Always Proper, Suddenly Scandalous

By: Christi Caldwell

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London, England

1818





A young lord in possession of vast holdings and wealth had to be very particular in all matters. It served such a gentleman to have his life well-ordered, without scandal, and properly plotted out.

When he’d been a young man, Geoffrey Winters, Viscount Redbrooke’s’ now departed father, had advised Geoffrey of his familial obligations.

Geoffrey had failed abominably in his responsibilities.

Until he’d assumed the title of Viscount Redbrooke, four years past.

Seated at the mahogany desk in his office, Geoffrey stared blankly down at the ivory parchment in front of him. His mind drifted back to a dark night, muddied roads, a sky streaked with lightening. He’d not always been above reproach…

The words upon the page blurred together.

Geoffrey gave his head a hard shake, and pushed aside his distracted musings before they took him down the path of old hurts and still-strong guilt.

Just a week shy of his thirtieth year, Geoffrey was minutes shy of selecting a young lady to make the Viscountess Redbrooke.

He picked up his pen and dipped it into the crystal inkwell.

The young lady must be of exceptional breeding.

He again dipped the tip into the ink.

The lady must not have seen more than two Seasons.

After all, the most marriageable young ladies would be successfully identified by those gentlemen in the market for a wife within the first Season. Anything beyond two Seasons was not to be countenanced.

The lady must possess delicate sensibilities, a polite laugh, and not be given to great displays of emotion.

Yes, his ideal match would not be a woman given to flights of fancy or possessed of any naïve visions of love. There had been a time when he’d believed the nonsensical emotion of love was more powerful than responsibility.

His lip pulled back in a sneer. That mistake had been a costly one.

Geoffrey tossed his pen down and pulled open the top drawer of his desk. He rustled through several sheets of parchment, and then pulled out another familiar list. His gaze quickly surveyed the names upon the sheet of young ladies who might admirably fill the role of viscountess.

Lady Diana Shorington. An Incomparable of the Season, she would make him an excellent match. With her fair skin and golden hair, she well fit with Society’s standards of beauty. Given her status as the well-dowried daughter of the Marquess of Castlebury, Geoffrey expected she’d make a match relatively quickly that Season.

He drummed his fingertips along the top of his desk.

There was Miss Anna Adams, daughter to the Viscount Wethersfield, always very stoic and composed at Society events.

Or Lady Beatrice Dennington, the only daughter of the Duke of Somerset. She, too, possessed a delicate golden beauty.

Geoffrey’s gaze fixed on Lady Beatrice’s name, as he further contemplated her suitability. Demure, proper, and exceedingly polite, she would make an exceptional Viscountess Redbrooke.

All the prospective young ladies had one unremarkable trait in common—they were exceedingly dull…which was his first and foremost consideration of all the prospective ladies.

Geoffrey blew lightly on the fresh ink, drying the parchment.

He’d not be so foolish as to make the tragic mistake of being lured by a passionate, unconventional young lady. Not again. He’d sooner turn his fortune over to a stranger than turn his deadened heart over to a feckless creature.

Yes, Lady Beatrice would do very well as his viscountess.

He opened his top desk drawer and pulled out yet another, earlier compiled list that detailed essential components for wooing a respectable young lady.

Ices at Gunter’s.

A walk in Hyde Park.

Several waltzes.

A trip to the theatre.

“If we do not leave this instant, dear, we’ll be late.”

His head whipped up as his mother sailed into the room, a frown wreathing her plump, unwrinkled cheeks. She held her gloves in her hand.

Geoffrey neatly stacked the three lists and placed them back in his desk. “My apologies.” He closed the drawer with a firm click and, then rose.

Even if many members of the ton preferred arriving fashionably late to events, Geoffrey valued punctuality. The matrons of Almack’s had the right of it, barring those more than twenty minutes late from attendance. He mentally ticked punctuality onto his list of attributes for his future wife.

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