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Why bother being good if it’s not going to even be noticed, much less acknowledged?
Lady Arabella Windham, sister to the Duke of Manchester, has given up on ever attracting the positive attention of Lord Thomas Hood. After discovering he still sees her as the same hoydenish young woman she was in the past, no matter her current perfectly ladylike behavior, and realizing she will never match up to his infamous list of attributes for a wife, she throws caution to the wind and becomes more reckless than ever.
When her return to feckless and indiscreet behavior results in disgrace however, it’s Lord Thomas Hood who is caught up in the scandal with her. With a strong-willed bride determined to make her new husband dance to her tune and a stubborn lord determined to curb his new wife’s imprudent ways, is a happily-ever-after even possible?
Throughout writing the Bridal Discipline series, I knew that Thomas and Arabella were going to be paired up together. In some ways they’re my version of ‘the sunshine one’ and ‘the grumpy one.’ Thomas is so wrapped up in following the rules that he can barely acknowledge his own desires, while Arabella is so determined to break all the rules that she doesn’t always think about how her actions might affect others. They’re both selfish and yet generously giving of themselves in their own ways.
I knew bringing them together was going to make for some fun clashes and I was not wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed finally writing their story and was so happy at how their book wrapped up the series. Of course, as usual for me, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the world yet and so I also have several side characters that I knew would need their own stories. Those are going to be for a new series though, the Deception and Discipline series which has its first book, A Season for Treason, releasing on January 12, 2021.
“How much have you had to drink tonight?”
The question made Arabella bristle. It wasn’t any of his business, after all. Although, apparently whether or not anything was his business made no matter to him.
“Not nearly enough,” she retorted, her temper rising even more.
However, while she wasn’t going to throw a fit at the ball, she certainly had no qualms about sharpening her claws on him. He could take it.
He scowled at her and she scowled right back.
“I think you’ve had more than enough,” he said, his deep voice full of condemnation. Unlike her, however, he kept his voice low to ensure it didn’t carry. Arabella was aware of that fact, her awareness felt distant and fuzzy, because it didn’t really matter to her at the moment. She was riding high on the champagne, it made it bolder, sassier, and more defiant. “In fact, I think it could be said you’ve had far too much.”
Judgmental prig. He thought he knew everything.
Their faces were mere inches apart as they glowered at each other. While she didn’t attain the same height as her brothers, she was still tall for a woman. It meant Thomas couldn’t quite manage to loom over her the way he obviously wanted to, and she didn’t feel the least bit intimidated—especially with both champagne and fury bubbling inside of her.
“Of course you would say so,” Arabella snapped back at him. “You’re quite fond of finding every flaw you can about me, aren’t you? Does the list of all the reasons I’d make a poor wife sit right next to the list of attributes your wife will possess? I can help you track my faults, so you don’t have to feel so awkward about your refusal to try and reach as high as a duke’s sister.”
Even in the soft glow provided by the lanterns, she could see Thomas’ face pale, and he immediately looked about as if to make sure no one had overheard her. Arabella felt a sneer curling her lips again.
So obsessed with what everyone else thought.
So insecure in his eventual title.
So wedded to receiving nothing but Society’s approbation.
Thinking he was guaranteed happiness as long as he found the perfect little wife who fit perfectly into his life and never caused him any trouble. He was probably even right. But in his quest for perfection he’d sent Arabella straight into likely marital misery. No matter what man she married, he wouldn’t be the man she wanted.
The only way a man not in love would stay faithful would be if he was as stodgy and obsessed with being absolutely correct in all the ways of Society as Thomas was. But men like him didn’t want Arabella—and other than Thomas most of those men bored her anyway. She couldn’t explain why Thomas was different. Why he had been different to her, that was.
But the idea of his future happiness compared to her future with Hartford…
Well, there was one way to ensure Thomas was just as miserable with the rest of his life and his marriage as she was. It was dishonorable while simultaneously relying on his honor, but fueled on liquid courage she was having trouble caring. Besides, it had worked out well enough for Lydia.
Fully aware of all the others on the terrace, even if they weren’t currently paying attention to the little drama playing out between her and Thomas, Arabella swiftly reached up and grabbed his starched collar. She had just a moment to savor the expression of shock on his face before she pressed her lips to his.
Hands grasped her waist, obviously intending to push her away and she stepped into him… but her balance was off due to her inebriated state and ruthless determination, and her step was more of a shove.
Suddenly they were both moving, stumbling, and falling.
She shrieked against his lips as they fell through the air and hit what felt like ice cold water.
They’d fallen right into the fountain.
Even as her head went under, laughter bubbled up inside of her.
He was never going to be able to live this down.
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