Victoria Carson never expected love. An American heiress and graduate of Lady Grantham’s finishing school, she’s been groomed since birth to marry an English title—the grander the better. So when the man chosen for her, the forbidding Earl of Dunnley, seems to hate her on sight, she understands that it can’t matter. Love can have no place in this arrangement.
Andrew Hargrave has little use for his title and even less for his cold, disinterested parents. Determined to make his own way, he’s devoted to his life in Italy working as an archaeologist. Until the collapse of his family’s fortune drags him back to England to a marriage he never wanted and a woman he doesn’t care to know.
Wild attraction is an unwanted complication for them both, though it forms the most fragile of bonds. Their marriage of convenience isn’t so intolerable after all—but it may not be enough when the deception that bound them is finally revealed.
Victoria concentrated on her breathing as she watched the girls disappear into the garden. When she was sure they were out of earshot, she glanced back at her husband again. He smiled at her. Smiled! A warm, casual smile, as if his appearing at Briarwood out of the blue when she hadn’t seen or spoken to him in six months was nothing at all out of the ordinary.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded.
He blinked and took a step back. “I…I came to visit my sisters. My wife.”
She snorted and crossed her arms over her chest. “Indeed?”
“We weren’t expecting you.”
“I didn’t realize I’d need to wait on an invitation to be allowed to visit my own home.”
Victoria’s fury, already bubbling under the surface, burst into flame. “Well, you’ve spent quite a bit of time making it clear in no uncertain terms that this is no home of yours. Eventually I got used to the idea.”
He looked almost abashed. His every reaction was so far from what she’d come to expect from him, she was left feeling caught out. But she wasn’t ready to relinquish her anger, even if he refused to meet it with his own.
“Yes, I’m sorry I’ve been so uninvolved with the house.”
“Uninvolved? You’ve been entirely absent! I’m sure the neighbors all think I’ve made you up.”
“I’m sorry,” he said simply.
She stopped and blinked at him. “What?”
“I’m sorry.” He raised his hands and let them drop. “I should have been here. I should have helped you.”
“Oh.” He’d taken the heat right out of her fury, damn him. She floundered helplessly for a biting comeback but came up empty-handed. Where was the cold, heartless man she’d come to expect? Surely any second he’d snap at her and mock her for slaving away in the countryside to rebuild this house. Or he’d attempt to lure her back into bed just so he could unravel her and abandon her again. She’d been such a naive little fool where he was concerned. Well, she was no fool now. She finally had the measure of him and she’d be damned if he’d make a fool of her one more time.
Amanda Weaver has loved romance since she read that very first Kathleen E. Woodiwiss novel at fifteen. After a long detour into a career as a costume designer in theatre, she’s found her way back to romance, this time as a writer.