Annabelle's Courtship

Annabelle's Courtship by Lucy Monroe Read Free Book Online

Book: Annabelle's Courtship by Lucy Monroe Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lucy Monroe
Tags: Fiction, Romance, Historical
    Her eyes softened momentarily, then hardened again. “I am not nearly so practical as you believe. I have no desire to marry without love.” All women wanted to marry. ’Twas their lot in life. Someone had forgotten to tell Annabelle this truth.
    She turned and faced the pond. “Do you know that according to the Common Law of England, when a woman marries she loses all of her rights?” From the tense set of her shoulders and the fervent tone of voice, Ian knew her words were important. He strained to understand what she tried to say. “I dinna ken your meaning.”
    “If I were to marry you, even the clothes on my back would become your property. I would have nothing of my own, no recourse if you mistreated me. If we had children, you would have sole control over them.”
    The image of Annabelle big with his child sent pleasure coursing through him. “I willna mistreat you. We can protect your dowry with a marriage settlement.” Annabelle shook her head. “Without love, I have no guarantee.”
    “Love is no a guarantee either.”
    She sighed. “I know, but without it, marriage is a bleak prospect for a lady.”
    “I canna promise love, but you will be happy.” He wanted her to believe him. “I will never betray you and I will protect you and your property. You will no be forced to sell your things to finance my whims.”
    He would not make the same mistake his grandfather had made. His wife and children would never pay for his beliefs.

    “It won’t work. I must have some security. Marriage has little enough as it is. I will have love.”
    Ian frowned. Love was the one thing he could not give her.

Chapter Four
    The ball was an absolute crush. The Markham townhouse, already crowded with heavy, ornate furniture, reverberated with a cacophony of voices and movement. Lady Markham and her husband had a penchant for Gothic furnishings and entertaining. No one turned down an invitation issued by the elderly couple.
    Perfect conditions for slipping away to a clandestine meeting, thought Annabelle.
    Except that Ian stuck to her side like paste. Just as he had at every social occasion for the past week. Although she took some small satisfaction in introducing him to women on her list, his persistence had an adverse affect on her equilibrium. In addition, if she didn’t dislodge him and her aunt soon, Annabelle would never be able to make her meeting.
    “Lady Beauford, what a pleasure to see you.”
    Annabelle turned and saw Miss Caruthers, the current toast of the ton , greet her aunt.
    Although Ian had made his view of beautiful women clear, Annabelle thought he would be unlikely to stand against Miss Caruthers’ charm. A diamond of the first water with her blonde ringlets and peaches and cream complexion, Miss Caruthers could be just the diversion Annabelle needed.
    “Miss Caruthers. I believe you know my niece, Lady Annabelle.” Lady Beauford then turned as if to go.
    Miss Caruthers smiled. “Indeed I do. Lady Annabelle, how very nice to see you again. I so enjoyed our discussion of music at Lady Diddisham’s.” Annabelle arrested her aunt’s progress with a hand on her arm. She had no intention of giving up this opportunity to break away. “Miss Caruthers, you played charmingly at the last musicale.”
    “Thank you, Lady Annabelle.”
    Annabelle returned the girl’s smile before introducing her to Ian. “Lord Graenfrae, may I present Miss Caruthers?” She leaned toward Ian, speaking in an undertone. “She is not on the list, but perhaps she should be.”

    Ian raised his brow mockingly at Annabelle before bowing politely over Miss Caruthers’ hand. The debutant fluttered her eyelashes at Ian as Ceddy arrived to claim her for the current dance. Ceddy greeted Annabelle and her party before offering to lead the beauty out on the floor.
    “Oh, Lord Finchley, I’m certain I could not dance another step without a bit of refreshment. It is that hot in here.” Miss Caruthers fanned herself,

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