The Naked Baron
May 2009
Zebra Books
ISBN-13: 9781420102536
ISBN-10: 1420102532

Read the Naked Nobility Series FAQ for information about the series chronology and reading order.

TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT
New to London society and rather...awkward...Lady Grace Belmont would just as soon hide behind the palm trees as dance with a man she doesn't know.  But Baron Dawson is on the hunt for a wife.  Grace's generous curves and remarkable height do not intimidate him.  In fact, it would be more accurate to describe his reaction to the charming newcomer as lust.  Before Grace can so much as gather her thoughts, she finds herself in his arms, committing one shocking impropriety after another.  The Baron's devilish attractiveness—to say nothing of his splendid muscles—is simply impossible to resist.  Her beloved aunt and chaperone advises patience, but Grace is not about to listen. The handsome baron is whispering such delightful things in her ear...


Excerpt from The Naked Baron


Accolades

Nominated for RT Book Reviews 2009 Reviewers’ Choice Award for Regency-Set Historical Romance

Top Pick! "Naked and naughty—that's the kind of hero MacKenzie stakes her reputation on, and it's also the kind that readers adore.  With their humor and heated love scenes, her books sparkle and light up readers' hearts.  Her feel-good stories are just what we need."
—Kathe Robin, Romantic Times BOOKreviews

"Caution: Reading The Naked Baron may cause spontaneous smiles and feelings of happiness!"
Connie, Once Upon a Romance

"...sweet and sexy Regency tale."
—Maria Hatton, ALA Booklist

"The Naked Baron is another lovely book by Sally MacKenzie...a witty and endearing read about past loves reunited and new loves that form.  Her characters bring out the laughs and her love scenes really simmer with heat..The Naked Baron is a must read."
Katie, Fallen Angel Reviews, 5 Angels

"Sally MacKenzie may have penned her best Naked book yet, raising the bar for the entire series. With unforgettable characters and blazing passion, The Naked Baron is a book to be savored over and over again."
Lettetia, SingleTitles.com

"...a witty, romantic story about love everlasting, and love enduring all hardship."
Lakisha, A Romance Review

"Like a smooth chocolate mousse, MacKenzie gives the reader a decadent treat of a book in The Naked Baron."
Courtney, Manic Readers

"I enjoyed every minute of "The Naked Baron."
Julie, goodreads

"...The Crown Jewel in Sally MacKenzie's Naked series.  It is hard to not fall in love with these characters - they are so full of emotion, spirit and zest for life."
—Mary, Historical Romance Society

CHAPTER ONE

Lady Grace Belmont stepped through the wide double doors into the Duke of Alvord’s ballroom.

Dear God.

She froze on the small landing. Hundreds of candles lit hundreds of faces--and she’d swear every single face was turned toward her. Men in precisely fitted black coats and snowy white cravats raised their quizzing glasses. Brilliantly-gowned women, plumes bobbing, fans shielding their lips, tittered and whispered.

Dear, dear God. She couldn’t escape fast enough--except she couldn’t escape at all. A gaggle of elderly women blocked the stairs.

Blast! Grace swallowed and clenched her hands. She tried to take a deep breath, but the air was too thick with the scent of candle wax, perfume, and infrequently washed bodies. Black dots swam before her eyes. Was she going to swoon?  That would be an even more entertaining spectacle for the duke’s guests--the Amazon from Devon, all five feet nine inches and eleven stone of her, collapsing into an ignominious heap--a very large ignominious heap--on the ballroom floor. What a lovely way to begin her first--and last--London Season.

“Isn’t it splendid?”

“What?” Grace looked down at her petite, ethereally beautiful aunt, Lady Oxbury.

“The ballroom, the guests...isn’t it all splendid?” Aunt Kate almost glowed with pleasure. “It reminds me of my own come-out. The room is much the same, but the gentlemen then all wore lace and velvet, of course. They were as colorful as--perhaps more colorful than--the ladies.” She sighed, smiling wistfully. “I was completely enchanted.”

Enchanted? Enchantment was not one of the emotions swirling through Grace’s gut at the moment. Nausea--well, nausea was not precisely an emotion. Terror, mortification, self-consciousness, anger...there was a lively stew brewing inside her, but enchantment was not one of the ingredients--it wasn’t even one of the seasonings.

“You were only seventeen,” Grace said, “and lovely. I am twenty-five and large.”

“Grace!” Aunt Kate frowned at her. “Don’t say that. You are quite regal.”

“Regal.” How Grace detested that word! It was uttered kindly by tiny women like her aunt, women who made her feel like a female Gargantua simply by standing next to her. Unless one were actually of royal lineage, regal was merely a synonym for large.

“Yes, regal. You are very striking. Don’t you see how the gentlemen are admiring you?”

They were certainly admiring one specific part of her. “They are staring, Aunt Kate. That is not the same thing at all.”

“Nonsense.  They are all struck by your beauty.” Aunt Kate smiled, but the curve of her lips looked strained. “However, if you keep scowling like that, you will scare them all off.”

One can only hope. “Aunt, can’t you see where all those quizzing glasses are directed? Those men aren’t studying my expression; they are examining my bos--”

“Grace!” Her aunt fanned her face and glanced quickly to either side. “Mind what you say. You are not at Standen any longer.”

No, she wasn’t at Standen, was she? And she had only herself to blame. If she’d kept her tongue between her teeth when her aunt had arrived and proposed this hare-brained trip, she’d be home now, curled up with a good book in the drawing room, pretending to listen to Papa discourse on crop rotation and drainage issues.

The thought didn’t give her the feeling of contentment she expected.

She suppressed a sigh. Of course it didn’t. Life at Standen had been comfortable while Papa had mostly ignored her. Now, however...for the last year he’d become obsessed with the need to marry her off.

The elderly ladies had managed to navigate the first step. Now they were struggling with the second. Was it going to take them all evening to reach the floor?

Grace swallowed her annoyance. If only she’d done the same at Standen, but how could she have kept her temper in check when Papa had gone on and on about what a laughingstock she’d be if she appeared at the Season’s events? She couldn’t. So she’d let her temper slip its rein, and it had bolted, taking her good sense with it.

She blew out a short, impatient breath, causing the tendrils that had worked themselves free of her coiffure to float briefly in front of her eyes, and glanced back down at her aunt.

Aunt Kate looked as if she would like to wrap her elegant fingers around her neck in exasperation.

“You are in a pucker over nothing, Grace. Didn’t you notice in the receiving line that Miss Hamilton was almost as tall as you? And I’m sure there are other ladies present as”--Aunt Kate blushed and coughed slightly--“well endowed.” She patted Grace’s arm. “Your father is an idiot. There will be plenty of gentlemen eager to pay you court.”

That was highly unlikely, but there was no need to argue the point. “You know I’m not here to find a husband, Aunt Kate. Papa has already arranged everything with Mr. Parker-Roth. I just came to attend a few parties and see the London sights.”  And enjoy my last gasp of freedom before I give my life over to John.

“But do you truly want to marry this neighbor, Grace?”

“Er...” She didn’t, but she was resigned to her fate. She couldn’t live at Standen forever--and marrying for love was a fairy tale reserved to Minerva Press novels. “I’m content with Papa’s choice. After all, didn’t he choose Oxbury for you? And you had over twenty years of marital harmony.”

Aunt Kate’s face suddenly assumed the oddest expression, almost as if she’d taken a bite of stewed eels and couldn’t decide whether to swallow or spit it out.

“Ah...er...yes.” Aunt Kate cleared her throat. “But I do think you might wish--you really might wish--to look around, Grace. Mr. Parker-Roth may be a pearl beyond price, but how will you know unless you see what else is available? I, at least, had a brief Season.”

“Well...”

“You can’t go home like a beaten dog with your tail between your legs and give your father the pleasure of saying he told you so.”

“True.” This was her only chance to see London. She should enjoy the experience. She would think of the male population as simply another sight to see, like London Bridge or Westminster Abbey. “I suppose there would be no harm in looking.”

“Exactly.” Aunt Kate smiled. “And there is so much to look at.” She made a small, graceful gesture encompassing the ballroom. “You have all of society at your feet.”

“Until these ladies finally move and we descend to join the crush.” There was hope. The women had reached the final stair.

Kate’s smile widened. “Indeed. So take a moment to survey the scene. I see a number of tall gentlemen, don’t you?”

“Perhaps.” There did seem to be one or two men above average height, though it was difficult to be certain from this vantage point.

“Perhaps? Of a surety. Look at the man by the ficus over there. Or the one by the windows. Or those two gentlemen by the...by the--oh, dear God.” Aunt Kate turned as white as a sheet and gripped Grace’s arm hard enough to leave marks.

“What is it? What’s the matter?”

Aunt Kate was staring at one of two men standing by a clump of potted palms. The fellow was tall with dark hair, graying slightly at the temples. Distinguished looking--not alarming in the slightest. What could be the matter with--

Grace’s gaze traveled to his companion.  

Oh.

Her heart began to thud; heat flooded her face. For a moment she forgot to breathe.

This gentleman was even taller and roughly twelve years younger. His black coat stretched tight across impossibly broad shoulders, and his hair, dark blond and slightly longer than fashionable, waved back from a broad forehead. He had deep-set eyes, high cheekbones, a straight nose, firm mouth...and was that a cleft in his chin?

He was staring at her, but not in the highly obnoxious fashion of the other men. Oh, no. She met his gaze and felt a jolt of...something. The feeling fluttered down to lodge low in her belly.  

What was the matter with her? Could the sooty London air be affecting her constitution? She’d never before felt this heat, this heaviness in--

She flushed. Could he tell?

A corner of his mouth turned up in a half smile. He could tell.

Aunt Kate’s fingers dug farther into Grace’s arm and her voice sounded slightly strangled. “I...I need to go to the ladies’ retiring room,” she said. “Now!”

* * * * *

“Damn, this ballroom is crowded.” David Wilton, Baron Dawson, grabbed two glasses of champagne from a passing footman and retreated to the relatively quiet spot he’d found by some potted palms. “I can hardly breathe or hear myself think, there are so many people.”

“Welcome to London and the ton.” His uncle plucked one of the glasses from his hand and took a hearty swallow. “Now you know why I abhor the place, though this gathering may be even more of a squeeze than usual. The on dit is everyone’s here to see Alvord’s American houseguest--and to see how Alvord’s cousin reacts to her.”

David grunted and sipped his champagne.  Gossip! London must be as bad as--no, worse than--the country. This was his first trip to Town for the Season--and his last, if he had anything to say to the matter. He wouldn’t be here now if he didn’t need a wife. But he did, and he couldn’t choose a woman from the country. He’d grown up with all the females around his estate; he wasn’t able to conjure up the slightest spark of desire in his heart--or other organ--for any of them.

He surveyed the blushing debutantes in their virginal white gowns. Faugh! What a collection of silly young geese.  

“See anything--I mean, anyone--you like, nephew?”

“No.” David swallowed, trying to rid his voice of annoyance. “Not yet, at least. But we’ve just arrived. Perhaps the more attractive ladies--the somewhat more mature women--have yet to make their appearance.” He bloody well hoped these fluttering young girls weren’t all society had to offer this Season. He didn’t have forever. Yes, he was only thirty-one and had been baron for just a year, but life was fragile and death too unexpected. He knew his responsibility. He needed to see to the succession.

Even his devil-may-care father had attended to that before splitting his head open on a rock.

“What about that girl? She’d be a pleasant sight over the breakfast table--or over rumpled bed sheets.”

David looked at the young woman in question--a blonde in a crimson gown with an exceedingly small bodice. The girl noticed their attention and fluttered her fan.

“I don’t think so.”  The chit was far too short and thin for his taste. “Do you suppose her mantua maker ran out of fabric before she finished that dress?”

“Perhaps.” His uncle Alex’s voice held a salacious note.

David frowned.  “The girl’s young enough to be your daughter.”

Alex’s jaw tightened; something--sorrow, pain?--flickered in his eyes, but it was gone so quickly, David couldn’t be sure he’d seen anything but a shadow from the candlelight.

“A man can look, can’t he?” Alex waggled his eyebrows in a distinctly lascivious fashion. “Admire beauty in all its manifestations?”

“Especially when the chit has two very lovely manifestations almost leaping from her gown.”

“Especially then.”

David laughed. “Behave yourself, uncle.”

Alex scowled. “I am sick to death of behaving myself. I haven’t been to Town in over twenty years. If I choose to celebrate with a little misbehavior, who the hell will care?”

“Surely you don’t intend to take after my disreputable father at this late date?” David hoped the alarm he felt wasn’t reflected in his voice.

“Perhaps I will. Luke’s life may have been short, but it was intense. He knew what he wanted and he took it.”

“But--”

“Mr. Wilton! Oh, Mr. Wilton! I say, can it really be you?”

“Wha--?” They both turned. An elderly woman with a cane and elaborately powdered hair was hobbling toward them as quickly as she could.

“Oh, God,” Alex muttered. “Lady Leighton. I thought she’d been put to bed with a shovel.”

David bit back a laugh. “She looks very much alive--and delighted to see you.”

“God only knows why.”

Lady Leighton grabbed Alex’s arm as soon she got close enough. “About time you came back to Town, Mr. Wilton. It’s been so long, I hardly recognized you.”

“Ah.”

David turned his laugh into a cough. Poor Uncle Alex was apparently rendered speechless by Lady Leighton’s enthusiasm.

The lady frowned and turned her grip into a pat. “I want to tell you I was so sorry to hear of your parents’ passing.”

A muscle jumped in Alex’s cheek. Bloody hell. This time David was certain what he saw in his uncle’s eyes--that stricken, bleak look was sadly all too familiar. When would Alex realize he was not responsible for Grandda’s and Grandmamma’s deaths?

David cleared his throat.

Lady Leighton turned her attention to him. “And who might this be?” She put up a hand as David opened his mouth to reply. “No, don’t tell me--the resemblance is too great. Lord Dawson, correct?”

Damn. Was everyone going to see his ignoble father in his face? That was a trial he’d not anticipated when he’d mentally listed all the reasons not to come to Town. He inclined his head as unenthusiastically as he could manage. Perhaps the woman would take the hint and drop the subject.

No such luck. Lady Leighton thumped her cane on the floor. “Just as I thought. Luke’s son. Does everyone tell you you’re very like your father, my lord?”

David’s stomach clenched.  No, thank God. “I’ve been told I resemble him physically.” He had tried his entire life to ensure that was the only way he resembled the man.  

“Ah.” She nodded. “Not a scapegrace, hey? Well, for all his faults, Luke Wilton was charming.” She shook her head, sending a flurry of hair powder drifting down to her ample bosom. “Such a senseless tragedy.”

She looked back at Alex. “And such a tragedy Standen insisted on thrusting a spoke in your wheel all those years later, Mr. Wilton. I hope this visit to Town means you’ve finally got over your disappointment? It’s not too late to find a nice girl and start your nursery, you know. You can’t be much above forty.”

“Ah. Er.”

She patted his arm again. “It is time to get on with your life, sir. Past time. Some woman will have you--you’ll see.” She turned back to David. “And are you in London to go shopping on the Marriage Mart as well, my lord? Very good. I like a man who recognizes his duty and gets down to business.” She laughed. “Should I wager which of you will be the first to produce an heir?”

“Ah.” It was David’s turn to be less than coherent.

“I don’t need to tell you--” she said.

He and Alex both shook their heads.

“--but--” Blessedly, Lady Leighton stopped and waved at someone. “Oh, there’s Mrs. Fallwell. I have something of a very particular nature to say to her. I hope you don’t mind if I run off?”

“No, please--” Alex said.

“Don’t let us keep you.” David said.

“Well, then.” Lady Leighton squeezed both their arms. “Good luck with the ladies, my dear fellows,” she said before she toddled off to accost Mrs. Fallwell.

“Thank God.” They looked at each other and laughed.

“I never thought I’d be grateful for Mrs. Fallwell’s presence on this planet.” Alex took another long swallow of champagne. “She’s a gabble-grinder of the first order, you know.”

“Hmm.” David studied his uncle. “What did Lady Leighton mean about your ‘disappointment’? About Standen putting a spoke in your wheel?”

Alex’s ears turned red. “I have no idea.” He gulped the rest of his champagne and grabbed another glass from a passing footman.

“Is there something you haven’t told me?”

“I can’t think of anything.” Alex stared into his champagne glass.

Why wouldn’t his uncle meet his eyes? “Lady Leighton seemed quite--Damn!”

“Damn?” That made Alex look up.

“Yes. The Addison twins are here.” David glanced around, looking for a suitable hiding place.

Alex gave a low whistle. “So they’ve tracked you all the way to London. Very impressive.” He chuckled. “I’d say one of the Misses Addison plans to bag herself a baron.”

“Not this baron.” Those palms might conceal him. And look--a splendidly stout pillar as well.

“Don’t be so certain. You’d best tread carefully if you don’t want to stumble into parson’s mousetrap.”

David didn’t bother to reply, he was too busy putting as many barriers as he could between himself and the Addisons. There was nothing so terribly wrong with the girls, besides the fact that he’d known them since they were in leading strings. Some man would be delighted to wed one of them, but not he. He couldn’t tell them apart for one thing. Confuse his wife with her sister? That would be exceedingly awkward. And they were both far too scraggy.

He peeked around the pillar. They hadn’t seen him, thank God. He watched their bony backsides move past. It was not an inspiring sight.

Were all young women today small and angular? Surely not! There must be some female who would be a good match for a man his size. He was built on a different scale than the usual, just like Grandda had been--and Grandda had found Grandmamma.

Ah. He closed his eyes. He still felt a heavy melancholy when he thought of them, but at least now it was only a dull ache and not the overwhelming, almost physical pain it had been. True, they had both been over seventy, but they’d still been healthy, vigorous, more alive than many people half their age--until their blasted carriage had slid into the big oak at the bottom of the hill between Clifton Hall, Alex’s estate, and Riverview.

They should have stayed the night with Alex.  Alex had urged them to. It was dark and rainy. But Grandda was as stubborn as a mule--Grandmamma, too--and they both liked to sleep in their own bed.

And now they were both dead.

Life was indeed fragile--a gift that could be taken back at any moment.  He must wed--and bed--someone soon. He would not have the title die with him.

But he didn’t want to wed one of these stick figure girls. No, he wanted a woman with some meat on her bones. A soft armful--a woman with full breasts and hips who made a comfortable bed herself--sweet, yielding, warm. No, not warm--hot. A woman with a body that made a man forget his own name.

A woman like the one who’d just entered the ballroom.

Zounds! He straightened and closed his mouth. He did not care to appear the complete gape-seed if she should look in his direction.

She was beautiful. Tall, much taller than the older woman at her side, with glorious, wonderful, lusciously full curves. The neck of her gown was, sadly, too high--it covered far too much of her lovely porcelain skin. He would love to touch that skin with his fingers and lips and tongue. Mmm.

And her hair? Also lovely. It was gathered high on her head, a few tendrils escaping to frame her face. His fingers twitched to burrow through that silky mass, freeing the copper-colored length to tumble over her shoulders. Her naked shoulders.

Her naked breasts.

Could they be as large as they looked?

She took a step; turned to talk to her companion. The skirt of her dress pulled tight for a moment, outlining her hips and long, long legs.

Bloody hell, he was almost panting.

Who was she? Perhaps Alex knew. “Alex.”

“What is it?” Alex glanced over his shoulder. “Are you still hiding?”

“No. The Addisons are on the other side of the room. But come here, will you? I’ve got a question for you.”

“Very well.” Alex stepped around the palms. “Always glad to be of service, of course.”

David gestured toward the ballroom entrance. “Who is that woman?”

“Which woman? Surely you aren’t interested in one of the elderly ladies tottering down the stairs?”

“Of course not, you cabbage-head. It’s the tall, beautiful girl on the landing I’m asking about.”  

“Oh.” Alex raised his eyes. “How should I know? She must have been in leading strings--if she was even born--last time I was in London.”

“So you have no idea who she is?” Damn. David felt a stab of disappointment.

“No.” Alex raised an eyebrow. “Why are you so anxious to identify the chit? Has she stolen something of yours that you need to alert the Bow Street Runners about?”

Yes. My heart.

God, he hadn’t said that aloud had he? No, Alex was still looking at him with that faintly amused expression. If he’d spoken, the man’s jaw would be on the floor.

And it wasn’t true in any event. Yes, one of his organs was definitely engaged--and wished to be much more intimately engaged--but it wasn’t his heart.

“Of course not.  It’s just that I’ve decided”--David cleared his throat--“That is, I believe the lady would make an excellent baroness.”

What?” Now Alex’s jaw did drop, and he sloshed champagne on his waistcoat. “Are you daft?”

“No.” David might not know the woman’s name, but he knew he wanted her. She was the first woman he’d seen who’d provoked any, er...interest in him at all. In fact his interest was so great it threatened to become embarrassing.

She wouldn’t be crushed in his bed. He might need to be gentle with her sensibilities, but her body would fit his perfectly. He took a mouthful of champagne, but he barely tasted it. Regrettably, his body was all too anxious to see exactly how well they would fit. He’d best find a way to control his raging interest before he made her acquaintance. She might be more than a little startled if he fell on her like a lust-driven schoolboy.

Her companion had stepped forward so her profile was now visible. David nodded at her. “Perhaps you know that woman, then. I imagine she must be the girl’s mother.”

“I don’t know why you think I--” Alex looked up at the woman and stiffened. “No.” He sounded oddly agitated. “I wouldn’t...she’s rather...she looks--” He made a strangling sound.

“What’s the matter?” Alex was reacting damn peculiarly. David studied the older woman. She wasn’t doing anything unusual--just looking around the ballroom. Her gaze came to Alex...Her mouth fell open, her eyes grew wide, and all the color drained from her face. She grabbed her daughter’s arm.

Ah, the daughter. She was looking at him now, and a very attractive flush swept up her neck to cover her cheeks. Did it also sweep down her body? How fervently he wished he could see...

He could almost feel her eyes on his shoulders, his face. Her tongue slipped out to moisten her lips.

He’d seen women look at him before. This girl wanted him. She probably didn’t know that yet...she was far too innocent to recognize what she was feeling, but he would be more than happy--dashed delighted!--to explain it all to her. In detail. In lovely, hot, wet, slow detail.

“Bloody hell,” Alex murmured. It couldn’t be. Alex squeezed his eyes shut and then opened them again.

It was.  Damn. It was Kate.

After all these years, he was in the same room as Lady Kate Belmont--except now she was the Countess of Oxbury.

But Oxbury was dead, had been dead a year. He’d died around the same time as Mama and Da.

Kate had closed her mouth and was turning away, her hand grasping the arm of...her daughter?

No, that wasn’t her daughter. It couldn’t be. He’d kept track. She and Oxbury had had no children. No sons--the title had passed to Oxbury’s cousin--but no daughters either.

He was embarrassed to admit it, but it had always comforted him that Kate had had no children with Oxbury. He snorted. Did he think her relationship with her husband had been platonic? Unlikely, though Oxbury had been thirty years older than she.

He watched her walk off with the girl. She was still very pale.

David grabbed his arm again. “You do know the pair. Can you introduce me?”

“No!” Kate would have nothing to do with him or with David--with any Wilton. And the girl...she must be a relative. Kate’s brother, the Earl of Standen, had had a daughter...

Even worse.    

David was scowling at him. Alex took a calming breath. “The older woman is the Earl of Oxbury’s widow.”

“And the girl? They are obviously together. They must be related in some way--the age difference is too great for them to be merely friends. Yet if the matron is the Countess of Oxbury...”

“She is definitely the countess. I think the girl must be her niece--the Earl of Standen’s daughter.”  The bloody bastard.  

“So, can you introduce me?”

“No.” Approach Kate? She would probably spit on him.

“Why not? You obviously know Lady Oxbury.”

“I knew Lady Oxbury. I doubt she’d recognize me now.”

David choked on his champagne. “Oh, I’d say she definitely recognizes you, Uncle Alex.”

Why the hell was David grinning at him? “I meant recognize. She’ll give me the cut direct if I try to speak to her.”

“I don’t think so. Introduce me,” David said. “I may not be quite as lofty as an earl, but my barony is an old, respected one. I--”

“You have not been attending. Clear your mind of lust. This has nothing to do with you. Did you not hear the girl’s father’s name? She is the daughter of the Earl of Standen.”

“So? I can--oh.” David’s arrested expression would have been comical in other circumstances.

“Exactly. Standen. The man whom your mother, Lady Harriet, jilted to run off with your father. I assure you, the Earl of Standen hates all Wiltons. He will not--he will never--consider your suit.”

David considered Alex’s slightly strident tone, flushed face, and set jaw.

The Earl of Standen’s daughter...damn. That was a problem, but not an insurmountable one, surely? He’d never met Standen, but the man couldn’t be a complete idiot. He must have moved on from those long ago events--he’d married, had a daughter.

“Surely Standen has got over his disappointment,” David said.

Alex snorted. “The earl has got over nothing.”

“But the scandal was more than thirty years ago. From what Grandmamma said, the earl should be falling on his knees every night and thanking God he didn’t get buckled to mama. She was much too young and too wild to suit him.”

Alex shrugged. “I can assure you the earl harbors no good thoughts concerning our family. He’d drag his sister naked down St. James’s Street before he’d give his consent for a Belmont to marry a Wilton.”

“How do you know that?”

“He told me so himself,” Alex said, his voice more bitter than David had ever heard it, “twenty-three years ago when I asked to marry his sister.”


Copyright © 2009 by Sally MacKenzie


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