In New York Times bestselling author Cathy Maxwell’s glittering new series, wedding bells are ringing… until the return of a rake throws a bride’s plans— and heart—into a tailspin.Every debutante aspires to snag a duke. Elin Morris just happens to have had one reserved since birth. But postponements of her marriage to London’s most powerful peer give Elin time to wonder how she will marry Gavin Baynton when she cannot forget his brother, Benedict.Already exasperated at being yanked from the military to meet “family obligations,” now Ben must suffer watching his arrogant sibling squire the only woman he has ever loved. Joining the army saved Ben from sinking into bitterness, but seeing Elin again takes him back to the day they surrendered to their intoxicating desire.As the wedding draws near, Elin tries to push Ben far from her thoughts. When danger brings them together, there is no denying their feelings. But can Elin choose love over duty…?
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Her bedroom door flew open, interrupting her thoughts, and her mother, Jennifer Morris, sparkling in the famed Morris diamonds, swept into the room. Her dress was of Belgian lace dyed in her favorite shade of sapphire, a color that matched her eyes. Her honey blonde hair barely betrayed a trace of gray. She glowed with eagerness for the evening ahead. She enjoyed crowds and being the center of attention. She had looked forward to this night for over twenty years, ever since the old duke of Baynton had suggested a match between their children.
Jenny shut the door and took in the situation in the room—Elin in her petticoats, her hair curling without a sense of order or style—and focused on the supper tray on the desk by the window overlooking the back garden.
“What is this? You haven’t touched any of your food. Sarah said she encouraged you to eat but I can see you haven’t taken even a bite.” Her mother approached her. Jenny was half a head taller than her daughter. She cupped Elin’s face in warm, loving hands. The rose scent of her perfume swirled around them. “Elin, you must eat. This evening is all about you. You are going to be very busy tonight. So many people will beg your attention, you won’t have time to sit let alone enjoy a bit of supper. And then, sweet bee, you need to finish dressing. Cook prepared the chicken in that French cream sauce you like so much. In fact, while you are eating, let me call for Sarah to come in and do your hair. We don’t want to keep Baynton and his guests waiting--”
Elin caught her mother’s hand before she could move away. “I can’t do this. I thought I could but I can’t.”
“You can,” her mother answered. “You were meant to do this. Born for it. Elin--” She paused, closed her eyes as if searching for the right words, or patience. When she raised her lashes, her expression was one of loving concern. “Elin, forgive yourself. You made a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. However, it was many years ago. What were you, fifteen?”
“I was to turn sixteen?”
“So very young. How could you have known? You trusted Benedict. Your father and I trusted him.”
“I was foolish.” A hard lump formed in Elin’s chest at the mention of Benedict Whitridge’s name. Ben had been her closest friend and he had taken what she should have protected—her virginity. He was also her betrothed’s younger brother.
Not only had the experience been painful and humiliating, he’d gone away the very next day. He’d left for a career in the military without a word of farewell. Or a warning that he was leaving, that he wouldn’t be there to reassure her when she needed him most.
New York Times Bestselling Author, Cathy Maxwell, spends hours in front of her computer pondering the question, “Why do people fall in love?” It remains for her the great mystery of life and the secret to happiness. She lives in beautiful Virginia with children, horses, dogs, and cats.
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