How to Fall for the Wrong Man
by Harmony Williams
Publication Date: June 25, 2018
Genres: Adult, Entangled: Amara, Historical, Romance
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If Mary Babington-Smith knows nothing else, it’s that Lord Edwin Sutton kissed her. Regardless of who-kissed-whom, with the deed witnessed, they have no choice but to carry on with a temporary, fake, engagement. When Edwin sweetens the deal, offering Mary the money she needs to pursue her independence if she can play the lovesick fiancée for two weeks, Mary rises to the challenge. In two weeks, she’ll have everything she wants, and this time she’ll be the one to walk out of his life.
Despite Sutton’s argumentative, self-assured nature, when Mary glimpses a sliver of the boy he used to be, she vows to peel away every layer of armor he uses to shield his emotions. Somewhere underneath that worldly exterior is the kind-hearted man she once loved, but in order to find him, she’ll have to give him the power to hurt her…and he’s already broken her trust once.
“I bet you couldn’t last two weeks playing the lovesick fiancée.”
I stopped. Narrowing my eyes and sucking on one cheek, I turned. “I have no incentive to try.”
“Not even to thank me for saving your life?”
“Not even then.” He asked too high a price.
His mouth twisted with chagrin. “For money, then?”
I raised my eyebrows. “You’re reduced to paying for female company, are you?”
Sutton flexed his hands. His leather gloves creaked with the movement, drawing my eye to the long line of his arms and his tapered fingers. He scoffed, drawing my attention to his face once more.
His scowl returned. A thrill coursed through me at the evidence that I’d nettled him.
He closed the distance between us, until we stood toe to toe. I held the kitten between us like a barrier but didn’t move away. If he intended to spew proposals, I’d prefer half of St. James’ didn’t hear.
“If you last two weeks, I’ll give you enough money to open a shelter if that’s what you desire. You can help dozens of animals.”
When I glanced down at Patches, he tilted those clear-as-a-blue-summer-sky eyes up at me. His lips moved in a silent meow as if to say, Please? Not only would an animal shelter help desolate animals like him, but I’d be able to offer jobs to women in need. I nearly accepted on the spot, before common sense returned.
I narrowed my eyes. “What do you gain from this?”
The strangled sound he made, half like a growl, enveloped me. I shivered. “Does it signify?”
“Of course it signifies. I imagine you must have a good reason to want a wife.”
He raised a hand as if he meant to run it through his hair again, then fisted it and returned it to his side. “Everywhere I turn, my mother and aunt are breathing down my neck to marry.”
“So leave London. You’re good at that.”
At the venom in my voice, his expression closed off. He took a step back, every inch the arrogant lord. “You don’t want my money? Fine. I’ll find someone who does.”
As he took another step back, I couldn’t breathe through a wave of regret. “Wait.”
I swallowed hard, trying to set aside the past for the moment. Truthfully, I needed his money. Without Old Lady Gladstone’s support, Papa couldn’t support everyone in the house on a barrister’s meager salary. I had to start living independently. If all I had to do was pretend… “Two weeks?”
He nodded curtly. “Not counting today.”
“I expect to see a written contract listing the sums involved.”
He released a short breath, almost a snort. “Of course you do. Very well.”
Would I truly go through with this? What would people think?
I’d care a lot more about the thoughts of the people and animals I helped once I had that money. So what if rumors abounded, leading people to believe I was actually in love with him? There wasn’t a shred of the boy I’d known in the Lord Sutton standing in front of me. I was in no danger of losing my heart to him in truth.
Taking a ground-eating step closer, close enough that I had to crane my neck back to look him in the eye, Sutton added, “But if you’re not able to keep up the ruse for two full weeks, you’ll have to marry me. A matter of convenience—don’t expect pretty words or lovelorn looks.”
I laughed. His expression didn’t alter. “Are you serious?”
He nodded, curt.
“Why in Heaven’s name would I have to marry you?” The very idea sent a frisson of distaste down my spine. I hadn’t avoided matrimony this long only to sign myself over as property the moment I might have to earn my own income.
He didn’t bat an eyelash at my reluctance. “Those are my terms. I’m pressured to marry. I need a woman who won’t be under any illusions as to the nature of our arrangement.” His voice trailed off as he extended his hand toward me as casually as if he asked for a dance.
I wouldn’t do that with him, either. “I will not marry you.”
“You’ll get the money either way.”
Perhaps, but in one scenario I’d have to endure his company for a lot longer than two weeks. I couldn’t fathom a month locked in the same house as the haughty lord Sutton had become, let alone a lifetime.
One corner of his mouth tilted up in challenge. “Unless you don’t think you can do it.”
I glowered at him. “Oh, I can. Don’t underestimate me.”
A smug smile curved his lips. “Then we have a deal.” He wasn’t asking.
I raised my chin. “We’ll have a deal when I’ve reviewed the terms of the contract.”
He held out his hand. “We should seal it…unofficially, of course.”
I thrust my palm into his, but instead of shaking it, he drew me off the street and into a sheltered alley between two stucco-sided buildings. Although the space barely fit the two of us and his body surrounded me, I wasn’t afraid. Deep down, I knew Sutton would never hurt me. He couldn’t have departed that much from the person he’d once been.
He leaned closer. Beneath the starch used on his collar, he smelled like cedar and cinnamon. “This isn’t a business deal, Mary.”
To me, it very much was.
“You’ll have to make a convincing show that you’re in love.”
I scoffed. “I’ll act so in love it will be nauseating.” I’d been in love before; I knew how good it felt.
“Prove it. Let’s seal this with a kiss.”
ABOUT HARMONY WILLIAMS
Harmony Williams has been living vicariously in Regency-era England since she discovered Jane Austen. Since time machines don’t yet exist, she’s had to make do with books—fictional and non-fictional. On the rare occasions she doesn’t have her nose stuck in a book, she likes to drink tea and spend time with her 90-lb lapdog. A feminist, she writes stories about strong women and the men who support them as equals.
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