“Without a dowry, I am nothing more than my mother’s daughter. Lady Regina accused me of prowling the beau monde in search of a protector. She meant to be cruel, but that does not make her wrong. A woman in my position—”

“You’re not listening to me.”

“You’re not making any sense! You’ve spent a lifetime hunting the largest dowry in the ton. And if your search has led you to Lady Regina… Why would you settle for an illegitimate orphan without so much as a farthing?”

“Why would I settle for a life of misery with a lady I cannot stand, instead of a lifetime of love with the woman whose face brings me joy every time I glimpse it? You cannot offer me a dowry. Fair enough. Nor can I offer you luxury and wealth. If you marry me, our lives will be rich with love, not gold. For me, it is more than enough. The only question is whetherIam a sufficient catch foryou.”

“Any woman would be lucky to have you, but you cannot say the same about me. Lady Regina would not take well to being thrown over for one such as me. She will respond as cruelly as she is able, and incite anyone who will listen to do the same.”

“I do not give a fat fig about being in Lady Regina’s good graces. Anyone who no longer wishes to associate with me because I chose my heart over my purse, to them I say good riddance. The only good opinion I care for is yours.” He pressed a kiss to each of her palms. “I love you, Bianca. Now and always. If you do not feel the same—”

“Of course I feel the same,” she burst out. “How do you think the thought of you marrying Lady Regina—”

“There is only one woman I want to be my wife.You, Bianca. You, and only you. No one else will do. I know exactly what it will mean to marry you. It will mean that I get to spend the rest of my life with the woman I love. Could there be any greater fortune than that? At long last, I’ve found what I have been searching for.” He touched his thumb to her cheek. “She’s standing right before me.”

Bianca’s lungs tightened with desperate hope. Could it be true? After a lifetime spent hunting the biggest dowry, could Harry truly choose her—chooselove—over the promise of wealth?

Harry fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a slender gold ring.

“I have been waiting for the right moment… and the right woman,” he said gruffly. “I love you, Bianca. You are my world and you have my heart. I cannot offer you a life of ease and riches, but I can promise you that my heart beats solely for you. Every breath I take for the rest of my life, belongs to you. You will make me the most fortunate of huntsmen if you agree to be my wife.” His eyes sought hers as he held up the ring. “What do you say?”

“Yes,” she said breathlessly, the word coming out little more than a gasp. “Yes.”

He slid the ring onto her finger then pressed his lips to hers.

“Oh, how I love you,” he murmured against her mouth.

“I loveyou,” she whispered back, and kissed him.

She wrapped her arms around Harry’s neck, reveling in his warmth, his strength, his solidness. He was choosing her, was offering himself. He was hers, just as her heart was his.

It did not matter what Lady Regina and Lady Quinseley and the rest of Polite Society wanted. Bianca and Harry had what they wanted: each other. They had love, which made them richer than most of their peers. They had the rest of their lives to fill with kisses just like this one.

Happily ever after.


The guest chamber door flew open. All seven of Bianca’s friends tumbled inside. She leapt out of Harry’s embrace, her heart pounding wildly.

“Knock next time,” she gasped. “We could have been… ”

“Kissing,” finished Harry, with an anything-but-subtle wink.

Goose clapped her hands. “You were dead, but now you’re not!”

All of the girls crowded around Bianca, hugging her in obvious relief.

“We had to see for ourselves,” Joy explained.

“And we have news that couldn’t wait.” Peavy leaned out through the open doorway and motioned for someone further down the corridor to join them.

“What couldn’t wait?” Bianca asked in confusion.

Harry laced his fingers with hers. “Bianca and I have news, too.”

“You’ll want to hear this first.” Peavy pulled an older gentleman into the crowded guest chamber. “Tell them, Father.”

It was Mr. Somers, who had been playing cards with Mr. Gladwell when Lady Quinseley arrived with her sack of apples to inform Bianca she was no longer an heiress… and to ruin her life.

Tags: Erica Ridley Historical
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
Articles you may like