The Butterfly Bride
by Vanessa Riley
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Publisher: Entangled Amara
About the Book
Frederica Burghley wants to be married by Yuletide. Or else her father will set her up with one of his friends. The bonbon-loving illegitimate daughter of the duke wants to choose her own husband. Advertising in the newspaper seems like the way to go. But a sinister response, with threats against her life, leads her to enlist the help of her very handsome, dear friend Jasper Fitzwilliam, Lord Hartwell.
A father and widower, Jasper is not only tasked with keeping Frederica safe but also with helping his vibrant friend choose a suitable husband. The more he tries to keep the ever-surprising woman alive and find her a good match, the more Jasper realizes he cares for her. The two friends risk their lives for each other, so they should be able to risk their feelings for a chance at a deep and true love together. But he’s not looking for marriage and she’s not looking for convenience.
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Miss Burghley stood near the window. Morning sun streamed through the parted curtains and reflected hints of gold in her dark brown locks.
“What…. What are you doing here, my lord?” Her voice sounded squeaky at first then settled into her typical lighter tone, the one he’d grown to know this past year, the one he knew well enough to realize that this wasn’t pretend. “Hartwell, what is this?”
“Sleep, my dear. At least it was.”
“In my bedchamber? I never thought you a bounder. You’re honorable. I trusted you.”
Being caught in bed with a duke’s daughter would be a death sentence for his bachelorhood. So Jasper purposed to remain calm. “You’re in my room, Miss Burghley. Why are you here? What new scheme is this?”
Mobcap askew, she frowned and rubbed at her crown. More curly hair spilled, long and free, down her shoulders. The woman’s sun-kissed face had fevered to bronze. “I didn’t. I’m not scheming. This is…” Her head turned side to side. “Not my room. How did this happen?” She clutched at the bedsheets tighter. “What happened?”
Though he remembered every touch and taste of his dream, he was very unsure of how she had ended up in his bed. Everything inside his head was foggy, but he couldn’t say that. “Nothing—of consequence—happened. Nothing.”
The bold sprite he’d befriended this past year looked faint as she shifted her hands to her temples and then back to catch the falling covers. Despite her efforts, the blankets dropped to her knees offering another view of her shapely limbs and hips that did her nightgown proud.
“Lord Hartwell, I’ve come to know you…not biblically… I mean, I respect you as a person, but I don’t believe you. You’re not looking at my face. We must be compromised.”
What man would stop at her pretty face, when there was a waist and curves to view? “Compromise denotes henpecked stupidity. Neither of us is that.”
Wrapping the blanket about her like a butterfly’s cocoon, she hopped and paced, hopped and paced. “What are we going to do?”
The noise of footfalls was outside his door. The duke’s housekeeping staff must rise early.
Miss Burghley stilled, her eyes wide as tea saucers. “Papa will say this is my fault. He’ll say you should marry me.” She started hopping again. “What am I going to tell him?”
“Don’t mention that M word or the compromise one, either. I’m not ready to duel your father. He’s reportedly still a good shot. Perhaps he’d rather fence. I’d win at that.”
“Must you tease, Hartwell?”
He put his back to the bed frame. “Teasing is your specialty, Miss Burghley. Or it had been.” She’d been different these past few months.
“I can’t tell my father. I’ve been careful.”
“To not get caught?”
The look she cast him—hurt, appalled, almost disgusted—made his mouth dry. What was left of his soul hurt for her. “I’m sorry.”
She hopped again, muttering to herself. He wasn’t sure if she’d requested the devil to take him but Jasper sort of agreed. He’d taken her flirting as worldliness, and her sudden disinterest as a new lover preoccupying her, but this hopping butterfly seemed more innocent and insecure than he’d ever seen. He was more interested in her, but still cautious. “We haven’t been compromised, Miss Burghley. I’m not ready to miss the decorations and plum pudding at Yuletide because of an early demise. So no talk of duels, compromise, or marriage.”
“Marry you? No. No. No.” She took a quick peek beneath the bedclothes. She sighed. “You haven’t seen me, have you? Tell me you haven’t.”
There was that naive tone again, and for all the teasing he’d endured from the minx and had missed receiving these past three months, he wanted to point out that he was in a worse state of undress.
Shirt and waistcoat hanging on the post.
Dancing slippers and formal pantaloons on the floor.
One knock on the door, and she paled. “I can’t be caught with you. Lord Hartwell, you have to help me.”
The last time she’d uttered those words it was for him to retrieve her gloves and a Gunter ice. His heart saddened for her. There was no hint of flirtation in her voice—just fear.
“Miss Burghley, at least I am confident that you did not intend to compromise me.”
“Certainly not. Never you.”
Another knock. This one rattled the door.
After checking beneath the blanket again, she moved as if she’d answer. “Just a moment.”
“Yes, ma’am. I won’t come in.”
Miss Burghley turned to Jasper. “That’s Martica. She’s my maid. She can help. She’s loyal.”
Still gritting his teeth at the never you comment, he put up his hand. “Stop.”
She froze like she’d become a snowball, as if her feet had become ice blocks.
“I need to be dressed before that door opens. What do you mean, never me?”
“Not you or anyone. You’re too— No…no marriage created by scandal. Can you hurry?”
“This is my room, Miss Burghley. I should’ve answered.” He pulled on his wrinkled shirt and pantaloons at a pace just shy of a horse’s last stroll before being put to pasture.
“Will you. Lord Hartwell… Naked chest.” The girl’s face fevered bright and shiny like a torch, then she spun in the other direction. Her worldly facade crumbled, exposing a fragile innocence. That was very unexpected from a courtesan’s daughter.
Now he hurried, if only to keep her from bursting into flames from another refreshing blush. Scooping up his shoes, he came up behind her. Though she was tall, very tall for a woman, his six-foot-four height towered over her. “Butterfly, I’m dressed.”
She covered her eyes and spun to him. “You sure?”
He pulled her hand down and hooked his coat on her finger. “You could’ve hidden in the closet. And…you’ve set us up to be caught.”
“I sleepwalk sometimes, especially after a fright.” She went to the window. Her blanket dropped, giving another eyeful of the lithe woman—one more demure than he’d assumed.
“Hartwell. You. Out the window.”
The knocking picked up.
The minx Burghley pointed outside. “Hurry.”
“Ma’am,” the maid said. “Miss Burghley, the duke is coming.” The voice, scared, respectful, desperate, surely came from a sympathetic servant on the other side of a pleased-be-locked-door. “He’s seen the broken window in your room, ma’am.”
Broken window? Miss Burghley was in danger? Jasper turned, heading to the door. “Where’s your room?”
Miss Burghley caught his arm. “Down the hall, the opposite side. But you can’t go. You and I can’t be seen leaving this room together.”
She was right. He let her tow him to the window.
He put a hand to her shoulder and felt her trembling. The unflappable Miss Burghley seemed fragile—fragile and frightened. “Woman, who’s threatening you?”
She wiggled away and threw open the locks of the window. Then she tossed his coat outside. “Leave.”
Arguing with her when her mind was set was a losing battle. Another lesson he’d learned this past year as her erstwhile errand man. Sighing, he put one leg out the window. The cold November wind chilled his bare feet, and looking down, he saw frost. “Butterfly. Just tell me.”
A frown, deeper than the one she’d worn at her father’s wedding, marked her lips. “A man came through my window last night, Lord Hartwell. He’s determined to kill me.”
“Out out out.”
He climbed through the window and balanced on the ledge. This woman was going to make him climb down the trellis. Lord, he hoped it would hold. “Miss Burghley, we have to discuss—”
She shoved him until he almost fell off the ledge. “Later, sir. Much later, perhaps when time freezes.”
The window slammed shut, and the curtains closed before he could offer another complaint, but he’d not stop asking questions, not until he found out who’d tried to hurt her.
He dropped his shoes, and they landed with a thunk onto the frosted grass. If he caught a cold…
Beautiful Burghley. The Duke of Simone’s Burghley.
The Butterfly. Only she could land him in such trouble. Well, she, and his daughters.
Jasper shook his head, sounding too much like his brother, grousing over the antics of females.
His brother and sister-in-law had also stayed at Downing last night. They might be able to help him figure out what was going on and how much jeopardy he and the Butterfly were in.
Yawning, barefoot, his toes chilling, Jasper climbed down then jumped the last few feet, thankful the trellis and ivy vines had held his stocky limbs. Hopping like Burghley the Butterfly, he started around Downing Hall, yanking on stockings and dancing slippers, looking for another way in.
The duke’s crazed dogs, two large bloodhounds, growled at him. Their bark was so loud everyone at Downing would awaken. Oh, he and the Butterfly were in such trouble. Outrunning the stretch of the rope holding the dogs in place, Jasper headed to the rear of Downing, looking for the broken window.
Aside from their almost-compromise, Frederica Burghley feared for her life, and Jasper wanted to know why.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of THE BUTTERFLY BRIDE by Vanessa Riley, we’re giving away for a $25 Amazon gift card!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. One winner will be chosen to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 10/26/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Entangled Publishing will send one winning prize, Pure Textuality PR will deliver the other. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.
About Vanessa Riley
Award winning, Amazon Bestselling author, VANESSA RILEY, worked as an engineer before allowing her passion for historical romance to shine. A Regency era (early 1800s) and Jane Austen enthusiast, she brings the flavor of diverse, eclectic peoples to her stories. The author of Madeline’s Protector, Swept Away, Unmasked Heart, The Bargain, and Unveiling Love, she has won the Beacon Award, the Colorado Award of Excellence, and placed in the International Digital Awards for her Regency romances. Vanessa Riley is a historical buff who has spent many years researching Regency society. During her undergraduate studies at Penn State, she gained a love of Western Civilization and took as many classes as she could while pursuing Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering. Her love of history has given her a passion for conducting precise research in architecture, customs, and rituals of the times. She lives in Atlanta with her career military husband and precocious child. You can catch her writing from the comfort of her southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.