For as long as she can remember, Lady Adriana Sutton has adored Colton Wyndham, to whom she has been betrothed since childhood. But Colton was too proud to submit to a future not of his own choosing, and he fled his ancestral home for a life of adventure as a British army officer.
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March 18, 2003
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Excerpt from The Reluctant Suitor by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Wiltshire countryside, England
Northeast of Bath and Bradford on Avon
September 5, 1815
Lady Adriana Sutton whirled through the gracefully arched portico of Randwulf Manor, spilling effervescent laughter over her shoulder as she deftly avoided the reaching hand of an eager young swain. In copying her lead, he had jumped down from his mount and raced after her in his zeal to catch her before she could dash up the stone steps and escape into the Jacobean mansion of her family's closest neighbors and friends. At her approach, the massive door was drawn open and, with quiet dignity, a tall, thin, elderly butler stepped aside to await her entrance.
"Oh, Harrison, you're positively a dear," Adriana warbled cheerily as she flitted through the spacious vestibule. Safely ensconcing herself in the hall beyond the steward, she spun about and struck a playfully triumphant pose for the benefit of her pursuer who came to a teetering halt at the threshold, causing her to lift a brow in curious wonder. As zealously as Roger Elston had dogged her heels in his nearly year-long quest to claim her for his very own, even intruding when not invited, it seemed as if his dread of the late Lord Sedgwick Wyndham, the sixth Marquess of Randwulf, had actually intensified rather than abated in the months following the nobleman's death.
If there had been occasions when Lord Sedgwick had grown exasperated by the apprentice's impromptu visits, it certainly hadn't been the elder's fault, for Roger had seemed unusually tenacious in his endeavor to win her hand, as if that had been even remotely possible. His gall had reached amazing limits. Whenever formal invitations had been extended to select groups or close friends were enjoying private dinners with the Wyndhams or her own family, as long as she had been a participant, her single-minded admirer would present himself on some pretext or another, if only to speak with her for a moment or two. It made her rue the day she had ever yielded to his first unannounced visit to her own home at Wakefield Manor. Even after his audacious proposal of marriage, which her father had answered forthrightly by explaining that she was already committed, Roger had continued to chase her hither and yon.