The Most Eligible Viscount in London – Ella Quinn

Miss Georgiana Featherton—or more properly Miss Featherton since her elder sister had wed— remained standing as Gavin, Viscount Turley, possessed himself of one of her hands and knelt on one knee. He looked so solemn she repressed the smile that fought to appear. For months, since last Season, he had courted her. And ever since the beginning of the autumn Season, she had been expecting to receive a proposal of marriage from him. Now. Finally. It was happening. As he gazed up at her with his light blue eyes, her heart fluttered as if butterflies had taken residence. His fingers on the hand he held sent tingles up her arm. As far as Georgie was concerned, Lord Turley with his golden curls and broad shoulders was the handsomest gentleman in all of London and soon they would be married. Then they would belong to each other for the rest of their lives. Just the thought of it made her want to hurry him along. She knew some ladies liked grand proposals, but as long as two people loved each other, what did it matter how one proposed? The purpose was to wed. To create a new family. A new life together.

He swallowed and still did not speak. Why was this taking him so long? All he had to say was that he loved her and wanted her as his wife. As she had stopped the smile, she stopped the frown wanting to form. Perhaps he had memorized a speech and had forgotten it. That could throw anyone off. Finally, he opened his wonderfully sculpted lips then closed them again. Just when she thought she would go mad with impatience, he cleared his throat. “Miss Featherton, as you probably are aware, I admire you greatly. We get on exceedingly well. You are the only lady I have met who possesses every quality that a gentleman, a peer like myself, could wish for in a wife.

” Georgie almost interrupted him to tell him she would love to marry him. But that would be rude. Lord Turley had obviously spent time preparing his proposal, and, despite her impatience, she must allow him to complete it. “I am not the wealthiest man in England, nor am I the poorest. I am fortunate to have several estates all of which are in good repair. I also have other holdings, and I will be able to provide you and any children we have with the elegancies of life.” He cleared his throat. Perhaps she should have had tea brought. “The Turley lineage dates back to King William I. We were barons at first, but the viscountcy dates back to King Henry III.

Therefore, you have nothing to be embarrassed about there.” Why did he feel as if he needed to tell her any of this? His lineage was in Debrett’s for anyone to read. “As my wife you would have complete control over all the houses and domestic staff at all my estates. When I spoke with your father I assured him you will have a generous allowance.” The thrill Georgie had initially felt was fading rapidly and being replaced by dread. This was not going at all the way she expected it would. “I assure you that I am a responsible landlord, and, from our conversations and letters over the summer, I know that you will be interested in not only the estates and the dependents, but will enjoy an involvement in politics that being my viscountess will allow you.” He swallowed. Tea would have been a good idea. “Would you do me the honor of being my viscountess and wife?” That was it? It sounded more like he was presenting his qualifications for a position than a marriage proposal.

Georgie stared at Turley for several long moments. Other than the actual asking for her hand, there was only one thing she had wanted to hear from him, and he had not said it. She bit the inside of her bottom lip, afraid now of the answer to the question she was about to ask. “Do you love me?” His eyes widened and he stilled like a deer ready to run for its life. The lips she had so looked forward to kissing moved but emitted no words. She closed her eyes and did the hardest thing she had ever had to do. “Thank you for your kind offer, my lord. However, I am unable to accept the honor of being your wife. Benson will show you out.” Georgie forced herself to stroll calmly out of the front parlor and up the main staircase.

Once she reached the second floor, she increased her pace until she was running, straight to her room. Tears pricked her eyes, and she blinked hard to keep them from falling. But as she stepped into the corridor leading to her bedchamber they defied her attempts to halt the blasted things. Drat, drat, drat! After months and months of waiting, Turley had finally proposed and the one thing—the only thing —she had needed to hear from him had not been uttered. She should not even have had to ask if he loved her. His lack . That he hadn’t mentioned it at all despite the fact he had stated every other reason she would be happy married to him should have given her a hint. But noo. She’d had to ask if he loved her, and he couldn’t even answer. The look on his face seemed to be burned into her mind.

He had acted as if it was the last thing he expected to hear. At the end he could not even meet her gaze. She reached her bedroom and collapsed onto the bed. At least he had been honest. Even if he couldn’t bring himself to answer he had not lied. A lie would have been worse. That he did not love her was bound to have come out at the worst possible time and probably not until after they had wed when it would be too late for her to do anything about it. Trying to stem her tears, she gulped huge breaths of air but it didn’t help. At first tears just rolled down her cheeks, but then her nose began to run. Turning to her side, she pulled out a handkerchief and blew her nose.

Then her chest began to ache. Why did this hurt so much? Georgie had heard about hearts breaking, but she never thought it was physically possible for it to happen. Apparently, she was wrong. Despite all the attention he had paid to her, deep inside of her she must have known he did not love her, otherwise she would not have asked. Therefore, his lack should not affect her this much. Unfortunately, this eminently commonsensical thought did nothing to help. The combination of tears and a running nose caused her to hiccup, and then she began to sob. Great huge sobs so hard she could barely breathe. Perhaps she just should have accepted his offer. Then she would have years to make him love her, and she wouldn’t be so miserable.

Yet now that she knew for certain he did not love her, she could not agree to wed him. She tried to draw a deep breath and could not. She felt as if part of her had been ripped asunder. Georgie didn’t know how long she remained in bed before she stirred. The curtains were still open, but her room was darker than when she had entered. If only she could pretend nothing had happened. That Lord Turley had not come to propose marriage. That it was a day like any other. She rolled onto her side as the door opened. “My darling Georgie.

” Grandmamma Featherton hurried to the bed and perched on the side next to Georgie, then took her hands, rubbing them between her fine, strong hands. “What has happened to cause you to cry so? We wanted to give you time, but, my dear, it has been over an hour. We need to know what we can do to help you.” We. Meaning her mother, grandmother, and her grandmother’s closest friend, the Duchess of Bridgewater. Naturally, they would all be there to congratulate her. “Darling, how could a proposal go so very wrong?” Her grandmamma’s normally good-humored face took on the look of a warrior’s. “He did not insult you, did he? I will see him destroyed if he did.” “No.” Georgie struggled to hold back another bout of tears.

“He does not love me.” Grandmamma lifted one pale brow. “Are you certain?” “Yes.” A sob burst forth, and Grandmamma gathered Georgie into arms that had always been much stronger than they looked. “I asked, and he could not answer.” Grandmamma soothingly stroked Georgie’s back as if she was a child again. “That is very bad. But not, perhaps, irredeemable. Men can be complete fools about love. In fact, they seem to make a habit of it,” she seemed to muse that last part.

“You must understand that it complicates their lives, and they want things in their lives to be easy. They are simple creatures and love confuses many of them. They much prefer passion to a declaration of the heart.” Georgie had never thought of it in that way. Perhaps she should attempt to view it from a male perspective. “Truly?” “Absolutely. I would never lie to you about something this important.” Her grandmother nodded decisively. “That is not to say that you should settle for anything less than love. In my time, even in your mother’s day, our matches were arranged, but many of us found love with our spouses.

Although, there were those who did not. I believe there was a trick to making successful matches. Your grandfather told his father he was interested in me”—her grandmother blushed adorably—“and a match was arranged. Your father did the same with your mother. It is my belief that matches where there is no attraction are not as likely to succeed. Not all, mind you, but it was more of a risk.” Georgie blew her nose again. “I love him.” “Of course you do.” Grandmamma hugged Georgie harder.

“That is the reason you are so unhappy.” Her grandmother took out her own handkerchief and wiped Georgie’s eyes. “Let us see what we can do about this problem. I have a feeling the young man is no more happy about this than are you.” Her maid, Smith, entered the room and Grandmamma rose. “Allow your maid to bathe your face in some cool water, then join me in the morning room. I have assembled a council of war.” Despite herself, Georgie smiled. “Is the duchess here?” “Naturally.” Her grandmother grinned conspiratorially.

“We cannot make plans without her.” “And Mama?” “Ah, well, you know how your mother feels about what she considers to be undue interference.” Grandmamma wiggled her fingers as she left the room. So it was true. Georgie had heard Mama would not engage in the schemes her grandmother and the duchess formed for Meg, Georgie’s older sister, or for Kit, her older brother. Georgie did not understand the reason her mother found it distasteful. Both times her grandmother had become involved in matchmaking had resulted in successful marriages. She had never seen her brother and sister happier, and Meg was well on her way to being as canny as Grandmamma in arranging matches. Still, Georgie could think of nothing that the two older ladies could do to make Lord Turley love her. It wasn’t as if he could be tricked into it.

She lay back down and her maid covered her eyes with a cool cloth that smelled like cucumbers. Or could he be fooled into loving her? If so, how on earth would that work? And was it the best way forward? Georgie did not like the idea of deceiving him. She frowned to herself. She actually did not have anything to deceive him about. Several minutes later she entered the morning room. The cheery parlor was everyone’s favorite place in the house. The walls were covered with cream-colored silk paper, and large, bright floral patterns gave one the feeling of a garden in full bloom. Some of the flowers on the furniture and hangings were the same as those planted right outside the windows and in pots on the terrace. When the windows were open, the sweet scent of roses infused the room. The parlor even managed to cheer her a little.

Her grandmother poured a cup of tea and set it on the table next to the empty space on the small sofa. “I remember that you liked two sugars and milk.” “Yes, thank you.” Georgie picked up the cup and sipped, letting the warmth of the tea sink into her. “It is perfect and just what I needed.” Her mother always said that tea inevitably helped one feel better. Her grandmother and the duchess sipped their tea as well. Finally, Grandmamma put her cup down. “I believe you should leave Town for a short holiday.” The duchess gave the same sort of decisive nod Grandmamma had done earlier.

Georgie almost dropped her cup. That was the last thing she had expected to hear. “But why? Where would I go? It is in the middle of the autumn Season. What excuse would I have?” The duchess tilted her head to one side, her sharp dark blue eyes fixed on Georgie. “The alternative is flirting with other eligible gentlemen—” “Or ineligible gentlemen.” Her grandmother grinned wickedly. “But,” the duchess continued, “out of sight is not always out of mind.” “Very true.” Grandmamma nodded sagely. “There are many times when it is wise to make a gentleman search you out.

” But would he? Would Lord Turley search for her in the middle of the Season? Then again, if he did not, she had her answer. He did not love her and never would. “How do you plan on accomplishing it so that I do not appear as if I am running away?” “Good girl.” The duchess’s dark eyes sparkled over her cup. “As it happens”—Grandmamma took another sip of tea—“Your father mentioned that he must leave Town because of a problem with one of their properties to which Kit cannot attend because of his and Mary’s new baby. I am certain that he will insist your mother accompany him.” In other words, Grandmamma would convince Papa that Mama should go with him. “And the duchess and I cannot chaperone you as we have a prior engagement in the country with friends.” Georgie did not understand how that would help her. “Where shall I go?” “Why I believe you have received an invitation to visit your friend Lady Littleton.

” Grandmamma’s countenance showed nothing but the total innocence that made people believe she was nothing more than a sweet older lady. The duchess gave a sly smile. No one would ever describe her as anything but shrewd. “And Lord Littleton is bound to mention that you are visiting his wife to certain of his friends.” “After a little time, of course,” Grandmamma added. Georgie glanced from her grandmother to the duchess. “You knew this was going to occur.” “Well, one cannot always know certain things for a fact.” Grandmamma lifted one shoulder in a very Gallic fashion. “However, I have known the Turley family for a very long time.

I will only say that there was a distinct possibility.” That was as clear as mud. But, the ladies had helped others find their true loves. Georgie would have to trust them. “Very well. When do I leave?” “You must first inform Lady Littleton that you are accepting her kind offer,” Grandmamma said. “I will arrange to have it delivered by messenger,” the duchess added. “I shall have to cancel any invitations Mama has accepted for me.” Georgie would consult her mother about those. “Yes, indeed.

” Grandmamma nodded. “All must appear to be unexpected, but not too very odd.” Georgie turned to the duchess. “When do you think you will have a response from Lady Littleton?” “If you write the note immediately, I shall send my groom to Surrey. He can probably be back this evening. I have horses posted along the road for changes if necessary.” “In that event”—Grandmamma placed her cup on the table next to the teapot—“you will be able to depart tomorrow after luncheon.” She tilted her head and regarded Georgie. “If you can be ready that soon.” As far as Georgie was concerned, she could leave today and let her maid follow her.

“Yes. I will be more than ready to leave by then.” “In that case”—the duchess rose—“we will leave you to write your friend and cancel your appointments. Send your letter to me.” “Thank you, I shall.” Georgie bussed the duchess’s cheek and hugged her grandmother. “Thank you both. I do not know what I would do without you.” “Let us pray it will be a long time before you need to worry about that.” Grandmamma took Georgie’s hands.

“Remember, we are always happy to assist you.” “Indeed we are, my child,” the duchess said. “Whatever occurs I firmly believe that all will end as it should.” Georgie hoped the older woman was right. Still they were her best chance for happiness, and she had complete faith in them. “I am certain you are correct, ma’am.”

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