I have Author Molly Ann Wishlade here with me today sharing about her recent release, A Most Improper Proposal. The story is set in a rumor swirling England, and one particular lady is swimming in wicked rumors.
Isabella Adams has tasted desire—and paid the price.
With four scandalous attachments to her name, only the fierce patronage of Lady Watson has kept the doors of fashionable society open. And yet, when a handsome stranger literally sweeps her off her feet, Isabella can’t help but yearn for more…
After five long years away from England, Lord James Crawford has returned to find little has changed—aside from his aunt’s new companion. James cannot equate the reserved Miss Adams with the wicked rumours surrounding her—but he can’t deny he’d like to look more closely.
Soon, the attraction between them becomes undeniable…and giving into temptation has never tasted so sweet. But when the secrets of the past are revealed, will Isabella accept her lord’s most improper proposal?
A Most Improper Proposal – by Molly Ann Wishlade
Her heart beat faster as he turned to her.
‘Miss Adams, my aunt and I have been discussing the season this year in London.’
‘Yes Lord Crawford?’
‘And I expressed my disappointment at having missed many of the events due to my delayed arrival and due to how busy I have been.’
Isabella gazed into his warm brown eyes and waited for him to continue.
‘In the past, I have enjoyed attending The Derby and The Ascot, in particular. I am a keen horseman and I enjoy the excitement of the races. Do you ride?’
‘I do, sir, though I am not an extremely competent rider.’ Isabella glanced down as she spoke, aware that she was not being fully honest: she was most dreadfully incompetent upon a horse.
‘That is a shame, Miss Adams. Perhaps, sometime, you will allow me to help you to improve your riding skills?’
Heat flooded Isabella’s cheeks and she fanned herself quickly.
‘That would be most kind of you Lord Crawford but I could not ask you to give up your time.’
‘Why it would be a pleasure, Miss Adams.’ He flashed a grin. ‘My own enjoyment of riding means that I like to encourage others to share my enthusiasm. You may not know this but my dear aunt was once a most accomplished horsewoman.’
‘Nephew…’ Lady Watson laughed, patting his arm. ‘You embarrass me.’
He leant closer to Isabella.
‘She was even known to ride astride a horse in the hunt.’
Isabella’s eyes widened and Lady Watson’s laughter grew louder. ‘Nephew, now you will disgrace me.’
‘You joined in the hunt?’ Isabella asked the older woman.
‘I did, dear, in my foolish youth. Pray do not seem so surprised. Amongst the upper echelons of society, a lady’s participation has not always been so frowned upon. In fact, some might go so far as to label us hypocrites.’
‘And,’ added the gentleman, ‘Lady Watson is not, as you know, afraid to defy society’s idea of “acceptable”.’
Isabella inclined her head. One of the things she admired about Lady Watson was her refusal to comply with the rules that others followed like sheep. She was independent, brave and defiant.
‘Will you join the hunt this autumn when we return to Kent?’ Lord Crawford’s question surprised and pleased Isabella. He had said ‘we’, including her in his future plans. But she must not read too much into this.
‘I would like to think that I may…’ She paused. ‘But I really had better practise my riding first.’
‘There will be time for that, no doubt. I should like to share the excitement of the hunt with you. It is an experience that everyone should have at least once in a lifetime.’
Isabella fought to control her breathing.
‘It is not so much the kill.’ He gazed into the distance. ‘As the thrill of the hunt. I must confess – though pray do not repeat this as I would not wish to be seen as softening as I mature ‒ to even pitying the poor foxes being chased so relentlessly by much larger and more powerful beings.’
Isabella gazed off into the distance, as if to see what he was seeing and she could picture the small red animal racing for its life, tongue hanging out of its mouth, sheer terror in its heart.
Tears sprang into her eyes.
‘Oh, Miss Adams…’ He took her hand. ‘Pray do not be upset. Foxes are, we are taught from infancy, just vermin and some believe that we have a duty to keep the countryside free of them. Whilst I may well harbour some doubts about this belief, I engage in the activity because of my love of the riding involved.’
Isabella looked at her white gloved hand. It was lost within his. She was acutely aware of his power and strength and savoured the tingling sensation that his touch had aroused. Please never let go.
‘The excitement for me lies within the thundering of the hooves, the baying of the hounds, the thrill as my horse jumps – unadvisedly, I must add ‒ over hedges and pools and…’ ‒ His cheeks reddened slightly ‒ ‘The competition.’
Isabella smiled. ‘The competition?’
‘I like to race the other hunters.’ Lord Crawford’s brow was momentarily free of his frown and Isabella saw before her a much younger gentleman, the man he must have been before trouble and grief had stained him. ‘When you are in the midst of the hunt, Miss Adams, you can think of little else other than the immediate present. All troubles, all worries, everything else disappears and it is just you and your horse. You move as one. If you do not concentrate, you will fall and hurt yourself and mayhap, even your horse. So your focus is completely physical.’
Isabella’s stomach churned at the thought of falling from a horse as big as Lord Crawford’s black stallion.
James Crawford raised her hand and bent to meet it then pressed it to his lips, his eyes holding hers all the time.
‘I think that you would like that feeling, Miss Adams: to shut out the world and his worries and to just breathe, feel and sense.’
Isabella’s mouth was dry and she struggled to swallow. Was he mocking her? Men knew how to play games to make a woman fall for their charms. Was James Crawford toying with her now?
Still holding her hand, he lowered it to her side and stepped closer to her, so close that his leg almost touched hers then he whispered in her ear, ‘There is only one other way to feel so alive, Miss Adams.’
It happened so quickly and he moved away so gracefully that Isabella wondered if he had actually whispered to her at all. Her palms were clammy within her gloves and she tingled all over. Did he mean what she thought? Her physical reaction suggested to her that her body knew, it understood him and reacted to his physical presence but her mind was almost afraid to fully comprehend this confusing, delightful man.
‘Nephew…’ Lady Watson tittered. ‘Whatever did you say to poor Isabella? She looks most… embarrassed.’
Lord Crawford smiled and held out his hands, palms facing upwards.
‘I spoke of the hunt, Aunt Lydia. The exhilaration of the hunt.’
The old lady’s smile was indulgent and Isabella breathed slowly, trying to calm herself. Mayhap her imagination was being overactive in the presence of this gentleman. She really should not allow herself to lose control but he was making it most difficult.
‘Now, I should pay my respects to some of the ladies and gentlemen in the room,’ Lord Crawford’s announcement made Isabella’s heart sink.
‘But when I return I shall request a dance with each of you.’
‘Nephew, my dancing days are over.’ Lady Watson chuckled.
Isabella chewed at the inside of her cheek, forcing herself to remain calm.
‘Will you promise me a dance Miss Adams?’
‘Of course, Lord Crawford.’ Her voice emerged as a disappointing squeak.
He bowed to them both then turned and strode cross the ballroom.
‘Ah, he is a most charming gentleman, is he not?’
Lady Watson’s eyes were misted over.
‘He is, Lady Watson,’ Isabella replied, then whispered, ‘Charming.’
©2014 Molly Ann Wishlade
A MOST IMPROPER PROPOSAL LINKS
MILLS AND BOON - http://www.millsandboon.co.uk/a-most-improper-proposal