She wants one more season to pass without acquiring a husband.
Lady Miranda Leighton accepts she will have to marry someday, but she wants one last season to be mistress of her own life – to go where she wants, when she wants, with whomever she wants. The lure of one more adventure is nearly irresistible. Unfortunately, her family has run out of patience with her as she unintentionally loosely courts scandal. She needs a plan, and needs it quickly.
He wants one more season to pass without his mother nagging, debutantes stalking, or sanity deserting him.
Roman de Courtenay, Marquis of Stafford, accepts he will have to marry someday, but his immediate focus is set on managing his estates, pacifying his family, and being otherwise left alone. The lure of saddling his horse and fleeing to the country is nearly irresistible. Unfortunately, his mother wants him to find his marchioness, produce an heir, and let her settle into an anticipated and comfortable life as a dowager. He needs a plan, and needs it quickly.
Thus a lady and a lord with a similar problem hatch a mischievous scheme: to use each other as shields against marriage and the plans of their families, with a dance here and a meaningful look there. All goes well – for a time – until the constant company and camaraderie of their ruse give rise to some very real feelings.
What happens when you set out to fool society, but only end up fooling yourselves?
“Archery is a skill fit only for those still in the schoolroom,” groused Lord Bristol.
“Actually, every good soldier should be skilled in a variety of weapons. Pistols and swords are most common, but lacking other arms, I would take up a bow and arrow in midst of a fight,” declared his brother, the Major.
“Then I declare Lady Miranda a very accomplished soldier indeed. She decimates targets with skill, be they made of straw or flesh,” began Stafford, drawing puzzled stares from the crowd. “She draws daggers with her eyes, slays men and women with her clever tongue, and slings arrows with deadly accuracy.”
Miranda rolled her eyes but grinned slyly at his jest. “You may call me ‘Lady Atalanta,’” she teased in return.
Stafford made his way to her side, bowing and smiling warmly before offering his arm. She accepted his escort with a small curtsey and they approached the quiver, each withdrawing an arrow. The winners were required to take a ‘victory shot’ together, aiming for one target.
“We are under close scrutiny, my lady, from a certain countess, a marchioness, and a dowager duchess. Ready for your final shot?” he whispered.
Miranda cast a furtive glance in the direction of those ladies and then grinned. She touched his arm lightly, and he felt a warmth flood through him at their contact. Their eyes met and the expression on her face radiated even more heat. His gaze fell from her twinkling blue eyes to her softly parted lips, as if pulled by some unseen force. He swallowed and felt somewhat flushed. I must be falling ill, he thought.
“The curtain has risen. The players are assembled. It is time for the entertainment to commence,” she spoke quietly just below his ear, her warm breath fanning across his neck. She took the arrow from him with a delicate brush of her fingers against his. He swallowed convulsively again.
Renée Reynolds is an Amazon and USA Today Bestselling of Historical Regency Romance. Her latest release, A Marquis For All Seasons, is Book 2 in The Lords of Oxford series, and follows Book 1, Lord Love a Duke. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and The Beau Monde, the special interest chapter of RWA for aficionados of the Regency period. She believes in the importance and necessity of steamy kisses and happy endings.
Renée lives in Texas, in a boisterous house full of boys and various four-legged and finned pets. She is a stay-at-home mom who homeschools and gardens in addition to writing. Strangely enough, her free time is also spent homeschooling, gardening, and writing. And she wouldn’t trade any bit of it.