Lady Olivia Sherbourne isn't shy about speaking her mind, except when it comes to James Averill. For ten long years he has been her brother's best friend and her heart's only desire. But when Olivia hears James will soon set sail for an expedition to Egypt, she knows the time has come to make her move. It's now or never . . .
James has always found Olivia bewitchingly attractive, but what kind of gentleman takes up with his best friend's sister? Not that he's thinking particularly gentlemanly thoughts when she appears on his exploratory trip-three hundred miles from home!-and incites a tavern fight. No matter what the devil she's doing there, it's his duty to see her safely back to her family. But how safe will she be when every starlit night brings wicked temptation . . . ?
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Rose’s eyes shone with compassion. “It concerns Mr. Averill.”
“James?” Olivia’s knees wobbled, and she grasped the edge of a pot for support. “Is he”— dear God, she could barely bring herself to utter the word—“ engaged?” Her voice cracked.
Rose shook her head emphatically. “No.”
Olivia took a gulp of air and nodded. “That’s good.” If James was neither engaged nor dead, the news could not be that devastating. Could it?
“He just made an announcement. It seems that he’s preparing to travel to Egypt.”
The ballroom tilted. “Egypt?”
“Yes, where he’ll participate in an archaeological dig— for two years.”
Olivia blinked. “Did you say two years?”
“I’m afraid so.”
Olivia swallowed the painful lump in her throat. “When? That is, when will he leave?”
“At the end of the summer. I’m so sorry, Olivia.”
“It’s all right,” she lied. “I knew he was fond of antiquities, of course. I just never imagined . . .” A future without James in it.
“Would you like to leave the ball? I could tell Owen that you have a headache and we could return home.”
“No. No need to spoil your night.”
“I don’t mind—”
“I know.” Olivia smoothed a few stray locks behind her ears as though composing herself were just that easy.
“Summer’s end. That’s only, what, eight weeks away?”
“Yes.” Rose looked as distraught as Olivia felt.
“Then that’s all the time I have.”
“To make him fall in love with me.”
Anne Barton began swiping romance novels off her mom's bookshelf as a teenager, so when she had the chance to spend a semester in London-home to her favorite heroes-she packed her bags and promptly fell in love with the city, its history, and its pubs. She dreamed of writing romance, but somehow ended up a software analyst instead.
Fortunately, a few years and a few careers later, Anne found her way back to writing the stories she loves and in 2011 won the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart® for Regency Historical Romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband (who, sadly, is not a peer of the realm-but a great guy nonetheless) and her three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes whenever she quotes Jane Austen. Her weaknesses include reality TV, cute-but-impractical shoes, and caffeinated beverages of all kinds.
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