Authors: Jomarie Degioia
Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Romance
A Dashing Nobles Novella
Published Internationally by Lachesis Publishing Inc.
Rockland, Ontario, Canada
Copyright © 2013 JoMarie DeGioia
Exclusive cover © 2013 Laura Givens
Inside artwork © 2013 Giovanna Lagana
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the publisher, Lachesis Publishing Inc., is an infringement of the copyright law.
A catalogue record for the Ebook is available
National Library of Canada
Ebooks are available for purchase from
Editor: Joanna D’Angelo
Copyeditor: Giovanna Lagana
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
As always I’m ever grateful to my family for their unending support. I also thank my agent Michelle Grajkowski for her encouragement and my editor Joanna D’Angelo for helping me bring this story to life. It was so much fun to write this addition to the Dashing Nobles!
Dashing Nobles Series
More than Passion – Book 1
Pride and Fire – Book 2
More than Charming – Book 3
London, England 1825
William Chesterton, the Earl of Chester, sat in his comfortable parlor swirling an untouched glass of brandy in his hand. Spring had come at last to London, though the April evening was still chilled and damp. His staff had seen to the modest fire burning behind the grate, and the warmth lulled him into a false sense of serenity. It did nothing to dispel the turmoil deep inside, however.
Most of the
, his closest friends included, believed he was a steady man with a calm demeanor. That was true, for the most part. In the whole of his life, from his privileged childhood through his early ascension to the earldom upon his dear father’s passing, he’d been as steady as the Thames. Stalwart companion, dutiful only son, closest confidant. It was all so bloody boring.
He drank from his glass at last, his eyes on the fire. Tonight had gone just as so many nights before. The season was in its early stages and yet the parties and frivolities had already started. He’d joked with his friends, danced with their wives and sisters, and made certain not to show undue attention to marriage-minded young ladies. Their mothers would love to snare the calm and affable Earl of Chester for their daughters. That was certain.
He’d played his part as was expected, and even managed to ignore the urge to dance with one particular young lady more than the allotted two times. It had nearly killed him. Constance Bridges, the late Earl of Bridgewater’s daughter, was the only woman he wanted for more than two dances.
Her lithe body, her pale golden hair and sparkling gray eyes, were like no other woman’s he’d encountered. Last year, at yet another interminable house party, at one of his happily married cohorts’ estates, he’d attempted to make her see she was more than a pleasant diversion. He wasn’t merely a willing dance partner or riding companion, either. He might have acted a bit wild, however, and no doubt frightened her out of her wits.
He lifted the glass to his lips again and smiled. Ah, but that five seconds he’d spent holding her close, her breath warm on his cheek, her pink lips so close to his … he still got hard thinking about the heat she hid beneath that alabaster skin. He’d seen burgeoning knowledge in those gray eyes of hers, too. She’d wanted him. He’d stake the considerable estate his father left him on that fact.
She was a puzzle, to be sure. So serene and bashful on the surface, yet he knew she was more than the perfect picture she presented. He downed his brandy and let out a frustrated breath.
He was tired of playing the nice fellow. If he risked his lauded reputation in the process, so be it. He wanted more in his life than polite dinners and mildly pleasant diversions. He wanted love and passion and everything his friends had been lucky enough to find.
He knew Constance was the one to show him that heat. He drained the glass, letting the smooth liquor burn pleasantly down his throat.
He couldn’t wait to find out just how hot the fire inside her burned.
* * *
“You can’t deny the party last night was delightful, Constance.”
Constance read the extreme interest in her cousin Sarah’s countenance. Her eyes were almost wild.
“I believe I told you it was so,” Constance said.
“And what of the gentlemen there?” Sarah persisted. “Do you deny that you enjoyed dancing with them?”
Constance took a measured breath, keeping her pique from her own features. “Why ever would I deny that? I enjoyed myself immensely and fancied each gentleman who took my hand in his. There, are you satisfied?”
Sarah blew out a breath and leaned back. “You’re always satisfied.”
Diane Plymouth, their close friend, let out a sigh. “I’m not.”
Constance studied Diane, certain she had heard her incorrectly. “What do you mean, Diane?”
She waved a hand. “I’m unable to settle on a gentleman, I’m afraid. I want to marry and settle down, like our other friends have.”
Constance quelled her feelings. She so wanted that as well, but it wouldn’t do to appear as desperate as these two. It wasn’t in keeping with her image of the cool and perfect young society miss. This morning she was immensely chafed by that mantel.
“It’s a pity so many eligible men have been snatched from the marriage market.” Sarah sighed, then suddenly brightened. “There are still several left for the taking, Diane. Don’t give up hope.”
“True, but I don’t know where to set my cap,” Diane said. “I have a few men in mind, but I just can’t decide.”
Constance didn’t want to ask, she truly didn’t. Burning interest in the social swirl of the season was expected, however.
“Which gentlemen are you considering?” she asked Diane.
“Well, there are several,” Diane said, her eyes bright as she warmed to her topic. “Take Lord Kanewood’s circle.”
Sarah snorted. “Two down, two to go.”
Diane nodded. “I chose that particular group of gentlemen to demonstrate my sad state.”
“Really?” Constance said, curious despite herself. “Why those particular men?”
Sarah nodded, leaning forward. “They
such diverse gentlemen, in looks and temperament.”
“Exactly,” Diane said. “Take Lord Kanewood.”
“Yes, please,” Sarah put in.
Constance laughed. “He’s married, Sarah. And quite happily.”
Sarah grinned and nodded. “Yes, yes. Go on, Diane.”
“He’s the leader of their circle, commanding and very handsome. Yet he was caught.”
“And gone from the market.” Sarah sighed.
“Now, take Lord Leed,” Diane went on.
“Yes, please,” Sarah said again.
“Sarah,” Constance said with another laugh.
“Lord Leed,” Diane went on, her face dreamy now. “Dark and brooding and so …” She sighed.
“Yes,” Constance said. “Another gentleman happily married.”
“Oh, but Lord Roberts!” Diane gushed now. “He’s still available. And so charming and attentive toward me.”
“As he is toward most every lady.” Sarah pouted. “A girl can’t count on his charm to land on her alone.”
“But I’ve seen his sparkling gray eyes in my dreams,” Diane said.
Constance silently allowed that there wasn’t a more charming man of their acquaintance than Lord Roberts, not that she’d seen his particular eyes in her dreams. No. It was one particular pair of warm, brown eyes that made her body ache, in and out of her dreams. Not to mention his thick, blond hair. It looked so soft … she shook herself back to her boring, wakeful existence.
“Lord Roberts has gone to the country, Diane,” she said. “And will no doubt remain there for some time.”
“Yes, his father has reportedly taken ill,” Sarah said. “Pity that, though it might lead to an elevation in his station from viscount to earl.”
“Sarah!” Constance said. “How can you wish such sadness on Lord Roberts?”
“Oh, I don’t, not really,” Sarah said. “I just wish he was in town this season. He’s one of the few unattached gentlemen who draws my attention.”
“Your attention is drawn to every handsome face with a title and fortune,” Diane said. “I daresay I would take Lord Roberts with neither.”
Sarah snorted in obvious disbelief. “Be that as it may, he’s well and gone from London and we’ll have to set our caps for different gentlemen if we have any hope of marrying before this new season ends.”
The two other girls grew quiet, which unsettled Constance more than their chatter had. It was inevitable, the new course their conversation would take. She braced herself for the realization to strike the two of them.
“There is at least one who is available and quite attractive,” Diane said.
Constance’s hands fluttered in her lap and she fought to keep them still. “Which gentleman?” she asked, as if she didn’t know.
“Hmm, yes,” Sarah mused aloud. “There is always Lord Chester.”
And there it was. The mention of the very man Constance couldn’t get out of her mind. “L-Lord Chester?”
“Oh, yes, Lord Chester!” Diane cried. “He’s quite handsome and most pleasant. Though I can’t quite sketch a true picture of his character.”
Constance knew what she meant, for he was always so perfect in every social situation. Saying the right thing, dressed the right way, acting in the right manner. Aside from those blessed moments he’d held her in his arms at Leed Manor, that is.
“He has done work for Lord Kanewood. That is certain,” Sarah said. “During that business with the earl’s brother, at least.”
Diane shivered. “Horrid, that. Stealing funds and attempted murder?”
Sarah nodded, her eyes bright. “It’s rumored that Lord Chester has worked with the government, but no one can say in what capacity. He’s well-respected and his opinions count in Parliament. He’s affable and most pleasant, I’ll allow. Well-connected and wealthy, and welcome wherever he goes.”
“A perfect gentleman,” Diane concluded.
Constance could practically see the interest sparking in the girl’s mind. She wouldn’t let it smolder into flames of desire, however. Lord Chester wasn’t for Diane, or even Sarah for that matter. He was for
She alone had seen the dark glint of intent in those deep brown eyes of his as he stole glances at her from across the ballroom. She alone had encountered the tenseness of his firmly muscled body as he held her sedately during the dance. She alone had felt the impact of his intriguing smile, curved with heat instead of politeness as he’d nearly kissed her.
Yes, she knew there was far more to the Earl of Chester than the well-connected perfect gentleman. Far more.
And she would die before she let another lady steal him from her.
William stood on the fringe of the dance floor, watching the entrance for one particular woman. He smiled and bowed his head to the eagle-eyed matrons stationed near the refreshments. The hair on the back of his neck stood up at the cold calculation in their gazes.
Taking his attention from them, he scanned the dance floor once more. He saw the girls he’d met at Leed’s ancient estate over the winter, at least most of them. Diane Plymouth and Leed’s sisters. They were pretty girls, the sisters especially. A matched set of beauties, blessed with the Talbot blue eyes and thick sable hair. They didn’t draw him for long, though. He regarded them as sisters and always had. It was a shame that the eldest, Catherine, had been ill-used by that bastard Waltham last year. Thrown over for a friend of hers with a larger dowry.