Katherine Scoville is compromised by -- and must marry -- the Earl of Shelton. Between his stubborn insistence that she tricked him and her naïve belief in happy ever after, the battle lines are set. She wants a conventional union. He desires Katherine as his mistress.
Meanwhile, two magicians secretly wager on the success of the marriage. As Katherine fights for respectability and Shelton campaigns for divorce, magic is wielded to meddle, one magician skewing truth and the other exposing lies.
When the smoke clears from the field, whose magic will prevail? Will Katherine accept Shelton's hand in love-strewn matrimony, or will Shelton offer only his body to his mistress?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.62(d)|
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Heavens. Shelton wanted to see her in the library. This was the first time he deigned to summon Katherine to his presence. Whatever could he want? Katherine flew to the mirror to neaten her hair while Annie piped dramatically, "Lordie, miss, you don't need to do anything wi' yer hair. It's yer soul I fear for. Magic'll steal your soul."
She shooed Annie away. "Go on with you. Nothing is going to happen to my soul. As to magic--it doesn't exist." Hurrying down the stairs, flying past the butler, she realized she was rushing to do his bidding. She slowed her steps to a sedate stroll.
The earl was at the window, inspecting his pitiful garden. "You wanted to see me," Katherine said. He turned and smiled. My heavens, His Exaltedness must have had good news.
"Come, Katherine, have a seat. We have much to speak about." She deliberately chose one of the deep cushioned leather chairs by the fireplace. She dared not curl up and get comfortable, but perched on the edge, sunk down so far her feet were neatly on the floor, quite as if she were tall and willowy instead of squat. Her skirt was carefully smoothed, the folds of worn pink draped just so before she looked up, anticipating that the deep rumble of his voice would reverberate through the floor.
Shelton sprawled in the matching chair at the other side of the grate. He did not look relaxed, but that was the fault of trying to be pleasant, she speculated. He cleared his throat. Stifling the urge to be flippant, Katherine looked at him brightly and, unable to keep still, pointed her toe en croisé.
"I spoke to you at an earlier time regarding our situation." To be helpful, she nodded, reflecting that shehad been correct. His deep voice did indeed make her toes tingle. Her left foot slid en chassé.
"As you are still in residence, you may imagine I have run into complications." She nodded a bit slower and he fiddled with his coat button.
"The ton will ostracize you if the truth of our wedding comes out." At her inquiring glance, he elaborated. "The customary basis for marriage is the alliance of house and fortune. Too many would find our circumstances awkward; rather than adapt, influential hostesses will cut you and you'd be drummed out of town. It has happened before to better connected ladies than yourself."
As if he thought she would protest, the earl quickly continued. "Not that I agree with this, but I do not have the power to change it. So I have taken another tack."
Katherine had to bow to his greater knowledge of society's foibles. She smiled slightly as well as nodding, but nervously lifted a foot en relevé. Eying her feet, he twisted the button hard, trying to rein in his temper. She did seem to put him off his stride.
"The approach I have chosen, divorce, will be a lengthier process. 'Tis expensive, but I don't begrudge the cost. Once complete, we will be free to do as we please."
Shelton rose; she craned her neck and continued to smile. The chassé could have been smoother; she did it again.
"I wanted to discuss with you the options we will have when that time comes." Here he paused, searching for words. "My assumption was you would like to come to know me better. Forgive me if I sound arrogant, but I do not think you are indifferent to me. Despite my antagonistic behavior thus far, I find I am not unmoved by you and would like to the opportunity to be with you. Would that be pleasing?"
"It sounds delightful," Katherine murmured as her heart slammed. He seemed to relax somewhat, so she smiled brightly. Her feet finally were still.
"Unfortunately, until the divorce comes through, you will have to continue to live in a retired fashion."
She frowned. What did he mean, 'retired'? And what was divorce? He knelt smoothly at her feet and cupped her chin. His thumb tugged at the corner of her mouth, unhurriedly separating her lips.
"You don't understand." His sharp blue eyes wandered over her face. "You won't be a prisoner, but your movements will be restricted. That will not be for long. The compensation is we will not be separated at the last fence. With a divorce behind us, we can be together, come to know one another. Would you like that?" His finger slid between her lips and touched the tip of her tongue. With the sizzling sensation, Katherine gasped.
"I want to love you, teach you how to love me." The flame of his finger slid down her throat and around to the nape of her neck. Then his head lowered and his mouth neared hers. "By the magic of Merlin, I want to teach you to love."
The kiss that followed stirred Katherine to her toes. He held her head immobile while his lips smoothed away her fear. Then his tongue was in her mouth, tasting. After an eternity of pleasure, he said, "Do you concur?"
"I wish we could go to a play..."
"That can come later."
He smiled. She liked that smile. His arms went around her and the memory of his unclothed body over hers gave her shivers. Fingers sliding up and down the nape of her neck made her shiver more. The next kiss was harder. His tongue slid in and out of her mouth in a rhythm that made her rock against his body. The question she had thought to ask--What is divorce?--fled. The kiss went on and on, until Katherine melted into the earl's heat.
He finally raised his head and laid a cheek against her hair. "After, we will do everything you wish, plays, rides in the Park, shopping. Would you like that?"
"Oh yes. I truly would like to go shopping. Will you take me?" He laughed and kissed the tip of her nose. Then he scooped up her hands and brought them to their feet.