The Danger in Tempting an Earl

By: Sophie Barnes

Dedication


For my wonderful husband. Thank you for providing me with my very own fairy tale.





Acknowledgments



A book travels through the hands of so many ­people on its way to publication, and while I may be the one sitting at home, typing away on my keyboard, the efforts made by editors and publicists to make the work shine deserve to be mentioned. I’d like to thank my wonderful editor, Erika Tsang, and her assistant, Chelsey Emmelhainz, for being so incredibly helpful and easy to talk to—­working with both of you is an absolute pleasure!

Together with the rest of the Avon team, which includes (but is far from limited to) copyeditor Judy Myers, publicists Caroline Perny, Pam Spengler-Jaffee and Jessie Edwards, and senior director of marketing Shawn Nicholls, they have offered guidance and support whenever they were needed. My sincerest thanks to all of you for being so wonderful!

Another person who must be acknowledged for his talent is artist Jon Paul, who has created the fabulous cover for this book, capturing not only the feel of the story but also the way in which I envisioned the characters looking—­you’ve done such a beautiful job!

I would also like to thank Nancy Mayer for her assistance. Whenever I was faced with a question regarding the Regency era that I couldn’t answer on my own, I turned to Nancy for advice. Her help has been invaluable.

My family and friends deserve my thanks as well, especially for reminding me to take a break occasionally, to step away from the computer and just unwind—­I would be lost without you.

And to you, dear reader—­thank you so much for taking the time to read this story. Your support is, as always, hugely appreciated!






Chapter 1



On the way to the Kingsborough Ball

1817

“Do you think she’ll be all right?”

“Who? Sophia?” Lucien asked. “She’ll be fine. She’s with her nanny, after all.” Resting against the squabs of the carriage as they tumbled along the country road, both dressed in their evening finery, he regarded the woman who sat across from him. It seemed as if he’d known her forever—­ever since her mother had allowed him to hold her in his arms at her christening. He’d been seven years old then and terrified of dropping her, so he’d stood there stiffly and unsure of himself until his own mother had taken Katherine from him, allowing him to run along and play.

“I’m sure you’re right,” Katherine said, jolting him out of his reverie. “It’s just that it’s the first time I’m away from her like this and . . .” She turned her head toward the window and was silent for a moment before quietly saying, “I feel a great responsibility weighing on my shoulders.”

Lucien hesitated a moment before responding. Her situation could not have been easy, recently widowed as she was and with a child to raise on her own, but in his opinion she deserved better than Charles Langdon, Viscount of Crossby. Lucien had never cared for the man who’d been married to Katherine for just over a year before meeting an early death. He’d been a cowardly bastard, acquiring an honorable discharge from the army for an illness that Lucien had known to be staged. And then there was his character to consider. Growing up only half an hour’s ride from Crest­haven, Lucien had seen Crossby frequently over the years. As young men, they had even attended Eton together. But Lucien had always found Crossby both arrogant and pretentious, flaunting his title wherever he’d gone. And that was without considering his keen determination to best Lucien at everything, even if it had meant cheating. The fact that he’d married Katherine made Lucien wonder if the viscount had ever suspected the depth of Lucien’s feelings for her. It was unlikely, he decided, for he’d made every effort to hide them. But if that hadn’t prompted the wedding, what had? He was unable to understand Katherine’s reason for marrying Crossby.

From what he gathered, their mothers had always been friends, visiting each other regularly for tea, for although their properties didn’t border each other the way Katherine’s and Lucien’s did, the Crossbys still lived relatively close by. Perhaps it was this friendship that had led to a courtship and eventual marriage? Lucien was damned if he knew.

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