Geoffrey Winters, Viscount Redbrooke was not always the hard, unrelenting lord driven by propriety. After a tragic mistake, he resolved to honor his responsibility to the Redbrooke line and live a life, free of scandal. Knowing his duty is to wed a proper, respectable English miss, he selects Lady Beatrice Dennington, daughter of the Duke of Somerset, the perfect woman for him. Until he meets Miss Abigail Stone…
To distance herself from a personal scandal, Abigail Stone flees America to visit her uncle, the Duke of Somerset. Determined to never trust a man again, she is helplessly intrigued by the hard, too-proper Geoffrey. With his strict appreciation for decorum and order, he is nothing like the man’ she’s always dreamed of.
Abigail is everything Geoffrey does not need. She upends his carefully ordered world at every encounter. As they begin to care for one another, Abigail carefully guards the secret that resulted in her journey to England.
Only, if Geoffrey learns the truth about Abigail, he must decide which he holds most dear: his place in Society or Abigail’s place in his heart.
Excerpt from “Always Proper, Suddenly Scandalous”
By: Christi Caldwell
In desperate need of a drink, Geoffrey took a step toward a liveried servant bearing a tray full of champagne when his black Hessian boot suddenly snagged the hem of a young lady’s skirt.
The tear of fabric ripping blended with the din of conversation around them.
The lady gasped, and pitched forward. Even as the glass of ratafia in her hand fell to the floor, her hip collided with the passing servant who teetered on his feet. The young man’s serving tray tilted precariously, and for an infinitesimal moment Geoffrey believed the servant had steadied his burden.
But the servant’s tray slipped from his fingers. Champagne flutes careened to the floor, and sprayed the bubbling liquid onto the gown of several matrons standing nearby, who cried out in shock and scurried off.
“Pardon me,” Geoffrey murmured to the servant, and then returned his attention to the woman he’d inadvertently sent reeling. A mere five or so inches smaller than his six foot frame, she stood taller than most of the ladies present. “Forgive me. Are you all…?”
She smiled up at him.
His question died upon his lips as he gazed down at the woman who’d unwittingly beckoned from across the ballroom mere moments ago. His eyes traveled the high planes of her cheekbones, the gray irises of her eyes, her full, red lips.
…and then her slipper met the moisture upon the marble floor. Like one of the skaters at the Frost Fair on the River Thames, she slid forward, into a nearby pillar. “Ouch.”
Geoffrey’s arm shot out and he sought to steady her.
“Thank you,” she said. She shook out her sea foam green skirts and unlike the horror that wreathed the faces of the surrounding ladies, wry amusement fairly glittered in her gray-blue eyes. “I am uninjured,” she assured him.
His eyes widened and with alacrity, he released her.
She cocked her head to the side. “Are you injured?”
Her flat accent did not possess the clipped proper tones of a proper English lady. He blinked. “Injured?”
“You appear unwell, sir.”
“You are an American,” he blurted.
A mischievous smile played about her lips. “I am.” She looked around and then back to him. “Never tell me you’re scandalized by me being an American?”
He was scandalized by the wicked direction his mind had wandered that involved an American woman. If his mother was outraged at the prospect of a Scott assuming the Redbrooke title, what would she say to an American lady having garnered Geoffrey’s attention?
“Ahh, you do smile,” the young woman said.
Geoffrey frowned. “I beg your pardon?”
“Alas, it is gone,” she said with a long, exaggerated sigh.
Geoffrey became aware of the appalled stares of Polite Society’s most respectable peers, trained upon him. From across the room, his mother, who stood alongside Lady Tisdale, glared with blatant disapproval. It was the much needed reminder of past failings and inner weaknesses that had wrought much agony upon his family. By standing here engaging this…this…stranger, in the midst of Lord and Lady Hughes’s ballroom, he opened himself up to public censure. His intentions were marriage to Lady Beatrice, and any hint of untoward interest in another would not be countenanced by the Duke of Somerset or his daughter.
Geoffrey folded his arms across his chest. This American upstart might have a face and body to rival Helen of Troy, but possessed the uncouth manners one would expect of an American. “Miss,” he said from the corner of his mouth. “We’ve not been properly introduced, therefore, any discourse between us is highly improper.”
Her lips twitched, with, he suspected, mirth. “I would say toppling over the host’s servant and spraying his guests with champagne and glass is also improper, but you’ve done that, sir.”
Geoffrey felt heat climb up his neck, and resisted the urge to tug at his suddenly tight cravat, shamed by the accuracy of her charge. He did not create scandals. Not anymore. He was proper. And poised. And…
She arched a brow.
Well, in this instance he’d created a small scandal. Still, he needn’t raise further eyebrows by talking to the vexing miss.
Even if he wanted to.
He needed to go. Immediately. Anywhere but within mere inches of the lady who smelled like lilacs and lavender and now champagne. “Again, forgive me for causing you distress.” He bowed deeply and beat a hasty retreat.
Geoffrey had made a fool of himself once over a young lady. He’d not be so foolish again.
Christi Caldwell is the best-selling author of historical romance novels set in the Regency era. Christi blames Judith McNaught’s “Whitney, My Love,” for luring her into the world of historical romance. While sitting in her graduate school apartment at the University of Connecticut, Christi decided to set aside her notes and try her hand at writing romance. She believes the most perfect heroes and heroines have imperfections and rather enjoys tormenting them before crafting a well-deserved happily ever after!
When Christi isn’t writing the stories of flawed heroes and heroines, she can be found in her Southern Connecticut home chasing around her feisty five-year-old son, and caring for twin princesses-in-training!