(Sisters Of Scandal)
Author: Lily Maxton
Rating: 5 Stars
Cold, arrogant, and demanding Lord Henry Eldridge, Marquess of Riverton, would never dally with a mere servant. But when Henry is injured in a horrible fire, his pretty housekeeper Cassandra nurses him back to health, throwing them together day and night. As he slowly heals from his burns, their friendship blossoms, and the class walls between them start to crumble. Cassandra is surprised by glimpses of a kind and thoughtful man beneath her employer’s hard façade—and even more surprised when she develops tender feelings for him. But anything between lord and servant is impossible...and besides, as a widow, she knows love only leads to heartbreak.
Henry is changing, as well. His close brush with death has opened his eyes to his self-imposed emotional isolation...and has urgently reminded him of his duty to marry a well-bred lady and produce an heir. Determined to do right by his family name, he immediately begins searching for a suitable bride. But Cassandra is the only woman who is never far from his mind or his heart. Contrary to everything he’s been taught to believe, he realizes his lovely housekeeper might just be his perfect match. Now, if only he could convince everyone else of that. Especially Cassandra... -Goodreads
The Improper Bride
by Lily Maxton
Copyright © 2016 by Lily Maxton. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
A tale to keep everyone behaving nicely as though they were children who needed to be told how to walk in a straight row. At least that was what Henry Eldridge, the Marquess of Riverton, had always assumed.
Eternal damnation was simply a myth.
Until he woke up one late autumn night because his ribs ached from coughing and saw orange flame surrounding him. His sleep-addled mind assumed the worst had happened—he’d died and gone straight to hell, which, unfortunately, wasn’t mythical, after all.
His first thought was that he really should have been on better terms with the local vicar. He barely knew the man, since he rarely attended worship. Perhaps he should have prayed once or twice. Perhaps he should have simply been better.
His second thought was accompanied by relief—he was sitting on his bed, in his bedchamber at Blakewood Hall—he wasn’t in hell, at all.
The relief lasted for about half a second before he realized what that meant. The flame enclosed him like a living wall. His heart began to race. He could barely breathe through the smoke, and he couldn’t see a way out. Heavy bedclothes tangled around his body from his fitful slumber, trapping him, weighing him down as his skin turned slick with sweat.
He grabbed a pillow and pushed it against his face. There, he could breathe a little. Not much, but enough to think.
His valet’s voice.
“Where the devil are you?” he choked out, his voice as raw as if he’d been screaming. “I can’t see a bloody thing.”
Except fire, hot and bright and writhing.
He could die. He could die here, in his bed, suffocating from smoke, flames eating his body. The thought spurred him into action.
As he tried to kick out from under the bedspread, a horrible creaking sounded above him. He glanced up, just in time to see a beam crash down from his four poster bed. He didn’t even have time to react. One instant he was awake and struggling to get free, the next instant, the burning wood swung toward him like something from a nightmare. It happened so fast he didn’t feel a thing. Not shock, not horror, not even pain.
One instant, consciousness.
The next, nothing at all.
The valet told the surgeon that the marquess had been struck on the head and rendered unconscious. The fiery beam had fallen on one side of his face, a spark from it alighting on his sleeve and setting his nightshirt ablaze. The servant had managed to drag the marquess from the bed before the flames consumed his whole body, but violent burns marred his arm and shoulder and half his face.
The surgeon arrived too late. The servants had managed, through sheer exertion and force of will, to blockade the fire and extinguish it, but Lord Riverton was stretched out in one of the undamaged guest chambers, lifeless.
Some of them were severe. The unpleasant scent of charred flesh wafted toward the surgeon, making him cover his nose.
He wasn’t surprised that Lord Riverton wasn’t breathing. Sometimes the shock of suffering such wounds was enough to kill. And this man was clearly dead. The valet had pressed his fingers against that still throat, had listened and felt for a sign of life. He would have sworn to its absence.
He turned away sadly, prepared to tell the servants and the handful of houseguests gathered outside that the worst had happened.
He took one step. And stopped as a great rattling breath sounded behind him. Slowly, he turned to look at the man on the bed. The marquess wasn’t conscious, but his chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm.
The surgeon didn’t know if anyone would believe him, but he was quite sure about this startling fact:
The Marquess of Riverton had just returned from the dead.
Lily Maxton grew up in the Midwest, reading, writing, and daydreaming amidst cornfields. After graduating with a degree in English, she decided to put her natural inclinations to good use and embark on a career as a writer.
When she’s not working on a new story, she likes to tour old houses, add to her tea stash, and think of reasons to avoid housework.