Compelled by a losing hand of cards, the Earl of Westerley has promised to court the only daughter of the American Whiskey King. And, as a man of honor, the earl woos her wholeheartedly. But as time passes, it becomes apparent that luck’s been with him all along. Because when he lost that night at cards, he may just have won the love of a lifetime.
Miss Charley Jackson didn’t want to sail to England. The British are stuffy, arrogant, and think far too highly of themselves. Particularly, the ones who referred to themselves as Lords. She has no interest in society or having a Season, all she wants to do is learn about and taste Scottish Whisky.
Until, that is, she gets a taste of the Earl of Westerley.
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Series: Regency Cocky Gents
Book Number: 1 in the series (Available Free)
An English Earl and an American Heiress are compelled into an arranged marriage over one epic wager.
Charley and her father didn't walk much farther before a horse and rider appeared on the horizon.
A sharp awareness had her straightening her spine—along with a dash of resentment. Because the rider was none other than the earl.
She only required a single glance to confirm her assessment. Something in the way he held himself in the saddle. His posture sent off the same air of confidence that had bothered her the evening before.
With the grace of a cat, he swung himself off his horse, turned to face her, and, touching his fingertips to the brim of his top hat, bowed. "Beautiful morning."
Charley hadn't an opportunity to study him close up the evening before and expected his looks to diminish in the full light of day.
She was sorely mistaken.
Her father intruded on her thoughts. "It is indeed, my lord. Have you met my daughter yet?"
Charley averted her gaze away from the incredibly handsome gentleman and narrowed her eyes at her father. There was something unnatural in the manner in which he'd greeted the younger man. Her father seemed... shifty.
Lord Westerley slid pale blue eyes in her direction. Or perhaps they were gray? "I have not yet had the pleasure."
He stood at least a foot taller than her father and although he was not nearly as brawny, he wasn't without well-developed musculature either. He sent a welcoming smile in her direction, and for the briefest instant, reminded her of his sisters.
The resemblance ended with his smile, however. Everything else about the earl's appearance, from his chiseled and arrogant features to the polished boots on his feet, positively screamed masculine nobility.
"Miss Charlotte Arabella Jackson." Her father, of course, would introduce her by her full name. "Charley, this is our host, the Earl of Westerley."
Handsome. A lord. Arrogant. She mentally checked off every assumption she'd made the night before as she went to shake the man's hand.
A clearing of her father's throat had her dropping into a curtsey instead.
"Lord Westerley," she murmured, trying to remember if she was addressing him properly. Or was she supposed to address him simply as 'my lord'?
It bothered her that he caused her to feel so... inadequate. She spent a good deal of her time convincing herself of the opposite.
He didn't respond right away, but removing his hat with one hand, he took her hand with the other and bowed over it. She barely felt the brush of his lips through her woolen gloves before he stood upright again, studying her in a way that made her feel like squirming.
A shiver ran through her as she forced herself to meet his gaze straight on. It was bad enough being a woman in America, trying to affect business in a world run by men. England took patriarchy to an even higher level, referring to a select few of them as lords.
Why couldn't a woman be a lord? The thought had her letting out a very indelicate and derisive snort.
"Magnificent mount, Westerley." Her father said, moving away to examine the earl's horse.
What are you up to, Father? She narrowed her eyes in his direction. Daniel Jackson was only ever interested in horses in so much as they could assist in shipping or production.
The earl dismissed her with a nod so that he could regale her father with some pedigree nonsense.
Not that Charley didn't like horses, or riding for that matter. It was the rider to whom she was not partial. She was certain she'd feel the same for any of these lordly types.
"I'll escort Miss Jackson back to the manor then." Charley jerked her head in the direction of the two men just as her father mounted the earl's horse.
"Where are you going?" Her heart skipped a beat at the idea of being alone with Lord Westerley. Not because she was afraid to be alone with him, she promptly assured herself, but because she had no wish to make meaningless conversation with someone with whom she had nothing in common.
She'd heard all about how English misses conversed about nothing more mentally taxing than the weather and the latest fashions when speaking with their male counterparts, and she wanted none of that.
"His lordship has invited me to ride this magnificent beast back to the stables." Her father sent her a look that she knew was a warning. Do not insult our host. She read his meaning far too easily. Then he nodded toward Westerley before turning the horse and cantering in the direction of the manor.
Her father knew exactly how she would feel about being left alone with this man. Was it a punishment for her earlier outburst? Or something more sinister? Her father had not become known as the Whiskey King because of his straightforward business practices.
Feeling both betrayed and curious, she glowered after him until an unexpected sound had her shifting her attention back to the earl.
"Did you just crack your knuckle?" she asked. It did not seem at all like something one of England's lordish types would do.
"Shall we?" Ignoring her question, he held out an arm, a glimmer shining in the back of his eyes. Ah, yes. Blue and silver. She caught herself staring and blinked.
He lifted his elbow as though she needed further prompting.
She had been quite certain she'd heard knuckles cracking... She frowned. Perhaps she'd been mistaken. "I'm not finished walking yet. Please feel free to return to your manor without me."
He looked as though he was going to oblige her request but then clenched his jaw. "We can walk together then." He gestured in the direction of some distant hills and, smartly realizing that she had no intention of hanging onto him like some sort of barnacle, clasped his hands behind his back.
Aside from being outright rude, Charley had no choice but to accept his company.
An uncomfortable silence settled upon them for several steps and then he asked, "Are you enjoying your visit to England?"
Thus would begin the inane conversation.
Remembering her father's parting glance, Charley searched for some sort of intelligent answer. "It certainly is different than America." Which sounded much better than saying that she couldn't wait to return home to where people didn't go about acting so ridiculously formal. Where people didn't cook kidneys and other foods that ought never to be set upon a table.
The low chuckle that she barely heard made her think he understood her meaning all too well. "What strikes you the most?"
"Everything is so old and formal and ridiculously stuffy." The words flew out before she could stop them. Perhaps she wasn't the person best suited to establish connections on behalf of her father.
His laugh wasn't quite as hushed this time and the breathy tone sent a shiver dancing down her spine. "Is there anything at all, even one thing about England that you might be partial to, Miss Jackson?"
"Your accent." In fact, despite his boorish display of lordliness and in direct contradiction to the opinion she'd already developed about him, she really did like his voice. Rather than come across as stuffy and... British, the cultured tones caressed and cajoled at her in an effortless manner.
"The English accent varies significantly form shire to shire. Some even say it sounds different from village to village." His lips tilted up just so, as he spoke, showing his teeth, which weren't clenched but sort of... supporting one another.
He shrugged as though this wasn't something he had much of an opinion on.
"It's the same in America." Charley slowed her speech to what she could recall from her visits to Knoxville. "Maah daddy's raht hand mayan down in Tennessee takes forevah to git his poin' across."
The earl had stopped to gape at her almost as though she'd begun speaking gibberish. He blinked a few times before resuming his steps.
Charley felt a little embarrassed. Talking about whiskey production, however, could never embarrass her. "I suppose dialects are similar to soil, that way." She hadn't considered this until now and twisted her mouth thoughtfully as she contemplated her revelation. "A person needs to understand the regional characteristics, however, before they can identify the more precise nuances. People, on the other hand, do not act scientifically. They are less predictable." She tapped her lips. Some behavior was quite predictable in humans.
"I understand your mother was English." The earl's comment interrupted her musings. "And that you are to reside with your grandparents indefinitely."
"Visiting. I am only visiting my grandparents, Lord Westerley. Not," she corrected, "residing indefinitely." She'd rather go to work for Daisy's prior employer than reside indefinitely with her grandparents.
"Of course, as my wife, you will move to Westerley Crossings."
As his what? Move... where? She stumbled and would have fallen if he hadn't been there to grasp her arm. "Excuse me?" Charley jerked to a halt and this time, it was she who stared at him as though he was speaking gibberish. Surely, she'd not heard him correctly.
"You mustn't worry about our differences. My mother can assist in training you."
Frustration thickened her throat. "Training me for what, exactly?"
"Why to act as my countess, of course. You can't exactly preside over much of society," the earl waved his hands in front of her with a quizzical smile dancing on his lips, "as you are, presently."
And with those words, the appreciation she'd had for his voice evaporated.