When Miss Samantha Prendregast arrives at Devil's Fell to take charge of six rebellious girls, the vibrant, outspoken governess is not quite prepared to deal with the tall, dark and dashing master of the grand estate. The children she can manage with intelligence, guile...and a little bribery. Their widowed father, Colonel William Gregory, is not so easily charmed -- and far too easy to fall in love with, which she dares not do.
William always cherished the orderliness of his life, until this captivating troublemaker began flouting his authority and distracting him with her witty defiance and breathtaking beauty. Despite the fact that they clash at every meeting, William finds himself inexplicably drawn to Samantha's fire. And now he's even contemplating marriage, which would be sweet madness indeed.
But before he can successfully woo her, William must discover what it is that Samantha is hiding from him. But the secret the lady is preciously guarding is far too shocking and dangerous to ever reveal...
"It's not that you were a pickpocket, Samantha. It's that you persist in exposing your employers' foibles to your employers themselves, and they don't care for it." Adorna, Lady Bucknell, spoke in her soft and husky voice, and anyone listening would think she placidly accepted Samantha's most recent dismissal.
Samantha Prendregast didn't make that mistake. She stood before the desk with her chin up, shoulders back, just as Adorna had taught her. "No, ma'am."
The study of the Distinguished Academy of Governesses had been decorated in shades of pale blue, and Adorna's lush blonde beauty shone like a diamond in a satin setting. "I warned you about Mr. Wordlaw. I told you he was a martinet who believes women should be seen and not heard, and you assured me you would be able to handle him." Samantha resisted the desire to shift back and forth. "Yes, ma'am."
"Yet in two short months you are back at the Distinguished Academy of Governesses without a job, without a reference, and with a guarantee that Mr. Wordlaw's vengefulness will spread your larcenous reputation among the few of the ton who don't yet know it." Adorna folded her hands beneath her chin and fixed her large blue eyes on Samantha. "So what is your defense this time?"
Samantha thought of what she should say, how she could pacify Adorna, but she had given up lying at the same time she had given up stealing. "He bullies his son. The lad doesn't want to study the law. Little Norman stammers already, and when his father dragged him up in front of the entire family and mocked him, my heart ached for him, and I wanted to" -- she grew warm as she thought about that day, or perhaps the heat of a summer day in the City affected her -- "teach that man a lesson."
"So you told his wife about his mistress and convinced his mistress to abandon him. How will that benefit young Norman?"
"Mrs. Wordlaw's father controls the money. She has taken her son and left Wordlaw, which she should have done years ago, but she was too proud to admit she'd made a mistake. Norman's grandfather will make sure Norman gets to follow his dream." Samantha remembered how science fascinated the boy. "I think the lad is going to invent something wonderful."
"And the mistress?"
Samantha grinned. "She's a friend of mine from my street days. She relished giving the old whoreson the heave-ho for a chance at young Lord Penwyn."
"How did she get that chance?"
"I arranged it."
Adorna's delicate sigh conveyed resignation. "I'll wager you did."
"My lady, I'm sorry I lost the position and brought disgrace upon the Distinguished Academy of Governesses." Samantha really was sorry, sorrier than she could say. "But I'm not sorry I helped Norman."
"No, I'm not sorry, either. But there are always more discreet ways of maneuvering."
Samantha hated that she had disappointed Adorna -- again. "I know. I really, really do. I try to remember what you tell me, but sometimes I lose my temper, and I don't get it back for a long time. By then it's too late."
"Sit down." Adorna indicated the blue velvet chair beside Samantha.
The foregoing is excerpted from My Favorite Bride by Christina Dodd. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022