For any of my readers who haven’t picked up my House of Pleasure books, I thought I’d spotlight them this week, one each day. Today I’m continuing with the second book of the series, Only Marriage Will Do.
Not all happy-ever-afters begin with “I do.”
Two unexpected callers turn Lady Juliet Ferrers’ world upside down. The first claims to be married to her via a proxy marriage, a statement she can scarcely credit—except she was betrothed to him once upon a time. To deter him, Juliet acts boldly when a stranger appears, declaring he is her husband. But when she is finally alone with the handsome visitor, she finds herself hoping she can turn her falsehood about their marriage into truth.
Captain Amiable Dawson seems to have stepped into a fairy land when a beautiful young woman he’s never met introduces him as her husband. The more she explains her situation, the less he is inclined to believe her, yet Amiable is a pushover for a damsel in distress. Against his better judgment, he agrees to accompany her to her family’s estate far to the north. Along the way the passion between them sizzles until a happy-ever-after is all but assured. However, the question of Juliet’s true husband rears its head again, forcing Amiable to wonder if he is married to the lady or not.
When his rival abducts Juliet, Amiable is compelled to choose between the woman he loves or the law of the land that decrees she is not his wife. Desperate to rescue her at any cost, his last resort may be to kill the man who stands in the way of their happiness.
“You are very kind, captain.” Juliet settled against his comfortable shoulder. “I am most grateful you found us. How did you know I gave the name Mrs. Dawson?”
Amiable laughed. “I didn’t. I asked the innkeeper if Lady Manning had stopped here, then Lady Juliet Ferrars. He answered “no” to each question, so I gave up. I could ride no more tonight, so I thought to make further inquiries in the morning. I asked for a room and gave my name as Captain Dawson. He shot me a strange look, so I immediately said, ‘She hasn’t given her true name, has she? I told her if she
traveled alone to use a false one instead.’”
Juliet giggled. “So that’s how you knew?”
Amiable nodded. “I’ve engaged a second room. I told the innkeeper I wouldn’t disturb your rest so late at night. He shook his head and muttered something about me being a daft bloke, throwing good money after bad just for the comfort of my wife.” His gaze lingered on her face.
Heat rose in her cheeks while that fluttery feeling returned to her stomach. She eased off his lap and backed toward the bed. Best put some distance between the both of them while she still had the willpower.
Glynis bustled in, directing two lads with steaming buckets and a third with a wooden tub. She stopped inside the doorway, a puzzled frown on her face.
“Why aren’t you lying down, my la—” Her gaze followed Juliet’s to Amiable and she gasped.
“Yes, Glynis, isn’t it wonderful.” Juliet jumped in before the girl could give them away. “My husband has joined us tonight after all.” She flashed a smile at Amiable, hoping to encourage him to play along once more. “I am so happy to see you, Captain Dawson.”
“As I am you, Mrs. Dawson.” He grinned back at her, and her stomach twisted. For tonight at least, her dream was realized. She was Mrs. Dawson. She turned her attention to the boys. “Set the tub down near these chairs, and empty the buckets in, if you please.”
Glynis shot a wild look at her mistress then leaped in to supervise the inn servants. When she’d readied the bath, the girl hesitated. “I need to go down with the lads for more water, my…Mrs. Dawson.” She frowned at Amiable, still sitting before the fireplace. “We need a bucket of cold for blending and a hot one to cool for rinsing. They were asleep when I went down and I’m half afraid they’ll go back to their beds if I don’t see to them.”
“That will be fine, Glynis. All is well now that my husband is here.” Juliet stared her down. No mere maid would keep her from spending a few more moments with Amiable.
With a humph the girl cast a final, stricken look over her shoulder and left.
The door shut and Juliet plopped down on the bed, arms wrapped around one of the posts, at a sudden loss for words. How delicious the bath would feel. How sorely she needed relaxation at the moment. First, however, she needed to dispatch Amiable.
Mouth drawn, his gaze flickered restlessly from her to the tub.
“Oh.” She jerked her head away before he could see the warmth coloring her cheeks. The images forming in Captain Dawson’s mind might be similar in nature to her dream earlier in the day. A sudden ache hit low in her belly and she couldn’t sit still. She jumped up.
“I apologize for interrupting your bath, my lady.” Amiable lumbered to his feet. He nodded to the tub, keeping his gaze on it rather than her. “I will retire to my room now. I believe it is across the hall, two doors down on the right. If you have further need of me this evening, please send Glynis for me.” He bowed and strode toward the door.
“You did not interrupt my bath, Captain Dawson,” Juliet whispered as he opened door.
He turned and raked his gaze over her for a long moment. “More’s the pity, Lady Juliet.” He cursed, clutched the door latch then jerked it open and left.
How odd men acted sometimes. Still, he had followed her to the White Hart Inn. That mattered most of all. She crossed to the tub. Idly, she dipped her hand in and trailed her fingers through the exquisitely warm water. Perfect. The whole evening’s encounter had been perfect. Although if Amiable had arrived a mere ten minutes later…
“More’s the pity,” she whispered. A blast of heat began in her face and spread until even her toes had turned red. She doffed her night rail and climbed into the tub. Best have another reason for her bright hue should Glynis reappear.
Will he get another chance to see her in her bath? Only Marriage Will Do to allow Juliet and Amiable a chance at true passion.