“You had no right to accept anything from this bounder!” Mr. Netherfield shouted. His crotchety limbs shook with rage as he bandied his cane in the air. It seemed the Netherfield patriarch wasn’t quite as helpless as he made himself out to be to his daughter. “As your father, I’m the one with the authority to arrange marital matches, and you shall be Lord Evanston’s next wife.”
“No, she won’t.” Hugh stepped in front of Clara and glared at the older men. Titters of excitement rose from the crowd. Clearly, tonight’s entertainment had improved exponentially.
“I don’t understand,” Mary muttered from the side. Sarah wrapped an arm around her sister’s waist in comfort, her own betrothed Sir Michael, standing guard behind them. “How did this happen? The two of you hardly know one another. Father, you banned her from Covington Hall.”
“It’s a long story, and I’ll explain everything when we have a moment of privacy. But for now, let everyone be made aware. I love Miss Clara Netherfield, and she will be my countess.”
Varying degrees of exclamations and applause erupted at the scandalous news. Pulling Clara forward, a hasty plan formed in his mind—one to prevent them from wasting anymore time apart. “In fact, we shall marry forthwith. Sarah, Mary, would you care to join us on our journey to Gretna Green?”
Both girls nodded, stunned, and the four of them exited the ball. Sir Michael quietly excused himself with a promise to mitigate gossip in town as much as he could.Good man.Hugh knew his daughter would be in safe hands with the young bachelor.
He may be pushing his luck by running to Gretna Green so soon, but he couldn’t let Clara return home. Who knew what would await her there?
“Stop him! That bastard’s kidnapping my daughter!”
“And my betrothed!”
Lord Evanston and Mr. Netherfield’s exclamations fell on deaf ears as no one felt spurred to help the known misers while a tale for the ages unfolded before them. Guests eagerly parted to allow their small party through, and Hugh held back a grin of amusement as lords and ladies fell over themselves to ease their passage and steal a glimpse of the escaping couple.
He even spied the popular Captain Nathaniel Davies and his wife, Mrs. Bryony Davies—last year’s “Merry Match of the Season”—moving to block Evanston and Netherfield from following them.
We’ll have to invite them for a visit once we return home to Covington Hall.
Hurrying behind him, Clara’s lighter steps pattered beside his. “You love me, hmm?”
“Don’t act surprised. I was a fool to ever tell you otherwise. I’ve been in love with you for awhile now, probably since I stoleHer Dark Earlfrom you. You belonged to me the moment I discovered your propensity for naughty behavior.”
Clara laughed, her joy ringing clear in the air as they called for his carriage. “I love you, too, my lord. And we shall be the happiest, most scandalous couple in all of London.”
Hugh shot her a wolfish grin. “You can count on it.”
FIVE YEARS LATER
“I’m not ready to go home yet,” Clara murmured from her relaxed position on their villa’s balcony. After they married, Hugh and she had decided to tour the world, something neither of them had been able to do with their past familial duties. But with Sarah and Mary grown and hired nurses for her parents, they were finally free to explore and discover new things together.
“We promised Sarah we’d try to make it back in time for Roger’s third birthday.” Hugh leaned over the back of her chair and kissed the side of her neck, toying with the loose neckline of the shirt she wore—a cast-off of his.
“I know, and we’ll be there… But I love Tuscany. The food, the beautiful landscape…” She sighed, enjoying the warm sun beating down from overhead. “Sometimes I wish we could stay here year round.”
Fortunately, they took this vacation annually, so her travel bug was somewhat mollified. She hadn’t expected to love traveling as much as she did, but Clara supposed it made sense. Her entire life before meeting Hugh had been confined to her strict childhood home, forced to do her parents’ bidding. Now she did as she pleased with Hugh’s support by her side.
“Me, too. Especially when my wife is as beautiful as you. Golden all over and sweet as honey.” He rounded her chair to kneel at her feet, his head dipping to nuzzle between her breasts.
“Mmm… Perhaps we can delay our trip for one more day?” she asked, shivering at the feel of his hot mouth suckling on her breast.
“One day,” he mumbled, nibbling on the sensitive skin. “Then we must do our familial duty.”
“Agreed…” And Clara basked in the Italian sun as her husband greedily sucked and nipped at her skin before devouring her pussy like the wolf he declared himself to be all those years ago.
My hungry wolf.
The love of my life.