Looking for a little romance to snuggle up with on these cold, dreary nights? Don’t miss the newly reissued gem from New York Times bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries, DON’T BARGAIN WITH THE DEVIL! (And if you love this one like we do, you can snap up the rest of the School for Heiresses books below…)
Late April 1824
How thoughtless of your drawing instructor to quit just before the Easter term begins! At least you have Miss Seton to help you until you can replace the irresponsible woman. Though I do hope she has grown out of what you called “her inability to think before speaking.”
Your friend and cousin,
Lucinda Seton needed an impressive suitor, and she needed one now.
A prince would be her first choice, but she’d settle for a duke or even a marquess, preferably one who was filthy rich. Not that she cared about riches, oh no. Expensive phaetons tearing neck-or-nothing through town made her retch, and hothouse roses made her sneeze. Jewels were rather nice, but a lot of trouble to watch out for when strolling with one’s maid in the parks.
No, she wanted an impressive suitor for one reason only: to make Peter Burnes eat his words.
Tears stinging her eyes, she paced the bedroom at Mrs. Harris’s School for Young Ladies that would be hers for the next few weeks. Fie on that wretch! She jerked a shawl from her half-unpacked trunk. How could she still be crying over him? And how could that heartless blackguard choose some milk-and-water miss over her?
The memory of their humiliating exchange at last Saturday’s ball made her cringe as she tucked her shawl into the chest of drawers. Bad enough that she’d foolishly asked him how they stood. But his answer . . .
Given my new position in society, Lucy, I require a more suitable wife. Someone of a settled and responsible disposition, not a hot-blooded hoyden who says the first thing that pops into her head.
Hunting through her trunk, she found her pencils and the sketch pad containing the drawing she’d done of him a year ago, back when he’d thought she might be a suitable wife. She stared at the tousled curls and beatific smile that always made her heart turn over, then drew a pair of vile-looking horns on his head. She wasn’t an irresponsible hoyden. She wasn’t!
All right, perhaps she was a trifle outspoken. But what was wrong with that? He’d enjoyed it well enough when they were children running about the regiment.
You’re the kind of woman a man dallies with, not the kind he marries.
Dallies with! She gnawed on her pencil, remembering the first time Peter, a seventeen-year-old general’s son three years older than she, had laughingly stolen a kiss from her. Had he been dallying even then? Had she assumed it meant something when it had meant nothing to him?
And after she’d waited months for him, too! She’d been so sure Peter would marry her. Before his departure on the Grand Tour, he’d even called her his “one true love.” He’d kissed her again, so sweetly it had seemed a declaration, especially when he’d told her to wait for him.
But once he’d returned, that was all forgotten. Instead, he’d called on her dressed in costly splendor, sporting a fine gold watch and talking down to her.
You’re too impassioned, too curious about things no lady should deign to notice. You can’t help it—it’s in your blood.
Her foreign blood. Peter knew that Lucy had been adopted by Colonel Seton, the man she called Papa. Her real father had been an English soldier, her mother a Spanish woman of uncertain background. Not that Lucy could remember, since they’d died in the war when Lucy was only four. But Peter didn’t care about that, did he? Oh no, he only cared about the precious blood that her mother had passed on, which he seemed to think seethed with Spanish wildness and passion and fire.
Well, she’d show him wildness and passion and fire! With quick slashes of her pencil, she added a pointy tail that curved out from behind the modest frock coat he’d worn back when he was plain old Mr. Burnes, before he’d unexpectedly inherited the earldom of Hunforth.
That’s when he’d become “too good” for her, too conscious of his precious lineage and important connections. That’s when he’d become exactly like every other man in English society.
Although most people assumed Papa was a widower and Lucy his daughter, they soon learned otherwise from the gossips. Lady Kerr, her stepmother, had gently warned her that her odd parentage might prove an issue for high sticklers, especially since she wasn’t a great heiress like her friends. And though men had shown her some interest during her first season, she’d had no offers. Not that she’d encouraged them—she’d been waiting for Peter. But she would have thought one would have made an offer anyway.
Unless . . . Oh, Lord, what if Peter were right about her? What if everybody thought she was some hussy not good enough to become a respectable man’s wife? Was that why men were always eyeing her bosom and trying to kiss her on balconies? They never seemed to do that to the other girls.
They certainly never did that to Lady Juliana. Rich, elegant, boring Lady Juliana, whom Peter had apparently chosen as sufficiently suitable to be his bride.
Fresh tears sprang to her eyes. How dared he spurn her? The other men didn’t surprise her; half were sheep who did what their mamas said. But Peter was supposed to be . . .
She’d make him rue the day he’d rejected her.