A Rogue in the Making (Forever Yours #11)- Stacy Reid Page 0,1

‘friend,’ even if they were tentative about inviting him to their elevated circles. A shiver of foreboding went through her, and she shrugged it away. Given her morning, it was easy to be suspicious about everything.

“Would you like me to take that?”

It was then Juliana realized she still held the umbrella, which was stolen from the carriage more to use as a weapon than protection from the rain, clutched in her grip.

The butler hadn’t even asked her for it. Perhaps she was just too unsettled from escaping the most nefarious plot to see her married off for her inheritance.

“No, that is fine, I’ll hold onto it for now.” Her chin rose. “I was dragged from my home a few hours ago with the express purpose of being forced into a marriage with Mr. Matthew Chevers.”

Surprise flared in the earl’s eyes. “Your brother?”

“My stepfather’s son,” she said. “I assure you, Mr. Chevers is not my brother.”

“Good God, and you say he tried to force you to marry him?”

“Yes, and he had the permission of Viscount Bramley.” The man who had married her mother three years ago, and her stepfather.

“His son, the despicable bounder, tried to enact his plans last night. I cannot return home, of course, surely they will only try again.”

Michael had recently bestowed a flattering amount of attention upon Juliana, and it had been puzzling, for he had barely tolerated her presence when they’d first met. And over the years, while he had been cordial, he hadn’t been overly friendly. A bitter flavor of distaste coated her tongue. Of course, his attentions had not been genuine, and thankfully she hadn’t been charmed, merely suspicious. Clearly, at her lack of gratefulness that he would consider marrying, “a lady firmly on the shelf,” as his father snidely put it. They had decided on a more diabolical plan.

If not for the way her dear papa had grown her, she would have been married to the bounder at this moment. “My mother is in Bath recovering from a malady, so I cannot burden her.”

Not that her mother had the power to influence the viscount’s decision, who oddly doted on his lady, despite his plot to try and control Juliana’s life and her inheritance. Her mother even seemed to love the man. Juliana did not see the purpose of burdening her ill mother with her husband’s deceit. Not when it would hurt her heart, and she was unable to separate her from him. Worse, Juliana feared her mother might even agree with the viscount. For she thought Juliana’s dream to be in charge of her own money to continue some of her father’s work nonsensical.

“Robert told me whatever I need you might assist me with.”

An unknown emotion flicked over the earl’s face. “And how do you need my help?”

Juliana wondered exactly what the earl was thinking, but suspected irritation at having to deal with her problems was involved. She did not believe the earl was especially receptive to her plight, for she felt no touch of fellow feeling in the man.

“I got a recent letter from Robert to say he is returning to London and he should be here before the end of December. It is tempting to book the fastest ship to New York, but that would still take six weeks to arrive, and Robert and I might miss each other. England has only been my home these past four years. I am pragmatic enough to know I cannot escape my stepfather’s plans with the few resources I own at present. So, I must position myself in a place where they cannot reach me until my brother returns home.”

“And this is where I come in,” he said, his gaze probing and even a bit discomfiting.

That had been her desperate reasoning when the kind farmer taking his goods to market had picked her up. “Yes. My father’s will stipulated that if I am not married by five and twenty, it means I know my own mind. So my inheritance is to be handed over to me—half on my twenty-fifth birthday and the final half on my thirtieth birthday. I gather my stepfather means to force me by any means necessary to marry his son before my birthdate in two months’ time, and I mean to escape their nefarious plotting by any means necessary. Obviously, as I will be able to access my fortune then, any financial expenses involved would be promptly repaid.”

The earl stared at her for a long time before saying, “I see