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After refusing him once, heiress Miss Selina Wakefield accepts Giles Devereux, Earl of Halcrow’s, offer of marriage, against her better instincts. The handsome earl confesses that he needs to marry into money to save his crumbling estate, Halcrow Hall, and produce an heir.
Giles is the most interesting and fascinating man Selina knows. But he is also the most secretive. He has resigned his commission in the army while England is at war, and members of the ton cut him.
Because of the earl’s rakish reputation, Selina fears she may be leaving her calm, organized life for one of disorder and heartbreak. But she never expects what lies ahead.
*This story was originally published as a short story, Love and War, although it's been completely re-written.
Devereux collapsed into a leather chair by the fire. Leaning back exhausted, he rested his boots on a leather ottoman. She bit her lip at the ridge of high-color on his cheeks, made obvious by his pallor. Her unreliable heart turned over with anguish. He was far sicker than she’d first thought.
Selina gave up on her determination not to touch him. She rested her hand against his brow, finding it burning. “You must go straight to bed,” she said, alarmed. “I have your bedchamber prepared.”
“Not the marriage bed then, Lady Halcrow?” His savage laugh turned into a cough.
Selina pulled the bell cord. A minute later, the butler appeared. “Send Joseph for the doctor. Joseph must be sure to tell the doctor his lordship is very ill.”
“Very good, my lady.”
“And send Mrs. Lark to me, Frobisher.”
Moments later, the housekeeper entered the room, and Selina introduced her.
“Welcome to Halcrow Hall, Mrs. Lark,” Devereux said.
Mrs. Lark curtsied in her neat black gown. “A pleasure to be here, my lord.”
“Have the bed in the blue suite made with fresh sheets and a bed warmer, if you please, Mrs. Lark, and the fire lit,” Selina said. “Ask Cook to make beef tea.”
“I’ll not drink any of that foul stuff,” Devereux muttered. “Bring me a brandy.”
“Does your throat hurt?” she asked, ignoring his bad temper.
“A little,” he said gruffly.
“My mother had a good remedy for sore throats,” Selina said briskly. “Mrs. Lark, Cook is to steep horseradish in a gill of vinegar and add a gill of honey. I’ll have his lordship take a teaspoon every twenty minutes.”
“Are you trying to poison me, madam?”
“And for his lordship’s cough, Mrs. Lark,” Selina continued, “we shall need sliced lemon mixed with a half-pint of flaxseed and two ounces of honey, added to one quart of water. Cook must simmer the mixture for several hours and then strain it.”
Mrs. Lark hurried from the room.
Selina turned to find Devereux slumped in his chair watching her.
“Good God, I’ll not take that,” he said. “You’ll have to tie me down.”
He widened his eyes. “You are refusing me?”
“For the time being.”
“What gave you such conviction, Selina?” he asked with a lift of his brows. “Was it your father? Were you his pet? I can imagine you as a child, ordering everyone about in your ebony plaits.”
“I declare you are color-blind, my lord.”
He grinned. “See? Resolute, right down to your toes.” His gaze roamed down her body, making her unsure what point he was making.