Being the Viscount’s Pawn (Preview)


Chapter 1

Edwina Ferguson reached her hand out towards her mother as the woman let out a rattled breath, but the woman only turned her head. She knew her mother was ashamed of her tears, but Edwina wished so much that she would at least let her comfort her. Her mother had always been a serene and graceful woman. For much of Edwina’s childhood, she thought of her mother as a beautiful white swan idly floating upon a lake.

Now, though, the woman in front of her was but a shell of what she’d once been. Her cheeks were sunken, and her eyes were puffy and red from tears. In truth, there was little trace of the statuesque beauty that Baroness Framsberry, Sophia Ferguson, once possessed. Her vibrancy had fizzled away, and she had become withdrawn. The stress of their financial situation had truly taken its toll on her.

Four men stood in their drawing-room surrounding the Ferguson family’s prized pianoforte. After a few moments of discussion amongst themselves, the men decided that the best way to remove it from home was to hoist it up and tilt it through the doorway as best as they could. Edwina’s heart sank to see them lay their grubby hands on the beloved pianoforte. Mother is surely torn apart inside by watching this scene!

“Careful there, boys!” one of the men barked loudly at his fellows. “Don’t want to scratch the woodwork! The thing won’t be worth half as much as it will be if it’s all scratched and dinged up, d’you hear?”

The men bumbled their way through the home, nearly bumping into Maria Burnette, Edwina’s lady’s maid, along the way. Maria stepped lightly out of their way, huffing at the men’s rudeness, and turned to shut the drawing-room door behind them. She caught Edwina’s eye, and her expression was both sympathetic and sisterly.

When the creditors had finished their task of removing the pianoforte from the Ferguson residence, one of them came back inside to tip his hat at Edwina.

“My lady,” he said, “give our regards to the Baron Framsberry.” It was all the man said before turning on his heel and joining his fellows in the street.

Edwina let her breath out in a wisp of air and tucked a lock of auburn hair back behind her ear. Her mother hadn’t turned to look at her at all yet. She simply stared at the empty corner where the pianoforte had sat for all of Edwina’s life. It had been a treasure of an instrument, an heirloom from when her mother had been a girl herself. Edwina’s childhood had been filled with beautiful melodies and comforting memories from that very pianoforte.

And now it was gone.

“Mother,” Edwina started to say. She only stopped when she realized that there was little consolation her mother could receive to comfort her.

“Edwina, my love,” her mother said. “I hate for you to see me in such a state. It’s just so hard to bear; even the pianoforte…” Her mother straightened her back, holding a handkerchief to her pursed, thin lips. “Well, I suppose that it won’t do to sit around sobbing over it, will it? Burnette, would you be so kind as to start a fresh pot of tea?”

Maria curtsied silently, her face neutral, and she turned to slip quietly through the drawing-room floor.

The Baroness tried to smile, but her eyes looked like a ghost’s. Edwina gently laid her hand upon her mother’s and tried to put on a cheerful expression, though she was sure that she did not look so convincing.

“It’s only an object, after all,” her mother went on to say. She ended the statement with a shivering sigh that seemed to course through her entire body. “I have you, my dear, and your father… That’s all I’ll need to be happy. I’m going to take a minute alone in my sitting room, my love. By the time I return, the tea should be ready to serve. I hope you don’t mind?”

At the mention of her father, she had seen her mother wilt only slightly, as if she were a flower taken away from the sun. Edwina felt her heart bruise even more at the thought of her parents’ love shriveling. The Ferguson home had been rife with tension of late, and it had been all Edwina could take to see her parents eating silently together and not meeting each other’s gaze when they did deign to speak.

Edwina shook her head, assuring her mother it was quite alright to take her moment alone. It was apparent that the Baroness needed some time to process her emotions somewhere on her own. With a slight dip of her head, the Baroness moved to the drawing-room door like a phantom, quietly shutting it behind her.

It had not even been a fortnight ago when Edwina heard her parents arguing in her father’s study one evening.

Edwina was retiring to her bedchamber and about to wish her parents goodnight. The sound of a tense conversation caused her to pause. Her father’s voice was tight and curt, and her mother’s voice was full of despair. It had set off bells of alarm in her head. She had never heard either one of them sound truly upset with the other.

“What can you mean ‘bankruptcy‘?” her mother had wailed. The words had torn a hole in Edwina’s world; she felt her knees nearly go weak at the shock, even now as she sat remembering. “Howard, whatever will we do?”

“Now, now, my dear,” her father had said. “Bankruptcy isn’t quite on the horizon as of yet. I have made several agreements with the creditors, a few deals here and there. We shall have to make sacrifices, but—”

“And you did not think to inform me before all of this could occur?” the Baroness interrupted.

“How could I have foreseen such a thing?” her father had answered sharply and then corrected his tone. “I’m sorry, Sophia, I shouldn’t be short with you. I just don’t understand how this could have happened. I was so sure that these partnerships would bode well for us.”

“But how could you have kept it from me?” her mother cried, her voice thick with pent-up emotion. “Howard, how many more months would you have hidden this truth?”

Her father’s voice dipped miserably, and he said something Edwina could not hear. By then, Edwina hadn’t been able to stand anymore. She had stolen away into her bedchamber and let the tears overtake her. The stress of the situation was simply too much to bear.

Since that night, the knowledge had taken up space in Edwina’s mind permanently. The memory of her mother’s distraught voice had snuck into her dreams; more than once, she had awoken with the words ringing in her ears. The notion that bankruptcy was not yet a serious threat had not made her feel any better, though she supposed it would make it easier to hide the fact from any prospective suitors. It was not exactly a silver lining, though it would make things a speck more bearable.

The height of Edwina’s misfortune, though, was the fact that she was coming upon her third season. The thought beat over and over inside her mind. She sat upon the drawing-room sofa, anxiously pulling at a loose button upon her marigold day gown. Her first season had been quite the trial and error; she had not truly been impressed with any of the young suitors she had been introduced to, though she had attracted a small handful of interested bachelors. One had been much too frumpy, and another dreadfully uninteresting. She had not felt a spark with the third and had nothing much at all in common with the fourth young man. Much of their conversation had been spent in awkward silence, and their dance had been stiff and uncomfortable.

The nerves of not finding a suitable husband during Edwina’s first season had carried over to her second. She was lovely enough, but she would flounder on her words whenever she was introduced to anyone. They would always end up offering their hand to another young woman, and she would be left as the wallflower again.

There must be a way to attract the attention of a suitable gentleman. The time has come to take matters into my own hands; I must not fail this season!         

          Edwina let her eyes drift to the door as it creaked open, expecting to see her mother returning. Instead, Maria entered, and her hands gripped a tray with her mother’s favored porcelain teapot balanced in the center.

“I suspect that the Baroness will want to take her time away,” Maria said. “I spied her on her way up the stairs. I’m ever so sorry, my lady.”

“I doubt she’ll be down in time for tea, but it was good of you to bring a place setting for her anyway,” Edwina agreed. “She’s been spending more and more time away in her parlor. I cannot blame her; our situation has been so hard on her. And my father…” Edwina was at a loss to comment on her father. It had been some time since he had even shown his face.

“If this news becomes public, Maria, I fear that we shall have a truly vicious scandal on our hands,” Edwina said. Her voice was thin and tight with stress. She put a trembling hand to her brow, her head pounding with nerves. Watching the creditors haul away her mother’s pianoforte had taken quite a toll upon her. “You know how the members of the ton like to talk. If they have something to crow about, then they’re all the better for it.”

Edwina sighed shakily, feeling at least a drop better for having someone to speak to about the nightmare in which she and her family had found themselves. Maria Burnette had been her lady’s maid for quite some time, and the two young ladies had formed a strong bond so that Edwina felt comfortable using Maria’s Christian name in private. Maria had always proven a trustworthy companion, and even now, she laid a comforting hand upon Edwina’s shoulder.

“Here, my lady,” she said. “Let me pour your tea. Your poor hands are shaking! Take a moment to calm down. I’m sure that you’ll catch the attention of some handsome gentleman with healthy coffers and a title to match. You just have to shake the nerves off first, that’s all.”

Maria did not need to mention that Edwina was beginning her third season. Finding a husband was of the utmost importance, and her time was quite limited. Edwina knew all of this, but she had been terribly nervous during her first and second seasons. Oh, how she wished she hadn’t acted the wallflower then! Perhaps her family would not have found themselves in such a situation if she would have already secured a husband with a good title and family name.

Edwina and Maria had been correct in their assumption. The Baroness did not come down from her private rooms for tea, nor did she for dinner. It had been hours since Edwina had seen her mother, but she could not fault her. The pianoforte had, after all, been her mother’s prized possession. At dinner, Edwina ate her venison meat pie in silence, her stomach churning.

I will have to fix this on my own. What I must do has been made ever more apparent with each passing moment.

As Edwina made her way to her room, she steeled herself. That morning’s gossip sheet was still sitting on her dressing table. With a steady hand, she snatched the parchment up, letting her eyes drift across the words.

This season’s bachelors are ever in abundance,” the sheet read in bold letters.

It is said that the Earl of Waterham, recent in his title, is in search of a bride as well as the very handsome Baron Ebsworth. The Baron is known to have substantial shares in the sugar trade; any young lady would be lucky to swoop him up! But the Marquess of Sheradale is, indeed, upon whom a smart young debutante should settle her eye. Our young wealthy lord is slated to inherit a duchy of considerable wealth. Luck is with her who catches his eye! The three most affluent eligible gentlemen will undoubtedly be quite coveted by this year’s debutantes.”

          Edwina nervously ran her hand through her auburn hair. She sat down hard at her desk, scooting forward with a purpose, and from the first drawer, she produced a sheet of plain, smooth parchment paper. Edwina dug out her quill and dipped it into a pool of jet-black ink. She touched the tip of the quill to the paper and began to write fervently.


Earl of Waterham
New gentleman on marriage mart
Good family name
Fine business connections


Baron Ebsworth
Shares in the sugar trade
One of the wealthiest bachelors
In good standing with businesses

Marquess of Sheradale
High title
Flourishing business deals
Promising estate


Many of the facts Edwina discovered from her good friends, Susanna and Phoebe. The two young women were ever so excited about their first season on the marriage mart and always kept their ears open about eligible gentlemen. Edwina was glad for that now.

The Baron Ebsworth, she knew, enjoyed riding in Hyde Park. Susanna had spotted him there more than once on her walks out with her mother. Edwina knew the Marquess of Sheradale would be a good match as he had a good title and family name. She had heard that he enjoyed hunting best of all, but she would have no opinion on that, of course. Her mind thought back to Phoebe, who had been buzzing about the gentleman only days ago; she had said that he was also quite the reader.

Edwina sighed, laying the quill down. At this point, it didn’t matter to her if her suitor had much in common with her at all. Though, there was one trait that she would insist he possesses. Her future husband must be truthful with her. Edwina had heard her mother’s broken-hearted sobbing in her father’s study that night. The fact that the Ferguson family would suffer sacrifices distressed her mother, certainly. But what sent Sophia over the edge was that the Baron hadn’t breathed a word of their situation to her at all. In fact, his insistence that his silence was because bankruptcy was not yet looming over them had not seemed to lessen the Baroness’ despair at all.

Edwina could not bear to be so humiliated and deceived by someone she held so dear. It had been enough that her father had kept their dire situation hidden away; she would not be able to stomach that from her future husband as well. Honesty would be of the utmost importance.

Edwina would be diligent in her search and would not rest until she discovered the gentleman who could pull her family out of the mess that her father had put them in. Edwina let her anxieties out through another long sigh but felt a little better with the plan in hand.

When she finally crawled into bed, Edwina closed her eyes and tried to let the weight of the world slip away. Slumber came with great difficulty, but when it did, it arrived with an armful of dreams. She fell asleep with a smile as she pictured the man who would come to her family’s rescue. He would be good-hearted, kind, and best of all, he would never, ever lie to her.

Chapter 2

Edwina had taken three days to study as much as she could about the gentlemen on her list. It had been a tedious process, but she had compiled a list of topics that she believed could get her through a lengthy conversation with each of them. And it was a good thing she had, for when her mother descended from the stairwell like a waif to inform her of the Countess of Welshire’s ball, Edwina knew she would be ready.

Maria took great care to make sure Edwina looked lovelier than ever. Edwina’s auburn hair was delicately curled, and Maria had lined her lips and eyes with a flattering rouge. When Edwina glanced in the mirror at herself, she felt a shoot of satisfaction take root in the pit of her stomach.

Tonight would be the night.

Edwina chose her most striking dress, a lovely peacock blue that complimented the auburn shimmer of her hair and accentuated her figure. She turned to the side and then back again, gazing at herself, ensuring she looked as stunning as she could. Satisfied with her appearance, she stepped lively down the stairwell to meet her parents. Her mother looked pale in a mauve gown, and her father was as wooden as a marionette at her side.

The carriage ride there was as silent as Edwina assumed it would be. Her parents were gravely quiet, but Edwina used it as an opportunity to go over what she knew of the gentlemen on her list in her mind. She was grateful when the carriage slowed in front of Welshire Manor; the stillness in the carriage had been insufferable. She had never seen her parents act so cold towards each other, and Edwina had found the effect stifling and unpleasant.

When the carriage door was opened for her, she stepped out to the sound of a boisterous orchestra. Merry laughter met her ears from all corners of the entrance hall. As the Fergusons filed into the ballroom, Edwina’s heart leaped to spy Phoebe and Susanna in the corner, chattering to each other gleefully.

At least I shall have my friends at my side.

Edwina felt a tiny drop of nerves leave her body as she squared her shoulders and tilted her chin up. She could not act the wallflower tonight. Though, perhaps one tiny chat with Phoebe and Susanna wouldn’t hurt. She drifted to the corner where the young women whispered and gossiped, joyous smiles on their pretty faces. Her parents were not far and could easily see her from their position in the ballroom.

“Edwina!” the two exclaimed at the same time. They beckoned her over and embraced her.

“You look lovely, dear,” Susanna said. “I was just telling Phoebe that her mother has quite outdone herself with the decor this time! Wouldn’t you agree, Edwina?”

Phoebe dipped her blonde head, ever gracious. “Thank you so much, Susanna,” she said. “Mother has had this ball on her mind for ever so long. I will be certain to let her know of your compliments. And the guests! Oh, Edwina, have you ever seen such handsome gentlemen? My heart is aflutter!”

It was true; there was a host of attractive young bachelors. But where were her chosen three? Edwina scanned the ballroom like a hawk, eyes narrowing. Her heart lit up when she spied the three gentlemen on her list, all standing in the same general area. The Marquess of Sheradale had a glass of something in his hand and was sipping upon it heartily; across from him, she could see the profile of the Baron Ebsworth, laughing at something that another gentleman was saying. And there, just beyond the Baron, was the Earl of Waterham, his dark black hair striking against the candlelight.

Edwina’s heart glowed with anticipation. She let her eyes focus on the gentlemen while she idly listened to Phoebe’s and Susanna’s conversation, agreeing where it was expected. Normally she would be fully engrossed in her friends’ conversation, but she had much more pressing matters on her mind.

Eventually, the Earl of Waterham looked up and caught her eye, just as she’d hoped he would. He saw her glancing his way, and his dark brows ticked upward just a smidge. Edwina had practiced looking coy in the mirror at home and employed the tactic now. She practically saw the interest fill his eyes, and her excitement built up in her chest, her heart beating wildly behind her breast.

“Ooh, Edwina!” Susanna squealed. Her hands shot to her mouth in glee. “It looks like you’ve got the eye of a gentleman!”

Indeed, the Earl had begun meandering over through the ballroom, ducking around guests in his attempt to get to Edwina. She swallowed nervously, trying to keep her anxieties from becoming apparent on her countenance. Her fingertips trembled slightly, but she stilled them, pressing her hands together. Edwina quickly carried herself back to her parents’ side, aware of the Earl’s eyes on her at all times.

Perhaps she could end her family’s troubles right this instant if she were able to capture the Earl’s heart!

Edwina let a tiny smile grace the bow of her lips as the Earl approached. He bowed to her courteously, showing his straight, white teeth in a smile, and then turned to her father, who had fallen into somewhat of a daze.

“Excuse me, my lord,” he said. “I was wondering perhaps if I may introduce myself.”

Edwina’s father scrunched his eyebrows, seeming to come out of deep thought. Once his eyes settled on the eager young lord in front of him, he nodded fervently.

“Why, of course,” he said. “Certainly you may, my good man. Please, allow me to introduce myself and my daughter. I am Howard Ferguson, the Baron Framsberry. May I present my daughter, Lady Edwina Ferguson?”

“My lady,” he said, turning to her. “Jonathan Eastbridge, Earl of Waterham. I’m enchanted to make your acquaintance. Would you be so kind as to allow me the honor of sharing your next dance set?”

Edwina’s joy was practically shining through her eyes; she knew it, though she could not help it.

“Of course, my lord,” she said. “I’m quite enthralled to meet you.”

Edwina was aware of every word she said, how her voice sounded. Thankfully, the Earl seemed only to notice her beautiful face and slender body.

As the music started up again, the Earl extended his arm for her. The two took to the ballroom floor, whirling around the other couples. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Phoebe and Susanna mooning over her and her dance partner happily. They would want to know every detail; of that, she was certain.

“My lady, might I say that you look marvelous tonight?” the Earl said as they twirled. “I caught your stare from across the ballroom, and I must say that I am glad to have spotted you.”

“And why is that, my lord?” Edwina asked, glancing up at him through her lashes.

“Well, I was searching for a lady who could be my equal in looks,” replied the Earl. “Your countenance is quite striking, Lady Ferguson. If you wouldn’t mind my saying so, my lady, I believe the two of us would make quite the lovely child.”

Edwina winced, her cheeks flushing in embarrassment. She raised her eyes to look at him; he wore a broad smile that seemed too large for his face.

The nerve of this man!

It was true that the Earl was quite handsome, but the more Edwina stayed in his presence, the quicker she realized that the lord was more conceited than anyone she’d ever met. When he leaned in a little too close, the nauseating smell of scotch wafted from his breath. Edwina blanched, her face contorting. The last thing she needed in her life was a prideful drunkard. A man such as that could not be the picture of honesty, though he did have a good title and a vast inheritance.

Still, Edwina had two other names on her list. When their dance set came to a close, she curtsied graciously, allowing the Earl to escort her back to her place. She stood there in the company of her parents for a few moments before clearing her throat.

“Mother, Father,” she said, “would it be alright if I visit the refreshment table with Phoebe and Susanna? I find myself quite parched.”

“Of course, of course,” her father muttered, uninterested.

Edwina did not immediately re-join Phoebe and Susanna. Instead, she wandered around the ball, her skirts in hand, seeking out the Baron Ebsworth and the Marquess of Sheradale. Hopefully, either one of them would be better than the Earl, who was already back at the refreshment table with another glass of scotch in his hand.

Edwina stopped when she caught sight of Baron Ebsworth, sighing in relief. She hoped that he would see her and perhaps approach when he moved towards a lovely young lady and her chaperone. The young woman curtsied gracefully, and the Baron bowed low. The two of them fell into a conversation that Edwina could not hear. It would be rude and out of custom to cut into their time together, so she moved on.

Edwina sifted through the crowd, the music lifting into the air again. One by one, the dancers took their place. She picked her pace up, drifting between couples and around groups. The Marquess was sure to be there somewhere! And yet, she didn’t spy him among the host of people.

Edwina was just about to turn back to Phoebe and Susanna when she caught sight of him in her peripheral vision. His dark maroon coat stood out in the candlelight. Edwina’s heart leaped, and she tried her best to look as poised and demure as possible, to showcase her loveliness, but then her joy sank back into her stomach. On his arm was a lovely young lady, smiling beatifically, her ginger curls piled high on her head. They were headed to the dance floor; as the Marquess turned, she caught sight of his enamored expression, and a wall of dread toppled down upon her.

The gentlemen were already both spoken for; it was too late. She had been too slow and had chosen wrongly. Edwina’s shoulders slumped in defeat, and she trudged back to the corner. Her stomach twisted in knots as she considered failing another year, and a spinster’s fate loomed on the horizon, seeming ever imminent. If such a thing befell her, it would be impossible for her to help her family. Edwina tried to keep her head up, but deep down, she knew that she was in trouble.


Marcus Steele, the Viscount Sedgeford, adjusted his position as quietly as he could. He had been crouched behind a shipping crate at the London docks for what felt like an eternity, staying as silent as he could. He had been waiting on the men for some time. Now that they had finally arrived, he felt a bloom of anticipation creep into his stomach and up into his lungs. Marcus barely dared to breathe as he pulled out his quizzing glasses.

The glasses had been specially made for him, crafted to see much farther than the average device would allow him. His endeavors always required secrecy, and the ability to spy from a distance was necessary. The War Office provided him with a great many tools to ensure his job was always done as discreetly as possible, but the quizzing glasses had become his most favored.

Two of the men next to the docked ship were still shrouded in shadow. Marcus let out an exasperated sigh, but when one of the men strode into the moonlight, he adjusted the quizzing glasses.

It was as he thought: the Marquess of Halenshire.

Satisfaction grew in Marcus’ chest, but he had to remain hidden. In order to discover who was plotting against the Crown, it was imperative that he not be found out, and his work here was not done yet.

Marcus’ back ached terribly from his position, but the men had to be wrapping up their meeting soon. He had been watching them from his shrouded hiding spot for an hour, and they were looking increasingly fidgety. One of the men nodded to the others, and the three of them shook hands. Marcus noted the gesture. For the Marquess to shake the men’s hands, it would certainly make sense that the other two would be members of the ton as well. His suspicion had added support; he would have to let his commanding officer know.

When the men had all dispersed, Marcus kept hidden for another ten minutes at least to ensure that they’d made it a safe distance away. When he finally stood, his back cracked, as did his ankles. He brushed back his light brown hair and pulled his overcoat around his shoulders, the collar high around his neck. Marcus turned his head left and right before he pulled out his pocket watch, checking the time. A quarter until midnight. He would have to hurry to make it to the War Office’s secret location, but he would get there on time if he kept his steps quick. A carriage was not employed to take him to where he needed to go.

No, this mission was far too secretive even to entrust the employment of his carriage driver. The War Office always kept their secret rendezvous locations within walking distance of wherever they sent their officers, partly, so they did not need a carriage driver. It also allowed them to hear pistol shots, should their officer be discovered.

Marcus knew that his job was rife with danger, but that only spurred him on further. The more he could prove himself, the more he could do for the Crown, the better he felt. It was more rewarding than unnerving; Marcus always prided himself on his ability to set fear aside when he was on a mission.

Marcus strode down the street quickly and quietly; if there were anyone around him on the empty street, it would be unlikely that they would take notice of him. He knew how to stay in the shadows, and he also could step lively when he wanted to; more often than not, he had to combine those two talents in the name of the Crown.

Marcus rounded a corner in a back alleyway, checking to see if he was completely alone. He let out a sigh of relief; the only thing he could hear was the slosh of the waves and the tinkling of the harbor bell. When footsteps began to sound down the alleyway, he straightened, his hand straying to his pistol.

“Easy there, Steele,” an amused voice said. “I see you’re ready as ever.”

“Just in case, sir,” Marcus said, a smile playing about his lips. “You know I like to be careful.”

“As you should,” the man agreed, stepping into the moonlight. “You are the pride of the War Office’s undercover endeavors for a reason. I suspect that you’ve discovered something tonight?”

Marcus nodded, tapping the case which held his quizzing glasses.

“I have, Auric,” he said. “As we suspected, the Marquess of Halenshire is meeting with unknown men in the dead of night at the docks. I was unable to see the faces of the others, but it’s not out of bounds to believe that he is working with other members of the ton.”

“Good work,” his commanding officer responded. He reached a hand back to scratch at his salt-and-pepper hair, cut short against his scalp. “You’re going to have to keep a close eye on the Marquess; I want to know what he’s up to at all times. The Marquess is a prominent member of the ton, as you know. He’ll likely be attending this year’s London season. I hate to do this to you, Marcus, but…”

“You want me to attend the season as well,” Marcus filled in for him. “If it’s for the good of the Crown, then it must be done. I’m not exactly in the market for a wife, but…”

Auric sighed, his relief apparent in his face. “No, I should think not,” he said. “And the War Office is ever grateful for it. It would be difficult for us to lose someone as thorough at your job as yourself to mundane married life. A wife would surely put an end to your career here. I must thank you for giving me no objection; I thought for certain that you would fight me on the matter. I’m glad to see that I was wrong in that.”

“Truly, I’m left with little choice,” Marcus replied with a wry smile. “You know as well as I that I have little interest in marriage and heirs. Though my mother would be overjoyed, my dedication to the Crown’s security is too important to risk. I hate to disappoint her —”

“You shall just have to act the part,” Auric said pleasantly. “Try to sense who the Marquess is working with through young ladies in their first season. It will be easy to get them to open up, and courting will serve as a proper cover.”

Marcus sighed; the grim smile still had not fled from his lips. He knew from previous missions what his superior was going to suggest and had already accepted it himself. It would not be kind to lead on a young lady, but his duty came before all else. The security of the monarchy and the brotherhood he had found in the War Office’s special operations was enough for him.

Auric patted him on the shoulder and shook his hand heartily, bidding him goodnight.

“Be safe,” Auric said. “And for God’s sake, don’t look so down about your cover on the marriage mart. Perhaps the pleasant company and conversation of a young lady are what you need.” He chuckled to himself as he made his way down the alley and out of sight, leaving Marcus alone.

Marcus brushed his hands down his black coat and stole away into the night. He would meet up with his carriage a little further down the street. He had led the coachman on for years by insinuating that he visited a mistress in the dead of night for a secret rendezvous. Marcus even implied she was a member of the ton who was betrothed to another, and he hid his humor at the shock on the man’s face. No, no one was to know that he was undercover. Not even his mother, much as that pained him.

The Dowager Viscountess Sedgeford pined for grandchildren, for Marcus to have a family. He could tell by the longing he saw on her face each time they encountered children on the street. At one time, she had asked quite frequently about when Marcus would begin searching for a bride. The more the seasons and the years fell away, though, the less hope she held on to the hope in her heart.

Marcus hated to break his mother’s heart, but it had to be done. For the safety of all Great Britain, he would do absolutely anything, even if it meant breaking the hearts of those that he held dear to him.

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  • Intriguing! The first two chapters held my interest and imagination as two very different situations and characters are being brought together. I can’t wait to continue reading this tantalizing story.

  • I am hooked by the characters of Edwina and Marcus already. I like the depth of information already given about her parents situation and her nervousness over her failed seasons so far. Marcus’ character is interesting too with his keenness to serve his country and his recognition that his family want him to have a happy normal life…will really enjoy going on this journey to find out what lies in their connected future.

  • Good beginning, but some points are a little too repetitive. Ex. Edwina doesn’t want to marry anyone who lies. Just need to tighten up the narrative a bit; otherwise, well done.

    • Thank you for your comment, dear Marcy! Unfortunately, at this period, women didn’t have freedom at all, and it was really hard for them to live the way they wanted.😕

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