A Convenient Engagement
An independent young woman of means, Miss Hannah Howard is as stubborn as she is beautiful. After she moves to London for her first season among the ton, she immediately finds herself in a heated dispute with her neighbor, the ill-mannered Gavan Dalreoch, Earl of Rhone. Giving the Earl a black eye is a lapse in judgment—even though the Scottish scoundrel deserved it. Now with her reputation in jeopardy, her only hope for saving face is the man whose face she bruised.
Gavan is content to live up to his rakish reputation, but with family pressuring him to marry, he and Hannah agree to get engaged just long enough to appear respectable. Yet as the charade continues with stolen kisses and a trip to Gavan's Scottish castle, Gavan and Hannah discover that their false engagement may be more real than they imagined.
Read an excerpt:
Hannah was startled out of the adventures of Robinson Crusoe by her window slamming up in its casement. A pair of boots swung themselves over the ledge and into her bedroom. If her mind weren’t still trying to pull itself back from the high seas, she would certainly have screamed. Fortunately, the upper half of an extremely drenched Rhone appeared before her good sense, saving the household from disruption. He pushed dripping hair off his forehead and gave her a toothy grin.
Hannah rushed to the window. “Have you completely lost your mind?”
“It’s possible, but I don’t think so.” Gavan grabbed the lap blanket she had dropped in her hurry, and scrubbed some of the water from his hair.
“How did you even get up here?” She looked out to the ground below.
He sat down in the armchair she had vacated and pulled off a boot. “I crossed over from my window. There’s a ledge.”
Hannah stuck her head out the window, craning in the direction of his townhouse. “It’s not even a hand span wide! There’s nothing to hold onto!”
“I assure you, I have excellent balance.” His other boot thumped to the floor.
“It is pouring down rain out there. You could have fallen to your death.” Hannah turned, to see his coat landing on top of his boots. “What are you doing?”
“Getting dry. As you cleverly pointed out, it is raining quite vigorously.” Rhone’s waistcoat joined the pile.
Hannah gaped as he stripped off his soaked shirt. Gavan was standing in her bedroom, divesting himself of his clothes. Perhaps she had fallen asleep while reading. It would make much more sense if this was an extremely vivid dream.
He wrapped the blanket around his waist, and his breeches dropped to the carpet with a soggy squelch. Definitely a dream.
He tousled his still damp hair again, leaving it in disarray. “So. What were you doing?” “Reading before bed,” she answered, distracted.
“The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.” Hannah closed her eyes to block out his naked torso so she could think straight. “Why are you here?”
“I was bored. Ewan went to bed already.”
She heard rustling and opened her eyes to find him under the covers in her bed. He was bored? Oh, bloody hell. “I’m not dreaming, am I?”
“Of course not.” He stopped in the middle of fluffing the pillows he had piled up. “Do you usually dream about me?”
“But if you did, I would be naked?” He raised his brow suggestively, before languidly stretching in her bed. His satisfied groan reverberated through the room. “Honestly, woman. Where do you buy your furniture?”
“My furniture? Switzerland.” Hannah’s entire thought process had fogged over when he put his arms behind his head. The corded muscles of his bicep and forearm had stolen what little reason she managed to gather since he came through her window.
She stood there staring at his arms, for God knows how long, before she realized he had stopped asking her questions. She shifted her gaze up to his face, and found him looking back at her with amusement.
“You’re naked. In my bed,” she said. “Yes, I am,” he said gently.
“Would you like to join me?”
Would she like to join him? Of course she would. She wanted to strip off her own… Oh god. “I can’t.”
“My nightgown is,” Hannah considered how best to say it. “Indecent.” Amusement was replaced with overt interest. “You don’t say.”
Included in the delivery from Madame Baudette were nightgowns clearly intended for a marriage bed. They were beyond scandalous, but they were also gorgeous and Hannah had been unable to resist them.
“You’re going to think I’m silly.” “I sincerely doubt that.”
Hannah sighed. She supposed it could hardly be worse than baring her backside to him in the Conduitt’s parlour. She took off her wrapper and laid it at the foot of her bed.
Unlike the voluminous nightdresses she grew up with, Madame Baudette’s creation was fashioned in the slimmer silhouette of a shift. Crafted in a fine silk charmeuse, it was nearly sheer and ever so soft. Sections of the silk had been replaced with delicate lace, the overall effect of which was extremely revealing.
Gavan blinked at her.
Hannah twisted the mass of her hair nervously, trying to arrange it over her breasts for some semblance of modesty. “It didn’t seem right to let it go to waste just because we won’t actually be married. It’s very soft.”
“I can imagine.” He took a deep breath. “For the record, when I came through your window my intentions were purely conversational.”
“You came through my window and immediately started taking off your clothes.” She didn’t believe that for a second.
“I was wet. And cold.”
Hannah made a skeptical sound with her throat.
“I think you’d better get in bed now,” he said seriously. “Because you’re cold?”
He smiled. “Obviously.”
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About Kimberly Bell2015 RWA Golden Heart Finalist and 2014 Maggie Award Winner Kimberly Bell writes misfit love stories from her home near the beach in San Luis Obispo, California. When she isn't wrangling characters or making a nuisance of herself on twitter, she is occupied trying to run the devil out of her shepherd-coyote mix rescue.
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