The Wedding Wager
A traditional Regency novella
To convince his trustees he is responsible enough to manage his estates, rakish Julian Ardleigh, Viscount Debenham, plans to marry his childhood friend, Harriet. Since her one disastrous London Season, she has lived quietly in the country breeding horses and has no wish to marry. When Julian persists, she challenges him to prove he can be faithful, but neither gambles on losing their hearts!
“Don’t worry,” said Harriet. “I’m not judging you. I’m sure none of your ladybirds has ever complained of how you treated them. But I’ll have you know I won’t marry a philanderer.”
“Oh, I would give all that up once we marry,” Julian promised.
She laughed at his blithe tone. “I know you. You can never resist a pretty face, or a well-turned ankle. You’ve said so yourself.”
“If I did, I was just joking. I could be faithful, if I needed to be. Give me credit for some resolution.”
“Not where most women are concerned. You wouldn’t last three months!”
“Oh yes I would.”
“No, you wouldn’t. You couldn’t.”
“I tell you I could.”
Harry had seen that stubborn look in Julian’s eyes before. Once he took a notion into his head, it was almost impossible to get it back out again. At least not by brute force. She had best think of something, or he would plague her about it for months.
“Very well, then,” she said. “I propose a wager.”
“A wager?” he asked, looking surprised.
“A wager. If you can refrain from so much as kissing another woman for the next three months, I will marry you.”
Julian stared at her for a few moments, then a broad smile blazed across his face as he answered, “I accept!”
“Wait,” she said, holding up her hand. “You haven’t heard my other conditions.”
“Well, what are they?”
“First, if you fail—”
“If you fail, I get Titania’s next foal.”
“That’s easy. ‘With all my worldly goods I thee endow’—isn’t that what the vows say? If I win, you get all my horses.”
The entrancing prospect of combining horse-breeding operations with Julian took temporary possession of Harry’s imagination. Then she mentally shook herself; of all the reasons for her and Julian to marry, it had to be the most insane.
Thinking quickly, she stated her remaining conditions. “You will go back to London next week as you planned, and continue all your usual social engagements during the Season. You will not tell anyone of our wager. No one must even suspect that you have offered for me.”
“That sounds fair. But how am I going to prove that I won if you’re not around to see it? I don’t want you to accuse me of cheating.”
“I would never do that. I know you wouldn’t lie to me. Just come and visit us once a week—say, every Tuesday—and tell me how you are faring.”
“Very well, I accept the wager,” he said. “We will be married by the end of June. You had best start ordering your bride’s clothes!”
She shook her head, smiling. “My dear friend, you don’t stand a chance.”
Winner, National Readers’ Choice Award for Best Novella
A Romantic Times Top Pick! (His Blushing Bride)
Reviews for the anthology His Blushing Bride
“There is nothing quite like a cozy Regency read, and this charming anthology with three first-rate tales is one to savor with enthusiasm.” (4 1/2 stars) — RT Book Reviews
“’Tis the season for weddings and His Blushing Bride offers readers three charming stories of romance and happily-ever-after. Each tale is delightfully different, but all are well-written, with refreshingly original plots and intriguing characters. For an entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable celebration of love and marriage, I recommend His Blushing Bride.” — Susan Lantz, Romance Reviews Today
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