Lord Wincanton fled England’s shores to avoid heartbreak in the form of Lady Eleanor Cramley, but upon his return from fighting Bonaparte he finds the impetuous young miss he escorted through her first Season has grown into a stunning woman who still fires his blood. But as long as she sees him as a beloved older brother figure, he won’t risk their friendship by exposing his true feelings.
Eleanor was devastated when Sorin left after scolding her for her wild ways. During his long absence, she’s striven to mold herself into the proper lady he urged her to become. Now that he’s back, however, the gentleman who once served as her chaperone makes Ellie long to toss all propriety to the wind. Without losing his good opinion, she must make her dearest friend see her as worthy of his heart and desire before this Season’s end—or face an unacceptable bridegroom.
Passions run deep beneath the surface in this ‘best friends to lovers’ romance, and friendship will be tested to the limits by hidden desires and machinations gone amiss.
Read an exclusive excerpt of Scandal of the Season below!
Sorin’s stomach roiled as though he’d just swallowed a large mouthful of something particularly vile. She was playing matchmaker. For him. That it was exactly what he’d asked her to do mattered not at all. She was staring, waiting. He needed to say something. Something other than the flood of invective currently held back only by his tightly clenched teeth. “I…confess I did not expect you to find suitable candidates so quickly.”
“I was fortunate enough to meet both ladies on the day of the picnic,” she explained. “They are acquaintances of Lady Blithesby, a friend of Rowena’s. Her ladyship had only the highest words of praise for them both.”
“I see.” He took a breath to steady himself. “Well then, I suppose I ought to meet these paragons.” His heart sank as a proud smile lifted the corners of her mouth.
“Incidentally, Miss Rutherford brings more wealth than Lady Eugenia,” she continued in a hushed voice. “I overheard her mother say she’ll bring sixty-three thousand to a marriage. Although a duke’s daughter, Lady Eugenia will bring only twenty-five.” She patted his arm absently. “Of course I know money means nothing to you, but you should still be aware. Given her vast wealth, you’ll probably find it more difficult to gain Miss Rutherford’s favor, if only because she’s already gathered so many admirers. Even so, should she be your choice, I have every confidence in your ability to win her.”
Wonderful. “I think you have a good deal more faith in me than perhaps you ought,” he said, trying to sound amused as opposed to miserable.
“Nonsense,” was her brisk reply. “Being an earl, you’re quite the catch yourself. You’ll have no trouble at all finding a bride. Now, I’m given to understand that Miss Rutherford enjoys outdoor sport more than most ladies—riding, archery, hunting, and such. She’s well-educated, of course, but not the bookish sort. Lady Eugenia, I’m told, is more content with reading or needlework. She also enjoys music and is highly appreciative of chocolate in all forms, an excellent bit of information for any gentleman coming to call.”
Unable to bear hearing any more talk of Miss Rutherford and Lady Eugenia, he stopped and turned to her. “Would you honor me with the next dance?”
She blinked in surprise and after a brief hesitation, nodded. He propelled her to the dance floor past several gentlemen who looked on with appreciative and eager eyes. When Sorin at last stopped in line to face her across the aisle for the danse écossaise, he suddenly understood why she’d attracted so much attention.
What stood before him was a completely dazzling woman, a perfect rose in full, glorious bloom. He’d been so unsettled by their conversation and so intent upon observing her face for even the smallest clue as to her true state of mind concerning him that he’d been all but blind to anything else.
He was certainly not so now. Dumbstruck, he could only stare at the slender curves revealed by the fall of her skirts as she moved. Creamy skin glowed in the candlelight, its velvet richness offset by the fiery glimmer of diamonds. Diamonds he’d helped select. His fingers itched with the memory of how soft the flesh of her nape had been as he’d helped her first try them on.
Desire threatened to drown him as he bowed in response to her curtsy, and then the dance commenced. Weaving through the line, they promenaded. Then began the series of turns that brought them together time and again. Her warm fingertips briefly brushed his palm, each touch fanning the embers within him until they blazed white-hot.
Their eyes locked, and everything else was cast into insignificance. All thoughts save those of want evaporated as wild imaginings rose in his mind. Visions of pulling her into his arms and kissing her right there on the ballroom floor, of sweeping her up and carrying her off to some secluded place and making slow, passionate love to her flashed through his head.
Then the dance was over. She again dipped before him, her breathing rapid and her color high, no doubt from exertion. It couldn’t be anything more, not with her trying to marry him off to Miss Weatherford or Lady whatever-her-name-was. Before he could say anything, another man stepped up between them and claimed the next dance. The next instant, she was gone without a backward glance.
A sense of loss engulfed him as he watched her trip the reel with her partner. Light as eiderdown, she was, and her smile shone like a thousand suns. But that smile was not for him. Jealousy raged in his blood until the heat of it was almost unbearable. In that moment, he knew there was no escape from the desire that bound him to her. It was an invisible, inexorable force, like gravity. How could she not feel it, too?
She passed by, and their glances caught and held for a moment. Heat rose in his face as her brows drew together in a look of consternation just before she was whirled away. Bollocks. He needed to regain his composure before he made an idiot of himself in front of the whole bloody assembly.
Liana LeFey delights in crafting incendiary tales that capture the heart and the imagination, taking the reader out of the now and into another world. Liana lives in Central Texas with her dashing husband/hero and their beautiful daughter. She’s also privileged to serve one spoiled rotten feline overlord. Liana has been devouring romances since she was fourteen and is now thrilled to be writing them for fellow enthusiasts.