Scandal of Love

By: Janelle Daniels



“There must be something we can do. The gossip isn’t true. Others must know as well,” she said, even though she couldn’t convince herself of it. Even if the gossip were proven false, her reputation would still be sullied. There was no way to completely erase it.

Her father shook his head. “We both know there is nothing to be done.” He sighed heavily and looked down into his daughter’s eyes. “You are ruined. And no man who is worth anything will have you now. We will need to buy a husband for you.”

She shot to her feet, indignation straightening her spine. “Absolutely not! I will never buy a husband. I would rather not marry than be forced to wed a fortune hunter.”

“You will marry. Do you not want your own home and family?”

She remained silent. Her father was right. She did want those things. But were they really worth anything without love? A home was made from love; a family was created with love. What kind of home and family would she have if she bought her husband?

No. She would marry for love. It had always been her greatest wish, and while it might be difficult now, she would still attain it.

“You know that is what I wish for, but I will not buy some man and hang my head in shame. I have done nothing wrong.”

He sighed. “I’ve always admired your determination, Sera. But in this instance it will do you no good. If you want a husband, we must buy one. Quickly. There is no other way.” He stood from his chair and looked at her with regret in his eyes. “Let me know what you choose. I will not force a husband upon you. It will be your choice.”

With her final nod, he left.

Looking around her room, she wasn’t filled with the same feeling of contentment. Though ample light spilled through the arched windows, it felt as if it were closing in on her. She was trapped, stifled.

How could this have happened?

Sinking into a chair, her shoulders sagged. Was there really no hope for a love match? The thought paralyzed her.

How would she face everyone now that she was ruined? Over her last two seasons she had seen the ton shun more than one debutant for her indiscretions.

Who had started the rumor?

She had been surprised during her first season to be described as a diamond of the first water. She had always known she was pretty, but she didn’t consider herself to be one of the most beautiful women that year.

With her wealth and beauty, she had been one of the most sought after debutants the past two seasons. And she had certainly made a few other girls jealous.

Why did this have to happen now? She had been so close. So close to all of her dreams. Lord Bromley was the man for her, she knew it. And now it was too late.

She was ruined.

***

Quinton Devericks, the Earl of Surrant, wasn’t sitting in a parlor when he heard the news. He was drunk. Well, halfway drunk. It wasn’t often that he indulged in too much drink, but tonight, he made an exception. The financial hole he had been trying to climb out of had just gotten a lot deeper. Sure, he had finally managed to reconcile with his father’s creditors, but one fact was blatantly clear: he was broke.

There was enough money left over to pay for his living expenses for a few months, but not much else. Properties that had been in his family for hundreds of years had been sold off in order to pay his father’s gambling debts. All that was left were the entailed properties that he was forced to keep, and those were in a sad state of disrepair.

He needed money, and he needed it soon if he was to save his remaining estates from ruin. There was only one thing to do, and the thought struck him to the core. Shuttering, he took another bracing gulp of scotch.

He needed to marry. Quickly.

“Congratulations are in order, my friend,” Lord Harold, Viscount Gloucher, said before seating himself across from Quinton. “Champagne, please,” he called out to a butler that seemed to blend in with the walls.

White’s, a gentleman’s club for only the most exclusive members of the ton, was a place a man could easily go for comfort. Not only was there gaming, which Quinton vowed never to try his hand at, their cellar had some of the finest liquor ever created.

“What shall I congratulate you on?” Quinton asked, taking one last pull of his scotch.

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