• 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

10 – Chapter Ten

“How dare you go riding without me!” Amanda turned her full fury on the earl. Still dressed in her emerald green riding habit, she had spent the past several hours pacing up and down her sittingroom before coming down to the drawingroom to confront him. “I have never been treated so cavalierly by anyone in my life!”

“Much to your surprise, I suspect.” The earl inspected the sleeve of his immaculate black riding coat with lazy detachment and flicked off an imaginary piece of lint. “As you are undoubtedly aware, Miss Sinclair, I have no objection to waiting a few minutes. In fact, I can think of not one instance these last few weeks when you’ve greeted me on time. But asking me to cool my heels for over an hour and a half is simply too much for even someone of my good nature. I assumed you had the headache or forgot to inform me of a change of plans.”

Amanda stopped pacing and thrust her face into the earl’s. “You -you left me without as much as a by your leave.”

Calmly he replied, “Not exactly. I did ask Soames to convey my regrets to you. We promised to meet the others at King’s Crossing at precisely ten o’clock so that we could view the Norman ruins and be back at a reasonable hour. Having made that commitment, I felt I could not break it.”

“Letty and the Brighams are accustomed to my being a trifle late. They would not have minded.”

“I beg to differ, but I believe they did. They’re simply too polite to say anything. But be assured I gave them your apologies.”

Amanda wanted to scratch the earl’s eyes out and kick him where he would remember her forever. Anything to shake him out of his complacency and wipe that supercilious expression off his handsome face.

James stared back in appreciation, admiring the angry sparkle in her eyes. “Give me credit where credit’s due. You went beyond being, what did you say . . . a trifle late? You cannot always be expecting others to cater to you.

“Especially you,” she grumbled.

“Most especially me.” James found the discussion tedious, and wondered why he had returned to speak to her at all. It wasn’t his place to point out how impossibly rude she’d been. Not yet, at least. Though after weeks of enduring Miss Sinclair’s unreasonable conduct, he had finally drawn the line. As he had waited for her to make her appearance, he had reached the limits of his patience. Giving little thought to her feelings, he had simply left to join the others. If he had not locked horns with her this morning, she would have continued in her mistaken impression that she could trample all over him any time she pleased, and if he continued to allow her to have her way, their married life would become hell on earth.

James studied her agitated features. Perceiving the hurt beneath the bluster, he said gently, “Must we always be at loggerheads with one another, my dear? Can’t we at least hope to be friends?”

“Friends do not abandon their friends, my lord,” she huffed. She could barely trust herself to speak. Angry tears threatened to form, and it took all her effort not to show them.

Seeing her struggle for control, James wanted to sweep her in his arms and kiss her senseless. Though he deplored Amanda’s unruly conduct, he was, inexplicably, more attracted to her than ever. Granted she was the most obstinate and exasperating female he had ever met, but she was, if anything, a fascinating woman, as lively as she was intelligent, and a delight to be with when she forgot to be rude.

In the three weeks of their courtship, he had not been bored a single minute. He looked forward to their verbal sparring matches more than he cared to admit. And how he had ever thought her mousy was beyond him. Her opulent green riding dress set off the fiery highlights in her golden hair, and made her sun-toasted skin glow a rich, creamy almond. At this minute he was finding it almost impossible to keep his distance from her. He could barely wait for his wedding night when all her fire and energy would be his for the taking, when he could sate himself with her and get his raging lust for her out of his system.

Amanda had no such wanton thoughts in her mind. She had finally reached the limit of her patience. Although she had succeeded in making the earl’s life miserable, and had done so without alerting her parents, she was no closer to ousting him from her life than she had been several weeks before. Despite all her efforts, the man had displayed the patience of a saint. Until this morning he’d ignored her habitual tardiness, as well as her penchant for misplacing personal items. When she had worn her least flattering outfits and had mismatched her accessories, he had not seemed to notice. Nor had he objected when she had ignored him at balls and assemblies, or flirted outrageously with other gentlemen of her acquaintance. She had disagreed with him on every subject he introduced, and chattered incessantly when they were alone in the hope of giving him the headache. But nothing had ruffled his composure.

He remained unfailingly polite and indisputably the gentleman. Oh, there were times when she had caught him looking at her with an expression so forbidding that it made her skin crawl, but he had restrained himself from reacting . . . until now.

Letty had tried her best to help her. She had flirted disgracefully with the earl on several occasions, but he had ignored her. Instead, he had continued to act the role of her ardent suitor with such zeal that Amanda had begun to suspect he enjoyed playing the part entirely too much. If the man hadn’t been so infuriatingly stubborn about honoring their betrothal, she might have even begun to like him.

With the engagement ball fast approaching, Amanda realized she would have to step up her campaign to eject him from her life. Toward that end, she had kept him waiting this morning for a ridiculously long time. But instead of taking umbrage, he’d turned the tables on her and taken charge of the situation.

Amanda gazed absently at the earl, who was staring back at her with unmistakable hunger in his eyes. Sweet heaven, but this couldn’t be! She’d done nothing to attract him, nothing to make herself desirable. Apparently he didn’t care.

Her mind worked overtime. Could she turn his lust to her advantage? Could she make him insanely jealous? What if she could convince him that she had slept with someone else? Would he become so enraged that he would immediately discard her as a piece of soiled goods?

Amanda smiled to herself. It just might work! If she had learned anything about the Earl of Downsley was that his honor and pride took precedence over all other considerations. He would not abide her infidelity, perceived or otherwise.

Confident with her new plan, she flashed him her most brilliant smile. “Are you still escorting us to Lady Beasly’s ball tonight?”

He returned her smile with a sweetness that set her teeth on edge. “Have no fear, my dear. I plan on joining you and your parents as prearranged. By the way, you look exceedingly lovely in that outfit. Might I suggest that you wear it the next time we go riding?”

He bowed over her hand, and kissed it, his soft lips lingering over her knuckles in a slow, sensuous movement that made her shiver.

Amanda jerked her hand away as if an electrical current had passed through it.

Mischief sparked his eyes. “And Miss Sinclair?” He tilted her chin so her eyes met his. “Surprise me by being on time. It would be such a novelty I might not survive the shock, and that, I suspect, would please you.”

“It would,” she hissed.

Much to her chagrin, he merely laughed before Soames let him out the door.

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