A stubborn nobleman and a willful young woman are at the heart of bestselling author Amelia Grey’s newest love story.
HE THINKS LOVE IS MUCH ADO.
Adam Greyhawke is through with marriage. After losing his wife at a young age, he’s more interested in carousing and gambling at the Heirs’ Club than taking another trip to the altar. When his obligations as the Earl of Greyhawke thrust him into the heart of Society, he dreads the boredom that only a ballroom can inspire in a roguish scoundrel. That is, until he meets a bewitching young woman who captures his curiosityand reminds him just how delicious desire can be.
IS SHE READY TO SAY I DO?
Miss Katherine Wright is accustomed to men interested only in her generous dowry. Adam’s attraction is far more powerfulhe tests her wits and her courage at every turn, until she finds herself longing to fulfill an everlasting passion she never imagined was possible. But the breathtakingly handsome nobleman is as stubborn as he is scandalous, and Katharine must be the one to convince him that real love is worth any risk…in Wedding Night with the Earl by New York Times bestselling author Amelia Grey.
"A master storyteller."-Affaire de Coeur
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Amelia Grey read her first romance book when she was thirteen and she's been a devoted reader of love stories ever since. Her awards include the Booksellers Best, Aspen Gold, and the Golden Quill. Writing as Gloria Dale Skinner, she won the coveted Romantic Times Award for Love and Laughter and the prestigious Maggie Award. Her books have sold to many countries in Europe, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, and most recently to Japan. Several of her books have also been featured in Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs. Amelia is the author of twenty-five books. She's been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over thirty-five years and she lives on the beautiful gulf coast of Northwest Florida. Her first book with St. Martin's was The Duke in My Bed.
Read an Excerpt
Wedding Night with the Earl
By Amelia Grey
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Amelia Grey
All rights reserved.
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will, —
— Hamlet, act 5, scene 2
Northern Coast of England
Adam Greyhawke supposed there were worse deaths than being shot by an irate husband. He'd looked down the wrong end of a clumsily held pistol barrel more than once in his thirty years. Fear wasn't something that ever crossed his mind.
For the past two years he'd welcomed death. Maybe he'd even longed for it, because guilt was a hell of a friend. Now that the moment was actually close at hand, perhaps it would have been more acceptable if he had met his end saving the life of an innocent child from the path of a runaway carriage or something equally heroic, but Adam had seldom had the opportunity to be so noble.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't blow your head off your shoulders right now," the short, slim man barked.
"I can't think of one," Adam said calmly.
Though his eyes were blurry from all the brandy he'd consumed and his head was pounding, Adam noticed the man's gaze dart to the young woman standing beside him in the dimly lit upstairs room of the tavern and inn. They exchanged furtive glances. Clearly they hadn't expected him to be so accommodating. Adam really didn't give a damn whether the man pulled the trigger.
Somehow, it seemed fitting that today would be his demise. It had been hellish. Not only had his wife and child died on this day two years ago, this morning he'd received word that a young cousin had succumbed to consumption a few weeks ago and Adam was now the eighth Earl of Greyhawke. Once, that would have meant something to him. When Annie was alive, when life meant something to him. Now, it meant nothing. The thought of being an earl without all that he used to hold dear was excruciating.
"If I agree to let you to live," the husband challenged, "how do you plan to repay me for the harm you've done to me and my wife?"
Adam's feet were well planted, yet he swayed and grunted a hollow laugh into the stale air of the chilled room. So now they were to the heart of this unsavory matter. Money. The infuriated man before him wasn't a cuckolded husband after all. He and his partner were tricksters and Adam was their prey for the evening.
Obviously the nodcocks didn't know Adam's state of mind.
It bothered him a little, and a very little, that he'd been caught in a snare laid by a duo of schemers out to pad their pockets by pilfering his for what they could get. Adam's intuitive senses were sharp, and he was usually quick to know when he was being set up. Maybe it had been the overindulgence in drink or the fact that he hadn't been with a woman in a very long time. Perhaps he'd deliberately shaken off the pervading sensation that something wasn't quite right about the woman's story of being a widow and in need of warmth and comfort to see her through the long night. And then, just maybe this unpleasant end was the best he deserved.
Whatever the reason, he wouldn't complain. Fate had been good to him in his youth, saving him from more dangerous escapades than his ill-spent life warranted. It was only recently that fate had taken a disliking to him. And he no longer cared. Everyone knew that life stopped, bowed, and paid homage to some and rolled right over others, leaving them to gather up the broken pieces.
"I'm afraid there is nothing I can do," Adam remarked, indifference dripping from his words while he tucked the tail of his shirt into the waistband of his trousers. "I'm in her chamber with both of us in a rather accusing state of dishabille. Her reputation is already ruined beyond any suitable repair I could suggest."
The man's eyes widened, and his face flushed with a sudden flash of anger. He took a menacing step closer to Adam and glowered fiercely. "I demand you do something for this injury."
Adam swayed again. He glanced at the barrel of the pistol, then looked back at the man. "Perhaps I could apologize for not knowing the young woman was happily married and not a lonely widow after all."
The two flimflam artists exchanged panicky glances once again. Apparently, Adam wasn't the first quarry in their game of chicanery. No doubt they had expected him to quiver, deny any wrongdoing, and jump at the chance to buy his way out of a bloody and most assuredly painful death.
Most gentlemen probably would.
He should have known this would not be a good evening to find a tavern, drown in a bottle of brandy, and console himself with a willing woman. At the time, the thought of one more lonesome evening in that cold, godforsaken cottage was more than he could bear. Death could not be worse than the utter feeling of despair that had gripped him for two years.
Though Adam and the woman had barely made it past a few uninspiring kisses and several hastily felt caresses, he liked to think he was on the verge of forgetting his torment for a few moments and simply enjoying the lust of being a man.
"You can bloody well give us your money, and be quick about it, too," the trickster demanded, rolling his right shoulder, making the pistol bobble carelessly in his hands. "You're a wealthy gentleman. She heard you talking in the tavern. You've a big estate north of here. Now hand over your purse."
Adam had willingly given up his wild and undisciplined behavior of bachelor life when he'd met and married Annie. He'd left the proper, respected life of a gentleman after she died. For two years he'd been just a man. An ordinary man who looked after his estate and occasionally astounded his tenants by herding his own sheep. But what he'd never left behind was his honor.
He would die with that intact.
He turned his weary attention back to the threatening man and his conspirator. "I'd rather be shot."
"You don't believe I'll do it, do you?" the crook said gruffly, almost poking Adam in the chest with the barrel.
"On the contrary," Adam said. "I'm asking you to." He held out his hands palms up. "My pockets are empty," he said unapologetically, even though it was a bold-faced lie. "I came up here believing I was going to pay the lonely widow with a shot of brandy and an evening in a soft bed enjoying my favors."
"Oh, you despicable brute!" the woman screamed at Adam, and then whirled to confront her husband. "Give me the pistol, you coward! I'll shoot him myself!"
She pulled him toward her and grabbed for the gun. The man jerked away and shoved her to the floor.
Despite his unsteady legs, Adam lunged for the husband and quickly deflected the weapon from his chest with his hand. The ball exploded from the barrel with a crack loud enough to wake the dead and landed harmlessly in the wall.
Adam was head and shoulders taller than the thug and outweighed him by at least two stone. It really wasn't a contest to take the spent firearm away from him, toss it to the floor, and flatten him against the wall. Adam pressed a forearm against the man's throat and gazed into his shifty, frightened eyes.
A frown tugged at the corners of Adam's mouth and he released the culprit and stepped back. It didn't look as if this were going to be his lucky day to die after all.CHAPTER 2
Who alone suffers suffers most i' the mind.
— King Lear, act 3, scene 6
It was seldom warm on the northern coast of Yorkshire and the breeze never completely died away. Sunshine wasn't a regular visitor to the area, either. It didn't matter. Gray skies and cold, damp wind suited Adam.
His cottage was less than a half hour's trudge from the craggy cliffs that lined the shore below. He knew the way as well as he knew the back of his hand. Over the past two years, he'd made the trek to the water so many times that his footsteps had beaten a path across the stony, uneven ground. Looking out across the vast North Sea brought him a measure of peace he'd found nowhere else.
The first time Adam had made the short journey, it had crossed his mind to jump into the turbulent waves below. But he had never been a coward. And leaving this world would have been the easy way out of his pain. Living meant bearing the agony and misery of his wife's death and his part in it.
He reached down and patted Pharaoh's warm back. The large blond Pyrenees had been his faithful companion since Adam and his friends had saved him from a cruel shopkeeper's whip a year ago. Adam could still feel the scars across Pharaoh's shoulders from the deep lashes he'd received before they'd rescued him.
Several times a week, he and the dog would make their visit to the sea. Most often he would let Pharaoh set the pace. The tall, lanky dog liked to run. Pharaoh was still a pup at heart and always eager to stretch his legs with his master. But while on the peak of the cliff, Pharaoh never left Adam's side to sniff, scratch, or hunt. It was as if he knew they were there to stand, to think, and to remember.
"Come on, boy," Adam said, patting Pharaoh again. "Time to head back and see what Mrs. Leech left for us to eat tonight. I'd wager it's mutton stew again, wouldn't you?"
The dog barked once and then dutifully turned around and they began their journey to the cottage at a slow walk so Pharaoh could wander the landscape.
When Adam topped the ridge, he saw a black-lacquered coach trimmed in red and gold paint sitting in front of his house. A handsomely liveried driver and guard sat high on their perches. It was close to the time his friends Bray and Harrison had visited him for the past two years, but they wouldn't come all the way to Yorkshire in a carriage. It would take that conveyance more than twice the time to make the journey as it would on horseback.
Pharaoh saw the coach about the same time as Adam. He stopped, bristled, and barked a loud, low-toned warning.
"Easy, Pharaoh," Adam cautioned, rubbing the dog's head. "I don't like strangers either, but I can't see trouble coming out of anything that fancy. But since you're dying to find out who it is, go on ahead and check it out. Just don't frighten anyone until I get there."
The dog loped down the hill, barking as if he were a terrifying hound from hell. Adam picked up his pace, too. More than likely it was someone who had lost his way while looking for an estate. Adam would help them if he could and then quickly send them on their journey. By the time he made it to the vehicle, Pharaoh was standing in front of the carriage door, alternating between barking and growling.
"Pharaoh, that's enough of that," he told the dog, and gave his head a slight push to send him on his way. "Go find something to do. I'll take over from here."
A window in the door pushed open and a round-faced gentleman with big, slightly bulging eyes stuck his head out and said, "A pleasant afternoon to you, my good man. Could you please tell me if this is the house where the Earl of Greyhawke is residing?"
Adam thought about lying and sending the gentleman on a fool's search for a nonexistent cottage somewhere on the other side of the valley, but what good would that do? The man would eventually discover he'd been duped and return. Better to get rid of him now and not have to deal with him again later.
"I'm Mr. Alfred Hopscotch, the Prince's emissary. He's sent me to see the earl on an urgent matter."
Adam tensed. The Prince? Sent someone to see him? He certainly hadn't expected that. He eyed he man curiously. "What does the Prince want with me?"
The man's wide, bushy brows shot up. He looked Adam up and down. Adam knew Hopscotch was thinking that he'd never seen a gentleman dressed in commoners' clothing with shoulder-length hair unbound. But Adam didn't give a damn. His appearance suited him.
Mr. Hopscotch eyed Pharaoh again, too, as the dog sniffed around the carriage wheels, trying to decide which one was best for marking his territory.
"I will be happy to explain. I'm afraid the dog wouldn't let me out."
Adam shrugged. "He doesn't take kindly to strangers poking around."
"Will he bite?"
"Only on my command."
"In that case, I suppose I will have to assume you won't issue that order and it's safe for me to come out."
The rotund man pushed the door open and stepped down from the carriage, then shut the door behind him. He swept his hat off his head, bowed, and looked up pleasantly at Adam. "Lord Greyhawke, pardon me for not recognizing you. I expected someone a ... Well, never mind. The Prince received your letter asking that the title Earl of Greyhawke be bestowed on your heir. He sent me to tell you that you cannot disclaim a peerage."
"I have no use of it," Adam said flatly.
Mr. Hopscotch watched Pharaoh wander over to him and sniff around the tail of his coat. The Prince's man cleared his throat uncomfortably and said, "Still, it is yours and you simply cannot just give it up. You don't have to take a seat in Parliament right away, of course, but someone has to take care of the entailed property of the title, as well as the other estates, properties, and businesses associated with it. Legally you are the only one who can do that."
Adam frowned. His quiet life away from Society suited him. He had no son to leave the title to, and he didn't plan to ever marry again and have a son. He didn't want the title. Why couldn't it pass to someone who actually wanted it?
"Are you trying to tell me there are no other male Greyhawkes in England who can accept this responsibility?"
"There's always someone next in line for the title," said Hopscotch, drumming his fingers nervously on the rim of his hat while Pharaoh continued to sniff around his legs. "You have an heir, my lord. In fact, he is the reason for my visit today."
Making sure he didn't come in contact with Pharaoh, Mr. Hopscotch slowly reached behind him, opened the carriage door, and motioned with his hand for someone to come forward. "Come, come. Don't be frightened. The dog is large but harmless — at least while by his master's side," he added under his breath.
Adam watched a small, skinny, terrified-looking lad about the age of three or four step down onto the footstool. His large brown eyes appeared too big for his thin, pale face. Dark brown hair fell across his forehead. It was neatly trimmed above his brows and just below his ears. His clothing, while not expensive, was clean and pressed. Pharaoh immediately approached him for a sniffing inspection, and the child leaned closer to Mr. Hopscotch, almost hiding his face in the man's coat.
"Come now, none of that. Behave as a young man." Mr. Hopscotch took hold of the lad's shoulders and made him face Adam. "Lord Greyhawke, may I present your cousin Master Dixon Greyhawke."
Adam stared at the little fellow. He didn't like seeing the frightened look on the boy's face. Pharaoh didn't like strangers coming around the cottage, but as long as Adam was calm, Pharaoh would be, too.
Adam pointed to the house and said, "Pharaoh, to the door." The Pyrenees looked around at Adam as if to say, Do I have to? "Go on. By the door."
The dog hesitated, grumbled, and then trotted over to the door of the cottage and curled up in front of it.
Mr. Hopscotch looked up at the driver and snapped his fingers, then turned to the boy and said, "Master Dixon, you must greet your guardian properly."
Adam's head jerked around to the man.
The lad timidly stepped forward, bowed low, and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, my lord."
"Well done, young man," said Mr. Hopscotch, patting him on the shoulder. "I'm sure the two of you and the dog will be getting along fine in no time at all."
Adam stood six feet four in his bare feet and taller in his walking boots. He rose over Hopscotch and peered down at him. "You aren't leaving him here."
Mr. Hopscotch blinked but didn't cower. "I have no choice in the matter, and neither do you. He is next in line for the title. Until you bear a son, he is officially your heir. Even if you somehow managed to do the impossible and pass the title on to him while you are still living, as his oldest living male relative you would be responsible for him, his education, and all that comes with the property until he comes of age."
"I'm responsible for no one," Adam argued with a snort of derision.
"You are now," Mr. Hopscotch answered quickly. "It is your duty to manage, protect, and prosper the estate and all it entails until the next earl takes over."
Excerpted from Wedding Night with the Earl by Amelia Grey. Copyright © 2016 Amelia Grey. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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