He would do anything to protect her. Even marry her…
The son of a cold-hearted duke, Nicholas St. Mauer isn’t one to involve himself in society…or open his own heart to anyone. But driven by honor, the reclusive Earl of Somerton feels obliged to keep a watchful eye on Lady Emma Cavensham. She possesses a penchant for passions unbecoming a woman that finds Nick in constant peril of losing his well-structured solitude. She even dared kiss Nick once—an utterly unladylike, and delightful, lapse…
Emma can’t deny the appeal of the earl’s attention, and occasional affection, but she has no need for a man. There are worse fates than spinsterhood, as Emma knows too well. She still mourns the loss of her dear friend Lena, and is determined to prove Lena’s husband responsible for her death before he lures another innocent woman into a brutal marriage. But as Emma pursues her prey, a compromising moment upends all her plans. Now, with gossip swirling and her reputation in tatters, Nick may be the only man brave enough to join in Emma’s cause. . .and fight for her heart.
The Bride Who Got Lucky is a sweeping Regency romance from Janna MacGregor in her Cavensham Heiresses series.
Praise for Janna MacGregor’s THE BAD LUCK BRIDE
“Full-bodied romance…with intelligence and heart.”—Cathy Maxwell
“Sparkling.” —Publishers Weekly
“Will leave you swooning.”—Sabrina Jeffries
About the Author
Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She is the author of The Bad Luck Bride. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs. She loves to hear from readers.
Read an Excerpt
Fourteen years later London
Lady Emma Cavensham opened her beaded reticule and checked it twice. The fifty pounds she'd saved from her pin money lay folded neatly inside. As the carriage accelerated through Mayfair, she exhaled the tension that had been building all night. In its place, pure unencumbered joy burst free like fireworks in the night sky over Vauxhall.
It had taken meticulous planning, but her efforts would pay off. Tonight, she'd purchase the rare first edition of Bentham's Essays at the Black Falstaff Inn. She'd arrive within forty-five minutes, make the purchase, and return to Lady Dalton's ball all within two hours. Moreover, she'd celebrate with a defiant glass of ale in the public taproom like any other person. Well, more specifically, like a man.
Why should it make any difference she was young, unmarried, and a female? Why should it make any difference she was a duke's daughter? Even if society thought such action ruinous, she didn't see the harm. Society's strictures for appropriate behavior wouldn't keep her from attaining her goal tonight.
No one, not even her cousin Claire, who had escorted her to Lady Dalton's ball, had an inkling that she was on her way to meet Lord Paul Barstowe at an inn outside of London. After discovering he owned a rare copy of the coveted book, Emma had sent him a note earlier in the evening inviting him to the inn so she could make the acquisition. It was the perfect place to meet, as no one would recognize her.
Every piece of Emma's brilliant plan fit perfectly together. She'd pat herself on the back if she could reach it. She'd have the adventure under her proverbial belt along with Bentham's Essays and be back at the ball hopefully before Claire or anyone else knew she was missing. The groomsmen and driver who had picked her up from Lady Dalton's would keep her secrets.
"Whoa!" The loud command came from the driving box. The sudden stop practically threw Emma to the floor as the ducal carriage with its team of four came to an abrupt halt.
Quickly, she peeked outside the window. At the intersection of the street perpendicular to their route, a carriage similar to hers had stopped. Odd place to leave a vehicle, and there was no one milling around it. Not a single groomsman or coachman to be found. It was as if someone had abandoned it.
"What is it, Russell?" she called to one of the Duke of Langham's groomsmen.
Russell leaned down from the driving box. "I'm not certain, Lady Emma."
"Can we go around it?"
"No, my lady," he answered.
A man with a deep voice, one she didn't recognize, started to speak. Russell turned his attention to the stranger. Disaster loomed if she stuck her head out the carriage window and someone discovered her alone. Tamping down the urge to peek, she strained to hear the conversation. The even cadence and the rhythm of the stranger's words thrummed like a drumbeat, one that suddenly caused goose bumps to skate down her arms. Precious time was slipping through her fingers, and she couldn't afford any delays.
"Russell —" Before she could say more, the carriage door sprang open and a tall man dressed in black entered. When he closed the door, the carriage lurched forward, continuing the path they'd taken earlier.
"Who are you?" Her heart beat so hard she feared it'd explode from her chest.
With his back to her, the stranger blew out the sole carriage lantern that lit the interior. Then with a stealthy grace, he sat on the bench opposite of her.
Trouble had found her.
"Why did you extinguish the light?" Her voice quavered, betraying her unease.
Hidden in the shadows, he resembled some type of phantom, one who had settled into position ready to attack. He didn't waste a glance as he removed his hat and threw it on the bench next to him.
"Who are you?" she repeated as a hint of hysteria nipped at her reserve.
"Lady Emma," the man chided. "The light is out to lessen the chance someone might recognize you."
The stranger's rich but dark whisper intrigued her. Who was this mystery man who had taken control of her carriage? Short-lived, her curiosity faded when they passed by a streetlight.
"Lord Somerton," she hissed. The night she wanted to stay hidden, the elusive earl who rarely ever showed his face in society found her. This wasn't bad luck. This was fate playing a cruel joke and then laughing hysterically.
There was no denying he was breathtakingly handsome with his turquoise eyes and lithe stature. However, she couldn't be bothered with his looks or with him — not tonight. The earl's best friend just happened to be Claire's husband. Her parents would know of her adventure before the night was over.
Her goose was cooked.
"I'm at your service, Lady Emma," he drawled.
"I didn't ask for your service. What do you want?" With a deep breath, she subdued the petulance in her voice. She had to save the evening and her book. All she needed was a little charm. "Lord Somerton, I apologize for my manners. You've taken me by surprise."
Instead of heading straight, the carriage barreled through a sharp right turn causing her to slide across the leather seat. Certain a tumble to the floor was in her future, she braced for the fall.
With a gentle strength, he grabbed her around the waist, causing her to gasp. As if she were a fragile porcelain doll, he settled her on the bench.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"There's no need. I promised I'd bring you home safe and sound, and I plan on accomplishing it." He pulled the curtain aside for a moment. When he released it, he leaned back against the squab.
"Who asked you to bring me home?" She dreaded the answer but asked anyway.
"Your cousin and her husband," he offered.
She released the breath she'd been holding. It'd be difficult, but she could convince Claire not to tell her parents. The unknown was whether she could trust Claire's husband Pembrooke and the enigma sitting across from her.
She would salvage her evening. Somerton's presence was nothing more than a slight hindrance, much like an annoying gnat.
"My lord, I appreciate the escort, but I've other plans. Is there some place I could have the coachman drop you? White's perhaps?" Lud, her calm demeanor was astounding.
"No, thank you."
Bold action called for bold moves. If she told him her purpose, perhaps he'd leave her be. Surely, a man would understand the desire for a book. If he thought her a bluestocking, a woman who constantly had her nose in a book, it made little difference. She was going to capture her prize.
"I'm on my way to buy Bentham's Essays, first edition. For over a year, I've been hunting for it." In the darkness, she couldn't see his expression, making it difficult to gage his response. If only he hadn't extinguished the lantern.
"Have you thought of securing your book someplace else ... more respectable? I've heard there are these shops called bookstores," he teased.
She bit her lip to keep from lashing him with a verbal blistering. That would seal her doom. "Please, this is my only chance to make the purchase. I've sent inquiries to every bookstore within London to no avail. No one has it. Mr. Goodwin at Goodwin's Book Emporium thought he had found a seller ready to part with their copy, but unfortunately, the seller changed his mind."
"Goodwin?" he scoffed. "What the devil are you doing shopping at Goodwin's? That's not an acceptable shop for a young woman."
Though she couldn't see him, she sensed Somerton towered over her, his presence pushing her back into the squabs.
"Goodwin isn't known for his selection of books." He enunciated every word in a husky manner designed to frighten her. "His real business is selling information — he's a snitch, and a very successful one at that."
The impertinent Earl of Somerton would not intimidate her. She pulled herself forward to give him an appropriate setdown. Without warning, the carriage lurched, causing her forehead to bump his chin.
"Careful." His hand cupped the back of her head as he pulled her close. His scent — clean, spicy, and male, one so different from the other men of the ton — wrapped itself around her like a binding. She didn't move.
Neither did he.
"You can't kidnap me," she whispered and forced herself to lean back. He was so close, his breath brushed against her cheek like a kiss. Without thinking, she ran her fingers over his lips. She'd never noticed before, but his mouth was perfect. Perfectly kissable. She jerked her hand away and mumbled, "Pardon me."
This was pure madness.
A streetlamp cast enough light that she saw his face clearly along with the dangerous flare in his eyes.
"I'm not your responsibility," she demanded softly. "Please, I beg of you. Let me go."
"For your assignation?" he whispered. "With Lord Paul Barstowe?" "What? No." She shook her head hoping she'd wake from this nightmare. "How do you know I'm meeting him to purchase the book?" "One of the guests at Lady Dalton's informed me after overhearing your plans."
"Of all the rotten luck," she muttered. She shouldn't have told her friends Lena and Daphne in public, as there were too many ears at a ball. Determined, she'd persevere. "Come with me if you don't believe I'm speaking the truth. Please, I need that book."
Again, silence reigned between them except for the trotting of the horses' hooves. Even that sound drifted to nothing as the carriage slowed to a halt. A glance outside confirmed they'd arrived at her home. Soft light flooded the carriage from the lanterns that surrounded the courtyard.
With her last chance looming before her, Emma swallowed her pride, nearly choking. Lacing her fingers together to keep from fidgeting, she stared into his eyes. "Please, my lord, I'm begging you. Come with me if you're concerned for my safety. I'll prove to you I only want the book." She opened her reticule and pulled out the fifty pounds. "I'll pay you. If this isn't enough, I'll get more. ..." He released a deep breath and studied his clasped hands.
Dare she hope she'd convinced him? Indeed, he seemed truly conflicted. She sat on the edge of the bench waiting for his agreement. To nudge him a little, she made her final plea. "Please?" "I'm truly sorry." He covered her hand with his and squeezed. "Let me escort you inside."
His effort offered little comfort. For an eternity, she sat unable to move and stared at nothing. There was little doubt she'd face a harsh reprimand from her parents and some fitting punishment to accompany the lecture. Her heavy heart slid to the floor. It mattered little as she'd already been punished. Bentham's Essays was again out of her reach.
"Lady Emma?" Somerton squeezed her hand again — his gentle touch still a betrayal. "Come."
He helped her from the carriage and walked her to the door. As if she were being lead to the gallows, she held her head high masking her stinging disappointment.
"Good night," Somerton whispered. "I apologize I've caused you such distress." He bowed over her hand in farewell.
"My lord?" Her question caused his gaze to capture hers. The sincerity in his eyes stole her breath. Briefly, she turned away until her emotions were somewhat under control. "I can't offer my thanks for your assistance. I'm sure you understand." She turned and entered Langham Hall.
Intact, her pride was still stuck in her throat.
The next day Banished.
She'd been eradicated like an infestation of kitchen vermin.
The only difference was her parents were dispatching Emma for her own good, and no one bothered to offer condescending explanations to mice.
As of tomorrow, she'd reside at Falmont, the family seat, for the remainder of the Season. Her father and mother had stood together united in their decision, a bulwark designed to protect her from last night's indiscretion.
All because she desired a book.
The tome in question wasn't a lewd collection of Elizabethan bawdy, or a frothy romance of thwarted lovers, or even a tirade by revolutionaries threatening to overrun the government.
It was a book of essays about individual freedom.
Hidden in the shade of the trees, Emma leaned her head back against her favorite bench in Langham Park and stared at the cloudless blue sky. Completely enclosed, the private park, famous for its groomed gardens and orangeries, surrounded her home and was her own private refuge. She could wander for hours to her heart's content. The gardeners and other servants were always respectful of her privacy. Heaven knew she needed solitude today.
A plump red squirrel skidded into view with a cache of food stuffed in his cheeks. The creature examined her as if she was an intruder in his private garden before he swooshed his thick red tail and started to chatter.
She was receiving yet another proper scolding. He paused as if waiting for a response.
"After tomorrow, the park is all yours." At least someone would benefit from her ostracism. "If you were a true gentleman, you'd cease your prattling rant."
"Shall I slay the impertinent beast?" A low, sensual voice spoke softly in her ear. "Before I go into battle, I must ask, how does the lovely Lady Emma fare today?"
"As one would expect after being informed of my upcoming sojourn to the country." A slight breeze caressed Emma's face, but she refused to turn around. There was no mistaking that silken smooth voice. She didn't need to see him to know it was the killjoy from last night. "Lord Somerton, imagine you finding me, again. Whatever are you doing here?"
"The duke and duchess asked if I would meet them today. Lord and Lady Pembrooke were in attendance," he said. "They wanted to know how far you'd traveled before I caught you."
"Oh, you mean my cousin Claire, the paragon of perfection, the Marchioness of Pembrooke, and her utterly flawless husband, the Marquess of Pembrooke, otherwise known as the happy couple." She hadn't intended to sound so sarcastic, but really, what could Somerton expect?
A blindfolded fox had a better chance of escaping the hounds than she had to escape him. The thought made her swallow hard. It was just so humiliating, and the fact he had found her made it worse. The traitor.
"I'm to be sent to Falmont tomorrow," she said dully.
The squirrel sat on his haunches as if finding her situation riveting and cracked a nut.
"I'm sorry for my part in it." He was close enough that his warm breath tickled her earlobe. If she wasn't mistaken, his lips brushed her cheek.
Emma didn't have a qualm of disgust for him, which he deserved — definitely. Instead, something strange and new formed inside her chest. A shiver skated down her spine that made her sit straighter. "Don't apologize. I was aware of the consequences."
His breath stroked her cheek. Emma clenched her eyes to concentrate on his smell. He had to be leaning adjacent to her. The scent of bay rum with undertones of saddle leather and male wafted toward her. She wanted to swim in it.
"I would hate for last evening to have a negative impact on your ties to Lady Pembrooke," said Somerton. "She's really quite fond of you."
"Don't worry." She stood and faced him. "I consider Claire my sister, and sisters don't hold grudges. At least that's what my mother would say. You'll discover that about my family if you keep our company. But if you and your friend, Pembrooke, think you'll dictate my behavior —"
"Easy, Lady Emma." He held his gloved hands in front of his chest as if to ward her off. "No one, least of all me, shall be giving you deportment lessons."
Granted, he was handsome in his morning coat, but his tone reminded her of one that the Langham head groomsman always used to soothe a spooked horse. That was a first. Normally, men would walk away without a glance back if she made it clear how she expected to be treated.
Really, all of this was beyond the pale.
"With Pembrooke marrying your cousin, we'll be in each other's company a fair amount," he said. "It'd be regrettable if you were uncomfortable with me."
He'd lost the timbre of a groomsman only to replace it with a rich tone that would have charmed a howling banshee.
"In a twisted view of fate, I suppose I should thank you," she added nonchalantly.
"I knew you possessed great intelligence," he teased as he rounded the bench that separated them. "Never mind all your reading."
His actions last night were honorable, and he'd treated her with respect. She couldn't hold him accountable for her circumstances. Nevertheless, she couldn't help but blame him.
"I'd much rather you stay here," he offered. "London will be a dreary place without you."
Excerpted from "The Bride Who Got Lucky"
Copyright © 2017 JLRW, LLC.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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