To Tempt a Saint

To Tempt a Saint by Kate Moore Read Free Book Online

Book: To Tempt a Saint by Kate Moore Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kate Moore
direction of the house.
    A slight breeze carried the scent of washday. No one answered his knock, but from the rear of the house came the rhythmic thwack of someone beating the life out of a carpet. He followed a weedy path to his right toward the sound.
    Cleo Spencer had squared off against a sorry rug of indeterminate hues draped over a sturdy line and was beating it with a broom. Her hair, coming loose from its pins and knots, dangled in coppery wisps about her face. He could see the pink flush of her exertions in her cheek. An unbleached apron covered a faded green muslin gown, hiked up around her waist, exposing a pair of coltish legs. She looked more like a laundress than an heiress, and Xander had to remind himself of what he now knew about his ragamuffin. She was a lord’s pampered daughter. She might have fallen from fortune and grace, but he would be wise to remember that she was a London-bred blue blood of his father’s ilk, and he would be better off keeping their relationship commercial.
    He put the basket at his feet to watch her. She took a wide stance, hauled back her broom and let fly with a swing like the most determined of batsmen trying to loft a bowl over the boundary fence. Every line of her person was angry. Take that , her body seemed to say, and that .
    “Taking aim at your banker?”
    She spun toward him. The reach of her broom just missed his chest and sent a sweet stir of air wafting over him, filled with the scent of her. She wore no perfume that he could detect.
    “You.” She let the broom drop, and he could see in those green eyes the proud sting of being at a disadvantage. Will’s report said she had only a meager allowance controlled by Evershot and March until she turned thirty. Or married .
    “I’ve come to accept your proposal of marriage.”
    “You haven’t.” Her doubting gaze took in his whole appearance and the basket at his feet, stuffed by Mrs. Lawful, the very accommodating and openly curious proprietress of the Swan in Woford.
    “You had the advantage of me the other day in making your offer while I was reeling from another woman’s rejection.”
    “Reeling?” She put a hand to her brow, pushing aside damp curls of that brandy-colored hair.
    “It was a low moment.”
    “You’ve recovered, I’m sure. Your heart did not appear to be involved.”
    “But my hopes were.” He took a step closer now that the broom rested on the ground.
    “Hopes that require a great deal of funding?”
    “Twenty thousand pounds.” He gave her credit for not gasping.
    “So I’m to be your accommodating heiress?”
    “You are twenty-four and have no access to your fortune until you reach thirty . . . unless you marry. Evershot is one of your trustees, and Archibald March, your father’s half brother, is the other. He lives in your old home and has sole control of your brother’s fortune, though not your own.”
    Will’s investigation had been remarkably thorough and told him as much about March as the heiress herself. Her uncle had proclaimed her mad with grief over her father’s death and incapable of managing her fortune. No wonder March had such deep pockets to fund charities.
    Xander didn’t say anything about March’s character. He doubted she knew anything about March’s questionable connection to Bredsell’s school. But it struck Xander as odd that the titled niece and nephew of a noted London philanthropist lived on a weedy farm.
    The girl’s frank gaze was fixed on him. “To think I accused you of not finding out more about Miss Finsbury.”
    “I have my sources.”
    “Well, it’s a good thing that I proposed to you, for once again, you are making a mull of it.” She wiped her hands on her apron. “You might as well drag me to the pond, shove my head under, and hold me down.”
    He had to laugh. “Until you come up spitting and swinging?”
    “What woman wants to be told unpalatable truths about her circumstances as a prelude to seduction?”
    His laugh

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