The Tempting Minx
Fate of the Worthingtons #1
Time leads one along a soulful journey to find one’s true love.
A spitfire debutante. A dashing imposter. One stolen kiss sets them on their path.
Margaret Worthington was a lady who failed to escape the clutches of time. She was now forced to endure a dreadful season visiting the stifling ballrooms, wearing fancy dresses and false smiles. When she would rather ride her horse across the open fields in her comfortable breeches, enjoying the fresh air. Her penchant for trouble lands her in the arms of a lord who she had fantasized about all season. After they share a scandalous kiss, Maggie’s opinion makes a swift change. Soon a mystery filled with scandal and secrets sweeps up Maggie within its grasp. Is Maggie’s love powerful enough to overlook the secrets of her soul mate?
Crispin Dracott played everyone false, even himself. As hard as he tried to lead an honest life, the actions from his past kept pulling him under with their deceit. When he secured a position to bring the villain who destroyed him to justice, he never imagined a tempting minx would claim his heart and soul. With orders to keep Lady Margaret Worthington out of trouble, he fell victim to her innocent charm and couldn’t resist stealing one kiss after another from her sweet lips. His desire for Maggie led danger to surround them in every direction. Will Maggie forgive him once he admits of his deception?
A wild and carefree lady and a gentleman filled with darkness discover a passion they cannot deny. Would the solace he finds in her innocence keep his demons at bay? Or would they destroy the precious hold of their love for one another?
The Tempting Minx is the first book in Laura A. Barnes’s Fate of the Worthingtons Series. If you love a story filled with mysterious secrets and scandalous kisses, then you’ll love this new series.
Buy The Tempting Minx to start your journey into the Fate of the Worthingtons.
Maggie Worthington sat sideways with her legs hanging over the arm of the chair, swinging them back and forth. How much longer must she endure listening to her mother plan her debut? Hopefully the torture would end soon. She longed to slide into her breeches and ride her horse, Penelope. The days of idling her time away with lengthy rides across the estate and helping in the stables with the horses would end once she reached London.
When she turned eighteen last year, her world had come to a crashing halt. However, her sister-in-law, Evelyn, had taken pity on her and convinced her mother to wait another year before they presented Maggie to society.
Her mother realized if Maggie’s entrance was successful, then it would be difficult to find grooms for her older sisters, Eden and Noel, since they had yet to wed. But after a year, Noel found herself engaged, and her mother refused to wait any longer for Maggie to have a season. Her mother feared the longer Maggie remained out of society, the more difficult it would be for her to tame her daughter’s carefree behavior.
Even now, her mother glared her disapproval at her abandoned manners. Maggie imagined her mother reprimanding her. Margaret Ann, sit like a proper lady this instant.
When her mother arched an eyebrow, Maggie sat up straight and placed her feet on the floor. She brushed out her skirts and smiled serenely at her mother. Her mother nodded her approval and continued her conversation with Evelyn.
Evelyn offered Maggie a kind smile, understanding her behavior because Evelyn’s sister Charlotte Sinclair, Charlie to her family and friends, suffered the same affliction as Maggie. She longed for the open skies and fresh air. Evelyn was Maggie’s biggest supporter, showing her mother and older brother Reese how they should handle Maggie differently than Eden and Noel. Her other brother, Graham, helped whenever he came to visit to keep them from making her into a proper lady. She missed him, and he was the only promising aspect of her upcoming visit to London.
“Gam, Gam, Gam,” Mina chanted, toddling into the parlor.
Maggie swept Mina into her arms. “Yes, I miss Graham too.”
Mina pointed at the door and kept singing, “Gam, Gam, Gam.”
Everyone laughed at her silliness. Evelyn held out her arms, and Maggie passed Mina off. Her niece’s arrival gave Maggie the perfect distraction to sneak away. Evelyn and Reese’s daughter, her mother’s only grandchild, kept her mother occupied enough to forget about her youngest child. Maggie must remember to reward Mina with a biscuit later.
She started backing out of the parlor, prepared to stop if anyone caught her, and almost made her escape when she bumped into somebody.
“Sneaking away, are you, squirt?” Graham whispered in her ear.
Maggie turned around, squealing her excitement. “Graham!” She threw herself into his arms.
Graham swung his sister around, laughing at her greeting. “Glad to see you, too.”
“Save me,” she whispered.
Graham chuckled. “Ahh, still dramatic, I see.”
“They are planning my debut.”
Graham gasped in shock. “How dare they?”
Maggie punched him in the arm once she realized he held no sympathy for her. “Not you too.”
“It is past time, my dear.”
Maggie scowled. “If your intention is not to help save me, then what is the reason for your visit?”
Graham gave her a devious smile. “Why, to join the torture.”
Maggie punched him again and returned to her seat to sulk. It wasn’t until her mother greeted her brother that she noticed Graham wasn’t alone. A gentleman stood by his side, watching Graham interact with his family. When he noticed Maggie’s gaze on him, he winked at her before returning his attention to her mother while Graham made the introductions.
Maggie wasn’t one to blush, but her face grew warm from the gentleman’s bold stare. Throughout the years, she’d spent time with a variety of men, from a gentleman to a stable hand. Granted, her brothers or some member of Evelyn’s family were always present, and the encounters revolved around horseflesh. However, none of them had affected her senses as this stranger.
He held himself with confidence and found amusement in her family’s antics. He even wore a warm smile when Mina captured everyone’s attention again with her chant about her uncle. Maggie’s gaze drifted over his features, and she noted his firm chin, dark hair that he kept cut short, a smile showcasing a set of dimples that probably charmed many ladies far and wide. Her gaze traveled lower to his wide shoulders and broad chest, and when her eyes continued their perusal to inspect his—
“Margaret.” Reese interrupted her scrutiny.
Maggie raised her chin and stared at her brother as if she had done nothing wrong. “Yes?”
“Graham introduced his new assistant, and you never responded.” He nodded for her to rise.
Maggie sighed softly enough that no one heard her, or so she thought. “I apologize for my wandering thoughts.”
Her mother shook her head in disappointment while Graham snickered at the silent reprimand. The look Evelyn and Reese exchanged confused her. However, it was the stranger’s response that awoke Maggie from her disenchanted view of proper decorum.
He stepped forward and murmured low enough for only Maggie’s ears, “Proper behavior is always a bore when one would rather just truly be themselves.” Then his voice rose for everyone to hear. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Margaret.”
Maggie stared at him in a daze. His comment spoke the truth of her viewpoint on the subject. Why couldn’t it be so simple? Why must one pretend to be someone they are not? Her mind wandered again as she contemplated his comment, and she forgot to acknowledge him again.
“Margaret Ann,” her mother hissed.
Maggie swung her gaze to the gentleman to find his amused smile beaming down at her. He was extremely tall. “The pleasure is all mine . . .” Maggie paused, unable to finish since she had missed how she should address him.
“Lord Dracott,” Graham spoke in a dramatic stage whisper.
Maggie rolled her eyes at Graham. “Lord Dracott, I hope you enjoy your visit.”
He nodded. “I hope one day I might. For now, my visit is only for overnight before I return to London.”
“You are not staying long?” Maggie shifted her attention back to Graham.
Graham shrugged. “’Fraid not.”
Lord Dracott forgotten, Maggie pouted over losing her only ally. But after Graham’s comments when he arrived, she realized she had lost her last chance to navigate her way out of the season. It would appear she must endure the drudgery the ton would surely provide for her amusement. If she had to spend the next few months wearing a polite smile through many torturous dances, picnics, soirees, musicals, and countless balls, then she would enjoy her remaining days outdoors. And she would enjoy those moments now.
“Mother, may I retire to my room to write a letter for Graham to deliver to Eden?”
“You may.” Her mother granted Maggie permission to leave.
Maggie rushed to her bedchamber to change. After she slammed the door, she discarded each piece of her attire into piles spread about the room. Then she dug into the wardrobe and pulled out a pair of breeches and one of Graham’s old lawn shirts. After she yanked on her boots and tied her hair on top of her head with a hat pulled over the long tresses, she snuck down the servant’s staircase. She closed her eyes, breathed in the fresh air, and let the warm sunshine wash away the dread of her future days to come.
On her way to the stables, she stopped to admire the beauty surrounding her. The green fields sprinkled with wildflowers beckoned her to enjoy what time she had left. Maggie took off in a sprint to reach the stables and saddle Penelope. Without taking a single glance back at Worthington Hall, Maggie rode off to catch every ray of sunshine the day held.
Crispin Dracott watched Lady Margaret and her magnificent steed ride away. The lady was an enchanting creature he wished to become better acquainted with. But if he allowed himself that pleasure, it would jeopardize what he had worked for this past year.
With each day, he drew closer to losing the shackles that kept him locked in a prison of his own demise, one he had been too young to understand when forced into the illicit underworld of money and danger. Recently, greed and destruction had awakened him into wanting a better life for himself. After he finished this last assignment, he would be free to live his remaining days repenting for his crimes.
The last thing he needed was a spoiled debutante distracting him. Even one as amusing as Margaret Worthington—or Maggie, as her family called her. She fit the name perfectly. Young and carefree without a worry in the world, a position he had never had the fortune to experience. However, he wondered how it would feel if he allowed himself to indulge in the fantasy.
But he didn’t have the luxury of indulging in the beauty. Nor would Graham Worthington allow him anywhere near his sister. The gentleman may find amusement in Maggie’s antics, but beneath all the teasing, Worth would be a fierce protector of his sister’s innocence. In truth, Dracott didn’t want Maggie to lose any of her naivety because of his influence, no matter how tempting of a package she may be.
And she was very tempting indeed. With her dark, luxurious hair hanging down her back in curls. Curves she probably didn’t fully appreciate yet. And the most gorgeous backside he had ever seen. Her arse molded into her saddle as her thighs gripped the horse’s flanks. Dracott broke out into a sweat imagining Maggie straddling him.
As for the rest of her body, the dress she had worn earlier was too prim and proper for him to know what other delights her body held. And the lawn shirt she wore now hung on her body, hiding her curves, much to his disappointment.
Evelyn Worthington spoke next to him. “I hope you do not think too unkindly of my sister-in-law. She is reluctant to begin her first season. If you cannot tell, she enjoys horses more than polite company.”
Dracott dragged his gaze away from the window and focused on the lady before him. He hoped he didn’t draw attention to his interest in Maggie. “I have no unkind opinion of the lady. In fact, I only envy her ability to not allow society to dictate her actions.”
Evelyn laughed. “I will admit we try to rein them in from time to time. But Maggie has a spirit that cannot be contained.”
Dracott glanced back outside, even though the topic of their conversation had ridden out of his view. “Well, for her sake, I hope Lady Margaret is allowed to keep her spirit alive. For she will need it once she makes her debut.”
After he made his comment, Lady Worthington pinched her lips and scrutinized him, and he feared he had revealed his interest. However, she soon graced him with a smile again. “I hope so too.”
Dracott breathed a sigh of relief when young Mina started fussing on her father’s lap. The earl stood with the toddler, murmuring in her ear. Lady Worthington rushed to their side and rubbed her hand along the child’s back. The earl smiled fondly at his wife, and the countess blushed a lovely shade of pink.
Dracott’s gaze traveled around the parlor to see how Worth and his mother reacted to the intimate exchange. Smiles rested on their faces as they watched the small family. However, Dracott realized that even though his boss and his mother stood outside of the exchange, they were part of the affection shared. Even with a stranger in the room, they displayed nothing but genuine fondness. This family was a novelty he had never witnessed before.
He was always one to adapt to his environment and could easily implement himself into this family and belong. However, if he thought Maggie was a temptation to avoid, a warm and caring family was the ultimate risk he must stay away from. Because they were the picture of what his dreams represented for himself, dreams that would never become a reality.
No matter how much he wished otherwise.