Home > The Most Eligible Viscount in London

The Most Eligible Viscount in London
Author: Ella Quinn

 

Chapter One

Featherton House, Mayfair, London, October 1818

 

 

Miss Georgiana Featherton—or more properly Miss Featherton since her elder sister had wed—remained standing as Gavin, Viscount Turley, possessed himself of one of her hands and knelt on one knee. He looked so solemn she repressed the smile that fought to appear. For months, since last Season, he had courted her. And ever since the beginning of the autumn Season, she had been expecting to receive a proposal of marriage from him. Now. Finally. It was happening.

As he gazed up at her with his light blue eyes, her heart fluttered as if butterflies had taken residence. His fingers on the hand he held sent tingles up her arm. As far as Georgie was concerned, Lord Turley with his golden curls and broad shoulders was the handsomest gentleman in all of London and soon they would be married. Then they would belong to each other for the rest of their lives. Just the thought of it made her want to hurry him along. She knew some ladies liked grand proposals, but as long as two people loved each other, what did it matter how one proposed? The purpose was to wed. To create a new family. A new life together.

He swallowed and still did not speak. Why was this taking him so long? All he had to say was that he loved her and wanted her as his wife. As she had stopped the smile, she stopped the frown wanting to form. Perhaps he had memorized a speech and had forgotten it. That could throw anyone off.

Finally, he opened his wonderfully sculpted lips then closed them again.

Just when she thought she would go mad with impatience, he cleared his throat. “Miss Featherton, as you probably are aware, I admire you greatly. We get on exceedingly well. You are the only lady I have met who possesses every quality that a gentleman, a peer like myself, could wish for in a wife.” Georgie almost interrupted him to tell him she would love to marry him. But that would be rude. Lord Turley had obviously spent time preparing his proposal, and, despite her impatience, she must allow him to complete it. “I am not the wealthiest man in England, nor am I the poorest. I am fortunate to have several estates all of which are in good repair. I also have other holdings, and I will be able to provide you and any children we have with the elegancies of life.” He cleared his throat. Perhaps she should have had tea brought. “The Turley lineage dates back to King William I. We were barons at first, but the viscountcy dates back to King Henry III. Therefore, you have nothing to be embarrassed about there.” Why did he feel as if he needed to tell her any of this? His lineage was in Debrett’s for anyone to read. “As my wife you would have complete control over all the houses and domestic staff at all my estates. When I spoke with your father I assured him you will have a generous allowance.” The thrill Georgie had initially felt was fading rapidly and being replaced by dread. This was not going at all the way she expected it would. “I assure you that I am a responsible landlord, and, from our conversations and letters over the summer, I know that you will be interested in not only the estates and the dependents, but will enjoy an involvement in politics that being my viscountess will allow you.” He swallowed. Tea would have been a good idea. “Would you do me the honor of being my viscountess and wife?”

That was it? It sounded more like he was presenting his qualifications for a position than a marriage proposal. Georgie stared at Turley for several long moments. Other than the actual asking for her hand, there was only one thing she had wanted to hear from him, and he had not said it.

She bit the inside of her bottom lip, afraid now of the answer to the question she was about to ask. “Do you love me?”

His eyes widened and he stilled like a deer ready to run for its life. The lips she had so looked forward to kissing moved but emitted no words. She closed her eyes and did the hardest thing she had ever had to do. “Thank you for your kind offer, my lord. However, I am unable to accept the honor of being your wife. Benson will show you out.”

Georgie forced herself to stroll calmly out of the front parlor and up the main staircase. Once she reached the second floor, she increased her pace until she was running, straight to her room. Tears pricked her eyes, and she blinked hard to keep them from falling. But as she stepped into the corridor leading to her bedchamber they defied her attempts to halt the blasted things.

Drat, drat, drat!

After months and months of waiting, Turley had finally proposed and the one thing—the only thing—she had needed to hear from him had not been uttered. She should not even have had to ask if he loved her. His lack . . . That he hadn’t mentioned it at all despite the fact he had stated every other reason she would be happy married to him should have given her a hint.

But noo. She’d had to ask if he loved her, and he couldn’t even answer. The look on his face seemed to be burned into her mind. He had acted as if it was the last thing he expected to hear. At the end he could not even meet her gaze. She reached her bedroom and collapsed onto the bed. At least he had been honest. Even if he couldn’t bring himself to answer he had not lied. A lie would have been worse. That he did not love her was bound to have come out at the worst possible time and probably not until after they had wed when it would be too late for her to do anything about it.

Trying to stem her tears, she gulped huge breaths of air but it didn’t help. At first tears just rolled down her cheeks, but then her nose began to run. Turning to her side, she pulled out a handkerchief and blew her nose. Then her chest began to ache. Why did this hurt so much? Georgie had heard about hearts breaking, but she never thought it was physically possible for it to happen. Apparently, she was wrong. Despite all the attention he had paid to her, deep inside of her she must have known he did not love her, otherwise she would not have asked. Therefore, his lack should not affect her this much. Unfortunately, this eminently commonsensical thought did nothing to help.

The combination of tears and a running nose caused her to hiccup, and then she began to sob.

Great huge sobs so hard she could barely breathe.

Perhaps she just should have accepted his offer. Then she would have years to make him love her, and she wouldn’t be so miserable. Yet now that she knew for certain he did not love her, she could not agree to wed him. She tried to draw a deep breath and could not. She felt as if part of her had been ripped asunder.

Georgie didn’t know how long she remained in bed before she stirred. The curtains were still open, but her room was darker than when she had entered. If only she could pretend nothing had happened. That Lord Turley had not come to propose marriage. That it was a day like any other.

She rolled onto her side as the door opened.

“My darling Georgie.” Grandmamma Featherton hurried to the bed and perched on the side next to Georgie, then took her hands, rubbing them between her fine, strong hands. “What has happened to cause you to cry so? We wanted to give you time, but, my dear, it has been over an hour. We need to know what we can do to help you.”

We. Meaning her mother, grandmother, and her grandmother’s closest friend, the Duchess of Bridgewater. Naturally, they would all be there to congratulate her.

“Darling, how could a proposal go so very wrong?” Her grandmamma’s normally good-humored face took on the look of a warrior’s. “He did not insult you, did he? I will see him destroyed if he did.”

“No.” Georgie struggled to hold back another bout of tears. “He does not love me.”

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