Rogue Steals a Brideby Amelia Grey
She already ruined one happily ever after...
Will she be able to stop herself from destroying another? Matson Brentwood has finally met the woman of his dreams. The lovely, red-haired Sophia Hart heats his blood like no other lady. There's just one problem-she is the ward of the man he's sworn to hate. Newly arrived in London, Miss Sophia Hart is/strong>… See more details below
She already ruined one happily ever after...
Will she be able to stop herself from destroying another? Matson Brentwood has finally met the woman of his dreams. The lovely, red-haired Sophia Hart heats his blood like no other lady. There's just one problem-she is the ward of the man he's sworn to hate. Newly arrived in London, Miss Sophia Hart is looking for a husband. When her search lands her in front of Matson Brentwood she wants nothing more than to give in to his maddening charms. But she must deny her love for him and pay her debt to her father for costing him the love of his life. Was their love doomed from the start, or can Sophia and Matson find a way to be together?
"Delightful... series fans will cheer Matson and Sophia to their happy ending." - Publishers Weekly
"Beautifully written and definately a page turner when you're able to get away from life long enough to just read." - Bitten By Love Reviews
"The story was fun, light, yet with a few heated passages to put a little colour in the cheeks" - Book Loons
"Grey strives to create touching tales to reach readers on many levels, and she succeeds beautifully with this story... provides just the right dash of quirkiness and charm to an enchanting romance." - RT Book Reviews
"An enthralling story... Each character is important and well written, the plot is juicy and hard to put down" - NKuhn EBooks
"Sensual and touching... Witty and clever... Another great story of forbidden love." - Fresh Fiction
"A wonderful ending to this amazing series. A job well done!" - My Book Addiction Reviews
"A Romeo & Juliet romance with loving, fun humor, spinster twin aunts (one looking for a beau), an abundance of devastating titled courtiers, and no tragic ending!" - Doing Some Reading
"Devilishly charming... a touching tale of love conquering misplaced honor." - Library Journal
Verdict Grey (A Gentleman Never Tells) brings her “Rogues’ Dynasty” sextet to an close with this touching tale of love conquering misplaced honor. The twin brothers are devilishly charming, while Sophia is a bright young woman who knows what she must do to ensure her future. Recommended for most romance fans.Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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- 4.20(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.20(d)
Read an Excerpt
The affections are like lightning: you cannot tell where they will strike till they have fallen.
-Jean Baptiste Lacordaire
Matson Brentwood stopped dead in his tracks.
It was a clear and crisp spring day, and the London street was busy with pedestrian, horse, and carriage traffic, but all Matson saw was the woman of his dreams walking straight toward him. She was tall, slim, and graceful with a regal tilt to her chin. With every step she took, the flounces of her pale yellow pelisse fluttered like delicate leaves caught on a summer wind. From beneath her fetching, short-brimmed straw hat, he saw ringlets of gorgeous red curls framing her beautiful face.
Matson had always been attracted to redheads.
He had attended more parties than he could count during the six months he'd been in London and was certain he'd never seen her before. She must have just arrived in Town for the Season.
She was flanked by a pair of older women who looked so much alike they could have been bookends. Though they each wore a different color, their dresses and bonnets were made from the same pattern. Matson knew at once they had to be sisters and maybe even twins, but his gaze didn't linger on the matrons. It was the younger lady who commanded his attention.
Matson couldn't help but think she must be the daughter of a powerful duke or an earl to have such severe-looking chaperones on either side. The lovely belle was at least half a head taller than her prim escorts, and they all carried fancy ruffled-and-beribboned parasols over their shoulders.
His pulse raced when the young lady caught sight of him. He bowed, as was custom, though an observant onlooker would note the restraint, as if he hadn't spent his life bowing in London streets. When he lifted his head, their gazes met once again, and she returned his smile. A slow throb started in his loins. There was a sensuous quality to her full lips, and an amusing twinkle in her eyes that beckoned him.
When she was only a short distance from him, Matson heard a man yell, "Stop that thief!"
A second later a lad of about eight or nine years of age rushed in front of the three ladies, shoving one of them aside and almost knocking her down. The incident slowed the boy just enough for the shopkeeper to grab the back of his tattered coat and stop him.
"You little bandit!" the portly merchant yelled and almost lifted the boy off the ground by the neck of his shirt. "I'll teach you to steal from me."
The young lady broke away from the two women at her side and rushed to the boy's aid.
"Put him down," she commanded. "That's no way to treat a child."
"I'll do no such thing," the man barked, his expression blazing with barely controlled rage. "It's the second time this week he's stolen a loaf of bread from me."
"He's holding nothing," she protested, her tone full of challenge.
"That's because the little imp threw it aside when I gave chase."
"He is probably hungry," she answered, continuing her defense of the street urchin whose face, hands, and clothing were smeared with grime and coal dust.
"Sophia, you must not get involved in this," one of her chaperones said breathlessly. "This is not our quarrel. We must go."
So now he had a name for the lovely young lady.
"Not yet, Aunt June. I'll not stand by and watch anyone this small be treated so violently." She turned to the man again. "Release him."
Matson admired the young lady's display of courage and determination to help the impish lad and was impressed by the way she took the bellowing trader to task. Obviously others were too. A small crowd was gathering around them to watch.
"He deserves far worse," the shopkeeper muttered without backing down on his firm stance.
"Not from you, he doesn't," she answered quickly.
Matson wasn't the kind of man to stand by for long and let the young lady take up for the lad all by herself. He wasn't very familiar with London streets, but in Baltimore, some shopkeepers put out baskets of stale bread by their door each morning where street scamps could help themselves without fear of punishment. It was the charitable thing to do, and it kept most of the youth from pilfering the fresh-baked loaves put out later in the day.
"I'll pay for the bread," Matson said, stepping closer to the group and reaching into his coat pocket for a coin.
The young lady gave Matson a grateful smile, and his stomach tightened with desire. There was something infinitely rewarding about aiding a pretty lady and receiving her gratitude.
"Such a nice thing to do for the lad," he heard one of her chaperones murmur softly.
"Hush, Mae," the other lady said. "This is not our concern. Sophia needs to stop this nonsense and come with us immediately."
"Oh, yes, of course you're right, Sister."
Matson looked back to the shopkeeper. "Take this, and the bread will be more than paid for both days. Now do as the lady asked and let him go."
There was a moment of tense silence before the irate man turned the lad loose. "Yes, it's paid for today, yesterday, and maybe a bit more for times past," he grumbled, grabbing the coin with stubby fingers and squeezing it in his beefy palm. "But what will I do about tomorrow or the next day when he comes back?"
"I will not be here to help him." Matson peered down at the dirty-faced rascal, whose big, expressive brown eyes showed no fear. His calmness was unusual for one so young and in his predicament. That told Matson the lad was no stranger to trouble. He was probably used to being manhandled, and it obviously wasn't the first time he'd been caught helping himself to food he hadn't paid for.
"I'd say that's a good thing," the merchant said. "He needs to be taught a lesson."
The young lady bristled again. "What would you do? Thrash him? You are more than three times his size. He is only a hungry child."
"He is a thief," the man growled malevolently.
"Stop this," one of the aunts said sternly, taking hold of Sophia's upper arm. "I insist that we go now. This is not any of your concern and not a place you should be."
"Wait," she said.
"No, Sophia, June is right. We are drawing a crowd of onlookers. We must go now."
Sophia acted as if she hadn't heard her companions and didn't make a move to back down from the shopkeeper's angry glare and harsh accusation.
"Where is your benevolent spirit for one so young?" she asked the man as she tried to shake off June's tight hold on her arm.
"I suppose he robbed me of that too," the merchant shot back.
Matson didn't want to lecture anyone, but in this case, felt he had to do more to settle this dispute. The trader was obviously looking for punishment for the lad to go with the payment Matson gave him, and Sophia was determined the child simply be set free.
Looking down at the boy's smudged but innocent-looking face, Matson said, "You may not be so lucky to have someone come to your aid next time. You'd best not try your hand at stealing again. If you need food-just ask for it. I'm sure this man would be willing to give you a job or two to do around his store to pay for some bread." He looked up at the merchant. "Do you agree?"
"I'll not be promising this scamp anything," he muttered and stomped down the walkway.
Matson returned his attention to the captivating young lady named Sophia. He was intrigued by her and attracted by the sparkle in her bright green eyes. He was downright tantalized by the dusky pink tint to her inviting lips. There was a faint sprinkling of tiny freckles that swept across the bridge of her nose and fanned her cheekbones. Matson had an instant desire to kiss his way over them. He knew her skin would be warm, smooth, and soft to his touch.
She fixed her gaze on his, and Matson's heartbeat leaped. His gaze followed the graceful curve of her chin, drifting down to the pulse in the hollow of her throat. She wasn't giving him smiles laced with promises or sensuous glances, but every cell in his body responded to her. He could see that, even though she'd boldly taken up for the lad, she was every bit a soft, feminine lady. Matson's body was making him quite aware of just how long it had been since a woman had truly interested him.
Suddenly, one of the older women gasped. Matson glanced down in time to see the boy swipe a knife across the strings of the young lady's reticule and grab it as it fell from her wrist.
The crested-hilt dagger the mischievous youngster used looked like Matson's!
His hand flew to his empty holder. How had the little bugger filched it from the belt around Matson's waist without his awareness? He reached for the rascal, but the only thing his hand closed around was air.
"You little cutpurse!" he called and took off after the artful thief, who was pushing, bumping, and tripping people in his haste to get away.
Matson had to slow down and sidestep bystanders to keep from running them down. With ease, the boy took a quick, sharp right turn and deliberately toppled a large table that was piled high with breads, cheeses, and meat pies as he flew by it. Matson moved quickly to keep from taking a tumble himself as he jumped over loaves, kicked rounds of cheese, and stepped squarely into the middle of a savory pie. He heard a shopkeeper yelling from behind him, but Matson kept running. It was more important that he catch the lad than help the merchant with his ruined food items.
A few seconds later, Matson was gaining on the boy when suddenly the boy rounded another corner. Matson was right behind him, but pulled up short at the sight before him. He sucked in a deep, cold breath and caught the strong scent of fish.
It was market day, and every inch of Timsford's Square was covered with street vendors, shoppers, and merrymakers. Tables, carts, and stalls were filled with everything from meats, flowers, and spices, to fabrics, trinkets, and embroidery samples. Hundreds of people were happily milling around in the festival-like atmosphere, looking, bartering, and buying from the wares available.
Matson let out a heavy sigh. Maybe he could have found the lad in the throng of people if the scamp had been the only child on the street, but to Matson it looked as if there were at least as many children as adults in the crowd teeming before him.
"Damnation," he swore softly, angry with himself for letting the little rascal outsmart him, and outrun him. He took off his hat and wiped his forehead with the back of his palm.
"Where is he? Where did he go?"
Matson heard the frantic voice beside him, and his attention jerked away from the square. He once again drank in the details of the red-haired beauty who had stopped beside him. Her chest rose and fell rapidly. The spring chill had colored her cheeks in a delicate rosy color, and her breath blew soft puffs of warm mist into the noisy air. Matson wanted to lower his mouth to her parted lips and mingle his own breath with hers.
In Sophia's haste to catch up with him, her bonnet had fallen off her head and lay on her back. Midafternoon sunlight streamed down and glistened on thick golden-red hair that looked as if it had been intertwined with shimmering tresses spun from gold. His stomach knotted in anticipation. He had an almost irresistible urge to release her lush hair from its combs right there on the busy street and bury his face in the silken torrent of lavish curls.
Matson mentally shook himself. He hadn't been so instantly attracted to a lady since he'd first met Mrs. Catherine Delaney when he was twenty years old. She'd had golden-red locks too. She had been the desire of his dreams for two years, but he hadn't thought about her in a long time.
Reluctantly, he tore his interest from Sophia's hair to concentrate on her features. Concern clouded her eyes, dulling the spark that had been there just minutes before. Obviously, she didn't like being bested by the lad any more than he did.
"I lost sight of him in the square," Matson said, unable to hide his frustration at being fooled by the youngster's wily escape.
A look of fiery determination flashed across her face. "I must find him."
"That's going to be difficult to do in that mob."
Her hands balled into tight fists. "I can't believe I was so gullible. I defended him and tried to help him."
Her troubled expression showed a hint of the sudden turmoil he heard in her voice. "We were both taken in by his innocent young face," Matson admitted. "He probably ran through the square at such a speed that he is way down one of the side streets by now."
"No, there he is," she exclaimed and took off running toward a child.
"Wait!" Matson called and ran after her. "That's not him."
Before he could reach her, she grabbed a young boy by the shoulders and turned him around. The frightened child looked up at her and tried to pull away.
"'Ey there, whatcha doing wid me son?" a large, apron-clad woman called and started stomping toward Sophia.
"I'm sorry," she said, letting go of him and looking at the woman. "Excuse me. I thought he was someone else."
Sophia spun away from the kid and started searching the crowd again. Fearing what she intended to do, Matson tried to catch up to her, but before he could reach her, he saw her gaze light on another boy who looked like the thief.
She raced toward the lad and quickly turned him around. It was not the imp.
"Get yer hands off me boy," a woman yelled and shoved Sophia away.
Matson saw big trouble brewing if he didn't get Sophia away from the square. He touched her arm. "Miss, he's not here. We need to go."
She paid him no mind. Her gaze frantically searched the crowd again as her hands squeezed the fabric of her skirt. "He has to be here," she whispered earnestly.
"He's already gone. Come with me," Matson said, noticing that several men and women were slowly closing in on them.
"I can't leave. I must find him."
Matson sensed she had more at stake than just a purse with an embroidered handkerchief in it, but this was not the way to find her reticule. He took hold of her wrist and calmly said, "We'll return later, but right now you're coming with me." He started pulling her away from the crowd.
"No. Let go of me."
She tried to pry his hand from around her wrist, but he held tightly and kept walking.
"You don't understand. I must find him."
Matson didn't look back until he managed to get her a safe distance away from the square. When he let her go, she glared at him.
"Who do you think you are? You had no right to interfere, no right to touch me. Now, thanks to you, the boy will get away."
Matson grimaced. "Thanks to me? The boy had already run away. I was trying to find him too."
"Then why did you stop me from looking for him?"
Matson was determined to be patient. She was flushed, out of breath, and not thinking clearly. "Didn't you see the way most everyone in the crowd was staring at you? You were about to find yourself in big trouble for accosting their sons."
"Accosting?" she asked impetuously. "Don't be ridiculous."
"I'm not. You are. You were about to have several angry parents descending on you in an unruly manner."
Sophia gasped. "You make it sound like I was a madwoman out to hurt the boys. I only wanted to see their faces so I could find the thief."
"I'd like to get my hands on the cunning little devil, too. That was my dagger he made off with, along with your reticule."
Her brows lifted. "It was with your knife he cut the strings of my purse?" she asked incredulously. "Why would a gentleman such as you carry a weapon during the day? If you hadn't had the knife with you, he wouldn't have grabbed it and used it to steal my reticule."
Matson stared into her flashing green eyes. She was overwrought and looking for someone to blame. The gentleman in him wanted to let her pin it all on him without argument, but the man in him couldn't let her unreasonableness pass.
He said, "You aren't saying what the imp did is my fault, are you?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying." She quickly moistened her lips. "He didn't get the knife from me, and if it's yours, he didn't have it with him." Suddenly, she abruptly stopped talking and let out a long, shaky, sighing breath.
She squeezed her eyes closed for a moment. Matson couldn't help but think she was summoning some inner strength to compose herself. When her lashes lifted, her eyes were softer, calmer. Her expression was concerned and sad. Matson saw she had reasons he didn't understand for being so frantic to get her reticule back.
"My mother's brooch was in that reticule," she whispered. Her attention strayed back to the teeming square. "I must get it back."
"I'm sure your mother will forgive you for losing it. It wasn't your fault."
She lowered her lashes again as if shading her eyes from something she didn't want him to see, and shook her head. "You don't understand. It's not a question of that. My mother died years ago."
Her voice was clotted with emotion and hampered by erratic breathing. Matson saw a flash of anguish in her eyes, and his annoyance with her vanished.
"I'm sorry," he offered softly.
Desire to draw her to his chest and soothe her grew inside him. He wanted to feel her soft, pliant lips beneath his in a tender, comforting kiss. If he hadn't been so enthralled by her loveliness, patting himself on the back for stepping up and handling the situation, the boy would never have made his escape.
As if resignation had settled in, she lifted her bonnet back onto her head, and her hand knocked a loosely pinned comb from her hair. A silken torrent of red curls fell over her right shoulder, caressed her neck, and tumbled down her breast. Everything inside Matson grew taut with restraint. His fingers itched to trace one of the curls and then slowly wind its softness around his finger. His knuckles wanted to brush across the fullness of her breast, where the curl lay on such a sweet pillow.
Suddenly, the shrill sound of a frantic lady's voice sliced through the air as if it were an icicle. "Sophia!"
Matson and the young lady looked behind them, and Matson saw her two chaperones, holding onto their hats and parasols, rushing toward them.
One lady outran the other and stumbled to a halt beside them, her face punctuated by a chaffed ruddiness. Clutching her hand to her chest and breathing hard, she said, "What is this? What is going on here?"
The chaperone may have been older, but she was not a dunce. Matson felt her question was more of a silent accusation. It was as if she had read his mind in the keenest way, making him wonder what her own romantic trysts had been when she was younger.
"We're trying to find the boy, Aunt June. You know my mother's brooch was in that reticule."
"Yes, yes, I know that. Here is your parasol. Open it quickly. The sun is very bright today. And do fit your bonnet on properly, my dear."
"Sophia," the other lady gasped, inhaling deeply when she skidded to a stop beside them. "Thank God we caught up to you. We were so worried to see you racing off like that to heaven knows where."
"The boy ran in there, Aunt Mae," Sophia said, pointing toward Timsford's Square. "I must find him."
"Oh, but you can't do that. Come, we'll go to the authorities and let them handle this."
"That's just what I was going to say, Sister," June added. "Why, trying to find that ruffian in so large a crowd would be like looking for a needle in a haystack."
Sophia gave Matson a determined glance before turning her attention back to the women. "Perhaps it is, but you know me well enough to know that doesn't mean I'm not going to try."
"Oh, Sophia, for once in your life be sensible."
Now that the chaperones were so close to him, Matson could see that they must be twins-Mae and June. They had the same color of hair, eyes, and complexion, as well as the same facial features. Being a twin himself, Matson knew how rare it was to see identical adults. Even when he and his brother were youngsters, they seldom came across another set of twins.
But Matson and his brother Iverson had been more than mere oddities, because their faces were indistinguishable from each other when they'd arrived in London last fall. They had the misfortune of being the spitting image of the older, well-respected Sir Randolph Gibson, and they didn't resemble their legal father at all. Months later, the gossipmongers were still talking about them being Sir Randolph's by-blow, a poet had written a slanderous parody about them, and wagers concerning their parentage were still offered at White's and other gentlemen's clubs throughout London.
"Ladies," Matson said, bowing, "pardon me for interrupting, and permit me to introduce myself."
"Absolutely not," June said, seeming horrified that he'd even spoken to them.
"Sir, we can't allow you to do that," Mae added, moving to stand between Matson and Sophia as if she feared he might pounce on the young lady. "We know nothing about you."
Matson watched the shifting emotions on Sophia's face. It looked as if she didn't want to remain quiet and adhere to the women's commands, but she didn't want to take them to task and be disrespectful to them in front of him either.
"He's looking for the boy, too, Aunties. We know what he looks like. The authorities will not."
"It doesn't matter, my dear. As of here and now, this is no longer our concern."
"Of course it is," Sophia protested again.
"We'll give the authorities a detailed description of the lad. June is right, and we must listen to her. We can't allow just anyone who happens to be on the street to introduce himself to you."
"Come along, Sophia," June said and then made an odd clucking sound before saying, "We have much to do if we are going to have any hope of finding your purse."
Matson watched in surprise as, in tandem, the matching sentinels hooked their hands around the young lady's elbows, turned her around, and marched away with her, the ribbons hanging from their parasols fluttering in the breeze.
Matson had no idea who Sophia was, but he wanted to know.
She was beautiful. She was delectable. She was aggressive, inviting, and intriguing. Most captivating of all was the small flare of vulnerability he witnessed when she told him the brooch was her mother's. She had covered the weakness quickly, and he liked the fact that she wasn't going to let it keep her from going after the cutpurse. That is, until the two soldiers came along and waylaid her.
Matson watched as the three rounded the corner and disappeared from view. He smiled to himself and wondered which gave the other more trouble: the chaperones or Sophia. He chuckled to himself and thought perhaps the twins. They were definitely double trouble for the young lady.
He spoke softly to himself: "What man wouldn't be instantly drawn to her?"
She couldn't be engaged or married. If she had a husband, she wouldn't be so carefully watched by her aunts. He'd learned years ago with Mrs. Delaney that there were some boundaries a gentleman shouldn't cross, and pursuing an engaged or married lady was one of them.
But what if she was a powerful duke's daughter, as he had suspected when he first saw her? Would the second son of a viscount be a welcomed suitor, especially a son who'd gone to America, made his fortune, and had only recently returned to London and the polite society to which he'd been born?
Matson snorted ruefully and shook his head. He had another strike against him too. He was very obviously the son of Sir Randolph Gibson, a man who was not his legal father. That gave Matson more pause than the prospect of the lovely Sophia having a fiancé. Fathers could be damned difficult about their daughters.
Especially powerful fathers.
His oldest brother, Brent, was testament to that.
The first thing Matson had to do was to discover who she was.
He placed his hat back on his head and looked out over the packed square. No, the first thing he had to do was find the boy and take back the reticule and dagger. Returning the beloved brooch should win him favor with the young lady and perhaps her father too.
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