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My, how times flies! I already have a new book out, and I'm very excited about it. A Suitable Wife
is the second book in my Ladies in Waiting series.
Here's the story: Theirs was an impossible attraction. Lady Beatrice Gregory has beauty, brains—and a wastrel
brother. With her family fortune squandered, her only chance of a Season is as
a lowly companion. London’s glittering balls and parties are bittersweet when
Beatrice has no hope of a match. Still, helping Lord Greystone with his
charitable work brings her genuine pleasure…perhaps more that she dares to
admit. Even when every marriageable miss in London is paraded
before him, the only woman to capture Lord Greystone’s attention is the one he
shouldn’t pursue. Attaching himself to a ruined family would jeopardize his
ambitions. Yet Lady Beatrice may be the only wife to suit his lord’s heart.
London, May 1814
, Mother, have you chosen a bride for me yet?" Lord Greystone surveyed the
guests in the ballroom of his Hanover Square town house, already bored by the
dull young misses who had been paraded before him by over-eager mothers.
it is simply appalling." Standing beside him, Mother waved her closed fan
carelessly toward the throng of guests, many of whom were engaged in a lively
country reel. "I cannot think of any of these silly gels becoming my daughter-in-law. If
you married one of them, I should be forced to utterly forsake your company to
avoid all that nonsensical chatter."
you fear you will be lonely, madam, perhaps you should consider hiring a new
companion." He sent his parent a playful smirk, but failed to evoke even a
hint of a smile from the poor dear. Although she would never admit it, Mother
missed her former companion Miss Newfield since the young lady married Greystone's
Mother inspected him up and down through her quizzing glass, then brushed
invisible lint from his blue satin sleeve. "I shall find you a bride who
can fill the duties of a companion for me, someone who understands her responsibilities
to family and Society."
Greystone resisted the notion of his future wife suffering under Mother's
domination, as Miss Newfield had. Perhaps after his marriage he should consider
settling his parent in a dower residence. The house would be elegant and well-staffed,
of course, but at some distance from his other homes.
thought stirred a strong measure of guilt in him. Tonight Mother had gone to
great effort for his birthday, inviting numerous aristocratic families and
their marriageable daughters, ordering the best cuisine and hiring a fine
orchestra. To match her scarlet gown, she wore the exquisite ruby necklace that
had been in his family for some two hundred years. It suited her so well, he
decided she must have it even after he married, as a symbol of his gratitude
for all she had done for the family.
he felt the utmost gratitude toward her, recently he had begun to chafe against
her controls. All these years he had observed how she had ruled the family. But
how did a husband and father manage his own house? His memories of Father
offered no example, only horror and fear. What if he inherited the man's
brutish ways? What if—
you listening to me?" Mother's sharp elbow cut into his biceps. He stifled
a wince and clamped down on a cross retort. "What do you think of Lady
Grandly's eldest gel?"
She waved her fan toward the comely Miss Waddington.
Miss Waddington certainly possessed the appropriate breeding and character, but
she stirred no feeling in him at all. Now that he had seriously begun his obligatory
marital search, a new longing had started to stir within him. He wanted to
experience genuine love, a deep emotion toward his wife, such as both of his
brothers felt for their brides. A feeling so strong that it made each of them
willing to risk everything to have the woman he loved.
other, darker thoughts always accompanied that sentiment. What if he had
inherited his father's propensity for cruelty? For evil? For profligate living?
With no paternal example, how could he truly become the good man he longed to
be in the sight of God? Often after a burst of anger over some offense, real or
imagined, he pondered whether he was even fit for marriage and fatherhood.
Perhaps his brother Richard should continue as his heir. The newly ordained minister
possessed an agreeable, temperate disposition and would never knowingly cause
harm to anyone.
such a passive course would mean that Greystone was neglecting his
responsibility, something he would never do. He must choose a bride, must beget
an heir. If he was fortunate enough to love the lady, then all the better. Best
get on with it.
excuse me, madam. I should see to my guests." He bowed to Mother.
so." She waved him toward the wall of young ladies without partners.
Greystone strode toward the door, determined to play a few hands of whist with
his brother Edmond. Greystone would seek the newlywed's advice about choosing a
Edmond realized no lady would do for him but Anna Newfield? How had he been
certain of his feelings, despite the vast chasm between their social ranks? How
had he developed the courage to defy Mother's control? Perhaps as an officer
over His Majesty's Dragoons in America.
Edmond nor Richard remembered their father, so Greystone doubted they would
ever emulate his wicked ways. On the other hand, Greystone's memories, forged
from infancy, often found their way to the forefront of his mind, especially
when his own temper threatened to explode like cannon fire. Then he prayed
desperately that he might maintain control, unlike those few times in his youth
when he had wreaked havoc on innocents. That must never happen again. He must
never be like Father.
in the doorway, he surveyed the card room for the familiar head of dark brown
hair. But his eyes stopped instead at the sight of golden curls framing the
most exquisite female countenance he had ever gazed upon. Oddly his heart
seemed to hiccup in his chest, and he had to remind himself to breathe. Even
from a distance of some five and twenty feet, even in the flickering
candlelight, he could see the sparkle of her blue eyes and her flawless ivory
complexion. A pert little nose sat over full pink lips that were quirked to the
side, as though she was concentrating on which card to play. From her sudden
smile and decisive play he surmised the young lady could be counted on to
betray her hand, a charming trait that revealed a lack of cunning.
was she? As host he should have met every guest at the ballroom door. Perhaps
she was a latecomer. He did not have to search far to find someone to present
him to her. Mother's good friend Mrs. Parton sat across from the golden lady,
and from their traded smiles, he assumed they were acquainted. If Mrs. Parton
approved of the young lady, that was good enough for him. He made his way
through the maze of populated tables toward his goal. With each step closer to
her his pulse quickened.
of feminine eyes turned in his direction, but Mrs. Parton spoke first.
away, Greystone. My partner and I are about to win this hand, and I forbid you
to interrupt, even if it is your birthday."
laughed. "And a good evening to you, too, dear lady." He stopped by
her chair and placed a kiss upon her plump cheek. Then he turned his attention
to the other ladies. "I do hope you are having a pleasant time, Lady
Blakemore, Miss Hart, and…?" He feigned innocent surprise, even as his
pulse hammered wildly. "Forgive me, miss. Mrs. Parton, will you present me
to this lovely young lady?"
will not." She waved him away. He gave her a charming grin as he had since
boyhood, and she harrumphed. "You never did mind well, Greystone."
Exhaling dramatically, she folded her hand of cards and placed them facedown.
"Miss Gregory, may I present our host, Lord Greystone. Greystone, this is
my new companion, Miss Gregory. She arrived in London just this
Miss Gregory." To be sure, he was more than charmed. He was enchanted by
those calm sapphire eyes. But while he kissed her hand, his mind scrambled and
his pulse slowed. So this was Mrs. Parton's long-awaited companion, and
doubtless a penniless lady, if her unadorned, ill-fitting brown dress was any
indication. If he chose a bride who was anything less than a baron's daughter,
Mother would be devastated.
Greystone." The lady's bright pink blush charmed him all the more. Every
unmarried young lady blushed, but somehow Miss Gregory's deportment bespoke
something deeper than girlish nerves. Curiosity and interest quickly overrode
his reservations regarding her status.
Greystone." Lady Blakemore stood, as did her companion. "Since you
have interrupted our game, Miss Hart and I will take our leave and find the
refreshments." Amid protests to the contrary, the two ladies disappeared
from the room.
forgive me. I have spoiled your game." Greystone did not regret it for a
moment. "Did you lose much?" He glanced around for a pile of coins or
tokens but found none. Miss Gregory stared at him as if he had three heads.
no." Mrs. Parton waved a silk fan before her ruddy cheeks. "You know
I never gamble. Not even a button. Dreadful habit. Leads to ruin."
Gregory's cheeks flamed even brighter, causing Greystone no little concern.
forgive me. I do not mean to be boorish." He sat in one of the empty
chairs, knowing full well he was neglecting his other guests. But surely after
spoiling their game, he could be excused while he set things to right with
these two ladies. Or so he convinced himself. "Tell me, Miss Gregory,
where do you reside when not in London? Mrs. Parton has been foretelling your
arrival for weeks, but she told us nothing about you."
origins are of no consequence, I assure you, sir." The young lady lifted
her chin. Her eyes glinted, and her lips thinned into a line. So she had a bit
of spunk. He liked that. Few young ladies of the gentry spoke so boldly to a peer
of his standing. He must get to know her better.
Excerpt. © Louise M. Gouge. Do not reprint without permission.
Copyright © 2012 by Harlequin Enterprises. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Ent. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks of Harlequin and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.
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