With only one month until the release of Never Courted, Suddenly Wed, Book 2 in my Scandalous Seasons series, I thought I'd share the cover, an excerpt, and a free copy to one guest who stops by and comments!
Never Courted, Suddenly Wed
Christopher Ansley, Earl of Waxham, has constructed a perfect image for the ton--the ladies love him and his company is desired by all. Only two people know the truth about Waxham’s secret. Unfortunately, one of them is Miss Sophie Winters.
Sophie Winters has known Christopher since she was in leading strings. As children, they delighted in tormenting each other. Now at two and twenty, she still has a tendency to find herself in scrapes, and her marital prospects are slim.
When his father threatens to expose his shame to the ton, unless he weds Sophie for her dowry, Christopher concocts a plan to remain a bachelor. What he didn't plan on was falling in love with the lively, impetuous Sophie. As secrets are exposed, will Christopher’s love be enough when she discovers his role in his father’s scheme?
The front door opened and the butler greeted her with a bored yawn. “Miss Winters,” Ralston said, as though it were entirely commonplace for the viscount’s sister to be carried through the front door, by a gentleman, sans chaperon.
She sighed. “Hullo, Ralston.”
Her heart fell somewhere in the vicinity of her toes. Geoffrey stood with his arms folded across his chest, alongside Mother. His black stare conveyed brotherly disapproval. Had she really expected anything else? She wanted to bury her head in the front of Christopher’s jacket. Just then, it didn’t matter that he’d been her childhood nemesis. “It’s not my fault, Geoffrey.”
Geoffrey ignored her protestations of innocence. “Thank you so much for seeing to my sister, Waxham.”
Her mother sighed. “Whatever have you done now, Sophie?”
Geoffrey scooped her out of Christopher’s arms. “We are indebted to you. I’m sorry she caused you trouble.”
Christopher inclined his head. “It is not the lady’s fault. I’m afraid I was galloping where I shouldn’t have been and spooked her dog.”
Her eyes widened at his lie. The boy she remembered would have delighted in telling Geoffrey the trouble she’d caused at Hyde Park. She didn’t know what to do with this unexpected kindness. It shamed her. Made her wish she’d been more gracious when Christopher had merely wanted to help.
“Thank you,” she mouthed.
He gave the faintest nod.
Mother rang her hands together. “Regardless, you have returned Sophie to us in a most gentlemanly manner. May we extend an invitation to you and your father to dine with us?”
The earl’s hesitation was a palpable force. All Sophie’s oldest insecurities, the feeling of being nothing more than a polite obligation resurfaced. She cleared her throat. “Lord Waxham is busy.”
“Mother failed to mention a specific evening,” Geoffrey said, drolly.
She bit the inside of her cheek. Drat. He had her there.
As if on cue, Mother spoke. “Tomorrow evening?”
“Lord Waxham has plans tomorrow evening.” Sophie directed her attention toward Christopher. “Don’t you, my lord?”
He dusted his hands together. “Actually, I do not.”
“See, Mother. He…” What? Sophie’s words trailed off. “You don’t?”
“Splendid!” Mother exclaimed, clapping her hands.
Christopher caught and held Sophie’s gaze. “In fact, I can’t think of any way I’d rather spend my evening than with your family.”
Did she imagine the way he paused overlong on those last two words? She narrowed her eyes. What was this about? She’d learned when they’d been small children to be very cautious where Christopher was concerned. There was certainly more to his gentlemanly response.
And Sophie didn’t trust it.
Didn’t trust it one bit.
She tried once more. “You are merely being polite.” Sophie looked to her mother. “On the ride over he mentioned he had a prior commitment.”
Mother’s face fell. “Oh, do say you’ll come another evening then?”
Christopher folded his arms across his chest. “Your daughter is mistaken.” He looked to Sophie. “You are mistaken,” he said, more emphatically.
Three pairs of faintly accusing eyes landed on Sophie. A telltale heat flooded her cheeks. “Really? I’d thought…that is to say, I believe we’d spoken of your plans for tomorrow evening.” She discreetly crossed her fingers and stole an upward glance at her brother.
Geoffrey’s black glower indicated that he knew Sophie wasn’t being altogether truthful.
Or in this case, at all truthful.
But really…why would Christopher want to join her family for supper? He’d made his feelings for her quite clear over the years. This gentlemanly side of him, his chivalrous attempt to shield her hoydenish behavior at Hyde Park from Geoffrey, was so very uncharacteristic.
Geoffrey’s words brought her back to the moment. “We really would be honored to have you and your father for company tomorrow evening, Waxham.”
Christopher bowed. “The pleasure will be all ours. Miss Winters, I wish you a swift recovery.” With a long, undecipherable look for Sophie, he took his leave.
Sophie stared after him, frowning. Yes, there was more to Christopher’s actions this day…and Sophie had every intention of getting to the heart of it.
Just as soon as she dealt with her Mother and Geoffrey.
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