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Bride-to-be's 3. Not so special delivery! Customers share couriers' VERY poor efforts at dropping off packages - including Brainteaser challenges puzzlers to find the hidden eyeshadow amongst the tasty treats - but can YOU beat the Fergie admits she's crying 'tears of joy' over the 'sensational news' of Princess Beatrice's engagement to Victoria Beckham's niece shows off her VERY lavish lifestyle as she enjoys exotic holidays and recreates her Princess Beatrice is branded a 'copycat' for 'imitating' Prince Harry and Meghan's black and white Beauty expert reveals her Autumn skincare switch ups - including tying your scarf loosely to help Elizabeth glanced at the clock over the mantel in the drawing room, her nerves stretched to a snapping point.

When would the gentlemen end their after-dinner conversation and join the ladies? Time lengthened into eternity. If she survived the waiting, she and Tristan would steal away together for a few precious moments. She trembled in anticipation. Finally, the host of the house party led the gentlemen into the room.


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Tristan sauntered in last. From across the drawing room, his dark-eyed gaze fastened on her with an intensity that sent heat to her cheeks. He smiled at her, a smile filled with promise. Elizabeth barely managed to suppress a sigh. Perhaps tomorrow Tristan would approach her father and declare his intention. Elizabeth ached to build a new life of love and safety with him. One of the gentlemen launched into a terrifying account of his neighbor getting burglarized.

Servants discovered the burglars, but before they could raise the alarm, the burglars held them at gunpoint. Several guests exclaimed. Dark days, indeed, when burglars get so brazen. Bow Street is linking all such break-ins to the so-called King of Crime. Tristan stood next to the earl near the French doors. Their dark superfine frockcoats and waistcoats, and crisp, white shirts contrasted with the blue and gold wallpaper and white woodwork. The Barrett brothers made a stunning pair—raven-haired, tall, and beautifully proportioned like two Greek gods, yet so opposite in temperament.

His grin banished the gloom in her thoughts, the gloom in her life, the gloom in her heart. Other guests took up the topic of crime in London, a subject Elizabeth thought best not to discuss in front of young ladies with delicate sensibilities like her younger sister. Tristan whispered to the earl, who nodded in reply, and he eased toward the open French door leading to the garden. Pausing, he glanced back at Elizabeth, a secretive smile tugging at his expressive mouth, before slipping outside. Excitement exploded in a shower of color. She was about to take a walk in a moonlit garden with the charming Tristan Barrett.

If only for a moment, she would bask in the warmth of his affection. Elizabeth arose and spoke under her breath. Her face heated at her lie. Duchess waved her away without taking her eyes off the hostess. A brief flash of anger shot through Elizabeth that Duchess made so little effort to pretend she cared, even in the presence of others. Elizabeth murmured, Good night, in the unlikely chance anyone might hear. Or care. She slipped into a dimly lit adjoining room and headed to the French doors leading to the terrace, her shoes tapping on the hardwood floor.

Moonlight cast long shadows on the floor, and illuminated a pathway. After opening the door, she paused at the threshold. Her stomach fluttered. Yet, how could she not? She frowned. Perhaps Romeo and Juliet were the wrong role models. Perhaps she ought to emulate her favorite heroine, the courageous and devoted Lady Enide, to be worthy of her own knight.

She would seize this opportunity for happiness.

The Other Countess

After taking a steadying breath, she stepped onto the terrace. A full moon cast near-midday illumination over the gardens. The balmy night air wore a sultry breeze, slipping over her skin, carrying the scent of roses, jasmine, and honeysuckle. Stepping softly, she crossed the stone terrace, descended the steps, and all but raced out into the garden where Tristan awaited. Her footsteps crunched on the gravel as she followed the melody of tinkling water through hedgerows and ornamental trees. A tall figure waited by the fountain. Infused in moonlight, he was a black-haired Apollo come to life.

As his hand closed over hers, she marveled again at his masculine perfection. His teeth flashed, his impenetrable dark eyes fixed upon her. Shall we take a turn about the garden? His gaze rested upon her as they strolled, arm in arm. I enjoyed your poetry rendition this afternoon in the library before the others arrived.

It was exquisite. She glanced up, basking in his praise. His eyes always softened when he complimented her and his voice rang with sincerity. Pity we were interrupted before you could continue. I understand your shyness, and I was honored you gave me a glimpse into your heart through the way you read. She turned over his words in her thoughts, a glimpse into your heart. Tristan did indeed have a poetic side, allowing him to feel the spoken word as deeply as she.

Do you think Keats had it aright, then? I agree. I find Byron a bit dark at times, nevertheless, he has poignantly beautiful poems, as well. He gazed at her. You are beauty. I am fortunate to have found you. He drew her close. She went willingly into his arms and rested a hand on his chest. His heart beat strong under her palm. With gentle fingers, he traced circles on her cheek, then bent his head toward hers. Tingles of nervous exhilaration raced down her back. He kissed her with warm, soft lips.

Her heart thudded in her ears. At that moment, she fully understood what had driven Romeo and Juliet to such drastic measures and why Lady Enid and her Prince Eric fought so hard for one another. Tonight, he grew passionate. Then his hands began a slow exploration of her body. Startled, she froze. All daring drained out of her. He enfolded her in his embrace and kissed her again, but disappointment that he would take such liberties cooled her ardor.

She stiffened, pulled away, and captured his hands with hers. He was supposed to be the perfect storybook hero. Was he so sure her father would give permission that he considered them already betrothed?

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Immersed in his role of haughty marquis, Martindale snarled, Consider your second, Barrett. Tomorrow you shall receive my challenge.

Tristan stiffened. I give you my word, it was merely a kiss. Martindale let out a scoff. I should trust the word of a known rake?

Reviews By Martha's Bookshelf: Interview with Wendy Vella, Author of The Reluctant Countess

He turned to Elizabeth, his eyes boring into hers. Her brother was right. Only Tristan could save her from shame. She turned to him, silently pleading for rescue. Tristan glanced at her, his expression unreadable, before returning his attention to Martindale. He lowered his voice. Let us go inside and discuss this in private. Choose your weapon. Elizabeth hugged herself while her knees threatened to fold. Her voice collapsed to a whisper. You cannot mean to duel. When circumstances bring Rory back, wounded but not broken, some townsfolk don't appreciate her arrival.

As threats against her begin to escalate, she finds support from an unlikely ally. Jack Trainer may epitomize the dark handsome bad-boy, but surprisingly he takes her side, and she finds herself falling for a man who has no intention of losing his heart to anyone. This is one battle Rory refuses to fight, so for her own protection, she'll once again say goodbye to Ryker Falls.

Jack Trainer likes women, he just never had any intention of loving one. Life taught him to guard his heart, and when Rory Haldane walks back into town he's ready to ignore her. The problem with that is, he also hates injustice, and the way some of the people in his town are treating her has his hackles rising. He's not exactly the stuff heroes are made of, but Rory has his protective instincts on high alert. And his libido. He wants more, way more, from her than a passionate fling, but will Rory drop her guard enough to trust him? It's a place that holds plenty of memories, both good and bad, but Branna is determined to find some peace there from the demons of her past.

However, she soon realizes that living in a small town again comes with complications and one of them is named Jake McBride. Once the town golden boy, Dr.

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McBride has returned from Iraq angry and, like her, shouldering a few emotional scars. They strike sparks off each other from the outset and Branna knows that if she gives in to the attraction between them it's going to result in a world of pain. The problem is she's not sure how to walk away. Annabelle Smith has never had it easy, but she's a survivor. So when her brother cleans out her bank account, she reluctantly turns to the one man she'd vowed to stay away from.

Ethan Gelderman is a hot, sexy Texan, who has more numbers in his black book than most men have socks, and placing her trust in him is one of the hardest things she's ever had to do. Lake Howling is home to Ethan's closest friends, and it's also where Annabelle "firebrand" Smith lives. Sassy, beautiful and pricklier than a cactus, she's never made it a secret that she wants nothing to do with him, but he sure as hell wants something to do with her. Lord knows, it's going to be hard to earn her trust, but Ethan's never backed down from a challenge yet, and he soon realizes trust is just the beginning of what he wants from Annabelle.

At sixteen Willow Harper learned a few valuable life lessons that molded her into the uptight, commitment-phobic woman she is today. Determined to have the security she sorely lacked as a child, Willow's sole focus is on furthering her career. No time for love, lust or romance - Willow is All Business. So when a chance to secure her future means a trip to secluded Lake Howling, Oregon, she leaps at the opportunity.

Sure, it isn't New York City, but Willow's only planning on being there a few days, then she'll be back to the safety and anonymity of the city. But when the very man who's been haunting her fantasies for years appears in Lake Howling, suddenly Willow's carefully planned strategy is in tatters. Account Options Sign in. Top charts. New arrivals.

From rising romance star Wendy Vella comes a Cinderella story of whirlwind passion between a dashing earl and a beautiful countess—and the secret that threatens to tear them apart. Regal, poised, and elegant, Sophie, Countess of Monmouth, is everything that a highborn lady should be. But Sophie is hiding a past that is far from royal. Although Sophie has every reason to avoid him, the handsome and charismatic Patrick awakens something wicked deep within her soul. But what Sophie needs now is an ally. Viscount Myles Dumbly, the disgruntled former heir of Monmouth, is determined to expose Sophie as a fraud to recapture his lost inheritance.

Soon Patrick is drawn into a fight for both their lives. Somehow he must find a way not only to rescue Sophie from poverty once and for all, but to keep her in his arms forever. Includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title. Wendy Vella is a lover of all things romantic and a sucker for a happy ending. She has been married to her own dark brooding hero for twenty-eight years and shares her home with two wonderful children, two dogs, and anyone else who happens to visit.

Born and raised in a rural area in the North Island of New Zealand, Wendy loves the beaches and lush green rolling hills of her homeland. Reviews Review Policy.