All Rights Reserved
London, September 1819
Lady Charlotte Alistair nibbled her lower lip while her fingers clutched the delicate silk fan in an attempt to subdue her nerves. She had been sitting crossed legged on a plush settee for nearly fifteen minutes now, her deep green dress was creased and she had pulled her arms free from her gloves constricting envelope. Right now in the adjacent room just across the hallway, her father and three older brothers were discussing her fate. She bit an oath that was bubbling on her lips. It was her life God damn it, why can’t she have a say in it?
Five more minutes trickled by and Charlotte kicked off her silk slippers and untied the handsome velvet bonnet perched atop her head.
The next fifteen minutes saw Charlotte Alistair daughter of Lord Alistair, Earl of Markham plucking pins out of her hair, uncoiling the work of art her maid spent an afternoon shaping. Next she unfastened the emerald choker from her neck and diamond earrings hanging from her ears. Her unruly hair tumbled free down her nape dipping to the small of her back.
Striding toward the tall mirror standing at one end of the room Charlotte smiled at her reflection. Her hair was a mess of curls, her neck barren of any riches and her dress crinkled. Warm air caressed the bare skin of her arms lacking the protection of her gloves and her feet were poking beneath her dress. The shameless display of bare skin was ought to be enough to dishearten any civilized man. She looked like a mad shrew. Charlotte even gave her hair a ruffle or two for good measure. The curls were tossed like tangled ribbons haphazardly framing her face.
Surely the respectable Lord Sheffield would refuse to wed her now? After all, the Duke had quite a reputation to keep. His first wife was the very soul of feminine grace. Margaret Sheffield, bless her soul, never had a hair out of place, her gowns smooth and unwrinkled, her smile polite and warm and despite her uncommonly good looks, she never once dallied outside her marriage. Even if His Grace was a full feet shorter and thirty years older than she was.
Suddenly the door of the salon creaked opened and Charlotte caught sight of her oldest brother.
“Charlie.” Long casual strides brought Edwin in front of her, hand on his hips while his eyes darted up and down her figure. “Damn.” He muttered under his breath.
“Father warned you not to curse in front of me.”
“What have you done to yourself little minx?” Edwin long fingers swiped her abandoned gloves and thrust the silky bundle to her hand. “Quickly, put these on. Father wants to see you.”
Crumpling her gloves in her hand Charlotte looked up to meet her brothers silver grey eyes hoping to see some semblance of pity for her. Edwin’s gaze revealed nothing. Charlotte squared her shoulders and turned away, sinking her teeth into her lips to hide the tremble of panic. Edwin strode back to the door.
“And put some damned shoes on!” He barked before departing the room once more.
Compared to marrying the Duke, Charlotte would have preferred braving the hangman’s noose instead.
Oh lord, she was not marrying some old toad fifty years her senior! Even her papa was not that old. The duke was fitting enough to be her grandfather! Her horror brought her back to the settee she recently occupied. She could imagine it now, Lord Sheffield clasping a wrinkled bony hand atop of hers. A shiver went down her spine and Charlotte let out a whimper of despair.
As she wondered if she was doomed to a life of perpetual misfortune from then on, Charlotte heard muffled voices just beyond the door. Pressing her ear to the oak frame she recognized her father’s warm voice, Edwin’s clipped timbre and her two brothers: Oliver and Kendall’s merry and dulcet tones. Finally she heard the Duke’s wheezing cough that made her skin crawl.
From what she gathered from her eavesdropping, the men were in good moods. Edwin even proposed claret for a round of celebratory toast.
Charlotte hand flew to her throat. She was engaged to that old goat!
Wrenching the door open, Charlotte found herself facing the five men whose jolly conversation was cut short by her sudden brashness. Squaring her shoulders back Charlotte faced her three brothers, narrowing her eyes at their obvious betrayal. Then she moved to stare accusingly at her father. Even if she was shorter than he was, Charlotte held her head high and stuck her nose in the air giving Harold Alistair a look dripping with unsaid disappointment.
|Emily Blunt||as Charlotte Alistair|
|Henry Cavill||as William Hernshaw|
|Brandon Beemer||as Edwin Alistair|
|Drew Fuller||as Kendall Alistair|
|Ian Somerhalder||as Oliver Alistair|
|Santiago Cabrera||as Emerson Crawford|
|Olivia Wilde||as Lorelei Hernshaw|
|Richard Gere||as Harold Alistair|