[BookStrand Regency Romance, HEA]
Sophie Patton needs a temporary fiancé so her spoiled younger sisters can visit London to find husbands before they’re as old as she is.
Enter Troy Griffin, Duke of Ainsley, a notorious rake wrongly accused of abandoning his former fiancée and killing another man in a duel. Sophie boldly proposes a false betrothal to Troy, arguing it will redeem his tarnished image once she jilts him for her real beau who’s traveling abroad. Impressed by her honesty and audacity, he agrees.
They take London by storm and fight a growing attraction. When she learns her beau married someone else, Sophie fears Troy will think she tried to trap him into making her a duchess, and since he allegedly jilted a woman before, he’s sure to do it again. Unable to face another betrayal, she resolves to end their betrothal as they previously arranged. But the duke’s foolish heart has been broken before—and His Grace will not be fooled again.
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
“So it’s not because you love him with all your heart that you waited for him all these years?”
Sophie sensed a trap. “I refuse to answer such a forward question. My feelings for him are scarcely your concern.”
“A simple ‘no’ would have sufficed. Yet my mother and aunt assume you must love me with all your heart to have waited for me even longer than you’ve waited for Bradley.”
Annoyance pricked her as she realized she’d stepped into his trap anyway.
“Now how can that be?” Troy prodded.
“Well—” She clawed her mind for a way out of his trap. “You—you didn’t go to India to seek your fortune and make yourself worthy of me, did you? You went because your uncle banished you there after your behavior caused a horrific scandal!”
It felt good to say that, and it served him right.
He widened his eyes. “Ah, well played, Sophie! And yet, I might never have returned had my cousin Gerard not died without issue, thus leaving the dukedom to me. How would you explain your willingness to wait for my return when I might never have returned at all? Why didn’t you just forget about me and marry someone else?”
“That’s what my family wants me to do with Bradley.”
“I know, but your rigid sense of loyalty to him won’t allow it.”
Not to mention she never thought she’d find another man willing to marry her, but she wasn’t about to present that to Troy, even if she didn’t have a silver platter handy. “What do your mother and aunt think?”
“They have no idea.”
“Well, what did you tell them?”
A smile suffused his face. “That you must love me. With all your heart.”
“Aargh!” Sophie dug her hands into her hair, curling her fingers into her scalp. He was right again. But didn’t Bradley still love her, with all his heart? Wasn’t that why he went to the West Indies in the first place? Wasn’t that why he’d sent her the letter last week, announcing his triumphant return and his plans to buy a house in London?
If only she’d had a chance to sit down and carefully read that letter! She’d only had time to skim over it.
“When you do find Bradley,” said Troy, “he’s going to have to really sweep you off your feet if you hope to convince everyone that you could fall in love with him so quickly, and so deeply, that you’d throw me over for him without a second thought.”
She dropped her hands from her head, though her fingers were still curled, as if in readiness to claw his eyes out. “That shouldn’t be difficult, after the beastly way you’ve been treating me. Why, you wouldn’t even do something as simple as greet me just a few moments ago. You treated me as perfunctorily as you would one of your servants. Yet I’m supposed to be your betrothed.”
“Yes, but as you keep pointing out every chance you get, I’m not really your betrothed. We need only pretend when others are watching, so stop acting all affronted because I didn’t take you into my arms and kiss you. I said good morning, I welcomed you to my domain, and I even pointed out that you’d finally arrived in Town. What more do you want when no one else is looking?”
“That’s not why I’m acting affronted. It’s because I had to remind you to do all those things. If anything, I’m surprised you didn’t try to kiss me. It would certainly be in keeping with the rest of your ghastly manners.”
He scowled. “I beg your pardon, but I thought you wanted me to go along with this because you believed it would improve my poor reputation. So if I haven’t tried to kiss you just now, wouldn’t you consider that a sign that your scheme is proving to be successful already?”
Confusion flooded her. “I didn’t think it would succeed so soon. Still, it’s not quite that successful, since you did forget to greet me.”
“Come to think of it, you weren’t exactly cordial about trying to gain entrance to my sanctuary,” he countered. “All that kicking and pounding on the door, followed by all that berating about what I might or might not have told my mother and aunt? I must say, Sophie, you behaved like quite the hoyden. And do you know what we rakes like to do with hoydens?”
Tingles raced down her spine as he stepped around the desk toward her. This might be a good time for her to flee back to the drawing room, but she remained rooted to the spot as he slipped his arms around her and pulled her against him.
Her heart leaped and a thrill spiraled through her as his body met hers, her breasts crushed against the warm, solid wall of his chest as he covered her mouth with his. Sophie yielded as if she’d just crawled out of a week in the desert and was dying of a thirst only he could slake with the thrust of his tongue.
Heaven help her. Could she have missed him this past week?
She told herself she’d only missed his kiss. Unfortunately, Bradley had never kissed her like this…as if he wanted more of her…and as if he hoped to make her want more of him.
But he wasn’t a rake like Troy. Sophie knew she should break away—or at least try to—but she couldn’t bring herself to show even the slightest resistance.
Rake that he was, Troy must have held her in a very tight grip, both physically and emotionally. Why, he even held her thoughts prisoner, because she didn’t want him to stop.