The ladies in London are abuzz over Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, especially Miss Sarah Moorehouse. Her imagination is fired up, so when she spies Matthew Devenport, Marquess Langston, mysteriously sneaking home in the wee hours clutching a shovel, she simply must investigate. Impelled by curiosity, the adventurous lass steals into his bedchamberâonly to be caught red-handed by the impossibly handsome and totally naked nobleman.
The Marquess Langston has more important things to worry about than a group of literature-loving ladies. But Matthew's grand plan to rescue the family from ruin could be lost when he discovers Sarah hiding behind his bedroom curtain. What is this meddlesome woman up to? And why are his desires inflamed by a chit who is too inquisitive for her own good? Well, two can play at this game . . . and when Matthew captures the beguiling Sarah in all her naked glory, the night of mischief has only just begun.
A chill of unease snaked down Matthew Devenport's spine and he stilled his shovel to scan the darkened cemetery. All his senses on alert, he strained his ears yet only heard the chirping of crickets and the rustling of leaves from the unseasonably cool breeze heavily scented with the threat of rain.
Clouds obscured the moon, enveloping him in shadows, which served his purpose well, but also made it impossible to discern if someone lurked nearbyâa realization that did nothing to stop the unsettling quickening of his heartbeat.
He glanced around again, then forced himself to relax. Bloody hell, why this sudden attack of nerves? Nothing appeared amiss. Yet he couldn't shake the eerie sensation that had plagued him since leaving the house at midnightâthat someone was following him. Watching him.
An owl hooted, and his pulse jumped, and he pressed his lips together in annoyance at allowing the atmosphere to spook him. He'd made these secret sojourns for months and was well accustomed to the eerie sounds that rose from the darkened forest. Still, he reached down and closed his fingers over the cool metal hilt of the knife tucked in his boot. He didn't relish the thought of using the weapon, but he would if he had to. He hadn't come this far, persevered this long, to have anyone threaten his search.
Search? The word mocked him, and he swallowed the bitter sound that rose in his throat as he jabbed his shovel into the hard ground. This was more than a search. Over the course of the past year, these damned ventures into the night had become more of a quest. An obsession that robbed him of not only sleep, but of his peace of mind. Soon . . . it will all be over soon.
One way or another.
Lifting a heavy shovelful of dirt, he tossed it aside, his tired muscles straining with effort. How many more holes could he dig? How many more sleepless nights could he endure? Even during the day, when he didn't search for fear of being discovered, his task haunted him. For he now had less than a month left to keep his pledge. And honor, his integrity, demanded that he do so. He'd once compromised both, and as he was still paying the consequences for that folly, he refused to make that same mistake again.
Yes, so much better to make other mistakes, his inner voice sneered.
Such as these nightly journeys into the dark.
But now, after trying for so long yet failing, there was no denying his greatest enemy.
His time was almost up.
He flung several more shovelfuls of dirt, then paused to swipe his sweaty brow with the back of his hand. Perspiration trickled down his aching back, and he blew out a disgusted breath, frustrated by the fact that as much as he hated this endless searching, he ironically hated even more the fact that his house was now filled with guests, thus allowing him less time to continue the search. They'd arrived en masse earlier this evening and he'd forced himself to endure their company over dinner, an interminable meal he'd thought would never end.
Damn it, he didn't want guests. Didn't want people invading his home. His privacy. Yet what choice did he have? He needed a bride and needed one quick. And by God, he'd do whatever he had to in order to get one. He paused, his gaze lingering on the hole he'd just dug, and his fingers tightened on the rough wooden handle of the shovel. Yes, he'd do whatever he had to.
As was necessary with so many other facets of his life, he shoved aside his own desires and focused on what needed to be done. There were choices to be made, life-altering choices, and as much as he didn't wish to make them, he could delay no longer. And as much as he didn't relish the interruption of playing host, if...