Entranced by the Earl - Jillian Eaton

Chapter One

London Residence of the Earl of Hawkridge

September 1870

“What the devil are you doing in here?”

Evelyn Thorncroft, better known as Evie to her family and friends, did not flinch at the Earl of Hawkridge’s harsh tone. Instead, she tilted her head, arched a dark brow, and said, “I could ask you the same thing.”

“Me?” he said incredulously, slapping a hand on top of the carriage roof with such force that it startled the matching team of grays. With a snort, they began to prance nervously in place as the driver attempted to settle them. “This is my carriage.”

“You are welcome to use it, if you’d like.” Graciously sweeping her mauve skirts to the side, Evie patted the velvet upholstered seat beside her. “There is more than enough room for two.”

Last night, when they’d met at the Countess of Beresford’s ball, the earl’s eyes had been a cool, soft gray. A gray that had turned black as a storm cloud when Evie had revealed her name to him.

This morning, his gaze was hard as steel, and his freshly shaven jaw all but radiated with tension. He was absolutely furious to see her. But then, she’d suspected he would be. She’d even prepared herself for it, which was why she hadn’t jumped when he had wrenched the door open and glared at her with all the ferocity of a snarling bear.

All things considered, his anger was a compliment. After their waltz had abruptly ended with the earl stalking away, Evie had taken it upon herself to ask a few discreet questions about Weston, the Earl of Hawkridge.

She’d learned that he was outrageously wealthy. She’d learned that he was an adept equestrian. And she’d also learned that he was as notorious for his self-control as he was for his lack of emotion.

Cold as a glacier, one woman had said.

But handsome as sin, another had sighed.

Evie agreed with both opinions, although there was nothing the least bit cold about the fire burning in the earl’s eyes as he stared at her. She liked that her unexpected appearance had sparked such a volatile reaction. It revealed a crack, however slight, in all that armor.

And she was the one yielding the chisel.

“Get out,” Weston growled, jabbing a finger at the ground. “Now.”

“Are you inviting me inside for tea?” she asked brightly. “How splendid.”

A vein bulged in the middle of his temple. “I am not inviting you anywhere, Miss Thorncroft, except out of my sight. I do not know how you came to be in this carriage, and I do not care. But you will depart it immediately.”

“Do people do what you tell them?” she asked curiously.

“Unequivocally.”

Her lips curved. “Well, I pride myself on being the exception. If you’re not going to share the carriage with me, Lord Hawkridge, would you mind closing the door? There is a slight chill in the air, and I wouldn’t want to catch a sniffle.”

“Did your sister put you up to this?” he demanded.

Evie clucked her tongue. “Joanna is as much my sister as she is yours.”

Courtesy of the private detective that Joanna and Evie had hired to help them track down their mother’s stolen ring (their reason for coming to London in the first place), they’d discovered that Weston was Joanna’s half-brother. And that he was the one who had taken the ring. Or had it taken. The exact details were still a tad murky and it was all a tad confusing.

In short, Joanna was the result of a scandalous secret affair between Anne Thorncroft, Evie’s mother, and the Marquess of Dorchester, Weston’s father. The affair had been so secret that even Joanna hadn’t known who her real father was until the sisters followed the trail of the stolen ring all the way to London and everything had started to come to light.

Including the fact that Weston was their thief.

And he had no intention of returning what he’d taken.

“You and your sister can sod off all the way back to Boston because you’re not getting your greedy hands on my family’s ring ever again,” she believed had been his exact words when she’d asked if she could have the ring.

If his current thunderous expression was any indication, it didn’t seem as though a good night’s sleep had changed his mind any.

Pity, really.

For him, that was.

If Weston had been more agreeable, they could have handled things the easy way. The polite way. If there was anything Evie had learned during her time in England, it was that the British were exceedingly polite.

But