How the Lord
Married His Lady
Matchmaking Madness #6
One cannot force love, but must wait for the perfect moment to make their match.
The love she held for him was a burden she carried in her heart. His family’s legacy kept him from opening his heart to her love. Can they overcome their doubts and share a lifetime of love?
Abigail Cason was a dreamer. When she met her knight in shining armor, her heart only bowed to him. The friendship she shared with him led her to believe he would ask her to become his bride. Even with his promise to wed another, Abigail still dreamt of the impossible. After his broken betrothal, she thought her dreams would come true. With each stolen kiss, she eagerly anticipated his proposal. However, his request turned out to be an offer of obligation. She spent a lifetime as an obligation and she refused to spend her marriage in the same fashion. No matter how much she loved him. Will she ever be worthy enough for his love?
Lucas Gray felt the weight of responsibility on his shoulders. His heart pulled him in the opposite direction of where he must stand. But the tempting lure of sweet kisses drew him to seduce the lady who haunted his every desire. He had a duty to marry well and his father secured him a bride worthy enough for the match. When his intended abandoned him, he was free to make his own decision about who he wanted for a wife. Abigail made him dream of the impossible. However, she held no status in society. Only a heart full of love for him. Can he form a new legacy with the love he holds for her?
Destiny demanded for their two souls to intertwine. A family who risked everything to make the match a success. Will Abigail and Lucas allow their doubts to keep them apart? Or will they make their dreams a reality?
How the Lord Married His Lady is the final book in Laura A. Barnes’s Matchmaking Madness Series. If you enjoy the madness of love, then you’ll love Lucas and Abigail’s dream come true romance.
Devour How the Lord Married His Lady today!
Abigail folded the letter, slid it back into the envelope, and laid it in her lap. Her destiny would take an alternative path if she followed through with the plans set forth in the missive. She would no longer be a concern for the Duke of Colebourne.
Or a hindrance for his son.
She released a deep sigh as she contemplated her choices. At the moment, thanks to her friendship, nay her family, her options were wide open. However, she felt if she accepted their offers, she would transfer the burden of her welfare from Colebourne to them. She wished to stay close to Gemma’s side during the end of her pregnancy and help her with her newborn, but she must break the ties now. If not, then she would wander from one household to the next in pity, even though in her heart she knew her family didn’t view their generosity in that sense. However, it would keep her from finding her own happiness.
Abigail snuggled deeper into the chair, wrapping the shawl tighter around her to ward off the chill. She should close the window she had opened, but she found comfort in the crisp air. It reminded her of the early morning walks she had taken with her mother before her mother started her workday. Not a day went by where she didn’t miss her mother and the simplicity of the life they had led.
Her gaze traveled around the room, and part of her hoped it held the answers to her dilemma. Whenever she missed her mother, she found herself tucked away in the small parlor the duke had designed for his late wife. Abigail felt a kinship with the late duchess and the special parlor she had shared with the duke and their child. The space gave her the comfort of being part of their small family. Which was absurd since the very child was now a grown gentleman and a thorn in Abigail’s side.
A thorn she loved with her whole heart.
Only he didn’t care for her in the slightest. His actions over the past year proved so. At one time, they had held a special friendship, one they shared with no other. Their relationship had taken a turn for the worse once the duke set out to match his wards with the gentlemen of his choosing. She had come to understand how Lucas Gray viewed her. He thought her no more worthy than any of the other servants in the household.
Even though she wasn’t a servant, since the Duke of Colebourne had raised her no differently than his nieces, Abigail never shook the turn in her standings. To her she would always be a member of the lower class, no matter how expensive of a gown she wore, the education the duke had provided for her, or the dowry Colebourne had set aside for her groom. And apparently Lucas viewed her in the same manner. Correction, she should address him as Lord Gray.
No, Abigail Cason was beneath his station and his every act since last spring proved what a fool she was to believe otherwise.
It came time to decide. Should she accept the offer Lord Ross had made of governing his two young daughters or remain at Colebourne Manor? If she remained, then she must accept that one fateful day she would have to bear witness to Lucas getting married and starting a family with a lady he chose as acceptable to his status. The constant reminder would crush her soul. So that reason alone made her decision easy. As much as it would hurt her to leave her family, it was the only option.
Lord Ross had shown his kindness by offering Abigail the position again when she couldn’t accept it after the holidays. Colebourne had fallen ill after they returned from the Forresters, and she had stayed on to nurse him back to health. Now that he had recovered and granted her his permission, it was time for Abigail to respond to Lord Ross’s request. He wanted her to start her new position immediately. He had traveled to London with his children, but the governess he hired had handed in her notice. The girl had apparently fallen in love with a shopkeeper after they arrived in London and was set to marry in a month’s time. The governess had agreed to stay on until Abigail arrived.
Abigail only had one more promise to fulfill before she started a new beginning. The duke was holding a dinner to celebrate his success in finding matches for his nieces. The celebration to be held this weekend was the anniversary of when he started his matchmaking madness. A year ago, the duke held a house party that started a year full of scheming, manipulations, and more love than one could imagine possible. Her friends had found the other half of their souls, and Abigail found enjoyment from their unions. However, the dinner was only a bittersweet reminder of how the duke couldn’t make a successful match between Abigail and Lucas.
She had promised Colebourne she wouldn’t leave until the celebration was over. Then she would travel with the family to London, where they would start the season and she would start her new position. A fresh beginning to focus on, instead of dwelling on a lost love she never held a chance to begin with.
“There you are. I’ve been searching everywhere for you.” Lucas strolled into the parlor and stood above her, capturing her attention with his demanding presence.
When he glanced at the letter on her lap, she covered her hand over it. “Does your father need me? He said he wanted to rest after luncheon before everybody started arriving.”
Lucas’s brows drew together. “Did you receive another letter from Selina? You two have come quite the bosom of friends.”
“Yes, we have. However, the letter is not from Selina.”
“Then it must be from Gemma.” Lucas laughed. “She cannot wait until she arrives to share the latest gossip with you. No surprise since the two of you are inseparable.”
Abigail cleared her throat. She had hoped to avoid this subject with Lucas until they departed for London. So, she attempted to inquire about the duke once again. “’Tis not from Gemma either. Does your father require my attention?”
Lucas frowned. Obviously, Abigail didn’t want to tell him who the letter was from. But her secrecy of late only increased his curiosity to discover her plans for the future. He had selfish reasons for wanting Abigail to remain at Colebourne Manor, especially since all of his cousins had married and left to start their new lives. But this was Abby’s home just as much as it was his. She belonged here, and it was his mission to make her see reason.
Since the letter wasn’t from Gemma or Selina and she continued to keep it hidden, it must be from Lord Ross, the earl who tried to convince Abigail to become a governess to his children. Lucas knew little about the earl, except he resided in northern Scotland when not visiting London. In fact, few knew much about the esteemed Lord Ross. Only rumors and hearsay were speculated about the gentleman.
“No. He is still resting.”
“Then is there something I can do for you, Lord Gray? Since you have searched the manor for me, it must be important.”
Lucas sighed. “Must you continue with this Lord Gray business? I thought we came to a truce while caring for my father.”
They had, but Abigail’s heart cautioned her to keep an emotional distance from Lucas. If not, then she would wonder where she stood with him. His behavior the past year already made her question the strength of the bond of their friendship. She had misinterpreted it as love. Lucas had shown her a rare side of himself, and she had fooled herself into believing they stood a chance as a couple.
However, over the course of his cousins falling in love, he had shown his true character. He was a pompous, arrogant gentleman who shredded her heart to ribbons with his callous behavior. Now, with the course she set on the horizon, she needed to stay on guard. If not, he would ruin her for any other man.
However, this next week would be the last time she would spend in his company before she started the next chapter in her life. Didn’t she owe it to herself to give him one more chance? Lord knows he didn’t deserve it. But she longed for any opportunity to spend time in his company. Why ruin it with the past? One couldn’t erase their actions; they could only move forward and hope the past didn’t repeat itself. She wanted to give him a chance to redeem himself before she left. If not, then their friendship had all been for naught.
Abigail nodded. “We have. I apologize. Since your father has not requested my attention, I assumed you meant to lecture me on my future.”
Lucas ran his hand through his hair in frustration. He had caused her to doubt and question his every action. His boorish behavior this past year had placed him in fragile standings with Abby. While he wanted to question her further about the letter she held, he knew it would only progress to him demanding she drop her foolish notions of becoming a servant. Which would lead to her stomping away and he would have to endure her silent treatment.
And right now, the news he had to share with her would only work to his advantage if he approached her differently. It was his only opportunity to convince Abigail to stay on. The circumstances couldn’t have worked out any more perfectly. So, he chose to ignore her comment.
His smile held patience with her. “No. I have sought you out to inform you that the creek has washed out, delaying our guests’ arrival.”
Abigail sat forward, not realizing the letter dropped to the floor. “How horrible. Was anyone injured?”
“No. Thankfully, no one traveled on the road while it happened. I’ve sent men, and so has Sinclair, to stand guard, so no one tries to pass. They will redirect our guests to Sinclair’s home until it is safe to make the travel to Colebourne Manor.”
Abigail relaxed back into the chair. With a smirk, she addressed his remark. “Guests? Lucas, they are your family.”
Lucas came alive with Abigail’s smirk. Her teasing sparked the desire to kiss her sweet lips. However, he refrained as he always did. He refused to submit to the level of seducing an innocent miss. Even though it became more difficult with each day that passed.
“That they are.” He groaned. “They are the bane of my existence.”
Abigail threw a small pillow at him. “They are not. You love them dearly.”
“Not as much as I love . . .” Lucas paused, shocked at what he had almost declared. He recovered quickly. “The peace and quiet of the manor with them not in residence.”
Abigail had grown still when Lucas paused after he mentioned the word love. She rose abruptly, needing to put distance between them before she actually confessed her own love. “Yes. Well, you shall have your wish for a few extra days at least.”
Lucas rose and moved closer to her. Abigail grew flustered when his breath brushed across her cheek as he reached up to tuck a stray curl behind her ear. She closed her eyes when his fingers swept across her cheek. Her heart started racing at the gentle gesture.
Lucas bent his head to whisper. “I hope during their delay we can fill our days as we once used to.”
Abigail gulped. “As in?”
“A game or two of chess and some walks through the garden. Perhaps our usual debate of well-written poetry versus the works of the utter rubbish you call romance,” he teased her as his fingers trailed along her neck.
Abigail’s eyes flew open. “Do you not mean the works of true poets?”
“No, love. You know perfectly well what I meant.” He brushed his thumb across her lip, forgetting the promise he had made to himself about not touching her.
Abigail’s mouth opened at his touch, and her tongue struck out to wet her dry lips but only ended up licking his thumb. Lucas’s gaze grew dark at her innocent act, and he stepped closer. The heat from his body wrapped her in a warm embrace, making her ache for his arms to circle her and take away the remaining chill separating them. When he lowered his head, Abigail panicked and stepped to the side.
She hurried to the door, fighting against her desire to allow him to kiss her. “If the guests are not arriving, then I must speak with Mrs. Oakes on the meals.”
Lucas lowered his head and winced at what he had almost attempted. He had been about to kiss Abigail. He had no excuse except when her tongue stroked across his thumb, he lost all rational thought and only wished to indulge in his fantasy.
“Abigail,” he started to apologize, but the letter she dropped caught his attention. He bent to retrieve it and noted the return address as one Lord Ross. “You cannot still be contemplating the role of governess,” Lucas demanded.
Abigail paused and turned at the harsh tone from Lucas. He was holding the letter from Lord Ross. She must have dropped it when he distracted her with his attention. Abigail stalked back toward him, her desire quickly vanishing into fury. “I am not only contemplating, but I have accepted Lord Ross’s offer. I shall start my position once we travel to London. You will not have to suffer embarrassment this season with my attendance at your social gatherings. Instead, I shall be performing duties in my actual place. The place of a servant in a house of a lord of the ton.”
She reached for the letter, but Lucas grabbed her wrist with his other hand. Even in her frustration, her skin tingled from his touch. Her body betrayed her with its desire to have him wrap her in his arms and kiss away every obstacle in their path to be together.
“You misconstrue my intentions.”
“I do not. You have made yourself clear as day on how you view me. Also, it is not of your concern about how I live my life.” She tugged her arm away and snatched the letter from his hand.
Lucas growled. “You are the most exasperating lady I have ever known.”
Abigail glared at Lucas. “Well, we shall just have to add that trait to your list about my character.”
She held no clue how he regarded her. He knew the ins and outs to the depth of her character more than anyone else. Even now when she stood in front of him in a fury, she possessed a gracefulness like no other lady. Her fiery gaze darkened to a lush green forest full of mysterious danger. His own desire heightened as her body stood poised to attack. Abigail’s breasts heaved with each aggravated breath she drew and her nipples tightened under his bold stare. He wanted to drag her into his arms and kiss the snarl from her lips. Instead of acting out his desires, he continued to provoke her anger.
“I will also list how naïve you are to consider working for a gentleman that no one has ever heard of before,” Lucas taunted her.
“Lord Ross is a noble gentleman with strong Scottish ties,” Abigail argued.
“And who offered this bit of knowledge?”
A smug smile spread across Abigail’s face. “Your father.”
Lucas narrowed his gaze. “Exactly. You have proven my point.”
Abigail stepped forward and jabbed her finger into Lucas’s chest. With each point she declared, her finger pressed in harder. “The only item proven today is your insufferable need to direct my life. The second is your overbearing conceited arrogance. And finally, you wished you held an ounce of integrity as Lord Ross holds. He has shown nothing but generosity with his offer, not to mention his kind regard when we correspond. You could learn a lot from Lord Ross about how to treat a lady. Oh, I apologize, I mean a servant.” Abigail snarled her last comment before storming out of the parlor.
Lucas watched Abigail leave, rubbing his chest from where she had touched him. He tried to soak up the scorching heat, but it disappeared as quickly as the lady herself. And he did regard her as a lady, one so fine no other could compare. He might have riled her temper and caused himself more trouble with his damaging comments, but it was worth it to experience her touch.
Lucas shook his head. He had finally fallen into the depths of madness his family suffered from. Now he wondered how he would ever pull himself out.
Or did he want to?