Nigel Rochefort succeeds at everything he attempts, but burying his family in scandal and breaking up a wedding while seducing the bride is not quite what he had in mind. Nor was finding true love.
STEP BY STEP
Miss Artemisia Germayne is used to gossip. She is far from the ton’s version of an ideal beauty. Worse still, she cannot dance. But when she finds herself in the uncomfortable predicament of abandonment on her wedding day, embarrassed and humiliated she retreats to the country.
Nigel Rochefort, second son of the Earl of Monfort, has always taken his good fortune for granted, so when the woman for whom he has a secret tendre is about to marry his friend, the only logical thing to do is break up the wedding. But that scandal is only the start. The bride’s sister has also disappeared, and Nigel must first clear his name to assure Artemisia’s affections. As he gives chase, many truths are yet to be learned. This is no simple country dance or game of seduction but an unstoppable waltz of desire—and true love.
Artemisia watched her aunt take the note, and read it with excitement. “Show him in, Simms.” Her aunt did not clarify who had just arrived, leaving Artemisia to wonder.
Minutes later the ‘who’ in question strolled into the Green Parlor. Artemisia’s heart quickened when Nigel Rochefort, the very bane of her existence, sauntered into the room, looking relaxed and far too handsome by half.
“Good afternoon, Lady Hawthorne.” The enthusiasm in his voice and bright smile were almost too much to bear. His deep blue eyes twinkled with mischief as he turned his attention to Artemisia. “Good afternoon, Miss Germayne.”
A fluttering in her stomach, sweaty palms, and a dry throat assaulted her senses. Artemisia was not prepared to see him. She was only beginning to come to terms with what happened in London. Nigel Rochefort was an unwelcome guest, in her opinion.
Obviously her aunt thought otherwise. “Dear boy, it has been far too long. Come here and let me have a look at you.”
“My sentiments exactly.” His flashing smile charmed Aunt Lou, but Artemisia would not be fooled.
“If you were hoping to see Marcus, he won’t be arriving for a couple of more days.” It was a snide remark, but Artemisia did not care.
She watched Nigel fumble through the words. “I… Oh, yes. I…I was hoping to meet up with him. Our letters must have crossed. I thought we were to rendezvous here before…before going to Bath.” He looked everywhere but at Artemisia or Aunt Lou. He was a horrid liar. It was quite obvious that he had some other intentions in being here. With any hope, her aunt would see through his façade and send him on his way.
“Please join us for tea.”
Giving Artemisia a sideways glance, he took the seat across from her. “That is most generous.”
The afternoon continued to digress. Artemisia listened with half an ear as the pair conversed about the pleasant weather, the anticipation of a good harvest, and the building of a new stable at Nigel’s estate, Kettleworth.
What is he doing here? She did not believe for one moment that he had arranged to meet Marcus at Knollwood. Her aunt’s nephew only sent word this afternoon that his plans had changed and that he would be arriving two days hence.
Perhaps the gossip in town was too much for Nigel and he had to escape. Or better yet, perhaps he was run out of town. Serves him right, meddling in her family affairs.
Artemisia had been so caught up in the image of Nigel being chased by women with clubs and men with swords she did not hear the remainder of their conversation.
“Artemisia…Artemisia,” her aunt called to her. Aunt Lou leaned closer, but was still several feet away, when she murmured under her breath, “Why don’t you invite Mr. Rochefort to dine with us?”
Artemisia glanced up and saw Nigel staring at them. She was most certain that he heard her aunt’s request. She detested being put on the spot like this. What was she supposed to say? She knew what she would like to say: I would rather dine with a sow than spend the evening in Mr. Rochefort’s company. But that wouldn’t do. She settled for politeness. “Mr. Rochefort, won’t you please stay to dine?”
“That is most kind, but I must decline at this time. I have yet to secure accommodations….”
The sigh of relief that had started was cut short when her aunt stopped Nigel mid-sentence and exclaimed, “Pishaw! You must stay at Knollwood. I am sure Arte will not mind, and Marcus will be arriving within a matter of days. It will be just like old times.”
Artemisia would have liked to disagree with her aunt, but good manners had been drilled into her. Aunt Lou and Nigel looked at her in anticipation of her response. Again, she settled for something other than the truth. “That would be most…pleasant.”
Reaching for the silver bell on the side table, Aunt Lou started, “Dinner is at eight in the newly renovated Yellow Dining Room.” Her aunt rang the bell with quick movements, sending a sharp, high-pitched sound throughout the room. When Simms appeared in the doorway, she gave instructions. “See Mr. Rochefort to the Orange Chamber.”
Artemisia watched Nigel follow Simms out of the room and waited a couple of minutes before she questioned her aunt. “Why did you ask him to stay?”
“He has stayed often enough over the years. Besides, I thought you might enjoy the company of someone closer to your own age.”
Nigel was the last person in the world that she wanted to spend any time with. And to make matters worse, he was ensconced in a bedchamber in the family wing, directly across the hall from her room. Artemisia could hardly breathe. What was her aunt thinking?
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Multi-published historical romance author Alanna Lucas grew up in Southern California, but always dreamed of distant lands and bygone eras. From an early age, she took an interest in history and travel, and is thrilled to incorporate those diversions into her writing. Alanna writes Regency and Western historical romance.
When she is not daydreaming of her next travel destination Alanna can be found researching, spending time with family, or going for long walks. She makes her home in California with her husband, children, one sweet dog, and hundreds of books.
Just for the record, you can never have too many shoes, handbags, or books. And travel is a must.
Find Alanna online at http://www.alannalucas.com
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