The Earl She Ruined
The Atwood Sisters Book 3
On Sale October 20, 2022
She had never kidnapped an earl before.
She had never kidnapped anyone before for that matter, and she wasn’t sure if it were exhilarating or appallingly untidy. She leaned toward the latter especially after she’d tossed the pitcher of water on him.
He came up spluttering, which was to be expected. Getting doused with water had such an effect on a person. His reaction was likely amplified, however, as he wasn’t expecting a pitcher of water to be thrown on him when he entered his carriage, but it couldn’t have been helped. She needed him to be coherent when she stated her demands.
“What in God’s—” He stopped as he wiped the water from his eyes, blinking into the near darkness of their surroundings. “Lady Alice?” He spoke her name more softly, curiously. And then— “No.” He turned to the door, water spraying from his chin as he scrambled to catch hold of the handle, but the carriage was already in motion, and his hasty movements were futile.
“Lord Knighton, you have nothing to fear from me, I promise you.”
He gave up on the door and sat back, pressing himself against the opposite bench, arms splayed as if preparing for the rapture. “I think we may have differing viewpoints on that matter, my lady.”
“You have my word, my lord. I have no ill intentions. It’s only I have a proposition for you, and as an unwed lady, I was forced to take such extreme measures in order to have this conversation with you.” She set the empty pitcher aside and folded her hands delicately in her lap as if such a reasonable gesture might calm him. “If society didn’t insist on such arcane rules, I wouldn’t have resorted to such barbarity.”
He raised an eyebrow, his expression not losing its wariness even as he surveyed her with obvious curiosity. “And I suppose the water was necessary as well?”
She glanced at the pitcher on the bench beside her. “I couldn’t have known whether or not you were inebriated, and I need your full attention for this conversation. The water was to rouse you to your senses.”
“I am not in the least inebriated, Lady Alice, but I’m rather regretting that now.”
She flexed her hands together and apart, willing her courage to hold. “I promise to be swift, my lord, and then you may return to your social schedule. I presume you’re on your way to a dalliance of some sort?” She could feel the muscles in her hands had begun to twitch, her fingers pulsing with the need to fidget, and she willed herself to hold still.
It had taken sheer bravado to steal into his carriage, and she was quickly learning bravado was an ephemeral creature, prone to flight at a moment’s notice. She swallowed and took a measured breath, willing her nerves to calm. She couldn’t give up now, and besides, emotion had nothing to do with this encounter. It was merely science which brought her to this man’s carriage in the middle of the night, and science was comfortingly cold and analytical.
His expression didn’t change at her words, but his eyes searched her face, the hint of curiosity remaining in his gaze. “I don’t believe my social schedule is any of your concern, my lady.”
His words stung, but he was right. She had no claim on this man. In fact, she’d only met him the week previous at her sister’s wedding. It wasn’t even as though he were an old friend of the family, which would have served to alleviate the oddness of the situation.
He was only Ransom Shepard, the Earl of Knighton, London’s most notorious rogue. A designation that made him perfect for her endeavors.
She straightened her shoulders against the bench at her back, her nerves settling as she remembered the reason she was there.
“You’re quite right. I do apologize. I’ve come to ask for your assistance, my lord.”
“I have no intention of marrying any time soon, Lady Alice, so if you believe by trapping me—”
She wrinkled her nose. “Who said anything about marriage?” She couldn’t think of a more appalling idea. It was all perfectly well for her sisters to wed, and really, it was most advantageous for them, and Alice wished them all the happiness they might find there. But no, marriage was not for her. It never had been.
Knighton’s death grip on the carriage eased, and his hands slipped from the upholstery to fall at his sides. “Isn’t that what this is about?”
“Good heavens, no. I have no intention of marrying as well. On that, we are agreed.”
His stricken expression dissolved then, his brow furrowing. “Then why on earth are you in my carriage? Tossing water on me no less.”
She tilted her head as if she were dealing with an unruly experiment. “I’ve already explained the water, my lord. As to the other, I should like your assistance with a matter that your reputation would suggest you have a great deal of experience in. As this endeavor is very important to me, I should only like the best in the field.”
“And what would this endeavor be?” “I should like you to seduce me.”