Marquess of Seduction (Preview)

Chapter One


April 1813

Imogen let out a quiet sigh when she realized her lady’s maid, Warner, had turned away. She looked at herself in the mirror, wishing she could put off the task at hand for a little longer. She had exhausted all of her excuses for not reentering society. There was no doubt in her mind that her parents would not believe anything she said now.

“This looks very beautiful on you, Your Grace,” Warner said as she came to stand behind her; holding a pair of pearl drop earrings against her ears.

They did look lovely on her, and they added to the elegance of her lavender gown. Imogen had found much relief in discarding her black mourning attire. The dreary colors had only reminded her of his control. Even after her husband’s death, she had been obliged to respect him by wearing colors she disliked. He had done nothing to deserve it.

“Your Grace?” came Warner’s voice. Imogene blinked and raised her eyes. “Are you well?” she asked; her voice dressed in concern.

“Yes, I am.”  Imogen adjusted her satin gloves to conceal her nervousness, despite knowing it was a futile endeavor. Warner knew her too well.

“I suppose you are not ready to be in society again.”

She was not. All she wanted was to live out the rest of her life in peace. Alas, she was only four and twenty and needed to rejoin polite society if she was to find any peace in her life. Harris had been dead for a year and one week, having died of influenza, and this –  according to her parents – was the best time to begin the search for new prospects.

“I cannot hide for eternity, Warner,” she said with a weary sigh. “I must do it now, for the longer I leave it, the more difficult it will become. You know my parents won’t allow it.”

The woman gently smiled as she attached the pearls to Imogen’s ears. “I am sure the ton is curious about you.”

Imogen snickered at that. “What could they be curious about? My grief?”

“Exactly that, Your Grace,” Warner replied.

“Well, I shan’t keep them waiting beyond tonight.” Even as she spoke, she dreaded the pity she would undoubtedly see on their faces.

Warner nodded. “You deserve to live as you please after everything you went through. I truly want that for you.” She lay a gentle hand on her shoulder.

No one understood the torment she had faced in her marriage as Warner did. In fact, only she knew the truth of what Imogen had scrupulously hidden. They had known each other for eight years, and she considered her a dear friend.

“Thank you, Warner,” Imogen said; meaning every word.

She hadn’t cried a single tear for Harris since his death. There was nothing for her to be mournful about, no sadness in her heart. Despite this, she felt empty and alone at a time when she should have felt liberated. She wished she could figure out why she was feeling this way. It could be the burden she was carrying.

Warner inserted the final pin into her hair before smiling at her through the mirror. “What a splendid image you make.”

Imogen returned the smile and stood; picking up her reticule and slipping it over her wrist.

“Oh, I forgot to give you this, Your Grace.” Warner stopped her when she had almost reached the door. Reaching into her pocket, she retrieved a missive and handed it to her.

Imogen immediately recognized the seal. It was from her sister, Emily, and a small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she opened it.

My dear Imogen,

I would usually prate about how delightful spring is in Kent

but I shan’t bore you with that. Rather, I would implore you

to join Michael and me at Lanburn Hall. The lake is beautiful and

serene at this time, and the village is positively entertaining.

I know how you long to breathe the fresh country air, my dearest.


We had the honor of hosting Lord and Lady Herington for

several days, and they had an unforgettable time. I have been

hankering for more company since their departure and was

even tempted to come to London but I daresay the thought of

the sooty air was quite discouraging.


Please, say you will come and stay with us awhile.

I eagerly await your answer.


Your loving sister,


Imogen smiled as she shook her head. Her sister had done exactly what she had said she would not do at the beginning of the letter: extol Kent’s spring virtues. Her brows knitted together in a frown for she despised disappointing her;  Lanburn Hall was a beautiful estate but she had no desire to visit – not right now.

“Your expression suggests that she requested you visit her,” Warner observed.

She nodded. “Yes.”She couldn’t possibly face her sister for the time being.

Two years ago, Emily met and married the Earl of Evensdale after a very brief courtship. It was a love match and Imogen was happy for her. The problem was that her sister, like everyone else, believed her marriage to Harris was a love match, too.

Her family would still have been in dire straits and her sister would never have become a countess, had Imogen not married Harris. Her father had fallen ill six years ago, rendering him unable to run his businesses properly. This had compelled her to marry well, and when Harris entered her life, he embodied the most charming suitor. She would never have agreed to marry him if she had known what was in store for her. But a  knock at the door drew her out of her memories’ cage and as Warner went to answer it, she sighed and straightened her shoulders.

“We will be late for the soirée,” said her mother – Barbara Thorne, Viscountess Thornewood. “Is she ready?”

“Yes, my lady, she is,” Warner replied with a curtsy.

Imogen folded the letter and placed it on a side table before going to meet her mother and devising an excuse as to why she had taken longer than usual to dress. “I had trouble deciding what jewelry would best complement my dress.”

Barbara’s expression softened when she saw her. “Oh, you look divine, my darling.” She touched her cheek.

“Thank you, Mama. Shall we?”

They met her father, Aldrich, in the front hall. It was comfoting and reassuring to have them with her tonight, knowing she wouldn’t have to face the ton alone. He smiled at her in the same way that her mother had.

“You look like an angel, Imogen. You remind me of the day you attended your first ball after your coming out.”

Her smile faltered. That had been the night she caught Harris’s attention; the night the course of her existence would change irrevocably. Taking a deep and slow breath, she composed herself and thanked her father for his compliment before following them out to the waiting carriage.




The trip to Burenstone House did not take long, and the moment they arrived, small knots formed in Imogen’s stomach. Her father descended first and helped her mother down. When it was her turn, she hesitated.

Could she truly do this? She asked herself. No, she would need much more courage than she thought.

Taking her father’s proffered hand, Imogen stepped down from the carriage, looking about her. Some faces were familiar, some were not. She considered she might be seeing people she’d never met after so long out of society.

The butler escorted them to the ballroom, where they met their hostess Margaret, Dowager Viscountess of Burenstone. She was Barbara’s best friend, and their very friendship was one of the reasons Imogen chose this soirée as her first outing.

“Oh, welcome!” Margaret clapped her hands in delight when she saw them. “I am glad you could attend,” she said to Imogen after they had exchanged greetings. “Please, allow me to introduce my son Arthur, Viscount Burenstone.”

He bowed politely at Imogen, and she inclined her head in return. Arthur had not been in England when she made her debut. At that time, Margaret had dearly wanted to make a match of them so it is highly possible she still harbored such thoughts about them.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Your Grace. My mother has told me much about you,” he said cordially.

“It is wonderful to see you amongst us again,” Margaret said before Imogen could respond. She was already feeling overwhelmed, but she kept a smile on her face. “You have a lot of courage. After Arthur’s father died, I was unable to leave the house for two years. “I truly admire your bravery, my dear.”

“Oh, yes,” Barbara chimed in. “I am proud of her indeed. During the first few months, she was utterly miserable. It was why we insisted she stay with us.”

Margaret took Imogen’s hand and gave it an affectionate squeeze. “We are all here if you require anything. Is that not right, Arthur?”

“Yes. Yes, of course,” he said awkwardly.

“Thank you, Margaret. I appreciate your sympathy,” Imogen responded as gracefully as possible. Lying was becoming more difficult by the day, but she couldn’t tell anyone how unhappy she had been in her marriage or how much she despised her late husband. The news would be devastating to her parents, particularly her father, whose health was deteriorating.

She remained close to her parents for the first half of the evening – watching couples twirl around the dance floor. The sight evoked an unwanted memory. At her first ball, she had stood at the fringes of the ballroom without a dance partner. She had been shy and inexperienced, and when her gaze met that of a handsome gentleman from across the room, she blushed effortlessly. Harris then approached her and asked her to dance. She felt fortunate that night, wide-eyed as he charmed her with wit and good humor. The next day, they were in the gossip sheets declaring them the ideal match, the envy of every debutante and spinster.

Imogen averted her gaze, silently chastising herself for allowing such memories to surface. She was supposed to forget about Harris and start her life anew now that she was out of his clutches. She slipped away, angry with herself, to find a refreshment table. She moved slowly and carefully, avoiding the gaze of the guests. Knowing them, they would want to talk to her about him.

There was nothing strong enough for her at the table when she arrived, but thankfully, a footman approached with champagne. She helped herself to a glass; appreciating its effervescence. She then caught sight of her mother and Arthur weaving through the crowd toward her.

“I have been looking everywhere for you,” Barbara said, then turned to Arthur expectantly.

He bowed and held out his hand. “Will you do me the honor of sharing a dance with me?”

Imogen set her champagne down and took his proffered hand, tempted to cast a disapproving glance at her mother. But, as a woman who always considered her actions, she refrained. Everything her mother did was motivated by love and concern, as confirmed by Barbara’s encouraging smile.

Besides, how bad could a dance with Arthur be?

She was disappointed to learn the dance was a waltz because she would have to be in his arms, and as soon as it started, Arthur stepped on her foot.

“Oh, forgive me,” he apologized. “That has never happened before.” His face colored.

Seeing him flustered made her feel sorry for him and her irritation abated. “Think nothing of it, my lord,” she assured him.

That seemed to make him feel better but Imogen felt uncomfortable in his arms – making her wish the dance would be over soon.

“I recently acquired a phaeton,” he said with some pride in his voice. “It is a grand conveyance, very fashionable.”

“Indeed, I’m sure it is,” she agreed for the lack of anything better to say.

“Would you like to ride through Hyde Park with me tomorrow afternoon?”

No, she’d rather spend her afternoon in her bedchamber reading a book. Even better, she preferred to spend it relocating to the townhouse Harris had generously left her. She yearned for the independence that widowhood would provide her, and it was the path she needed to take to heal.

She met her mother’s gaze from across the room as Arthur twirled her. She was enthralled by them, and Imogen didn’t want to let her down.

“I doubt I will have the chance tomorrow afternoon but I would be delighted to join you the day after,” she said stiffly.

“Excellent.” He grinned. “I shall eagerly await the day.” Suddenly, his face contorted and before she had the chance to ask him if he was well, he sneezed. Instinctively, she jumped out of his arms. “I am truly sorry, Your Grace. I did not mean for that to happen.”

“Such things are hardly in our control,” she murmured. “Perhaps we should—” She abruptly ceased speaking when he beckoned for her to resume the dance. It would not be proper to refuse him over a sneeze.

“There is something in the air that disagrees with my health,” he said as they resumed their dance.

“There is always something in London’s air that disagrees with one’s health.” She looked heavenward; praying for the dance to reach its end. The orchestra seemed determined to prolong the moment, however.

“Yes, yes. I find the soot and smell intolerable, but the pollen is worse.”

Imogen had been referring to the various faces society wore but his comments were valid indeed and she decided to seize an opportunity to discourage him from taking her on that drive. “Perhaps you should remain indoors if the weather disagrees with you.”

His eyes widened, supposedly with incredulity. “How would I fully partake in the Season as an unmarried gentleman if I stay indoors?”

That is no concern of mine, she almost said. Instead, she gave him a stiff smile. “There are several activities you could enjoy whilst attempting to avoid pollen, Lord Burenstone.”

He sneezed once more. He had the decency to turn his face away this time. But when she thought she’d seen the worst of this dance, he painfully stepped on her toe once more.

“It would be wise to take my advice,” she said; hoping her smile concealed her displeasure. The dance ended at that instant, giving her the opportunity she needed to get away from him.

“I suppose you are right, Your Grace. My deepest apologies.” He bowed.

She still had enough generosity in her to take his arm and allow him to lead her away from the dance floor a  she excused herself. Imogen walked toward the first set of open doors she saw, leading onto the terrace overlooking the garden.

The cool air felt refreshing on her skin. Imogen leaned against the stone balustrade, wishing her tumultuous emotions would subside. Her first night was a letdown. She knew it wouldn’t be easy, but she hadn’t expected it to be so difficult. She felt herself calming down after a few moments, and if  she stayed in this state, she’d be ready to return to the ballroom in no time. Or she stay here as long as she wanted to enjoy the peace and solitude. So far, no one had noticed her absence.

Firm footsteps coming from behind startled her; urging her to turn abruptly. Before her stood Horace, Lord Bagshire. The corner of his mouth turned up impishly as he regarded her. Imogen tried to take a step back but was stopped by the railing. He had been Harris’s friend, and she had known him for years. Yet, she never liked him and could not understand why Harris had befriended a man with such an odious character – but then her husband had not had the best of characters either.

Something twisted in her stomach when she saw the dark look in his eyes. He was staring at her as though she were; making her want to run.


Chapter Two

“It is a pleasure to see you, Imogen,” he said; stepping close to her.

She inched sideways. “Likewise, Lord Bagshire.”

He quirked a brow. “Lord Bagshire? You have never addressed me in such a formal manner before.”

It was safer to address him as such — Harris had demanded it. And with him dead, she no longer had a reason to be friendly with the pompous lord. “Much has changed since we last saw each other,” she said; feeling her body tense when he moved closer.

“I wanted to visit you, my dear Imogen,” he murmured. “But we were both in great pain, and I could not look upon you without the ache of our loss tearing at my heart.” He added with no trace of sincerity in this eyes.

Her hands clenched into fists at her sides. She wanted to scream that she was not in pain – not over her husband, at least. “How considerate of you.” Her tone was laced with sarcasm which he did not appear to notice.

His eyes roved her body. “You look delectable. It is easy to see why Harris could never leave your side. A lady as beautiful as you should not be here alone.” He smiled. “But then widows are allowed liberties that unmarried women aren’t. I am sure no one would bother.” He stepped even closer; every inch of her body contracting.

“Lord Bagshire, I would greatly appreciate it if you kept your distance.”

His dark eyes glinted in the light from the sconces on the wall. “Oh, come now, my dear. You are a free woman now.”

When she tried to step away, she found herself in a corner with his body blocking her only path to escape.

“That is inconsequential because I respect myself and ask you to respect my wishes,” she said through clenched teeth.

“You can have any man you want.” His breath held the smell of strong liquor. It was nauseating and she held her breath all the while thinking of ways to escape. “I am offering myself to you, Imogen.”

“I would never have you.” She pushed against his chest. “Not even if you were the only man in the world.”

He swiftly caught her hands and pulled her against him, forcing her to take extreme measures to free herself. With as much force as she could find under the circumstances, she kicked his shin. He hopped back in pain and only then was she able to push him away and remove herself from the corner.

“Oh, heavens!” someone gasped.

Imogen’s head shot up to see a woman standing in the ballroom doorway. Her eyes glowed at the prospect of a scandal. Many faces appeared soon after, and loud whispers began.

“What happened?” someone asked.

“A tryst, evidently,” another replied.

Imogen wished the ground would swallow her whole so she wouldn’t have to face the shame that was about to befall her. Her mother pushed her way through the crowd to reach her and took one look at Horace, who was wincing and trying to straighten up, before realizing what she needed to do.

“There is nothing to see here,” she said to the crowd then took Imogen’s hand and led her through the second door at the far end of the terrace.

Her father was summoned from the cards room and they left the house immediately.




“You may enter!” Imogen called after the knock at her door. It was mid-morning and she was by her window staring absentmindedly at the busy street.

Warner appeared – holding what appeared to be a gossip sheet and expressed a nervousness in her countenance. “Your Grace—” she began.

Imogen proffered her hand. “Let me see.” She had suspected they would report something that might harm her reputation after being seen with Horace last night. Her suspicion still did not prevent her stomach from twisting when she read:

After a year of mourning for her beloved husband, the Dowager Duchess of Murrendale graced our dear society with her presence. Said widow did not hesitate to express her desire to find a gentleman to entertain her and one could only guess Lord B’s willingness to play that role, as they were seen in quite a tangle on Lady Burenstone’s terrace.

Her fingers curled around the sheet, crumpling it. They had all but declared her a merry widow, on the prowl for a gentleman to keep her bed warm, which left her in a vulnerable position. Now every man without scruples would turn his eyes on her.

“May I offer a suggestion, Your Grace?” Warner asked; shifting her weight from one foot to the other.

“You may.” Imogen looked up; stiff with regret and indignation. She should never have attended that soiree.

“Perhaps you should consider accepting your sister’s offer to spend the spring with her in Kent.”

She sighed and pressed her hand to her aching temples, the result of a lack of sleep the night before. Warner was right. Staying away from London until the scandal died down was a clever idea. As much as she disliked seeing her sister, it had become necessary.

“I shall consider it. Thank you for the advice, Warner.”

Warner smiled and curtsied. “You are most welcome, Your Grace.”

Several hours later, she gathered enough courage to face her parents and headed towards the drawing room downstairs. As she approached, she heard her name mentioned, which gave her pause.

“Arthur is keen to make an offer for her,” Barbara said. Another knot formed in Imogen’s stomach – she could never marry Arthur. They were utterly unfit for each other.

“She does not need to marry because of a scandal,” Aldrich responded, “and I do not consider what happened last night to be a scandal. Lord Bagshire is a cad.”

“Yes, but this will distress her. I know it. Oh, my poor daughter.” She could imagine her mother’s expression as she spoke.

“If Arthur offers to marry her, I shall allow her to decide what she wants. I doubt she would be inclined to marry a man such as him. Unlike her and Harris, they are not a match.”

Imogen decided to reveal her presence at that moment and to prevent further talk of her dead husband. She entered the dining room and sat beside her mother.  “Yes, Father Lord Bagshire is a despicable cad indeed, however, that fact shall definitely not put a stop to the gossips. Emily wrote to me, inviting me to spend the spring with her in Kent. I reckon her invitation has arrived at the right time.”

Barbara’s face immediately brightened. “Oh, what an excellent notion. Will you accept?”

Imogen sat beside her. “I should. I did not intend for what happened last—”

“Oh, hush, my dear!” her mother interrupted; squeezing her hand. “We know very well what passed and none of it was your fault. We merely happen to be surrounded by vultures.”

“Kent is an excellent place to be, Imogen,” her father encouraged.

Imogen made her decision then. “I should like to leave today.”

Barbara and Aldrich nodded their agreement. “Would you like me to accompany you?” her mother asked.

“You do not have to, Mama. I shall fare well by myself.” She dearly hoped that she would find the respite she needed in Kent; despite the circumstances that led her there.




The ship anchored at the harbor, and Colin examined his watch again; it was exactly one o’clock. He tended to check the time frequently whenever he was anxious; a peculiarity about which his friends often teased him.

It had been three years since he last stepped on English soil. He ought to be happy to be returning home after such a long time, yet he was shrouded in trepidation. Venturing into unknown territory had never ceased to fuel his adventurous spirit – until now. He felt like an interloper assuming his brother’s place as Marquess of Wingham.

Thomas had been killed in a carriage accident six months ago and his father had summoned him back from the Far East to assume his new responsibilities.  There was a time when Colin wished he was the heir. Now that fate had unexpectedly bestowed that boon upon him, he was miserable.

“We are here, my lord.” His valet, Hunter, grinned then went to retrieve their baggage.

Colin wished he could share the man’s excitement.

As they disembarked the ship, he noticed a fine black carriage bearing his family’s crest. For a brief moment, he thought he saw one or both of his parents approaching, but neither of them appeared. If Thomas had been gone for as long as he had, at least one of their parents would have been there to greet him – he  had always been the favorite, with only a passing thought for Colin.

“Welcome back to England, my lord,” John the coachman said; removing his hat and bowing.

“Thank you, John. It is good to see you.” Colin meant that. John had worked for his family since he was at Eton, and his smile was broad as he moved to collect the bags from Hunter.

Colin climbed into the carriage, and Hunter joined him shortly after.

“You have been very quiet, my lord,” he observed. “Is there anything I can do?” the man understood Colin’s reservation about returning to England.

He shook his head. “I am quite well, Hunter.” He remembered something then. “Although, there is something I would like. Prepare a sleeping draught for me, please.”

“I shall do that once I see you settled, my lord.”

When the carriage began to move, Colin turned to look out the window. In London, not much had changed. Urchins continued to chase each other with stick horses, and the air made one long for the countryside. Or, in his case, the sea breeze. He smiled as a wave of nostalgia washed over him. He would undoubtedly miss China, particularly the food and vibrant culture, and he grew very fond of his life there. Managing his uncle’s textile business had given his life meaning. It also helped to alleviate the agony of being the second-born son, who would inherit the title and bloodline only if his brother was unable.

Thomas had received all of their love and attention as children, while he was relegated to the role of observer. He assumed he was the observer because he was easily overlooked and had few friends.

Hunter interrupted his thoughts. “We have arrived, my lord.”

Colin, being utterly lost in his reverie as he was, hadn’t noticed they’d arrived. He climbed down the carriage and looked up at the house – it, much like the city, hadn’t changed and he didn’t expect it to with his parents so rooted in tradition.

The butler greeted him warmly, and as he entered the front hall, his mother, Susannah, approached him. He could see a difference now; she was much smaller and older than he remembered, with pronounced lines around her eyes and the corners of her mouth. His brother’s death must have had a profound effect on her.

“Colin, my dear child.” She opened her arms.

He embraced her, uncertain of the meaning behind his current emotions. He had always been able to understand how he felt but, at the moment, he was at a loss; his parents had never shown him any affection, only indifference; thus, this embrace was as odd as it was surprising.

“I am so happy to have you home safely.” Susannah pulled away and cupped his cheek with one hand.

He smiled down at her. “How have you been, Mother?”

She sighed, her large grey eyes quickly misting. “It has been difficult.” She took his hand and squeezed it. “I am sure everything will change now that you are home.”

Everything has already changed, he thought and it all had changed the moment his brother lost his life.

“Your father is waiting for you in the drawing room.”

Colin nodded. “I should not keep him waiting then.” His father had never been the most patient of men. “Are you coming, Mother?”

“No, I have to see Cook about the dinner menu.”

Suddenly, he felt like a child summoned to his father’s study after he had misbehaved.

When Colin entered the room, the Duke of Dellington, Robert Smith, was sitting in a wingback chair in front of the fireplace, smoking a pipe. He turned to face him, his expression as unreadable as ever.

“Father,” Colin said; bowing in greeting.

“Wingham,” Robert said and Colin tensed. “Welcome home, Son.” He motioned for him to sit on the other chair by the fire.

Colin struggled to get his feet to carry him across the room. He’d always been Colin to his father, but now he seemed to be just Wingham. Thomas had been born as the heir, but he was known by his Christian name.

“I trust your journey was uneventful.” Robert reached for the decanter on the table between the two chairs and poured some brandy into a glass that he handed to him.

Colin was tempted to down everything in one gulp but decided to be patient and satisfied himself with a sip. “It was peaceful,” he said; wondering why his father bothered to ask that question.

Why? Because you are Wingham now. Your wellbeing is essential, his inner voice reminded him.

“There is an important matter I wish to discuss with you,” his father began after exhaling a puff of smoke.

Colin had no doubt it was about his rise in station. He was the marquess now and was about to be reminded of the responsibility that comes with the title.

“I do not need to remind you of the family responsibilities and obligations you now must carry. I want you to start thinking about the next generation.”

He knew his father would mention marriage even before he boarded the ship back to England and would not be surprised if the man had already chosen his bride.

“I have been considering it, Father,” he said.

“Then I advise you to acquaint yourself with the prospect of making Lady Harriet your wife.”

Colin had just taken a sip of his brandy when his father made that announcement. He began to cough; his throat burning. Lady Harriet was Thomas’s betrothed.

Robert regarded him with one brow raised as though he were offending him by choking. Colin composed himself. “Did you say Lady Harriet, Father?”

“Yes. Do you wish to dissent?”

“Yes!” That came out with more force than Colin had intended. How could he marry the woman that had been intended for his brother?

There was a great measure of disapproval in his father’s countenance. “Lady Harriet is the daughter of the Earl of Avensborough and her lineage dates back hundreds of years. She is ideal as the Marchioness of Wingham and a future duchess.”

In his father’s eyes, Wingham was more than just a title. It was a way of life that Colin despised and was completely contrary to how he wished to live his life. He shook his head emphatically. “I have never met Lady Harriet. And I wish to marry a woman of my choosing.”

“Avensborough and I arranged the marriage for Thomas, and he readily agreed—”

“I am not Thomas and I do not agree.” Colin shot to his feet.

“Sit down before you give yourself apoplexy.” Robert waved his pipe.

He found himself sitting down despite his disinclination to do so.

“Now, it was initially a business arrangement,” continued the duke. “The land bordering Penningbrick belongs to Avensborough and he offered it as Lady Harriet’s dowry.”

Penningbrick Hall was the estate in Devon where Colin was born and raised. He was baffled by his father’s desire to acquire more land at his expense. He’d only been in England for no more than an hour, and he was already itching to board the next ship out of the country.

“But I have considered the benefit her bloodline would bring to this family,” Robert continued. “That is more important to me than any land.”

“You wish to have a golden lineage,” Colin intoned with irony. “Why did you not tell me this? I would have ridden straight to Lady Harriet’s house upon my arrival to introduce myself.”

Robert’s glare could freeze a lake on a hot summer day. “I will not tolerate such sarcasm from you, young man!”

Colin tossed back the rest of his brandy. “When do you wish for me to call upon her?” There was still some sarcasm in his tone but he could not help it.

“They are in Bath now. After you hand in your resignation to Miles, we shall travel there to make it official.”

His father had mentioned that Colin would have to forfeit his position at his uncle’s company – yet another thing he didn’t want to do.

“Very well, Father. When do we depart?”

“You have a fortnight to make the necessary arrangements with Miles. I expect you to be ready by then.”

Colin’s jaw tightened. Miles had saved him from a dark path when he took him away from England when he was one and twenty, and parting with him had been most difficult. Robert had no idea how his selfishness was affecting him, and he was unlikely to find out. Colin did not tell his father he had already concluded his business with his uncle, giving him more time to himself before meeting Lady Harriet.

“Is that all, Father?” he asked; bracing his hands on the arms of the chair to stand.

“Yes, you may take your leave.”

Colin did leave, feeling as if he had just lost something greatly treasured to him, but couldn’t quite place what it was.

If you liked the preview, you can get the whole book here

If you want to be always up to date with my new releases, click and…

Follow me on BookBub