Once a Gentleman384
When two friends are found in a compromising situation, their marriage of convenience turns into something neither was looking for ... and something neither can live without.
Nicholas Parrish wakes one morning to pounding at the front door of his London townhouse. Standing before him is the irate father of Prudence Armitage and several of her scowling brothers. They accuse him of compromising Prudence, and to his astonishment the woman in question walks out of his study, looking as if she's just been roused from her bed! Prudence had a tiring night putting the finishing touches to The Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet, the magazine she and Nicholas, along with his sister Edwina, have been working on.
With Edwina on an extended wedding trip, Prudence had wanted everything to be perfect. But she fell asleep at her desk, and when she walks out of the office and sees her family ready to murder the man she had secretly had a crush on, Prudence is appalled. And when a marriage is forced between them, she is devastated. The damage is done, though, and now she's determined to make things right between herself and her new husband . . . by making him fall in love with her.
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|Series:||Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet Trilogy , #3|
|File size:||1 MB|
About the Author
Candice Hern is the award-winning author of historical romances set during the English Regency, a period she knows well through years of collecting antiques and fashion prints of the era. She travels to England regularly, always in search of more historical and local color to help bring her books to life.
Read an Excerpt
Once a Gentleman
By Hern, Candice
Avon BooksISBN: 0060565144
"I might have known I'd find you here." Prudence Armitage looked up at the sound of the familiar voice. The warm smile that greeted her set off the tiniest fluttering in her breast, involuntary and inevitable. She had known Nicholas Parrish over four years, and he could still make her weak in the knees with that smile. Fortunately, she was seated at the moment and in no danger of an embarrassing collapse.
She quickly removed her spectacles and tucked them into the pocket of her skirt.
"You've been working late almost every night," he said. "You ought to go home, Pru, before you wear yourself out. What are you working on?"
She cleared her throat. Shy at the best of times, she was sometimes painfully so with Nicholas. Especially when alone with him, and that had happened all too frequently the last few months. "I am editing Mary Hays's latest essay on illustrious women of history," she said. The essay was intended for the next issue of The Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet, a popular monthly magazine of which Pru was temporarily in charge.
"Now, that's a job I don't envy," Nicholas said, "editing all that flowery prose. Chopping it up, are you?"
Pru smiled. "Only a bit. Edwina warned me that Mary has become very sensitive lately about any changes to her work. Somehow, though, I need to shave off half a column. If not here, then somewhere else."
Nicholas strode into the room and came to stand beside the desk, studying the various articles, letters, and essays strewn about the surface. "Feel free to cut whatever you think necessary from Augusta's article. I promise not to be the least insulted." He flashed a grin, creating little fans of creases around his twinkling dark eyes.
Nicholas wrote historical essays and biographical sketches under the pen name Augusta Historica. But as far as Pru was concerned, his prose, like everything else about him, was near perfect, and she wouldn't dream of modifying it. "Your essay this month is brilliant. I would sooner cut Mary's than yours." She looked away, embarrassed that he might find her words obsequious.
"You put me to the blush, my girl. But I'm sure you'll find a way to make it all work. You always do. That's why Edwina put you in charge during her absence. You're the only one who could possibly keep all this together." He made a sweeping gesture incorporating the entire room that served as an office for The Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet. "But you know you can call upon me for any help you require. I hate to see you putting in such long hours."
"Edwina did as much."
"My sister has been obsessed with the magazine since she took over as editor five years ago. It was her life, until recently. But I think it is a very good sign that she allowed herself to take an extended wedding trip to France, don't you?"
"Oh, yes." Pru had feared her stubborn friend had locked up her heart forever. She had been thrilled when Edwina finally admitted she was in love with Anthony Morehouse and married him.
Nicholas hitched one hip onto the desk and half sat on the edge. The fabric of his knee breeches pulled tight against a long, well-muscled thigh. Pru tore her gaze away. She would die of embarrassment if he realized how easily his nearness could discompose her.
"I must say, I was glad she and Morehouse hared off to Paris the moment travel restrictions were lifted," he said. "I know she hated to be away from the Cabinet for so long, but she needed to break away, to have something more in her life. As do you, my girl."
He reached out and chucked her lightly on the chin. Lord, how she wished he would not do that.
"It's too many nights now," he said, "I have seen the candles burning late down here."
Prudence wondered if he might be concerned with the number of candles she burned to the ends each week. The magazine's offices, such as they were, happened to be located on the ground floor of the town house Nicholas had long shared with his sister. Candles were a minor expense, but she was aware of his circumstances. She ought to have been more considerate. Starting tomorrow, she would bring her own candles.
"I am sorry to be staying so late again," she said, "but I so want to do a good job while Edwina's away. I don't want her to feel she must worry about anything when she should be enjoying herself. Thankfully, she is well organized -- "
"To a fault."
" -- and so it is easy enough to see what must be done each month. I will try to leave within an hour, and then you may have the house to yourself."
Prudence had often worked late with Edwina, but never as late as she had done since being left in charge. She wondered if her presence in his house was awkward for Nicholas. Though it pained her to consider it, what if he wanted to bring someone -- a woman -- home with him at night? As a gently bred spinster long on the shelf, she was not supposed to be aware of such things, but she had five brothers and was not a complete fool. As far as Nicholas was concerned, however, she would rather not know about that aspect of his life.
"Don't leave on my account," he said. "I am on my way out for the evening."
She had assumed as much from his dress. He wore satin knee breeches and stockings, and his shirt was frilled and pleated. No matter what he wore, he was one of the handsomest men she'd ever known -- dark, almost black hair and eyes; even, white teeth so often on display in a roguish smile; a tall, slender frame that moved with feline grace ...Continues...
Excerpted from Once a Gentleman by Hern, Candice Excerpted by permission.
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