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by Gayle Callen
Book 1 of the "His" trilogy
(The books do not have to be read in order.)
Roselyn Harrington ran from her
arranged wedding to Spencer Thornton. Now widowed after a disastrous
marriage to a man she thought loved her, she wants only to be left in
peace. But a wounded Thornton washes ashore on her island, and his
presence threatens her in more ways than one.
Spencer lies helpless, knowing that
a Spanish spy plans to accuse him of treason--or kill him. He must
return to London, but how can he leave, when his anger over Roselyn's
betrayal is rapidly becoming passion?
"Skillfully blending poignancy and
humor, she will enchant readers seeking excellent entertainment."
Romantic Times Magazine
(The following is the property of the author and Avon Books, and cannot
copied or reprinted without permission.)
London, October 1586
On the eve of her wedding, at a party
to celebrate the
joining of their families, Lady Roselyn Harrington laid eyes on her
for the first time--and felt like tearing the flowers from her hair.
Oh, Sir Spencer Thornton was handsome
enough, with his
dark, foreign, brooding looks. His mother was Spanish, but he'd been
and raised an Englishman, and would someday inherit his father's title
viscount. But courtesy was beyond him.
He was nothing like Philip Grant, her
groom, who accompanied her on her wild gallops through the London parks
she tried to outrace her future. Philip was blond and lighthearted,
sea blue eyes she could gladly drown in. He understood and cared for
and to be alone with him holding hands was as romantic as any poem.
Thornton had obviously been drinking
before he'd arrived
at the celebration, because his laughter was too free and too loud. He
across the room with his friends, looking the very picture of the court
from his silk doublet to his high neck ruff to the pearl earbob
from one ear. Yet where his friends wore their beards dyed in
purple or orange, Thornton was clean-shaven.
He smiled broadly at every lady who
passed him, be she
maiden or dowager, and his teeth glimmered like moonrise in his dark
But he spared not a glance for his
Smoldering with fury, she watched him
the sins he'd thus far committed during their short betrothal. He had
come to visit, never brought gifts. While every other young maiden was
least being wooed by her family's choice in husband, Thornton treated
as but a distasteful business.
Philip's gifts might be only a handful
and the pleasure of his company, but she felt cherished by his
Thornton, on the other hand, had come
early to their
betrothal ceremony the previous week, and after signing the contract,
left before she'd even come downstairs. She'd caught only a glimpse of
back as he slammed the front door.
Roselyn should have expected no better,
since her parents
had chosen her husband because of his money. When they had taken care
the contract without her, her father had said only, "Don't worry
When she'd tried to ask about Thornton
and his family,
her mother had asked in a frigid voice, "Are you questioning our choice
She had been so offended by the whole
process that she
went along with them, for after all, she didn't need to read that
tiny script when every marriage contract was the same: the groom would
well paid to marry the bride.
But the groom could have made a small
effort to pretend
to court her, for the bride's sake!
She had heard stories of Thornton's
wild revelry, his
attachment to Queen Elizabeth, his Spanish ancestry--which no one ever
her forget. And to think, there might soon be a war with Spain, and she
be married to the enemy! She suspected every female friend of laughing
her back, and every gentleman friend of deserting her.
Finally, Thornton's father led him
forward for the First
Meeting, and her own father, the Earl of Cambridge, gripped her elbow
he escorted her to the center of the hall.
"Lady Roselyn," Viscount Thornton said,
his brown eyes
filled with hope, "this is my son, Sir Spencer Thornton."
Spencer Thornton glanced at her with
those hooded, dark
eyes, and a tremor of something--probably shock--jolted her. Then he
away and swallowed another mouthful of wine. He was as dark as Satan
and she wondered if on the morrow the church would burst into flames
than admit him.
"Sir Spencer," said her father, "allow
me to present
my daughter, Lady Roselyn."
Full of affronted pride, she wasn't
even going to curtsy
until her father squeezed her hand in warning. With her chin high, she
into a deep curtsy. Viscount Thornton gave her a warm smile, while his
stood stone-faced until his father elbowed him. Even then, he only
Roselyn's outrage flamed higher, and
she felt humiliated,
knowing everyone was watching.
Her betrothed and his friends left the
waiting for the first dance. Alone, Roselyn watched them go from her
near the wall, her arms across her chest. How could she marry such a
she wondered, glaring at her preening parents as they accepted the
congratulations of the nobility. Thornton would probably send her off
his family seat in Cumberland, as far from London as one could get
crossing the Pict's Wall into the wilds of Scotland--just when she was
of an age to attend the queen's court.
As the party guests began to dance, her
to Philip, who just this day had sworn his undying love for her, vowing
help her escape this forced marriage. She'd told him it could never be,
as she stood alone and contemplated a loveless match, she was more
than ever of what she should do. He was forbidden to her by class, by
but it made their time together wildly exciting. Could she have the
unthinkable--a man who loved her for herself?
On his wedding day, Spencer Thornton
waited on the stairs
of the church, his head pounding, his throat dry, and prayed for the
to subside. Sometime before dawn he'd fallen into his bed roaring
but that was still not enough to make him forget the disdain in his
He'd handled the entire affair badly.
But what choice had he? Spencer had
done his best to
ignore the poor girl his parents had picked for him, hoping that her
would end the courtship. But short of outright disobedience--and he
his parents too much for that--there was nothing he'd been able to do
drown his rage in his cups.
But he did regret his treatment of her
last night. It
wasn't her fault that his parents had resorted to the blackmail of
an heir. If only they understood that he would never have the kind of
Through the crowds gathered to stare,
Spencer saw the
approach of Roselyn Harrington's gilt carriage. A tight feeling of
clutched his chest, but he straightened grimly.
The bride was helped from the carriage,
and her wedding
garments glittered under the sun. Again he saw that pale face,
the vulnerability of freckles scattered across her nose. He found
hoping that they wouldn't hate each other.
Roselyn took a step toward him and
stopped as their gazes
Suddenly she turned and ran.
Spencer stood in stunned silence as he
watched her dodge
past people on the street, pull off her headdress, and throw it into
mud. Both sets of relatives moved about in pandemonium, shouting,
Someone ran after her, but it wouldn't matter even if they caught her.
damage was done.
Spencer stood as if he'd been turned
into a statue, unsure
what he was feeling. Shouldn't it be relief, exaltation?
Everyone turned and looked at him,
mouths agape, and
a chill shuddered through him. He was used to creating scandal, and
making sure the nobility knew he was there.
But not this way. His gaze darted
frantically from person
to person, and soon they were whispering behind their hands. His own
started to laugh, and the ensuing uproar reverberated through him.
He'd forever be a laughingstock, an
object of ridicule--and
it was all Roselyn Harrington's fault.
He looked at his parents, whose
disappointment must be
even worse than his humiliation.
"Am I too late?" said a familiar voice.
"Just got into
town for the wedding of the year."
Spencer glanced aside to see his
brother Alex, lurching
up the church steps with a giggling, dressed-up doxy on his arm.
"She left," Spencer said, wondering if
his brother would
take satisfaction in the rejection. "There will be no wedding."
"But I wanted to meet her," Alex said
with an exaggerated
sigh. He slung his free arm around his brother. "Come on, Spence, let's
There's this tavern by the river..."
For the last time, Spencer looked down
the street where
his bride had disappeared, feeling the bitterness inside him freeze and
brittle. Then he turned and walked away.
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