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When Miss Emma Napier helped her friend, Abby, escape an arranged marriage, she little thought she would meet the dashing Marquis of Desborough. His lordship was looking for a wife so he could gain control of his inheritance. Emma seemed the perfect choice.
A gay and frothy Regency romance, packed with lively incidents and dramatic situations.
Emma was about to rise to her feet and go to where Lady Matilda sat with several other dowagers who were enjoying a gossip together when the master of ceremonies appeared before her. “Miss Emma Napier,” he said in a portentous voice. “May I have permission to present his lordship, the Marquis of Desborough?”
Emma trembled with fright. Her face burnt and her heart thumped madly. Through her confusion, she heard his lordship say, “How do you do, Miss Napier.” She couldn’t look at him and mumbled some reply, scarcely aware of the master of ceremonies bow before he departed. “May I have the pleasure of the waltz, Miss Napier?” his lordship asked.
Emma swallowed hard and managed to gasp. “I’m sorry, it’s already been asked for.” She didn’t have the dance engaged. She was a novice at the waltz and had refused all her willing partners. She expected his lordship to leave, but after a moment’s hesitation, he sat on the vacant chair beside her.
“I have a feeling we’ve met before, Miss Napier?”
She was forced to look at him. He gazed at her in expectance. “No, we haven’t.” Her voice was firm though she felt hot and faint. There was a roaring in her ears and she had difficulty breathing. She had to find an excuse to leave, but she doubted her ability to walk away from him.
There was a hard look in his dark eyes. “Are you sure?”
“Of, course, I am.” He can’t prove it was you, she thought feverishly. He saw you in candlelight and he was drunk. She glanced at him, seeing him properly for the first time. Dressed formally in black trousers, black coat, white waistcoat and elaborately tied neck cloth, his lordship was one of the most attractive men in the ballroom. “I’m sure I’d remember if I’d met you before, my lord.” She smiled, trying to sound the coquette like some of the debutantes she had met.
He looked surprised. For a moment it seemed, he didn’t know how to answer her. He rose to his feet. She was relieved he was leaving, but instead he took her arm and drew her to her feet. “It appears your partner isn’t going to honour his commitment so will you give me the pleasure of dancing the waltz with you.”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t,” she protested and tried to pull away, but he placed an arm firmly about her waist and swept her among the dancers. The waltz wasn’t danced in Little Gosford and she had to keep her mind on her feet, counting the beats to the music as a former dancing master had instructed her.
“Have you been in London long, Miss Napier?” his lordship asked.
“Only a few weeks.” She missed a step and stumbled. His arm held her firmly. “I’m sorry,” she said, breathless. “I can’t make conversation. I must keep my mind on the dance. I’m not familiar with the waltz.”
He looked surprised, then laughed, saying he would do his best to guide her. “It’s easy once you become used to the rhythm. Relax. It will come naturally.”
They circled the ballroom several times. In her concentration, Emma forgot her apprehension of him.
“You’re doing well,” he said.
Her green eyes showed pleasure, and then she remembered who he was and her smile vanished. The orchestra paused for an interlude. They stood silently together. Beyond them was a set of wide doors opening into the garden. The Chinese lanterns, hanging from the trees, made it look a fairyland. Emma could see couples walking together and thought it would be pleasantly cool among the trees after the warmth of the ballroom, but Lady Matilda had warned on no account were they to allow any gentleman to escort them into the garden without a chaperon. Desborough followed her gaze. “Would you care to take a stroll in the garden, Miss Napier?”
She wished she dared act the flirt and accept his offer just to shock him, but instead she said primly, “I’ve been warned by my aunt that it’s not thought seemly for young ladies to wander in the gardens without a chaperon for fear their reputations would be bandied about the tea tables.”
I live on a farm on the south coast of Western Australia within sight of the Southern Ocean. Substitute Bride is the first novel I’ve published with Wings.
Besides writing novels, I write short stories and poetry, which I’ve had published in many journals, anthologies and magazines.
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 298
Paper Weight (lb): 12.4
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