He’s everything she thinks she doesn’t want.
When Miss Rose Wellesley’s father threatens an arranged marriage, she knows she’d better settle on a choice quickly or end up having no say in who she marries. Fortunately, she’s garnered a rare invitation to Lady Dunlop’s “Week of Love” house party, an annual affair notorious for matchmaking. Her plans to expedite a proposal would go smoothly if not for the brash younger sister she must chaperone, her outspoken, disagreeable best friend, and the bullish Lord Hartfell who seems determined to dog her every step.
Lord Hartfell embodies every last thing Rose dislikes in a man. He’s domineering, tenacious, argumentative, and a little too casual with his nudity for her tastes. Worst of all, Rose can’t seem to get him—or his kisses—out of her mind.
Rose is determined to find a more appropriate husband, even if her heart disagrees with how unsuitable the stubborn lord is…
The rustle of cloth hailed Hartfell removing his jacket. Ignoring me, he laid it on the floor in front of the chuckling fire. Not a terrible idea. After unknotting and unwinding the cravat from his throat, he discarded it onto the gleaming desk. Then he went to work on his shirt.
I turned my back. “What in damnation are you doing?”
“My clothes are soaked. Yours too. Even if you’d like to catch a chill, I’d rather avoid it.”
He sounded amused, not at all contrite or ashamed. And he’d called me shameless.
“We’re very much alone,” I reminded him.
“If we stood in the middle of a crowded room, it would hardly be appropriate for me to undress.”
At that, I whirled on him. “It is not appropriate now!”
His shirt hung over the back of the desk chair. He stood, utterly bare from the waist up, in nothing but his breeches and boots. The soft-looking mat of hair on his chest glimmered golden in the firelight.
He lingered far too close. A ballroom would not have been enough space between us, but he stood scarcely two steps away. With his ground-eating strides, maybe one.
Breathlessly I added, “Anyone might walk in.” My heart beat frantically, restraining my voice to a whisper. If I were discovered with him in this state of undress, I’d have to marry him.
A more odious fate, I couldn’t imagine.
With a shrug, he crossed to the closed library door and locked it.
My mouth fell open. “What did you just do?”
“I ensured no one would interrupt us.”
“Interrupt us? You make it sound like we’re having a conversation. You are undressing.” I lowered my voice and hissed out the last word.
He turned. “Maybe we are, and you’re just too blasted stubborn to hear it.”
His chest loomed within an arm’s reach now. I’d stalked toward him without noticing. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the unadorned flesh of his body.
He was what Francine would call an agreeable specimen. Of course, she referred to plants rather than people when she spoke those words, but no other description fit him. I hadn’t had the misfortune of seeing many men bare-chested, after all. My experience was limited to one.
The breadth of his shoulders devoured the space in the room, closing in on us until he seemed to surround me. The downy hair on his chest beckoned. Would it feel soft? Raspy? I clasped my hands behind my back to keep from finding out firsthand. My gloves, a bit damp, squelched softly. His muscular physique surprised me. What did he do to stay so supremely fit?
“Do you like what you see?” he asked in so low a rumble, I nearly mistook his voice for the thunder outdoors.
About the Author
Harmony Williams has been living vicariously in Regency-era England since she discovered Jane Austen. Since time machines don’t yet exist, she’s had to make do with books—fictional and non-fictional. On the rare occasions she doesn’t have her nose stuck in a book, she likes to drink tea and spend time with her 90-lb lapdog. A feminist, she writes stories about strong women and the men who support them as equals.