When the Lady Must Wed
The Secret Matchmaker Series Book 3
On Sale January 26, 2023
Lady Winnaretta Lowe felt sick to her stomach when people praised her, as they often did, for helping her sister appear at her best in society.
Because she wasn’t helping her sister out of the goodness of her heart. Not at all.
Lady Winnaretta Lowe was paying for her sins.
Sins that would have sent any proper society matron to her knees. Sins that had tarnished her family’s reputation so badly it was all Winnie could do to prop it back up again.
Sins that required a penance so great she was giving her life for it.
In the form of marriage.
To the vilest man in society.
“Is Chichester coming today?” her mother said as if listening to the litany of Winnie’s disparaging thoughts.
“Yes, Mother,” she said, her eyes never straying from the spectacle on the Thames below. “I believe he had some gentlemen he wished to see here.”
When Miles Creedmoor, the Marquess of Chichester, had first suggested they attend today’s presentation, he had not mentioned a desire to see her. He had only mentioned a group of gentlemen he had been considering as potential investors for one of his real estate endeavors. It was no surprise that she hadn’t seen him yet.
Her mother lazily fanned herself and pressed the backs of her fingers of her free hand to her forehead. It wasn’t overly warm as it was only the middle of June, but the viewing platform on which they stood was crowded, verging on uncomfortable.
“Oh, that’s lovely,” her mother said without feeling. “He was so kind to secure us our places here.” The older woman slid her a weighty look as it was no secret what Winnie was doing. Well, not the intent of it anyway. Her own reasons for doing it were very much a secret.
No, her family understood her pursuit of the Marquess of Chichester even if her father disagreed with it entirely, and her mother condoned it only so far as it aided the other Lowe daughter in securing a match. The same Lowe daughter who gave a soft snort to her left.
Winnie finally looked away from the parade of boats below them to find her sister hiding a derisive expression behind her own fan.
“Is it really so awful he’s not here yet?” she murmured. Judging by the stricken look that came over her little sister’s features when she found Winnie gazing at her, Ingrid had probably thought the comment would be lost in the cacophony of celebration.
Winnie frowned firmly enough to correct her sister, even though Winnie agreed with her comment. It was rather a relief that Chichester was not there yet. Perhaps for a little while longer Winnie wouldn’t be reminded of her impending life sentence as Lady Winnaretta Creedmoor, the Marchioness of Chichester.
“Why is it that they’re calling it the Strand Bridge? I thought we were commemorating our victory at Waterloo.”
Winnie turned back to her mother. “You know how it is, Mother. The government does what it can to bolster morale.”
Her mother turned then, and Winnie caught the line of perspiration burrowed in the rivets of face powder still visible across her forehead. Her mother still wore the stuff, in effusive layers no less, even when it had become less fashionable. “Bolster morale? We won, didn’t we?”
Her mother meant no harm, but Winnie couldn’t stop the sharp stab of memory that pierced her.
“Mother,” Ingrid said sharply, leaning forward to peer around Winnie to give their mother a scathing glare.
“What?” her mother asked innocently enough, and Ingrid did little more than move her eyes in Winnie’s direction.
Winnie shifted from foot to foot, curling her toes in her slippers as the wooden boards beneath her feet grew tiresome, hoping the movement would distract her from the exchange taking place in front of her.
Her mother made a dismissive snort. “It’s been five years since he died. She can’t possibly—”
“William.” The name sprang from her lips no matter how she tried to blank her mind against it, to steel herself from the torment it brought with it, but it couldn’t be stopped. The turmoil that brewed inside of her, the turmoil stoked by her sins, would not let William’s death go unmarked even when it cost her to speak his name.
Because when she spoke the name of her dead lover, her heart beat with the name of someone else.