• A Regency Romance Novel

    Amanda Sinclair is forced into a loveless marriage with a handsome but brooding earl. James Cavendish is in love with another woman, but no matter how hard he tries, he is unable to resist Amanda's charms. The morning after their wedding night, James returns to London, leaving Amanda at his Sussex estate. Taking the reigns in her hands, Amanda follows her husband, determined to win his heart and claim her status as his wife.
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  • Storm over Sussex Gainsborough Woodcutter's Cottage Sussex Woods in Spring Downsley Hall South Downs Rosewood Manor Rosewood Manor's Drawing Room Ancient Roman villa, mosaic tile floor, Sussex South Down Sheep Bottle feeding lambs

06 – Chapter Six

Amanda traversed through Rosewood Manor’s vaulted gallery, renowned for its collection of master paintings. Shafts of golden sunlight illuminated the long hallway, casting intricate shadows on the parquet floor, but she was oblivious to the light’s magical effects, and of the fragrant scent of apple blossoms drifting through the open windows.

Pausing in front of the drawing room’s ornately carved oak door, she drew in a shaky breath before entering.

The earl stood waiting in front of the fireplace, his back to her.

“My lord, I hope I haven’t kept you waiting for long?” she inquired in her melodious voice, and closed the door. Soft morning light slanted through the lace-curtained windows, flattering her strong-boned features.

Lord Downsley turned towards her, his handsome face unsmiling, and lifted one dark brow. Eyeing the lovely honey-blond hair that cascaded in luxurious but unfashionably long ringlets to her waist, he murmured, “Good morning, Miss Sinclair.” Then he surveyed her stylish gown of creamy yellow, his eyes betraying obvious surprise at the charming picture she presented.

Disconcerted by his astonishment, Amanda could only stare back. Lord, what was wrong with the man? The earl needed only to follow the prescribed rules of conduct to make this awful situation somewhat bearable. Besides, he could not possibly be holding her responsible for his reprehensible behavior when he had only himself to blame. Had he maintained some modicum of control over his male impulses, had he not foolishly attempted to seduce her and gotten caught in the process, they would not now be in this fix.

Well, two can play this ridiculous game! she thought stubbornly. Squaring her shoulders, Amanda studied an elaborate still life of the Dutch School, and waited for him to continue.

Fingering his watch fob, the earl asked her without preamble, “Will you marry me, Miss Sinclair?”

She hesitated as if the question was completely unexpected.

He awaited her response with seeming indifference, leisurely inspecting the Carrerra marble fireplace with its intricate fruit and flower carvings, then casually returned his gaze to her person. Only a slight tic in his left temple betrayed his unease.

The silence between them stretched endlessly, like a wire tensing to the breaking point.

Then she replied, “Yes, I will marry you, my lord.” Amanda shivered in her thin morning gown as if a dark cloud had suddenly obscured the warming sun.

The earl’s mouth compressed to a thin slit. He frowned, drawing his rugged brows close together and giving his splendid features a saturnine look. As he continued to study her face and figure, Amanda felt an unwanted hot sensation prick up her spine. Torn by her conflicting emotions, she lowered her head.

Then the earl said in a clear, strong voice, “You are aware this marriage will not be in name only?”

Amanda jerked her head up. Hazel eyes met steely gray ones, and an electrical jolt of awareness arced between them. Oh God, not again! she thought in near panic, staring at the earl as if hypnotized. Fighting to control the quaver in her voice, she answered, “I have always wanted children, my lord, and I know my duty.”

Her forthrightness seemed to stun him, and he cleared his throat. “Very well then. I shall finalize the arrangements with your father.”

There was nothing more to add; nothing else to discuss.

As Amanda turned to the bell pull, her shoulder brushed against the earl’s chest. She heard his deep intake of breath, and before she could summon the butler, he had hauled her into his arms.

Then he kissed her. Gently, as if he wanted to. Passionately, as if he would never let her go. For a few unguarded moments she yielded herself to him, reveling in the feel of his male possession, intoxicated by his musky male scent. Enveloped in his strong embrace, she felt the strength of his desire and trembled with anticipation.

Then cooler thoughts prevailed, and she thrust him away.

What on God’s green earth was she doing? He did not love her, nor she him. Yet any time he came near her, she found herself unable to think straight, much less control her body’s traitorous responses. Dismayed, she moved away from him, all her senses focused on her burning lips and the sound of his raspy breathing.

Lord Downsley let out a harsh laugh, seemingly as disconcerted as she by his actions, and raked a hand over his jet-black hair.

“No, my dear. I won’t ravish you, especially not in your father’s house. I’ve learned my lesson quite well, I assure you.”

Appalled, Amanda stood motionless, teary eyes riveted on the Aubusson carpet, cheeks stained a bright crimson. Never in her life had she behaved with such reckless abandon. Never had she been so confused. The man was altogether too exasperating, too contradictory, and too dangerous to be around.

She wanted him gone.

At a loss of what to do next, she whispered, “Please leave.”

“Gladly.”

Without another word the earl crossed the room.

The door opened and clicked shut. And when Amanda looked up, he was gone.

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Copyright, 1999

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