Fenella, Lady Deerham, has rejoined society after five years of mourning her beloved husband’s death at Waterloo. Now she’s fêted as a diamond of the first water and London’s perfect lady. But beneath her exquisite exterior, this delicate blond beauty conceals depths of courage and passion nobody has ever suspected. When her son and his school friend go missing, she vows to find them whatever it takes. Including setting off alone in the middle of the night with high-handed bear of a man, Anthony Townsend. Will this tumultuous journey end in more tragedy? Or will the impetuous quest astonish this dashing widow with a breathtaking new love, and life with the last man she ever imagined?
And the Beast?
When Anthony Townsend bursts into Lady Deerham’s fashionable Mayfair mansion demanding the return of his orphaned nephew, the lovely widow’s beauty and spirit turn his world upside down. But surely such a refined and aristocratic creature will scorn a rough, self-made man’s courtship, even if that man is now one of the richest magnates in England. Especially after he’s made such a woeful first impression by barging into her house and accusing her of conniving with the runaways. But when Fenella insists on sharing the desperate search for the boys, fate offers Anthony a chance to play the hero and change her mind about him. Will reluctant proximity convince Fenella that perhaps Mr. Townsend isn’t so beastly after all? Or now that their charges are safe, will Anthony and Fenella remain forever opposites fighting their attraction?
An international e-book release ~ 27th February 2016
Fenella Deerham and Anthony Townsend discover the two runaway boys, Brandon and Carey, safe at his estate. But now that crisis is averted, unspoken attraction threatens scandal. When Fenella and Anthony are alone in his drawing room after dinner, the heat starts to rise…
The Beeches, Hampshire, November 1820
Anthony couldn’t help smiling. “I very much doubt I’m the first man in five years who’s expressed his admiration.” He inspected Fenella thoughtfully. “But that’s not the real problem, is it? The real problem is that I’m the first man who has aroused your interest in return.”
“That’s…that’s why I think we should try and avoid one another.”
He commended her courage—and honesty. His laugh was wry. “That will be difficult if those two hellions continue to be best friends.”
“We could try.” Desperation edged her soft voice.
When he caught her trembling hand, the contact of skin on skin made her start as if he’d burned her. “Or we could see where this takes us.”
She made a halfhearted attempt to pull away. “You mistake me. I don’t want a lover.”
She stared at him in helpless confusion. “I have a son to consider.”
He smiled faintly and brought her hand to his lips. She gave another of those starts. “You’re a woman with needs and feelings. Aren’t you lonely, Fenella? Don’t you miss a man’s kisses, the touch of his hand, a warm body to cling to in the night?”
Not long ago she’d been pink as a sunset. Now she was pale as milk. “Stop it.”
“No.” His grip firmed. “Stay with me.”
She stiffened and spoke in a cold voice. “I’m not going to your bed with my son in the house.”
He smiled faintly. “I’m not expecting your capitulation tonight—however nice it would be.”
“Mr. Townsend, this serves no purpose. I’m sorry I admitted my…my penchant.”
Her eyes narrowed, although unwilling amusement tugged at her lips. “It’s like listening to your nephew wheedling to leave Eton. You’re incorrigible.”
“I’m enchanted. Stay and get to know me. Get to know Carey. Spend a few stolen days with Brand. I promise I won’t put any pressure on you.”
He saw she was powerfully tempted. “I can easily take Brand back with me tomorrow.”
“Do you really mean to split the lads up, just because our attraction frightens you?”
“Emotional blackmail won’t force me into your bed, sir.”
“And I didn’t give you permission to call me Fenella.”
“Lady Deerham is a prisoner of her sad past. Fenella, on the other hand, is warm and lovely and within reach.”
“So call me Lady Deerham,” she said crossly. “I see why you’ve succeeded in business. You browbeat your poor customers into submission.”
“Does that mean you consent?”
She drew herself up and ripped her hand from his. “No, it means I’d appreciate the loan of a carriage tomorrow morning so I can return to London and do my best to scotch any talk.”
“Will you leave Brand here?”
She regarded him uncertainly. “Common sense says it’s best to sever all ties.”
“So Brand pays the price for your cowardice?”
Her expression turned mutinous. “You’re doing it again.”
He spread his hands. “I need to use what weapons I have.”
“No, you need to wave the white flag and surrender.”
A pleased smile lifted his lips. “Ah, surrender is such a bonny word.”
Her response was unimpressed. “I shall be frank, Mr. Townsend—”
“Mr. Townsend. I shall be frank because you seem incapable of taking a polite no for an answer.”
He snorted. “Polite?”
She ignored him and plowed on. “You’re wasting your time pursuing me. I’m devoted to my late husband’s memory. Please respect that and ignore my unwise admission of attraction. We met in unusual and dramatic circumstances. Neither of us really knows the other, and I suspect if we’d been introduced in a more prosaic setting, we’d find no particular affinity.”
He bowed shortly. “You’re brutally clear, my lady.”
Fleeting regret darkened her eyes, but her delicate jaw set in a stubborn line. “I…I have no wish to change my life—however enticing the incentive.”
He hid a smile. The ruthless tone hadn’t lasted long. “I’ll call upon you in London.”
“Haven’t you heard a word I said?”
“You said you mistrust any link formed in such circumstances. I acknowledge the justice of your doubts—and also that we’ve known each other a mere day. I shall endeavor to prove that we’re attracted because of who we are, and not because we’ve had too much excitement.”
She threw her hands up. “Oh, you’re impossible. I’ll be glad to get back to my real life.”
“Will you?” he asked softly.
For a moment, she looked unsure, then her lush mouth firmed. “At least in Mayfair, I’m free of insane plutocrats and their persuasions.”
He laughed, enjoying himself. “Yet.”
He’d always intended to pursue her, but her confession of a weakness for him invited a more overt wooing. She was a grand little fighter, but he doubted she’d win when Anthony Townsend allied with her own desire against her.
“There’s no point continuing. I’m tired, and you’re off your head. Good night, Mr. Townsend.” With an irritated swish of her skirts, she flounced off. He let her reach the door before he spoke. “Lady Deerham, there is one more thing.”
“What is it?” Annoyance roughened her voice.
A man of his size could cross the room in a couple of paces. He caught her arm and using her surprise, swung her around to face him. A gentle push and her back bumped against the closed door. “This.”
Furious eyes snapping blue fire focused on his face. “Mr. Townsend, just what on earth do you think you’re doing?”
“My dear Lady Deerham, surely it hasn’t been that long.”
“I’ll scream,” she warned, trying to slay him with her disapproval. Unfortunately for her, he found her spirit arousing. This close she smelled like a flower garden in spring. He drew that glorious scent deep into his lungs.
“I dare you.” One hand pressed her shoulder against the door while the other caught her chin to hold her still.
Not that she was struggling. Which was dashed interesting.
“You are the most provoking man,” she muttered.
“That’s insane plutocrats for you.” He hid a smile as anticipation made his blood rush. “Now stand still so I can kiss you.”
“Well, really,” she gasped before his lips stole her breath away.