Lady Evie Chesterfield is a darling of the ton who refuses to become engaged. She's been desperately in love with her brother's friend, Richard Maitland, Marquess of Westfall, since forever. But the dark, dangerous marquess only sees her as a friend and refuses to marry any woman. When circumstances change and Evie has no choice but to take a husband, she decides to convince London's most notorious gentleman to marry her by seducing the scoundrel.
Richard Maitland decided long ago that he wanted nothing to do with love. So when the gorgeous, off-limits Evie asks him for lessons in seduction, Richard knows he's playing with fire. Despite Richard's determination to protect her from his dastardly reputation, he is tested at every turn by his need for the infuriating, but enticing, Lady Evie. Before too long he is faced with making an impossible choice
Read an Excerpt
"Oh, Rich, how naughty you are," the Viscountess Benchley said with a breathless laugh.
Lord Richard George Maitland tugged her into his lap, his fingers moving with deft skill as they slipped under the skirts of her gown and inched their way up to her thighs. He moved with slow, sensual intent, allowing her to understand what he wanted and that he was about to take her. Despite the teasing way he licked at her lips and circled her inner thighs, when he tumbled her he wanted it quick and hard.
"Open your legs."
Arousal darkened her gaze, and she dropped her forehead to his. "Here? You mean ... for us to make love here, in Lady Gladstone's gardens?"
A smile tipped the corner of his lips. "Fucking. That is what I offer you, Maria."
She quivered, panting at his crudeness.
"Do you object?"
"No ... I ... Yes — my husband."
He stilled. "Then return inside."
"Visit me tonight," Maria said, wetting her lips. "My husband will be at his club and I —"
Suddenly he was bored — of her, the house party, and even with his damned charmed life. He gently pushed her from his lap, picked up his glass of champagne, and stood. Distress glittered in her gaze as if she instinctively recognized he was ending a liaison that had not even gotten the chance to be established. They had been dancing around each other for weeks, and he had been a tad bit reluctant, for he had never taken a married woman to his bed before. The idea had held enormous appeal an hour ago, but now a bitter flavor of distaste coated his tongue. How fickle women were with their love and favors. Only a few months ago, society had declared the viscountess's marriage a love match.
God's blood, it was laughable.
"Go inside to your husband, Maria. You made your choice when you married your viscount; do your duty to him. The damn fool reveres the very ground upon which you walk. Try to find in your inconstant heart some affection and respect for the man."
Her face reddened and a hand fluttered to her throat. "Please, Richard."
She stretched up on her toes and pressed a wet kiss against his lips. Not very well done at all. No doubt she meant to entice him with her passion, instead she slobbered over his chin like an eager pup. He gently eased her from him. "Return inside. Dance with your husband and reserve your passions for him. I was very foolish to even contemplate a dalliance with you."
He ignored her gasp of hurt and turned away only to falter. Lady Aurelia, Countess Trenear, stood frozen, her eyes flitting between Richard and Maria. The countess was the epitome of beauty, sheathed in an icy blue gown that clung to her willowy frame. Her dark auburn hair curled becomingly against her cheek, and her light blue eyes glowed with wariness. Those arms had once held him close as they strained together toward ecstasy. Deep inside, he had dreaded his reaction to seeing her again, but he was now curiously indifferent.
"Hello, Richard," she said with a tentative smile. Maria glanced between them, then, with a sob, fled.
The countess strolled closer. "Lady Benchley seems distressed." At his silence, Aurelia continued. "How lovely to see you again, Richard. It's been a while."
It had been two years since he had been foolish enough to tell her he loved her and asked her to marry him. She had been mercenary enough to reject his hand because he was a second son, despite the fact she had been carrying his child. After her refusal, he had approached her father, hoping to secure his approval. The courage it had taken to face the earl after Richard had seduced his daughter and gotten her with child had been no easy feat. It hardly mattered Aurelia had been a willing participant and that there were times Richard felt as if he had been the one to fall under her charms and wiles. He had still felt like a cad, a libertine, and undeserving of her.
Her father had been even more heartless in his refusal of Richard's offer.
"Countess," he said flatly with a short, mocking bow.
He chuckled roughly when her hands fluttered delicately to wrap around her middle, and her lips formed a moue of regret, her eyes glittering with unshed tears. There was nothing frail about her — she had been happily persuaded by her ambitions to terminate their child and marry a man twice her age ... all for a wealth and prestige he'd had no hopes of accomplishing. Every secret smile across the dance floor of a ball, the sighs of happiness and completion, the promises ... God, the promises, they had all been sweet lies he'd eagerly lapped up.
The mere memory of how his heart had pounded with anguished hope as he'd tried to hammer at her resistance filled him with disgust.
"You disappeared from society's events with no words after ... after ..." She laughed nervously and wetted her lips. An action that once would have filled him with raging need for her. Richard was damned grateful the only thing stirring inside of him was impatience. After her betrayal, he joined the army as a reporting officer. His love for her had been in vain, and he'd been unable to stay in London. It would have been unbearable for him to pretend indifference and idly stand by as she became the Countess of Trenear, so he had fled.
The past two years had seen him living on the edge of danger, scouting out trouble for the army, even behind enemy lines. His devil-may-care attitude had left him intact apart from a couple of minor scratches. He did not mention his commission to his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Salop, who seemed unconcerned to see so little of him. When on furlough in London he did not wear his uniform or mention the war. His friends' questions as to his whereabouts were ignored or answered enigmatically with "Here and there."
From the tone of his father's letters, which Richard's valet sent on to Portugal and reached him erratically, they assumed he was living a life of wild debauchery abroad. His man, Timmons, continued to live in Richard's lodgings and answer social invitations on his behalf, declining those he would not be able to attend. Timmons was the only person he bothered to communicate with back in England.
Somehow the polite world thought he was a disreputable rake.
Rubbish, of course. He'd only removed the desire in his heart to marry, and he did not believe in the idiocy of love. He would never again place his trust in the sweet lies that spilled from a woman's lips. When ladies made their choice of husband, their criteria were based on wealth and societal power, not tender sentiments.
When he was in England, he gambled, raced rather recklessly at times, and he tupped women of all classes. He'd come to realize the women of high society were just as free with their favors as those who walked the dirtiest streets of London. The ladies of the ton were simply more cunning and diabolically discreet. Did any of them truly believe in honor and fidelity? He had yet to meet a lady who was constant. Even his mother had a discreet lover to which his father turned a blind eye for reasons beyond Richard's understanding.
"Where have you been, Richard?"
"I'm not interested in this ... whatever the bloody hell this is," he said, spreading his hands to encompass them.
"Please, you have no idea how much I've regretted —"
She gasped as he stepped in so close she was almost flush to his chest. "The only thing I regret, Aurelia, is that I did not see your true character before I made a fool of myself."
She paled. "I —" Her throat worked on a swallow. "Please, listen to me."
"What could we possibly have to say to each other?"
"I thought we could be friends. I've missed you. What we had was —"
His harsh bark of laughter had a flush covering her face.
"We had nothing. I offered you marriage and my love, and you refused because the earl had more wealth and influence to help your family. I am not interested in your overtures of friendship, Lady Trenear. Do not approach me again, my cordiality and forgiveness will extend only so far."
He stepped away from her and walked deeper into the beautiful gardens, away from the revelry of the well-attended house party. Why in God's name had he even accepted the invitation? He should have traveled down to Derbyshire with his older brother, Francis, or to the seaside. Anything would have been better than this intolerable gathering.
Richard rounded a corner and passed a maze, moving to the hidden alcove. As he drew closer, the sound of awful retching reached his ears. A few seconds later the scene came into view and the explanation for the offensive sounds made itself evident. A young lady was bent over, casting up her accounts and groaning. He considered leaving, he'd had enough interactions with females to last him the month, but a sob hiccupped from her and then more of that blasted retching.
"May I offer you any assistance?"
She muffled a squeak and lurched upright from her bent-over position so fast she stumbled. She lifted a handkerchief that was crushed in her hands to dab at her lips. Her cheeks turned a pretty shade of pink. "I am terribly mortified!"
Her eyes were red and a bit swollen from crying, her nose, too, if he was not mistaken. Her cheeks were splotched and even the curls caressing her cheeks were limp. Beneath the dishevelment, the young lady was ravishing with her golden hair and eyes so green they were like the grass they stood upon. Holy God, she is beautiful. Her frame was petite but elegant, with lushly sensual curves. His cock twitched and flexed, and the boredom that had been coursing through his veins dissipated.
"Who are you?" The question slipped from him before he'd even formed the thought.
A severe frown lowered her brows. "I should wait to be introduced, otherwise it will be highly improper."
He glanced down. "I've seen you casting up your accounts. Under the current circumstances, I believe we have gone past the bloody need for strict formality."
Her eyes widened, and she retreated a few steps. At least she hadn't swooned or dissolved into a fit of hysterics at his lack of subtlety. He sent a swift prayer to the heavens for small mercies. "Will you permit me your name?"
She scowled and remained muted. Apparently, he'd encountered a young lady who did not find him charming. After an awkward silence, he said with a short bow, "Lord Richard Maitland at your service."
She canted her head to one side, her curious eyes considering him, dissecting him with their beautiful piercing quality. "Are you a despoiler of innocence?"
Well ... he'd not expected that bit of forthrightness. "I beg your pardon?"
Her eyes flashed. "Are you a rake, a libertine, a degenerate, a despoiler of innocence?"
Good God. He reflected on the reputation that had been following him. A libertine of the first order. "No."
She made a skeptical sound. "How are you acquainted with my family?"
"Lord and Lady Gladstone are your parents?"
"I am good friends with your brother, Elliot, Viscount Ravenswood. We were friends at Eton and then Oxford. We share a love of thoroughbreds. He invited me here. Are you his little Evie who hounded him to play tea whenever he visited from school for the holidays?"
The mistrust in her eyes abated, and she took a deep breath, then offered him a radiant smile. Bloody hell.
"I never knew Elliot spoke of me with affection."
"It was more mild annoyance."
She sobered and he felt extraordinarily bereft to see her smile vanish. He vaguely recalled Ravenswood hammering about his younger sister with affection. Good Christ, the man had made it sound like she was an annoying child with pigtails. This young lady inspired lustful thoughts of tangled limbs atop pristine sheets. Not well done of him at all, to even have such a thought of the young lady.
"I daresay all brothers believe sisters are nuisances."
"Though there were a few amusing anecdotes that hinted at affection," he hurriedly said, in the event he'd bruised her sensibilities.
Her eyes twinkled as if she knew he fibbed. "I am pleased to meet you, Lord Richard, though the circumstance of our acquaintanceship is rather worrisome. I'm Lady Evelyn Chesterfield. My friends call me Evie."
"Pleased to meet you ... Lady Evelyn. Would you like to rinse?" he asked, offering his champagne glass.
She stepped forward, searching his face. "I ... yes, thank you," she said so politely it pulled a smile to his lips. She clutched the glass and took a large mouthful, before turning away. Seconds later she bent slightly and spat the contents from her mouth. She faced him and held the glass to him.
"You may drink it, if you wish."
"It would be impolite of me to do so."
Richard arched a brow. He would never understand the infernal rules that governed women of society. "I shall not inform a soul."
She blinked, then glanced down at the golden liquid in the glass. Without speaking, she tipped it to her mouth and consumed it all. Then she licked the small droplets from the corner of her lips. The front of his breeches tightened embarrassingly. His passions had never behaved in such an unruly manner before.
What is it about her?
It was her mouth, he finally decided. Her lips, in particular, he found alluring. Interest stirred inside him along with a dash of arousal. Now they stood so close, he realized she was much younger than he'd initially surmised. "How old are you?" "Fifteen."
His heart lurched in acute discomfort, and he stepped away. His cock had gotten hard for a mere girl. Bloody hell, he was a cad. Richard scrubbed a hand over his face.
"Where is your chaperone? Your governess?" he demanded through gritted teeth. It hardly mattered some debutantes on the marriage mart married at fifteen, he found the notion distasteful. "Why are you alone in the gardens?"
"I slipped away," she said, as if it should have been evident.
Her lips flattened and tears welled in her eyes, but she remained stubbornly silent.
"Should I summon the countess?"
She watched him with an air of anxiety. "No, please, my mother would not be forgiving of my disobedience. I should not be mingling with the guests."
With a careful show of nonchalance, he folded his arms and leaned against the side of a fountain. She was Ravenswood's sister, and Richard had not lied about the close connection with her brother. He could not in good conscience leave her in distress. It surprised him to discover he still possessed a damn conscience. "I've been told I am quite a tolerable listener."
Her lids lowered, hiding her gaze from his, and her eyelashes trembled against her cheeks. "I am grateful for the kind offer, but I couldn't impose."
"It's no imposition. I promise whatever we discuss shall remain with me." He made the motion of locking his lips with a key.
Lady Evelyn remained stubbornly silent, and the need to have her confide in him welled inexplicably. "I ..." He cleared his throat. "Whenever I take a bath I sing."
Her eyes widened and then narrowed thoughtfully. "I indulge in such pastimes. That is hardly a secret."
Devil take it. The last thing he wanted now was thoughts of her naked in a bathtub. "I once sang to a dying soldier ... a friend." And cried with the man, too, though he would not tell her that part.
Her lips parted in surprise. "Such an action is commendable. I'm sure it offered some comfort."
"Alas, I was so terrible at it, Frankie couldn't die in any form of peace, so he is quite alive today."
Her lips twitched. "I'm much relieved your friend recovered." She took a deep breath and exhaled before squaring her shoulders and meeting his scrutiny. "My birthday is tomorrow."
It seemed more palatable that he'd felt desire for a girl of sixteen. He thrust his hands into his pockets. "And this distresses you how?" It perplexed him that he was conversing with a girl over her vomit as if it were an ordinary undertaking.
As if she read his mind, she glanced down at the mess still too close to her satin slippers. "Would you like to leave?"
The offer was made with evident reluctance. "I'm fine if you are. I, too, wished for solitude from the crush. The lawns are filled with croquet players and the lake with row boats."
A relieved smile lit her entire face, and Richard froze. Truly exquisite.
He cleared his throat. "However, if you would permit me to conceal the evidence?"
Excerpted from "How To Marry A Marquess"
Copyright © 2017 Stacy Reid.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.