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The Seduction of Sara
January 28, 1815
The only thing that stood between Saraphina Lawrence and Hades was a respectable marriage bed. Given her choice, she would have leapt over the bed and raced straight into the flames wearing nothing but the famed Lawrence sapphires, her arms spread wide to embrace the wild heat. It was a pity her brothers wouldn′t get out of the way.
"Damn all interfering men," she muttered, staring morosely out the window of the slow, plodding carriage.
Her aunt′s eyes widened in the uncertain light that shimmered across the silver strands at her temple. "I beg your pardon?"
That was Aunt Delphi′s answer to everything -- pretend you didn′t hear and look annoyingly innocent. So far it had won her a duke who′d had the good grace to die within twelve months of the wedding, and a handsome jointure that gave her a startling amount of independence. Not that Aunt Delphi ever used it.
"I said, ′Damn all interfering men,′" Sara repeated more loudly. "I have been grossly misused, and you know it. I was dragged out of my house --"
"To attend the social event of the season."
"-- and forced to ride in this decrepit coach --"
"As if Marcus would have anything other than the best coach made."
"-- just because my brothers are determined to make me into something I′m not." Sara scowled down at the brightly jeweled slippers that peeped from beneath her skirts. They pinched hideously, and had she not been determined to irritate her brothers′ tedious sense of decorum, she wouldn′t have worn the gaudy things. She slipped her feet free and wiggled her toes in the cool evening air, ignoring Delphi′s look of disapproval.
Though she hated his arrogance, perhaps it was just as well that Marcus had summoned her. It was time they settled this issue once and for all. She was beyond listening to solemn advice; every minute that she walked on the border of ruin and challenged the stolid face of society exhilarated her. For the first time since Julius′s death, she felt alive. Alive and free.
Aunt Delphi shook her head. "You have run mad. Since Julius died, you --"
"He died, but I did not. And I refuse to act as if I did."
Everyone had watched and waited for her to show some remorse, some hint of sadness, but she felt nothing. Not after her handsome husband died much the way he′d lived -- with his breeches about his ankles and his private member where it didn′t belong. It was no wonder Lady Georges had retired to the country after his death, it must have been a shock to watch her near-naked lover fall out of her carriage when her screams of ecstasy frightened the skittish horses into bolting.
Even worse was the fact that the entire ton knew the sordid truth. It had been the whispered joke of the season. The mere thought of it pinched Sara′s pride worse than her shoes ever could. But strangely, the pain of Julius′s public betrayal had freed her in a way that his death hadn′t. She would never again waste her Iife trying to be something she was not, no matter what Marcus said. "My brother should pay more attention to his own affairs and stop tormenting me."
"He cares about you, Sara. All of your brothers do."
"And I care about them. But I don′t go around telling them what to do. Marcus has sway over my funds until I am twenty-five years old, and then I am free. If he wants any peace in the next four years, he′ll let me be."
Shaking her head, Aunt Delphi regarded her niece with compassion. While Sara′s behavior might befuddle her brothers, Delphi understood it perfectly. Before Sara had married, there had always been a touch of wildness to her. She′d ridden harder, laughed louder, and been more spontaneous than any gently bred woman should be. But she′d always been surrounded by her brothers, all five of them startlingly handsome and larger than life, just as passionate in nature as their sister. To them, Sara was just Sara -- exuberant and in love with life.
Then Sara had met Julius and all her passion had focused on one man: she had loved him dearly. Julius had been in love, as well, for his marriage had shocked his friends even more than it had Sara′s. She was not the sweet, demure miss everyone expected him to wed.
But the relationship was doomed from the beginning. Julius, for all his wild ways, was brought up in a very traditional manner; he had one place in his life for his wife and another for his mistresses. Meanwhile, Sara came from a large, extended family and her ideas were quite different. She believed that love included complete fidelity and it never crossed her mind that her husband might believe otherwise. Had Sara been older, perhaps she would have demanded Julius give up his paramours. But she′d been seventeen, with no mother to confide in and too proud to ask for advice.
Delphi smoothed her silk skirts, a heavy lump in her throat. If she had not been so occupied with silly society pursuits, she might have been able to help her niece during what must have been an increasingly confusing and painful time. But Delphi, like everyone else, had missed the desperation of Sara′s subsequent actions. Directed by Julius′s critical mother and condescending sisters, she traded her sparkle for a distressingly cool elegance. To Delphi, it seemed that Sara′s natural exuberance died a slow and agonizing death while all hint of happiness faded from her eyes.
And the more Sara changed, the unhappier Julius became as the very things that had captivated him about his young wife disappeared. By the time Julius died he and Sara were little more than strangers, while the...The Seduction of Sara. Copyright © by Karen Hawkins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.