About the book
Like Pandora’s Box, the opening of an old jewelry case marks the beginning of their end...
Having only ever known the life of a servant, orphaned Georgiana Wells’ peace is shattered by the arrival of an unexpected guest: her Lady’s obnoxious niece. And she comes with a scheme.
Pressured by an arrangement made by his father, Benedict Dixon, Marquess of Easkerton, begrudgingly agrees to pay court to one Lady Harriet Bennet. However, the lady he sets eyes upon is unlike any other he has ever met.
But secrets have a way of coming to light, no matter how deep one buries them. When Georgiana suddenly disappears, realization dawns on Benedict: he has been courting an entirely different lady all along.
Georgiana had just entered the front hall on her way to the kitchen when the door to Buckley Hall blew open and admitted a force of nature. She froze, the tray holding the morning’s breakfast service still balanced impeccably in her hands, as she stared at the intruder, wondering whoever could be so bold as to burst into the home like that.
She had been brought up in Lady Ruffington’s home, and the household staff had always been the only family that she knew. They lived a quiet life there, and visitors were few and far between. When visitors came, they were always announced, too. Never in her life had she seen a disturbance such as this.
The woman who had rushed inside was nearly the same age as Georgiana, or perhaps a couple years older. She had an aristocratic air to her, and she snapped her fingers at Georgiana when she caught her staring. “Lady Ruffington?” she demanded, raising one precisely manicured eyebrow.
Georgiana bristled at the woman’s tone. Of course, she had grown up knowing her place in the world. She had been raised by a cook and a stable-master, after all! All the same, this woman acted as though Georgiana were nothing more than a bug, someone not even worthy of acknowledgement except that the woman needed Georgiana to do something.
So in spite of the fact that Georgiana knew that Lady Ruffington had very little on her agenda for the morning, she made up her mind to make this woman wait.
“Let me show you to the sitting room,” she said pleasantly, her smile all teeth. “I will see inquire if Lady Ruffington has time in her busy schedule to receive you.”
The woman snorted with contempt. “Tell her to rearrange her schedule,” she said imperiously. “Tell my aunt that her favorite niece is here, and in distress, and in dire need of her help.”
Georgiana refused to raise her eyebrows or show in any way that she had been impressed by the woman’s theatrics. Instead, she coolly said, “I will see what I can do.” Meanwhile, her brain was a-whir with curiosity as she tried to piece together who this other woman could be.
She remembered that Lady Ruffington had family scattered down in England, and that the woman had gone to see them a number of times over the years. Georgiana also recalled Lady Ruffington’s brother coming to stay for a time at Buckley Hall.
But her family seemed to disdain the northern estates as provincial and inelegant, and more often than not, Lady Ruffington was required to do all of the travel to see her family. Georgiana never accompanied her on those trips, of course. Someone was needed to tend to the place here so that it would be ready for its lady’s return.
Georgiana did not recall ever meeting this niece before, and with the way that the woman acted, she hoped to never meet her again.
Now, the woman narrowed her eyes at Georgiana, putting her hands on her slim hips. “Oh, you know as well as I do that my aunt is never busy first thing in the morning!” she snapped. “She saves her appointments for the afternoon. Don’t you dare keep me waiting, or I’ll find her myself and have you – ”
Whatever threat she may have made, it was cut short by Lady Ruffington’s entrance into the front hall. “Harriet!” she said in surprise. “I wondered what all the commotion was.”
The two women embraced, and Georgiana seethed with frustration. She wished nothing more than to tell Lady Ruffington all about her niece’s ill manners. Yet this was supposedly the lady’s favorite niece, and that meant that Georgiana had to bite her tongue.
She only hoped that this young lady wouldn’t attempt to have her fired. Although if she did attempt such, Georgiana had a feeling she would find it a little more difficult to get her way than she was clearly accustomed to.
She didn’t intend to listen in on the “distressed” young woman’s private meeting with her aunt, but Lady Ruffington asked for tea to be delivered to them, and when Georgiana returned with the service, they were just beginning to discuss the reasons behind the young lady’s visit.
“Father has announced that I must marry!” Lady Harriet announced, looking horrified at the prospect.
Georgiana fought the urge to roll her eyes. As she had prepared the tea, she had asked a few quiet questions to the cook, Margaret, and she knew that Lady Harriet’s father was an earl. The lady was of marriageable age and had status in the realm; of course she would need to be married.
It was a wonder that she hadn’t already been married off. Except that her personality probably leaves suitors wanting nothing to do with her!
Georgiana poured tea for the two ladies and made to retreat, but Lady Ruffington patted the seat beside her, inviting Georgiana to join them. She frowned, puzzled, but she did as Lady Ruffington bid her, settling in on the plush divan. She didn’t miss the way Lady Harriet’s brow wrinkled with undisguised loathing, but she ignored that.
“Whom does my brother wish to marry you off to?” Lady Ruffington sighed, looking thoughtful. “There are many young and strapping men at court who would make a fine match for you.”
“It’s the son of some friend of his,” Lady Harriet said disgustedly. “Probably some invalid, or else an absolute bore. Either way, it doesn’t matter. I won’t marry him. I just won’t!”
“Whyever not?” Lady Ruffington asked, sounding surprised. “I doubt my brother would choose for you a match which he did not think would be suitable to you.”
Lady Harriet wrinkled her nose. “No match of his choosing would ever be suitable to me,” she proclaimed. Georgiana fought the urge to roll her eyes.
“You have someone else in mind for yourself?” Lady Ruffington asked briskly. “I’m sure that if he is a decent match for yourself, then perhaps we might be able to turn your father’s thoughts towards this other man.”
“I have no thought in mind other than that I refuse to have an arranged marriage just out of a desire to better the family’s fortunes!” Lady Harriet said, her voice becoming shrill. Suddenly, Georgiana sensed something that she had missed before: Lady Harriet was, it seemed, actually frightened of the prospect.
How interesting… Georgiana knew that it wasn’t strange for ladies of Lady Harriet’s status to be married off by their families to help aid the family’s interests. Yet she also knew that there were rumors of matches gone awry, of ladies saddled with aging and addled husbands, or saddled with men who were downright cruel to them.
She couldn’t blame Lady Harriet for being worried about the sort of man she might end up forced to marry. On the other hand, it was Lady Harriet’s duty to her family to do as her father wished. Surely he wouldn’t saddle her with someone vicious. Lady Harriet was young and pretty; surely there were plenty of options.
“I want to marry for love,” Lady Harriet continued, and all of Georgiana’s pity for the young lady evaporated like dew on a summer’s morn. “In any case, I’m not ready to marry yet. I would like to experience more of the world before I’m shackled to a home and forced to bear heirs.”
“Harriet!” Lady Ruffington said, sounding appalled at the way her niece was speaking. “It is all well and good to want to marry a man who will be tender to you, but you must never forget your duty as a woman. Besides, it could be that you fall in love with this man your father wishes you to marry.”
“Doubtful,” Lady Harriet said sourly, pursing her lips. Her mind was clearly already made up to hate the man from the moment she saw him until the time he was on his deathbed.
Lady Ruffington sighed. “Have you attempted to talk to your father about your reservations?” she asked her niece.
“He won’t listen to me,” Lady Harriet said, pouting. “I’m sure there must be some way to convince him that this isn’t the appropriate match, but he won’t give me any time. He seems to want me engaged as soon as can be!”
Lady Ruffington shook her head. “That won’t do in any case,” she murmured thoughtfully, her eyes turning inwards. “If he rushes the engagement, then surely everyone will believe that you’ve been…” Her eyes slid over her niece, and though she did not finish her statement, the meaning was clear.
What a scandal it would be if the Earl’s daughter appeared to be a hussy. Or worse, already pregnant.
“I will tell your father that I am ill and that, being a widow, I require you to tend to me,” Lady Ruffington said decisively. “You will stay here until at least such a time as it would be appropriate to announce an engagement. After that, however, I’m afraid that I cannot help you. You know your father has always been stubborn.”
Lady Harriet sighed dramatically. “Well, I suppose that will be all right,” she said. “I shall endeavor to find some means to change his mind before you ‘recover’ from your ailment.”
Her eyes twinkled as she suddenly looked over at Georgiana. There was a certain cunning there that made Georgiana feel certain that the other lady would, in fact, find some way to sway her father’s opinion.
More than that, though, Georgiana felt as though she was somehow part of the other lady’s scheming. She couldn’t for the life of her think what the lady might be thinking, however.
Leave the scheming to the nobility, Georgiana thought decisively. She slid her eyes over to Lady Ruffington, wondering if she could make her retreat now. She didn’t see what part she had in this conversation, unless perhaps Lady Ruffington was ensuring that she knew that Lady Harriet would be staying for a while.
One of the guest rooms would need to be readied for the young lady, who would no doubt be demanding about everything from the color and fabric of the bedding to the amount of light coming in through the windows. Georgiana already wanted to grit her teeth at the thought of the mean things Lady Harriet would likely say to her about the place, even if she were accommodated like a queen.
In any case, Georgiana had plenty of duties to keep her busy that day, so hopefully she would not need to dwell there any longer. But what Lady Harriet said next made her jaw drop in surprise.
Harriet hadn’t come to her aunt seeking any real solutions to her problems, but from the moment she walked in the door of Buckley Hall, a plan began to form in her mind.
She didn’t know what she had been expecting in coming here. As Lady Ruffington had said to her, Harriet’s father had ever been stubborn. Harriet had always been close to the man, but lately, it seemed like things were changing. He was more vexed than he used to be. More impatient.
Their relationship was growing strained in a way that Harriet didn’t understand. She couldn’t think of anything that she might have done to bring about this change in the way that the two of them interacted.
She would do anything to go back and fix things. She just didn’t know what needed to be done, or what she might have said.
She supposed it wasn’t a total surprise when her father announced his plans to marry her off. She was, of course, of a marriageable age. But she had never shown an interest in being married, and she had expected that until she did so, nothing would be arranged.
Oh, she knew it was her duty to become a wife and give birth to heirs. She didn’t mind the thought of that: little children running around beneath her feet, a young son following after his father and mimicking his strength with an adorable attempt of his own.
She didn’t want that now, though. And she certainly didn’t want that with some stranger whom she had never met! Harriet hated the idea of living out her life without love in it.
She had grown up with her parents’ marriage as the example. Her grandfather had arranged the match, and although there had been many benefits to the merging of their families, Harriet’s parents had never quite managed to love one another. Oh, they respected one another, but their marriage was cold and distant.
Harriet wanted more than for duty to rule the remainder of her life.
When she protested the match, however, Harriet’s father had said only that Harriet was being silly. That she had, in fact, met this boy once, a long time ago. That she would remember as soon as she saw the man. That all of her protests would be forgotten once she saw what a man he truly was.
Harriet had her doubts. And besides, even if this man was the handsomest man in England, the fact remained that Harriet didn’t really know him, and that she didn’t love him.
She wasn’t going to marry someone that she didn’t love. That was simply the way that it was.
She was sure that she could make her father see sense, if she could only put the match off for a little bit of time. After all, her father only wished the best for her. Her prosperity, sure, but also her happiness. Once Harriet made it clear to him that she would spend her whole life unhappy if forced to marry some stranger, her father would realize what an error the hasty match was.
After all, it had been her father who had allowed her so much free reign when she was growing up, and her father who had allowed her to read all those stories about lovely heroines marrying their true heart’s desires. He wouldn’t have allowed that if he planned to ruin her life like this.
Still, perhaps there was some other way to fix things. A way to ensure that whatever her father’s crazy schemes, Harriet would not be betrothed to a man she didn’t love.
She looked speculatively at the young woman seated beside her aunt. This woman was at the center of the plans that Harriet was making.
The woman was a serving girl or a maid or something along those lines. Harriet didn’t know and didn’t care. She had been quite cross with the woman when she’d first arrived, but now she wondered if the woman might be of aid to her.
“Have you any prospective suitors?” Harriet asked her bluntly.
Georgiana looked askance at her. “Beg pardon, my lady?” she asked. Goodness, from the way she was staring, one might think that Harriet had sprouted a second head!
Perhaps the woman was slow. Harriet repeated her question, enunciating carefully this time, then glanced over at her aunt as though to confirm that her questions was intelligible. Lady Ruffington didn’t seem to understand the reason for the question, but the question itself had been received.
Lady Ruffington laughed, shaking her head. “I’m afraid I keep Georgiana quite busy here in our household!” she said, looking fondly at the other young woman.
Georgiana grinned wryly. “You know that it isn’t that,” she said to Lady Ruffington, sounding almost apologetic. “I simply am not interested in anyone who might be interested in me.”
“So there’s no one courting you?” Harriet interrupted, just to be sure.
Georgiana shook her head. “May I ask why it matters to you, however?” she asked, sounding suspicious.
Harriet grinned slyly at her but looked at her aunt when she answered. “She will take my place. When my father inevitably forces this courtship, it will be this girl whom we will send to meet my potential husband.”
“Harriet!” Lady Ruffington said, sounding shocked. “First of all, this woman has a name. Georgiana. I know you’ve been raised, well, in a certain manner by your father, but we do things quite a bit differently here than is fashionable in London.”
“All right,” Harriet conceded, holding up both her hands. She knew that she needed her aunt on her side if any of this had a chance of succeeding. “Georgiana. A pleasure to meet you.”
She wondered if the other women could hear the faint hint of sarcasm in her voice. It was one of her biggest downfalls, truly. She never quite managed to hide what she was thinking. In a court as cutthroat as England’s, that only meant trouble. In any case, Harriet believed that most times, it was in one’s best interest to speak one’s mind anyway.
She understood the need for coyness and such around court. But she found that she got the best results from actively doing what she wanted, or at least asking for it.
So now, she turned to her aunt. “Georgiana will take my place when my suitor comes to call,” she said, not exactly asking.
“Your father would find out,” Lady Ruffington said, shaking her head.
“How?” Harriet asked impatiently. “He is still in London, and we are a long way away from there now. Not only that, but the resemblance between the two of us is striking. You must realize that.”
Indeed, from the moment she had walked into her aunt’s home and seen the other woman, Harriet had been startled by the similarities between her and the other woman. It was as though she was peering into a looking glass.
Of course, they weren’t identical. Harriet’s dark brown hair was longer and less streaked by the sun, and she would never dream of leaving it in the loose braid that the other woman seemed to favor. The other woman’s skin was a tad darker than hers, kissed again by the sun, and her hands! Well, it was obvious that this other woman worked, and worked hard.
And then there was their clothing. The other woman’s clothing was of rough homespun material, a bit tattered around the edges, the dull color making her look washed out. On the other hand, Harriet was wearing a pretty green satin dress, which she had been careful not to stain during the long carriage-ride to come here.
Still, these were superficial differences that could easily be disguised.
Let this woman stand in her stead with this prospective suitor. One of two things would happen: either he would think that Harriet was painfully provincial and unfit to be his bride, or he would realize the ruse and want nothing more to do with the trickery that clearly came along with an involvement with her family.
Either way, it was in Harriet’s best interest. He would never actually want to marry her, if the ruse was successfully carried out.
And Harriet would not have to deal with all the unfortunate aspects of a courtship that she did not desire.
But Georgiana was looking at her as though Harriet had gone mad, and Lady Ruffington’s expression wasn’t far removed from that. Georgiana spoke first, snorting with amusement.
“You truly believe that I could ever hope to pass myself off to be your peer?” she asked laughingly. “I do agree that we have a passing resemblance, but I’m afraid my upbringing was very different from yours! I would no doubt embarrass you somehow.”
She looked over at Lady Ruffington as though to confirm this. Lady Ruffington sighed. “She is right,” she said to Harriet, sounding almost apologetic. But was she apologizing to Harriet or to Georgiana? The sympathetic look in her eyes as she looked at Georgiana answered the question.
“I do hope that you realize how cherished you’ve been in this household,” she said quietly, as though she were rehearsing something that she would rather say, something much more dire.
“Of course, I realize!” Georgiana said, sounding aghast. “Lady Ruffington, I do hope you realize that I’m not upset about the way that I was brought up. Not in any way. All I wished to say was that I am a far cry from…” She trailed off, looking over at Harriet, and from the embarrassment clear in her expression, whatever she’d been about to say hadn’t been particularly kind.
Harriet narrowed her eyes at the other woman, her fingers clenching into fists. “Yes?” she asked testily.
“Now, now,” Lady Ruffington interrupted before the two women could truly trade barbs with one another. “Harriet, I’m sure that news of this deception would reach your father in only a matter of time. You did say that he was trying to have you engaged to the son of one of his close friends.”
Harriet sighed impatiently, but now that the idea was firm in her mind, she had no desire to forget about it. No, this was the way that things would be. After all, why else had she happened upon Georgiana at such a perfect time, if God did not wish for Georgiana to be part of His plan to free Harriet from her father’s terrible proposal?
“I’m sure that it would not take much for Georgiana to learn to be more like me,” she said, making a point of saying the other woman’s name. She turned to the woman. “It would not be forever,” she promised. “I think, in fact, that this could be quite a good thing for you. You would get the chance to live an aristocratic lifestyle for a time. Wear some pretty dresses and get to see how the ton live.”
Georgiana wrinkled her nose, unable to help herself. Perhaps this was the sort of thing that other young women dreamt about. Not her, however. She had always been more than happy in her anonymity here at Buckley Hall.
In any case, it wasn’t as though she felt any desire to do any favors for Harriet. The woman was insufferably arrogant. She acted as though the rest of the world ought to kiss her feet, as though she were royalty of some obscure but grandiose nation.
Yet as Georgiana looked over at Lady Ruffington, sure that the older woman would put a stop to this nonsense, she was surprised to see the other woman look torn.
But of course, the lady was torn. She had always treated Georgiana as though Georgiana were a member of her own family, yet Harriet was, in fact, a member of the family. Not only that, but Harriet was supposedly Lady Ruffington’s favorite niece.
Georgiana owed the woman a debt, something that she could never forget. After all, Lady Ruffington did not need to take Georgiana into her household all those years ago.
Georgiana knew the story of her birth: how her mother had died when she had been but a squalling infant fresh from the womb. How she had been given over to the cook and the stable-master because they could not have any children of their own.
She had grown up rather privileged for the bastard child of a mother who had not survived her birthing. That was something that Georgiana could never forget.
So before Lady Ruffington could say anything either way, to protect Georgiana or to help her dear niece, Georgiana spoke up. She looked directly at the other young woman. “All right,” she said evenly. “If you think that you can train me to stand in for yourself, then I will do it.” She looked over at Lady Ruffington. “Only to give Harriet a little more time to convince her father against this match,” she assured the older lady. “Where is the harm in it?”
Lady Ruffington looked as though she wanted to protest, but as she looked between her niece’s triumphant face and Georgiana’s open and earnest one, she sighed. “All right,” she said. She turned to her niece. “You must come up with some other argument to convince your father against this match, however. Do not let it be put into writing.”
Lady Harriet tossed her head. “Of course not,” she said. “The last thing I need is for the women of the court to have words about how I broke off an engagement!” She rolled her eyes as though this were the worst possible thing that could transpire.
Georgiana shook her head grimly as she realized just how much she was going to need to learn to impersonate the other lady.
Benedict still wasn’t certain what to think about his father’s scheming. Every time he believed he had managed to convince his father that he, Benedict, was truly a man and not just a pawn… Well.
Still, Benedict knew that this time, the man only meant well. At twenty-eight years of age, it was high time for Benedict to give his family line a legitimate heir. It wasn’t as though he was displeased with the idea of beginning a family, either.
But he lacked the time and energy to devote to finding himself a suitable match. Oh, there had been plenty of women who had shown their interest in him once, but there were so many mundane rules that went along with courting that Benedict just couldn’t be bothered with it all.
Why should he compose terrible lines of poetry about a woman whom he had barely met? He simply wasn’t interested in playing those sorts of games, of pretending that fate rather than family fortunes had brought them together.
Benedict was starting to realize that the games needed to be played, or else he would end up alone and heirless. The trouble was that he had a reputation for being distant and uninterested now, and most of the eligible women of England weren’t interested. It would take delicate negotiations – and no doubt many lines of terrible poetry – to convince them that Benedict was interested now.
He sighed just thinking about it.
He needed to find a wife, one who would bear him heirs, help him maintain his status in society, and ensure that the family’s vast wealth continued in his family line rather than passing to some second cousin or other distant relation.
Benedict did his best to do his duties managing the estates and such. But there were other duties that fell to him as Marquess of Easkerton. He could no longer ignore the fact that most of his friends, even the wildest of them, had settled down and taken wives.
There was a difference between recognizing that it was time for him to take a wife and finding one, however. On the other hand, there was this idea of his father’s that Benedict could marry the young Harriet Bennett, daughter of the Earl of Midford.
Benedict had seen Lady Harriet a few times at social gatherings. She was pretty, with her dark hair and fair skin. He didn’t know much about her beyond her appearance, however. Perhaps that mattered little enough. She was of an age to make suitable heirs, and other than that, well.
Benedict was sure that he would be able to cope with her, whatever she was like. He had always imagined that he would find a partner who was a match for him, though. Someone who would help him with his estates when she wasn’t raising his children. Someone with whom he could discuss things such as philosophy or… Well, it was all ridiculous, he was sure.
He didn’t know where these notions had come from. Certainly not from his father. Benedict’s father was as utilitarian as they came. He was a former military man, a very no-nonsense sort. Benedict felt as though he was destined to be at odds with the man for his entire life.
Perhaps in this one thing, however, his father might be correct. The Earl of Midford needed to marry off his daughter quickly. Something about financial troubles. Benedict likely wouldn’t have to spend too much energy on courting the woman; instead, they would be betrothed quickly and he would be free to return to his usual duties.
Benedict had a feeling, based on the rumors, that there was more to it than that. Once Lady Harriet was gone from the Earl’s home, the Midford household would afford the man more freedom to dally with the maids.
Benedict wasn’t much interested in gossip, but he knew that if he married Lady Harriet, gossip about the Earl would reflect on his family as well. He would need to be careful. To determine whether this really was the best option for himself.
But then again, what other options did he have?
He was surprised when he learned that Harriet was staying at her aunt’s home. The Lady Ruffington lived not all too far from where Benedict resided with his father. At first, he wondered whether it was some further design by the Earl to ease their courting.
Was the man really so desperate to marry off his daughter? He wondered about the man’s finances, or if there was some reason that the man was having such trouble finding someone who would be willing to take his daughter’s hand in marriage.
He then learned that the woman was there caring for Lady Ruffington, who had succumbed to some unmentioned illness.
He immediately felt guilty in regards to his previous uncharitable thoughts about the daughter and the earl’s desires to hasten the courting period. Of course the lady’s arrival at her aunt’s house had nothing to do with Benedict.
Benedict knew Lady Ruffington in passing. The woman was a widow, matronly, a staple presence in the local area. Perhaps he ought to visit her now. He could offer his condolences, assure her that if there was anything that he could do to help her, then he would.
And sneak a peek at the young Lady Harriet. See if she was, in fact, the sort of woman that he would like to court. He assumed she must be. She was young and female, and it spoke volumes of her that she had left the social season in London to come here and look after her aunt. She was clearly a caring individual.
Still, Benedict was curious about her. There had to be a reason her father was so desperate to marry her off to just about anyone. What was she like, truly? Or had she perhaps been disfigured in some way, and that was the true reason that she had left London behind?
Was it possible, even, that she might be pregnant with some other man’s child and attempting to hide that fact from the rest of society?
Benedict realized that there was much that he would wish to know about the woman before he agreed with his father’s proposal that he marry the woman.
He set off for Lady Ruffington’s home, intent on answering at least a few of those questions that he had. Oh, he would never be as bold as to come right out and ask to see the woman. He would never dare treat this as though it were an expression of his interest in the young woman.
It was simply that he had heard that Lady Ruffington was suffering from some malady and he wished to pay his respects to her. That was all.
He arrived at Buckley Hall in a short while, having spent the journey there mentally rehearsing what he would say when he arrived. But he never got the chance.
He knocked on the front door, but there was no response. He took a step back, peering up at the house and wondering where its inhabitants may be if they were not at home. Perhaps in light of Lady Ruffington’s ailments, they had headed south for Bath or someplace where the lady might recover?
It seemed strange that he would have heard that the lady was ill but not heard that they were headed across the country for a cure, however.
Besides, was that the twitch of a curtain in one of the upstairs windows, as though someone had been there watching him, peering out? Benedict frowned and knocked again. Perhaps his previous knock hadn’t been heard. He didn’t know what the situation was in there. He didn’t know how busy and chaotic things might be, with doctors bustling around or…
Benedict was aware of the fact that he was making excuses for the family. Truly, it wasn’t on him to excuse their behavior.
Perhaps Lady Harriet’s father had mentioned the idea of their match to her and she did not wish for Benedict to court her. He gave a little mental shrug and turned back to his carriage.
If she wasn’t interested in him, then so be it. Benedict wasn’t desperate. It sounded as though, between the girl’s advancing years and her father’s debts, the match would benefit her more than him in the first place. Clearly she wasn’t interested, however.
Benedict would find someone else. He couldn’t help but feel in a sour mood as he rode back towards his own estates.
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