No Decent Gentlemanby Patricia Grasso
She was the perfect lady...
How could this man, a virtual stranger, have such a profound effect on her? Sabrina Savage had never met Adam St. Aubyn. But when her eyes met his, she felt she'd known him all her life. Adam, Marquess of Stonehurst, was her savior. He
He was a man no lady would dare to love, but no passionate woman could ever refuse...
She was the perfect lady...
How could this man, a virtual stranger, have such a profound effect on her? Sabrina Savage had never met Adam St. Aubyn. But when her eyes met his, she felt she'd known him all her life. Adam, Marquess of Stonehurst, was her savior. He helped Sabrina toll the bell for her beloved father, then promised to help her uncover the truth about his untimely death. But at the reading of the will, Sabrina learned that she'd been pledged to Adam since childhood. And he'd come to collect his bride.
He dared her to be a woman...
Refusing to be any man's prize, Sabrina challenged Adam to release her from their vows if she found a more suitable fiancée among London's ton. But try as she might, Sabrina couldn't resist the subtle seduction of the mysterious nobleman who shielded his secrets as closely as his heart, whose gaze pierced her soul. And nothing could have prepared Adam for Sabrina, whose innocent passions blazed with the same fine, rare fire as her titian hair. . . .
- Dell Publishing
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.18(w) x 6.88(h) x 1.09(d)
Read an Excerpt
Holy hemlock, Sabrina thought in surprised dismay, pausing in the threshold of the drawing room. She'd come downstairs to join the others for dinner, but only the marquess stood in front of the hearth. Where were the others? Was she expected to spend the evening alone with the marquess? What would they talk about? She had no experience in entertaining gentlemen. Edgar didn't count; she'd known him forever.
Unaware of her presence, Adam stood with his back turned to her, and Sabrina let her gaze drift down his body. He wore a black waistcoat with a white shirt and black tight-fitting trousers.
Lord, but the marquess was the perfect image of a well-bred aristocrat. The only things missing from this perfect picture were the requisite snifter of brandy and the monocle, fashionable affectations of those in his social position.
Adam turned around suddenly, as if feeling her interested gaze upon him. "I was beginning to think I would be dining alone," he said, giving her an easy smile.
Sabrina smiled as she walked across the room toward him. "Would you care for a brandy?" she asked, an imp entering her soul. "Or wine? A Madeira, perhaps?"
"Drinks are never served before dinner," Adam told her, amusement lighting his blue eyes. "Wine is served with the food, and gentlemen drink their brandies after leaving the ladies."
"I knew that," Sabrina said, a blush staining her cheeks. "I offered because we seem to be waiting for the others."
"Uncle Charles won't be joining us tonight," he told her.
"What about Lady DeFaye and Aunt Tess?" she asked.
Adam shook his head. "Your aunt pleaded a headache, and my aunt decided to keep hercompany." He smiled then and added, "Though, I do believe that my aunt is the source of your aunt's headache."
Sabrina felt her confidence waning. "My sister should be along any moment now."
"Lady Courtney sent her regrets," Adam said. "She's also suffering with the headache."
"My sister has never had a headache in her life," Sabrina exclaimed, becoming suspicious. The whole household seemed to be conspiring in an effort to get her alone with the marquess.
"Your sister has never before listened to our aunts babble on endlessly about the good old days," Adam said with a boyish smile.
"She might need my assistance," Sabrina said, anxious to be away. "Will you excuse me?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Forbes has taken care of your sister's headache," Adam informed her. "He mentioned taking her a cup of your chamomile tea."
Hemlock would cure her for good, Sabrina thought, annoyed by her sister's desertion. Or perhaps a dram of henbane.
"Shall we go down to dinner?" Adam asked.
Sabrina stared at him in growing panic. What reason could she use to avoid being alone with him?
"Are you ill?" he asked, with concern etched across his features. "You're quite pale."
"Pale complexions are the curse of redheads," Sabrina said, managing a smile.
"For a moment I thought I would be dining alone," Adam said, and then gave her a devastating smile. "Life's pleasures are more enjoyable when shared with another."
Sabrina accepted his offered arm to walk downstairs to the dining room. "What other activities are better done with another?" she asked, seizing on his words as a topic of conversation.
He was smiling again. She noted that as soon as the last word slipped from her lips.
"There's always church service," Sabrina rambled on, "but I do not consider that to be one of life's pleasures."
Adam chuckled. "Spoken like a woman who has just quarreled with the vicar."
"I do not consider church services a pleasure under any circumstances," Sabrina said with a rueful smile. "Dancing is another activity which requires a partner. I can't think of anything else. Can you?"
"I can think of several others," Adam said in a husky voice as they walked into the dining room.
"Such as?" she asked in innocence.
"I'll tell you another day," he answered with laughter lurking in his blue eyes.
"Are these activities disreputable?" Sabrina asked.
Adam sat at the head of the table, and Sabrina sat on his right side. The dining room seemed so large with only the two of them and the majordomo.
Standing near the sideboard, Forbes served them himself. There were baked salmon steaks enlivened with onion relish and vinaigrette, stewed tomatoes, stuffed mushrooms, saffron buns with butter, and Madeira wine.
Catching her eye, Adam raised his wine goblet in salute. Familiar with this dinner custom, Sabrina raised her own goblet to return his salute.
God shield me, Sabrina thought, staring down at her plate. I forget how to eat.
She felt awkward to be dining alone with a man. Suddenly, moving a forkful of food from her plate to her mouth became the most difficult task in the world.
"The salmon tastes delicious," Adam remarked. "Did you--?"
"The accolades belong to the cook," Sabrina told him. "However, I did prepare the dessert."
"And what would that be?"
"Cherry syllabub, nougat, and Turkish delight."
"Nougat and Turkish delight?" Adam echoed, a boyish smile lighting his whole expression.
"I see that you adore sweets."
"Nougats taste like French sunshine in summer," Adam said. "Those rose-scented Turkish delights remind me of faraway places and exotic indulgences."
"You sound dreamy, my lord," Sabrina said, charmed by his words.
"I would never describe myself as dreamy," Adam replied, giving her an amused look. "I am a well-traveled owner of shipping lines."
"Tell me about your travels," Sabrina said, glad to have found a suitable topic for conversation.
"I've seen most of Europe," Adam told her. "I've even sailed to New York once."
"You sailed to America?" Sabrina echoed, sweeping him a flirtatious look from beneath the thick fringe of her coppery lashes. "How very impressive. What was New York like?"
Adam shrugged. "People are basically the same all over the world," he answered. "Only the climate and the customs change."
"How did you become involved in the shipping business?" she asked.
"I decided to make use of connections I had in the East," Adam answered. "The business grew, and now my ships sail all over the world."
"What connections?" Sabrina asked.
Adam gave her a boyishly charming smile and then said, "A successful businessman never divulges his connections lest he lose them."
"What about your family?" she asked.
"Uncle Charles and Aunt Belladonna are the only family I have left," Adam told her. "My parents and my brother are dead."
"I'm so sorry," Sabrina gushed, placing her hand over his, her heart wrenching at the thought of his losing everyone he loved. "How did they--?"
"Speaking about my loss is painful," Adam interrupted.
"I understand," Sabrina said sympathetically. Then she changed the subject, asking, "What are the chances that Prince Adolphus will help my sister and me retain control of the Savage estates?"
"I predict Prince Adolphus will be successful in circumventing that ridiculous law," Adam assured her. "That one is as bad as bastards being unable to inherit."
Cringing inwardly at the word bastard, Sabrina dropped her gaze to her plate and lost her appetite. She despised that particular word and all that it implied about her less than respectable origins.
"Would you care to walk outside instead of retiring to the drawing room?" Adam asked, as if sensing that she was upset.
Sabrina lifted her gaze to his but saw no pity or superiority in his eyes. "I'd like that," she said.
After retrieving their cloaks in the foyer, Adam and Sabrina stepped out of the front door and began strolling down the lane that led to the public road. Though the unusually warm weather had held, there was a crispness in the air.
Sabrina gazed up at the night sky. Again, no moon shone overhead, only hundreds of tiny, distant stars.
"Tell me about yourself," Sabrina said, trying to make conversation.
"There is nothing to tell."
"I know you are a successful businessman and a peer of the realm," Sabrina said.
Adam nodded. "That much is true. As you know, my mother was the duke's sister, and my father hailed from another country."
"You are only half English," Sabrina said. "Where did your father come from?"
"Near the Mediterranean."
Sabrina suppressed the feeling that he was hedging on the truth. "The south of France?" she persisted.
Adam seemed to hesitate, but then inclined his head.
"Did you always live in England?" she asked.
"I was ten years old when my father died," he answered. "My mother sent me to be educated in England. Then she passed out of my life too."
"So young to be orphaned," Sabrina said. Glancing sidelong at him, she asked, "Why do you carry the St. Aubyn name instead of your father's?"
"My uncle adopted me when he made me his heir," Adam answered. "Uncle Charles's wife died miscarrying his child, and he never remarried."
"How sad for both of you," Sabrina replied. "I'm glad that you have each other. How did you--"
Adam stopped walking and turned to her, saying, "You are very curious, Princess."
"I apologize for prying," Sabrina said, flustered by his intense gaze.
"Ask me anything."
"Where did you get that scar?"
"Eton," he answered, touching the trace of scar that ran from the corner of his mouth to his right cheekbone.
Ask him anything, Sabrina thought, but he won't give me a straight answer. "How did you get it?" she asked.
"I was involved in a fight." Adam stepped closer and gazed down at her. In a husky voice he asked, "Where did you get those disarming green eyes?"
Sabrina blushed furiously. She could feel the heat emanating from her cheeks and hoped the darkness would cover her embarrassment.
Without warning, Adam reached out and gently placed the palm of his hand against her cheek. "Why are you blushing?" he asked. "I hope I'm not making you feel uncomfortable."
If possible, Sabrina felt her blush deepening. Redheads were absolutely the worst blushers in the world.
"I spent an hour in your father's study just staring at your portrait," Adam said in a husky voice. "You have the most arresting face and eyes."
How should she reply to that? Sabrina wondered, feeling awkward. She dropped her gaze to the ground between them. Somehow, his staring at her portrait made her feel vulnerable. No man had ever spoken so intimately to her.
"Look at me," Adam said quietly.
Sabrina raised her gaze to his chest.
"A little higher, please," he added with laughter lurking in his voice.
Sabrina lifted her gaze to his and became mesmerized by his penetrating blue eyes. When he dipped his head closer to her face, his clean, spicy bay scent intoxicated her senses and her heartbeat quickened. His lips were periously close to claiming hers.
"The past few days have been difficult," Sabrina said, stepping back a pace. "I would like to retire now."
Adam inclined his head. "Run along inside. I want to steal a few more minutes before facing my business ledgers."
The short distance to the front door seemed like a million miles away. Forcing herself to walk with slow dignity, Sabrina felt his gaze on her every step of the way and berated herself for retreating from what would have been her first kiss.
When she entered the foyer, Forbes was there to take her cloak. "His lordship will be returning shortly to work on his ledgers," she told the majordomo. "Set a tray of nougats, Turkish delights, and port in the study."
"Yes, my lady."
Taking a night candle in hand, Sabrina climbed the stairs to the third floor where her bedchamber was located. She set the candle on the dresser, but instead of changing into her nightshift, she crossed the room to the window.
Sabrina gently drew the curtain aside and peered into the night. In the drive below her window, she spied the telltale glow of the marquess's cigar. The glow seemed like a lonely firefly trying in vain to brighten the night.
The sight of that solitary pinpoint of light made her feel strangely sad. Sabrina had the feeling that, in spite of his immense wealth and title, the marquess was as lonely as she.
Sabrina smiled at herself. What foolishness was this? The Marquess of Stonehurst was exactly what he appeared to be--a worldly aristocrat who had never known a moment of insecurity in his life.
Meet the Author
"Being a late-twentieth-century city slicker, I love my world of 'make-believe' filled with wild adventures and foreign locales. My favorite tales feature strong, arrogant, long-suffering heroes; stubborn, feisty, fiercely independent heroines; incompetent villains; a ton of humor; and, of course, happy endings. I adore children and animals and try, whenever possible, to include one or both in my fictional world of adventure.
"Dubbed 'The Countess' by my closest friends, I live in Winchester, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. I earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in English at Boston State College, and for the past twenty years have been a teacher at Everett High School. (I'm certain my student geniuses at EHS will be thrilled that I mentioned them!)"
Patricia Grasso is currently working on her next historical romance.
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I love this author and wish she would write more books. I did really enjoy reading this one.