A Lord’s Scandalous Bet (Preview)

Chapter One

“Lady Genevieve Westbrook,” she said with a shy smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” 

Her heart throbbed steadily, its rhythm in her throat, and she let her breath out slowly. It’s all right, Genevieve. You’re doing fine. 

“Lady Margaret Winthrope,” the young woman replied. Her green eyes shone with eagerness, and her words poured out like water. “And this is Lady Victoria Radcliff, Lady Penelope Channing, and Lady Elizabeth Beaufort. We’ve simply been dying to meet you!”

“Oh?”

Genevieve let her gaze rove across the excitable faces before her, her fan hovering just in front of her face. She’d been so nervous walking into the ball that she felt sick to her stomach, and having a gaggle of giggles surrounding her didn’t seem to help at all. They seemed friendly enough and were certainly beautiful and bright, but her anxiety threatened to overwhelm her. This was so different from anything she had experienced before. Though her father’s advisors had offered her tidbits of advice, nothing could have fully prepared her for a true society ball. 

“Oh yes,” Lady Victoria replied. “Why, you and your father have been the talk of London since you arrived. We’ve all been so impatient for the beginning of the season so that we would finally have the opportunity to meet you.”

Oh dear! That’s a sure sign I’m going to disappoint everyone. 

“It’s not often we get fresh blood,” Lady Elizabeth said, the least excited of them. “It seems as if everyone pounces whenever there is a new face.”

“With a new story to tell,” Lady Penelope added. 

Genevieve noticed their eyes drift to the ugly scar that marred her cheek, and she raised her fan a little higher. Even without such a disfigurement, she would have been nervous, but with it, she was positively terrified. This ballroom cupped beauty in its hand, the most attractive and wealthiest people of London mixing together. Still, these particular young ladies seemed sweet enough, even in their eagerness to know more about her. She inhaled deeply and reminded herself that not everyone was a bad egg, as her mother used to say. 

“I’m not sure I have many stories to tell,” Genevieve said.

“But you grew up in Africa, didn’t you?” Lady Margaret said. 

All four women were wide of eye and leaning in close as if Genevieve really were a fascinating specimen indeed. She fanned herself, hoping to cool her reddening cheeks.  Making friends that evening was imperative, and these ladies seemed as good as any, but part of Genevieve longed for her much-loved African plains and the home in which she’d loved her now-passed mother. 

“Well, yes,” she said, offering them a smile. “But it was normal to me, you see. I suppose—”

“Did you ever see a lion?” Lady Victoria asked. 

“Or a giraffe?” Lady Penelope added. 

“And are the people really savages?” Lady Victoria said. 

“I … oh.” Genevieve giggled, looking down at her feet for the briefest of moments. She had expected to be questioned, but this was a positive onslaught. “Yes, I have seen many of the wild animals of Africa. My mother did love to go on a safari before she was taken from us.”

Lady Victoria gasped and leaned in even closer. “Was it the savages?” she asked in a tight whisper. 

“What? Goodness, no!” Genevieve shook her head. “There are no savages, as you put it. The people of Africa are among the friendliest, kindest, most civilized people I have ever met. No, my mother died of apoplexy when I was but 12 years old.”

Lady Margaret laid a hand on her forearm. “We are so sorry about your mother, dear Lady Genevieve,” she said. “It’s terrible to lose a parent so young. I should know. My own mother died when birthing my little brother some six years ago.”

“That’s terrible,” Lady Genevieve said. “I am very sorry for your loss, also.” 

She indeed felt pity for Lady Margaret and her poor mother, but she also couldn’t help feeling some new level of closeness to this stranger. They’d had wildly different upbringings and yet had such similar experiences. They were, in a way, kindred spirits, and Genevieve already liked Lady Margaret very much indeed. 

“And as for Lady Victoria’s obsession with savages, don’t listen to her. The cheap novels she reads have made her somewhat ignorant of the world.” Lady Margaret gave her friend a warning look, to which Lady Victoria raised her hands. 

“How am I to know what the people of Africa are like?” she cried in defence. “I’ve barely been out of England, let out farther than Europe!”

“Well, now we have a new friend who can tell us all about it,” Lady Penelope said with a grin. 

New friend. Despite herself, the word sent a shiver of hope through Genevieve. She didn’t think she’d find a single friend in the entire season, yet here she was, at the very first ball. Indeed, in the very first hour of the first ball, she had—possibly—made four friends! 

But don’t ruin it by being too peculiar, she reminded herself. 

“Have you ever lived in England?” Lady Elizabeth asked. “Or is this really entirely new to you?”

“No, not until this year. My father was a tradesman, and he moved to Africa with my mother before I was born, you see. And it’s here, now, that is unusual for me, not Africa.”

“How I would dearly love to visit Africa,” Lady Penelope said, fanning herself as if swooning over a handsome young gentleman. “Just to experience something so … so exotic. Is it very different from England?”

“Really quite different, yes,” Genevieve replied. “I must admit, I’m still getting used to the English ways.”

To her surprise, Lady Margaret slipped her arm into hers and hugged her close. “Worry not, My Lady,” she said. “We’re your friends now. We’ll teach you everything you need to know!”

The tension to which Genevieve had been clinging washed from her body in an instant, and she knew at that moment that she and Lady Margaret, at least, would become the firmest of friends. Having only arrived in England six months previously, it was just what she needed. 

At nineteen, her father had somewhat suddenly inherited her uncle’s wealth—and his title, Earl of Hastings. Genevieve had always known her family had come from wealth, of course, but she had never quite realized they were part of the nobility. Not until barely a year ago when her father sprung the news upon her that they were moving to England so that he could take up his position in the House of Lords. 

He had sold it to her as an adventure, a chance to meet new people and experience new things. But Genevieve had never been much of an adventurer, having never caught hold of that pioneering spirit that had so captivated her parents. She preferred homely things, such as reading by a roaring fire, her legs curled beneath her, or embroidery while sitting on the rocking chair on the porch as the sun went down, spreading its reds and purples across the sky like a painting. 

Learning, too. Genevieve soaked up knowledge wherever she could, talking for hours on end with anyone who was an expert in their field. With Lady Margaret’s offer to teach her everything about England and the ton, she felt renewed excitement. Perhaps there was something to enjoy here, after all. 

“Is the ton very treacherous?” she asked as the group slowly made their way across the room as if by silent agreement. “I heard my father talking about navigating the waters as though one might encounter a shark.”

Lady Penelope giggled. “There is certainly a shark or two here,” she said. She nodded to a young man with narrowed eyes, scanning the room as if looking for a victim. 

“Lord Kensington,” Lady Margaret said, leaning in close to whisper, “He inherited his title when he was barely eighteen, and he lost all his family’s wealth in a matter of weeks. A gambler, they say.”

“And now he’s looking for a wealthy young lady to marry, simply to rejuvenate his coffers,” Lady Penelope added. 

“Don’t dance with him if you can possibly avoid it,” Lady Margaret continued. “Not only is he a gambler and only after one thing, but he’s a terminable bore.”

“Understood,” Genevieve said. “You’d think he would have honed his charm skills given his goal.”

To Genevieve’s delight, the other ladies erupted into giggles. 

“Oh, Lady Genevieve, you are funny!”

Genvieve grinned, feeling as though she was finally beginning to settle in. “Please, call me Gen. I mean, if we’re friends, is there any need for formality?”

“That is your African upbringing showing,” Lady Elizabeth said. “We’d never usually drop formalities so early on … but I love it! Call me Lizzy.”

The other ladies followed suit, their chattering excitement making Genevieve stand a little taller and straighter. Perhaps being different isn’t such a handicap, after all. 

“Oh, look! There’s another shark,” Victoria said. 

Lizzy feigned a rather exaggerated shudder. “If I never have to speak to her again, it’ll be too soon.”

“Who is she?” Genevieve asked, following their line of sight. 

“Lady Cordelia,” Margaret explained. She held the fingertips of her gloves as she watched the woman in question speaking over her shoulder to Genevieve. “Daughter of the Duke of Pembroke and a princess indeed! That is one friend you do not need in your life, Gen.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Genevieve asked. 

The young woman looked sweet enough. Her hair was golden, and her lips a red so stark she was certain they were stained. Her eyes glittered, and the sharpness of her features gave her something of a handsome look. She was, likewise, dressed impeccably, her scarlet silk gown attracting the attention of every gentleman who walked past. 

“There’s nothing wrong with her, per se,” Lady Penelope said. “But she is out for herself and will do whatever it takes to get what she wants.”

“And what she wants is Viscount Stirling,” Lizzy added. 

“Viscount Stirling?” Genevieve asked, eyebrows raised. 

“You’ll meet him soon enough, I’m certain,” Margaret said. “He has a habit of attaching himself to new faces.”

“Another reason to watch out for Lady Cordelia,” Victoria said. 

“Goodness!” Genevieve shook her head, looking around at all the people in the ballroom. There were so many of them, and each seemed to be in a small group. So much to learn and discover. Though her heart bubbled with excitement, her anxiety had returned, and she wondered whether she would ever get to grips with all these names and faces. “Is there anyone worth knowing here? It seems everyone is either a brute, thief, or fop!”

Lizzy giggled. “Why, us, of course!”

Margaret tutted, giving Lizzy a friendly pat on the shoulder. “Yes, there’s us, but some other people are friendly.”

“It’s simply less interesting to discuss those people,” Penelope said with a snort. 

“Don’t worry about a thing,” Victoria reiterated. “We’re here to help guide you.”

“Ladies,” Lizzy said, looking out across the ballroom. “Have you seen who has just arrived?”

At the far end of the ballroom, a young man leaned nonchalantly against the wall, his sandy hair flopping down over his face. He watched the room, looking out from beneath his brows and the hair that got in the way. He was tall and lean but with a singular presence, his hands thrust ungentlemanly into his pockets. 

Genevieve’s attention was snatched from the room to him, who seemed to her like a beacon in a sea of gray. Her lips dropped open, and she could not help staring. Something about this man had captured her, and heat washed over her. It was nothing she’d ever experienced before, yet she felt oddly drawn to him, as if she needed to know more about him, her body screaming for his attention. 

“Who … who is he?” she managed to ask, not quite able to pull her eyes away from him. 

“Lord Phillip Harrison, older brother to Lady Cordelia,” Lizzy explained. “Handsome, isn’t he?”

Handsome indeed. Her cheeks flushed, and her chest matched. She licked her lips, her eyes drawn to his knee, bent so he could rest his foot against the wall and the thigh above it. Good Lord, what a thigh! Her gaze roved over his body, Genevieve quite unable to stop it. Something peculiar was happening inside her, too, like a ball of something was growing, not quite anxiety and not quite curiosity. Need, she realized. Want. She swallowed and forced herself to look away. 

“I should imagine he’s been told to attend by that sister of his,” Penelope said, looking down her nose at him. “He’s not one you really want to talk with, either.”

Oh, but I do.

“Don’t be so harsh,” Victoria said. “He’s mending his ways.”

“Indeed, plenty of ladies want to talk with him,” Margaret added. 

With thighs like that, I’m not at all surprised.

Genevieve’s hand fluttered around her neck, and she blew cool air up her face. She hoped—prayed—that her newfound wanton desire was not clear upon her expression, especially seeing as though she had no idea where it had come from. It was true that the man was handsome, and there was something in the way he seemed entirely uninterested in his surroundings, but surely that was not enough to engender such a visceral reaction within her. 

“What do you mean, mending his ways?” she asked, her gaze solidly upon him again. Perhaps this was the type of gentleman her father had warned her about, which made him all the more appealing for some reason. 

“He has second-son syndrome,” Lizzy explained. 

Genevieve turned to her, confused. 

“His brother will inherit the title and the lands,” Margaret explained. “And so he received the bulk of their parents’ attention. Lord Phillip, meanwhile, was left somewhat to his own devices and—”

“And he made very good use of that time,” Penelope finished for her. 

“A rake?” Genevieve asked with a single raised eyebrow. She’d heard her father use the word on more than one occasion and relished her opportunity to show what she had learned. Rakes were not much of a concern to them in Africa. 

Victoria nodded. “And they say he’s made a fair few bad investments. Almost lost the family fortune.”

“Like Lord Kensington, then?”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Lizzy said. “At least something is endearing about Lord Phillip.”

“Something charming,” Margaret added. 

“He struggles to fit in, that’s all,” Victoria explained. “And he really is trying to be a better man, or so I’m told.”

“Perhaps,” Penelope replied, her lips pursed. “Though you, Victoria, are particularly partial to a bad boy turned good, aren’t you?”

“There’s nothing wrong with helping people reform, Penelope dear.”

“And, of course, it’s reformation on your mind,” Penelope teased. 

Genevieve ignored their jousting and looked at him again. The pounding of her heart drowned out their words, and she brushed a fingertip over her lip. How dearly she would have liked to go and speak to him, to be near him. Her body called out to him, and she was barely able to control the pull of him. 

But he will never like me

Her finger moved from her lip to the sunken, silvery scar that stretched from her chin to the corner of her eye, then she quickly turned away. Genevieve Westbrook had long accepted that no man would ever love her. She was neither pretty enough nor good enough. No, she would ignore him and pretend she had never laid eyes upon him. 

At least, she would after just one more glance. And this time when she looked at him, he raised his head, and their eyes met. 

Chapter Two

“But I don’t want to go to this silly ball,” Phillip said, watching his sister check her reflection in the carriage window. She seemed always to be preening herself.  

“The sooner you realize that life is not about what you want, the better,” she said, running a finger around her lips as if to plump them. 

“Nobody here likes me,” he said, pouting at her. The carriage had stopped outside Berisham Hall nearly fifteen minutes previously, but Phillip was reluctant to get out, and Cordelia insisted he did. 

She rolled her eyes, turning to look at him. “Nobody here likes anybody, Phillip. It’s not about popularity. It’s about doing the right thing and being known amongst the ton. Besides, they don’t know you, do they? You have hardly allowed anyone to get to know you at all.”

Phillip merely grunted in reply, causing Cordelia to huff. She knocked on the carriage’s roof, signalling to the footman her readiness to dismount. 

“Honestly, Philly,” she said as the door opened and the cool night air rushed in. “You’re behaving like a child and not like the big brother you are meant to be! You wanted my help in being accepted, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” he muttered, reluctance coursing through his veins. He could see people milling around at the entrance through the open door. Too many people and all seeming far too smug. This was not his favourite environment at all. 

“Then do as I say,” she said. “Attending the season is an absolute must.” She took the footman’s hand, and he helped her climb down the metal steps. As soon as her feet touched the gravel, she straightened and inhaled deeply as if breathing in the very air of opulence. 

“Yes, Cordelia,” Phillip replied blandly. He dutifully followed her out of the carriage, though he held himself back. 

“And the first of the season is no joke,” she continued. “If you’re not there, you might as well not attend the rest of the season. I worked hard to ensure Lord Berisham’s invitation extended to you as well. I hope you realize that.”

“I do, and I appreciate it. I suppose I am just a little anxious, that’s all.”

“Well, there’s no need to be. You have me!”

She grinned and spun on the balls of her feet, the sound of the gravel beneath grating on him. She marched away, her shoulders straight and her head high with about as much pride as anyone could muster. Phillip sighed. She was right, of course. He knew that, as much as he hated to admit it. And he had indeed asked for her help. She was, after all, a society darling and knew just how to work the ton in her favour. He’d always rather admired her for that. He only wished he could have her confidence in this arena. 

At the age of eight-and-twenty, Lord Phillip Harrison, second son of the Duke of Pembroke, had made a right royal mess of his life. He’d been given all the freedom he wanted—far too much, in his opinion—and he’d made mistake after mistake after mistake. He’d been left unguided and untethered, and all he had achieved in his short adult years was to become a complete disappointment to his father.

When the duke threatened to disown him for his ways, Phillip had gone to his sister, Cordelia. She relished the fact that her older brother was going to her for help, but he needed it. The truth was, he still did. 

“Nobody ever talks to me at these things,” he moaned, jogging to catch up to her. 

That wasn’t strictly true. At every ball he’d attended, he’d been flushed with attention from excitable young ladies, all looking for a little danger before settling down into real marriage. But what they didn’t realize was that he wasn’t like that! Indeed, he never had been. Naturally, there had been a lady or two in his past, but that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted love, truth be told. He wanted a family. But he couldn’t have any of that while he was the disappointment of the century. He really did need to prove himself a reformed character. 

Cordelia kept her head forward as she marched, not deigning to turn to him, though she did, at least, answer him. “And do you ever talk to other people?” she asked. He shrugged. “I don’t know what to say nor who to say it to.”

“You must put the effort in, though, Phil. You are the unknown entity, the one with a reputation. Of course they’re not approaching you! You need to show them you’ve changed.”

“I’m trying, Cordelia. I really am.”

She turned and threw him a rare, warm smile. “I know you are. I wouldn’t be helping you otherwise! Now, come along; we don’t want to be the last to enter!”

***

He’d been at the ball barely thirty minutes before he noticed her. He watched proceedings carefully. It was the same old people, doing the same old things, making the same old conversation. He wondered how they didn’t get entirely bored of their lives. Or perhaps they did and were better at hiding it than he. 

The new lady, though, there was something about her. He watched as Lady Margaret made herself a friend—something Lady Margaret was wont to do. She had something of a reputation for taking the new and the vulnerable under her wing, and Phillip found it admirable. Perhaps, secretly, he even wished she would take him under her wing. She was, after all, significantly softer and more attractive than his sister. 

“Don’t do anything silly, Phillip,” his sister warned him, reminding him of her presence at his side. 

“What? Of course not.”

She eyed him seriously. “I’m going to find Lord Stirling. He will surely want to put his name on my dance card—perhaps even twice. Be good, but don’t be boring.”

She kissed the tips of her gloved fingers, then pressed her hand to his cheek before disappearing into the crowd. Phillip couldn’t deny his relief. Attending a society ball was one thing, but having his sister there for every second of it was quite another. He took up his usual position against a forgotten wall somewhere, hoping he, too, would be forgotten.

Where did she go?

He searched the crowd until he saw her again. Indeed, the newcomer fascinated him, whoever she may be. Perhaps it was because she was someone new, someone he didn’t know, but there was something else to it. She stood back from the crowd, drinking it all in rather than getting involved. He had the sense that she, like him, was something of an outsider. He wondered what was different about her, why she didn’t fit in. Surely it could not be a poor reputation such as his. 

He watched for a long while, his eyes moving beneath his brow. He couldn’t stop. Every time he tried to look away and engage himself in something else, his gaze pulled back to her as a magnet. And every time he looked at her again, he felt that same bolt of something within him. Desire. To his surprise, he wanted to talk with her, to know her. 

She was almost a head shorter than the other ladies in her gaggle, and her frame was slim beneath the loose, empire-line gown that the ladies seemed to favour. Her hair, the colour of midnight, had been perfectly placed around her face, the style clearly designed to cover the scar that ran down her cheek. 

That, too, is fascinating. 

He stared at it for a long while, enjoying being able to watch her without her knowing. He suspected she hated that scar, though, to him, it added character. It was somehow endearing. He wished he could touch it and ask her about it. 

When the ladies spotted him, Phillip froze, not daring to move for fear they’d know he’d been watching them. He could already imagine their conversation—how useless he was, how much of a let-down he had been to his family. They were no doubt warning the newcomer to stay away from him. 

He raised his foot, letting it rest against the wall, feeling the pull in his thigh muscle. It was her eyes that truly caught him. The colour of the sky in spring, though shot through with shards of ice and the glitter of a snowy morning, pierced him even from this distance. 

She was indeed beautiful. He chewed his bottom lip, relishing the sensation of her eyes upon him, for he had noticed. She watched him as much as he watched her. Though strangers, there was something tangible between them, something ethereal. Finally, he raised his head, meeting her gaze, silently telling her I see you, too. 

Their eyes locked, and all the breath went out of him. What it would be to know such a woman, at once beautiful and intriguing. His lips fell open as he imagined them kissing her on her mouth, cheek, and neck. 

“Who are you staring at?” 

Phillip jumped at his sister’s cold voice and spun around, clearing his throat; all heat vanished from him in an instant. 

“What do you mean? I’m not staring at anyone.”

Cordelia looked out across the ballroom, her brow furrowed. She didn’t believe him, but he didn’t much care. 

“If you say so,” she said eventually. “I’m surprised you’re still here.”

He started, his eyes wide. “What do you mean? You said it was vital I attended.”

“Oh yes.” She giggled and waved a dismissive hand in the air. “But you’ve shown your face now. You can leave any time you like.”


“A Lord’s Scandalous Bet” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Lady Genevieve’s entrance into high society is not merely defined by her elegance and grace; it is shrouded in the mystery of a scar from her past in Africa. Newly arrived in England, and unaware of the rumors surrounding his name, she instantly falls for the wicked Lord Philip. Soon, Genevieve’s heart is caught in the tumultuous conflict between her irresistible attraction to him and the allure of a safer courtship offered by the honorable Lord Stirling.

Will she choose safety over passion?

Lord Philip made several bad investments, losing his father far too much money. Haunted by his troubled past and with a scheming sister trying to set him up, he decides to turn his life around and prove himself capable of being a lord. When he lays eyes on Genevieve, he finds himself irresistibly drawn to her captivating beauty and fiery spirit. Yet, as Cordelia’s sinister plans unravel and secrets come to light, Phillip must confront the consequences of his actions and the true depths of his affection for Genevieve.

Will he risk everything to protect the woman who has ignited a flame in his guarded heart?

As Lady Genevieve and Lord Philip’s passionate love deepens, their affair is threatened by the ominous schemes of his sister. When Cordelia finds the man of her dreams dancing with Lady Genevieve, she vows revenge. Will Genevieve and Philip confront Cordelia head-on or will they risk losing everything they hold dear?

“A Lord’s Scandalous Bet” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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