To Love a Lord

By: Christi Caldwell

Chapter 1

Spring 1817

London, England


That terse one word utterance filled the otherwise quiet of Gabriel Edgerton, the Marquess of Waverly’s office.

His sister was handling this a good deal better than he imagined she would. Gabriel sat back in his seat. “Chloe,” he began, but wisely closed his mouth at the furious stare trained on him. He shifted with the slightest trace of guilt.

Chloe settled her palms on the edge of his desk. “I said nothing when you turned over the responsibility of chaperoning me to Alex.”

“He is your favorite brother,” he reminded her.

Her eyes narrowed. “That is neither here nor there.”

His lips twitched with involuntary amusement. He hardly blamed Chloe for favoring their brother, the once roguish, now wedded Lord Alex Edgerton. He’d long been the entertaining, charming brother. Not at all like Gabriel’s stodgy self, committed to his responsibilities. He pinched the bridge of his nose. “You need a companion.”

“No, I need a chaperone.” She gave him a pointed look until he shifted at the recrimination there.

“I have chaperoned you.”

She leaned forward. “You chaperoned Philippa.” His other, thankfully wedded, less difficult sibling. Or rather the only undifficult of all three of the Edgerton siblings. “Me, you eventually foisted off on Alex.”

“Of which you appreciated,” he felt inclined to point out.

Fire flashed in her eyes. “Not. One. Of. Mrs. Belden’s. Dragons.”

And this was what he had been anticipating. Gabriel scrubbed a hand over his eyes. He was glad Philippa was expecting her second child, he really was. Only after complications with her first pregnancy, Philippa wanted their mother at her side, which now left Gabriel to deal with his still unwed sister, Chloe. He made one last desperate bid at reasoning with her. “The woman will not be a chaperone. She will serve as a companion.” Who would also serve as a chaperone. The knowing glint in his sister’s eyes indicated she knew as much, too. He laid his hands down. “It is but for two months.”

“Two months?” Her brow shot up. “And then, pray tell, what happens at the end of the two months?”

Well, for one the Season would be over. But not nearly soon enough. He waved a hand about. “You’ll wed.”

“I’ll wed?”

Ah, so now the repeating back what he said business. This usually preceded the cool effrontery. He interlocked his fingers. “I expect you’ll be wed by the end of the Season.”

She narrowed her eyes. “You expect I’ll be wed by the end of the Season?” Her tone remained remarkably even.

Gabriel tugged at his cravat and eyed the sideboard littered with crystal decanters. His mouth went dry with a sudden need for a drink, craving the liquid fortitude. He’d long known the reservations carried by all his siblings about the bonds of matrimony. Knew because he shared them, too. Having grown up the secretly abused children of the powerful former Marquess of Waverly, they’d all learned the perils of trusting oneself to another. He squared his jaw. As the eldest of the Edgerton siblings, he’d had an obligation to protect, and yet had failed—abysmally. Himself included. That failure drove all his efforts to see his siblings happy.

Clearing his throat, he then shoved back his chair and stood. “I pledge to help guide you as I did Philippa,” he said walking over to the Chippendale sideboard. “You are now on your fourth Season and, as you are getting on in years, time is of the essence.” He reached for a decanter and snifter. “But rest assured, the gentleman I select will be a kind, caring, and honorable man.” Gabriel splashed several fingerfuls into the glass then downed a healthy swallow. He stared into the amber brew while swirling it in a slow circle.

Then, the absolute silence registered.

He turned around and nearly collided with his sister. A curse escaped him as he backed into the sideboard. “Bloody hell, you startled me.” The remaining contents of his glass spilled over the rim. God, she’d always possessed a remarkable talent of sneaking up on a person. Then, years of hiding from their brute of a father had ingrained certain unwanted, but certainly warranted, lessons into each of them.

His sister stood not even a foot away with her hands planted akimbo, her eyebrows knitted into a single, dangerous line. “Getting on in years?” she repeated back, drawing out each of those four words in a “you-are-in-deuced-trouble-tone” that would have made her the envy of any stern mama.

“Yes, but you’re rather focusing on the least important aspect of what I—”