USA Today bestselling author Caroline Linden's third novel in her Scandalous series brings together a feisty heiress, a notorious rake, and a shocking book that could bring one woman the utmost despair—or the greatest pleasure...Penelope Weston does not like Benedict Lennox, Lord Atherton. He may be the suave and charming heir to an earl, as well as the most handsome man on earth, but she can't forget how he abandoned a friend in need—nor how he once courted her sister, Abigail. He's the last man she would ever marry. If only she didn't feel so attracted to the arrogant scoundrel...Once upon a time, Benedict thought he and Penelope got along rather well. Though he needs a wealthy bride to escape his cruel father's control, spirited Penelope just doesn't suit his plans for a model marriage—until a good deed goes awry, and scandalous rumors link his name to Penelope's. She might not be the quiet, sensible wife he thought he wanted, but she is beautiful . . . beguiling . . . and far more passionate than he ever imagined. Can a marriage begun in scandal become a love match, too?
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She repressed the urge to walk the other way. She hadn't seen him since they last parted, when he'd reluctantly helped solve a years-old mystery that had tarred the name of the man Abigail loved. Sebastian Vane had stood accused of stealing a large sum of money from Lord Atherton's father, and Atherton himself had done nothing to disprove it—even though he'd once been Sebastian's dearest friend. Penelope grudgingly admitted that Atherton had been fairly decent after that, but she still thought he was insincere and always had an eye out for his own interest, whatever truth or justice demanded.
It wasn't until Atherton turned and looked toward them that Penelope realized she was staring at him. She quickly averted her gaze and turned her body slightly, hoping he hadn't actually noticed her. However, that only gave her a good view of Frances's face, which was glowing with joy.
Because … Penelope closed her eyes, praying she was wrong. Because her brain was fitting together details, just moments too late, and they were adding up to one dreadful conclusion. Atherton was heir to the Earl of Stratford, who was a very wealthy man. He was appallingly handsome, which Penelope only acknowledged with deep disgust. And when she stole a quick glance under her eyelashes, she saw that he was heading directly for the pair of them.
Oh Lord. What could she say now?
"Miss Lockwood." Penelope gritted her teeth as he bowed. His voice was smooth and rich, the sort of voice a woman wanted to hear whispering naughty things in her ear. "How delightful to see you this evening."
"I am the one delighted, my lord." Blushing and beaming, Frances dipped a curtsy. "May I present to you my good friend, Miss Penelope Weston?"
His gaze moved to her without a flicker of surprise. He'd seen her, and was obviously more prepared for the meeting than she was. "Of course. But Miss Weston and I are already acquainted."
Penelope curtsied as Frances gaped. "Indeed, my lord."
"I—I didn't know that," stammered Frances, looking anxious again. "Are you very good friends? Oh dear, I wish I had known!"
"No, we hardly know each other," said Penelope before he could answer. "It was a passing acquaintance, really."
Atherton's brilliant blue eyes lingered on her a moment before returning to Frances. "The Westons own property near Stratford Court."
"Then you're merely neighbors?" asked Frances hopefully. "In Richmond?"
"A river divides us," Penelope assured her. "A very wide river."
Atherton glanced at her sharply, but thankfully didn't argue. "Yes, in Richmond. Unfortunately I'm kept here in London most of the year. I believe my sister Samantha is better acquainted with Miss Weston."
"Indeed," said Penelope with a pointed smile. "I hope Lady Samantha is well."
"Yes," said Lord Atherton after a moment's pause. "She is."
Too late Penelope remembered about Samantha. In their zeal to clear Sebastian Vane's name so Abigail could marry him, the Weston girls had inadvertently resurrected a dark secret of Samantha's, one her brother had claimed would lead to dire consequences for her. Penelope hadn't wanted to cause trouble for Samantha, but Sebastian had been accused of murder and thievery; Abigail's happiness depended on exonerating him, and Samantha was the only person who could help. Penelope cringed to have brought it up, but Atherton did say she was well, so the consequences must not have been as bad as he'd predicted. Still, she did truly like Samantha—far more than the lady's brother—and she was sorry to have been so cavalier with her name.
Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer code before discovering that writing fiction was far more fun. Eleven years, fifteen books, three Red Sox championships, and one dog later, she has never been happier with her decision. Her books have won the NEC-RWA Reader's Choice Beanpot Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA's RITA Award.
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