Passion’s Pact with the Viscount (Preview)

Chapter One

London, 1810

It was a headache; another bloody headache. Viscount Jonathan Harrington had only himself to blame, and yet he still felt angry as he rose from his bed with a groan. He put his head in his hands for a moment before pushing them through his dark, almost black hair. There had been another ball the previous evening, and that was another reason Jonathan was so angry. The Season was upon them in full swing, and as the son of the Earl of Netherbury, and twenty-eight years old, he had an obligation to attend almost every social occasion to which he was invited. It was an available viscount’s role to smile handsomely, be charming, and woo the matchmaking mamas.

But instead, he usually spent most of the evening in the card room drinking far too much whisky or in the ballroom stealing glances at Miss Amelia Montague whenever possible. Hence the reason for his headache that morning. It was multi-fold. His valet entered the room and Jonathan let out another groan, pressing his fingers against his temples.

“Merton! You are going to be the death of me with how loud you open doors,” he grumbled as the valet brought hot water to the dressing table. 

The young man merely chuckled and gave him a smile. “You say that every morning, my lord, but you are still here, as am I.”

Jonathan grumbled something else under his breath, making Merton laugh once more, but somehow, he ended up in the chair in front of the dressing table so that Merton could shave him.

“And how was your evening last night, my lord?” Merton asked, his eyes sparkling with amusement.

“If you must know, it was utterly dull, hence the reason I drank far too much whisky than I ought to have done.”

Merton slid the razor across his cheek. And when he wiped it on the towel, he said, “then most of the social engagements you have this Season have been rather dull, I imagine. Since you are so very often with headache.” 

Jonathan threw his valet a dark look, which only seemed to amuse Merton more. But he was glad that Merton knew he would never release him from his duties. In fact, sometimes Jonathan enjoyed the subtle reprimands. At least in those situations, it was more about entertainment, whereas the reprimands from his father were not so subtle and certainly had nothing funny about them.

“Will you be making any calls today, my lord? To young ladies, perhaps?” Merton asked, finishing up the last stroke of the razor and then wiping Jonathan’s chin with the towel.

“I do not believe so, Merton. Why do you ask?” He was not in the mood to go visiting, and it was not as if he had had eyes for any woman besides Amelia for years. 

She had written him a letter saying no a few years ago, and he’d been unable to get over it ever since.

“I only mean to choose a proper cravat, my lord, that is all,” Merton said, pulling out the chair so that Jonathan could stand.

Once he was dressed, Jonathan was eager to get to breakfast. Perhaps after some food he might be able to get rid of the headache and think a little more clearly about the information he’d received last night. The balls that Season were often late; that was true. But equally as often he and his best friend Charles Montague would head out on the town afterwards and play cards until the wee morning hours, drinking themselves into a stupor and making foolish decisions.

“Your debts are considerable, my lord,” the gambling hall owner’s clerk had said to him after handing him a piece of paper in his office. 

He had said it in a whisper with respect, even though they were alone. Jonathan had taken the paper and shoved it into his inner coat pocket before taking his leave. But he was embarrassed. He had once looked down upon those kinds of men who gambled away their fortunes and hurt their family members through their lack of funds.

But ever since that rejection, one he still did not understand, he turned to enjoying himself whenever possible: drinking, women, gambling. It was the only thing that did make any sense to him, and it kept him from thinking about dark things, things he did not want to think about any longer, things that reminded him he did not measure up. The only trouble was, Amelia was his best friend Charles’s sister, and so he’d not only had to deal with the rejection but pretend that he was still her friend, too. 

Surprisingly, he was the first in the breakfast room, but he wasn’t alone for long. Once he had filled his plate and sat down, his younger sister Marianne ran into the room and squeezed him around the shoulders. 

“Be gentle. I’m not as young as I once was,” he teased, trying not to show his grimace.

Marianne, only fifteen, patted him on the shoulder and then she went to get her own food with a sigh.

“You had better not be too ill to play croquet with me this afternoon. You promised yesterday.”

“Did I?” he asked, trying to remember when that had been.

It was then that his father entered the room and saw Jonathan’s state; finger pressing against one of his temples, his other hand holding a teacup aloft, and his face pinched. 

“Jonathan,” his father said with a slight nod and a disapproving tone. “You are looking rather the worse for wear. I was informed that you were out late last evening.” 

“Your informant would be right then, Father. I did come home eventually, though,” he told him, glad to have Marianne seated at his side again. 

When Marianne was present, his father would not scold him as much as he might do if they were alone.

His father was silent as he got his food, and Jonathan and Marianne could talk in hushed tones about Marianne’s evening of games. It had been years since his father approved of him, but he had given up long ago, even if he craved in his heart for that look of satisfaction from his father. It was another reason he turned to constant entertainments elsewhere. A pretty, available young woman never turned him down when he charmed and teased. It reminded him that not everyone found him useless. 

When breakfast was done, however, Marianne rushed off, reminding him of his promise, and Jonathan practically groaned aloud as he turned back, waiting for the scolding which was sure to come.

“Need I remind you, Jonathan, that you are twenty-eight years old? You should consider the future.”

Jonathan rubbed his face and said nothing, staring down into his cup of tea.

“I know you are still thinking of Miss Montague, but surely that is all now in the past. That was three years ago. You should start thinking of a wife, having your own family, and growing up.”

It was that last part that was like tinder to a flame. He pushed up from the table and he glared at his father.

“I have had enough of these scolds, Father. I’ll handle my affairs as I see fit. It is not as if I was given the example of a happy marriage to look up to. So, I’m not so eager to jump into it myself.”

Jonathan felt cold with both fury and guilt before he turned away and walked out of the breakfast room, eager to find Marianne and play croquet and avoid his father for the rest of the day.

Chapter Two

“You have a what?” Lady Elizabeth Waverley’s friend, Katherine, asked her in shock. 

She was speaking far too loudly for being in a tea shop. Elizabeth shushed her, pressing a gloved finger to her lips, her green eyes widening with embarrassment. “No need to scream it! I have a list,” she repeated, whispering, hoping that Katherine would mirror her. 

“A list?” Katherine practically screeched, turning a few heads their way.

Elizabeth shook her head and focused on pouring a bit of milk into her tea as she gathered her patience. She knew she should not have told her friend about it and now she was regretting it, but Katherine would never leave her in peace until she understood everything about it. 

Katherine leaned forward a bit and, in a whisper, apologized. 

“A list? But why do you have a list?” she asked more quietly. “You are not going to an auction to buy a head of cattle.” 

Elizabeth smirked, dipping a spoon into her tea, and swirling it around before she took a sip. “No, but it is not so very unlike that. Besides, one can never trust a man, especially not one who is handsome and charming and tries to tease you into doing things you would never do, making you fall in love with them until they turn around and pretend you never existed.”

She cleared her throat, then, putting her cup down into the saucer, wishing that her voice had not sounded so stern and bitter. She had hoped to make it sound funny, but Katherine’s pitying look only made her feel worse. She leaned back a bit in her chair, hoping that no one else had heard what she’d said. But that didn’t matter, she supposed, for everyone knew what had happened already. 

At twenty-two years old, daughter to the Earl of Chamberlain, Elizabeth, was still unmarried. It was partially her own doing, for it was not as though she hadn’t had offers. But now that this Season was underway, she was determined to find a match. A proper match, one that was safe and predictable and not handsome or teasing at all. She took another sip and over her teacup, she watched her friend, Lady Katherine Grey, stare at her. 

“Come now, Elizabeth, there is no need to be so dramatic. Simply because one man was an utter cad does not mean that you should consider all handsome and charming men to be the same. I beg you, please do not consider Vicar Wattlesford for a husband.” Katherine scrunched up her nose. “He has a shiny bald patch, and he is quite literally the dullest man to whom I have ever spoken.”

Elizabeth smiled a little at Katherine’s dramatic description. Katherine was an utter beauty with bright red hair and brown eyes. She had many suitors, but she often said what she meant, of which her mother did not approve. As for herself, with blonde hair and bright green eyes, she too had her fair share of suitors. And currently, Vicar Wattlesford was one of them. He had made his desires known almost right from the beginning of the Season. Now, he was coming to her house regularly. He was dull, but she would certainly never admit that to Katherine.

“He’s quite a respectable man, Katherine, and a far cry from a rake like Edward. Rakes will not do.” 

It had taken her at least a year to be able to say the name aloud. Lord Edward Morton, a viscount, had taken a liking to her two years before, and he had courted her thoroughly, or at least she had thought so. She had fallen for him almost instantly. He was intelligent, teasing, charming, and he got along with her family. He was handsome, too. But now she knew he was far too handsome for his own good. She had expected a proposal at any time, and she would have been eager to accept it. But then one day, he pretended he had not been courting her. Without word, he stopped coming around. When she’d written him about it, he’d written back, claiming he did not know what she meant. 

He then continued to flirt and tease with other women among the ton. She’d heard that he had woman after woman outside of it, and he was a rake of the highest order. Since then, she’d been resolved to one truth: no more rakes for her.

“I’m sure there are plenty of other interesting and handsome young men who are also a far cry from Edward, Elizabeth.” Katherine picked up the tongs and plopped a sugar cube into her tea before stirring it in. “And you seem to think you know how to tell a rake from any other handsome man.” 

“It is easy enough,” Elizabeth said, filling her cup with more tea. “I will be able to spot a rake from a mile away, and that is why I have a list. It is a list of requirements for a husband that have nothing to do with being charming or handsome or any other useless qualities that tend to denote poor character.”

She grimaced, a little annoyed that she sounded like an old schoolmistress, but it was far better this way. Never again would she be so humiliated, and never again would she be so hurt by someone who did not care a whit about her. No, she would protect her heart from ever being broken again. It was the only sensible thing to do. 

“All right, so what is on this list?” Katherine asked with a tiny shake of the head. 

Elizabeth cleared her throat and dug inside her reticule for a folded bit of paper. 

“It’s here with you?” Katherine asked in shock, making Elizabeth shush her again.

She unfolded it and stared at her friend. “Why, of course. It is like a talisman protecting me from rakes and also reminding me of my good sense.” She cleared her throat, pretending to ignore Katherine’s eye-roll. “The first one is very important. He must be an avid reader.”

“Oh dear Lord,” Katherine said with a yawn. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it through the rest.”

Chapter Three

It was two days later that another ball was on Jonathan’s social schedule. He did not need his father to remind him, for Merton kept him well abreast of his social engagements. And so, there he was, in a perfectly crisp white cravat—thanks to Merton’s efforts—in the middle of a ballroom watching people dance, and holding a glass of champagne in his hand.

He was resolved not to have any more whisky for a time. It addled the brain far too much, and that headache had lasted far longer than his usual. His father’s scold hadn’t helped at all. After their harsh words in the breakfast room, Jonathan had spent the rest of the day and the following day thinking about it, not only his father’s words, but also the words he’d said back.

Even though he had not had anything to drink in two days, the headache still remained. He took a sip of champagne, trying to ignore it. But he couldn’t ignore the look on his father’s face when he’d said those terrible words. It wasn’t his father’s fault that his mother had left him and her children years ago to run away to Europe with her lover. It was another reason Amelia’s rejection had hurt so much. It felt like the situation with his mother all over again. Could he make no woman stay? 

“Ah, Jonathan,” a familiar voice said to him, a voice that still made his heart skip a beat. He turned to look at Amelia. She was approaching him on her own, without her brother. She had dark hair and bright, sparkling grey eyes, eyes that were always merry. 

“Amelia,” he said with a smile. “Have you just arrived?”

At least all his time gambling about town with her brother had made it easier to speak to Amelia. He had created a persona of charm and wit. Even if he felt nervous, underneath it all, he could tell that she did not notice, and for that, he was eternally grateful.

“Hardly, Jonathan. I have been dancing for a few dances already. But you, it seems, are standing by in the corner while all the eligible young ladies gawk after you.” She hid her mouth with her fan and whispered, “and all the mamas are glaring both angrily and hopefully in your direction.” 

He looked about and then laughed. “Surely not, Amelia. They have many other men far more worthy of their time. I am quite the dissolute rake these days.” 

“Self-deprecation?” she asked with a lifted brow. “It seems my brother could learn a few things from you.”

She smiled at him, and he turned away to stare at the dance floor. When she smiled, it was as though she remembered the past and their tender feelings for one another. He had been spending a lot of time with Charles, her brother, and he’d been coming around the house more and more. Even at eighteen, she was mature and witty. They had spent many evenings playing games and laughing as a trio. He had thought that she felt the same about him. 

“Well, I do try to teach him, Amelia,” he said, pushing away thoughts of the past. Such thoughts would do him no good. On that, he could agree with his father.

“And I’m glad for it.” He looked down when she placed a gloved hand on his arm. His heart sped up. 

He wished he knew the reason for her rejection. They got along well, and she seemed to enjoy his company. She seemed to like him in general. The words were always on the tip of his tongue, but they were hardly ever alone long enough for him to have the time to ask her. Before he could say anything, a young man approached her for a dance, and she smiled at Jonathan before leaving his side.

He stared at her as she left, feeling like a man with a hole in his heart and wishing he could figure out how to truly fix it. Time heals all wounds is what the old adage said, and yet he was still hanging onto the past. 

“What’s this? Viscount Harrington standing here with a long face while all the young ladies swoon?” 

His friend, Sir Charles Montague, approached. He clinked his champagne glass against Jonathan’s and stood at his side. He had the same grey eyes as his sister and the dark hair as well. He was a shorter man, brash, loud, and always smiling. People liked him. Even when they didn’t want to like him, they liked him. He was a baronet, and he and Jonathan had known one another since university.

“You flatter me. Just the fatigue, old friend,” Jonathan said, downing the rest of his champagne.

“I’m not so sure, Jonathan.” Jonathan didn’t realize he was still staring at Amelia and the man as they danced. “It seems that you still think of the past at times and that rejection that broke your heart.”

Sometimes he hated the way Charles talked about things, as if nothing truly mattered. “Why speak of that, Charles?” he asked, trying to keep impatience from his voice.

Charles put a hand on his shoulder. “Now listen to me. I’ll take pity on you, old friend. You have certainly shown you’re capable of long-term affection.” He looked around at the various lords and ladies who filled the ballroom. It was a sea of lace and pearls and feathers, and there was the scent of various perfumes in the air. It was strange how one could be with so many and yet feel so lonely. “I have an idea. An idea that just might get you Amelia.”

Jonathan turned to look at his friend, and he blinked a few times. “Are you mad?” he asked. An old hope sparked into life at his friend’s words, even if he thought he’d squashed it long ago. “What are you talking about?”

“I have an idea, and it’s rather a proposition for a solution to your problems. I will help you endeavor to earn Amelia’s affections once more. But there’s something you must do first to prove just how much you want my sister.” 

Jonathan wasn’t sure if this was one of Charles’s games. He very much liked games, and sometimes they were cruel. But he couldn’t avoid the temptation of having that chance with Amelia again. And with Charles on his side, her beloved brother, it was almost guaranteed that it would work. 

He lifted his chin a bit, and he picked up another glass of champagne from a passing footman trying to act cool, calm, and collected. 

“What is it you wish to do?” he asked.

“Think of it as a bet. And if you win, you get a chance to win Amelia back with my knowledgeable assistance.” Grinning, he spread his fingers over his dark mustache. “I want you to spend your Season wooing the virtuous lady, Elizabeth Waverley.”

“Passion’s Pact with the Viscount” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Lady Elizabeth Waverly vows to guard her heart fiercely, determined to never have it broken again, and certainly not by the scorching touch of a notorious rake. As the Season dawns, she enters the fray with steely resolve, her gaze unyielding. Armed with a meticulously crafted list, she sets out on a quest to find a husband. Yet, amidst her unwavering determination, a force emerges, a tempest of desire that threatens to unravel her carefully constructed defenses…

Can she keep to the list, or will she give into the desire that threatens to take over?

Lord Jonathan Harrington’s obsession with Miss Amelia, his unrequited love, still consumes him three years after her rejection. Despite drowning his sorrows in hedonism, he remains shackled by debt, familial disapproval, and inner turmoil. When his friend Charles proposes a scheme to win Lady Waverly’s heart in exchange for Charles’s help in winning Amelia back, Jonathan faces a moral dilemma…

Pursue his longed-for happiness at any cost, even if it means using another to achieve it?

Jonathan and Elizabeth embark on a clandestine dance of courtship, each harboring a hidden truth. Jonathan, fueled by a fierce determination to capture another’s affections, and Elizabeth, driven by a simmering desire for retribution against reckless hearts. Will the revelation of the lies be enough to ruin them? Or will they find love amidst all the deception, their bodies entwined in a fiery embrace, leaving them breathless and longing for more?

“Passion’s Pact with the Viscount” is a historical romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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