As I was writing the Love By Numbers series, I knew that Simon’s sister, Georgiana, was too wonderful a character to be left in Yorkshire at Minerva House. It was Georgiana, after all, who was the reason Isabel and Nick fell in love in Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord and who eventually became the hero of Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart. Surely, if there were ever a woman who could survive the ruin of unwed motherhood in the Regency, it was this one, seventeen and strong as steel. But what would become of her?
Suffice to say, Georgiana has done quite well for herself. After the scandal of Caroline’s birth, Georgiana reinvented herself as Chase, the mysterious owner of London’s legendary casino, The Fallen Angel—the heart of my Rules of Scoundrels series. All of London is at Chase’s whim, despite none of them knowing that scandalous truth – namely that he is a she. It doesn’t hurt that while Chase’s real identity is a mystery, she has three very handsome, very powerful, very public partners, each of whom find love before she has her chance.
But when she has her chance...whoa, nelly. It comes in the form of Duncan West, the wealthy, brilliant newspaperman who has been my almost-fifth scoundrel since the Rules of Scoundrels began. I am wild about these two together, because I'm not sure I've ever written such a good match. Indeed, Duncan is Georgiana's match in wits, in strength, in power, in intelligence and yes, in bed. But theirs is not an easy road. In fact, their love throws everything into peril--the Angel, their secrets, their families, and their hearts.
Georgiana’s story, Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover, will be available in stores in December—but you’ve been so patient that I thought you’d enjoy a peek at her ruin.
Thank you, as always, for reading
“I love you.”
Three strange, small words that held so much power.
Not that Lady Georgiana Pearson—daughter of one duke and sister to another, child of honor and duty and pristine presentation, and perfectly bred female of the ton—had ever heard them.
Aristocrats did not love.
And if they did, they most certainly did not do something so base as to admit it.
So it was a shock, frankly, that the words spilled from her lips with such ease and comfort and truth. But Georgiana had never in her sixteen years believed anything so well, and she had never been so quickly rid of the shackles of expectation that came with her name and her past and her family.
Yes. Love had freed her.
Certainly, there would never be a moment so beautiful as this—in the arms of the man she loved, the one with whom she would spend a lifetime. Longer. The one with whom she would build a future, and hang her name and her family and her reputation.
Jonathan would protect her.
He’d said as much as he’d shielded from the cold March wind and shepherded her here, into the stables of her family estate.
Jonathan would love her.
He’d whispered the words as his hands had unfastened and lifted, peeled and unwrapped, promising her everything as he touched and stroked.
And she’d whispered them back. Giving him everything.
She sighed her pleasure to the rafters, nestling closer to him, cushioned by lean muscle and rough straw and covered in a warm horse blanket that should have scratched and bothered, but was somehow made soft by the emotion it had just witnessed.
Love. The stuff of sonnets and madrigals and fairy tales and novels.
Love. The elusive emotion that made men weep and sing and ache with desire and passion.
Love. The life-altering feeling that made everything bright and warm and wonderful. The emotion all the world was desperate to discover.
And she’d found it. Here. In the frigid winter, in the embrace of this magnificent boy. No. Man. He was a man, just as she was a woman, made one today in his arms, against his body.
As though it had heard her thoughts, a horse in the stables below whinnied softly, pawing at the floor of his stall, huffing his desire for food or drink or affection.
Jonathan shifted beneath her, and she curled into him, pulling the blanket tighter around them. “Not yet.”
“I must. I am required.”
“I require you,” she said, putting on her best flirt.
His hand spread over her bare shoulder, warm and rough where she was smooth, sending a thrill of delight through her. How rare it was that someone touched her—first a duke’s daughter, then one’s sister. Pristine. Unmarked. Untouched.
She grinned. Her mother would have a fit when she learned that her daughter had neither need nor intention of coming out. And her brother—the Duke of Disdain—the most impossible, entitled aristocrat London knew . . . he would not approve.
But Georgiana didn’t care. She was going to marry Jonathan.
She was going to marry Jonathan. The pleasure that came with the thought was wicked and wonderful.
He was shifting beneath her, though, already sliding out from the warm cocoon of their bodies, letting the cold winter air in and turning her bare skin to gooseflesh. “You should dress,” he said, pulling on his trousers. “If anyone finds us--”
He didn’t have to finish; he’d been saying the same thing since the first time they’d kissed—two weeks and somehow a lifetime ago—and during all the breathless stolen moments that had ensued. If anyone caught them, she’d be ruined.
But now, after today, after lying naked in this rough winter hay and letting him explore and touch and take . . . she was ruined. And she didn’t care. It didn’t matter.
After this, they would marry, and start a new life.
Because they loved.
She watched him for a long moment, marveling at the grace with which he pulled on his shirt and tucked it into his breeches, the way he tugged on his boots as though he’d done it a thousand times in this low-ceilinged space. He wrapped his cravat about his neck and shrugged on his jacket, then his winter coat, the movements smooth and economical.
When he was done, he turned for the ladder that led to the stables below, all long bones and lean muscle.
She clutched the blanket to her, feeling cold with the loss of him.
“Jonathan,” she called softly, not wanting anyone to hear her.
He looked to her, and she saw something in his blue gaze—something she did not immediately identify. “What is it?”
She smiled, suddenly shy. Impossibly so, considering what they had just done. What he had just seen. “I love you,” she said again, marveling at the way the words slid over her lips, the way the sound wrapped her in truth and beauty and everything good.
He hesitated at the top of the ladder, hanging back, so effortlessly that he seemed to float in the air. He did not speak for a long moment—long enough for her to feel the February cold deep in her bones. Long enough for a thread of unease to curl quietly through her.
Finally, he smiled his bold, brazen smile, the one that had called to her from the beginning. Every day for a fortnight and again this afternoon, as he’d tempted her finally, finally up to the hayloft, where he’d kissed away her hesitation, and made his lovely promises, and taken all she’d had to offer.
But it hadn’t been taking.
She’d given it. Freely.
After all, she loved him. And he loved her.
He’d said so, maybe not with words, but with touch.
Doubt curled through her, an unfamiliar emotion. Something that Lady Georgiana Pearson—daughter to a duke, sister to one—had never felt before.
Say it, she willed. Tell me.
After an interminable moment, he spoke. “You’re a sweet girl.”
And he dropped out of sight.