi intersperses only a very few clues and you must be sharp to find them.
Destiny beckons for Sibella and John although their road to happiness is far from smooth. Sibella’s large, boisterous family is a joy, particularly her younger sister Maria with whom she shares a close bond. While separated in age by six years their temperaments are well matched. Maria certainly does not vociferously object to Sibella’s penchant for intrigue.
And mystery and curiosity abound and pop up in several unexpected places. Ms. Andersen’s book moves along at just the correct pace and if this were a paperback I would be eagerly scanning each page as it flew by.
I must cite that Maggi’s incredibly extensive research is very evident. This adds so much flavor to the story that it made me acutely aware of how few author’s invest the time to do so.
I eagerly anticipate further work from this gifted and multi-talented author.
It was a joy to receive this book for free from eBook Discovery. As always, I will post my sincere and honest review and am extremely grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Amazon Review

I received this book for free from eBook Discovery. I voluntarily review this book. Sibella and John have been drawn together and have been friends for years. After his spy partner is shot and killed, John expresses his feelings for Sibella by kissing her outside the ball. Sibella’s brother Edward warns her away from John because of John’s spy work for the government. John wants to find the people who killed his partner and are threatening to start an English revolution. John lets Sibella know that he is not marriage material due to his work. With family pressure and knowing that John’s intent never to marry, she accepts Lord Coombes marriage proposal. As Sibella spends more time with Lord Coombes she wonders who he really is and about the details of his first wife’s death. This is a very good regency romantic suspense book. I enjoyed it very much and quickly picked it up after the first book in this series.

Amazon Review

A Spy to Love is a really enjoyable romance with intrigue and danger interwoven. John Haldane and Sibella Winborne are well matched in temperament and honour and have been good friends for years. John is reluctant to take a wife in light of the work he does with the Foreign Office tracking down enemies of the Crown, as he has no wish to leave a widow behind should he get himself killed in the line of duty. An impromptu kiss in the garden upends his resolve and he determines to stay away from Sibella. Despite the fact that Napoleon is under arrest and safely locked away, enemies still abound and there are those diehards that refuse to accept the outcome of the war. As the tension escalates, more than one situation raises its ugly head, and Sibella finds herself having to do detective work for her own cause. As truths are exposed, John finds that Sibella is no shrinking violet and handles herself well in a crisis, even to the point of protecting him. The deep respect John and Sibella have for each other is evident throughout the book, however because John is studiously trying to avoid marriage, romance is saved for the end of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, the intrigue and the brewing romance, as well as the subsidiary characters. While the book came to a satisfactory ending, it wasn’t over sweet, but had just enough tart to make it interesting. I received this book for free from eBook Discovery. I voluntarily post this review. This is my honest review.

Amazon Review

A Spy To Love by Maggie Andersen is the second book in The Spies of Mayfair Series and an exciting and intriguing story. One of my favorite things about eBook Discovery is that they introduce me to authors I have not yet read. This is the first book I’ve read by Ms. Andersen and am looking forward to reading more by her. I’m an avid fan of historical romance and am thoroughly impressed with the historical accuracy of this book, the well written storyline and the excellent character development. The story includes mystery, spies and a heartwarming romance. I loved the main characters, Sibella and Strathaim, and the secondary characters as well, especially Sibella’s mother and sister, Maria. I would strongly recommend this book to those who enjoy well written historical romances.

Amazon Review

Excerpt

Chapter One

London Docks Summer 1818

A gunshot shattered the quiet air. The Earl of Strathairn dropped into a crouch as another ball whistled overhead, followed by a thud as lead bit into the wall above him, showering him with fragments of brick. A bead of sweat trickled into his brow. Hell’s teeth—not the first time he’d been shot at by a long chalk, but he hadn’t expected it to happen tonight. In fact, he’d been sure this was a fool’s errand. The moon sailed free of the clouds. It cast the new dock in silver light, revealing it empty. Where was Nesbit?

Breath held against the stench of low tide, he listened. Nothing but the surge of the swell and the creak of ships moored out in the middle of London Pool waiting to unload their wares. The faint voices of the sailors aboard carried over the water.

When the slap of running feet echoed into the distance, Strathairn gripped his pistol, hunched over, and rushed forward. He leapt over a pile of crates and flattened himself against a wall, his pulse a drumbeat in his ears as he edged around the corner.

Nesbit lay spread-eagled on his back. Strathairn rushed to his stricken friend, fell to his knees, and groaned. Blood seeped from his partner’s head onto the ground. Nesbit’s eyes, a lively brown only moments before, stared blankly up at him. A prickle of foreboding climbed Strathairn’s spine. Had Nesbit been as surprised as he was by this attack, or might he have recognized his killer?

Aware it was futile, he placed his fingers against Nesbit’s throat and searched for a pulse, then cursed effusively under his breath. He’d witnessed the death of too many good men. As bitterness twisted in his gut, he rose to his feet determined not to allow his sadness to weaken him. His mind focused on the business at hand as he moved stealthily through the shadows, sure that whoever committed this dastardly act was gone.

Apart from the scamper of rats, the rest of the dock stood empty and silent. The moonlight picked out something shiny on the ground. Strathairn stooped to pick up a finely wrought gold cravat pin in the shape of an eagle, just like the one Count Forney favored. A familiar restless energy and heightened alertness sent his heart racing.

A calling card? Word had come that Forney was dead. But was he? A flowery scent lingered in the air. Strathairn held the pin to his nose. Parisian, and a lady’s fragrance, if he was any judge.

***

Beneath glittering chandeliers, the dancers spun over the floor to the strains of a Handel waltz. Strathairn smiled down at his partner, her slim waist beneath his hand. Lady Sibella Winborne looked like a delicate flower in a gauzy pale gown covered in amber blossom. White ostrich feather plumes adorned her luxuriant dark locks. He enjoyed looking at her. Her serene, oval face lifted and she smiled at him, her mouth wide and full. Too wide for beauty some might say but perfect for kissing. She had inherited her mother’s famous eyes, a delectable mix of blue and green, but her quiet nature lacked the vivacity of her mother in her youth. The dowager was said to have had men fall at her feet. Strathairn admired Sibella’s calm beauty, but she was oh, so much more: practical and intelligent with a delightful sense of humor. Yet still unmarried, which surprised him.

Her blue-green gaze met his. “You arrived late tonight. I wasn’t sure you’d come.”

“I was tied up with business.”

“Parliament?”

“No.”

She tilted her head. “Your horses, then?”

He grinned at her blatant curiosity. “No.”

“You won’t tell me.”

“No.”

Sibella laughed in good humor. “Very well. Might I find you riding in Hyde Park tomorrow?”

“I hope to. Shall I see you there?”

“Yes.” Her delicate brows rose. “If business doesn’t keep you.”

He chuckled. “Precisely.”

The music faded away. Strathairn escorted her back to her chair where her mother, the Dowager Marchioness of Brandreth, sat fanning herself among the other ladies. He bowed with the intention of removing to the gaming rooms. As much as he might wish to dance with Sibella again, it would place them under scrutiny, and faro was an effective release from the tension he always carried with him.

“Don’t rush off, Strathairn,” her sharp-eyed mother said. “We have seen little of you of late. You rarely frequent these affairs.” She waved her fan to encompass the ballroom. “Where have you been hiding?”

“Not hiding, my lady, merely dealing with business.”

Lady Brandreth adjusted the silk shawl over her shoulders. “Did you visit that pile of yours in Yorkshire? I enjoyed the Hunt Ball, but it’s cold as charity in winter up in those parts.”

“Not this time. I miss it. There’s a wild beauty to the dales in winter, quite unlike southern England.”

“I daresay.” Her purple turban wobbled as she nodded. “You are a fine figure of a man, Strathairn, well into your thirties. You should marry and set up your nursery.” She gestured toward her daughter sitting beside her. “Sibella will bear you healthy children. The Brandreths come of good stock, and the Wederells even better.”

“Mama, please!” He caught Sibella’s apologetic gaze with a wry smile. Her plea would have little effect. The marchioness was known to be one of the most colorful and outspoken members of the ton.

The dowager batted her daughter’s protest away with her fan. “I am merely stating a truth, Sibella.”

“Your daughter is a credit to you, Lady Brandreth,” he said. “She has inherited both your beauty and intelligence.”

“Now you are toad-eating.” A roguish smile flitted across Lady Brandreth’s face. “You always were a charmer. Sibella is intelligent. Walk with her on the terrace to discover it for yourself.”

Strathairn bowed. He held out his arm. “I should be delighted.”

Lady Brandreth was a crafty woman. Sibella’s friendship was one of the few reasons he came to these affairs. In the dangerous world in which he played his part, her friendship had become an anchor. Had his resolve to remain single begun to weaken, what happened to Nesbit earlier served only to strengthen it, for the same fate could befall him. He was hardly in a position to enter into a domestic arrangement. Better she marries someone else. She could be hurt if she came to love him.

***

Sibella fumed. Her mother was as subtle as an ox. No one could accuse Strathairn of being a toad-eater. At least he wasn’t offended, for she caught a spark of humor in his eyes.

Sibella had met him in her first season when she’d refused two unsuitable offers of marriage. Now at six-and-twenty, she was in danger of being left on the shelf. No wonder her mother was giving any likely candidate for her hand a push. Unfortunately, Mama didn’t push; she shoved.

Had her father been alive, she would be married now, but he had been dead for five years. Luckily, her mother had been distracted bringing out the last of her three sisters and fussing over her grandchildren. Now that her youngest sister, Maria, was engaged to her childhood sweetheart, an heir to a dukedom, her mother focused her full attention on Sibella. Her luck at being overlooked had run out.

Sibella walked out onto the terrace happy to snatch a little time with the earl. The evening was divine. Braziers glowed like fireflies through the gardens, the sky a deep purple, and the air soft and sweet, like a summer bouquet.

His arm felt strong beneath her gloved fingers. Her mother was right; Strathairn was a fine figure of a man in his black and white evening clothes. He wore them with such elegance, but she preferred him in riding breeches. He was over six feet tall, and the top of her head barely reached his shoulder, even though she was quite tall herself.

He smiled down at her. Must his smile be quite so beguiling? As if he read her mind. But she rather hoped he couldn’t. In the moonlight, his fair hair took on silver lights, his eyes a deeper and more mysterious blue. An inner cautionary voice cut into her thoughts. He will never be yours.

The rakish Lord Montsimon emerged from the garden, escorting a lady. His partner had a glazed look in her eye and hair in need of re-arranging. She curtsied to Sibella, excused herself, and hurried inside while the men paused in conversation.

They discussed the news from abroad. The Duke of Harrow had written to Strathairn from Vienna.

“He enjoys the post, but is still burdened with a deep sadness,” Strathairn said.

“What of his children?” Sibella asked.

“They remain in good health.”

The men’s conversation turned to another matter.

When she wasn’t required to contribute beyond the occasional nod of her head, Sibella was caught by Strathairn’s big hands as he gestured. A man’s hands were important. She liked the elegant shape and long, tapering fingers. Not soft, like a gentleman’s, there was a ridge of a scar along one thumb. She employed her fan at the thought of him stroking her flesh. Annoyed, she sought to distract herself by comparing the two men. They were both good looking, but very different. Where Strathairn was more of a serious bent, the viscount was a charming, witty man known to have left many broken hearts in his wake.

Strathairn accepted invitations infrequently. He always set up quite a titter among the debutantes and their mamas when he appeared even though he’d made it clear he wasn’t in the market for a wife. Some saw it as a challenge, she supposed, while others turned their attention to more amenable gentlemen. Why was he so averse to marriage? Had his heart been broken when he was young? When Chaloner had warned her off him, he’d let slip that it was Strathairn’s manner of living which made him unsuitable. He bred horses and ran his estates, what could be unsuitable about that?

“Don’t you agree, Lady Sibella?” Strathairn asked turning to her.

“Um. Sorry. What was that?”

“The Prince of Wales’s patronage of The Royal Literary Fund. It has enabled them to rent a house as their headquarters.”

“A good thing certainly,” she said. “While I don’t believe Prinny cares deeply for the arts and sciences, he has recognized their importance.”

Strathairn nodded, his gaze appreciative and warm. Was she reading more into his manner than there was? Did he look at every woman the way he looked at her now?

When Montsimon left them, Strathairn tilted his head toward the garden path. “Shall we?”

Her pulse raced as they descended the stone steps. She had never been entirely alone with him.

They strolled along the gravel path bordered by a hedge of camellias a talented gardener had coaxed into flower.

Strathairn picked a full creamy bloom and held it out to her.

“Thank you.” She held the flower to her nose, aware it had little scent.

“I always enjoy seeing your mother,” he said as they strolled on.

“Do you? Not everyone does. She is very plain spoken.”

“That is what I appreciate about her.”

“She likes you it seems.” Sibella bit her lip and blushed. Her mama had just tried to get him to propose. “Have you been visiting your estates or were you just evading her question?”

He leaned over her to brush away a branch, scattering petals. “You’re remarkably inquisitive this evening. Why do you ask?”

“Perhaps because you’re mysterious. You intend it that way, I suspect.”

“A mystery? We’ve discussed most of my past: my schooling, Eton, Oxford, and the army.”

“That sounds so conventional and yet…you aren’t, are you?”

He cocked a brow in surprise. “Am I not?”

“Conventional men are an open book. You are not, sir. I know only what you want me to.” She suspected his life held more excitement than he revealed. Somehow, she couldn’t believe his life was one of mundane routine. “Breeding horses must be satisfying.” A keen rider herself, but surely even horses had limited appeal. “Do you miss the army?”

“Some men find it hard to settle down. I admit to suffering that for a while.”

“But you’re settled…now?”

“As much as I wish to be.”

She glanced at his profile for a sign of annoyance. She was dreadfully forthright tonight as if her mother’s blatant speech had stirred up her restless desire.

A couple greeted them as they passed. The gardens were filled with people enjoying the warm night. At a smothered giggle, Sibella turned to see a pair close together in the shadows. Strathairn caught her gaze, eyebrows raised.

“Lady Gladwin’s affairs tend to flout convention,” she said, warmth stealing over her cheeks.

“More interesting than most,” he said with a smile.

She suspected cards drew him more than strolling about with a lady. They had reached a wide stretch of lawn lit by flaming torches with a fountain at its center. A naked marble figure wrestled with the serpent imprisoning him within the tight coils of its tail. Water sprayed from the serpent’s open mouth, spilling into a pool of water lilies. Despite the silent battle, she found it peaceful and reflective there, until he stepped closer.

Sibella breathed in his manly scent as a heavy nervous sensation settled deep and low in her stomach. His proximity always affected her so. Perhaps if she saw more of him, she might grow used to him, but she doubted it.

She twirled the flower stem in her hand and remained silent, listening to the fall of water and the song thrushes calling through the night air.

His eyes seemed to caress her. “What are you thinking?”

“My thoughts were about you. I’m surprised we are here alone. It’s not something you would normally risk.”

“Is it a risk, Lady Sibella? Am I in danger?”

“One of us might be.”

“I like that you’re frank.”

She laughed. “Do you mean outspoken?”

He grinned. “Sometimes, but at least you’re natural. Many young ladies adopt artful poses.”

“How unkind. Perhaps you make them nervous.”

He sighed heavily. “I may well do.”

“You don’t care a fig if you do. You’re deliberately distracting me.” She searched his disturbing smoke-hued eyes. “Something troubles you.” As much as she wished to learn what blue-deviled him, she didn’t anticipate he’d tell her. “Shall we walk back to the house?”

“Not yet. I like it here. Talk to me.”

He was different tonight, too. Sensing they had crossed some invisible line, she grew nervous. She licked her bottom lip and found herself rattling on about her nephews and nieces.

“You, a maiden aunt?” His eyes focused on her mouth. “What nonsense. A woman like you should be loved and loved well.”

She flushed. “I enjoy the company of children.”

He merely shook his head at her, a smile tugging at his mouth. Unnerved, she resisted the urge to rush in to fill the void.

“Your mother is right,” he said finally. “You should marry and soon. Have children of your own to love. You are made for it.”

“I fully intend to.” Was he warning her not to get too fond of him? Pride made her lift her chin. “When the next personable man asks me.”

He chuckled. “Personable?”

“Love doesn’t need to be a prerequisite for a successful marriage,” she said, sounding horribly stiff.

“Perhaps you’re right.”

He might have argued the point with her. “I am pleased you agree with me.” She tilted her head. “You so seldom do.”

An appreciative glint lit his eyes. “Marriage is a business contract drawn up by men, but most women wish for romance. It’s better that you’re not the missish sort. Love is a fanciful notion more ably expressed by the poets.”

She narrowed her eyes. “I gather the poets pen their verse from experience?”

He laughed. “Some do most certainly. I suspect Byron does.”

“So love is not for you.”

“I would make a very poor husband, Sibella.”

She wondered why he thought so. What consumed him? His horse stud might claim much of his time. Her two younger brothers lauded his prowess with racing thoroughbreds and buying and selling them for profit. Once prompted, they rattled on about how Strathairn excelled at many sports, racing matches and riding to hounds. None of this explained his reluctance to marry, however. Perhaps a wife would insist on more society. He seemed to avoid a lot of it, rarely attending musical evenings or soirees.

“Why?” she asked, her curiosity unsatisfied. A slight bump marred the perfection of his otherwise imperious nose. She curled her fingers, resisting the desire to touch it.

“Some men don’t,” he said flatly.

He looked unhappy. It was all she could do not to reach out to him. Her gaze drifted up to his face. His jaw was taut, and what she saw in his eyes troubled her. “You are sad tonight, but you won’t tell me why, will you?”

His nostrils flared. “You ask far too many questions.” With a swift movement, he cradled her face in his hands, his lips, firm but gentle, covered hers, stifling her gasp of surprise. Coherent thought slipped away as his arm encircled her waist and pulled her hard against him. His hold tightened and the kiss deepened, teasing her lips and stealing her breath.

Sibella stilled as hot flames rushed through her veins. She had no defenses against this man and she abandoned any attempt to push him away. About to encircle his waist and pull him closer, her need for self-preservation stopped her. But then he angled his head to plunder her top lip, and she was lost. Her body was demanding more. Much more. She gripped his coat as her legs grew unsteady.

He released her so suddenly she almost fell. “Lord, Sibella. That was wrong of me. I do apologize.”

She stared at him, noting the contrition on his face. There was no declaration of love hovering on his lips. As she fought to gain her breath, a cynical inner voice cut through her thoughts. The kiss was to distract her from probing the reason for his sorrow. Commonsense prevailed at last. “No it wasn’t.”

His eyes widened. “No?”

“The kiss perfectly fit the occasion,” she said almost gaily. “And please don’t concern yourself that I might accuse you of compromising me.” She was quite pleased with herself. There was no hint of bitter disappointment in her tone.

He shook his head. “I know you better than that, Sibella.”

The man was insufferable. Didn’t he realize how enticing that sounded? More than anything, it was a woman’s wish to be understood by a man, to be appreciated. “I find kissing quite pleasant,” she said coolly, as if she was soundly kissed every day of the week. “But I don’t think you should do it again, my lord.”

“Perhaps you’re right. But don’t glower at me, Sibella. It was your fault after all.”

She gaped at him. “My fault?”

“You look far too seductive in the moonlight. Perhaps we should walk back?”

“I should rightly slap your face,” she said faintly.

“Well?” He bent over her and turned his cheek. “Take your best shot.” She shook her head at him and couldn’t help laughing.

He laughed, too, and offered her his arm.

She rested her gloved fingers on his sleeve. A hot lick of sensation raced along her veins. Did he feel as she did when they touched? If so, he hid it well, drawing the conversation into a safe direction concerning a two-year-old thoroughbred he’d bought at auction and planned to enter in the autumn flat-racing meet at Doncaster.

He returned her to her mother, who paused from her discussion with the other ladies of her set to raise her lorgnette and assess them. Intent on the gambling chambers, Strathairn’s broad back disappeared into the crush. Had kissing her left him unmoved? She snapped her fan open. So they were to go on as before as if nothing had happened. “I don’t think so, Lord Strathairn!” she muttered.

“Eh, what was that, Sib?”

Her brother Edward stood at her shoulder. “I’ve come to claim you for the next dance, before any of your admirers beat me to it.”

“I shouldn’t worry, many are losing interest,” she said crisply, rising from her chair.

He eyed her as they entered the dance floor. “Losing hope, more like.”

As they moved through the steps of the quadrille, he dropped quiet remarks in her ear.

“Give up on Strathairn, Sib.”

“Not you, too! I don’t believe, I—” They parted, and by the time the steps brought them back together, she’d given up protesting. Edward had inherited their mother’s astute nature.

“It’s not that I don’t like him. I do very much. But he’s not for you.”

“You needn’t worry. He has no wish to marry me.”

Her brother raised a black eyebrow. “Oh, I believe you could sway him toward marriage if you set your mind to it. That’s not the reason.”

“Then what is the reason?”

“Chaloner hears things in the House of Lords. I can’t repeat them.”

“So he tells you but not me.”

Edward shrugged with a smile as he moved away.

“Why does such mystery surround the Earl of Strathairn?” she hissed at him when she next got a chance.

He shook his head. She’d learn no more. What remained with her were his words. Could she sway Strathairn toward marriage?

Sibella danced a country dance with an old admirer, her mind elsewhere. She recalled the first time she met Strathairn years ago. He was different then. There had been a youthful carelessness about him as he lounged insolently against a column talking with two other men. Savagely gorgeous in his magnificent blue hussar uniform, the pelisse trimmed with silver braid and fur edging, and the leather belt with a polished silver buckle and curved honors scrolls circling his slim waist, he had the attention of every woman in the room from widows to girls in their first season.

She’d doubted the thin veneer of calm in his eyes, especially when his slow and seductive gaze slid downward. Impertinent, she’d thought, bristling, and fidgeted as a dizzying current raced through her. There was a maddening hint of arrogance about him. As if reading her mind, his attractive mouth widened in a lazy smile. She turned away and tried to ignore his presence while dancing with others, but her gaze constantly flittered to where he stood. When she returned to her seat, he appeared at her side with her brother Edward, who introduced them, and they shared the last dance of the evening.

The next time they met, Strathairn sought her out. Every time his gaze met hers, her heart turned over in response. They danced twice and talked for an hour until her mother came to find her. Mama was confident Strathairn would ask for her hand, but he’d left for the battlefields of Spain soon after, and she didn’t see him again for over a year.

He returned changed from the war, his eyes haunted with unspoken secrets. There was an air of isolation about him as he moved through the ton. She suspected his disinclination to gossip and the detached expression he adopted was protective clothing. When she teased him to draw him out, he responded with an easy grin, but she couldn’t penetrate the wall he’d built around himself. Her heart went out to him, but she was continually frustrated when, although he sought her company, and they undoubtedly shared an intense physical awareness of each other, he made no move toward marriage.

She had resolved to enjoy what he offered. He confessed his days at university had been filled with active pursuits rather than learning, but he still seemed well-versed on any subject. They rode together in Hyde Park often, along with others of their set. But now, after that kiss! She’d find a way to make him face the truth. They were, after all, perfectly suited.