The Earl’s Mistress
MacLachlan Family and Friends # 10
By: Liz Carlyle
Releasing August 26th, 2014
Women rarely refuse the wicked Earl of Hepplewood, whose sensual skills are the stuff of legend. But when his new governess answers his proposition with a slap to his face, then stalks out with references in hand, Hepplewood finds more than his face is left burning . . .
Isabella Aldridge has brains, bravado, and beauty-but the latter is no use to a servant. With orphaned sisters to feed, eviction nearing, and Hepplewood’s words ringing in her ears, Isabella realizes she must barter her most marketable asset . . .
But when fate unknowingly sends Isabella back into Hepplewood’s arms, the earl must make an impossible choice-draw Isabella down into his sensual darkness, or behave with honor for the first time in his life.
“Love at first sight, hmm?”
“That’s what Papa called it.”
“She looks beautiful, “ said the earl, still gazing at the painting, “—and so much like you it steals one’s breath.”
And in an instant, the awkwardness between them returned. “I beg your pardon,” she said a little stiffly. “I am out of the habit of entertaining. May I offer you a glass of sherry?”
His gaze flicked toward her, sharp and knowing. “May I not speak of your beauty, Isabella?”
“I wish you would not,” she said honestly.
He studied her for a long moment. “You once said to me that beauty could be a curse,” he finally replied, “and that surely I, of all people, must know it.”
“I remember,” she said.
“What did you mean by it?”
She lifted her gaze from her lap. “I spoke wrongly, I suppose,” she said. “It’s true of women. Beauty for a woman is often a curse. But for men like yourself who are both wealthy and beautiful—no, I suppose it does not matter. It’s just icing on the cake of life.”
He shrugged, and looked away. “I’ve wondered lately if that’s entirely true,” he mused. “I wonder if it doesn’t worsen a man’s sense of entitlement, and make him more quick to assume what he wants will be his. That he will, in the end, have his way.” He stopped for a heartbeat. “—But in the end, Isabella, I will not have you, will I? I knew it the minute I laid eyes on you. And I knew, too, that it would be better for both of us if I did not. I should never have allowed Louisa to tempt me with that damned letter.”
She drew a deep breath. “I cannot speak to your assumptions, my lord. We must all wrestle with our own conscience.”
“I wonder if you ever have to do so.” He turned to look at her again, his glittering blue gaze searching her face. “Well, Isabella, I have asked my question, and you’ve answered. I can ask nothing more from you.” He set his wide, long-fingered hands over his thighs as if to rise. “Shall I go, then? Shall this be the end of it?”
Did she wish him to leave?
Lord, she didn’t know. She didn’t understand anything, least of all the feelings that stirred in her treacherous heart as she listened to him. There was something about his deep, beautifully-modulated voice that melted over her like butter, warming her to the bone and weakening her resolve.
She dropped her head, her hands twisting in her lap. “I do not know, my lord,” she admitted, her voice threading a little. “I no longer know what I wish or think or even feel. Since I returned from Greenwood, I . . . I haven’t understood anything. Not myself, and certainly not you.”
A lifelong anglophile, Liz Carlyle cut her teeth reading gothic novels under the bedcovers by flashlight. She is the author of sixteen historical romances, including several New York Times bestsellers. Liz travels incessantly, ever in search of the perfect setting for her next book. Along with her genuine romance-hero husband and four very fine felines, she makes her home in North Carolina. You can contact her via her website at www.lizcarlyle.com.
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A full set of Liz’s St. James society books (A BRIDE BY MOONLIGHT, THE BRIDE WORE SCARLET, and THE BRIDE WORE PEARLS