To Lure a Lord
Book 2 in the Just a Touch of Scandal Series
She must find a husband quickly or be forced into an arranged marriage. But can the man trying to scuttle her efforts be the answer to her prayers?
The London season is a ticking clock for Augusta Eastleigh. With her mother’s help, she has a marriage prospect she hopes will satisfy her grandfather, the Earl of Forebridge. But Lord Blair MacDonald, recently returned to London, does not look kindly on her efforts to snare his friend. Nor does he hesitate to make his views known about Augusta and the rumors surrounding her birth.
Blair has more than one reason to dislike the girl. With his older brother Hamish critically wounded while fighting on the Peninsula, and his eldest brother refusing to marry, the Marquess of Rutherglen has decided his third son will be the one to carry on the family line. Which means he needs to marry. Now. The girl his father has chosen for Blair? None other than Augusta Eastleigh.
The situation pleases neither of them. But with the heads of the families set on the match, can they find common ground together, or will they face an unhappy future?
“Did I just usurp another gentleman’s place?” Blair asked as they found a spot in the line of dancers now forming.
“The gentleman presumed,” she replied, her words a bit clipped. “No promise was made or implied. His intent is to frighten away any potential rivals, no matter my feelings on the subject.”
Blair lifted an eyebrow. “I do not frighten easily.”
She found it difficult to suppress a slight shiver underneath his gaze. Stop that. Enjoy the dance, but don’t think you mother will let things go further than that. “I’m certain you don’t.”
He chuckled as the orchestra played a chord and they paid their courtesies to one another. The music began, and Augusta stopped thinking of what her mother would say when she returned.
Augusta did not often find dancing pleasure in London. One worried about the correct steps while keeping up an appropriate and scintillating conversation with her partner. As she and Blair moved through the opening figure, she relaxed, enjoying the ebb and flow of the pattern, something she experienced only with Chalton.
Unfortunately, where Chalton and she engaged in lively conversation, Blair remained silent as they completed the first repetition, moving down the line to face a new couple. The second repetition also passed in silence. If I simply wanted to look at a handsome figure, I could sit in front of a portrait.
Halfway into the third repletion, she decided to break the silence. “Were you on the Peninsula for the government?”
The danced required him to circle around the other lady in the figure, then return and take her hands. “No.”
She blinked as they made their own circle. He’d asked her to dance. Why was he now taciturn? In other circumstances, she might amuse herself by gazing at his stylishly tousled light brown locks, blue eyes, and strong chin.
With a slight shake of her head, she pulled herself out of a daydream. “Is something wrong?” he asked, a frown causing a crease between his brows.
“No, Lord Blair.” Augusta offered her most dazzling smile. “A passing thought.”
A nod, and she feared they would lapse into silence again. Another turn and as they took hands to proceed down the line, he said, “When did you and Lord Chalton meet? I don’t recall him dancing with you before I left London.”
Her turn to frown. “Near on a month. Lord Abernathy made the introduction at a dinner.”
“Abernathy, newly married, believes everyone should be mated.”
Something in his tone sounded a warning. “You do not agree?”
“Lords must ensure their line continues, but gentlemen who find happiness seem determined to foist the same on all their fellows instead of allowing them to find it in their own time.”
Another circle away, which gave her a moment to consider her words. “The purpose of the London season is for gentlemen to meet young ladies with the intention of matrimony.”
“So you have fixed your eye on Chalton.”
It was a challenge, and she knew his purpose now. He objected to the idea of his friend paying court to her for some reason. Her imagination supplied several. “I find him kind, intelligent and enjoy spending time with him when we meet.”
“Yet you chose to dance with me rather than wait for him.”
“You offered and allowed me to escape a most disagreeable gentlemen who assumes prerogatives he is not entitled to. Why did you ask if you believed I should wait for Lord Chalton?
“Am I wrong in wishing to become acquainted with the lady my friend spent time with in my absence?”
No, but Augusta nursed a growing suspicion his reason might be to determine if he must rescue said friend from someone he deemed inappropriate. “I’m glad for the opportunity. Lord Chalton speaks highly of you.”
The words were the most polite answer, though far from what she wanted to say at this moment. The game had rules, ignored at the peril of gossip and a ruined reputation. They passed the next few steps in silence, each moving gracefully about the other. Any pleasure in the dance, though, vanished as she tried to anticipate his next move.
“I did not realize Chalton looked to court a young lady. In the past, he experienced…ill luck in his attachments.”
Not the direction she expected him to take. “They say there was a match his family objected to.”
Her mother had said much, much more. No need to mention that. Not as Blair’s eyes narrowed, his jaw tensing. “Now you are willing to step into the breach.”
“I enjoy his company, and am flattered he enjoys mine. Should he wish things to develop further, I am not opposed.”
“There is talk, Miss Eastleigh, your mother is eager to see you married off quickly to as well-placed a gentleman as she can manage, or the matter will be taken out of her hands.”
A chill moved down Augusta’s spine. “A gentleman would not listen to such gossip about lady.” She avoided spitting the words at him, but it was a near thing, her voice tight. “Or, if he did, he would not repeat the tales to her.”
Blair appeared surprised at her response. How did he think she would react? Quake in fear? Run from the floor in tears? “You met me only this evening, yet you pass judgement on who I am and why I enjoy Lord Chalton’s company. You accuse me of mercenary intent in the plainest of terms. You do this after giving every indication you wished to partner me because you might find me pleasing company.”
She circled away, then back to him. “You do this all cloaked in ‘concern’ for actions Lord Chalton took during your absence. You say my motives are suspect, sir. I submit yours are no better.”
The last words brought a snicker from the other gentleman in their foursome. Lovely. Another bit of gossip to rage about the town.
Blair glared at the man but did not speak again until they moved down the line once more to face a new couple. “I see you inherited your mother’s tongue.”
Augusta smiled sweetly, more than a little pleased when he lapsed into silence once more. If he did not speak another word before the music ended, she would be more than pleased.