The Earl's Mistaken Bride

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THE EARL’S MISTAKEN BRIDE

Karen

e

n K

im

m ♥

ABBY GAINES

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“I now pronounce

that they be man and wife.”

Constance’s gazed snapped to the earl. She hadn’t

even been listening to that final declaration and

now she was married. Just as well she didn’t

attend to omens, because surely…

The worry evaporated in the warmth of the gaze

Lord Spenford—her husband—turned on her.

A half smile on his lips, he reached for her veil,

lifted it.

His brilliant blue eyes scanned her face.

Constance smiled shyly.

His mouth straightened into a line that could only

be described as grim.

“My—my lord?” Constance’s voice faltered as she

absorbed his expression.

He looked appalled.

Karen

e

n K

im

m ♥

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THE EARL’S MISTAKEN BRIDE

ABBY GAINES

wrote her first romance novel as a teenager, only to

have it promptly rejected. A flirtation with a science

fiction novel never really got off the ground, so Abby

put aside her writing ambitions as she went to college,

then began her working life at IBM. When she and her

husband had their first baby, Abby worked from home

as a freelance business journalist…and soon after that

the urge to write romance resurfaced. It was another

five long years before Abby sold her first novel to

Harlequin Superromance in 2006.

Abby lives with her husband and children—and a

labradoodle and a cat—in a house with enough stairs

to keep her semifit and a sun-filled office with a sea

view that provides inspiration for the funny, tender

romances

she

loves

to

write.

Visit

her

at

www.abbygaines.com.

Karen

e

n K

im

m ♥

ABBY GAINES

4

The Earl’s Mistaken Bride

ABBY GAINES

Karen

e

n K

im

m ♥

5

THE EARL’S MISTAKEN BRIDE

Karen

e

n K

im

m ♥

ABBY GAINES

6

For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the

humble with salvation.

—Psalms 149:4

Karen

e

n K

im

m ♥

7

THE EARL’S MISTAKEN BRIDE

For Mary Griffiths, neighbor extraordinaire.

Thank you for your enthusiasm, your treasure trove of Regency

books… and all those cups of tea!

Thanks also to Dr. Gerald Young of Auckland for the use of his name.

Karen

e

n K

im

m ♥

ABBY GAINES

8

Chapter One

April 1816

Piper’s Mead, Hampshire, England

“I wish to marry one of your daughters.”

Marcus Brookstone, Earl of Spenford, was certain his

position and wealth more than compensated for the

urgent, somewhat irregular nature of the request. Every

father in England would be honored to hear those words

from him.

“I gathered as much from the message you sent.”

Reverend Adrian Somerton removed his spectacles.

“How is your dear mother?”

Marcus spread his fingers on the arms of the

rosewood chair and forced himself to appear at ease.

The reverend’s study was a fine enough room, but

smaller than Marcus was used to. Whether it was the

room, or the awkward nature of his mission, he felt

hemmed in. Trapped.

He turned his neck slightly within the starched collar

of his shirt, seeking relief from the constriction. He

couldn’t bear to discuss his mother’s fragile condition,

even with her parson. More particularly, he couldn’t

bear any delay.

But the Earl of Spenford always behaved in a manner

befitting his position.

Karen

e

n K

im

m ♥

9

THE EARL’S MISTAKEN BRIDE

“The dowager’s health is somewhat worse,” he

informed the reverend stiffly. “I hope my marriage will

be a source of strength for her.”

“Indeed.” Reverend Somerton’s smile managed to

convey both understanding and a shared grief.

A churchman’s trick, Marcus supposed, but a good

one. He wondered if the reverend had positioned the

leather-topped oak desk precisely so the fall of April

afternoon sunlight through the study window should

bathe him in its glow, making him look as reverent as

his title suggested.

Sitting in relative dimness, Marcus recalled assorted

sins of which he probably ought to repent. He quelled

the instinct to squirm in his seat. He was here for his

mother’s sake, and the reverend’s affection for his

patroness, the Dowager Countess of Spenford, was both

genuine and reciprocated, which was why Marcus

expected full cooperation.

A series of framed embroideries hung on the wall

behind the rector. The colorful words were Bible verses,

Marcus guessed, though they were too distant to read.

The kind of needlecraft with which genteel country

ladies occupied their time. There were five of these

works of art, each presumably the handiwork of one of

the reverend’s five