Sophie Goodnight doesn’t want to marry me.
The astounding thought rattled through Richard’s brain. He’d had to fend off countless debutantes who’d set their caps for him during the Season he’d spent in London. Until he met Antonia, he’d walked warily around the young ladies he met on the Continent. Now he was being trussed up and delivered to this one like a gaily wrapped parcel.
And she didn’t want him.
He laughed so loudly the help must surely have heard him below stairs.
“What’s so funny?” Sophie asked.
“Everything. Nothing.” Richard patted the hand she’d slipped around his elbow, surprised at their mutual dislike of the union their families were plotting. “Why are your parents so set on this match?”
“My father can buy anything he pleases, yet what he really wants isn’t for sale.”
“And that would be…”
“A grandson who’ll be a titled lord.”
“If you don’t want to marry me—”
“Dear me,” she interrupted, “do you think there’s an if? My manner must be far more accommodating than I intend.”
He scowled at her. “As a great heiress, you could have your pick of suitors.”
“Of all the great houses under financial duress with an eligible heir, yours is the highest ranking. Why should my father’s fortune bring down an ordinary beast when it can bag a trophy stag?”
“Remind me never to go hunting with you.” They entered the gallery, a long, high-ceilinged hall. Row upon row, his ancestors stared down at them from age-darkened canvases.
Sophie peered up at each one. “None of them look terribly happy, do they?”
“The point is to impress the viewer with the power and prestige of Somerset, not give a window to their souls.”
“Pity, since their souls are all that still exist.”
“Not true. Somerfield Park exists. Everything they bled for is still here.”
“And you intend to bleed for it too. Dead men’s dreams.” She cocked her head. “I do believe you’ve never had an original goal in your head.”
If she’d been a man, he’d have laid her out for that insult. “Of course I have. You may as well know I plan to marry another lady, one my parents have not chosen for me.”
“Really?” She cast a genuine smile at him, a sudden burst of such luminous glory that it nearly took his breath away. “There may be hope for you yet. But it’s only a plan. I wager you’ve never actually done anything unexpected.”
He’d show her. “You lose.”
Richard snatched her close and covered her mouth with his. He meant to shock her, to silence her goading tongue. Now that little pointed tongue of hers was all tangled up with his. He pinned her to the wall, her spine pressed against the flocked wallpaper next to a rather lugubrious rendering of his grandmother.
Her hands found his hair, raking her fingertips past his temples. She palmed his cheeks and slid her hands down his neck, her touch cool at first, then hot as she smoothed her fingers down his chest and around his waist.
God help him, she made him hard as iron.
Then the kiss changed. Yielded. Her breath poured into him, warm and sweet.
She made a soft sound, as if she were melting, like sugar in a saucepan. He slanted his mouth over hers, determined to make her sigh again.
She answered his kiss with longing, with urgency, with a small tremble that he’d give anything to still. But he wasn’t able to make her sigh again. When he finally released her, he fought to master his breathing lest she see how deeply she’d affected him.
He was shocked to his soul at what he’d done. He was devoted to Antonia. He wasn’t the sort to ravish a lady he’d just met as if she were a common trollop. What had gotten into him?
“Where does a virgin learn to kiss like that?” he whispered.
Sophie Goodnight smiled at him again. She could command angels with that smile. Then she slipped out of his arms and darted away. At the threshold, she turned and winked at him.
“What makes you think I’m a virgin?”
A Rake By Any Other Name
by Mia Marlowe
Series: Somerfield Park #1
Genre: Historical Romance
Published: November 4th 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Format: Paperback/eBook, 352 pages
A Reluctant Lord. A Resistant Lady. A Superfluous Fiancée.
And a Devastating Family Secret…
When Richard Barrett, Lord Hartley, is abruptly called home to take the reins of the estate, he discovers the extent of the family’s financial straits. The remedy: marry the heiress their families have picked out for him. Unfortunately, he’s already planned to marry someone else.
Miss Sophie Goodnight isn’t too keen on becoming his purse with feet…and she sabotages all attempts to woo her. But when Lord Hartley discovers the shenanigans in his father’s past, he realizes that deciding between two beautiful women is the least of his problems.