The Marquess Meets Miss Nobody
Growing up, there was no doubt that she was an unwanted orphan. When Helen grew up and attracted the attention of Lord James Tremaine her aunt’s vitriol was released. The Countess of Rockingham did everything in her power to stop their relationship, eventually revealing secrets which would change Helen’s life forever.
The question was, would the choice Helen had to make mean that she must sacrifice her love for James?
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Genre: Historical Romance
~ A White Satin Romance ~
The Westcott Ball was in full swing. A thousand candles burned in their sconces and were reflected in the great mirrors that decorated the ballroom. Swags of cream silk hung at the windows and the scent of lilies filled the room. Lady Westcott was particularly fond of lilies and every surface contained a vase of the elegant flowers. The cream and gold decor provided an excellent backdrop for the gowns of the women who moved like exotic birds in rich silks and brocades with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and jewels of every hue sparkling at their throats, wrists, and ears.
Helen stood in an alcove, watching the cream of London society as they danced, gossiped, and flirted. Any excitement she felt at attending the ball had long gone. One glance as she arrived had confirmed her suspicions. Her aunt had gone out of her way to ensure that she looked as though she did not belong. Her gown was in precisely the shade of yellow that drained her complexion of life, and her chestnut curls had been tamed and drawn back into a tight chignon. At twenty, Helen had grown tall and slender, in contrast to her petite and dainty, fair-haired cousin, a fact that did not go unremarked in her aunt’s waspish comments. Unlike the other women, Helen had no jewels to wear. She felt like a sparrow in the company of birds of paradise. Or rather, the poor relation, which she was.
Her cousin stood a little distance away, chatting to a group of her friends laughing at something she’d said. Helen had not been invited to join the young noblemen and ladies. Suddenly, Clarice turned and addressed her.
“Helen, I left my fan in the ladies’ retiring room. Would you be so kind as to fetch it?”
“Of course, Lady Clarice.” Helen replied, glad for a moment to escape the ballroom and knowing at the same time that Clarice had given a command phrased prettily as a request.
“Who is that?” she heard one of the gentlemen ask.
“Oh, nobody really, an orphan my parents took in as a child,” Clarice replied smoothly.
“How kind of you to bring her to the ball.”
“I like to think of her as a sister,” Clarice simpered.
Helen did not hear the young man’s reply. Instead of following the crush of women down the corridor, she slipped out onto the terrace. Suddenly, she needed air, before her temper got the better of her.
Helen learned long ago to swallow her anger and ignore the slights and insults she endured from Clarice with the collusion—if not encouragement—of her mother. Were it not for her uncle, she would have run away. He did treat her like his daughter, and perhaps that was the trouble. Ever since the Rockinghams had taken her in, Clarice had seen her as a threat, that instead of gaining a sister, she had gained a rival for her father’s affections. It was the earl who had insisted Helen come to the ball, as he’d insisted she be included in all their social activities, but like many of the older gentlemen, he had retired to the card room as soon as he could. Her uncle never saw or heard the slights and taunts she was used to because when they were in his company her aunt and her cousin behaved impeccably. Helen did not speak of it, she merely determined that one day she would be free to live her own life without feeling as though she was an unwanted, inconvenient guest.
After the heat of the ballroom, the cool air of the terrace caused her to shiver. She leaned over the balustrade, inhaling the scent of the roses, and trying to calm down, determined not to give in to tears.
“If you are thinking of ending it all, I would suggest that throwing yourself off the terrace will be both messy and inefficient,” an amused voice said, interrupting her thoughts.
Helen whirled round. The owner of the deep voice appeared to be standing in the shadows near the window. The light from the ballroom obscured her view, throwing him into silhouette, but from what she could tell, the stranger was tall and broad-shouldered. She could just make out the glittering diamond pin on his white neckcloth.
“I beg your pardon, sir, I did not know you were there,” she stammered, knowing that, were she, a single young woman, found alone on the terrace with a man, it would be her ruination.
“Evidently,” he agreed. “But as I happened upon you and persuaded you not to end it all, I think we might become introduced. I as your hero and you as a tragic heroine.”
“Hero? Tragic heroine? Nonsense,” she retorted.
He chuckled. “I am devastated. I come upon a young woman and offer to be her champion, her knight in shining armour, and what does she do? She snorts in derision.”
Helen rolled her eyes. “I thank you, sir, but I was not about to end it all, so your services as champion, knight, or anything else are not required, and,” she added, “I most definitely did not snort.”
“Then why are you here? I could swear that when you came out, I distinctly heard a sniffle.” His voice was softer, closer.
“I merely came out to take some air and relief from the heat of the ballroom, and now I must go. I have to fetch something, and I shall be missed.” Helen turned, her breath caught in her throat. He was standing close enough for her to catch the scent of sandalwood and although his features were still obscured, she could make out a strong jaw and straight nose.
Without warning, Helen felt his hands on her arms, and shocked that he had touched her, she took a step backward and felt the cold stone of the balustrade. Even more shocking was that he had removed his gloves, and his hands were warm against her cool skin. Yet she felt hot at the same time. A tremor shot through her body.
“You are cold, you had best return,” he said quietly. “No doubt a fond mama or sweetheart will be looking for you.”
Helen laughed. “Oh, I assure you, sir, I shall be missed.” Most likely by Lady Clarice for want of her fan, but that much she digressed.
“I believe we have yet to be introduced, Miss...?”
“Nobody, sir, I am nobody, and now I must go.”
Before she had a chance to move, his thumb gently traced the outline of her lips causing her to gasp in shock. This was more than enough to ruin her, though, if she were being honest, it felt thrilling. Instead, she demanded, “What are you doing? You are being much too forward, risking the damage of my reputation beyond repair if anyone should see.” She wriggled out of his grasp and disappeared into the shadows at the end of the terrace.
Lord James Tremaine, Marquess of Woodville, watched her leave, but made no attempt to follow. Her lips had felt so soft beneath his fingers, he wanted to know how they would feel beneath his own. He was intrigued. He would, he decided, find out who “Miss Nobody” was by the end of the ball.