HTEFFHC_md.jpg
How the Earl Fell
for His Countess

A love that must overcome deception…

She tried everything to make a certain gentleman take notice. He only wanted the lady’s attention for financial gain. After a scandalous night and a swift ride to Gretna Green, can the couple admit to their true feelings of love for one another?

Evelyn Holbrooke found herself married after a remarkable night spent in the earl’s bed. She fell in love with Reese Worthington after their first kiss. However, she used deception to make him fall for her charms. Now, trapped in a stormy marriage, Evelyn only hoped for his forgiveness. After getting caught in a rainstorm, her husband seduced her with help from his matchmaking family. Evelyn believed Reese forgave her with his warm regard, stolen kisses, and intimate evenings, until her family arrived for a visit. Then her happily ever after came to a halt because of her husband’s need for revenge. Since they were both deceitful in their intentions toward each other, Evelyn hoped for a reconciliation. Can Evelyn convince Reese to open his heart to love?

At every turn, life dealt Reese Worthington obstacles to overcome. With his latest dilemma, he found himself married to a lady who trapped him into a marriage based on deception. Reese fought the attraction he felt toward Evelyn with every whisper, moan, and scream. After he sought his own revenge, he realized he couldn’t resist how she captured his soul with her every action. He tried to hold on to his fury, only to succumb to his desires for Evelyn. Too afraid to allow her love to weaken him, he pushed her away. When he realized how much her love affected him, he attempted to woo her back only to fall victim to his own blunders. Can Reese prove to Evelyn that he is worthy of her love?

Reese thought he married a dull debutante. Evelyn thought she married Prince Charming. When their marriage exposed each other’s true character, would they allow their attraction to destroy the other? Or would they see how it only strengthened their love?

How the Earl Fell for His Countess is the second book in Laura A. Barnes’s Matchmaking Madness Series. If you enjoy sizzling romances filled with undeniable attraction, then you’ll love Evelyn and Reese’s explosive drama.

Indulge in How the Earl Fell for His Countess today!

Hardcover

Amazon-logo.jpg

Paperback

Amazon-logo.jpg
1024px-Barnes_&_Noble_logo.svg.png

eBook

Amazon-Kindle-Logo-800x500.png
B&N_nook_Logo.png
apple badge.png
RakutenKobo_horizontal_RedOnWhite_CMYK.p
google-play-badge.png
books2read_2_color_logo-588x150-300x76_e
Chapter One

Reese Worthington stared across the carriage at the lady who was now his wife. He didn’t know what infuriated him more: the fact that she wasn’t the one he thought he would wed or her casual indifference now that she wore his ring on her hand.

      When he accepted the Duke of Colebourne’s invitation to a house party, he’d been promised a dowry of a substantial amount if he wed one of the duke’s wards. The duke had dangled the offer at him, and in return, Worthington would share his expertise on horse breeding. The duke learned that Worthington had invested a large sum in his breeding program and needed money. The program would fall by the wayside without funds. When Worthington first started the program, his father had still been alive.

      Since then, his father had died, leaving Worthington’s family destitute. Every shilling was spoken for, even the future profits from the breeding program and the income from the tenants. It would be years before the family’s coffers were stable. His father had spent the family’s fortune on gambling and whoring. Not only had his father tarnished the family’s reputation with his disreputable lifestyle, but they were also feed for the gossipmongers. Worthington had hoped Colebourne’s offer would elevate his family out of the rumor mill. Instead, the matter of his own marriage would send the tongues wagging.

      A hasty carriage ride to Gretna Green meant one thing and one thing only. A gentleman had ruined a lady.

      Could Worthington address Evelyn Holbrooke as a lady considering the events leading to their marriage? Nay, she was Evelyn Worthington now. A countess at that. He still didn’t understand why Evelyn and her sister Charlotte had set out to deceive him. Why did they play their game with him? Because of their deception, he’d lost a bet that would have gained him a horse for his program.

      Once the house party was underway, the duke had dangled another offer in front of the invited gentlemen. Whichever gentleman won Charlotte Holbrooke’s hand would receive his prized mare, Sapphire’s foal, for a betrothal present. Worthington held the belief he would be the lucky man. At every turn, he’d romanced Charlotte. They stole kisses when no one watched, their hands would intertwine during meals when they sat together. Then during the ball, he lured her into his bedroom and seduced Charlotte into giving herself to him.

      “I cannot go another moment without making love to you. You are the very air I breathe,” Reese had whispered to her.

      A blush spread across her cheeks, drifting along her chest. Reese followed the trail with his fingers, brushing across her hardened nipples. She had sighed at his touch. He hungered for her screams.

      “Please do not deny me, my love.”

      “I tremble from your very touch. I will surely die from the pleasure of your love,” she whispered.

      Reese grinned wickedly at her confession. “No. You shall only fly to heaven in my arms.”

      He bent his head to tempt her with a kiss, but she stepped away from him. It was then that he realized he no longer held the upper hand. He was no longer the seducer. She held all the power.

      “Will you fly, too?” she whispered, undoing the buttons along the side of her dress.

      Reese nodded like a bumbling fool as the dress slid off her body and landed in a heap around her. She stood before him, a goddess offering herself to him.

      “No,” he growled.

      “No?” Confusion and doubt marred her lovely features.

      Reese strode to her, lifting her in his arms. He lowered his head and ravished her mouth, leaving her no doubt of his intentions. He pulled kiss after kiss from her lips, demanding the same passion from her that consumed him.

      “I shall soar.”

The memories of making her his flashed through his mind. Her sighs still whispered in his ears while her silky skin caressed his body. Worthington hungered for the taste of her kiss, even now. But those memories were false. It wasn’t Charlotte Holbrooke he made love to, but Evelyn Holbrooke, her twin sister. Worthington had made a promise to himself before leaving the duke’s estate.

He would never forgive Evelyn for her deceit.

      Because of her, he’d gained no horse to help his breeding program. Their hasty marriage would bring shame upon his family and cause his sisters’ debuts to be riddled with rumors. Then there was the promise he made to himself years ago about not following in his father’s footsteps. Which now left him with a wife he refused to bed. Because of his promise to never cheat on his wife, he would find no pleasure elsewhere.

      The longer Worthington stared at his wife, the more he decided he would only bed Evelyn to get her with child. After she conceived the heir and spare, he would suffer through a life of celibacy. His determination to make his wife suffer a life without husbandly attention would be his reward. Perhaps next time she would think twice before making a fool out of him.

 

Evelyn flipped the page of the novel she was attempting to read. She only pretended to read to show her husband his coldness didn’t affect her. Ever since they left Gretna Green, his disapproving stare had been focused on her. In the past, Evelyn would have squirmed and apologized for any misgivings. However, Worthington’s glare had grown wearisome. At least he gave her a reprieve from his rantings, something she’d had to endure since they left her uncle’s estate during the long ride to Gretna Green. Evelyn didn’t know where she gained the confidence to face the prospect of a daunting marriage, if it was from Worthington’s signet ring on her finger or from pretending to be her sister Charlotte during the house party.

Evelyn understood the fault lay with her. She had wronged Worthington with her deceit. However, he wasn’t the innocent gentlemen he projected himself to be. His seduction of her innocence held many faults. Even though he thought he’d seduced Charlotte, his reasoning was still cold. His only purpose was to gain a horse. A stupid horse. Every kiss, caress, and romantic words whispered were false. While Evelyn fell in love with the rake, he only used her to win a bet.

I do not focus my attention on dull debutantes.

Once he discovered her duplicity, he had made it clear how he would never choose her. She was too dull for his tastes. Evelyn remembered every hurtful remark he made in Uncle Theo’s study. By then it was too late for Worthington. He had already stated his intentions, and Uncle Theo wouldn’t let him withdraw his offer. To make matters worse, her family also heard Worthington’s opinion of Evelyn.

Her cousin, Lucas Gray, had kept Worthington’s hateful comments secret from Jacqueline, Gemma, and Abigail. At least she didn’t have to suffer through their pity before she left. To them, they believed Worthington had fallen as deeply in love with Evelyn as she had with him. Uncle Theo, Lucas, and Charlotte were the only ones who knew the truth. Also, her sister’s soon-to-be husband, Jasper Sinclair. At least her sister had found love at the house party. The love between Charlotte and Jasper had been in plain sight for months, but they had been too blind to see it. Her family didn’t hold pity for Evelyn, only fury at Worthington’s disregard toward her.

A disregard Evelyn accepted and planned to change over the course of the next few months.

Oh, it would be no easy feat. Her husband was bound and determined to make her regret her past actions. However, Evelyn planned to seduce her husband at every opportunity she got. When Reese Worthington least expected it, Evelyn would strike. Then he would have to succumb to the passion they shared. Soon Reese Worthington would declare his love for Evelyn.

Then Uncle Theodore could declare his success at two matchmaking attempts. A madness they had all declared, yet it made perfect sense.

                                                                                                      ~~~~~

Reese watched the devious smile spread across his wife’s face. He knew she wasn’t reading her novel. If so, she was a swift reader. She flipped a page every minute. Also, Evelyn’s eyes weren’t focused on the pages. They strayed away and became lost in thought before she blinked again. Reese wondered what she planned for him next. Since her sister could no longer help her, it wouldn’t be anything Reese couldn’t handle. Charlotte had been the mastermind of their deceit and Evelyn only a puppet. Without her sister’s devious mind, Evelyn would be no match for Reese. From what he knew of his wife, she was timid, biddable, and unadventurous….and also seductive, passionate, desirable, and very kissable.

      Even in this instance, Reese wanted to kiss those lips spread in a smile that would surely be his demise. He needed to get his lust under control…

      Or did he? Reese had already decided he would bed Evelyn until she grew with child. Why not take her when he wanted to and purge her from his system? He had wanted her since he first kissed her over the holidays last year. Granted, he’d thought she was Charlotte, but it still hadn’t stop him from fantasizing about her since then.

      On the last evening of the house party, Evelyn had fulfilled every fantasy of his and created more he wished to experience. What reason did Reese have for not enjoying their wedding night at the next inn? Other than he’d been hell-bent on continuing home to rid himself of her presence. Instead, why not consummate the marriage and leave no doubt of their marriage vows? Reese wouldn’t receive the dowry from Colebourne until Evelyn sent word of their marriage. He needed that money to ease his family’s hardship.

      Why not romance and seduce his wife this evening and every evening until she wrote to her uncle? Perhaps the old man would find it generous to send a substantial settlement. By then Evelyn might carry their child and he would have tired of her.

      Reese rapped his walking stick on the carriage ceiling and informed his driver to stop at the next village.

      “I thought we were continuing to your estate?” Evelyn asked.

      “I realized that would be insensitive to your needs. Someone of your delicate nature should spend the night in a bed, not a carriage seat.”

      “Lord Worthington, I am not a delicate flower. I can handle the current accommodations if you have a need to return home immediately.”

      “Lady Worthington, I disagree. Your fragile frame is used to the comforts of leisure. We might have had cause for haste the past few days, but we no longer do. I have decided we can take our time before reaching your new home.”

      “That is very generous. My aching body thanks you.” Evelyn’s smile held her gratitude. A smile Reese had to harden his heart to.

       At the mention of her body, Reese took in her slumped shoulders, her hair falling loose, and the dark circles under her eyes. His brutish treatment over the last few days showed on her bedraggled appearance. She had changed into a new dress before their ceremony, but there had been no one to help Evelyn with her hair. Reese had woken her before dawn from the inn and told her they were to leave in ten minutes.

     Evelyn hadn’t made him wait. She’d dressed hurriedly and joined him in the carriage for the hour ride into Gretna Green. It hadn’t taken him long to find someone to perform the ceremony. Then he hustled her into the carriage, bent for home.

      Evelyn may have been wrong with her deceit, but Reese had no reason to treat her in this manner. Not once had she complained, making his comments on her delicate nature ring false to his ears.

      Reese raised his head and blew out a breath. “I am sorry for my harsh treatment. I hope a hot bath, a warm dinner, and a comfortable bed this evening might right my wrong.”

      If Evelyn’s smile of gratitude had affected him, it held nothing compared to the smile she gifted him now. Forgiveness shone from her eyes, which also displayed her love. Reese gulped. Even though Evelyn never spoke the words, he knew the truth. It would have been the only reason Evelyn let Reese make love to her. Evelyn Holbrooke loved him. It was an emotion Reese must destroy. But not now.

      Now, he would use his charm to make her believe he loved her, too.