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Authors: Mary Balogh

One Night for Love

BOOK: One Night for Love
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“LILY, I WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU.

Do you want it too?” he asked her.

“Yes.”

“You must not be frightened,” he told her. “Not at any moment. However far advanced in passion I might become, I will stop the instant you tell me to stop. Will you believe that?”

“Yes,” she said. “But I will not tell you to stop.”

She knew that she would want to. Before he made love to her, she would want to stop him. Because once they were together, she would know. She would know if her dreams of love must die forever. And she would know if after all, he found himself repulsed by the knowledge that another man had known her since their wedding day. But she would not stop him. This—tonight, all of it—was meant to be, and she would let it be, however it turned out.

EVERYBODY LOVES MARY BALOGH
:

“A romance writer of mesmerizing intensity, Mary Balogh has the gift of making a relationship seem utterly real and utterly compelling.”
—Mary Jo Putney

“Balogh is truly a find.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Mary Balogh is a veritable treasure, a matchless storyteller who makes our hearts melt with delight.”
—Romantic Times

PRAISE FOR MARY BALOGH
:

“Ms. Balogh is a favorite of readers everywhere!”

Affaire de Coeur

“[Mary Balogh] has established a reputation for unsurpassed originality and excellence.”

Romantic Times

“Balogh’s graceful prose will draw you into the glittering world of Georgian England as though you were actually there.”
—Elizabeth Thornton

ONE NIGHT FOR LOVE
A Dell Book

PUBLISHING HISTORY
Dell mass market edition published July 1999 Dell mass market reissue / August 2007

Published by Bantam Dell
A Division of Random House, Inc.
New York, New York

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved
Copyright © 1999 by Mary Balogh

Dell is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc., and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

eISBN: 978-0-307-79609-7

www.bantamdell.com

v3.1_r4

Contents
  
PART I
  
The Return
  
1
  

D
espite the early hour and the chilly weather, the yard of the White Horse Inn in Fetter Lane, London, was crowded and noisy. The stagecoach for the West Country was preparing to make its daily run. Few passengers had yet boarded; most were milling about anxiously to see that their luggage had been properly stowed. Hawkers attempted to sell their wares to passengers for whom the day would be long and tedious. Grooms bustled about their business. Ragged children, when they were not being shooed back into the street, darted about, feeding on the excitement.

The guard blew his horn, a deafening warning that the coach would be departing within a few minutes and anyone with a ticket would be well advised to climb aboard.

Captain Gordon Harris, looking smart in the green regimentals of the Ninety-fifth Rifles, and his young wife, who was warmly and modishly dressed, looked somewhat out of place in such inelegant surroundings. But they were not themselves passengers. They had accompanied a woman to the White Horse in order to see her on her way.

Her appearance was in marked contrast to theirs. While she was clean and tidy, she was undeniably shabby. She wore a simple high-waisted cotton dress with a shawl for warmth. Both garments looked well worn and well washed. Her bonnet, which had perhaps once been pretty even if never quite modish, had clearly shielded its wearer from one too many rainstorms. Its wide brim was limp and misshapen. She was a young woman—indeed, she was so small and so slight of frame that she might at first glance have been mistaken for a
mere girl. But there was something about her that drew second, more lingering glances from several of the men who were busy about their various tasks. There were beauty and grace and some indefinable air of femininity about her to proclaim that she was indeed a woman.

“I must be getting into the coach,” she said with a smile for the captain and his wife. “You need not stay here any longer. It is too cold to be standing about.” She held out both her slim hands to Mrs. Harris, though she looked alternately at both of them. “How will I ever be able to thank you sufficiently for all you have done for me?”

Tears sprang to Mrs. Harris’s eyes, and she enfolded the young woman tightly in her arms. “We have done nothing of any great significance,” she said. “And now we are abandoning you to travel on the stage, the very cheapest form of transportation, when you might have gone more respectably by post chaise or at the very worst by the mailcoach.”

“I have borrowed enough from you,” the young woman said, “without indulging in needless extravagances.”

“Borrowed
” Mrs. Harris removed a lace-edged handkerchief from her reticule and dabbed at her eyes with it.

“It is still not too late to alter your plans, you know.” Captain Harris took one of the young woman’s hands in both of his own. “Come back to our hotel with us for breakfast and I shall write that letter even before I eat, and send it on its way. I daresay there will be an answer within the week.”

“No, sir,” she told him quite firmly, though she smiled. “I cannot wait. I must go.”

He did not argue further but sighed, patted her hand, and then impulsively pulled her into a hug as his wife had done. By that time she was in danger of losing the inside seat he had quite adamantly insisted upon. He had even slipped the coachman a tip to ensure her a window seat for the long journey to the village of Upper Newbury in Dorsetshire.
But a large woman, who looked as if she might be ready to take on any coachman or any army captain who dared cross her, or indeed both at once, was already settling herself into the only window seat still available.

The young woman had to squeeze herself into a middle seat. But she did not appear to share the captain’s wrath. She smiled and lifted a hand in farewell. As she did so, the guard’s horn blew again as a warning to everyone nearby that the stage was about to begin its journey.

Mrs. Harris’s gloved hand was still raised in an answering farewell wave after the stagecoach had rumbled out of the yard, turned onto the street, and disappeared from sight.

“I have never in my life known anyone so stubborn,” she said, using her handkerchief again. “Or anyone so dear. What will become of her, Gordon?”

The captain sighed once more. “I fear she is doing the wrong thing,” he said. “Almost a year and a half has passed, and what seemed like madness even at the time will doubtless be a total impossibility now. But she does not understand.”

BOOK: One Night for Love
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