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Official Blurb: The Victorian era was full of majestic beauty and scandalous secrets—a time when corsets were the least of a woman’s restrictions, and men could kill or be killed in the name of honor……
Lady Margaret Cassidy left a life of nobility behind in Ireland, forsaking her grieving homeland to aid war-ravaged men in England. Still, she never expected a cruel turn of fate to lock her into an unwanted betrothal with one of her English patients—much less one as broken and dangerous as Viscount Powers.
Wrecked by his tragic past, Powers’ opiate-addled sanity hangs precariously in the balance, leaving him poised to destroy anyone who dares to utter the names of the wife and child he still so deeply mourns. So when he is forced to marry Margaret in exchange for freedom, he is shocked by the desire to earn her trust, her body, and—most alarming of all—her heart….
Excerpt: He stared blankly before arching that one damning brow. “Do you think me a freshly born babe?”
Her lips twitched at the very idea. Powers had no doubt been born domineering and dripping sarcasm the moment he had popped into the world. “Hardly, milord.”
“You want something,” he stated flatly.
She nodded. Unsurprisingly, it appeared the best course had to be straight for him to follow her lead. He would sense it if she laced too much sweetness into her proposition. “I do at that.”
“Out with it.”
She cleared her throat, the words oddly discomforting. “‘Tisn’t just for myself, you understand, what I’m about to suggest.”
She bit the inside of her cheek, knowing this was much like ripping off a bandage that had stuck to a wound. She simply needed to do it quickly and with authority. “I should like you to marry me.”
The silence which followed was punctuated by a mad cackle somewhere down the hall.
Powers contemplated her, his face an odd mask of dispassion. “And they say I’m mad.”
She couldn’t help but say, “They do indeed.”
He blew out an agitated breath. “My good woman–”
“Hear me out,” she said loudly, determined to cut him off and finish off her bargain.
He attempted to inch away from her, a rather hilarious spectacle, given the narrowness of the bed and the tightness of his leather straps. “I’d rather bash my brains out against the wall.”
Well, this was going splendidly. “Do you revile me then? Find me repugnant? repulsive?”
That seemed to stop him and he eyed her with a careful curiosity. “That is a great many Rs. Is your vanity wounded by my reluctance to tie myself to such as yourself?”
Such as herself? It was extremely tempting to pursue that line of thought, but she was not leaping to that bait. “That you’d rather be judged mad than marry me? Yes, I suppose my vanity is a wee bit trampled.”
He scowled. “You are an exceptionally beautiful woman, for which I am sure you are already cognizant.”
Her cheeks burned. She was aware of how men watched her, their trousers bulging, eyes lighting with lust and superiority simply because they were men. Even as they admired her, they doubtlessly imagined her in a place of far less power than the place she’d managed to carve out for herself in this hard, male ruled world. She’d done her best to avoid their unwelcome advances and kept herself to herself. It was imperative that she’d carefully cultivated a trustworthy, responsible reputation for healing in a world that generally expected women who ventured outside the home to be nothing better than whores..
“Ah.” A slow sort of dawning amusement sprung in his eyes.
“You are aware then. So. . . Why do you wish to marry a mad man?” he intoned with exaggerated drama. “Tired of working your pretty little fingers to the bone?”
The sneering note to his voice grated against every principle she’d managed to form over the last years, principles she was gleefully tossing to the wind for the sake of her future. No, not her future. The future of her brother and so many others that she would finally be able to truly help.
She supposed, she could have turned down the marquess’ offer and thrown herself on the generosity of other lords than she had helped, hoping to avoid a marital entanglement. But she she needed aid immediately. The marquess had promised it and there was no guarantee that any other lord, no matter the debt they owed her, would be willing to assist her brother in such a state.
It took a great deal of fortitude not to slap the ragingly arrogant superiority off his face. God, how she hated his immediate assumption that she would marry him for so little. Still, she refrained.
For heaven’s sake the man was strapped to a bed because he couldn’t care for his own safety, and he was attempting to make her feel inferior! So, she jabbed a little knife into that illusion of his that he was so much higher than she, clipping, “In truth, it was your father who has asked me to wed you. With much reluctance, I agreed.”
Yes, the stabbing little phrase seemed to leech the disdain out of him for a brief moment before he said flatly, “I don’t believe you.”
“He’s asked me to lend credence to your sanity so that you will be able to inherit and be forever free of the doctors.”
“My jailor, not my wife.”
“Aren’t they one and the same in any case,” she teased, hoping, despite the growing animosity, for a moment of lightness between them.
He grew quiet and seemed to disappear to some far off place. His face, so hard and strained, relaxed for a moment. A strange glossiness turned his icy gaze mirror-like, before he blinked and replied, “No. They are most definitely not.”
The way he now looked at her, as if she’d just spewed filth on him made her feel as if she’d suddenly revealed some secret part of herself that no one nor no ray of light had ever seen. Suddenly, she did feel ugly. She felt exceptionally low, lower than he could feel at this moment, despite his temporary committal to a madhouse. For at least, he still had some hope in the state of marriage and faith in love.
How remarkable. Because she most certainly did not. She hadn’t for almost her entire life.