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The Scoundrel Seeks a Wife E-Book

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When the big scoundrel fears hurting his little sprite.

Ethereal Iris Taylor has always been the soft-spoken cousin-turned-sister of the Garden Girls.

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Beautiful but shy, she tries not to be a burden after her biological mother abandoned her as a baby. And now that her biological father has revealed himself, all she yearns for is his acceptance. When he suggests she marry a stranger to help him overcome financial woes, she can't say no.

But will it be enough to earn his love?

Clarke Calloway is a scoundrel. Known for gambling and womanizing, he's anything but husband material. However, when the indebted Marquess of Linton approaches with a deal—marry his bastard daughter in exchange for paying off Linton's debt—Clarke can't resist nabbing a lady for himself, even if she is illegitimate.

Will these two opposites attract? Or will this arranged marriage end in despair?

Content Note: Explicit language and steamy sexual scenes abound.

 

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From The Scoundrel Seeks a Wife

PROLOGUE

1872 LONDON, ENGLAND

The marquess was about to lose.

Clarke Calloway knew it.

As did every other player at the table.

The only person unaware of his misfortune was the marquess himself—a consummate gambler with more streaks of bad luck than good. Rumor had it he’d lost his vast family fortune, and creditors nipped at his heels.

“Call,” Clarke said, eyeing the older man whose cravat revealed the dark stain of sweat around his neck.

I have him now.

Known in certain social circles for his skill with cards and women, Clarke was no stranger to struggling lords who couldn’t win a game of vingt-et-un if their life depended on it, and in truth, they were his favorite people to play against.

Besting the nobility? Collecting their coin as easily as checking his pocket watch?

Well, he couldn’t resist the smug pleasure it brought him.

The dealer flipped over the next card, and the Marquess of Linton groaned—his defeat written in the upturned faces laid out on the green bombazine. Grinning, Clarke clucked his tongue and accepted his winnings. One thousand pounds. Not too shabby for a night’s work. Not that he made a career off the backs of blue bloods, but it padded his coffers quite nicely.

“Good game, Linton.” Thank you for being such a deplorable player.

“Ah, yes. Same to you, Calloway.” Linton swiped a handkerchief over his forehead and nodded absent-mindedly before leaving the table, no doubt to find another game to lose. The rest of the men stretched or took the time to have their glasses refilled before the next round of play began, and Clarke felt the prickling of impending… something.

“Are you finished yet, lovey?” Marissa leaned over his back, her arms wrapping around his shoulders to slip inside his jacket. One of the regular women Martin’s offered to their patrons, she’d warmed his bed multiple times in the past, though it’d been awhile since he’d frequented the upstairs quarters of the gambling hell.

“Not quite.” He stood from the table and considered the room. “I’ve got a feeling there’s more in store for me tonight besides fucking. Might want to find someone else for the evening.”

A certain energy crackled in the air. He couldn’t properly describe it but had learned over the past three decades of his life to trust his gut when the sensation arose. His mum even likened it to a guardian angel keeping careful watch over her son—guiding his path—though he doubted God spent much time assigning angels to men like him. Nevertheless, Clarke heeded its warning, remaining downstairs to see if he couldn’t sniff out the source of his wariness.

Marissa harrumphed, crossing her arms over an ample bosom that swelled past the neckline of her dress. “Suit yourself. But don’t come crawling to me later when you’re wanting a little slap and tickle.” She sashayed away, and Clarke shook his head in amusement.

Not bloody likely.

Women didn’t make him crawl.

They came begging for him.

Not that he could blame them. Lady or harlot, he fucked them all—ensuring their pleasure as well as his own. It was the lone gentlemanly quality he possessed in an otherwise scoundrel existence.

Nearing the bar at the back of the room, Clarke overheard someone bragging about his daughter, listing her fine qualities like she was a horse for sale at Tattersall’s. “I’m telling you, Iris is beautiful, a Diamond of the First Water. Or she would’ve been had I known of her existence prior to a few months ago.” The words boomed from the middle of a crowd, with a few syllables becoming slurred towards the end.

Perfect, a drunk windbag.

“Beautiful,” the man repeated. “And a true lady despite her rustic upbringing. Why she’ll make any man the perfect bride. What about you, Sheldon? You’re searching for a wife, aren’t you?”

What the devil? This lunatic really was trying to sell the poor chit.

“No offense, but your bastard daughter isn’t the kind of wife I want.”

Bastard daughter?

Intrigued, Clarke moved closer. Who thought to sell their daughter at Martin’s? Let alone an illegitimate one? Polite society rarely recognized such offspring, yet this man proudly displayed the connection like a piece of gold to be bandied about.

The group of onlookers parted to reveal none other than the Marquess of Linton himself, waving an empty glass in his hand while glancing wildly from man to man. “I do take offense! Iris is a sweet girl and certainly fit to warm the bed of an old codger like you!”

“It’s not her feminine charms I’m concerned with; it’s her lack of legitimacy. Her tainted blood. Crow all you want about beauty and grace, I suppose there’s something to be said of your current acknowledgment of her, but you won’t be pawning her off on anyone of note.” Cut down delivered, Sheldon left along with two other men as the crowd slowly dispersed.

Curious about Linton’s intentions, that peculiar energy winding tighter around him, Clarke edged into the man’s view and called for two whiskys from the bartender. “Tell me, my lord. Why are you so intent on ridding yourself of this girl if you’ve only just met her?”

“What’s a daughter good for if not strengthening the family through marriage?”

What’s she good for indeed…

Clarke scowled at the older nobleman—another prime example of society’s view of the fairer sex. Clarke may not be a gentleman, but at least he respected women enough to know they had more smarts than most men of his acquaintance. “And how, pray tell, do you expect her to strengthen your family?”

Linton swayed nearer, bringing a whiff of alcohol on his breath and causing Clarke to wrinkle his nose in disgust. “Truth be told, I’m in a bit of a bind. But discovering Iris was the godsend I needed to get out of it. I’m willing to accept twenty-five thousand pounds in exchange for her hand in marriage.”

The exorbitant sum momentarily stunned Clarke, who prided himself on his unshakable disposition. Twenty-five thousand pounds! He must be in deep to need that much blunt.

But does his daughter possess a golden cunt?

What man would pay such an amount for one woman?

After all, Linton should be paying his daughter’s dowry to a potential husband, not the other way around.

“She may be illegitimate, but don’t let that detract from her more important assets. My blood runs through her veins—the blood of Lintons from eight generations. We’re one of the oldest families in the country! If these men would pull the stick out of their arses, they’d be jumping at the chance to wed Iris. Most can’t imagine marrying so well.” Linton paused for a breath and downed a gulp of amber liquid from his glass. “Besides, she’s a pretty girl. Quiet from what I can tell. She’s a lady, I tell you, blood won out with her.”

Clarke wanted to laugh in the man’s face. He wanted to spin on his heel, grab Marissa, and ignore that sense of impending… something. Something he feared had just revealed itself in the form of Linton.

I don’t need a wife.

I’m not meant to be a husband.

His mind raced through every negative reason why he should leave Linton to find some other poor sap to pay off his debts, yet the idea of nabbing a lady—even an illegitimate one—fascinated him.

You don’t need a lady.

But I want one.

An arrogant part of him relished the thought of strolling through Hyde Park with an illegitimate lady on his arm. Of hobnobbing with the upper crust who’d normally turn their noses up at him—a product of a sailor and butcher’s daughter—yet forced to endure his and his wife’s presence because of Linton.

As if those weren’t reason enough, his mother would love it. She’d wanted him to marry for a long time now, and to surprise her with a lady? Clarke could already see the smile of joy lighting her frail features.

You have the financial means to meet the marquess’s ridiculous requirement.

The itch became stronger—becoming a fever pitch of awareness.

“Alright, you’ve got yourself a deal.” Clarke offered a hand to shake on it, but Linton looked confused, so he smoothly pulled back and stuffed it in his coat pocket. Praying the man remembered their conversation when sober, he continued, “I’ll have a contract made stating the arrangements: you’ll receive twenty-five thousand pounds upon my marriage to your daughter. If I were you, I suggest arranging said nuptials as quickly as possible… before I change my mind, or your creditors get too impatient.”

He waited for a reply, amused by the bevy of expressions contorting Linton’s cloudy eyes and thin cheeks. When a jovial yet slurred confirmation tumbled from the lord’s lips, Clarke set his empty glass on the bar, nodded farewell, and left—seeking fresh air after such a momentous decision.

What the hell have I done?

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Customer Reviews

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A
AJ
Arranged marriage leads to love

I enjoyed this story where an arranged marriage turns into a whole lot more. Iris and Clarke are easy characters to like, they are quite opposites at first but a bond and romance soon develops and becomes a binding love.

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