Authors: Sandra Sookoo
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Historical, #Romance, #Regency, #Romantic Comedy, #Historical Fiction, #Historical Romance
To Wed or To Bed
A Darrington family novel
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
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TO WED OR TO BED ©2014 by Sandra Sookoo
Published by New Independence Books and Sandra Sookoo
Visit me at sandrasookoo.com
Book Cover Design by David Sookoo
Redhead in pink gown with sexy man, REG0277
©Kim Killion |Hot Damn Stock
Seamless floral pattern
First Digital Edition, 2014
When an impromptu kiss captures the imagination, either a spark will ignite or family interference will snuff the match.
Charlotte Darrington adores being adored by the men in her circle. She’s in London at the request of her mother, and though her parent wants her to find an eligible gentleman and start a family, Charlotte delays. In her heart of hearts, she wants a man who can hold his own and won’t be cowed.
Nathan Brigham, Marquess of Ravenhurst, is annoyed with the interfering redhead leading his nephew into the evergreen maze. When he would have delivered a dressing down, she stops his words with a kiss. No matter that he finds her attractive and a welcome distraction from his darkly brooding life, he refuses to succumb to Charlotte’s charms. Above everything, he won’t become the savage man his father was.
Once they return to London from a house party at his country estate, the two can’t avoid each other. Stolen kisses and heated glances in shadowy halls as well as a questionable visit to White’s draw them closer. He can’t forget the demons from his past while her persistence to hear a declaration begs the question: to bed or to wed?
One more turn and they’d arrive at the heart of the evergreen maze.
“Watch yourself, woman. You shouldn’t order me about.” She imagined she felt his anger flowing in her direction. “And if you persist in defying me, I will unleash my temper without regret.”
“Oh, bother.” Her pulse pounded. That legendary temper. She trembled but couldn’t decide if she wanted to see it or not. “Then, for the love of God, say nothing once we…” There was no more time for further conversation. They both entered a quaint circle in the heart of the maze. On a brilliant summer’s day, a quiet conversation or assignation at one of the stone benches would be ideal, but on a winter’s night, in the clear cold air, it was unfortunate.
A blond man she assumed was Jamie’s lover sat on a bench, breeches unfastened enough that his erect shaft had sprung free. In her shock, Charlotte pressed a hand to her mouth. She couldn’t look away from Jamie. He dropped a gentle kiss on the man’s lips then knelt in front of him. Seconds later, he took the engorged length into his month. The blond buried his hands into Jamie’s hair and guided him downward. Neither man noticed Charlotte or the marquess. Both men wore expressions of intense bliss. Soft sounds of enjoyment drifted on the air.
Behind her, Charlotte caught the swift intake of breath that signaled the marquess would either bellow or speak. Quickly, before they were discovered, she pulled him from the maze’s center and back the way they’d come. She gained the first turn before he stopped moving. He simply halted and she had no choice except to stop as well. The man wouldn’t budge. His arm tensed beneath her mittened fingers. The marquess resembled a boulder when he dug in his heels. “Lord Ravenhurst, please allow them privacy,” she whispered. “Let us return to the house and you can ring a peal over my head if you want. I shall be glad to take full responsibility.”
“I will do no such thing. I need—”
“Bollocks. Keep your voice down, you impossible man. There are worse things than your nephew finding love, however illicit.”
I cannot imagine how this scandal will play out. I’m so sorry, Mother.
Desperate that he’d interrupt what was meant to be a private and intimate moment, Charlotte could think of only one way to silence the angered lord. She crushed her fingers in the lapels of his greatcoat, stood on tiptoe, and smashed her lips to his cold mouth in an impromptu kiss.
For Paula Farrell. You know why. I love you, babe!
You’ve heard the saying “Life is what happens when we’re making other plans.” (from John Lennon but originally attributed to Allen Saunders from a
“Quotable Quotes” article from January 1957.)
Well, the same can be true of my Regency stories.
While this book is set in the Regency period, please note this is not your “usual” Regency tale like what was popular in the 1990s or early 2000s. My Regency stories have a dollop of humor, are oftentimes highly improper and are very much a showcase of how life could be when human nature and matters of the heart take over, despite the class a person belonged to or duty they felt they were bound by. When emotions are involved, rules and etiquette are thrown out and love comes flowing in. So, suspend disbelief as well as pre-conceived notions and come fall for the romance of my Regency world.
January 25, 1815—London, England
“Good Lord, Mother, I’m going to a house party, not a funeral. Why can you not be happy for me?” Charlotte Darrington, eldest daughter of the late Earl of
Swandon, resisted the urge to roll her eyes.
“I understand that, dear
, and I would be happy for you if you’d finally settle yourself.”
“Settled with a man, no doubt. I wish you’d believe I’m happy without one.” She stopped herself from rolling her eyes at the last second. T
he Season was just getting underway, and some of the best parties were thrown during these weeks. Not to mention Napoleon was in exile and the hostesses breathed much easier knowing the men would soon return to England’s shores.
“I’d believe that if you acted happy most of the time now,” her mother replied in a sing-song voice.
Roberta puttered around Charlotte’s bedroom with a maid, pulling gowns and dresses from an armoire, accepting or rejecting them on a whim. Her red hair, still vibrant though streaked with gray, curled over one shoulder from its tie at her nape. “You’ll miss your chance to find an eligible
I’ll take the chance.” She shrugged. “By the way, I’ll be gone a week at best. I won’t need so many frocks.”
“You’ll need these and many, many more. Walking dresses, evening gowns, dresses for visiting. The list goes on and on. You know this.”
“I know I don’t plan on doing nearly the amount of socializing you apparently think I will.” Charlotte gathered the rejected gowns. There were quite a few pretty ones. Just because her mother didn’t deem them worthy didn’t mean they weren’t favorites. “Also, how many times do I need to tell you? I’m not interested in being leg-shackled.”
“Your brother thought so, too, and now look at him.” Roberta directed the maid to put a particularly hideous day dress of jonquil yellow into the trunk.
“Oh, don’t throw Felix’s happy martial state into my face.” Her eldest brother, Felix, who was now the new earl, had married his lady love over the Christmas holidays, much to their mother’s grudging approval. Roberta thought it was the height of improper and that anyone of consequence had fled London for their country homes, but Felix had persuaded her with logic, saying Parliament was in recess and he really couldn’t wait to wed Clarice. Afterward, they retired to the Kent property for a honeymoon of sorts. The pair was expected back in Town any day. “The wedded state is fine for him. He had marriage on his mind anyway. I’ve been in London for a while, and I still do not.”
“But you seem so comfortable around the gentlemen who have come to call. Even Felix’s friends have commented on how easy it is to talk with you.” Roberta frowned as the maid held up a deep purple ball gown. “Do none of them suit you?”
“What, the gowns?”
Her mother’s frown deepened. “No, the potential suitors.”
Charlotte hid a grin. She did so enjoy baiting her parent. “To be honest, no. They’re far too… well, polite, for lack of a better word. And, to me, men are easy to talk to.”
She waved away the gown. There wouldn’t be a ball during the house party. “Besides, I’m having a grand time watching them dance attendance upon me. I enjoy our at-homes, adore the gifts of flowers and candy and books, love seeing those silly, foppish men fight each other for the opportunity to escort me onto dance floors.”
“Charlotte, don’t be rude,” her mother lectured.
“When does being confident in whom I am equate to being rude? Why can I not merely enjoy the flirtations without them going anywhere?” She patted her hair, a vibrant dark red much like her mother’s. “Oh, that reminds me. Anne, please be sure to include my tortoiseshell combs as well as the sapphire ones.”
“Yes, my lady,” the maid murmured.
“You’re a flirt, Charlotte.” Her mother sniffed. “If you continue down that path for too long, you’ll miss your chance to bring any of them up to scratch. The life of an old maid would not suit you.”