Lord Jasper Spranklin, Earl of Simmons, gazed around the populated ballroom, wiping a bit of sweat from his brow. It was stifling but this heat did not temper his enjoyment in the slightest. There were plenty of lovely ladies all around, wearing their shiny gossamer frocks, many with feathers in their hair, as was the fashion of the day. Although Jasper would usually be more discerning when it came to dancing with ladies, he was now holding back no longer.
“Good evening,” he said to one lady in particular, bowing his head.
She fluttered her eyelashes, and a flush came to her cheeks. “Good evening, my lord,” she said with a curtsy.
“Most certainly. Such a marvellous event!”
“That it is, indeed.”
She stood there in stunned silence for a moment, perhaps waiting for Jasper to carry on the conversation. He was used to women being struck dumb in his presence, for he was told that he was a handsome fellow. But what Jasper did not like was ladies who were so bashful in his presence. Jasper preferred a woman who could speak, and what’s more, a woman who could hold an intelligent conversation.
That being said, the lady standing before him who was struck dumb was still quite pretty.
“Should I check my dance card?” the lady finally asked, no doubt implying that she and Jasper should dance.
“That would be most kind of you, but I am afraid that I do not know your name. I am the Earl of Simmons,” Jasper went on.
“Yes, I know who you are, my lord. I am Miss Kitty Spencer. We have never had a chance to formally meet.”
The casual conversation continued, and Jasper concluded that it would be enjoyable to dance with Miss Kitty Spencer, but he did not feel that strong pull towards her that he sought. Yes, she was a bit dull, and she continuously fluttered her fan in front of her face trying to amplify her appeal.
The dance being scheduled, Miss Kitty excused herself lest she tarry for too long, and just as she departed, Jasper felt as though the room was spinning and sweat trickled from his brow more forcefully. He feared that he might faint. Jasper quickly found a seat where he could steady himself, and once there, he loosened his cravat and reasoned that his valet had tied it too tight.
Of course, he would be deluding himself if he believed that last thought. The cravat did not explain the heat or suddenly feeling faint. He knew the source of these things, but it was difficult to admit to himself. Just then, Jasper spotted his very best friend, Felton Andrews, just across the way. Felton was flirting with two ladies, and this brought a smile to Jasper’s lips, helping him to forget, for a moment, about the fainting spell.
Felton and Jasper had known each other since they were young boys, and his friend was always a source of fun and mischief. They liked to get into a bit of trouble when they were together, and during the Season, a little trouble was not difficult to find.
Jasper heaved a sigh of relief. Yes, the faint feeling had passed, and he was himself again! He stood to his full height, which was considerably tall, for Jasper surmised that he stood above the rest in the ballroom. He caught his reflection in a mirror and inspected himself. No, he was not the kind of man that paid too much mind to his appearance, although his bearing was overall neat and refined. He did not care for the foppish ways of some of the other men at that event.
His blond hair was a bit wayward, but his blue eyes sparkled. He was often told that his eyes were the most captivating aspect of his appearance, and these he had inherited from his beloved mother. Thinking of the Dowager Countess, Jasper felt his heart constrict in his chest. She was the only one that knew. She was the only one that knew the truth about Jasper’s diagnosis….
Banishing these thoughts, Jasper thought it best to seize the day and dance with as many ladies as he could, enjoying life to the fullest. That was the only way to proceed. For when faced with challenges, his perspective was always strong. Life was something to be lived to the fullest and Jasper would have it no other way. He would not get weighed down in melancholy. He would enjoy every last moment.
Just then, he watched as Felton approached, carrying a flute of champagne. “What are you doing by yourself when there is much flirting to undertake?” Felton asked.
Jasper could not help but laugh. “There is indeed much flirting, and I was taking a break because it can be exhausting!”
“Do not lie, my friend. You find flirting exhilarating. There is no need to pretend that I am not the one that knows you best in this world.”
Jasper’s heart constricted in his chest once more. Yes, Felton knew him best, so why could he not tell his friend that very important bit of information that constantly lurked in the back of his mind? Jasper reasoned that it would be too difficult. Yet still, he would tell his friend when the moment was ripe.
Just then, something caught Felton’s eye, and he said, “Have you met that lady over there?”
Jasper looked in the direction that Felton motioned towards. He knit his brow, not recognizing the lady but finding her to be beautiful. “Who is she?”
“That is Lady Abigail Hatcher. I am surprised that you do not know of her. She attends these balls often. In fact, no one enjoys a party more than Abigail Hatcher.”
“Then it is quite surprising that I have never made her acquaintance. Should we approach?” Jasper asked.
“When the moment is ripe. For now, we drink!” Felton said, lifting his empty flute. “Come, the refreshments are this way.”
Jasper followed his friend, but truth be told, he was not one for too much drink. He preferred to keep his wits about him at all times, and there was no sense in needing champagne to feel enjoyment. Jasper enjoyed life as it was, and heavens, how he wished to enjoy as much of it as possible.
Still, he took a flute and clinked it against Felton’s glass. “Why did you point out this Abigail Hatcher?” Jasper asked, sensing something significant.
His brow raised. “I fancy her. Unfortunately, I fear that she might be out of my league.”
“Every lady here is out of your league, old chap. Let us face the truth.”
Both men smiled. In truth, Jasper loved teasing Felton at every possible juncture. They had shared the same humour since they were young boys, and sometimes he sensed that Felton was the only one who understood his biting wit.
“Go and speak with her,” Jasper advised.
Felton shook his head. “This is why I am trying to drink as much champagne as possible. I need the courage.”
“I have never known you to be one that is lacking in courage when it comes to the ladies.”
“With Abigail Hatcher, everything is different.”
“What is it about her that you find so appealing?” Jasper asked, taking a sip of his own champagne.
“Everything. The way that she goes from party to party in her elegant gowns, the manner in which she dances, and how she entirely ignores me.”
Jasper placed a humorous hand upon Felton’s shoulder. “Old chap, there is something that must be made clear here and now. You should probably not go after women that do not give you the time of day. You might want to choose those that pay attention to you, instead.”
“But it is so appealing!” Felton exclaimed. “When a lady pretends as though you do not exist, it brings up every predatory instinct that a man has within his breast. It is a challenge, and I love a good challenge!”
Jasper removed his hand and shook his head mournfully. “I fear that you are in for a bumpy path to love.”
“You do not find it appealing when you are ignored?”
Jasper had to consider this question. Yes, he understood how when a woman was particularly hard to steal the attention of, it did incite something in a man. Like Felton, Jasper liked a good challenge, but considering the other challenges that he faced, he would be content to find a woman with a pretty face, a sparkling mind and wit, and also, someone who genuinely liked him. There was no time for anything else.
Just then, Felton’s attention was stolen once more, and Jasper looked off into the distance. There was Abigail Hatcher again, but this time, she was joined by two other ladies, and there was one in particular that Jasper could not take his eyes off of.
“Who is that?” he had to ask.
“Which one? Abigail is the brunette, then there is the blonde and the redhead.”
“The redhead,” Jasper said definitively.
An amused smile appeared on Felton’s lips. “I see. She would certainly be to your liking.”
“What do you mean?” Jasper asked in confusion.
“You like the exotic ones, do you not? Yes, Lady Catherine Trowbridge would definitely be to your liking, with the shining red hair and green eyes. Most exotic indeed.” Felton winked.
Jasper did not wish to be caught staring, yet still, he could not take his eyes off of Catherine. How was it that he never met her before, or Abigail for that matter? Had Jasper been living under a rock, and if so, could he now set himself free?
“And who is the blonde?”
“That would be Selina Lockhart, Catherine’s closest friend. You would do well to be viewed as favourable in her estimation. Believe me, Selina and Catherine are nearly as close as you and I.”
“Is that even possible?” Jasper quipped.
The two friends shared a good laugh, but Jasper’s attention returned to Catherine yet again. Even from afar, there was something relaxed and natural about her, despite the exotic beauty. She wore a simple white gown, and her figure was lean, athletic, and most impressive. That being said, she was diminutive in height, and Jasper feared that his own height might provide some intimidation.
But what was he thinking? He had not even met the lady yet! There was still a chance that she had a squeaky voice or not a thought in her head.
“How is it that you are so well-informed about these ladies?”
“Unlike you,” Felton went on, “I learn as much about those around me as possible. You, however, merely carry on as though you are the only man in the world.”
Jasper was confused by this. “That is untrue. I merely keep to my own affairs. At least…of late that is the case.”
“And thus, all the ladies love you,” Felton replied, rolling his eyes. “It goes both ways, you realize. When a woman is distant, a man’s attention is piqued. And when a man is distant, all the ladies seem to swoon.”
This was all news to Jasper. Felton had never referred to him as distant before. Could it be that the recent news about his health had caused this? No, this was always Jasper’s manner. He kept to himself, gave his attention to those that he found interesting, and did not seek out anyone for selfish reasons. He was a self-contained sort of fellow. This kept things simple for him.
And Jasper needed things to be simple right now.
“Come, I am ready to speak with them,” Felton said, putting down his empty champagne flute.
“Now I am the one that is nervous,” Jasper replied, feeling that customary sweat come to his brow.
“Nonsense. You are the most dashing man in the room, and Catherine Trowbridge must have noticed that by now.”
Lady Catherine Trowbridge was at a loss for words. How was it that Abigail fit into society so effortlessly? In fact, Abigail Hatcher was the toast of the town! For Catherine, this was certainly not the case. As Abigail and Selina carried on, Catherine was left to think about her garden back at home, and how much she missed the hounds and horses.
“Catherine, you are daydreaming again,” Abigail scolded with a smile.
“This is not anything that I am accustomed to.”
“Then make yourself accustomed to it.” Abigail placed two friendly hands upon her bare shoulders. “You know that it is inevitable. You were saying last week that your mother and father wait in anticipation of a marriage.”
Selina added, “Do not put so much pressure upon her, Abigail. I see Catherine as the sort of lady that does not require a gentleman. She could spend the rest of her days riding her horse and reading her books, perfectly content.”
Catherine could not help but smile. Selina knew her all too well, perhaps better than Abigail did. What’s more, Selina always accepted Catherine, just the way that she was. This left a rather pleasant feeling in Catherine’s heart.
Abigail removed her hands from Catherine’s shoulders and rolled her eyes. Why was it that she was so intent upon Catherine marrying? “Abigail, you cannot scold me for not finding a husband when you yourself do not have one!” Catherine protested.
Abigail crossed her arms in front of her chest. “I am in no hurry to be wed. There are far too many fetching gentlemen in Bath. I should like to dance with all of them before I make a decision!”
Now, Catherine was the one to roll her eyes playfully. Abigail could be so conceited at times, and although she loved her friend dearly, Catherine knew that Abigail’s haughtiness might get her into trouble one of these days.
Oh, but Bath was ever so pleasant this time of year, and it made it easy to distract oneself from such thinking! Catherine already planned to walk down to the coast the following morning. How could marriage be so important when there was the sea, the sky, and the healing waters of the town? She estimated that she was very fortunate that her parents, the baron and baroness, did not send her to London for the Season. It would be abominable. There would be nowhere to escape.
“Come, let us find some eligible bachelors,” Abigail exclaimed, looking about the room as though she were on the hunt.
“I am nervous,” Catherine admitted, not liking the notion of having to converse with men that she did not know.
Selina surmised, “It is most fortunate that ladies are not allowed to approach men, Catherine. That way, you can stand here, being your beautiful self, merely waiting for them to come to you.”
Catherine constricted her brow in curiosity. What was Selina implying? She felt no more beautiful than her friends, but Selina was making it sound as though there was something particularly special about Catherine’s appearance. This made no sense to her in the slightest.
“Oh, heavens! Selina, do you see what I see?” Abigail asked. She nodded her head in the direction of two gentlemen directly across the ballroom.
Catherine watched as Selina’s mouth dropped open in shock. “Is that Felton Andrews?” she asked, returning her attention to Abigail.
“Indeed.” Abigail raised her brow. “In fact, I caught him looking this way earlier in the evening. I think that he is positively spying on us!”
“Who is Felton Andrews?” Catherine asked earnestly.
“Catherine, you really must go to more balls. Mr Andrews is at every single one! Oh, he is ever so handsome, and I hear tell that he has some kind of sentiment for me.” Abigail tossed her head to the side in pride. “Not that he is all that spectacular. In fact, I have seen more handsome gentlemen.” Her voice became hushed. “But I do fancy him, I must admit. Yet, I cannot let on as such. If Mr Andrew approaches then I shall be as cool as the waters of Bath. There’s no benefit to letting a man know that you have feelings for him.”
Catherine thought this abominable. She did not care for the games that society played. What’s more, if she were ever to fancy a man, she would tell him plainly. But these thoughts vanished as Catherine had a chance to view the gentleman just to Felton Andrews’ left. “Who is that?” she asked in a small voice.
Abigail grinned from ear to ear. “Catherine, there is so much for you to learn. If you do not know who that man is, then you are past help.” Her voice turned mischievous. “That is Lord Jasper Spranklin.”
“Lord Jasper Spranklin?” Catherine asked, having never heard the name. Oh, but he was ever so handsome and tall!
“The Earl of Simmons?” Abigail said, waiting for recognition to take hold. “You do not know the Earl? Why, I am positively aghast. Everyone knows Simmons, as the more distinguished call him. He is perhaps the most handsome man in all of Bath.”
Catherine examined him from afar once more. Yes, the blond hair and blue eyes were striking enough. In fact, he almost looked like a painting with his defined jaw and brow. Then, she caught him looking right at her, and Catherine turned away in fright!
“Was he just viewing you?” Selina asked.
“I believe that he was.” Catherine brought a hand up to her warm cheek.
Abigail went on, “If you can capture the heart of Simmons, you might be the luckiest girl in all of London.”
Catherine considered this. What was it about Simmons that Abigail found so appealing? Did he have a great deal of wealth? Noble parentage? Maybe he was a fine conversationalist.
“I have never seen a man so handsome,” Selina cooed. “But I daresay, he rarely attends balls. No one can seem to understand why. He could have himself a wife within moments if he wished to!”
Catherine found herself feeling rather curious about this Simmons fellow. Yes, he was viewing her once more! She looked down at her simple white dress, wondering what all the fuss might be about. Off to the right, a large mirror hung in the ballroom, and she gazed at her reflection. Yes, she had always been told that she was pretty, but Catherine did not see anything beautiful about her auburn hair and green eyes.
Returning her attention to Simmons across the room, their eyes locked, and Catherine feared that she might never be able to look away. Those ocean eyes were transfixing, and what’s more, there was kindness behind them.
“Catherine, don’t be caught staring!” Abigail scolded.
She cleared her throat nervously. “I suppose that he is rather handsome.”
“Catherine is flushing from ear to ear!” Selina exclaimed, taking out her fan and pumping it in front of her face. “Your blush has caused me to blush.”
All three girls laughed at this. It was rather funny that Catherine had had such a reaction to the Earl of Simmons. It was rare for her to have such a visceral reaction to a man. She felt her heart flutter in her chest and promised herself that she would not look back again. It would be impossibly forward to do so. “Let us talk of something else,” Catherine said, hoping that the flush might cool if the ladies spoke of gardening, horseback riding, or perhaps scheduling a picnic by the sea.
Although she hoped for distraction, this was not afforded to her as Abigail observed, “They are coming this way!”
Selina fanned herself more forcefully. “What shall you say to Felton Andrews?”
“I shall not say a word,” Abigail proclaimed, jutting her chin into the air. “I shall behave just as planned. There is no need to blush like Catherine.”
Oh, but the teasing was so vexing, for the flush continued! There was no chance that it would cool before Simmons and Andrews were upon them. So be it. There was no time to remedy the situation, and Catherine would do her best to be composed.
It was not long before the two men had joined their company, and Catherine observed that Simmons was ever taller when so nearby! His towering presence was gracious and genteel. She could feel it, for she dared not look at him directly once more.
“Good evening, ladies,” Felton Andrews said, bowing his head politely.
“Good evening, Mr Andrews,” Abigail replied with the most admirable composure. “I hope that you are enjoying yourselves.”
“We are immensely,” Simmons said, his voice impossibly deep.
Catherine wanted nothing more than to look up at him and see those ocean eyes from such a close proximity, but she could not bear to do it! She wished to conceal the flush, although she felt his eyes upon her, and she knew that he had no doubt seen it all too plainly.
“My lord, to what do we owe this honour?” Selina asked, still pumping her fan nervously.
“My friend, Mr Andrews, thought it best that we chat for a bit.”
“How very forward of you, Mr Andrews,” Abigail said with a tight smile.
Andrews cleared his throat. “I could not help it. You were attracting my attention from across the room.”
How very forward, indeed! Abigail’s jaw dropped open at this admission, and Catherine could not help but smile. It was humorous that moments ago, Abigail said that he would present a cool demeanour, and now she was lighting up just as Catherine had when she made eye contact with Simmons! How the tables had turned.
Beside her, she heard Simmons laugh, and Catherine finally looked up at him, delighting in his smile. Their eyes locked yet again, and Simmons said, “I am told that you are Lady Catherine Trowbridge.”
“You have heard correctly. I am indeed that lady,” she replied humorously.
“Why have I never seen you before?”
“I do not attend these events often,” Catherine admitted. “If I were to be perfectly honest, I would say that this is not my cup of tea.”
Simmons seemed intrigued by this. “Why is that?”
“I am unsure.” She shrugged. “I suppose that there are just so many people. I enjoy my own company far too much.”
Simmons smiled warmly yet again. “Yes, I can see that.”
“What do you mean?” Catherine asked, entirely forgetting that Selina, Abigail, and Andrews were still in attendance.
“You strike me as the sort of lady that fancies her books and horses.”
Was Simmons seeing right through her? “I can say with some surety that you have observed my character precisely.”
“I am much the same. It is not often that I attend balls and parties.”
“Oh, but you should!” Selina exclaimed. “Your company is always requested, I am sure.”
Simmons seemed confused by this. “Requested?”
Selina went on. “Yes, do you not receive invitations to all the most important balls.”
Simmons scratched his chin. “I suppose that I do.”
Andrews clapped him on the back. “I am afraid that my esteemed friend does not think much of such things. Like Lady Trowbridge, he prefers to read his books and tend to his horses.” Andrew raised his brow as he looked at Simmons.
Catherine was at a loss for words, which was not uncommon for her. Was Andrews implying that she and Simmons were similar in some regard? And what was it with the arched brow, as though he was being mischievous?
Just then, the music started up once more and ladies and gentlemen took to the dance floor. Abigail went with Andrews, leaving Catherine, Selina, and Simmons entirely alone. Oh, but she felt her heart race once more.
“Would you care to dance, my lord?” Selina asked.
Catherine could not believe her ears. Selina knew that it was a scandal to ask a gentleman of Simmons’ standing for a dance. Still, Simmons appeared respectful and complied. As they departed, he turned back to look at Catherine once more, and she felt her knees go weak.
“Treating a Sinful Earl” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
The ravishing Lady Catherine Trowbridge has a scandalous secret that she keeps from society, and alas, must find a husband in Bath this very season. This precarious fate is made all the more challenging when she comes across the handsome and tempting Earl of Simmons, the first man to ever capture her body and soul. Yet, what will the seductive Catherine do when she discovers that things may not be as they seem?
A man with a haunting secret of his own…
The enthralling Earl of Simmons does not live up to the rumours that surround him. An enticing man of great standing in society, condemned by a dreadful illness… He fears that his days might be numbered. However, after meeting a woman that awakens his hidden desires and makes him feel powerful again, he dares to risk his life for love. Can this alluring Lady be the missing piece of his happiness?
If only their lust for one another was enough to defy fate itself…
Unfortunately, Catherine and Jasper know that time is not on their side, but in one another’s arms, time stands still. Can Catherine’s mysterious talent revive Jasper’s health? While they both dread their fates, will their passionate affair defeat all their hardships, including Jasper’s deadly illness?
“Treating a Sinful Earl” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.