The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford— an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés.
But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.
The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honor clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear:
All is fair in love and war.
A large hand curled around her waist, neatly spinning her about and bringing her up against him.
Sensations skittered through her at the press of a hard male chest against hers. Miss Fairfax would have been appalled. Yet rather than pull away, Merry froze, looking up at him with her heart pounding in her ears.
“Who groped you?” he demanded.
“Who had made you so angry before you came onto the balcony?” she countered. What—or who—on earth would make a man like this so enraged?
“My fool of a brother. And now I’d like to you to answer my question.”
She had already forgotten what he had asked. His gaze was so intense that she felt confused and flushed. She would never allow a man—a complete stranger—to kiss her, if that’s what he was contemplating.
“What was your question?” she asked, wincing inwardly when her voice came out as breathless as a siren’s.
“Who groped you?” he repeated.
He had that warrior look in his eyes that Merry found absurdly compelling. She came out with the truth before she could think better of it. “Lord Malmsbury…Lord Malmsbury lets his hands stray where they shouldn’t.”
“Stay away from him,” he ordered, scowling.
“I appreciate your concern,” Merry said with dignity as she pulled free and stepped back, “but there’s no call to order me about. I have already decided to avoid his lordship—not that he has shown the slightest inclination to deepen our acquaintance, thanks to my hatpin.”
“Between your weapon and his boils, I doubt he will risk further encounters.” His smile reappeared. “I trust that after we are formally introduced, I may request a dance, if I promise not to grope you.”
It occurred to Merry that she would rather like to be groped by this man. It was a appalling realization. She was betrothed.
He executed a perfect bow.
She dropped a curtsy, and this time did Miss Fairfax’s instruction proud, nearly grazing the ground with her knee.
Merry walked back into the ballroom without looking back; no matter what her governess thought, she possessed self-control. Plenty of it.
She had almost reached the other side of the room before she turned her head and looked back.
He was nowhere in sight.
She took a seat along the wall and gave herself a good talking-to. What on earth was she thinking? Was she truly as fickle as the gossips back home believed? She may have made mistakes choosing her first two fiancés, but she had never been truly capricious.
She had truly believed that she was in love with both Bertie and Dermot. She had never flirted with a man while betrothed to another.
Not that she had precisely flirted with this man.
All right, she had flirted.
Merry groaned silently. Why hadn’t she slapped him when he caught around her waist, or at the least announced her status as a soon-to-be married woman? Instead, she had just looked up at him like a silly widgeon waiting to be kissed.
A New York Times bestselling author, Eloisa James is a professor of English literature who lives with her family in New York, but who can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. (Her husband is an honest to goodness Italian knight!) Eloisa’s website offers short stories, extra chapters, and even a guide to shopping in Florence. Visit her at www.eloisajames.com.
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