Donna Hatch is the author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” and a winner of writing awards such as The Golden Quill and the International Digital Award.
A hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, she discovered her writing passion at the tender age of 8 and has been listening to those voices ever since. She has become a sought-after workshop presenter, and also juggles freelance editing, multiple volunteer positions, and most of all, her six children (seven, counting her husband).
A native of Arizona who recently transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.
When charming rake Tristan Barrett sweeps Lady Elizabeth off her feet, stealing both her heart and a kiss in a secluded garden, her brother challenges Tristan to a duel. The only way to save her brother and Tristan from harm—not to mention preserve her reputation—is to get married.
But her father, the Duke of Pemberton, refuses to allow his daughter to marry anyone but a titled lord. The duke demands that Elizabeth marry Tristan’s older brother, Richard, the Earl of Averston. Now Elizabeth must give up Tristan to marry a man who despises her, a man who loves another, a man she’ll never love.
Richard fears Elizabeth is as untrustworthy as his mother, who ran off with another man. However, to protect his brother from a duel and their family name from further scandal, he agrees to the wedding, certain his new bride will betray him. Yet when Elizabeth turns his house upside down and worms her way into his reluctant heart, Richard suspects he can’t live without his new countess. Will she stay with him or is it too little, too late?
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Richard stopped pacing. “I’ll speak to Pemberton in the morning before matters get further out of hand.”
Tristan finally looked up. “What do you mean?”
“I hope to convince him to intercede.”
“No.” Tristan straightened, and a determined glint entered his eyes. “If Martindale wishes to issue the challenge, I will accept.”
“Don’t be an idiot. This is no time for misplaced heroism.”
“This is my problem. I’ll duel him.”
“Absolutely not. I don’t mean to stand by and watch you get shot, or stabbed by a rapier. Even though you deserve it.”
Tristan arose and stood remarkably erect considering the amount of brandy he’d just consumed. “You will not interfere. You’ve done that my entire life and I refuse to allow you to do it again. I can look after myself.”
“You aren’t responsible enough to look after yourself. This incident is further proof.”
“I’m not a child. I am fully capable of fighting—and winning—a duel. Stop meddling in my affairs.”
Meddling? Interfere? A dark and ugly force took hold of Richard. He cursed. How could his own brother turn on him? He’d looked after his brother all his life, bloodying noses of boys who bullied Tristan, taking the blame—and often the whippings—for Tristan’s pranks, and protecting his younger brother from himself. That Tristan viewed his protection as meddling twisted in Richard’s gut.
Richard made a sharp gesture. “Fine. Fight your duel. Get yourself killed. I’ll be rid of the headache of pulling you out of a new scrape every week.” Despite his angry words, the thought of his only brother facing such danger left him cold. Dark panic welled up.
Tristan’s eyes took on that cocky, invincible gleam Richard knew all too well. “I’m the best fencer in Angelo’s and I shoot better than the Duke of Suttenberg. I’ll win.”
“Then what? Are you prepared to kill her brother?”
Tristan’s gaze wavered and he wetted his lips. “Neither of us would risk being caught dueling. If we simply fight to first blood, the authorities will never know, and no one will die.”
“Do you have any idea how many minor wounds can turn fatal? Father’s wound wasn’t much worse than what one might receive from first blood.”
Tristan strode to the dark windows. After resting his hand on the panes a moment, he turned back, his shoulders squared. “I refuse to live in fear of what might be. Do not speak to the duke, do not speak to the marquis, do not intervene in any way. I mean to see this through.”
At least Tristan was taking this seriously. For a change. A part of Richard admired the pup’s willingness to take the consequences of his actions. But this was not the time. The stakes were too high.
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