A Deceptive Wager (Marriage by Design #3) - Ruth Ann Nordin Page 0,1

it turns out, you were right. She will let no gentleman approach her bed. The only way you’re going to get twenty thousand pounds is from the dowry my father left my dear little sister.” He met his gaze. “Do you want the money or not?”

Aaron gritted his teeth. Had he known this was a trap, he never would have made the bet. He had underestimated how shrewd Lord Halloway was. “Give me the dowry without the shrew.”

He chuckled. “The two go together. If you want the money, you’ll have to marry her.”

Aaron wished he could get rid of the smug expression on Lord Halloway’s face, but he was too much of a gentleman to punch him. If there was one thing he endeavored to never do, it was resort to physical violence.

“I already told quite a few people in London about the marriage,” Lord Halloway said. “I’m sure some influential people in the Ton even know by now. You know how quickly people talk. If you were to be so cruel as to end the engagement, I’m not sure who will do business with you. Lord Cadwalader happens to be an acquaintance of mine.”

Aaron’s fingers curled into fists.

He lowered his gaze to Aaron’s hands. “I also speak with a few other prominent gentlemen on occasion.”

“You’re lying,” Aaron finally said. “You didn’t tell anyone that I was betrothed to your sister.”

“I could be lying, but do you want to take the chance? I know all about your father and how hard he struggled to keep both you and himself free from scandal.” He grinned. “It turns out your mother was quite willing to let gentlemen into her bed, which is so unlike Lady Richfield.”

He closed his eyes for a moment in order to rein in his anger. He was close to unleashing it.

“My sister is also different from your mother. My sister is a wallflower. No one notices her. She spends all of her time sitting in a room either reading or sewing. But despite how dull she is, she is pretty. Think of her as a decorative piece of furniture. You can sit her in a chair and let her be.”

Aaron opened his eyes. “I’m not amused.”

Lord Halloway snickered at him just as a light knock came at the door. “Ah, there is the little decorative ornament right now. I wondered what was keeping her.”

“You can’t mean to introduce us.”

“It’s only fair she meets the gentleman she’ll spend the rest of her life with.”

Lord Halloway shut the ledger then went to the door. He opened it and beckoned for the lady to step into the room. Her gaze darted from her brother to Aaron and back again. As her brother had said, she was pretty. Dark hair, a fair complexion, and a pleasant figure. She had an innocent face, but Aaron knew better than to fall for the shy young virgin ruse. While Lady Richfield detested activities of a personal nature with gentlemen, other ladies weren’t so resistant to them. And in Aaron’s experience, the more innocent a lady seemed to be, the deeper her secret engagements went.

“Kitty, this is Lord Northton,” her brother said as he cupped his hand under her elbow and led her over to Aaron. “He won the wager, and since you have the required sum of money in your dowry to pay it off, you are to marry him.”

Aaron was shocked her brother came out and told her why she was to marry him. He thought her brother would at least make up some lie in order to get her compliance, but by the tone in his voice, he wasn’t leaving room for argument. He was dictating she marry, and it was obvious he didn’t care how she felt about it.

The only indication Kitty gave that this news came as a shock was the way her eyes grew wide. She then glanced over at Aaron and then turned her gaze back to her brother.

“While I told other people about the marriage, I might have neglected to tell her,” Lord Halloway told Aaron before he gave a nonchalant shrug. “She knows now, and as it turns out, so do you.” He led her to Aaron’s side and then released her. “There. Once the vows are exchanged, the money will be transferred to your account.”

Lord Halloway turned to leave the room, and Aaron followed. “Do you really find this amusing?” Aaron demanded, not willing to let the gentleman get away with this sneaky ploy.

Lord Halloway paused