The love and happiness Isabel Salisbury expected in life when she accepted the proposal of the Marquess of Stoughton takes an unexpected turn, when he leaves on a mission for the war office. She is married off to the Duke of Brimley.
Nathaniel Thompson, the Marquess of Stoughton, is devastated to learn upon his return that Isabel has married the duke. When news of her husband’s death surfaces, Nathaniel sets out to make amends and will stop at nothing until she’s his marchioness.
But when London learns of a promiscuous tryst between them in the Daily, their credibility is at stake. They soon discover that nothing in life is simple, nor private, and all is fair in love and war.
London, England, 1815
Isabel Salisbury hopped up from her seat and faced her mother. “Elevating me? Are you mad? This arrangement only benefits you and Father! What is the rush? Surely, your situation can wait until Nathaniel returns?” She lifted her chin high, attempting to remain controlled, but lost all civility.
“Furthermore, I will not accept a proposal of any sort from any duke or such until I have spoken with Nathaniel!” I could never love another. How can they do this to me?
Interrupting the hostility, the ancient pendulum clock hanging behind her father struck eight bells, reminding her where she needed to be. Without asking for permission, she dashed from the room, wiping her eyes and not looking back. Her conniving parents thought that this—that they—would be over. Not if I can help it. She had to get answers and soon. The last thing she desired was to be pawned off to a duke who had no interest in her.
Isabel had heard in great detail of the Duke of Brimley’s conquests—from the infamous courtesans Madame Martine boasted of, to a mysterious affair with some Italian beauty, who was never seen, over a year ago. All of this and so much more had been revealed at Miss Turner’s garden tea party just a week prior.
While Cecily, Madeline, and several other ladies of the haute ton thought the rumors to be utterly scandalous, that didn’t stop them from letting their imagination run wild. Miss Turner went on to compare Brimley to the men written about in those French novels that her mother kept hidden.
What more could I ask for? Not only will I marry well, but I’m bound to be miserable with a man who thrives on living a life scandalously and shadowed by infidelity. I would much rather perish from consumption.
Hidden in the shadows of her parents’ maze of roses, Isabel raced against time. There she would meet Nathaniel, in what could be their last moments together for months. Despair over not seeing her beloved until he returned from the war office shook her to her core, tripping and stumbling her along the way. Her hopes and desires had been crushed. Emptiness swallowed her heart whole.
What if he never returns? How could he not tell me? She loved him dearly, yet anger simmered beneath the surface and insecurity washed over her.
“There you are, sweetling. I was beginning to think you weren’t coming.”
Isabel threw herself at him, desperately hoping her parents were wrong. “You’re leaving me?” she murmured into his overcoat. Please let it be a falsehood.
“Darling, let me explain, but first I have to ask you something.”
Her eyes widened with disbelief. She sniffled and stepped out of his hold, gazing into his beautiful and stoic blue eyes.
“I wanted to do this sooner, but...would you do me the honor of becoming my wife? I know that we cannot be married until I return. Nevertheless...”
Isabel smiled, tears rolling down her cheeks. She almost shrieked with glee, but given their clandestine meeting, her joy had to be contained. Please, please, please, don’t anyone find us right now. “I accept,” she blurted before wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing her lips to his. She allowed herself to languish in the slow tease of his tongue.
“Outstanding, sweetling. I’ll meet with your father in the morning, and we’ll begin the arrangements when I return in six months.”
“Nathaniel, that is too long! Are you sure you cannot return any sooner?”
She found herself enveloped firmly in his embrace, finally content, when he replied. “My dear, it could very well take longer. I assure you, I will do my utmost best to return to you in time.”
Isabel beamed against his chest. “Very well, my darling. I cannot wait to share the news with Mother!”
Maybe now they’ll see how worthy you are. Now there shouldn’t be any reason why I must meet that wicked duke.
About the Author
Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Layna discovered her love of reading at an early age. She’s a bestselling author at All Romance eBooks, and multi-published author of historical, paranormal and contemporary erotic romances. When she isn’t devouring salacious romance novels or writing, she enjoys losing herself in researching ancient history and mythology, weaponry, and hiking. She lives in Northern Ontario, with her husband and two daughters.
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