The Missing Marquess of Althorn

By: Chasity Bowlin

The Lost Lords Book Three





Dedication




As always, to my wonderful husband for always being supportive and for telling me every day that I am loved and appreciated.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank Violetta Rand for reaching out to me about the wonderful opportunity with Dragonblade Publishing and I’d like thank Kathryn Le Veque at Dragonblade Publishing for taking a chance on me and Scott Moreland for tolerating my irregular spacing, inconsistent capitalization and spelling that sometimes looks like it belongs on a poorly-written ransom note.

Thank you all for helping me to produce books that I am incredibly proud of and that have renewed my faith in the publishing world.








It was an arranged marriage neither wanted… and a love neither one expected.



Betrothed to Marcus Balfour, the Marquess of Althorn, since infancy, the entirety of Miss Jane Barrett’s life has been planned for her by others. Through an overheard argument, Jane discovers at a very tender age that her betrothed is opposed to the match. The knowledge wounds her deeply and sews the first seeds of rebellion in her. Rather than marry her, the marquess joins the army but disappears in one of the war’s bloodiest battles. Jane is left in a state of limbo—betrothed to a man who never wanted her and who is most likely dead, but still not free to pursue love elsewhere.

Marcus’ objections to the marriage were less about the bride than the immorally young age of the bride at which their greedy and meddling fathers wished to force the match. While fighting for king and country, Marcus is confronted with the knowledge that there is a traitor in their midst, a man far closer to him than he might wish to admit. But he is captured, imprisoned, tortured, and left to rot for years until he can make his way back home to take up his rightful place as the Elsingham heir… and as a husband to Jane Barrett.

The years that have passed have eradicated any reservations about marriage to his betrothed, at least on his part. No man looking at her would ever mistake her for a child. More surprising is the attraction that he feels for her instantaneously and his determination to make her his, whatever the cost. It appears, however, that his bride to be will require some convincing.

As Marcus sets out to woo her, to prove that there is the possibility for something far more than a simple contract between them, danger lurks at every turn. The enemies who robbed him of years of his life by handing him over to the French is close at hand… and has their eye on Jane and her fortune, as well.





Prologue





London, 1806

Marcus Balfour, Marquess of Althorn and heir to the Duke of Elsingham, stared at his father in growing horror. His betrothal had always been a sore subject between them. The duke was from a different generation, a time when arranged marriages for the sake of furthering finances or social gain were the norm. He had never been able to understand Marcus’ reticence when it came to marrying the young woman he’d been affianced to while still too young to understand the meaning of the word marriage, much less the reasons for which it should be undertaken. Marcus hardly considered himself to be a romantic, yet the notion of marrying solely for the benefit of the family coffers left him cold and uneasy. That was bad enough, but what his father was asking now was beyond even that.

“I refuse,” Marcus stated firmly. His tone was emphatic. For once, when it came to the subject of Miss Jane Barrett, he intended to stand up for himself entirely. In this instance, it wasn’t only for himself but for her as well. At one and twenty, he was still far too young to be married. She was just shy of fourteen if he remembered correctly, and still looked very much like a child. The last time he’d seen her, only the summer before, she’d been playing with dolls. The very idea of marrying a girl so young turned his stomach. While there were men who would not balk at such a thing and who were, in fact, more attracted to younger girls and the younger the better, he was not one of them.

“You cannot refuse. Mr. Barrett and I have discussed it at length in letters! We both feel it has been delayed too long already!”

“How can it be delayed too long when the girl is not even out of the school room? She is too young to be married. For that matter, I am too young to be married!” Marcus demanded of his father. “You are wrong. Both of you are wrong. This is archaic and I will not be a part of it!”