Lady Arabella Danvers is happy with her life just the way it is. She is free to be herself and take care of broken and abandoned animals. Her mother is desperate for her to marry, and has decided to take things into her own hands. There is just one little problem with her plan.
Nash, the Earl of Clarendon has determined it is time to take a wife. He has selected a woman to whom he intends to propose. However, the annoying Lady Arabella has stumbled into his life at the wrong time, and in the wrong place.
But he of all people should know if Lady Arabella is involved, plans will go awry.
Each book in the Lords&Ladies in Love series is STANDALONE:
* Seducing the Marquess
* Marrying the Wrong Earl
* Denying the Duke
* Wagering For Miss Blake
* Captivating the Earl
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About the Author
Callie Hutton, the USA Today bestselling author of The Elusive Wife writes both Regency and western historical romance, with “historic elements and sensory details” (The Romance Reviews). Callie lives in Oklahoma with several rescue dogs and her top cheerleader husband of many years. Her family also includes her daughter, son, and daughter-in-law. And twin grandsons “The Twinadoes.”
Callie loves to hear from readers. Contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her online at www.calliehutton.com. Sign up for her newsletter to receive information on new releases, appearances, contests and exclusive subscriber content. Visit her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
Callie Hutton has written over twenty-five books, both western historical and Regency. See a complete list of her books: www.calliehutton.com
Read an Excerpt
Marrying the Wrong Earl
Lords and Ladies of Love The Series
By Callie Hutton, Erin Molta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Callie Hutton
All rights reserved.
London, England, April 1820
Lady Arabella Danvers stared in horror as the Earl of Pembroke groaned and slid his vast body off the settee, landing with a thump onto one knee. He took her hand in his fleshy, sweaty one. "My lady —"
She sucked in a breath. "No, please, my lord. Do rise. Sit alongside me." She patted the settee, frantic to keep him from proposing. She'd known for some time what his intentions were but had hoped her lack of interest would have dissuaded him. Of course, she'd been well trained in how to word a refusal-of-marriage offer, but each time she'd had to do it, she'd suffered for days afterward seeing the pain of rejection in the gentleman's eyes.
"I must say this, Lady Arabella. I have admired you for some time now. You must know of my interest —"
"Perhaps I should send for more tea ..." She attempted to tug her hand loose from his grip, to no avail. Her mother had left the room several minutes ago, leaving her not properly chaperoned, so apparently, Pembroke's fumbling attempt at a proposal was not a surprise to Mother.
"I hold you in a great deal of esteem." He continued on as if she hadn't spoken. "I would like at this time to ask you —"
"My lady?" Arabella breathed a sigh of relief as the butler, Tavers, entered the drawing room. "Lady Elizabeth and Miss Caroline Davis have come to call."
She smiled brightly at Lord Pembroke. "Perhaps you should rise, my lord."
He glowered at the butler then gave Arabella a wan smile. "Yes, yes, of course. I will continue this another time." He awkwardly shifted his girth to stand but instead fell halfway, practically landing on her.
"Lady Arabella, how wonderful to see you." Lady Elizabeth and her cousin, Miss Caroline Davis, glided into the room. Pembroke rearranged himself, red faced and puffing, attempting to regain his dignity. Arabella hopped up to greet her guests. The three kissed the air next to each other's cheeks, exclaiming over gowns and bonnets. No one seemed to notice Lord Pembroke, who gave a soft cough.
"Oh dear, my lord, I did not see you there." Lady Elizabeth gave him a slight curtsy, as did Miss Caroline, who murmured, "My lord."
"Good afternoon, ladies." He turned to Arabella. "I will leave you now to visit with your friends. May I have the pleasure of escorting you on a drive tomorrow afternoon?"
Lady Elizabeth and Miss Caroline both turned to Arabella with raised eyebrows.
"Yes, indeed. Lady Arabella would love a ride tomorrow afternoon, wouldn't you, dear?" Arabella's missing mother, Lady Melrose, hurried into the room, all sunshine and happiness.
"Actually, Mother, I had planned to ..." She halted, unable to think fast enough.
Mother jumped right in. "Nonsense, a ride in the park would be just the thing. You spend far too much time doing whatever it is you normally do in the afternoons." She took Lord Pembroke's arm and walked him out of the room, her voice fading as she chatted away.
"Lord Pembroke?" Lady Elizabeth adjusted her skirts as she settled on a chair across from the settee where Arabella sat. "I had no idea."
"There is no idea. I know the man intends to propose, but I will not be accepting." Arabella filled teacups for herself and her two visitors. "Although I am not foolish enough to want love in a marriage, I would at least prefer to like the man I'll spend the rest of my life with." She shuddered as she took a sip of her tea. "And I can assure you, that will not be Lord Pembroke."
Miss Caroline took a small biscuit from a tray on the table in front of them. "It sounds as though your mother has other ideas."
"Yes, I know. I do wish she would stop pushing me to marry. Due to Papa's declining health, and then his death, I started late, so I've only had one Season. Is it so terrible for me to not take the first man who offers marriage?"
"Pembroke is the third man you have turned down, young lady." Lady Melrose swept into the drawing room, a frown marring her still-lovely complexion. A frown Arabella had noticed was, of late, a perpetual expression for her once-carefree mother.
Since Arabella was an only child, the family estate had passed into the hands of a distant relative who was currently conducting business in India. They had been told by their solicitor the new Earl of Melrose was expected to return to England and take up residency in the fall.
Unfortunately, Arabella's late father had enjoyed a predilection for whiskey and faro, and a total lack of interest in the preservation of his estate. Mother had impressed upon Arabella several times that once her dowry was paid, there would be no funds left for her support, so unless her daughter took her in, she would have nowhere to live.
Via their solicitor, the new earl had offered to allow Lady Melrose to continue living at the estate, but her mother had turned up her nose at that offer. She would live with her newly married daughter, she'd sniffed.
"I've hardly turned down three ideal offers, Mother. Lord Pembroke never got the words out, and Mr. Featherington and Baron Smythe are both old enough to be my grandfather."
"Which is to your advantage, miss. They are both wealthy men and will die soon."
At Arabella's indrawn breath, her mother waved her hand. "No need for hysterics, young lady. It is a fact that both men were looking for a wife in order to have an heir before they cocked up their toes."
And I do not wish to be someone's broodmare.
If she said that out loud her mother would most definitely swoon, and a half hour would pass trying to restore her sensibilities. Instead, Arabella waved at the teapot. "Would you care for some tea, Mother?" Lady Elizabeth and Miss Caroline had pretended they hadn't heard the exchange by softly mumbling to each other. But Arabella had no doubt they took in every word and would soon use it as fodder for their next morning call. Honestly, why couldn't Mother be a bit more circumspect?
"No tea, thank you, daughter. I am off to the milliner's. I will see you at dinner before we depart for the Ashbourne ball."
Arabella groaned inwardly at the reminder. At present, one of Arabella's animal patients was in dire need of supervision while it recovered from its injuries. The last time she had left one of the downstairs maids in charge of a patient, the poor thing had died.
Mother thought her concern for animals, and her desire to nurture them back to health, a nasty hobby. On the other hand, Arabella saw it as a way of keeping her brain from melting with all the talk of ribbons, gowns, gossip, and other nonsense most of the ton ladies lived for.
She'd already heard whispers at various events about her passion for animals and how unseemly it was for a young lady to delve into such goings-on. She sighed. Another reason she so disliked attending these functions.
Later that afternoon, Arabella entered the spare bedchamber where she kept the various animals under her care. The scant sunlight coming through the west window cast a soft glow over three dogs, one bird, and two cats. All had been injured in some way. She had been rescuing and treating animals since she was a young girl. Over Mother's objections, Arabella continued to not only bring home injured animals, but accept those poor creatures who appeared at the back door of their townhouse. Despite the whisperings at social events, word of her healing skills had spread throughout London, and those unable to care for their injured pets brought them to her.
She could not remember a time when she did not love caring for animals. As a young girl, more comfortable with the family's groom than other girls of her class, she'd spent time learning about horses and their care. That knowledge had driven her to various books on veterinary practices, and then eventually to helping other injured animals.
"Well, look at you, Miss Aphrodite. You appear well today." She addressed the large white long-haired cat which ran her pink tongue over her fur. The animal continued her ministrations, ignoring Arabella. Something she did on a regular basis. The gash on the left side of her body was slowly healing. Arabella had sewn her up, and did her best to keep the cat from licking the wound.
Arabella would bring the cat to the elderly Lady Oswald, who had agreed to take Miss Aphrodite when Arabella had mentioned her to the ladies at her morning calls. Arabella placed the basket on the floor and carefully lifted the cat and placed her inside. "I know you will just love your new home. Lady Oswald is quite anxious to have your company."
Since it was a pleasant day, Arabella and her maid, Sophia, elected to walk through the park to reach Lady Oswald's house. The air was unseasonably warm, and the soft breeze tickled the hair that had escaped her bonnet, blowing the wisps into her eyes. The blanket over the top of the basket where Miss Aphrodite rested began to shift. "I believe our passenger has awakened from her nap."
Lifting the blanket, Arabella stared down at the animal, who stared right back at her. Before she could even say a word, the cat jumped from the basket and raced away.
"Miss Aphrodite, come back!" Arabella handed the basket to Sophia then picked up her skirts and, abandoning all dignity, dashed after the cat. "Come back," she yelled, ignoring the people around her who turned to gawk in her direction.
The cat tore over the ground, apparently chasing a small rodent. Arabella placed her hand on her bonnet, which threatened to sail from her head. The cat continued on, and Arabella was beginning to get a stitch in her side when a young gentleman headed toward her from the other direction. Right in Miss Aphrodite's path. "My lord, can you please catch my cat?"
Apparently deep in thought as he enjoyed a stroll, the man looked up just as the rodent ran up his leg. Miss Aphrodite hurled herself at his chest, the weight of her body knocking him backward into a tree. Waving his hands to avoid the mouse and the cat, he slammed into the trunk, slid down, and landed in a puddle of muddy water. His hat flew off, and Miss Aphrodite jumped from his shoulder onto the tree, scaling the branches, disappearing from sight.
* * *
Nash, the Earl of Clarendon, stared stupidly at the woman who raced up to him, holding her side and panting. "I'm so sorry, my lord. Are you well?"
"Lady Arabella?" With his legs stretched out, he shook his head, trying to clear it, and stared up at her. He remembered her from a few social events they'd attended together. If his memory was correct, she was a friend of his sister, Eugenia, Marchioness of Devon.
"Yes. Oh my goodness, Lord Clarendon. I am so very sorry." Her face was flushed, her bonnet askew, her eyes — for lack of a better word — wild. That look, however, did not detract from the girl's visage. Lady Arabella was, indeed, a very attractive young lady. Not that this was the time to dwell on such a thing.
He placed his hand on the soft, muddy ground and jumped up. The back of his breeches clung to him in such a way that he knew they were mud filled. As was his glove, he noticed with chagrin. "What happened?"
"My cat." She continued to pant and barely got the words out.
"Yes. She got out of my basket." She pointed behind her to where a woman, obviously a maid, hurried up, carrying a basket with a blanket draped over it. Lady Arabella looked behind him, up at the branches of the tree. "Oh dear. She's climbed up, and now she can't come down."
Just as she uttered the words, a loud howl came from above. The devil take it, was the animal now going to drop on his head?
Lady Arabella glanced frantically from the top of the tree to him. "My lord, can I ask a favor of you?"
Still trying to process everything that had just happened, he looked at her for a minute before answering. "A favor?"
"Yes, please. Can you climb the tree and rescue my cat?" She chewed her lower lip, which would have appealed to him if he wasn't standing in wet, muddy breeches, with an animal yowling over his head.
"Climb the tree?" Surely the woman was daft. This was Hyde Park, for heaven's sake, not his country estate where he'd done such things as a lad. "I am sorry, my lady, but I fear I am not dressed for tree climbing. Animals are most adept at rescuing themselves."
She waved at the animal howling above his head. "What sort of a gentleman are you? You would walk off and leave that poor animal in distress?" Her voice rose on the last few words.
Nash glanced around at the two couples who strolled nearby, who were watching the exchange with a bit too much interest and humor. The last thing he wanted was to draw more attention to himself.
"Please?" Apparently, she felt a change of tactics would work better. Her irresistible hazel eyes filled with tears, and her plump lower lip quivered. Bloody, bloody hell. The one thing he could not countenance was a woman's tears. He ran his hand down his face before he remembered his glove was muddy.
"I just smeared mud all over my face, did I not?"
She nodded and continued to chew her lip. At least she had the good sense not to laugh, as he was sure she was wont to do. The cat continued to screech, and to his horror, a crowd was gathering. "Very well." He stripped off the muddy gloves, then his coat. The sooner he got the blasted animal out of the tree and back into its basket, the sooner he could go home, have a bath, and down a very large glass of brandy.
"Oh, thank you so much." She stood, wringing her hands.
"Yes, well. Let's have at it." He grabbed a low-lying branch above his head and swung himself up. He balanced on the branch and reached, but was not high enough to grab the irritating cat.
"Miss Aphrodite, come down, please. Let this nice gentleman help you."
Nash looked down, his eyes wide. "Miss Aphrodite?"
"Yes. That's her name."
"If you call her by her name she might warm up to you and come down," she shouted up at him.
He was already making a spectacle of himself in the tree, his arse covered in mud, and dried, caked dirt on his face. He would damn well not call the animal by that ridiculous moniker. "Come here, kitty."
That sounded no better. The cat wailed and looked down at him. He grabbed another branch and moved higher. Reaching out, he almost had her when she hissed and leaped right at him, her nails clinging to his waistcoat. "Ouch!"
He grabbed the animal by its back fur just as a loud sneeze erupted from his nose. Nash wrapped his arm around the branch next to him as he sneezed several more times.
"Oh my lord. Are you allergic to cats?"
He looked down at Lady Arabella. "I've never been this close to one before, so apparently, I am, my lady." He began his descent, trying to hang on to the hissing, scratching cat. More sneezes. "I will drop the animal, if you can catch it."
"Oh no, my lord. She will just run off again."
Bloody hell. The best thing that could happen to any of them was to have the blasted cat run off. As far away from him as possible. He continued to hang on to the feline until he jumped to the ground. He heard the sound of fabric tearing as his feet landed. Nash closed his eyes and groaned when he realized the back of his breeches had just split.
With a scowl, he turned the cat over to Lady Arabella, who purred and talked nonsense to the devil-feline. She tucked the creature into the basket and covered it with the cloth once more.
"I suggest you remove that animal before it runs off again." He took out a handkerchief and attempted to brush some of the dried dirt from his face.
"How can I possibly thank you, my lord?" Lady Arabella's face shone with happiness as she tucked the blanket snugly around the basket. The animal did not move, seemingly worn out from its adventure.
"You can thank me by never allowing that — thing — out of the house again." He sneezed once more and wiped his nose. He retrieved his coat from the grass and shrugged into it, hoping it covered enough of his breeches to allow him a dignified retreat from the park. "Now, I will bid you good day, Lady Arabella." He bowed as if he wasn't covered in mud, with a tear in his breeches, and his face dirty. Turning on his heel, he strode out of the park and toward his townhouse.
* * *
Later that evening, Nash descended the stairs to the Ashbourne ballroom to join his sister, Eugenia, and her husband, Lord Devon. He squashed the urge to turn tail and run when he noticed Lady Arabella standing next to Eugenia, chatting away. Just watching her, he felt a sneeze coming on. She certainly looked a lot better than she had the last time he'd seen her. Of course, he imagined he looked more restored, as well.
Earlier, his valet, Andrews, had sniffed his disapproval at the condition in which Nash had returned home. With raised eyebrows, but no comment — none was necessary — he had helped Nash out of his clothes and, holding them by his fingertips, marched across the room to drop them into a bundle on the floor. "A bath, my lord?"
"Yes. But a large glass of brandy first."
Excerpted from Marrying the Wrong Earl by Callie Hutton, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2017 Callie Hutton. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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