Lover Be Mine A Legendary Lovers Novel - By Nicole Jordan

London, June 1816

Her beauty held an uncommon allure, much to his regret.

Swearing an amused oath at himself, Lord Jack Wilde surveyed his quarry from across the dimly lit garden. Despite his better judgment and his instincts for self-preservation, he’d walked headlong into the matchmaking trap laid by his female relatives. He’d planned to inspect the young lady in question and then leave without a backward glance, but Sophie Fortin had thoroughly captured his interest.

Jack let out a slow breath as he watched the captivating Miss Fortin execute the lively movements of a contra dance. There was considerably more lurking under her surface than mere beauty. She had an enchanting smile, an intensely feminine grace, and a delectable body that set all his primal male urges on full alert.

He wanted her, without question. Even worse, he was seized by a need to know much more about her.

Schooling his lustful thoughts, Jack pondered his options while recalling his cousin Skye’s ardent prediction:

“Miss Fortin is not the grasping husband-hunter you seem to think her, Jack. And she certainly is no spineless ninny either—which you will discover for yourself if you ever deign to meet her. You will like her prodigiously, I swear it.”

He had yet to contrive an introduction to Sophie Fortin tonight, or even approach her. Indeed, because of the long-standing feud between their families, he’d had to employ subterfuge simply to attend the masquerade ball hosted by her great-aunt.

Sneaking behind enemy lines in disguise seemed a craven way of investigating a prospective mate, Jack reflected with dark humor. Yet here he stood, garbed as a swashbuckling pirate, contemplating a path that could seriously endanger his bachelorhood.

Clearly he’d been struck by a brain fever. Or bewitched by a spell.

The current setting argued for bewitchment. The gardens of her aunt’s London residence had been converted to an open-air ballroom, faintly illuminated by colored lanterns. Undeniably, Sophie Fortin stood out among the crowd of costumed dancers like a diamond among lumps of coal.

Jack couldn’t keep his eyes off her, in no small part because she seemed a profusion of contradictions.

For her costume, she wore a glittering tiara and the gossamer, flowing gown of a royal princess, yet her grace and loveliness had little to do with her attire. Her hair was an ordinary shade of dark brown, but the lustrous, curling tendrils piled high on her head had a life all their own. A demi-mask concealed her eyes but not the delicacy of her face or the sensuality of her mouth.

Miss Fortin was just as comely as advertised, but with none of the cold remoteness he’d expected. Instead, she had life, vitality, warmth.

That, and a generous, kind smile.

He hadn’t anticipated the vibrancy, much less the kindness or warmth. From what he knew about her, he’d imagined either a submissive young miss or a calculating social climber. Why else would she allow herself to be sold to a widower more than twice her age for the price of a dukedom?

Observing her, Jack wondered how he had possibly overlooked her among this season’s insipid crop of debutantes. And why the devil did she have such a powerful effect on his senses? He’d known a number of striking beauties in his time, and bedded more than a few of them. It was rare that a woman could attract him so strongly at first glance, certainly not a green girl only a few years out of the schoolroom.

And he most definitely was not in the market for a wife of any age. But he’d agreed under duress to arrange a meeting with Miss Fortin.

For that he could only blame the tenacity of his adopted sister, Katharine, and his youngest cousin, Skye. Kate’s romantic schemes would put Napoleon Bonaparte to shame, Jack suspected. Her campaign to marry him off had begun in earnest last week, the morning after their brother Ashton’s wedding, which she had also plotted.

When Kate was younger, the family had generally indulged her idealistic machinations with raillery and good humor. But her latest flight of fancy was patently absurd. Kate theorized that the five Wilde cousins—Ashton, Quinn, Jack, Skye, and Kate herself—could find true love by emulating legendary lovers throughout history.

Beyond all expectations, Ash had recently succeeded in falling in love with his “Cinderella,” Miss Maura Collyer of Suffolk. Jack’s supposed legend was not a fairy tale but one of the Bard’s most famous tragedies, Romeo and Juliet—with him cast in the leading role of Romeo and Miss Fortin as his Juliet.

“Have your wits gone addled, Kate?”