Rain pounded the roof of the carriage, lending a cozy, intimate feel to the
interior. The earlâ€™s long legs were sprawled in front of him, and Fiona endeavored not to gawk
at the wet buckskin trousers clinging to his thighs.
She was not, however, entirely successful.
To be fair, a certain amount of study was necessary if she were to draw him at
some pointâ€”and she intended to. Her artistâ€™s eye noted the proportions of his hips and
thighs, the pronounced contours of his leg muscles, and the slight hollows on the insides of
his knees. But as a woman, she noticed him, tooâ€”on a whole different level. The heat from his
body. The scents of leather and soap. The light stubble on his chin.
Swallowing, she considered moving to the seat oppoÂ site him, but they had
already soaked the velvet squabs of one bench and she saw no reason to sully the other.
Instead, she resolved to make use of this time to adÂvance her cause. Mustering
as much dignity as she could, given her soggy gown and dripping hair, she squared her
shoulders and faced the earl. â€śNow then,â€ť she began. â€śI believe we were discussing the
â€śStop,â€ť he ordered.
Fiona attempted a haughty look. â€śI beg your pardon?â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t take you seriously in that bonnet. Not while thereâ€™s a wet feather
dangling in front of your face.â€ť
Of course, Fiona could see the rogue ostrich plumeâ€” sheâ€™d been doing her
best to ignore it. â€śHow gallant of you to mention it,â€ť she said dryly. She pinched the limp
feather between her thumb and forefinger and tossed it onto the top of her hat. â€śThere.
He wrinkled his nose. â€śNow it looks as though a small, wet rat is napping on the
brim.â€ť He flashed a grin so genÂuine that it momentarily disarmed her.
â€śYes, well, Iâ€™m certain neither one of us represents the pinnacle of fashion at
the moment.â€ť But despite his rumÂ pled cravat and the wet hair slicked back from his face, he
did, blast it all. It was hard to imagine him looking more masculine . . . or more
â€śIâ€™ll help you remove it.â€ť He reached for the ties at her chin, then froze. â€śWith
Fionaâ€™s cheeks heated, but she nodded and loosened the ribbons herself
before allowing him to lift the bonnet off her head. A few pins went with the hat, and several
long locks of hair fell around her shoulders.
â€śMuch better,â€ť he said, his voice a notch deeper and gruffer than before. He
tossed the bonnet onto the seat opÂposite them and crossed his boots at the ankles. â€śNow I
shall be able to listen properly.â€ť
Suddenly nervous, she swallowed. â€śI realize that my letÂter must have caught
you off guard, but now that youâ€™ve had some time to adjust to the idea of . . . marrying me, I
hope you will at least take a few days to think about my proposalâ€”and give it the same
consideration that youâ€™d give any other business proposition.â€ť
â€śBusiness proposition,â€ť he repeated, skeptical.
â€śYes, my lord,â€ť she choked out. â€śOne that shall be muÂtually advantageous.â€ť
He leaned forward and propped his elbows on his knees. â€śThereâ€™s more to
marriage than a signed contract and a handshake, Miss Hartley.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m well aware of that.â€ť She strove to keep her voice cool. â€śBut it neednâ€™t be
â€śIâ€™d argue itâ€™s the most complicated thing on earth.â€ť Ignoring the heat in his
eyes, she said, â€śHow so?â€ť
He lifted her hand from the seat between them and slid closer, till his knee was
touching hers. â€śWill you allow me to demonstrate?â€ť
She swallowed. â€śYes. Of course.â€ť
Good heavens. The words were barely out of her mouth before heâ€™d
peeled the wet silk gloves off her handsâ€”and stripped off his gloves as well.
First her bonnet, now her gloves . . . she shuddered to think what articles of
clothing might go by the wayside next. Shoes? Stockings? Oddly, her belly fluttered at the
thought. â€śWhat are you doing?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m proving a point.â€ť He cupped her hand in his and used the rough pad of his
thumb to trace slow, languorous circles on her palm. Delicious shivers stole over her skin,
curling her toes.
â€śDo you feel that?â€ť he askedâ€”as if he knew.
â€śHmm?â€ť She blinked up at him. â€śFeel what?â€ť
His heavyÂlidded gaze searched her face, lingered a bit too long on her mouth.
â€śNothing about this is simple.â€ť
â€śI disagree.â€ť Fiona pretended they were discussing the weather. Or needlework.
Anything but the feel of his skin on hers. â€śItâ€™s only as complicated as we allow it to be.â€ť
â€śThen let me kiss you.â€ť
â€śAre you mad?â€ť She snatched her hand awayâ€”mostly because it was hard to
think clearly while he touched her. â€śVery well.â€ť He sighed, feigning defeat. â€śYou may kiss
â€śWhat?â€ť She knew what he was about. And she was not some naĂŻve maiden he
could trick into doing his bidding. She opened her mouth to protest, then stopped. The earl
was attempting to scare her off.
But she didnâ€™t frighten easily. And her sisterâ€™s happinessâ€”indeed, her entire
futureâ€”depended on FioÂnaâ€™s ability to access her dowry money. Quickly.
â€śIf I kiss you, will you agree to consider marrying me?â€ť She ignored the
pounding of her heart as she awaited his reply.
Outside, the rain continued to fall, and rivulets of water streamed down the
carriage windows. Thunder boomed in the distance.
â€śI will,â€ť he said disbelievinglyâ€”as though heâ€™d surÂ prised himself with his
Gads. Heâ€™d surprised her, too.
â€śVery well,â€ť Fiona said with significantly more confiÂdence than she felt. But if a
kiss was needed to seal their deal, then kiss him she must. She would demonstrate that their
relationship did not have to be complicated at all.
She only prayed that she didnâ€™t botch it terribly.
Lord help her, she was about to kiss the earl. And she didnâ€™t dread the
prospect nearly as much as she should have.
Debutante Diaries #1
An heiress with a daring proposal. An earl whoâ€™s
determined to resist her. And a love that just might be
written in the stars, in FIRST EARL I SEE TONIGHT by Anna
Recently jilted by his fiancĂ©e, David Gray, Earl of
Ravenport is not in the market for a wife. Even if Gray
didnâ€™t have his hands full renovating his crumbling country
house, it would take more than a bold marriage proposal from
a headstrong young beauty to thaw his frozen heart. Gray is
confident that spending a week at his ramshackle estate will
change her mind about marriage, but every passionate moment
he spends with her tempts him to change hisâ€¦
A talented artist, Miss Fiona Hartley desperately needs her
dowry money to pay off a blackmailer set on ruining her
sister. The handsome earl seems a sensible choice for a
husbandâ€¦if only she can convince him that romance will play
no part. But marrying in name only may prove difficult for
Fiona. Gray canâ€™t help but be dazzled by her genuine warmth.
Yet as their feelings deepen, Fionaâ€™s deadline looms. Will
her secrets destroy them, or is true love their final destiny?
Romance Historical [St. Martin's Paperbacks,
On Sale: October 30, 2018, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781250199461 / eISBN:
started swiping romances from her momâ€™s bookshelf as a teenager and
decided that books with balls, dukes, and gowns were the best. So, when she had the chance
to spend a semester in London she packed her bagsâ€”and promptly fell in love with the city, its
history, and its pubs. She dreamed of writing romance, but somehow ended up a software
Fortunately, a few years and a few careers later, Anna found her way back to writing the
stories she loves and won the Romance Writers of Americaâ€™s Golden HeartÂ®. She lives in
Maryland with her husband and three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes whenever
she quotes Jane Austen. Other weaknesses include reality TV, cute shoes, and coffee. Lots
and lots of coffee.
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