Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on October 4th 2016
NEVER SEND A DEBUTANTE
William Ryder, Earl of Castleton, is at the end of his noble rope. Not only has he broken ties with his longtime mistress, his mother has publicly announced her wish for him to marry a suitable young lady―if only to help him raise the twins left in his care. Hiring a governess should solve some of Will’s problems…but when he meets the candidate in question, he finds himself in an entirely new predicament.
TO DO A WALLFLOWER’S JOB
Miss Margaret Lacey is brainy, beautiful, and, once upon a time, Will’s betrothed. But she bowed out of the engagement―and, since then, has never been the same. A tragic accident robbed her of everything, and now, at age twenty-three, her marital prospects are slim to none. Penniless but not without pride, Meg convinces the vexingly handsome Will to hire her for the job. What neither of them could have expected from this arrangement, however, is an attraction that burns stronger than ever. Are these two lost souls finally ready to be schooled in the art of love?
Amazing Praise for Anna Bennett:
“My Brown-Eyed Earl is a fun and lovely story that’s heartwarming and joyous. Bennett’s engaging hero and heroine are nothing compared to 6-year-old twins who steal the show and readers’ hearts. But it’s more than characters that make this a wonderful read, it’s the heartfelt storytelling and depth of emotion as the characters growth takes center stage and a second chance at love seems possible. A delightful read!”
—RT Book Reviews on My Brown-Eyed Earl
“Heart, humor, and a hot hero. Everything I look for in a great romance novel!”
— Award winning author Valerie Bowman on I Dare the Duke
End of Chapter 4:
“Miss Lacey.” Valerie pointed across the lawn. “I think the woman over there is waving to you.”
Meg turned and raised a hand to her brow, shielding her eyes from the sun. Several yards away, Charlotte waved happily as a young girl skipped beside her.
“Who are they?” Diana asked.
“My friend Miss Winters and her charge, Abigail.”
“I think she’s our age,” Valerie said.
“I believe she is.” Meg cast a glance at the bench behind her where the earl had been joined by a pretty blond-haired woman in a stunning pink gown. The woman slowly twirled a yellow parasol trimmed in delicate lace while she giggled at something Lord Castleton had said. Her maid stood to the side of them, a discreet distance away. No, the earl would not mind if she introduced the twins to Charlotte and Abigail.
He was too busy making his next conquest to notice. In fact, Meg doubted he’d notice if she and the girls toppled head-first into the Serpentine.
“Meg!” Charlotte cried as she approached. “What a lovely surprise.” Pink-cheeked and breathless, she pulled Meg into a quick, fierce hug. “How are you faring—well, I hope?”
She cast a meaningful glance over her shoulder toward the earl. “Quite.”
Charlotte followed her gaze and nodded. “Well, then,” she said to the girls, smiling, “we must all become acquainted, for I’ve a feeling we’ll be spending many afternoons together.”
After introductions, Meg handed the ball to Abigail. “Here, you may take my place in the game. You’ll keep up with these two far better than I.”
While the girls played, Meg and Charlotte walked to the shade of a stately oak nearby. “It’s so wonderful to see you,” Charlotte said. “You look very well, indeed. Are you happy?”
The question caught Meg off guard. She couldn’t very well tell her friend the truth—not after she’d been so kind as to arrange the interview. “I miss Beth and Julie, of course. But the twins are delightful.”
Charlotte raised a brow. “And the earl?”
“So far, we’ve managed to tolerate each other.”
“What?” Charlotte’s forehead knitted. “He hasn’t done anything . . . untoward, I hope?”
“No,” Meg reassured her. “It’s not that.” She frowned as the girls drifted across the lawn, farther away from her. “I’m going to bring them back here.” She started toward them, but Charlotte placed a hand on her arm.
“They’re fine. Let them enjoy a bit of freedom.”
Meg relaxed. Unlike her, Charlotte knew what she was doing. And the girls were in plain sight. “Tell me this gets easier.”
“It does. Building trust takes time.”
Meg nodded but was unsure whether her friend referred to the children or the earl.
“You said that there was some history between you and Lord Castleton,” Charlotte said. “When did you two meet?”
“Ages ago. We used to be neighbors.” Meg glanced back at the earl. He and his beautiful companion had begun strolling down the path by the lake. She might as well tell Charlotte the whole sordid tale. “I was barely fifteen when—”
“Diana!” Valerie shouted. “Stop!” Several yards away, she stared helplessly as her twin sprinted across the park lawn, head down, her new boots churning up the grass.
Meg ran to Valerie’s side. “Where’s she going?”
“She told us to count how long it takes her to run to the other side of the road and back.”
Meg’s heart plummeted. “That’s Rotten Row.” She lifted the front of her gown and took off, running after Diana. The little girl seemed oblivious to the phaeton careening down the path, pulled by horses galloping like their tails were aflame.
“Diana!” she cried, shouldering her way past a man puffing on a pipe.
But the girl kept moving, closer to the road and the out- of-control phaeton.
Her slippers slapping the ground as she ran, Meg gasped for air, and called out again, louder. “Diana!”
The little girl stumbled to a stop in the middle of the road. She spun around to face Meg, her blond curls blowing in the breeze. Smiling, she raised her hand to wave.
She stared wide-eyed at the huge horses barreling down the dirt path toward her.
Never in her life had Meg felt so powerless. Not when her parents announced she’d marry a man she barely knew. Not when she’d been forced to leave the only home she’d ever known. Not ever.
She had to reach Diana in time.
Meg sprinted. She launched herself at Diana, knocking her off her feet. The girl tumbled into the grass, out of danger.
But Meg’s chest slammed onto the dirt, knocking the breath from her lungs. With the horses almost upon her, she struggled to her feet, but her slipper caught on the hem of her dress, and she landed on her knee with a bone- jarring thud.
The ground vibrated with the pounding of hooves. Dear God. She was about to be trampled.
Her throat thick with dust, Meg couldn’t breathe, much less scream.
She braced herself for the inevitable pain. She wasn’t ready to die, and yet—
Whoosh. A blur of dark green dove in front of the horses’ hooves. Bam. A large body landed on top of her, forcing the air from her lungs. Strong hands grasped her shoulders and pulled her away from the hooves, the dust, and the danger.
She rolled over the ground like a log, the man on top of her one moment, she on top of him the next. And when they finally jolted to a stop beside a row of prickly hedges, both of them clinging to each other and breathing hard, she was on top.
Meg pressed her hands against the solid wall of his chest, and raised her head to look at her rescuer.
Lord Castleton. Naturally.
He wore a lopsided grin that, in spite of her brush with death, made her very aware that he was a man and she was a woman—lying atop him.
“Are you quite well, Miss Lacey?” A polite inquiry on the face of it, but his arched brow and suggestive tone made it wholly improper.
“I believe so,” she rasped. “But Diana—”
“Is fine.” He pushed himself to sitting, holding her firmly on his lap. Concern darkened his brown eyes. “You, however, seem like you could use a glass of brandy.”
CREDIT: From MY BROWN-EYED EARL by Anna Bennett. Copyright © 2016 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.