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An Experiment in Love

Written by Louise Allen

Believing she's unlikely to ever have any man offer her marriage, unconventional Lady Chloe Albright impetuously seizes the chance of a pretend engagement with Lord Christopher Fellingham, Earl of Twyford. Having loved Kit for years, she's learnt to carefully hide the pain of knowing that she is no more to him than his friend's studious little sister. But should she now put her research skills to good use and try some experiments in love?

At turns kissed, flirted and argued with, Kit doesn't know whether he is more amused, annoyed or—dare he admit it?—aroused by Chloe's unexpected attention. Suddenly he's wishing that their pretend engagement could become the real thing!

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Chapter One

'Gentlemen do not whimper.'

'Gentlemen don't snigger at their afflicted friends either,' Lord Christopher Fellingham retorted as he threw himself into an armchair in James Albright's library.

'Snigger?' Lord James blinked at his old friend through the thick lenses of his spectacles. 'Never. But why were you courting the chit if you've no intention of marrying her?'

'I was not courting her. I've known Antonia Woolmer since she was in the cradle. I was squiring her about, making her feel at ease in Town. Being neighbourly.'

'But if you've been betrothed to her for years…'

'It was a jest! Our fathers came up with the hare-brained scheme in their cups and it became a standing joke. You know the sort of thing, When you two young people are married, blah, blah. Then she'd blush and giggle and I'd put a frog in her pocket.' Kit gestured, the heavy gold signet on his left hand catching the late afternoon sunlight. 'We didn't take it seriously, never spoke of it. Never agreed to it. Now, five months into her first Season, he's demanding to know when I'm going to propose to her. The dratted man is doing everything except load his shotgun.' He shuddered. 'He's in no mood to listen to reason!'

'You can see why,' James said. 'He's a country squire, you're the Earl of Twyford, an excellent catch for his daughter and he believes he has you netted. But if you know her and like her enough, why not marry her? You were saying you were serious about settling down, establishing the nursery, all that.'

'Because she's a sweet girl with the brain of a peahen,' Kit said. 'And a giggle like a Guinea fowl.' James winced. 'If there are two ideas in her head, beyond shopping and fashions, I've never heard her utter them.'

'Ah.'

'Ah, indeed. I might be resigned to marriage but it doesn't mean I've got to settle for a lifetime with a woman who makes my ears bleed with boredom after an hour.'

'And who giggles. Yes, I understand. But what are you going to do?'

'Tell him I never took it seriously, that I regard Antonia in the light of a sister.'

'Will he accept that?'

'Doubt it.' Kit hunched a shoulder defensively. 'Damn it, he thinks she's perfect, but she's not. Not for me. If I can't get out of this with some smidgeon of honour then the pair of us will be condemned to a lifetime of indifference, at the best.'

'Are her affections engaged?' James asked. 'If she's in love with you, there's no getting out of this.'

'Lord no. She confides in me about one man after another. Perhaps she'd like an officer because of the uniform. Or a duke, because she'd like to be Her Grace. Or she thinks black-haired men are the most dashing. But she'll obey her papa, that's the rub.'

James got to his feet with a snort of laughter. 'Good thing you are a civilian, blond earl, then. Well, now you've taken refuge here, you'd better make yourself at home. They've put you in the Green Bedchamber. I've got to talk to my secretary. Help yourself to the decanters, old man.' He paused with his hand on the catch. 'You're done for unless you can convince him that you've a prior obligation—and a damn good reason for keeping it quiet.'

'Hell.' Kit stared at the closing door and then, with yearning, at the brandy decanter. Getting foxed wouldn't make Antonia vanish. 'What am I going to do?'

There was a sound from the far corner where a winged chair stood facing the shelves. A tousled head, crowned with two goose quills, appeared over the back and an oval face with a smudge on the chin and a pair of gilt-framed spectacles perched on its nose regarded him solemnly. 'You could marry me,' suggested the young woman. 'I don't mind.'

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About the author

I have been immersing myself in history, real and fictional, for as lo...

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Louise Allen

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