The Earl’s Reluctant Proposal

Take a lady in need of employment, add an earl with an offer too good to resist and what do you get? A scandal, a reluctant proposal and an indignant refusal. If only they both knew what they really wanted…

Lucy Lambert’s injured hands have ended her ability to play and broken her heart. Max Fenton’s wayward sister is hurtling towards scandal and disgrace. When Lucy agrees to help the Earl of Burnham discover the object of Sophia’s affections she expects to receive a handsome payment for her trouble.

What she does not expect is to find herself attracted to her employer and plunged into a scandal far worse than the one she was hired to avert. Max does the honourable thing and proposes, she indignantly refuses.

Taking refuge with her friends in London hLucy’s path crosses Max’s far too often for comfort but, thanks to him she finds her music again and the two of them edge cautiously towards friendship – and perhaps something more. If only they could both learn to trust their hearts and their instincts…

The Liberated Ladies Book 4

Excerpt

‘In that case,’ said Lord Burnham, ‘What would you charge for an entire week?’

‘An entire week of what?’ Lucy relaxed a little. ‘Music lessons?’

‘Your time, Miss Lambert. I wish to hire you for a week to attend a house party.’

‘You… You libertine.’ She found she was on her feet and halfway to the door. No, not deranged at all, merely a rake. Poor Lady Sophia, having to live with a step-brother like this!

‘Really, Miss Lambert, I am asking to pay for your time and your assistance, not your bod—  Your person.’ He was on his feet too. ‘Hear me out.’

The old Lucy, before her injury, would either have hardly noticed an improper suggestion or would have been cast into confusion at having to deal with it. She realised just how much she had changed when she found herself sliding the long hatpin from her bonnet and holding it beneath the veil as she stopped and turned back, one step from the door.

‘Very well. But I should warn you, Lord Burnham, that so far I have formed the impression that you are either a rake or unhinged. Possibly both.’

You would be unhinged if you found yourself responsible for a pretty, well-dowered eighteen year old with as much common sense as a bank vole, the town bronze of a cloistered nun and a disposition for parties, shopping and romance. Especially romance,’ he added bitterly.

When she stayed where she was he walked away to the window seat at the far end of the room. ‘Please, sit again. Move that small chair to the door, if you must. You can always hit me with it if I become a ravening beast and sticking that hat pin into me does not stop me in my tracks.’

There was nothing wrong with his eyesight, however unstable he might be in either mind or morals. ‘I am listening.’ Lucy perched on the arm of the sofa, the hat pin still in her hand….

 

…‘You want me to spy on your step-sister? But that is – ’

‘In her best interests,’ Lord Burnham interrupted impatiently. ‘She is innocent, wealthy and impetuous. Do you wish to see her ruined or, at best, making some utterly inappropriate match, because you are too nice to watch her?’

‘It is not my business to watch her,’ Lucy said indignantly. But his words had hit home. Her friend Prudence had fallen for an unscrupulous rake, lost her virginity to him and, as a consequence, had to make a very hasty marriage to another man. The fact that it had turned into a love match was the purest good luck. ‘But I do understand your concern…’

‘I will pay you five guineas a day for however long this takes. You will travel in comfort and be entertained lavishly. I believe Lady Hopewell has a very fine new pianoforte, one of concert standard.’

And he thinks that is an inducement? It would be torture. Lucy doubted she’d be able to stay in the same room with it.

‘I no longer play, my lord. I cannot.’

‘How so? You teach.’

She stood up, held out her hands in their thin black kid gloves so he could see the twisted fingers on her left hand, the shortened middle finger on the right. ‘I can demonstrate, with discomfort, enough to guide a pupil. I cannot play.’

‘What happened?’ Lord Burnham got up and moved closer.

‘The keyboard lid slammed down and I was not fast enough to move my hands away. It is not something I chose to discuss, my lord.’

Not something she could bear to.