Demon Cynster has seen love bring his brethren to their knees, and he's vowed that he will not share their fate ... until he spies Felicity Parteger sneaking about his racing stable. Demon remembers Felicity as a mere chit of a girl, but now she stands before him, all lush curves and sparkling eyes...
Felicity knows Demon was one of the town's most eligible bachelors and a rogue of the worst sort, but he was the only one capable of getting her friend out of trouble. She knows Demon will never yield her the love she desperately seeks, but could a marriage of passion alone be enough?
About the Author
#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science, a hobby that quickly became a career. Her novels set in Regency England have captivated readers around the globe, making her one of the romance world's most beloved and popular authors.
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A Rogue's Proposal
March 1, 1820
Unfettered freedom! He′d escaped.
With an arrogant smile, Harold Henry Cynster - Demon to everyone, even to his mother in her weaker moments - drew his curricle to a flourishing halt in the yard behind his Newmarket stable. Tossing the reins to his groom, Gillies, who leaped from the back of the elegant equipage to catch them, Demon stepped down to the cobbles. In a buoyant mood, he ran a loving hand over the glossy bay hide of his leader and scanned the yard with a proprietorial eye.
There was not a scheming mama or disapproving, gimlet-eyed dowager in sight.
Bestowing a last fond pat on his horse′s shoulder, Demon headed for the open rear door of the stable. He′d left London at midday, unexpectedly content to have the breeze blow the cloying perfume of a certain lascivious countess from his brain. More than content to leave behind the ballrooms, the parties, and the myriad traps the matchmaking mamas laid for gentlemen such as he. Not that he′d found any difficulty in evading such snares, but, these days, there was a certain scent on the breeze, a presentiment of danger he was too experienced to ignore.
First his cousin Devil, then his own brother Vane, and now his closest cousin, Richard-who next of their select band of six, the Bar Cynster as they were called, would fate cause to trip into the arms of a loving wife?
Whoever it was, it wouldn′t be him.
Pausing before the open doors of the stable, he swung around, eyes squinting in the slanting sunlight. Some of his horses were ambling in the paddocks with their lads in close attendance. On the Heath beyond, other stables′ strings were exercising under the eyes of owners and trainers.
The scene was an exclusively male one. The fact that he felt entirely at home - indeed, could feel himself relaxing - was ironic. He could hardly claim he didn′t like women, didn′t enjoy their company. Hadn′t - didn′t - devote considerable time to their conquest.
He couldn′t deny he took pleasure in, and derived considerable satisfaction from, those conquests. He was, after all, a Cynster.
He smiled. All that was true. However...
Whereas the other members of the Bar Cynster, as wealthy, well-born gentlemen, had accepted the fact that they would marry and establish families in the time honoured tradition, he had vowed to be different. He′d vowed never to marry, never to tempt the fate with which his brother and cousins had fenced and lost. Marriage to fulfill society′s obligations was all very well, but to marry a lady one loved had been the baneful fate of all male Cynsters to date.
A baneful fate indeed for a warrior breed - to be forever at the mercy of a woman. A woman who held one′s heart, soul and future in her small, delicate hands.
It was enough to make the strongest warrior blanch.
He was having none of it.
Casting a last glance around the neat yard, approving the swept cobbles, the fences in good repair, Demon turned and entered the main stable housing his racing string. Afternoon stables had already commenced - he would view his exercising horses alongside his very capable trainer, Carruthers.
Demon was on his way to his stud farm, located three miles farther south of the racecourse in the gently undulating countryside bordering the Heath. As he had every intention of avoiding marriage for the term of his natural life, and the current atmosphere in London had turned fraught with the Season about to start, and his aunts, as well as his mother, fired with the excitement of weddings, wives and the consequent babies, so he′d elected to lie low and see out the Season from the safe distance of his stud farm and the unthreatening society of Newmarket.
Fate would have no chance to sneak up on him here.
Looking down to avoid the inevitable detritus left by his favoured darlings, he strolled unhurriedly up the long central alley. Boxes loomed to his left and right, all presently empty. At the other end of the building, another pair of doors stood open to the Heath. The day was fine, with a light breeze lifting manes and flicking long tails - his horses were out, doing what they did best. Running.
After spending the last hours with the sun warming his shoulders, the stable′s shadows felt cool. A chill unexpectedly washed over the back of his shoulders, then coalesced into an icy tingle and slithered all the way down his spine.
Demon frowned and wriggled his shoulders. Reaching the point where the alley widened into the mounting area, he stopped and looked up.
A familiar sight met his eyes - a lad or work rider swinging a leg over the sleek back of one of his champions. The horse was facing away, wide bay rump to him; Demon recognised one of his current favourites, an Irish gelding sure to run well in the coming season. That, however, was not what transfixed him, rooting his boots to the floor.
He could see nothing of the rider bar his back and one leg. The lad wore a cloth cap pulled low on his head, a shabby hacking jacket and baggy corduroy breeches.
Baggy except in one area - where they pulled tight over the rider′s rear as he swung his leg over the saddle.
Carruthers stood beside the horse, issuing instructions. The lad dropped into the saddle, then stood in the stirrups to adjust his position. Again, corduroy strained and shifted.
Demon sucked in a breath. Eyes narrowing, jaw firming, he strode forward.
Carruthers slapped the horse′s rump. Nodding, the rider trotted the horse, The Mighty Flynn, out into the sunshine.
Carruthers swung around, squinting as Demon came up. "Oh, it′s you." Despite the abrupt greeting and the dour tone, there was a wealth of affection in Carruthers′s old eyes. "Come to see how they′re shaping, have ye?"
Demon nodded, his gaze locked on the rider atop The Mighty Flynn. "Indeed."
With Carruthers, he strolled in the wake of The Flynn, the last of his horses to go out on the Heath...A Rogue's Proposal. Copyright © by Stephanie Laurens. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.