Third in the Merry Widows series
From the moment Daphne, Lady Pomeroy, meets the mysterious Marquess of Hartwell at a masquerade ball, she’s determined to seduce him. The handsome, charming man cannot possibly be the cold, calculating lord who Society calls “Black Hart.” Risking everything, the lonely widow invites the elusive Hartwell to her dinner party . . . for two.
Hartwell’s arrogant reputation is built on a lie. For he has a shameful secret that keeps him in the shadows: a stutter—his downfall since childhood. He’d rather keep his mouth shut than look the fool. But he’s shocked to discover that in Daphne’s company—and in her bed—his stutter vanishes.
After one wanton evening together, Daphne is hurt when the lord lives up to his Black Hart name. Yet his reasons for leaving surprise even him. Now he must confess everything or risk losing Daphne forever…
“I apologize. I’m afraid you’re at the advantage, sir, for I haven’t a clue as to who you might be.” Her voice shook. She sounded breathless and swallowed hard, searching for even a shred of composure.
“Isn’t that the magic of a ma-masquerade?” He smiled, the sight of it so beautiful her entire body ached.
He sounded nervous, which she found positively endearing. “Are you implying you’re not going to properly introduce yourself?” She arched a brow, wondering if he could see it beneath the delicate mask she wore.
He didn’t say a word. He merely twirled her about the floor and she had no choice but to follow his lead. He tightened his hand about her waist, pulling her closer, the heat from his body so alluring she couldn’t help but allow it.
Revel in it.
“Revealing myself—now where would the fun be in that?” He smiled, though his eyes remained dark. Intense.
Oh, the devil. Every other man she’d spoken to or danced with this evening had been most eager to offer his name, title if he had one and a complete family ancestry. It was rather exhausting, pretending to be interested in such matters.
Not a one of them interested her such as this man.
“Since I am your hostess, don’t you believe you should tell me who you are?” She fluttered her eyelashes, feeling foolish, but how else could she gather information from him?
“Let’s just say we knew each other long, long ago, though you never paid me much attention.”
“Well, then I was an absolute fool, wasn’t I?” Her mind raced. Who could he be? She’d known him? Was that the truth or an exaggeration? She’d met many young men during her debut season but her father had tied her up with Pomeroy rather quickly.
“P-perhaps I was the foolish one,” he said with a slight stutter, and she frowned.
Did he have an affliction? Or was it merely nerves? Whatever the case, she found it—him quite charming.
She breathed deep his spicy, masculine scent. The commanding manner in which he led her about the floor was most arousing. Now, if she could only discover who he might be…
The set ended too quickly for her taste. She reluctantly stepped away from his embrace, offering a polite curtsey. “Thank you so much for the delightful dance, my lord.” Instinct told her he was titled. A man who moved with such effortless yet commanding grace had to be.
“No, I should thank you, my lady.” He nodded in return then turned on his heel, instantly becoming swallowed by the crowd.
Her jaw dropped open in shock, she watched him retreat. He was a good head taller than many of those in attendance and pushed his way through the throng of revelers with ease, heading straight for the door. Without looking back, without offering even a single word to any of those he passed, he left the ballroom.
As quickly as he’d entered her life, he exited it. And still she didn’t know his name.