A bit of backdrop for THE UNSUITABLE SUITOR.

I love reading regencies and just about each one I get my hands on deals with a Season in London. I began to wonder what would happen if a young lady for one reason or another could not have a Season in London. Where would that leave her? That was the beginnings of Wellbourne Manor. Lady Elizabeth Shelby, a widow, had married very well, even though her Season in London had been a dismal failure. Instead of dwelling on the catastrophic affair that was her Season, she employed the things she did learn and imparted her knowledge as instructions to the daughter of an old friend. Her Season was a success and once word got around that Lady Shelby had coached her, more friends begged her assistance. After all, a Season in London was a major economic undertaking and the parents and guardians wanted the guarantee of an advantageous marriage. All of this snow-balled and Lady Shelby decided to open up her vast estate and hold her own mini-seasons. A scandalous venture, however families flocked to the idea and the matches made at Wellbourne grew in number and fame. Lady Elizabeth became very selective with her invitations and soon these invites were coveted.

The young ladies invited spend the first days of the mini Season learning what Lady Elizabeth calls “the time honored rules of courtship,” which also encompass warnings of certain areas on the estate that are forbidden. For example, a young lady was never to allow a young gentleman to lead her into the ivy-trellised maze, for fear she would become lost and be forced to rely on the gentleman for assistance. Oh dear! Lady Elizabeth’s nephew, Rupert Granville helped her fashion the instructional pamphlets addressing all of these things. Rupert, in turn notices that one of the young ladies attending acts as if she has not even studied the pamphlets as he catches her red-handed breaking one of the rules.

Miss Peyton Hamilton can not seem to help herself. There are so many wonderful adventures to be found at Wellbourne. She could care less about the “time honored rules of courtship.” She has her own ideas on how she wants to live her life and marriage is not in the picture. She is only there to act as a chaperone for her sister, at least that is what she was told. She finds the pamphlets dry and dull, the nephew, Mr. Granville rude and dangerous. Dangerous in the way he makes her feel. If only there were something in the pamphlets to tell her why she feels so strange when he is near. Fearing her behavior will threaten her sister’s visit, Peyton finds herself being tutored privately by Mr. Granville. Only when her heart is carelessly crushed by a rumor does she understand that she must become more like the other young ladies attending Wellbourne and not the hoyden she has been painted.


Rupert made his way down to the ballroom, escorting his

aunt. The room was wondrously lit, and seemed to have taken

on life, with the swirling dancers moving about the floor. His

eyes scanned the chairs where he expected to find Peyton, next

to her sister. He was nearly swept off his feet as a pair of

dancers swirled directly into his path. He jumped back, frowning

after the two. He felt the floor lower beneath him suddenly as

he recognized one of the dancers as Peyton. He’d expected to

find her standing with her sister, waiting for him to claim her for

the dance he had promised. He certainly had not expected to

see her whirling past him in the arms of another man. He did

not recognize the man she was with, but she was smiling up at

him as he held her in his arms, and they were swirling, waltzing.

And she looked absolutely stunning. A far cry from the sodden

young miss he’d helped earlier.

“Told you,” Elizabeth said near his ear. “Close your

mouth, Rupert. Are you scowling? You should be happy! You are

to be congratulated.”

He never heard her, as his eyes remained on Peyton,

moving fluidly across the room from him. She was positively

breathtaking to watch.

“Who is the gentleman she dances with?”

“Mr. Stanley Bickers. Wealthy, tall–”

“Yes, yes. What do you know of his character?”

“His character? He wants a wife, not a position in

government. Who cares?”

“Excuse me.” Rupert disengaged her arm from his and

made his way purposefully over to Reginald and Frieda, who

were enjoying spending time together at the punch bowl.


“Rupert, what are you doing here? I thought you hated these things.”

“I utterly despise them. Frieda, who does your sister

dance with?” he asked, hoping to learn more than just the

man’s name.

“I admit I cannot keep up with them.”


“It’s very true,” Reginald spoke up, handing Rupert a

glass of punch. “So many men have signed that poor girl’s card

tonight, she won’t be able to stand tomorrow.”

Frieda extended her glass for a refill and smiled at

Rupert. “It would appear that having to stay behind and do her

homework was just what she needed.”

Rupert turned to Frieda as if she had grown horns. Of

course, she hadn’t seen how upset being left behind had made


“Miss Hamilton, did your sister say anything to you about

her day today?”

“Only that it was very long and trying. She almost didn’t

come tonight. She said she would rather curl up in the library.

Can you believe that? I’m so glad she did come, though. I

needed her to act as a buffer for me, so I could spend more

time with Reginald.” Frieda sipped greedily from her glass of

punch. “I can’t imagine why it is that I am so talkative this


Reginald threw a conspiratorial wink at Rupert over his

own spiked punch. “I can’t imagine.”

“Oh well. I don’t really care.” She held out her empty

glass as Reginald slipped another splash of punch into it. “Look

at Peyton,” she sighed. “She’s such a good little girl. She’s been

ever so helpful in acting as a buffer ever since we arrived.”

“What?” Rupert asked her, thoroughly confused.

“Yes, the little goose thought she was accompanying me

here to act as my chaperone. I had hoped to find her a suitable

match here. However, she seemed more determined to get us

tossed out. I had to keep her from succeeding. I made her

promise not to leave my side. I couldn’t very well find her a

suitable suitor with all these young gentlemen trying to romance

me. Not when I love Reginald. Yes. I believe she will be made

an offer this very night.”

Rupert continued to stare at her. All well for you. But, what about Peyton?

“Mr. Granville, did you two go for a swim today? The

reason I ask is when I found Peyton this afternoon, she was…

well, her clothes were soaking the floor, and she refused to say

anything. I finally dragged it out of her, though. She said you

merely saved her from drowning. She must have been terribly

embarrassed. The poor silly thing couldn’t stop crying about it,


Rupert scanned the dance floor again, looking for her. He

had suspected he had hurt her. Now, he had confirmation from

the sister.

“Did she say anything else?”

“Only that she was ready to heed my advice and take this

more seriously. She said she had not realized until today that

some people play games, while others play for keeps. It all

sounds very mysterious, if you ask me.”

“That does sound mysterious,” Reginald agreed. “Wonder

what she meant by that?”

“Well, if she ever sees fit to make it over to us, we can

ask her,” Frieda announced as the music ended.

The musicians rose from their chairs, ending the set.

Rupert scanned the room, trying to peer around the

approaching couples, desperate to locate Peyton, hoping she

had not been steered out into the gardens. As he found her

drawing closer, his eyes narrowed on the flushed coloring of her

face. She was obviously laughing at something her escort had

said. His fingers tightened around his cup of punch.

As she drew nearer, he slid a quick glance to her escort,

then his gaze rested on her. She looked exquisite. However, he

did not care for the manner in which her gloved hand rested on

Bickers’ sleeve, nor did he care for the resigned expression on

her face. He waited for her to return his stare. She glanced his

way, but she acted as if he were not standing in the same room

with her, much less two feet away.

“Miss Hamilton,” Rupert greeted her as she approached.

“Good evening, Mr. Granville.” How very civil she


“Punch, Miss Hamilton?” Bickers inquired.

“Yes, I thank you,” she returned, pulling out her hand fan

and moving it in front of her face rapidly, left-handed.

Rupert knew she could have no knowledge of what she

was saying with her fan, unless of course, she had gotten

herself engaged since he last saw her.

“Miss Hamilton, I hope you saved a dance for me.”

“I apologize, Mr. Granville. I did not.”

“I especially remember our agreement. As a matter of

fact, it is the expressed purpose of my attendance here this

evening. I promised you a dance. Did you forget?”

“I did not forget. Unfortunately, the sets are short, and

my card has been scribbled on until I cannot make it out any

longer. If you were to persuade the musicians to play another

tune then, perhaps.”

He stepped closer. “You made me promise.”

He wondered if she could feel the heat emanating from

him, as he stood too close for propriety.

“Yes, and it was rather selfish of me. Childish, I believe,

as well. Even after you told me how you detest these

gatherings. I had no right to secure such a promise. I apologize

and I release you from your pledge.”

As she drew the fan closed, she moved it deliberately to

her left ear, a clear signal that she wished to be rid of him.

“That won’t do.” His voice had dropped to a low and

menacing timbre.

“See here, sir,” Bickers started to interject.

“This is between myself and Miss Peyton Hamilton, sir,”

Rupert returned. Bickers really needed to walk away, if he knew

what was good for him. He leveled a look at the man that he

hoped would convey his irritation with him. He took delight

when the man stepped off politely. Turning, he saw that Peyton

did not seem the least bit curious as to where her escort had

disappeared to. Rather, she merely shrugged and sipped.

“This punch is delicious,” Peyton remarked after she

emptied her glass.

“Allow me,” Rupert ground out, taking it from her gloved

fingers to refill it. As he handed it back to her, he noticed that

she would not look him in the eye. She was looking everywhere

but not at him. “Tell me, Peyton, are you feeling quite yourself?

You aren’t suffering from your dip in the lake, are you?”

He hoped the mention of her dip conjured up the very

same memory that had plagued him all afternoon. The one of

his arms around her, his chest pressing into her, his hands

cupping her derriere, and his mouth bringing about the little

gasps and moans he had heard. He watched as she drained the


“I do not suffer, sir.”

“Then, tell me, no fever burning your temple?” His words

brought to him the memory of his mouth lowering to capture

her naked breast between his teeth.

“I’m quite beyond anything that occurred this afternoon,


“Really? Then would you care for a turn about the

gardens, Miss Hamilton?” he asked, removing her glass from her

gloved hand.

“I will be sure to consult my pamphlet… and then let you


“Hang the pamphlet,” he snarled, and taking her

forcefully by the elbow, he propelled her towards the open doors

leading down to the gardens.

Any other time, she would have simply stopped and

stared up at the fullness of the moon and the brilliance of the

scattered stars, but tonight, she could barely spare a glance. His

stride made it difficult to keep up, and she found she was fairly

running in order not to pitch forward. He never stopped as they

careened passed several other couples. Heads were turning as

they blew past.

She knew exactly where he was taking her, but at night,

it was as if she were in a different world. The evening air felt

wonderful after being out on the dance floor. It touched her

skin, turning it cold at first, alerting her with tiny goose bumps,

and then tempering it to allow her to enjoy the faint breeze. The

scents from the numerous flowerbeds were pungent in the

darkness, as were the boxwoods.

Finally, he rounded the path that led to the same place he

had taken her that morning, still tugging her along behind him.

Before she could protest his leading her straight into the

darkness, his fingers found the back of her head and he crushed

her to him, his lips coming down hard as his tongue made short

work of any resistance she would have offered. His breath was

loud against her lips as he reached around with his other arm

and pulled her even closer to feel him.

Available at Champagne Books

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