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There truly was nothing exciting about her at all.
A small sigh escaped her lips despite her best intentions.
When she’d been younger, when Jonathan had known her, people had complimented the flash of her eyes and the brightness of her smile, but it had been five years since she’d heard such words.
She was so average as to be strange.
She glanced down. Except for her dress. There was nothing average about her dress.
If described as the bright green of spring it sounded as if it should be pretty and refreshing, but its harsh gleam was anything but. At least on her. On the cousin it had been designed for, it would have been quite striking. Claudia’s white skin, black hair, and brilliant blue eyes would have stood up to the vibrant color. On Sarah it just looked . . . well, she imagined that half of the people who glanced her way saw only the dress and not her at all.
She’d overheard many more comments about her disastrous clothes these last years than she’d heard comments about herself. Even Lady Perse had commented, had made it clear that she could do nothing to help Sarah find a husband if Sarah would not help herself, and finding a new dressmaker had been first on the list. Only she couldn’t afford a single new dress, much less a new wardrobe. Her family’s finances were a private matter, however, and Papa would have been more than a little displeased if she’d discussed such a thing with Lady Perse, and so she’d refused the second invitation to a matrimonial tea. She’d focused all her attention on Lord Duldon, the only eligible man in years to ask her to dance—and now he was marrying Lady Bliss.
There was nothing for it; she would have to marry Mr. Meyers.
Blast. She was moping, feeling sorry for herself.
Tears welled behind her eyes as feelings of misery filled her.
Splashing her cheeks again, she bit down on her lips trying to bring some color to them. Turning away, she did not risk focusing on the mirror for even a second. It was far better to imagine the improvement to her appearance than to be faced with the truth. At least she was sure that the devastation she felt inside did not show. That was one thing she had learned from her papa and his actions, how to quickly cover any emotions that might try to rise to the surface. Placid and calm. That was what she would be.
And if some people took that to mean she was standoffish, that was just fine with her.
Sweeping out of the retiring room, she pretended that she was somebody other than herself, pretended that she was a great queen, the head of a conquering army: chin tilted up, shoulders straight, face cold and clear. She feared nothing, cared for nothing. She was supreme.
And then she reached the head of the stairs and saw them, her past, her present—and her future.
Jonathan, looking up at her with what she could only assume was distaste.
Lord Duldon, gazing at Lady Bliss as if he gazed upon paradise itself.
And Mr. Meyers, staring off into the crowd as if he had someplace far better to be.
They stood spread across the floor below, a display of all her foolishness, of all her dreams.
She pulled a long breath in, felt her breasts press tight against the horrible lace edging of the gown.
And then, ignoring the other two men, she forced her gaze to move to Mr. Meyers. He was her future. He might not know it yet, but she’d let him know this evening. She could only hope that he still wished to marry her.
A swallow caught halfway down her throat.
Mr. Meyers was not tall. His shoulders were not vast and broad. He smelled of sweat and must, not leather. He’d never made her laugh, not in all the years he’d been visiting her father. When he looked at her his eyes rarely looked higher than her breasts and on occasion her lips.
And he was old enough to be her father.
But, he had asked her to marry him.
And the second time it had felt more of a threat than a question.
But then, he knew about Papa. Knew about the debts. Knew just how little choice she had.
She should have said yes to him that last time, only a week ago, when he’d called on her before lunch and actually bothered to bring her flowers. He’d tossed them at her after her refusal.
Don’t know why I bother trying with romance. It’s cold hard reality that will bring you to me. I’ll just have to see how long it takes. His words still echoed in her brain.
But she could no longer afford to have dreams; her time had run out. Any pride she had left was gone.
Page Count: 127pages
Publisher: Loveswept (September 22, 2015)
In Lavinia Kent’s scorching new eBook original novella, two wounded hearts find that only the sweet release of temptations long denied can heal the pain of past sins.
Five years ago, Miss Sarah Swilp had been deeply in love with Jonathan Perry, the second son of an earl. But when Jonathan inherited his aunt’s lands and money, he turned cold, demanding Sarah’s maidenhood and uttering those unforgettably cruel words: “You do know I won’t marry you.” She refused, of course, and that spoiled everything. Now, just as she’s agreed to a marriage of convenience, Jonathan reappears—and after Sarah gets one look at his lean, hard body, the embers of desire burst back into flame.
Over time, Jonathan has learned quite a bit about the art of pleasure—though nothing has ever given him so much joy as the husky timbre of Sarah’s laugh. It had hurt to leave her, but what other choice did he have? Perhaps he’d been too afraid of ending up like his brother, targeted by a woman seeking a title. Seeing her again, Jonathan can’t help wondering what might have been if only Sarah had surrendered to red-hot lust. Fortunately, judging by the wicked look in her eyes, it may not be too late to find out.
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