Rules are made to be broken…He’ll break every rule for her…She’s forbidden in every way…1816 EnglandBrandon St. Clair, the Earl of Vale, has never been one to follow the rules. Even though he must marry a wealthy heiress so that he can be rid of the pile of debt he inherited with his title, he can’t stop thinking of another. Amelia Somerton is the daughter of an art forger and is not a suitable wife. But that doesn’t stop Brandon from making Amelia a different offer, the kind that breaks every rule of etiquette…Sin runs in Amelia’s family. And even though she now rubs elbows with the aristocracy, she knows the truth—she has the ability to forge priceless works of art. She’ll never be seen as an acceptable wife, not that she wants to marry, anyway. So when the earl scandalously offers her the one thing she’s always dreamed of, she can’t help but take it. But what begins as a simple arrangement, soon escalates into much more, and as the heat between them sizzles, each encounter becomes a lesson in seduction…
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“You must paint my portrait. In exchange, the art lessons are yours when you return to London,” Lord Vale said.
Amelia’s breath caught in her lungs. She struggled to comprehend the enormity of what he offered. She understood why he’d want her to paint a copy of the Cuyp landscape. Her unique ability to forge paintings was rare. But his second request was baffling. “Why me? I know why you sought me out to replicate the Cuyp painting, but why not hire Stirling from the Royal Academy for your portrait?”
Vale’s eyes darkened to a deep moss. “Stirling no longer paints portraits, but I wouldn’t commission him even if he did. The true reason I want you to paint me is because I don’t want to look like them,” he said, flicking his thumb at the portraits on the gallery walls. “I don’t want to look earlish.”
A single thought crossed her mind: Vale looked nothing like them. The comparison was as foolish as the tingle of excitement she experienced every time he looked at her, and she suppressed the urge to press her hand to her pounding heart. There was so much male beauty that she longed to capture on canvas.
The risks were high. She could get caught alone with him at night while she worked. She could ruin her reputation and her chances at a future marital match. Eliza would be devastated.
She would spend hours alone with Vale, watching him, studying him for as long and as freely as she wanted as she painted. It was sinful, wicked, and entirely improper.
When had that ever stopped her in the past?
She looked into his eyes and saw the flash of victory before she uttered the words. “I’ll do it.”
A thrill of primitive satisfaction coursed through Brandon.
He imagined standing still as Amelia worked. Her eyes intently studying him feature by feature as she painted.
Christ. It was enough to make him grow hard in his breeches and his skin sizzle.
She looked lovely in an azure gown that emphasized the color of her eyes—a deep blue. Her skin was as flawless as porcelain and her glossy hair a unique blend of browns and reds. His fingers itched to remove the pins in her hair and discover if the locks reached past her shoulder blades.
As if she read his thoughts, a spark of annoyance flared from beneath her thick lashes. “It will be a strictly business arrangement.”
“Yes, of course.”
“You will act the perfect gentleman.”
It would take every ounce of willpower he possessed, but he wouldn’t pounce on her. “I will.”
He may fantasize about her in his bed, but he would not act upon his desires. He wasn’t a complete scoundrel. He did not want to ruin her reputation, and he could never offer her marriage. He was an earl with a responsibility to his title, his family, and all those dependent upon him, and he needed to marry a wealthy woman. And as his best friend’s sister-in-law, Amelia was not mistress material.
But he could take pleasure in watching her as she worked. There was passion beneath her surface. He was sure of it. She freely expressed it in her artwork—in the swirling texture and strokes of her brush. If Amelia’s layers of respectability were peeled away to reveal her true essence, he had no doubt that she was a fiery, passionate woman. What if after spending hours alone with him in the intimacy of his study as she worked, she would come to want him?
Best-selling author Tina Gabrielle is an attorney and former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. She often picked up a romance and let her fantasies of knights in shining armor and lords and ladies carry her away. She is the author of adventurous Regency historical romances. Publisher’s Weekly calls her Regency Barrister’s series, “Well-matched lovers…witty comradely repartee.” Tina’s books have been Barnes & Noble top picks, and her first book, Lady Of Scandal, was nominated as best first historical by Romantic Times Book Reviews. Tina lives in New Jersey and is married to her own hero and is blessed with two daughters. She loves to hear from readers. Visit her website to learn about upcoming releases, join her newsletter, and enter free monthly contests at www.tinagabrielle.com
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