Sara Lawrence is happy to be a young widow, but her brothers insist on marrying her off again. The solution? Sara asks Nick Montrose, the notorious Earl of Bridgeton, to teach her how to ruin herself, thus rendering herself unmarriageable. Envisioning the day when the luscious Sara winds up in his bed, Nick is all too happy to oblige-but when he sees her "practicing" her lessons on other men, he′s inexplicably enraged. Then comes the day Sara′s brothers catch her and Nick in a compromising position-which leads to a speedy marriage neither wants. Can the love they don′t recognize find a way through their warring desires?
The only thing that stood between Saraphina Lawrence and Hades was a respectable marriage bed. Given her choice, she would have leapt over the bed and raced straight into the flames wearing nothing but the famed Lawrence sapphires, her arms spread wide to embrace the wild heat. It was a pity her brothers wouldn't get out of the way.
"Damn all interfering men," she muttered, staring morosely out the window of the slow, plodding carriage.
Her aunt's eyes widened in the uncertain light that shimmered across the silver strands at her temple. "I beg your pardon?"
That was Aunt Delphi's answer to everything -- pretend you didn't hear and look annoyingly innocent. So far it had won her a duke who'd had the good grace to die within twelve months of the wedding, and a handsome jointure that gave her a startling amount of independence. Not that Aunt Delphi ever used it.
"I said, 'Damn all interfering men,'" Sara repeated more loudly. "I have been grossly misused, and you know it. I was dragged out of my house --"
"To attend the social event of the season."
"-- and forced to ride in this decrepit coach --"
"As if Marcus would have anything other than the best coach made."
"-- just because my brothers are determined to make me into something I'm not." Sara scowled down at the brightly jeweled slippers that peeped from beneath her skirts. They pinched hideously, and had she not been determined to irritate her brothers' tedious sense of decorum, she wouldn't have worn the gaudy things. She slipped her feet free and wiggled her toes in the cool evening air, ignoring Delphi's look of disapproval.
Though she hated his arrogance, perhaps it was just as well that Marcus had summoned her. It was time they settled this issue once and for all. She was beyond listening to solemn advice; every minute that she walked on the border of ruin and challenged the stolid face of society exhilarated her. For the first time since Julius's death, she felt alive. Alive and free.
Aunt Delphi shook her head. "You have run mad. Since Julius died, you --"
"He died, but I did not. And I refuse to act as if I did."
Everyone had watched and waited for her to show some remorse, some hint of sadness, but she felt nothing. Not after her handsome husband died much the way he'd lived -- with his breeches about his ankles and his private member where it didn't belong. It was no wonder Lady Georges had retired to the country after his death, it must have been a shock to watch her near-naked lover fall out of her carriage when her screams of ecstasy frightened the skittish horses into bolting.
Even worse was the fact that the entire ton knew the sordid truth. It had been the whispered joke of the season. The mere thought of it pinched Sara's pride worse than her shoes ever could. But strangely, the pain of Julius's public betrayal had freed her in a way that his death hadn't. She would never again waste her Iife trying to be something she was not, no matter what Marcus said. "My brother should pay more attention to his own affairs and stop tormenting me."
"He cares about you, Sara. All of your brothers do."
"And I care about them. But I don't go around telling them what to do. Marcus has sway over my funds until I am twenty-five years old, and then I am free. If he wants any peace in the next four years, he'll let me be."
Shaking her head, Aunt Delphi regarded her niece with compassion. While Sara's behavior might befuddle her brothers, Delphi understood it perfectly. Before Sara had married, there had always been a touch of wildness to her. She'd ridden harder, laughed louder, and been more spontaneous than any gently bred woman should be. But she'd always been surrounded by...