“Oh, how horribly vulgar of me.” Devin’s face flushed red. “Of course we shouldn’t talk about money. It’s not evenmymoney, and here I am nattering on as if it’s any business of mine. I’m no better than a sewing circle with a pot of scandal broth. My apologies, Miss White. Whenever you do make your selection… My felicitations will still stand.”

He hurried off down the walking path before Harry or Bianca could say a single word.

Harry turned to Bianca. “Do you have any notion what that cork-brain was… talking about… ”

Bianca’s expression was not confused, but guilty. As if she had been trying very hard to keep a secret and Devin had just let the cat out of the bag. A secret like…

“You have adowry?” Harry said in disbelief.

Bianca made a chagrined little smile.

“A big one? A dowry of such mountainous proportions, awestruck lords stop you in the park to comment upon it?”

“‘Big’ is a relative term,” she hedged.

“Well, is it bigger than everyone else’s?” he sputtered.

She made a face, then nodded.

“Then it’s objectively big, not relatively big. It’s… How did you keep it a secret?”

“I didn’t know until two days ago.”

Thiswas what Tina had been trying to keep from him. But why? Did she think it would change how Harry felt about Bianca?

Was that whatBiancathought?

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked softly.

“I didn’t want… ” She gestured at him. “…thisreaction.”

The slender gold ring in his pocket felt like a lump of lead. “You thought if you told me, I’d immediately offer marriage?”

She inclined her head. “It was a reasonable assumption.”

Harry ground his teeth. Itwasa reasonable assumption, damn it. One that he could not defend himself from. He had never hid his aims as a fortune-hunter. If he asked Bianca to marry him now, why would she have any reason to believe the question motivated by love, and not by his empty pocketbook?

“I don’t want to be wooed for my money,” she said quietly. “Even by you.”

Definitelynot the moment to mention the ring in his pocket. Of all the infernal turns of events… Why couldn’t Devin have held his fool tongue untilafterHarry had made his proposal?

Then again, would Bianca have believed Harry in ignorance about a dowry so large random park-goers recognized her on sight? Perhaps it was just as well that Lord Devin had spilled the beans. Harry was likely to only have one shot at crafting a winning proposal. It was better to know what he was up against than to scramble to fix an impression he hadn’t known he was giving.

Oh, very well, an impression he’d crafted and espoused to anyone who would listen. He was called The Huntsman, not The Nice Gentleman Who Definitely Isn’t After Your Dowry.

How the devil was he going to convince Bianca his feelings for her were sincere?

“Let’s go this way,” he said gruffly. “I scouted a clearing where we shouldn’t be bothered.”

“Mm-hm,” she murmured. “A rake like you must have seduced a dozen women in your secluded clearing.”

He cut her a sharp look.

She held up her palms and blinked wide eyes. “I don’t mind in the least. In fact, my only birthday wish is to sow a few wild oats of my own.”

Good God. How was Harry supposed to stay a gentleman when facing a request likethat?

“Blast.” She covered her mouth with her hands. “Goose told me my wishes won’t come true if I say them aloud.”

Tags: Erica Ridley Historical
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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