A REAGAL BEAUTY
When the duchess decides to wed her to a wastrel and a fop, Ravyn Grahm takes matters into her own hands and declares her engagement to another man. Instead of fessing up and telling her great aunt what she has done, she goes through with the pretense. Aric Lakeland is the bastard son of an earl and has a dangerous reputation. But Ravyn is willing to do most anything to keep the duchess from discovering the lie.
A DEVIL-MAY-CARE SMUGGLER
He'd bought land in America, looking to put down roots and end his life of adventure, but Aric Lakeland got more than he bargained for when he encountered a beautiful heiress who made a promise she didn't want to keep. But the promise could not be undone and standing between them were more obstacles than either ever dreamed. Aric had made plans to spend the rest of his life in America and that was at odds with Ravyn's plan of living in England and running her father's estate. Now, he'll have to choose between his dreams and the woman he loves more than life.
“No. I couldn’t explain your absence any more than I can explain your presence,” she was quick to say. She tapped her fingers on the arm of the chair. “Do you think the Duchess will see things differently in the morning? No one but us needs to know you are here--in my bedroom.”
“I doubt she will see anything different. For whatever reasons, it seems she has her heart set on this marriage. The Duchess told you the truth. Your father wanted to see you married. And for some reason you have several suitors but you have accepted no proposals. Am I wrong?”
She lowered her lashes for a moment then looked at him. “I refused them all.”
She shrugged her shoulders. Shoulders he knew would break if they were put to an honest days work. “I didn’t love any of them. Most, I didn’t even like. They never wanted me. They wanted my inheritance. What kind of marriage would that be?”
“And you expected to marry for love?” His smile grew. He was stunned. “Aristocratic marriages are not usually done that way.” His heart went out to her. Her dream was a young girl’s dream. Didn’t she know love was made from poet’s verses, not real life? Love did not exist.
“But my father promised.”
“Ravyn, this is the real world. Love is not real.“
“You, sir, are wrong,” she told him vehemently. “What will happen if we cannot explain our way out of this mess?” she asked him.
His sigh was heavy. “Go to sleep.” At the moment, he did not want to think about what might happen. He did not want to tell her a short and false tale of a miracle that might happen tomorrow morning. They were not going to explain their way out of this.
“Aric,” she sat down on the bed. It was the closest she had willingly been to him since they’d retired for the night. “What will I tell Christel?”
“Tell her the truth,” he said quickly. “I’m sure your cousin will understand even if the Duchess does not.”
A long silence followed. She stared out the window. Moonlight filtered through sheer curtains and played with the firelight. Shadows danced on the walls.
“What is it you want in a wife?” She turned to look at him. Her face was pale, dark circles underlined her eyes, but he thought he’d never seen her so beautiful.
He rose on one elbow again, touched a finger to her nose while he grinned. “I want a woman who can haul water, hoe the land, plant seed and bear my children,” he paused. “And of course cook.”
She turned a ghostly shade of pale.
“I could do none of that,” she whispered, her lips trembling as she spoke. “You must be joking.”