Fortune hunters and fools. Those are the gentlemen Fanny Rivers has endured since her husband’s passing. Men who believe women too feeble-brained to manage a fortune, much less help it grow. So for her sister’s upcoming wedding festivities, she’s combined her business acumen with her habit of collecting strays—hiring an actor to play her besotted beau. And it’s working marvelously. Too marvelously. Before long, her attraction to Jeremy makes it difficult to discern fact from fiction, and Fanny herself is in danger of falling for her own scheme.
Jeremy Dawes can scarcely believe his luck when Fanny Rivers agrees to be his patroness. Despite learning he’s the latest in a long line of charity cases, he willingly takes on the most complicated role of his fledgling career—that of a proper gentleman. She’ll never need know of his unsavory beginnings, though the closer they become, the more Jeremy wishes he could be what she deserves. It’s only after a thrilling moment of intimacy—and a regrettable decision by Fanny—that Jeremy finds unexpected allies in the negotiation for his savvy lady’s heart.
Read an Excerpt…
Jeremy looked around, up at the high walls decorated with plaster moldings of birds and what he assumed were family portraits. A wide staircase rose to the next level, where he’d been told all guests would sleep. Jeremy’s last bed had been on the floor in a corner of the stage.
“You must be Mr. Dawes.”
Jeremy smiled pleasantly and turned around to find a tall man emerging from a nearby room. He was big, bigger than Jeremy by half a head at least, older by at least a dozen years or so, and might just be the butler. “Indeed I am.”
“May I be of assistance?” the fellow asked in a bored voice.
“Yes, well, if you could tell me where I am to go?”
“The servants have taken your trunk up already. I can show you the way.”
Relief filled him. “I would appreciate that very much. Thank you.”
The man inclined his head and started up the stairs. “This way.”
Jeremy followed, encountering no other souls on the way to a large light-filled room with a massive bed placed in the center. He stared at it in shock. At least four of his fellow actors could have shared that bed and been very comfortable still. He could hardly believe the bed, the chamber, would be his for two whole weeks. But his trunk was being unpacked, and his new possessions were already being put away.
The fellow turned to him, one brow lifting. “Was there really just the one trunk?”
“Yes, of course. How many did you expect?”
“Several, I imagined.” The fellow prowled about the room, observing the servants at their work and nodding. He turned to Jeremy suddenly. “I’m surprised you’ve acquired so little, given the length of your association with Lady Rivers. She is usually much more giving to someone like you.”
Jeremy straightened to his full height, offended by the remark. “I have everything I need.”
The man stroked his long fingers over the trunk’s lettering. J. K. D. “What does the K stand for?”
“It is none of your business what my full name is.”
“What if I think it is?”
Jeremy was taken aback by the man’s tone. “Look, you had better mind your own business and get on with it. Lady Rivers would not be pleased to learn I’d faced an inquisition from you.”
The fellow smiled slowly. “Will you tattle on me?”
Jeremy looked the man up and down. “No, but…”
“Lady Rivers is easily taken advantage of,” the fellow announced.
“You could say that of everyone.”
“And yet you have your hand out to her.” The fellow drew close. “Just another attention-seeking fop intent on spending a fortune on fine hats from Lock’s and frequenting the very best tailor her money can buy. Weston, I believe you’re wearing.”
Jeremy brought his face within inches of the fellow’s, his hands curling into fists. “Hold your tongue unless you want trouble from me.”
“Oh, do you see yourself as a buck then? Do you attend Gentleman Jackson’s, too?”
The fellow didn’t even look alarmed that he was still being glared at, but the other servants had all paused to watch the confrontation. They seemed alarmed.
Jeremy quickly got his temper under control. “No. I’m only an actor, and Lady Rivers my patroness. She is a great lady and spoken of with respect. Especially by those who’ve known her longer than I probably ever will.”
“Got you under her thumb already, has she?” The fellow suddenly grinned. “She’s a persistent minx, my daughter. I’ve yet to meet a man who can say no to her when she gets an idea in her head.”
Jeremy blinked several times. “What did you say? Daughter?”
The other servants snickered but the duke shushed them. “Enough of that now. Back to work, all of you.”
“Oh, my God. I thought you were…” Jeremy bowed deeply, his face flaming as the realization dawned that he was actually standing before the Duke of Stapleton, Lady Rivers’ esteemed father. “Forgive me for not recognizing you, your grace.”