Authors: Ruth Ann Nordin
Ruth Ann Nordin
This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and also represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher.
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright 2012 Ruth Ann Nordin
Cover Photo images Dreamstime. www.dreamstime.com. All rights reserved – used with permission.
This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without expressed written consent of the publisher/author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Ruth Ann Nordin Books
To Judy DeVries whose enthusiasm and love for life inspires me to look at the glass as half-full instead of half-empty.
Table of Contents
List of Books by Ruth Ann Nordin
Her Counterfeit Husband (coming soon)
braska Historical Romance Collection
Wagon Trail Bride (coming soon)
Her Heart’s Desire
A Bride for Tom
A Husband for Margaret
Eye of the Beholder
The Wrong Husband
To Have and To Hold
His Redeeming Bride
South Dakota Historical Romance Series
Bid for a Bride
Bride of Second Chances
Native American Romance Series
Bound by Honor, Bound by Love
A Chance In Time (novella) – main characters show up in Restoring Hope and Bound by Honor, Bound by Love)
Virginia Brides Series
An Unlikely Place for Love
The Cold Wife
An Inconvenient Marriage
Other Historical Western Romances
Falling In Love With Her Husband
Meant To Be
With This Ring, I Thee Dread
What Nathan Wants
Suddenly a Brid
Christian Sci-Fi Thriller
Return of the Aliens
emind me why I’m here,” Nathaniel Buford, Earl of Roderick, said as he checked his gold pocket watch.
Ambrose, Earl of Clement, shook his head in amusement. “I did that exactly forty seconds ago. The answer won’t change just because you want it to.”
With a sigh, Nate
returned the watch to his pocket and looked out the carriage window, noting the crowded streets where horses pulled other carriages toward the same place: Rendell Hall. All the ladies would be dressed in their finest in hopes of snaring a gentleman—preferably one who was titled—to marry. The knot in his stomach tightened. How he hated the marriage market!
“Remind me, aga
in, why I’m here,” Nate repeated.
groaned, though a chuckle rose up in his throat. “You poor, poor man. You really should murder your brother for dying without an heir.”
“Don’t think the thought hasn’t crossed my mind.” Despite his sour mood, his friend’s words made him smile. If anyone could make him feel better about his current predicament, it was his childhood friend,
“You should count your blessings, Nate.
You’ll have your pick of ladies.”
age came to a stop, and Nate straightened in his seat. One glance out the window notified him they had reached their destination. Hopeful young ladies who were there to enjoy their Season climbed the stairs to Rendell Hall. Heaven help the ones who were going in for a third Season. They’d probably be better off giving up. Not that such matters concerned him. He was here to get a wife, and with any luck, he’d find her before the night was up.
He glanced at his friend who
grabbed his cane. It was ironic that Perry wanted to get married but hadn’t had much luck. Between the two of them, Perry was far more jovial. But for some reason, Perry hadn’t found a wife, though he’d attended social gatherings in the previous two Seasons. Perry had wagered that Nate would walk out with one before the night was over because, as Perry put it, once Nate set his mind to something, he didn’t stop until he got it.
“Try a more conge
nial countenance, Nate,” Perry said as the coachman opened the carriage door. “Ladies prefer gentlemen who smile.” Nate forced a smile, and his friend rolled his eyes. “Good heavens. You look like you’re in a great deal of pain.”
It was close enough to the truth so he didn’t deny it. He left the carriage first and breathed in the night air.
Somewhere in Rendell Hall was the future Lady Roderick, the lady who’d enable him to pass on the title to his son. That shouldn’t be too hard. It would have been preferable if Hester hadn’t jilted him so she could marry the Duke of Aquilla, but he doubted she would have been content with being a countess when she could be a duchess instead. When it all came down to it, the title availed much to gentlemen.
steadied himself with his cane and limped over to him. “Don’t compare those ladies to Hester.”
furrowed his eyebrows. “How did you know I was thinking of her?”
With a shrug, he
mused, “You grimace when you think of her.”
“I’m afraid so.”
Steeling his resolve, he trudged up the steps, going slower t
han he needed to so that Perry could keep up with him. Having been born with one leg shorter than the other, Perry lacked the grace and speed of other gentlemen.
“It is unfortunate
we can’t trade places,” Nate mumbled as they approached the entrance of the ballroom.
“You don’t w
ant to trade places with me,” Perry replied as he followed Nate inside. “Might I suggest you pick a lady who is beautiful?”
Lowering his voice so others couldn’t hear them, he asked, “You suggest no other attribute?”
“I’m not sure you need another one. Should she be as horrible as you fear, you’d have the consolation of knowing she’s nice to look at.”
Nate chuckled. Leave it to Perry
to find something worth joking about when Nate faced a decision that would affect the rest of his life. Turning his attention to the mission at hand, he scanned the room, noting the couples dancing, some in merriment while others looked as happy to be there as he was. Maybe it was wrong, but he took a small comfort in knowing he wasn’t the only bachelor being forced to think of his legacy.
nudged his arm. “What about her?”
His gaze went to the pretty blonde on the other side of the room who fiddled with her
t? She’s the best looking lady in the room.”
“And she knows it.”
Nate watched as a gentleman approached her. She listened as he talked to her, offering him a polite smile. When he was done, she shook her head in dismissal, and the disappointed gentleman walked away. Now he knew why she didn’t have a dance partner. She was turning down the offers she was receiving.
“That over there i
s a vain lady,” he told Perry.
“With her beauty, s
he has a right to be,” his friend replied. “You’re handsome. She’ll say yes to you.”
Given that he had no interest
in her, he ignored the comment and continued scanning the room to see if a potential Lady Roderick was lurking somewhere. He didn’t see anyone who stood out. Oh, there were attractive ladies, but he didn’t feel that certain spark he had expected to feel when he laid eyes on the one meant for him.
“There is another w
ay to make your choice,” Perry said, drawing Nate’s attention back to him. “You could marry someone from a notable family.”
’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Why, Perry, I believe you are smarter than you look after all.”
With a mock bow, he replied, “
You flatter me, my lord.”
Chuckling, he switched his attention to the fathers in the room, trying to decide which ones might be the ideal father-in-law. “I suppose I ought
to get to work. The right lady won’t come to me. I must go to her, and with any luck, her father will point me in her direction.”
stepped further into the room, making sure he didn’t intrude on the dancing couples. Soon enough, he’d be dancing and talking to ladies whose fathers he got along with. His friend was right. If he could be on good terms with the lady’s family, then his life would be easier. Spotting some older gentlemen, he headed for them, determined to find out if they had any daughters.
Claire Lowell pulled her white gloves up to her elbows and then brushed off the imaginary lint on her pink evening gown.
“Stop fussing,” her sister admonished as she scanned the people who were dancing.
“Forgive me, Lilly.” She straightened up and forced her hands at her sides.
“You needn’t be so worried.”
“This is my first Season. How can I not worry?” Claire asked, taking in all the ladies who exuded far more confidence than she felt. How did they do it? They were calm and poised, speaking smoothly and laughing. They seemed to be enjoying themselves while she…while she felt as if she was going to be sick. “I don’t feel well.”
Lilly shook her head. “There’s nothi
ng to it. I survived my first Season, and you’ll survive yours, too.”
It was true. Lilly mad
e her rounds to the balls last Season and reported her dance card quite full. “You should have danced with the gentleman who asked you instead of staying with me.”
Lilly twirled her blonde strands around her fingers.
“Mister Morris might have money, but he doesn’t have a title. I don’t care how much he pursues me. I won’t marry a gentleman unless he has something to offer me.”
“Even if it’s love? Mister
Morris adores you.”
. “A mere infatuation. Nothing more.”
“I think it’s rather sweet the way he talks to you.”
“Sweet won’t make me comfortable for the rest of my life.”
“I doubt all the servants and clothes in the world can be sufficient when your husband doesn’t love you,” Claire whispered.
Lilly laughed as she studied the gentlemen as the dance came to an end. “That’s why ladies take lovers once they provide their husband with an heir. You don’t need to worry about me.”
She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She wasn’t so naïve that she didn’t understand the manner in which most of the noble class conducted their personal
Her gaze swept the room, noting the cordial manner in which people conducted themselves. She had to admit the dancing looked like fun, and part of her wanted to join, even if it meant some degree of emba
rrassment since she wasn’t sure the dancing lessons had paid off. She suspected her unease came more from how she compared to Lilly. Lilly was graceful on her feet and able to keep pace with the steps to the English country-dance. Claire had almost tripped on her way down the end of the line during the last one she’d participated in. She much preferred the waltz, though she did wonder if she hurt her dance partner since she stepped on his foot twice. She cringed at the memory. No. He wouldn’t dare venture her way again.
Their mother came over to them with an excited smile. “Your father is coming over here with a suitable bachelor.
I do believe he has a title.”
Lilly’s face lit up and she fluffed her blonde curls. Claire thought about doing something to make her dark hair more attractive but decided there wasn’t much she could do when it was piled up on her head with decorative pins in it. Besides, he most likely would want to dance with Lilly anyway.
Her father approached them with a gentleman, and Claire’s eyes went to the gentleman’s cane. She wondered what might have caused him to need it. A war injury perhaps? He looked young. Perhaps he was in his early twenties. He was good looking with brown hair, a solid frame, and pleasant blue eyes that twinkled with a sense of mirth. Her interest piqued, she focused on her father as he made the introductions.
“This is Lord
Clement,” he told them before turning back to the gentleman. “These are my daughters, Miss Lilly and Claire Lowell.”
laire and Lilly curtsied, and Lord Clement bowed. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he greeted. “I trust you’re finding London to your liking?”
Lilly glanced at Claire, and it took Claire a moment to realize her usually outspoken sister had decided this
gentleman wasn’t one she wanted so she felt no need to encourage him to talk to her. Clearing her throat, Claire replied, “London is…big, my lord.” Her cheeks grew warm. That didn’t come out quite right.
Her mother laughed and clapped her hands. “You’ll have to forgive my daughters. While Lilly attended
the Season last year, this is Claire’s first time in London. She finds it overwhelming.”
t’s understandable,” Lord Clement said. “One hardly sleeps with all there is to do, especially this time of year.”
Appreciative of his gracious reply, Claire relaxed. “I haven’t seen much of it yet.”
“I’m afraid we’ve been keeping the girls occupied with getting ready for the balls,” their father said. “We should do something of interest while we’re here.”
“Yes, we should,” their mother quickly agreed. “What do you suggest, Lord Clement?”
“If they enjoy a circus,” he began, “then I suggest Astley’s Royal Amphitheatre. However, if they wish to engage with others in London, Hyde Park is a good place to take a walk or ride a horse.” He motioned to his cane. “I prefer riding a horse. I have access to a couple of horses if the situation calls for it.”
Their father shot their mother an excited look.
“Both activities sound lovely,” their mother said, her head bobbing up and down. “We would be remiss if we didn’t engage in them while we’re here. That would be lovely, wouldn’t it?” she asked her daughters.
“Yes, it would,” Cla
ire admitted, thinking that Lord Clement was a likable gentleman. One, perhaps, she could even be happy marrying if he was as nice as he seemed.
Lilly bit her lower lip and brea
thed a sigh of relief when Mister Morris headed their way, his eyes flitting between her and Lord Clement. When he reached them, he bowed. They returned the greeting and exchanged pleasantries.
stepped over to Lilly in an apparent move to claim the lady he loved. Claire bit her lip so she wouldn’t chuckle. If her sister was smart, she’d marry him. She had no doubt he’d be devoted to her every day of his life.
“Might I have the honor of having the next dance?”
he asked Lilly.
To Claire’s surprise, Lilly gave
a quick nod and joined him so they could dance the next waltz. She resisted the urge to shake her head in amazement. Was that the same lady who just claimed she didn’t want to be with him? Whatever changed her mind in such a hurry?