In a vulnerable moment, Alethea Forsythe allows herself to be seduced by a married peer. Now she is with child—and without recourse. Her reputation will soon be in tatters and she will be forced to wed a stranger—unless she takes matters into her own hands.
When Jack Fitzwilliam, the Earl of Manning, is summoned from the House of Pleasure on a matter of importance, he hardly expects to receive a marriage proposal. He’s long been aware of Alethea’s infatuation with him, but at twenty-three, taking on an expectant bride is not in his plans. Yet the desperation in the lady’s lovely eyes overrides his misgivings.
Alethea would not have believed it possible for a man to be too chivalrous. But though her new husband is perfectly amicable in public, he insists they maintain separate quarters. Desperate to possess his heart and prove herself a wife in every way, she boldly reaches out to Jack. And as their unexpected connection between silken sheets is tested by jealousy and misfortune, Jack must decide where honor ends…and true passion begins . .
“Lord Manning, I must apologize for this cryptic summons, but I importuned my cousin to send to you upon a matter of utmost importance.” Miss Forsythe twisted her fingers together brutally, until Jack felt tied in knots.
“Utmost importance to your cousin, Miss Forsythe?”
“To me, Lord Manning. Although it will likely touch on both my cousin and her husband as well.” The woman avoided his eyes by moving swiftly toward Braeton. She grasped his arm and leaned toward him, her lips at his ear.
Braeton kept his voice low, though his face acted as an open book. At her first words, he scowled like a vengeful god.
Jack waited for the thunderbolt.
Shaking his head vigorously, the earl drew his brows down almost to his nose. “You will not—”
“My lord, you promised me earlier.” Miss Forsythe’s face had drawn into determined lines. Her voice lowered, power in her indomitable tone. “Do not renege on this, I beg of you.”
Dark brows still lowered, Braeton threw up his hands, paused to collect himself, then turned to Jack. “Miss Forsythe wishes a word with you, Lord Manning.” He shot an angry glance at the lady. “Alone.”
All Jack’s instincts for self-preservation leaped into high alert. Something ill was afoot and he doubted it would be to his liking one whit when it finally came out.
Miss Forsythe stood, demure for possibly the first time in her life, her gaze lowered, her hands clasped primly in front of her. The picture of an obedient woman. And as false as a Newgate penny, he’d be bound.
“I am certain anything Miss Forsythe has to say to me could be spoken in your presence, Braeton.” He shot a look of desperation at the earl. Had the girl conceived some sort of trap to spring on him, compromise him into marrying her? Jack stiffened, then for the first time since he had arrived, he relaxed. Even though unannounced, he was already betrothed. Miss Carlton had now saved him, it seemed. Quid pro quo.
“I believe my cousin wishes to ask a boon of you, Manning.” Braeton’s mouth twisted as though he’d bitten into a lemon. “I am aware of the nature of the request and agree she would want privacy to ask it. I won’t be far if you should need me.” Braeton bowed curtly and left.
More confused than ever, Jack turned his attention back to Miss Forsythe, who swayed slightly from side to side, fidgeting with a lace handkerchief she’d produced from somewhere. Did she expect their conversation to lead to tears?
“Won’t you please have seat, Lord Manning?” Miss Forsythe indicated the chair nearest the fire. She seated herself opposite him. Perched seemed a better word, on the edge of the brown leather chair. “I do thank you so much for attending me at such an inconvenient time.”
“No inconvenience in the least, Miss Forsythe,” Jack said waving a hand of dismissal. He settled back into the chair. “How may I be of service to you?”
She gripped her lace-edged handkerchief in one hand, the other clenched on the chair’s arm. Raising her chin, her deep blue eyes boring into his, she swallowed hard. “Would you marry me, Lord Manning?”
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical romance in all time periods because, she says, “passion is timeless.” She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, Jenna has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She’s a theatre director when she’s not writing and lives in Gloucester, Virginia with her family, including two very vocal cats.
Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as an active member of Chesapeake Romance Writers, her local chapter of RWA. She has three series currently available: The House of Pleasure, set in Georgian England, Handful of Hearts, set in Regency England, and Time Enough to Love, set in medieval England and France. This March Kensington Publishing will release the first book The Widows’ Club series, To Woo A Wicked Widow in both print and ebook.
She currently writes to support her chocolate habit.
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