The Seduction of Lady Phoebe Online - Ella Quinn

Acknowledgments

Writing may be a solitary profession, but it takes a team to birth a book. To my mother-in-law, who read, critiqued, and is always ready with help or suggestions.

To my lovely agent, Elizabeth Pomada of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents, who recognized a diamond in the rough, and loved my books as much as I did, and my editor, John Scognamiglio, who loved them enough to buy them. To Claire Cavanaugh, who taught me how to edit. To the wonderful Delilah Marvelle, who taught me how to write a blurb and synopsis. The Beau Monde Chapter of Romance Writers of America, whose members are always there for advice, research, and support, and the members of the Compuserve Writers Forum who didn’t laugh at me when I posted a message stating, “I just wrote a 100,000-word Regency, now what do I do?”

No acknowledgment would be complete without mentioning my critique groups, Regency Romance Critiquers and Rom-Critters, without whom I never would have figured out what head-hopping was or any number of other things. They have been with me through good times and bad.

Chapter One

Late June 1806, Worthington Hall, England

Lord Marcus Finley poured his third glass of brandy and strolled back to the library window. The sunlit terrace and lawn provided a stark contrast to the dim, wood paneled room in which he stood contemplating his bleak future and imminent banishment to the West Indies.

His gaze was drawn to the petite figure of Lady Phoebe Stanhope. The sun caught her reddish-blond curls, creating a halo effect as she laughed and played with the Worthingtons’ young girls. Simply seeing her joy eased some of his pain.

Everything about Lady Phoebe was perfect, from her curls and deep sky-blue eyes to her small feet and neatly turned ankle. There was a connection between them. He’d felt it. She was the only one who had tried to understand him. He wanted to marry her, but it seemed impossible now. Why had he met the only woman he’d ever want just days before he left?

He wondered what their children would have looked like. Another rush of anger swept through him, and he forcibly loosened the fingers he’d tightened around his glass.

“Marcus, there you are.”

He turned as his friend, Lord Mattheus Vivers, heir to the Earl of Worthington, strode toward him. Vivers was the only reason Marcus was at the house party.

His friend pointed at the brandy. “That’s not going to help, you know.”

Marcus stared at the glass for a moment, watching the sun catch the amber shades of the liquid before downing the drink. “I’m going to hell in any case. What does it matter how I do it?”

Vivers rubbed a hand over his face. “When was the last time you were completely sober?”

“When my father told me I was being banished—and to where.” Marcus turned back to the window, his anger consuming him. Even his brother, Arthur, hadn’t defended Marcus. That had been the worse betrayal.

Vivers joined him at the window. “What’s so interesting out there?”

Marcus went back to the view of Lady Phoebe. “My last unshattered dream.”

Vivers glanced out. “Lady Phoebe Stanhope? Give it up.”

Scowling, Marcus replied, “Why? I may be a second son, but I’m still eligible. Once I reach my majority, I have the inheritance from my mother’s aunt.”

His friend ran a hand through his hair, disordering its fashionable style. “Very well, I’ll list the reasons. You’re a minor and need your father’s consent to wed, the same father, by the way, who is banishing you to the West Indies before you embroil yourself in a scandal here that can’t be smoothed over. The most important is she is not yet out.”

Marcus’s stomach clenched as if he’d been punched. “What do you mean she’s not out?”

“Not. Out. Not old enough to be on the Marriage Mart,” Vivers enunciated clearly. “At twenty you’re five years too young yourself. Do you really imagine that her father would consent to you marrying her? Ladies marry at twenty, not gentlemen.”

Marcus shook his head, trying to clear it. Why was she at this house party then? Was this some joke fate was playing on him? Or was it more punishment? “How old is she?”

“I don’t really know,” his friend shrugged. “Sixteen or seventeen, maybe. She has a great deal of countenance, so it’s hard to be certain. It’s a shame you won’t be here when she does come out,” Vivers mused. “I don’t expect she’ll last long on the Marriage Mart.”

Marcus felt like he was dying. By the time he was