MARRIAGE OF LIES by Tracy Cooper-Posey

Scandalous Scions Book 3.0

Victorian Era Historical Romance Novel

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Guilt about their love for each other is steadily destroying their lives…

Since Sharla married the Duke of Wakefield, Ben’s life has slowly crumbled as the knowledge that he is a mere commoner and can never have her eats at his soul.

Sharla hides the truth about her disastrous marriage from everyone, shamed by her failure.

When Ben glimpses a fragment of the awful truth, he knows he must do what he can to help her…and in the process he might just be able to pull his own life from the gutter.

Marriage of Lies is the third book in the spin-off series following the historical romances of Scandalous Sirens.  Scandalous Scions brings together the members of three great families, to love and play under the gaze of the Victorian era’s moralistic, straight-laced society.

This story is part of the Scandalous Scions series:
0.5 Rose of Ebony
1.0 Soul of Sin
2.0 Valor of Love
3.0 Marriage of Lies

3.5 Scandalous Scions Boxed Set One
4.0 Mask of Nobility
5.0 Law of Attraction
6.0 Veil of Honor

6.5 Scandalous Scions Boxed Set Two
7.0 Season of Denial
8.0 Rules of Engagement
9.0 Degree of Solitude

9.5 Scandalous Scions Boxed Set Three
10.0 Ashes of Pride
11.0 Risk of Ruin

12.0 Year of Folly
13.0 Queen of Hearts

13.5 Scandalous Scions Boxed Set Four
A Sexy Historical Romance Series

This series is also available as a Special Bundle

{Also see: Romance, Historical Romance, Novels}

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Wakefield, West York, September 1863.

It was a shock when Wakefield spoke to her directly, so much so that Sharla could not compose a polite reply.  In her mind, a single phrase repeated itself.  My husband spoke to me!

It was her shock that made her do what she did next, which changed everything.  After all, it had been…how long since he had addressed her?  Three…four weeks.  Yes.  Four weeks and three days, since Dane Balfour, the Duke of Wakefield, and her husband of two years and four months, had met her gaze.

By the time she had recovered enough wit to stutter a bodiless “Th-thank you,” to his comment that she looked “quite charming this morning,” Wakefield had moved on.  He strode across the gravel to the group of gentlemen—lords, each and every one of them—who stood in a loose cluster discussing the merits of horse and rider.

There were eighteen horses strutting restlessly about the imposing front façade of Wakefield Manor, blowing heavy billows of steam as they pranced, for the morning was crisp and the air thick with wreathes of mist that muffled the chink of harnessing and the low conversations as the hunting party waited for the call to hunt.

The Wakefield butler, Mayerick, moved among the hunters, handing up mulled wine to riders, his footmen following him with trays of cups.

There was even one lady among the riders.  Clarissa, Lady Carstairs, was sitting with perfect stillness upon her mare, sipping tea, her dark riding habit arranged decorously around her limbs.

Hounds circled the horse’s legs, fretful and anxious to begin.  They knew this annual ritual as thoroughly as the riders, who had travelled from as far afield as the Orkneys to attend.

Sharla’s gaze drew back to Wakefield.  Dane, she reminded herself, for sometimes it was an effort to recall his first name.  He had been “Wakefield” in her mind since he had slid her engagement ring into place.

The Duke stood with his hands on his hips, his jacket open and pushed aside, laughing with the other gentlemen. Even though he did not hunt, he wore a hunting outfit every bit as natty and refined as those the others were wearing, for he was the host of this hunt.  His boots gleamed, his cravat was perfectly tied, the cloth of his breeches was immaculate.

Sharla let her gaze wander over Wakefield’s face.  The high cheekbones and black brows over sky blue eyes.  The curly, dark hair that framed it.  The sharp chin.

As she had asked herself many thousands of times, Sharla wondered what had gone wrong.  How had her marriage grown stale and moribund, barely a moment after the wedding?

What had she done, or failed to do?  There was surely some feminine secret of which she was ignorant, that would relieve her of this unhappy state?  How would she ever know what that was?  She could not ask Elisa as she might once have, for Elisa was beyond her reach.  Elisa’s two friends and confidantes, Natasha and the Princess Annalies, who might have helped Sharla with frank wisdom, were also out of bounds for the same reason.

Sharla smoothed her hands over the folds of emerald blue sateen skirt she wore.  It was a wrapper, but so cunningly designed that no one would guess just how casually she was attired.  The hoops were the newest kind, that projected further behind than in front.  The hem of the wrapper featured a twelve-inch deep border of red and gold braid and panels of embroidered flowers.  The braid also cinched about her waist.

The sleeves were the new kind with the tight wrist and wide elbows, which made them very comfortable to wear.

Did she really look charming?  Certainly, no one outside the inner-most circles of London would be wearing these hoops, yet.

She glanced at Wakefield once more.  He was speaking with Mayerick as the grey-haired butler held out a glass of the port that Wakefield preferred.  Had she unconsciously done something that had encouraged Wakefield to speak to her, just now?  If only she knew what that was!  She would repeat the action a hundred times over.

The skittish horses sidled.  As sometimes happened, they moved in unison, a collective body prancing sideways, shying from some imaginary threat as the mist rose up around them.

The group of men, her husband among them, took a step out of the way, as the closest rider snapped his whip against the withers of his mount, bringing the stallion back under control.  The horse bridled at the whip, its eyes rolling.  The application of discipline was not calming it at all.

The rider applied the whip with even more resolve.

Unlike the other men standing around him, who merely laughed, or watched with interest, Wakefield flinched backwards at the snap and whistle of the leather, his eyes narrowing, a furrow appearing between them. His hand came up defensively, before he caught himself and put it back by his side.

He glanced around to see who had noticed his reaction.

Sharla dropped her gaze, so he would not know she had witnessed it, but she was too late.

The horse was still stepping nervously, not responding to the whip.  Instead of trying something different, the rider cursed and applied the whip even harder, his face red as the creature refused to obey.

The stallion’s rear legs were too close to Wakefield.  The horse was swinging about, tossing its head, oblivious to anything but the terrifying fingers of mist climbing its legs and tickling its chest.

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