The Spare by Carolyn Jewel - Romance>Historical RegencyCaptain Sebastian Alexander, late of His Majesty's Royal Navy, is The Spare who inherits an earldom and Pennhyll Castle after the death of his older brother. Red-haired Olivia Willow is invited to Pennhyll to even out the numbers. She's missing a day from her life. Is it possible that she had something to do with the murder of Sebastian's brother? Olivia isn't what he assumes and as the truth about what happened to his brother slowly comes to light, Sebastian's life is changed forever.
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Excerpt:“I’ve spoken at length with your cousin. He, too, is concerned by the way in which James singles you out, and upon less knowledge of the circumstances than I. In the main, I should say, he has convinced me he has your interests at heart.” He plucked the edge of her shawl, twitching it over her shoulders. “Given the circumstances, your cousin is prepared to make amends in the only way left him. With all that my family has done, I cannot help but feel responsible for you.”
“I told you before, I don’t want your pity.”
“You do not have it.” He clasped his hands behind his back. “Let there be no mistake. Marriage, Miss Willow, is what your cousin intends and what James does not. Your cousin’s offer you will have in earnest.”
A sick feeling uncurled in the pit of her stomach. Her head throbbed. “He doesn’t love me. Nor do I love him.”
“What does that signify?” His eyes snapped with frost. “You do not know him well, for all that you are such near relations. But he has much to recommend him. He’s possessed of a substantial estate, as well you know, and can certainly support a wife in comfort. Your antecedents are impeccable. Though by marrying you he would raise your from your present difficulties, he, on the other hand, cannot be said to be marrying down. It is a remedy he ought to have seen sooner than this.”
“Was it your idea?”
“Not entirely. Come along.”
When they reached the door from which they’d exited, Tiern-Cope held it open. “Come now, Miss Willow, you must admit your future is not a bright one. Marriage to your cousin is an excellent solution. Nothing could be more logical.”
“I am sure that’s so.”
He followed her through to the salon. At the doorway to the interior hall, he stopped her with a hand to her elbow. “He will be here for the ball and that bloody ridiculous seance of Diana’s. When he proposes, Miss Willow, you will accept him.”
“I don’t want to marry him. He makes me— Oh, I can’t describe it.” His eyebrows lifted in amusement, and she knew what he was thinking. “You are a wicked man. Not that.”
“Uneasy. He makes me uneasy.” Lord, his eyes were blue.
“You’re not used to being courted.”
“It’s not as if I’ve never had a beau.”
“Very well, then courted by someone you do not know well. Doubtless you would be— uneasy —if I were courting you.”
“That’s unkind, my lord.”
“How so?” He waved a hand, towering over her. “Marriage is the only solution to your predicament.” She couldn’t back up because he continued to hold her elbow. He put his back to the door. His eyes moved around the room, paused on something and then focused on her. “Have you another candidate in mind? You have only to tell me his name, and I will do what I can for you.”
“Women like me don’t have their pick of suitors.”
“What do you mean, women like you?” He leaned against the wall by the door, arms over his chest.
“Like me. Like this.”
“Like what?” He captured her wrist. “Women like what, Miss Willow?”
“My lord.” Did he not understand the problem? “I have red hair.”
“By God, you do.” And then he kissed her.