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To Fall for a Kiss (Paperback)

To Fall for a Kiss (Paperback)

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Lady Clara Quinton is loved and admired by all. She has no enemies–excluding Mr. Stephen Grant. After an atrocious encounter with Stephen during her first season, Clara vowed to never befriend him or any member of his family. But when Mr. Grant saves her in Covent Garden from a relentless and lively admirer, Clara falters in her promise.

Disliking everything about the social sphere he now graces–including Lady Clara–Stephen wants nothing more than to steer clear of the indulged and impolite woman. Her contempt of him and his family has been made known all over the town. However, after coming to her aid one night in London, the vowed enemies come to a truce. Now, a landlord at the property adjacent to her country estate, a storm leaves him stranded at the duke's home.

Uncovering Lady Clara's secrets and vulnerabilities changes the way he sees the privileged woman. Will this newfound knowledge force him to see her through different and admiring eyes? And will Clara see there is more to Stephen than his lack of noble birth...

PAPERBACK

Paperback

150 pages

Dimensions

5 x 8 inches (127 x 203 mm)

ISBN

9780648716020

Publication Date

December 11, 2023

Publisher

Tamara Gill

 

Read a Sample

Covent Garden, London Season, 1809

Lady Clara Quinton, only daughter to the Duke of Law, gingerly backed up against an old elm tree, the laughter and sounds of gaiety beyond the garden hedge mocking her for the silly mistake she’d made. The tree bark bit into her gown and she cringed when Lord Peel would not give her space to move away.
Walking off with Viscount Peel had not been her most intelligent notion after he insisted she see a folly he was fond of. After her acquiescence, her evening had deteriorated further. If she happened to get herself out of this situation it would be the last time she’d come to Covent Garden and certainly the last time she had anything to do with his lordship.
“Please move away, my lord. You’re too close.”
He threw her a mocking glance, his teeth bright white under the moonlit night. His mouth reeked of spirits and she turned away, looking for anyone who may rescue her. What did he think he was going to do to her? Or get away with, the stupid man? “My lord, I must insist. My father is expecting me back at our carriage.”
“Come now, Clara, we’ve been playing this pretty dance for years. Surely it’s time for you to bestow me a kiss. I will not tell a soul. I promise.”
She glanced at him. Lord Peel was a handsome man, all charm, tall, and with an abundance of friends and wealth and yet, the dance he spoke of mainly consisted of her trying to get away from him. There was something about the gentleman that made her skin crawl as if worms were slithering over her.
He’d taken an immediate like to her on the night of her debut several years ago, and she’d not been able to remove him from her side since, no matter how much she tried to show little favor to any of the men who paid her court. She was six and twenty and sole heir to her father’s many estates. She wanted for nothing, and with so many other things occupying her mind of late, a husband did not fit in with her plans at present.
If she were to marry she would have to leave her father, and she could not do that. Not now when he was so very ill and in all honesty, there had been no one who had sparked her interest, not since Marquess Graham during her coming out year before he up and married a servant. Clara would be lying if she had not felt slighted and confused by his choice.
“If you should try and kiss me, my lord, I shall tell my father of your conduct. I can promise you that. Now move.” She pushed at his shoulders and she may as well have been pushing against a log of wood. He didn’t budge, simply leaned in closer, clasping her chin and squashing her farther into the tree trunk. She cringed at the pain he induced.
“Do not make me force you, Clara.” His voice dropped to a deep whisper full of menace.
Fear rippled through her and she shivered, glancing beyond his shoulder. Should she scream? To do so would court scandal. People would come scrambling to her aid, and she would be left having to explain why she was alone with Lord Peel in the first place. Especially if they did not have an understanding. Clara could not put her father through such gossip. He had enough on his shoulders without her worrying him with her own mistakes.
“You’re a brute. How dare you treat me like this?” She tried to move away once again and as quick as a flash he grabbed her, wresting her to the ground. She did scream then, but with his chest over her face her cry for help was muffled.
Clara pushed at him as he tried to kiss her, his hands hard and rough against her face. “Stop,” she said, “please stop.”
He merely laughed, the sound mocking, and then in an instant he was gone. For a moment she remained on the ground, trying to figure out what had happened and then she saw him. Mr. Grant, or Stephen Grant, the Marquess Graham’s brother-in-law and a man she’d promised to loathe forever and a day. He stood over Lord Peel, his face a mixture of horror and fury. Somewhere in the commotion Mr. Grant must have punched Lord Peel, for he was holding his jaw and there was a small amount of blood on his lip.
Clara scrambled to her feet, wiping at her gown and removing the grass and garden debris from her dress as best she could. Mr. Grant came to her, clasping her shoulders and giving her a little shake. “Are you injured? Did he hurt you at all?”
Clara glanced at Lord Peel as he gained his feet. He glared at Mr. Grant as he too wiped garden debris from his clothing and righted his superfine coat.
“You may leave, Mr. Grant. You’re not welcome to intrude in a private conversation I’m having with Lady Clara.”
“Private? Mauling someone on the ground is not what I’d consider a conversation, my lord. I heard her shout for assistance. I hardly think the conversation was one of Lady Clara’s liking.”
Clara moved over toward Mr. Grant when Lord Peel took a menacing step in her direction. An odd thing for her to do as she had never been friends with the man and to seek his protection now went against everything within her. But if she were to remain at Lord Peel’s mercy, she would choose Mr. Grant of course. He had two sisters after all, and from what she’d seen over the years he loved them dearly. He would not allow any harm to come to her. Mr. Grant reached out a hand and shuffled her behind him, backing her toward where her father would be waiting with the carriage.
Lord Peel’s eyes blazed with anger. “Of course it was to her liking. We’re courting, you fool.”
She gasped, stepping forward, but Mr. Grant clasped her about the waist and held her back. “How dare you, my lord?” she stated even as Mr. Grant restrained her. “I never once asked for you to pursue me and I never gave you any indication that I wanted you to.”
Lord Peel glared at her. Mr. Grant turned her back toward the opening in the hedge where they had entered the small, private space and pushed her on. “Go, Lady Clara. I shall speak to his lordship. I can watch from here to ensure you reach your carriage, which if I’m not mistaken your father is waiting beside and looking for you.”
Clara clasped Mr. Grant’s hands, squeezing them. “I cannot thank you enough. You have proven to be the best kind of man for coming to the aid of a woman you may not be inclined to help under normal circumstances. I thank you for it.”
He threw her a puzzled glance. “Should anyone bellow for help and I hear it, of course I will come. Now go, Lady Clara. The time apart from your guests has been long enough.”
Clara nodded, turning and walking away. She reached up and fixed her hair, hoping it did not look as out of place as it felt. As she walked back toward the revelers, a little of her fear slipped away knowing Mr. Grant watched her. She glanced over her shoulder, and true to his word, Mr. Grant continued to survey her progress and ensure she arrived back at her carriage safely.
A shiver of awareness slid over her skin, completely opposite to what she experienced each time she was in the presence of Lord Peel. She’d always disliked Mr. Grant and his siblings, one of whom married Marquess Graham, her own suitor during her first Season and the man she thought she would marry. He did not offer for her hand, choosing to marry a lady’s companion instead.
“There you are, my dear. I’ve been looking for you.”
She reached up and kissed her father’s cheek, her legs of a sudden feeling as if they would not hold her for too much longer. “Shall we go, Papa?” she said, taking his arm and guiding him toward the carriage. The coachman bowed before opening the door for them.
“Yes, let us go, my dear. I’ve had quite enough time in the gardens and watching the ton at play.”
Clara stepped up into the carriage and sank down on the padded velvet seats, relief pouring through her that no one other than Mr. Grant had come upon her and his lordship in the garden, or the position that they’d been found.
Heat rushed over her cheeks and she picked up the folded blanket on her seat and settled it about her father’s legs as the carriage lurched forward. Anything to distract her from the memory of it.
“Shall we ring for tea and play a game of chess when we arrive home, Papa? It may be a nice way to end the evening just us two together.”
Her father glanced at her, a little blank and unsure. “I think I shall retire, my dear. It’s been a tiring evening.”
“Very well,” she said, swallowing the lump in her throat that wedged there each and every time she was around her parent. She knew the reason he no longer liked to play chess, cards or even the piano, at which he’d once been proficient, was because he’d forgotten how. His mind over the last two years had slowly disremembered many things, even some of the servants who had been with them since she was a girl.
Unbeknownst to her father Clara had sought out an opinion with their family doctor and he’d agreed that her father had become more forgetful and vague, and that it may be a permanent affliction.
She sighed. The fact that there was little she could do to help him regain his memory saddened her and as much as she tried to remind him of things, an awful realization that one day he’d forget her had lodged in her brain and would not dissipate.
What would happen after that? Would he still be as healthy as he was now, but with no memory, or would whatever this disease that ailed his mind affect his body as well.
The idea was not to be borne. He was all she had left.
“Maybe tomorrow, Papa, after breakfast perhaps.”
He smiled at her, and she grinned back. “Maybe, my dear, or you could ask your mother. I know how very fond of chess she is.”
Clara nodded, blinking and looking out the carriage window so he would not see her upset. If only she could ask her mama, who’d been dead these past ten years.

Main Tropes

  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Different Social Spheres
  • Regency Romance
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