WINNER Romance Writers of Australia 2018 Ruby Award
Most ladies dream of finding a husband, but Etta Wilding-Marsh dreams of the law. Establishing a law school for women is the determined firebrand’s dearest ambition and she has no time for distraction—and certainly no time for the wickedly handsome antagonist from her youth.
After years of annoying her from afar, Lord Christopher Hiddleston leaps at the chance to return to Cambridge and the fiery girl he has never forgotten. Now a successful Gothic novelist, Christopher will use his notoriety to support the school…and drive Etta wild.
A chance meeting leads to another, and then the firebrand and the antagonist find a passion of a different sort. But can a woman who dreams too much and a man who never does truly find a happily ever after?
~ Excerpt ~
Making her way to the fireplace, Etta trailed her fingers over the figurines displayed on the mantle. Paint was missing in places, and a few of them were chipped. Maybe the house was furnished when Gwen and the duke leased it? It seemed a reasonable assumption. Gwen would be here two weeks, and it would be a shameful waste of money to purchase. Although the short time frame hadn’t stopped Gwen from inviting Christopher Hiddleston to stay.
Etta scowled at the faded wallpaper. Why would Gwen do such a thing? She knew he was the bane of Etta’s existence. Gwen had been there.
When she was a girl, Etta had convinced Gwen to attend the local pub in search of debate on points of law. She knew students of her father’s and Gwen’s frequented The Havisham Arms, and it had been wonderful. Stimulating conversation, stirring debate, discussion of the law…well, they’d had such, once she’d browbeaten the students to overlook their sex.
Then, Lord Christopher Hiddleston and his friends had arrived.
Lord Christopher agreed with nothing she’d said. In fact, he’d taken such ludicrous stances Etta couldn’t contain herself, rising to higher and higher passion as his smug grin and completely incorrect suppositions drove her spare. It had been a happy day when finally he’d graduated, and she could rest easy knowing The Havisham Arms would be hers once more.
Then, one day, the articles had arrived.
With no sense of regularity, he’d sent her articles detailing his exploits. Sometimes months would go by without one, and then four would arrive in quick succession. At first, they described his appointment to a fellowship at London University, and the publishing of a work or two on tort law. Then, he’d started sending her snippets of some awful gothic novel. Then, he’d revealed himself to be the novelist. And then, to make matters infinitely worse, he’d become a ridiculously famous and successful novelist.
And now…now he was to stay with Gwen.
“Miss Wilding-Marsh, what a pleasure. What an absolute pleasure.”
The hair on her neck raised. No. It couldn’t be. Ill thoughts couldn’t conjure the devil. Could they?
Shoulders tensed, she turned. Standing inside the room, his face wreathed in a lunatic grin, stood Lord Christopher Hiddleston.
Fury filled her, such that it stole her tongue. Stonily, she wrenched her gaze from him and regarded the fireplace. Maybe, if she pretended he wasn’t there, he wouldn’t be.
However, she had never been lucky.
Etta resolutely stared forward, though she was overwhelmingly aware of his presence. Lord, she wished it was socially acceptable for her to just plant him a facer. She even had some notion of how to do so, given she’d infiltrated Harcourt’s Gymnasium last summer to discover how exactly men went about pummelling each other for fun.
“I say, Miss Wilding-Marsh?”
Damnation, he wasn’t going away. With no other recourse, she regarded him direct.
He looked different. Ten years had passed, and with time’s passage, the boy had become a man. Auburn curls tumbled wildly about his head, too long and untamed by any hint of pomade. Dark eyes glittered wickedly beneath straight brows, like the pools of Hades on a particularly evil day, while his aquiline nose led to a mouth far too sensuous for such an annoying man. His strong jaw showed a hint of red-gold stubble, and his cravat was skewwhiff as if it had taken a battering, of what she had no clue. His garments showed the same battering, the grey overcoat stretching his broad shoulders slightly wrinkled. He was a full head taller, and he used the difference in their heights to smirk down at her.
Something curled low in her belly. Damnation, he had always been ridiculously handsome. Why had God seen fit to pair a contrary disposition with such an exterior?
Ignoring whatever was floating about her stomach—which could only be the result of something she ate—she said flatly, “Lord Christopher.”