Determined not to enter into a forced marriage, Julia could see no way out--unless she were to become a ruined woman! Notorious rake Paine Ramsden was reputed to have no qualms about seducing innocents, so maybe he would help with her...predicament.
Certainly, Paine deserved his rakish reputation, yet Julia was so achingly pure, one night with her might just ruin him! Awakening Julia's sensuality aroused unfamiliar feelings in him--was it too late to make them both respectable?
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April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady by Bronwyn Scott
She would not be sold like a prized mare at Tattersalls! Julia Prentiss's elegantly coiffed head swivelled in dis-belief between Uncle Barnaby and Mortimer Oswalt, the lecherous old cit who had come to offer for her. She could hardly countenance the conversation that flowed around her as if she were not standing in the centre of her uncle's study listening, nor had a mind of her own and was quite capable of speaking for herself.
'I would, of course, provide a handsome bride price for your niece. Say, fifteen thousand pounds.' Mortimer Oswalt spread his hands confidently over the purple expanse of his waistcoat, which gave him the appearance of an overripe grape. He leaned back in his chair, perusing Julia with his dissipated blue eyes, still bloodshot from a night on the town.
Fifteen thousand pounds! Julia fought back a surge of inappropriate comments. How dare he offer for her in the same manner one might offer for goods on the dock or at an auction house. The force of his vile gaze made her skin clammy. She could not bear to imagine how his hands would feel against her skin. But surely there was no sense conjuring nightmares that would not come to pass.
Julia turned her frantic gaze on Uncle Barnaby. Uncle Barnaby would certainly refuse the offer in spite of how advanced the talks had become. After all, Mortimer Oswalt was not from their circles. Her uncle was Viscount Lockhart, a noted politician in the House of Lords. Oswalt was merely a London merchant. A wealthy London merchant, to be sure, but still a merchant, regardless of the fact that his annual income was at least triple theirs. The Lockhart title might not be possessed of a fortune, but they were peers and peers did not marry cits.
'Fifteen thousand pounds, you say? That is quite generous, a very respectful offer. I am sure we can come to an agreeable accord.' Uncle Barnaby gave a resigned smile, carefully looking anywhere but at her.
Julia was dumbfounded. What had possessed him to sell her to this old man? She would have dug her toes into the carpet she stood upon if it had had any pile left on it with which to do so. It was time to speak up. This ridiculous notion--nay, this repulsive notion--had gone much too far for her liking. Julia summoned her best manners.
'I respectfully decline.'
Her voice was sufficiently loud to be heard. It cut across the two men's conversation. Incredulously, both men shot her quelling glances and continued their discussion.
'Five thousand pounds now and ten thousand after she is certified by my physician. I will have a draft drawn and deposited for you this afternoon. My physician will return to town in five days. We can do the necessary examinations then and I will write a second draft to you immediately upon his surety of her condition.' Oswalt was all brusque business in spite of the intimacies of his contract.
Julia blanched at his coarse requirements. She stared directly at her uncle and was gratified to see that he wavered over such terms, but only slightly.
'I can vouch for my niece's chastity. I assure you that such indelicate proceedings are not needed.' Uncle Barnaby coughed with embarrassment at such frank discussion.
Mortimer Oswalt shook his bald pate. 'I must insist. I have not made a fortune in business dealings without making absolutely sure of the quality of my investment. Let me remind you, I will be sixty in November. My first two wives were unable to give me the heir I required. My medical advisers confirm that whatever prior difficulties have occurred in that area, a virgin wife would overcome those concerns. I must have an heir quickly. My bride must be of virgin stock and must be quite capable of conceiving and birthing a child in short order.'He fixed Uncle Barnaby with an intimidating eye. 'I will pay the family an extra five thousand pounds upon the birth of my child.'
Julia watched in horrified fascination as her uncle capitulated to the bribe. Well, she was not dazzled so easily.
'I will not consider it!' She stamped her foot for emphasis, making sure the men could not ignore her a second time. 'Uncle, I cannot be married under duress. There are new laws. The Betrothal Act of 1823 allows people to marry out of free will.' It was a weak appeal and she knew it. Legislation was only enforced when one had an advocate or the means to acquire one. She had neither.
Uncle Barnaby opened his mouth to scold, but Oswalt raised a hand to stall his reprimand. 'Lockhart, allow me to explain it to her. She is to be my wife soon enough and must learn to take direction from her husband. Young women are a sheltered lot and must be tutored in the ways of the world.'
Julia fought the urge to cringe. It would be a cold day in hell before she took 'direction' or anything else from the lecherous likes of Mortimer Oswalt. She struck a defiant pose, disgusted that Uncle Barnaby demurred.