When the Marquess Returns
Historical Romance- Regency
A Marquess in Waiting and the Cursed Heiress…
The ton is abuzz and mamas are lining up their daughters; identical twins Maximus and Lucius St. Albans are making their entry into society. But they’re not just eligible―they’re the missing grandsons of the Duke of Warrington, stolen as infants.
However, Maximus doesn’t relish the battle with his cocky, reprobate brother to be the next Marquess. And he has no time for the simpering misses now vying for his attention. Only Miss Sabina Teverton has his interest.
She was resigned to life as a spinster but from the moment Sabina meets Lord Maximus, her heart is torn. She dreams of a match with him―but how can that be when she’s been branded as cursed…and she knows secrets of that night long ago when Maximus and his twin were snatched from their cradles?
Before Sabina could express her appreciation for what Titus had arranged, her sister-in-law—Eunice, interfered. “The final steps into spinsterhood,” she said with a snicker. “And a fitting end for the Cursed Heiress.”
“Eunice, that’s enough,” Titus half-scolded. Sabina could not blame her brother for not taking a firmer approach with his wife. He had to endure her—and their mother—every day he took a breath, not to mention still being in need of an heir. She truly felt for him.
“You shouldn’t take that tone with your wife,” their mother said as she took Eunice’s hand, lovingly folding it within her own.
Eunice raised a triumphant chin before taking another jab at Sabina’s expense. “I suppose living the life of a spinster in the old hunting cottage is better than being at Lady March’s side constantly.” Eunice clearly had learned the disagreeable art of insulting Sabina from her husband’s mother. For two women not related, the similarities and jibes were endless.
As if enduring her sister-in-law wasn’t trying enough, Mother decided it was her turn to chime in, “I still can’t quite comprehend how you managed to swindle His Grace and Lady March into letting you reside with them all these years.”
Mustering what little bravado she had left in her soul, Sabina retorted, “Perhaps if you had been more—”
Mother’s eyes turned ice cold and filled with hatred. “What? More of a mother?” She clutched her hand to her chest, her performance rivaling those of the actors on stage. “I was grieving the loss of my husband.”
“And my father.” Sabina shook her head, trying to erase the memory of that horrible day and her mother’s unkind words. She did not want to suffer another lecture, followed by an argument, and conclude with more insults. Instead she settled for a plea. “I rarely see you and Titus. Do you not think it possible that we could have a pleasant evening just this once, Mother?”
“I agree with Sabina.” For the second time that evening, her brother came to her defense, but she was certain he would pay the price later.
“Of course, you do,” cried Eunice. “You always side with your dearest sister. You don’t care for me.” Sniffling, she buried her face in her hands.
Or sooner it would seem.
“There, there, Eunice, darling.” Sabina’s mother, the woman who’d given birth to her, who was supposed to love her, was comforting the instigator. Mother raised her gaze to Sabina. “Look what you’ve done.” Hatred blazed in her eyes. “What have I done to deserve a daughter like you? I’ve been cursed since the day you were born.”
The words seared straight through Sabina’s heart, striking at her very core. Tears burned the corners of her eyes as she fought to control her breathing. One would think she would be used to the barbs after enduring so many years of them, but they still hurt. Since her father’s passing, all she had ever wanted was her mother’s love.
Desperate to escape, even if only for a moment to regain her composure, Sabina swallowed the hard lump in her throat, raised her chin, pulled back the curtain, rushed from their box none-too-gracefully, and straight into a wall. Only this wall was warm and smelled like a pleasant autumn afternoon in the country.
Firm arms wrapped about her waist, keeping her from falling. She glanced up into the most handsome face she’d ever seen.
“Oh…I…I’m…” She sounded like such a ninny instead of a woman of thirty.
She lost herself in the sea of his clear blue eyes. The theatre, her mother’s cruel words, the constant stares, all faded away and settled into this one perfect moment. His warm hands penetrated through her satin dress, searing her skin and sent her heart thundering.
She tried to think of something intelligent—or at least somewhat witty—to say but she was not used to conversing with handsome men who disrupted her senses. “I…I apologize for ruining—”
“You didn’t ruin anything,” the handsome stranger’s deep masculine voice quickly set her at ease. His fervent gaze stirred a long-forgotten flutter in her stomach.
She did not want the moment to end but did not want him to be caught with her either. She fought to control her swirling emotions. “I best be returning to my party.”
“I suppose I should release you.” It almost sounded like he didn’t want to.
Her heart soared for a brief moment before reality pierced it with an arrow, sending it crashing to the ground. Although there was something familiar about him that she couldn’t quite place, it was clear this gentleman was new to London, otherwise he would have already set her to her feet, bid adieu, and run the other way. The gossipmongers could be altogether too cruel to those who came near the Cursed Heiress.
“Yes, I suppose,” she whispered. Despite the glorious feel of his warm hands holding her, it was for the best. Her life’s path was clear, straight and narrow.
Although not quite ready to face her family, she slipped quietly into the box and took her seat, praying her mother might have some compassion for her frayed nerves.
“So, you’ve decided to return?” Mother’s tone was hard and disapproving.
Sabina had hoped to have a pleasant visit with her brother, but current company made it impossible. Rigidly holding her tears in check, she tried to maintain her composure for peering eyes, tried to ignore her mother’s slights and Eunice’s harsh glare, tried to ignore the stares and hushed mockery from the gossipmongers, but she was only human.
Mustering whatever calmness still within her power, she politely excused herself. It was the one positive aspect to being a spinster—she could come and go as she pleased. No sooner had she retreated down the grand staircase than curious onlookers were weaving tales about the Cursed Heiress. She picked up her pace and never looked back.
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Alanna Lucas grew up in Southern California, but always dreamed of distant lands and bygone eras. From an early age she took interest in art, history, and travel, and enjoys incorporating those diversions into her writing. Alanna makes her home in California where she spends her time writing historical romances, dreaming of her next travel destination, and spending time with family.
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