Follow Your Heart – Ruth Kaufman

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Wars of the Roses Brides Series Book 2

Unforeseen passion draws them together. Will his secrets tear them apart?

Joanna Peyntor has two uses for a man: to pose for a stained glass window design or to commission her skills. But when her brother conspires to ruin her reputation, she concedes to a third: a husband to help save her glass-painting workshop.

On a quest to redeem his family name and lands, Sir Adrian Bedford must marry without delay. But what woman he’d accept would wed an impoverished former nobleman who insists on an unusual stricture in their marriage contract? Joanna, a woman striving to succeed in a man’s world, agrees that discussions of a personal nature are prohibited.

When irresistible attraction makes their marriage of convenience inconvenient, will his dangerous secrets keep them from following their hearts?

 

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The arched door opened with a high-pitched creak. A stooped servant announced a visitor.

“Ah, yes. The glazenwright. Send her in.”

Excellent timing. Adrian could use the visitor’s arrival as an excuse to depart.

“Until next week, then.” Lady Anne clasped his hand between hers. He subdued the urge to pull free. “Please go out the back door.”

“The back door?” She had never asked this. And usually he offered at least two farewells before she stopped asking him to stay. Yet he couldn’t stop wondering what business Lady Anne had with a glass-painter. “Why are you so eager for me to leave?”

“I am not sure you should meet…”

Too late. The glazenwright entered the hall as Lady Anne reached around his neck to bring him down for a farewell kiss.

Avoiding her mouth, his lips met her parchment-dry cheek. He caught sight of the glazenwright. A woman glass-painter? Chagrin filled him as she stopped short, taking in the scene before her. She put a roll of documents on the table and pushed back the hood of her cloak.

Adrian straightened, his desire to leave evaporating despite the awkward situation. The glazenwright was beautiful, with a delicate oval face, high cheekbones and a small, straight nose. He knew he was staring, but didn’t want to stop. There was something compelling about this woman aside from her lovely face, which was all he could see. Her heavy, serviceable black cloak and headdress concealed the rest.

Her expression captured him. Not the simpering moue of court women, nor the lustful gleam of barmaids or the respectful, downcast eyes of servants. She radiated a quiet confidence he found enticing.

Their gazes met and locked. Hers conveyed curiosity and mayhap a challenge. He couldn’t tell if she recognized him or what she’d gleaned of his relationship with Lady Anne. Surely she’d be appalled if she knew. After a long moment, she looked away.

“My pardon, Lady Anne. Your servant bid me enter. I can wait or return another time,” she said.

Accustomed to Lady Anne’s shrill waver, Adrian absorbed the pleasant, soothing tone of the guest’s voice.

“No, no, now is fine,” Lady Anne replied, her hand sliding possessively down Adrian’s arm.

He stepped back abruptly to detach the clinging fingers. Lady Anne should know better. The servants might suspect something, but no one else needed to know. That wasn’t part of their arrangement.

Distancing himself from Lady Anne allowed him to return his attention to the glazenwright. She was staring at him again. If only he could see her hair…was it the same shade of red as her delicately curved eyebrows? He cursed the fashionable concealing headdresses of the day.

Her skin was fair and smooth, her lips delectable, a tempting rosy red. Her large eyes were green. Bright green. They pierced him with a keen alertness that made him wonder if she could see into his soul.

She must be intrepid as well as ambitious: a woman working as a glass-painter. He wanted to know more about her.

He wanted her.

If only he was like other men. But he couldn’t risk getting close to anyone. Because a secret encumbered him, so unfathomable it could destroy him and possibly anyone he cared for.

What would being free feel like? Being loved by a woman like her? Alas, he’d never know.

 *****

You can buy Follow Your Heart at any of the online bookstores listed below.

Purchase Link for At His Command - Historical Romance Version by Ruth Kaufman

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