An Earl's Guide to Catch a Lady

By: Tanya Wilde

Chapter 1

Pain. There was so much pain and wretchedness it made it impossible to summon even one coherent thought. Torturous. Lifting one heavy lid Evelyn shut it instantly as more blinding pain pierced her skull. Damn wretched head. That much could at least be determined. A soft groan escaped her lips. She remembered nothing except a vague recollection of consuming a rather large amount of… something. Wine perhaps?

A vile taste coated her mouth and her stomach roiled in protest. She wanted nothing more than to be swept into the sweet allure of darkness, but the continued throb prevented sleep from claiming her. It left her no choice but to be brave. One eye popped open, then another. Gah! She squinted as light invaded her vision. After what felt like hours of torment, the blur of brightness disappeared and Evelyn found herself staring at the unfamiliar face of a male. The breath stilled in her lungs. Her eyes widened. The world stopped.

It had to be a dream. Yes, she was still caught in a marvelous stupor. It was the only acceptable reason. Perhaps she should first assure herself that he was a figment of her imagination before she gave into hysterics.

With a feather light touch she brushed her index finger against his nose. Flesh met her fingertip. Her hand snatched back as she let out a tiny screech.

Oh stars! He was as real as her ruination. Her eyes clamped shut and she forced the wave of panic down that threatened to consume her. No! No! No! All the hours spent pouring over maps, carefully selecting every country, every city she wanted to explore in her quest to become a world renowned traveler evaporated in the sleeping face of this stranger.

With a sudden movement his leg brushed up against hers and she scrambled out from under the covers, nearly toppling over when her foot got caught in the sheets. In a daze she glanced down at her attire, which compromised only of her chemise. She cringed. It barely covered her legs.

An earth shattering snore drew her gaze back to the stranger. Goodness! She took a moment to inspect his face. No recognition lit in her, yet somehow he seemed familiar. A glance around the room revealed two empty wine bottles, along with her scattered items on the floor. By some small miracle, whatever had transpired hadn’t been in her room.

That might be the only thing that had gone right since Evelyn’s ill-fated journey began to two days ago. First her maid unexpectedly fell ill and had to remain with family, leaving her unchaperoned. Then the carriage had broken down in the rain.

Henry. Hope bloomed as she remembered her footman. He would have sent for the repairs of the carriage. Flee. That was her single course of action. Later she would try to piece together her memories, but first she had to put as much distance as possible between her and this man.

She jumped as he stirred and gave another loud snore, terrified that he would wake up before she left. She snatched up his shirt, having spotted no sign of her dress. It gave her an impression of a large man, much larger than he appeared to be.

With a cautious step she moved toward the bed and studied the sheets. It didn’t appear to be all that rumpled. Her eyes took in every small detail. She released a shaky breath. He had an impressively strong face, which looked almost innocent while he slept. Even his snoring didn’t subtract from his handsomeness. Black hair fell over thick brows and Evelyn had to tamp down the urge to run her fingers through them. She almost regretted that she did not remember the color of his eyes, but if she had to guess, she’d say blue.

His face committed to her memory she turned and edged toward the door. There was a moment of brief anticipation when she heard him stir again.

Please don’t wake up. Please don’t wake up.

She crossed her fingers as she peeked over her shoulder, her mouth agape at the sight that greeted her. His face and body had turned away from her so she had a full view of his back and thighs. The covers must have slipped when he’d turned, she mused in wonder. Her mouth went dry as her eyes roamed the length of his magnificent body.

His back was broad and muscled. The word powerful came to mind as her gaze ventured even lower. In fact, nothing about him looked innocent anymore. His thighs were big and strong and... So... So... Hairy?

Evelyn scowled as she inspected his hairy thighs. Was it common for a man to be that hairy? Another loud snore jerked her from her inspection and she marveled at how she’d slept an entire night without being disturbed. It was the first time she had ever heard a man snore and it was rather hypnotic, a low rumbling noise she could grow used to.

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