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Home > Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (Love By Numbers #2)

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (Love By Numbers #2)
Author: Sarah MacLean

Prologue

It cannot be denied that there is a veritable epidemic spreading among the young ladies of London—a tragic reality that ends in nothing but the very worst possible scenario.

We refer, of course, to spinsterhood.

With so many unmarried ladies in our fair city so unfortunately shaded from the brilliant sunshine of wedded bliss, ‘tis nothing short of criminal that these promising young buds might never have the opportunity to blossom! And so, Dear Reader, it is in the interest of public service that we have compiled a list of time-tested solutions, oft proven to simplify the most daunting of tasks—that of securing a husband.

We humbly present, Lessons in Landing a Lord.

Pearls and Pelisses

June 1823

Townsend Park'

Dunscroft, Yorkshire

Lady Isabel Townsend stood in the shabby receiving room of the only home she had ever known, and willed the roaring in her ears to subside. She narrowed her gaze on the pale, reedy man standing before her.

“My father sent you.”

“Precisely.”

“And would you mind repeating that last bit?” Surely she had misunderstood the words that had tripped from the tongue of this most unwelcome visitor.

He smiled, the expression empty and unattractive. Isabel’s stomach flipped. “Indeed,” he drawled, the word coiling between them in the suddenly too-small room. “We are betrothed.”

“And by we … I take it that you mean …”

“You. And I. Are to be married.”

Isabel shook her head. “I am sorry, you are … ?”

He paused, clearly unhappy with the idea that she had not been paying attention. “Asperton. Lionel Asperton.”

Isabel made a mental note to savor the unfortunate name at a later time. For now, she must deal with the man. Who did not appear to be very clever. Of course, she had learned long ago that the men of her father’s acquaintance were rarely men of intellect.

“And how is it that we became betrothed, Mr. Asperton?”

“I won you.”

Isabel closed her eyes, willing herself to remain steady. To hide the anger and hurt that surged at the words. That always surged at the words. She met his pale gaze once more. “You won me.”

He did not even have the grace to feign embarrassment. “Yes. Your father wagered you.”

“Of course he did.” Isabel exhaled her frustration on a little puff of breath. “Against? ”

“One hundred pounds.”

“Well. That’s more than usual.”

Asperton waved off the cryptic words, taking a step closer to her. His smile was cocksure. “I won the round. You are mine. By rights.” He reached out a hand, tracing one finger down her cheek. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “I think we shall both enjoy it.”

She remained still, sheer will keeping the shudder that threatened at bay. “I am not so sure.”

He leaned in, and Isabel became transfixed by the man’s lips—red and waxy. She edged away, desperate to maintain a distance, as he said, “Then I shall have to convince you otherwise.”

She twisted from beneath his touch and their uncomfortable proximity, placing an old, fraying chair between them. A gleam flashed in the man’s eyes as he followed her, moving closer.

He liked the chase.

Isabel was going to have to end this. Now.

“I am afraid you have traveled a very long way for nothing, Mr. Asperton. You see, I am well past the age of majority. My father”—she paused, the word foul-tasting—“should have known better than to wager me. It has never worked before. It certainly will not work now.”

He stopped his stalking, eyes widening. “He has done this before?”

Too many times. “I see that gambling away one’s only daughter once is fair play, but to do it multiple times, that somehow offends your sensibilities? ”

Asperton gaped. “Of course!”

Isabel narrowed her gaze on her would-be betrothed. “Why?”

“Because he knew he would ultimately renege on the wager!”

The man was most definitely an acquaintance of her father.

“Yes. That is obviously the reason for this situation’s untenable offense,” Isabel said wryly, turning abruptly and opening the door to the room wide. “I am afraid, Mr. Asperton, that you are the seventh man who has come to claim me as his bride.” She could not help a smile at his surprise.

"And, as it is, you shall also be the seventh man who shall leave Townsend Park unmarried.”

Asperton’s mouth opened and closed in quick succession—his fleshy lips reminding Isabel of a codfish.

She counted to five.

They always exploded before she could reach five.

“This will not stand! I was promised a wife! The daughter of an earl!” His voice had gone high and nasal—the tone that Isabel had always associated with the idle unpleasants who fraternized with her father.

Not that she had seen her father in half a dozen years.

She crossed her arms, bestowing the man with her best sympathetic look. “I imagine he hinted at a substantial dowry, as well? ”

His eyes lit as though he was finally understood. “Precisely.”

She almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

“Well, I am afraid that there isn’t one of those, either.” His brow furrowed. “Would you care for tea? ”

Isabel watched as the slow-moving wheel of Asperton’s brain completed its rotation and he announced, “No! I do not care for tea! I came for a wife and by God I shall leave with one! With you!”

Attempting to retain an air of calm, she sighed and said, “I had very much hoped that it would not come to this.”

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