The Highwayman's Bride

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Authors: Jane Beckenham
Tags: Romance, England, Historical Romance, London, Love Story, Regency Romance
revealing her steadfast forest green gaze. It pierced the tiniest of holes into his hardened heart.
    “Are you agreeing, Aiden?”
    Was he?
    Lillian’s beauty had bewitched him and they’d wed barely a week before he had been shipped out to the Peninsula. For months he had trailed through the mud and mire of battle, dreaming of returning to her, only to come home to find her pregnant. She had died in childbirth days later. The child had survived.
    His son, who wasn’t of his loins, but who carried his name.
    Warm fingers tapped at his sleeve and snapped him to attention.
    Her soft voice dispersed the cloak of bitterness long worn and he drew in one jagged breath after another. He stared into her eyes.
    A mistake. They hypnotized him, and throwing caution on the scented breeze, he found himself unable to break the connection.
    Her mouth. Kissing her. So sweet. She tasted of…
    Fool! Do not be trapped. Be vigilant.
    Aiden pulled backward as if stung by a bee.
    Marry her?
    “Tomorrow, Miss Stanhope, I will visit your uncle at noon to discuss the matter.”
    What the hell am I doing?
    Spinning on his heels, Aiden stormed down the path, barging through the wide-open French doors and across the ballroom.
    Marriage? Dear God, he had to be a fool for considering it—and a fool for not walking away from such temptation.
    Escaping the urge to go back and kiss her, he headed out the main doors, nodding toward his waiting driver, noting the man’s surprise.
    “My carriage please, Harry.”
    He understood his driver’s surprise. It was rare he left these affairs before the early hours of the morning, his intention to garner as much information about Nash “on the ground” as he could. Tonight the clock hadn’t even chimed midnight.
    Perhaps he was turning into the male version of Cinderella, he mused. Quite possible! Cinderella married her prince and here he was contemplating marriage—again!
    His jaw clenched and he scuffed a boot back and forth across the driveway.
    Why marriage? He had to be mad. Had to be.
    The carriage drew up, and before Harry could hop down from his seat, Aiden clambered in and slammed the door behind him. He drew the curtain across the carriage window. He had no desire to view the world. Tonight his own demons were enough to contend with.
    Aware of curious onlookers, Tess gathered her skirts and hurriedly made her way back into the ballroom. At the entrance, her breath hitched.
    Where was he?
    She scanned the room, ignoring the sly glance of an overly dressed and inebriated young man sidling up to her.
    Aiden had left.
    “How rude.” Propriety dictated that he at least have the decency to walk her back indoors. But you are a rogue of the road, Aiden Masters. So what had she expected?
    Tentatively, her fingers slid along the outline of her mouth. She felt his lips still there.
    She had not expected his kiss—but in truth she had wanted it. Had imagined it for weeks.
    Percy had tried to kiss her once and she had felt nothing but revulsion.
    But this? This was different and even now she felt unknown sensations careering through her body, twining into her soul and taking up residence there. And she would marry him. He just had to realize there was no way out.
    After searching the entire room to no avail, Tess decided it was time for her to leave this tedious event. She had what she wanted. Hopefully.
    Tulip and Luther were seated with Thelma and Freddie Thomas, who had come up from their Malvern estate. Their expressions bore a distinct resemblance to caged lions. Tess offered them a gentle smile of sympathy. “I…ah, have a megrim, Aunt,” she said with added inference as she massaged her temple. “I would like to leave.”
    The couple stood up immediately. “Oh, my dear,” Thelma Thomas sighed, “how awful, but of course you must go home straightaway.”
    Tess offered her an appreciative smile. At least she understood. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for

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