Married to the Viscount

By: Sabrina Jeffries

Prologue





Philadelphia

Early December 1821

Spencer Law, the fifth Viscount Ravenswood, drained yet another redware mug of hard cider. It didn’t help. He could still remember what he’d come to the noisy American tavern with his younger brother to forget.

He was going back to England in the morning. Back to the disordered Parliament and disgruntled populace. Back to his demanding duties as undersecretary to the Home Office in his country’s time of turmoil. The weight of his responsibilities, which had miraculously eased during his sojourn in America, already began settling heavily upon his shoulders again.

What he needed was more hard cider.

When he called for it, a laugh erupted from Nat, who lounged on a wooden bench across the table from him. “Perhaps you should slow down, old fellow. You’re getting foxed.”



“That’s the general idea.”

“The great Ravenswood drowning his sorrows in strong drink? Astonishing! Usually you’re too busy running England to overindulge. And too dignified.” Nat planted his elbows on the sturdy oak table. “Though I must admit you haven’t been yourself since we arrived two weeks ago.” He cocked his head to examine his brother. “It’s Dr. Mercer’s daughter, isn’t it? She’s the one making you act so strangely.”

Spencer barely mustered one of his steely-eyed glances. “Don’t be absurd.”

But just that quickly his mind conjured up the image of Abigail Mercer, whom her father called “my wild rose.” A fitting appellation for a woman with leaf-green eyes and petal-soft golden skin and a glorious scarlet bud of a mouth…

“You hummed an aria for her yesterday,” Nat pointed out.

“I told her about seeing The Marriage of Figaro this year, and she wanted to hear some of it. What’s your point?”

“I’ve never heard you hum anything in your life.”

“I never had occasion to do so.”

“You never felt the urge to do so,” Nat said dryly. “Until you met Miss Mercer, that is. Now you spend all your time conversing with a pretty colonial lass—”

“What else is there to do while you discuss business with her ailing father?” Spencer stared down into his empty mug.

“True. And she does seem easy to talk to.”

Exactly. Easy to talk to and artless and utterly American. Unlike all those English misses raised to worship a title and an estate, Miss Mercer treated him as if he were her equal in station.

The woman even had the audacity to tease him whenever he grew too serious. No Englishwoman had ever done that. They were too aware of his position—or too cowed by his sober manner—to be at ease in his presence.

Nor did Englishwomen debate him about politics and such. But Miss Mercer plunged right into every argument with all the fervent optimism of her fellow countrymen. It was maddening.

It was fascinating.

“Mind you,” Nat went on, “I’m delighted that you and Miss Mercer are friendly. It can’t help but soften her father toward my proposal.” He steadied his shoulders. “And speaking of that, have you thought any more about advancing me those funds?”

Since his own mug was empty, Spencer reached across to steal his brother’s. He wasn’t foxed enough yet to deal with this. “You mean, so you can pursue your foolish plan to become a partner in Dr. Mercer’s enterprise?”

“It’s not foolish,” Nat protested. “I know you had reservations about the Mercer Medicinal Company, but you’ve seen the doctor’s records on how well his tonic sold seven years ago—you must admit the numbers are phenomenal. If he hadn’t taken ill, he’d be rich by now instead of hounded by creditors. All he needs is someone like me to rejuvenate the company while he’s incapacitated.”

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