The Cad - Intimate Strangers by Edith Layton
ISBN: 0061087068 HarperCollins Publishers
Bridget Cooke possesses the gifts London society prizes: genteel manners, intelligence, an exquisite figure. She lacks, however, a fortune. A companion to icy relatives, Bridget resigns herself to a life of solitude, especially because of the childhood scar that mars her lovely face. Little does she expect to receive the vigorous attentions of darkly handsome, rich widower Lord Ewen Sinclair, Regency England's most infamous rake.
In a matter of days, the Sinclair whisks Bridget to the altar and into his passionate embrace. Dismissing the vicious rumors surrounding their hasty marriage, Bridget is sure of Ewen's love, even when he is mysteriously called away. But then a shocking secret from his past emerges, threatening her happiness. If Ewen is a cad and their wedding a lie, as the gossips say, then why does Bridget's very stubborn heart still believe his love is true?
Excerpted from Chapter One
She was enjoying herself until she saw the man watching her. Or at least until she realized the others saw him watching her. She could have ignored him; she was good at that. She couldn't ignore them.
So she steeled herself and raised her head high. She turned it to the light, looking fully at him with all the pride and dignity she could muster He didn't flinch at what he saw. He didn't look flustered or embarrassed.
He didn't quickly glance away. instead, he raised an eyebrow. The comers of his mouth lifted. He inclined his head, as though he were sketching a bow to her. And kept staring. That she wasn't used to.
She felt blood rush to her cheeks, and ducked her head.
She knew the dance went on, even if her heart had almost stopped. The couples in their sets on the ballroom floor danced under a chandelier of blazing candies. From where she sat in the shadows on the sidelines with the dowagers, chaperones, and wallflowers, the dancing couples looked as though they were onstage. She was used to being the audience, used to being in the dark—how dare he single her out?
"Bridget!" Aunt Harriet whispered sharply. "You must not ogle the gentlemen!
"I'm not ogling," she said miserably. "I was being ogled. I just looked back at him.
"Indeed?" Aunt Harriet asked, every word etched in acid. "But if you hadn't been staring at him, you wouldn't have known, would you?"
Bridget's shoulders slumped. There was no answer to that. It was only the truth. Of course she'd been staring at him. He'd come into the warm room like a breath of cool night air.She'd noticed him instantly. Most of the women had.
It wasn't because he'd prowled into the room, energizing it, causing such a flurry of attention. Or that his dark head was easier to see because he was taller than most, or that his face was so tan compared to the fashionable pallor of the other gentlemen. It certainly wasn't because he was so handsome. He wasn't. Not with that high-bridged nose, those hard, defined cheekbones, those long, narrowed, amused eyes. Not handsome. Just devilishly attractive. Bridget bit her lip. She was the reason for his amusement now.
But he'd caught her attention and held it. She'd stared at him, of course she had.
He'd gazed around the room and seen her reaction. And stared back. In that moment she'd been thrilled ... until she remembered who she was, where she was, and what had caught his attention. Then she'd turned to the dancers and only noted him out of the corner of her eye.
Liar, she thought, and sighed. She'd enjoyed her brief foolish game of glances with him. She imagined that because of the darkness where she sat, he hadn't seen her clearly.
"It's Sinclair," the women around Bridget whispered. The sound went through the group of watching women in excited hisses.
"Sinclair? Here? He must be looking for a wife!" one of them said.
"Sinclair? Looking for a wife?" another laughed. "Whose wife, I wonder."
"Nonsense," an elderly lady said sharply. "Even Sinclair knows he cannot come to an affair like this with rakish intentions. I've heard he's on the catch for a new bride, and here he is."
"Indeed?" a lady next to Bridget puffed, gazing at him now. "if so, why is he staring ...?" She turned an amused eye on Bridget and left the comment unfinished. It nearly finished Bridget. It was more than enough for Aunt Harriet.
"Bridget," she said in icy tones, "I saw your cousin shivering. The night air can be so treacherous. You know how fragile she is. Do get her wrap for her."
Bridget jumped to her feet.
"Wait!" Aunt Harriet said. "Not in the cloakroom. I remember now, she left it in the coach. Go to the hall and tell a footman to get our coachman to fetch it for you. Wait there until he brings the wrap, will you?"
Aunt Harriet was mistress of the question that required no answer, Bridget thought. But what answer could there be? She was being politely sent into exile. She'd wait in the hall until it was time to go home, because they both knew Cousin Cecily hadn't brought a wrap at all. Why should she? it was mid-May, warm in the house, and almost as warm outside.
"Yes, Aunt," Bridget said. Then, with her head down and watching her feet so not to see the expressions on the faces of the women around her, she picked her way through their circle of chairs and quickly stepped around the edges of the ballroom toward the great hall outside.
She didn't mind missing the dance. She would have been shocked if anyone had invited her to take a turn on the floor. She was cousin to a fashionable young lady, but she was not that young and certainly not fashionable. Apart from her most obvious defect, she hadn't a penny to bless herself with. She was not an eligible young woman.
But she was a perfect companion, and had been one for seven years, so long she'd almost forgotten what a poor name that was for what she did to earn her bread. Because there was no companionship in it for her. She was a warm female body present in order to watch over a young lady being presented to society. She didn't mind. in fact, she was thrilled. She'd been a warm female body to fetch and carry for elderly relatives for the past seven years, and now she felt she'd come up in the world. At least she had dancing and not just knitting to watch now.
From the Critics
... Edith Layton not only understands the nuances of Regency culture, she also understands the deepest emotions that rule the heart. Her atypical and wonderfully real characters (flaws and all), a mystery, and love's faith combine to turn THE CAD into a real treasure. - Romantic Times, (4 Star Review)
Cathy Sova - The Romance Reader
The very best romance novels are almost like an adrenaline rush: there's the excitement of realizing that you are hooked, the intense focus that comes with being totally engrossed, and the sweet, oh-so-satisfied letdown when the last page is turned.
The Cad gave me all of this and more. Christmas came early this year, and it was in the form of a scarred heroine, a rake who down deep believes that he's a lousy lover, a wild ending that took me completely by surprise, and some of the most tender love scenes I've ever enjoyed. This one goes straight to the keeper shelf. The Cad is a wonderful story, plain and simple. This is one cad you'll take straight to your heart.
Kimberly Borrowdale - Under the Covers
The Cad is as titillating, dangerous, and irresistible as its title would lead one to expect, as well as being full of passion and plot twists that I could have never imagined. Brava, Ms. Layton! Highly Recommended.
The impoverished, genteel Bridget Cooke knows her place. As a companion for her beautiful cousin Cecily, she is to be modest, inconspicuous. And with the obvious scar across her face, no one ever does notice her--at least until the catch of the season, Ewen, Viscount Sinclair, not only notices but asks her to be his mistress. Bridget refuses, so Ewen goes the next step and asks for her hand. When auntie--who has her eye on the rakish viscount for Cecily--learns of the proposal, Bridget is tossed out of the house and forced to accept Ewen's proposal. A rather tawdry wedding is followed by an idyllic fortnight until Ewen is called away on the Regent's work. Left alone, Bridget is prey to her own misgivings and society's doubt that the two could possibly be married. Layton's (Bound by Love) story gets off to a delightful start, but then falters; the small confusions and suspicions that follow Ewen's departure could have easily been cleared up and the fact that they are not just grates.
© 2005 Edith Layton. All rights reserved.