Ignorance is supposed to be bliss, but in Anneliese Barlow’s experience it leads to poor choices and unnecessarily tragic outcomes . . . and there is nothing pleasant about either.
Forced to flee her father’s brutal heir, Anneliese masquerades as Lisa Brown, a servant, in the grand, country mansion of the Duke of Worthington. Befriended by her fellow maids, she tries—and fails—to avoid attention while awaiting the return of the duke, her father’s friend. Discovering the life of gentility she had known was a virtual fairytale, reality a dark and forbidding place, Lisa faces danger at every turn.
Captivated by the beautiful maid, Nathaniel Stanton, the Marquis of Marsden, decides the only way to protect the new girl is by offering her his protection. With her reputation ruined and all hope of returning to her previous station seemingly lost, Lisa surrenders her virtue to the man she has come to love almost beyond reason. Finding unexpected passion in Nathaniel’s arms, her senses are awakened to a world of sensuality she had not known existed. A world not without grave risks.
Believing it is the only way he can keep her in his life, Nathaniel asks Lisa to be his mistress, promising her a home and a future with him . . . of sorts. Despite her misgiving’s about its dubious morality, she accepts the position rather than be separated from Nathaniel. But her father’s heir, Lord Copeland, has not given up in his quest to have her for himself.
With her freedom, Nathaniel’s position in society, and the future of countless others at stake, she must sacrifice her future happiness and disappear forever. If her identity is uncovered, Lisa’s innocence won’t be the only thing that’s lost.
“Please.” She whimpered.
“Please what?” The softening of his expression gave her no comfort. His eyes darkened, and he raised a hand to run his finger down her cheek. It was the same simple caress Nathaniel had used many times, but she shuddered in dismay at Lord McGivern’s touch. She had thought he was a gentleman after his apology for interrupting them in the study. But it appeared she had been mistaken.
“Please don’t hurt me,” she whispered.
Lord McGivern let his hand fall but did not move away.
“I have no intention of hurting you, Miss Brown. I do not force myself upon unwilling women, nor would I normally encroach on a friend’s territory. I’m here for the answers Nathaniel would have demanded if you hadn’t beguiled him so completely. Is it money you’re after? I’m not sure how much Nathaniel has offered you. Are you open to a higher bid?”
Lisa gasped, shocked by the provocative nature of his comment.
“I don’t want money, yours or anyone else’s.”
His eyebrows rose at her denial.
“The reason I appear something other than a commoner is because my mother, a lady from a good family, married my father, a soldier and business proprietor, for love, something no gentleman seems capable of comprehending. I did fall on hard times. My father died, leaving me orphaned and without protection, and I came to Worthington Hall to find employment in a supposedly safe environment. That is all.”
“But you’ve found a great deal more than that, Miss Brown, if that’s even your name. No matter how enamoured he may be, Nathaniel will never marry you. If this is some misguided attempt to entrap him, you’ll be quite ruined when the truth comes out.”
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.” Lisa’s heart ached at hearing her sad reality spelled out, albeit with a sordid twist. “Lord Marsden pursued me, not the other way around. He offered me his protection, and I accepted. The only thing I am guilty of is naïveté, as I had no idea what was involved.”
Lord McGivern stepped back, and she sagged against the wall.
“So you’re saying you have no interest in him?”
“I love him. I always will, no matter how impossible my situation.”
Lord McGivern studied her for a long moment. “If you’re telling the truth, then you have my apology and Nathaniel my congratulations for finding a paramour of exemplary quality in the most unlikely of settings. But I’m warning you, if this is some sort of ruse to discredit Nathaniel, or an attempt to extort financial gain from a family well-known for their generosity, you will regret your deceit.”
“My intentions in coming to Worthington Hall were without guile. I never set out to entrap Nathaniel or to become his mistress—I had no idea such a role existed.”
“How could you not know?”
Lisa saw red, the hurt and betrayal she felt at the hypocrisy she had discovered inherent in her own class causing her to act without circumspection.
“Does Lady Rebecca know the gentlemen pursuing her for matrimony have lain with other women and intend to continue doing so once married? Or that she will be expected to behave as if she has a heart of stone, denying her the passion and pleasure her gentleman husband will take as his right? Or are you the exception to the rule, Lord McGivern, and planning on honouring your wedding vows after you wed?”
His stunned expression turned calculating. “I hope you’re not threatening me, Miss Brown.”
“How could I? It is not like I’ll ever get to meet Lady Rebecca. I am just pointing out that a young woman who’s been sheltered in her upbringing would have no reason to be aware of such things. She will be lucky to have the vaguest clue as to what occurs in a marital bed!”
Elise met the love of her life when she was only sixteen, married him three years later, and recently celebrated her thirtieth wedding anniversary. Needless to say, she is a big believer in living Happily Ever After. With a lifetime’s worth of experience behind her, Elise also believes great relationships don’t just happen, they take work. . . which doesn’t mean writing about them can’t be a whole lot of fun.
After surviving all manner of health obstacles while raising a family and nursing her elderly grandmother—her writing name-sake, though she’d have been shocked by her granddaughter’s steamy love scenes—Elise established a career as a counselor and family therapist. Seeking an escape from the stresses of her work, she discovered the world of fan fiction, and her timid writer’s muse began to make its voice heard. Two point three million hits, twelve and a half thousand reviews, and an email from an acquisition’s editor at The Writer’s Coffee Shop later, and Elise’s life found a new and fascinating direction.
A romantic fiction addict from way back, writing her own historical and paranormal romances—and having others read and fall in love with her characters and the worlds she creates—is a dream come true. Elise likes to see her characters grow, experience passion and adventure, tackle some difficult issues, and find lasting love . . . eventually.
TWCS Book Page: http://ph.thewriterscoffeeshop.com/books/detail/110
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