An American for Agnes, The Friendship Series, Book 10
Most women would think it flattering to be the object of attention of more than one titled gentlemen. Not artist Agnes Bradford. One pursuer seeks to control her, to publicly ruin her if she refuses to submit. The other one is more difficult to resist and with him, it’s necessary to deceive.
Recently found missing heir, Maxime Blayne, Lord Loverton, travels to England to take up his title. Or so everyone thinks. His true purpose is to find the murderer of his parents. Then he meets fragile, heartbroken Agnes and that changes everything.
“My lord, do you have an appreciation for the arts?”
“Painting, most definitely,” he answered with a grin that looked suspiciously playful. “But as I confessed, I’ve no talent whatsoever, therefore, I have to settle for visual pleasure instead of expressive.”
“Ah, then you must likewise appreciate the written word, especially since you wish to ‘pen a story’ as you said. Would it be impertinent to ask if you attended university?”
“I read law at Harvard but soon learned that the law and I did not suit. I stayed to study the classics.”
“Your father was a lawyer?”
“No, a diplomat. I thought you knew.”
“No. Cameron only mentioned their tragic passing. May I ask what happened to you after that? He said you were quite young when you lost them.”
“Eight. I was fortunate to have been delivered to a family friend, who later took me to Pennsylvania. My father had enjoyed a close friendship with a prosperous businessman in Philadelphia, Mr. Aloysius Berger. He adopted me.”
“Did he know about your connection to the title?”
“No. He passed away five years ago, long before anyone knew anything about me. He left me everything.”
“Mr. Berger had no children?”
“No. His wife died not long after I came to live with him, and he never wanted to remarry.”
She sensed that he had more to say about the man who adopted him and stayed quiet. A thoughtful frown creased his brow until he eventually spoke what occupied his mind.
“It was a love match between my adoptive parents, even though their parents made the decision and arrangements. She was an heiress from Delaware. The families had business ties. They’d never met but once before the wedding ceremony. Father Berger said he was smitten the instant he saw her, even though he couldn’t accurately describe her afterward. Strange, isn’t that?”
“Not really.” She caught herself disagreeing and looked for the dogs to distract from the blunder. She whistled and they came romping back, dancing around her. With a wave of her hand, she freed them to continue their play.
Loverton put her on the spot when he gently persisted, “You don’t find that strange, that he couldn’t describe her, not even the color of her hair or dress, but knew himself in love?”
Gathering her courage, she answered with what she knew would sound odd, if not daft. “The heart sees what it wants to see. I believe your Mr. Berger saw her with his heart, or his soul, not his eyes.”
“An interesting point of view. Can you explain your opinion in further detail?”
She took a moment to organize her thoughts. “Have you ever met someone and immediately formed a connection? I did that with Allison, Cameron’s wife. The instant she walked into the room, I knew her, felt that I must’ve always known her.”
“I was disappointed not to meet her and look forward to when she returns, but you say that it as if you had known her before.”
He’d posed that as a question. “Well, yes. I think I knew her in heaven. It was an immediate connection for me, although, the artist in me saw more than the soul. I tend to notice features, physical structure and coloration. Allison has lovely brown hair.”
“So you’re saying that Father saw her soul, not her physical self. How intriguing. Yes, I can understand that quite perfectly. What a clever explanation.”
His easy acceptance of what another would set down as outlandish caused a moment of bewilderment. He either had a too-open mind or was merely working up a bit of flattery. She wanted to believe that his flattery was not merely a tactic or stratagem. Not all men were like Vincent. Her brother was not. Neither was Lord Carnall or Lord Asterly.
Loverton broke into her thoughts. “So, are you available for a commission?”
“A commission. A portrait?”
Her mind went momentarily blank from concern about the unsettling effects of his personality. An extended period of time was needed to complete a work of art. Would she be able to concentrate?
An American for Agnes is available now on presale for release on May 31st, 2017.