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Promise Me Forever by Lorraine Heath - Romance>Historical Other
On the outside, Lauren Fairfield appears the very picture of cool, contained nobility and blueblood British sophistication. Inside, however, she longs for Tom, the charming rogue she loved--and lost.
Now a sinfully handsome would-be gentleman has arrived in London--and Lauren nearly swoons when she realizes it is her Tom, grown to magnificent manhood. He has come to claim his lost title as Earl of Sachse . . .and to fulfill an oath once made by two young lovers beneath a long-ago moon, a scandalous promise no proper lady would dare honor.
Lauren could never love a staid and stifling lord, and Tom's future is the aristocracy. So she will teach him their ways before she exits his life forever. But the wildness she adored still lives in Tom's heart--and he will not rest until he proves to the proud, resisting beauty that "forever" is a promise that must be kept . . .
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"They say he's devilishly handsome."
"They say he's frightfully uncivilized!"
"No surprise there. He's American, after all."
"Not quite. He may have grown up in America, but his blood is as English as yours or mine."
"Thank God for small favors, I say."
"I've heard he has more money than the queen."
"I daresay he'll need every ha'penny in order to secure himself a suitable wife. Quite honestly, who among us has any desire to marry a savage?"
Who indeed? Sitting within her stepfather's drawing room, having contributed not a single word to the ludicrous conversation based on speculation and the latest round of gossip, Lauren Fairfield couldn't help but think that her four uninvited guests were doing exactly what they claimed they wouldn't be caught dead doing: entertaining the notion of marrying a savage. If not marrying him, then at the very least gleefully consorting with him. Their eyes were filled with mischief, their cheeks were flushed, and they were studying her as though they thought she had firsthand experience at being ravished and might advise them on the best recourse for pursuing the possibilities.
She hardly knew how to respond to these ladies who had been among the first to accept her into their prestigious inner circle. They were known to swoon upon occasion, at will, their performances worthy of a standing ovation. And why not? They'd held numerous swooning parties in their youth, so they could hone their skills. It was, after all, expected: to be so delicate and fragile that one was always in danger of being broken, to leave no doubt in gentlemen's minds that the men were the stronger of the sexes. It was a ghastly way to live, keeping one's true self hidden behind a screen of expectations that transformed into obligations.
When the looming silence became rather uncomfortable, Lady Blythe reached out and lightly touched Lauren's hand. "Oh, you must forgive us, dear friend, if we offended you by referring to the barbaric nature of Americans."
"We meant no offense," Lady Cassandra concurred. "One wouldn't know by your mannerisms that you're American, and thus we always seem to forget that you are. Which is a grand compliment, I would say."
The other two young ladies in attendance bobbed their heads and murmured their agreement. Like them, Lauren wore the latest fashion: a slenderizing skirt that accentuated her tiny waist and narrow hips. She was grateful the bustle had at last disappeared from fashionable clothing, but she suspected that Ladies Blythe and Cassandra missed it. Their hips weren't well suited to the narrower skirts. A cruel thought that was most unlike Lauren. Perhaps she hadn't quite lost her American mannerisms as much as they thought.
Or perhaps she was simply too weary to extend the proper courtesies. The ladies had arrived right on her heels, after a particularly challenging day, and Lauren had barely had time to greet her stepfather, the earl of Ravenleigh, before she found herself in the role of hostess, since her mother and sisters had gone out for a bit of afternoon shopping.
"I'm deeply flattered that you hold me in such high regard," she finally responded, more out of habit than anything -else. She and her sisters had spent hours practicing their replies to insincere compliments, so they at least appeared sincere. Sometimes she felt as though her life had become an elaborate play, scripted, rehearsed, performed, words spoken because they were the predictable response. She'd recently taken to doing the unpredictable, and while she was doing it in secret, it still brought her a measure of satisfaction to be doing it at all.
"As well you should be," Lady Cassandra acknowledged.
Promise Me ForeverBy: Lorraine Heath