Written by: Aubrey Wynne
Series: , Once Upon A Widow #4
Publication Date: 19th November 2019
Source: Author's Pal
Miss Hannah Pendleton is nursing her pride after her childhood crush falls in love with another. Determined to break a few hearts of her own, she hurls herself into the exciting and hectic schedule of a first season. Hannah finds the glitter and malice of London and its society both intriguing and intimidating. Always clever and direct, the smooth manners and practiced words of the gallant but meticulous bachelors do nothing to stir her soul until…
Since his wife’s suicide on their wedding night, the Earl of Darby has carefully cultivated his rakish reputation. It keeps overprotective mamas at bay and provides him with unlimited clandestine affairs. But when Nicholas sees a lovely newcomer being courted by the devil himself, her innocence and candor revive the chivalry buried deep in his soul. The ice around Nicholas’s heart cracks as he desperately tries to save Hannah and right a hideous wrong committed so long ago.
A petite young girl sat in a huge leather chair by the fireplace, a book open in her lap. She quickly closed the cover and stood to greet them, pulling down the skirt of her yellow Primrose muslin as she rose. Behind them a deep voice instructed the butler.
“We will expect tea within the half hour. Lady Darby will not be attending us this afternoon. She has the megrim and is requesting chamomile tea in her room.”
His deep timbre sent a warmth rushing through Hannah. As she turned to meet their host, she caught his eye and he smiled. Her breath caught.
“Pendleton, it’s good to see you!”
“And you,” said Nathaniel, as he leaned forward and shook his friend’s hand. “I’d like you to meet my sister, Miss Hannah Pendleton, and I believe you met my Lady Roberta before?”
Aunt Bertie elbowed Hannah, reminding her breathe as her aunt put her hand forward and nodded in acknowledgment of the introduction. Darby bowed over each lady’s gloved hand.
“My pleasure,” he said, lifting translucent his calamine-blue eyes to Hannah. “And may I introduce my sister, Lady Matilda.”
When Matilda joined them, Hannah had to pull her gaze from his, mesmerized by the odd translucent shade of a clear summer sky.
“It is a pleasure to meet any friends of my brother.” Her voice was soft, neither shy nor confident. Matilda pushed a blonde lock, the shade of evening primrose, from her forehead. “I apologize for my mother’s absence.” She gripped her book, her white knuckles betraying her calm tone.
Hannah’s heart went out to the girl. “Is that by Maria Edgeworth? Have you read many of her books? I so enjoyed her novel, Leanora.”
A grateful smile curled the girl’s lips. “Oh, yes. That’s why I purchased Castle Rackrent. Have you read it?”
“No, I haven’t. Perhaps I could borrow it when you finish?”
“Oh, yes. Do you read any biographies?”
“Egad! Please don’t tell me we have two bluestockings on our hands,” Nathaniel said with a laugh.
“My sister has her nose in a book most of the time.” Darby grinned, the dimple in his cheek deepening. “She’s indiscriminate and will read anything from a scientific journal to a romantic novel.”
Hannah’s eyes snapped back to the earl’s face. She had the strangest urge to step closer, reach up, and trace her finger along the cleft in his chin. Wings had taken flight in her belly. What was happening? While Gideon had always sent her stomach into a tumble, she’d never experienced a flock of birds flapping inside her. It must be exhaustion from the trip. Or those captivating eyes. Or the dimple that begged her to press her lips to his cheek. Or the stretch of his jacket across those broad shoulders and the thigh-hugging buckskin breeches. Stop being a buffle-headed romantic, she scolded herself.
Aunt Bertie looked at Hannah, then gave Darby an appreciative perusal. “Lud! This will be a delicious season. Let’s sit down and get to know one another, shall we?”