The Wedding Game

By: Christine Merrill

The engagement escapade!

This season, all eyes are on biddable, well-connected Lady Belle. And for ambitious Benjamin Lovell, she’s the perfect candidate for a convenient marriage. First, though, he must contend with her fiercely protective sister, Lady Amelia Summoner.

Amy is determined that only the right man will win her sister, and rakish Benjamin is certainly not that. Every move he makes, she’ll be one step ahead! Until the games get out of hand...and Amy realizes she’s broken her own rules and fallen for Ben herself!

Benjamin Lovell might pretend modesty in his perfect plain suit. But the man was a trumped-up peacock, near to choking on his own pride.

He’d decided, without even meeting her, that he would have dear, sweet, innocent Belle—just to gain a seat in the House of Commons.

Something must be done, and it must be done immediately.

Amy stood suddenly, almost bumping into a young man balancing far too many glasses of lemonade.

Suddenly she had a plan.

She responded with a simpering laugh. ‘La, sir. It is a relief to see you. I retired to the corner for I was parched and near to fainting.’

She reached out and took two of his lemonades, taking a sip from the first. ‘Much better,’ she said, giggling again and ignoring his astonishment at her rudeness.

Then, as if she was as unsteady as she claimed, she turned and staggered forward the two steps necessary to stand before Benjamin Lovell. She wavered, lurched, and allowed herself a brief, triumphant smile. Then she dumped the contents of the glasses in her hand down his elegant white waistcoat.

Chapter One

As they always were at the height of the London Season, Almack’s Assembly Rooms were crowded to the point of overflowing. Amelia Summoner circled the edges of the main room, watching the marriage-minded throng unobserved. It was easy to do when one knew the place and people in it as well as she did.

She had not missed a Wednesday in the three years her family had had vouchers. In that time she had watched three crops of debutantes arrive, parade and depart on the arms of the gentlemen who married them. She had made her own come-out the first year and, after a brief splash, she had sunk through the waters of society, forgotten.

Now she moved about the place like a fish in the deep, invisible until the moment she chose to be otherwise. Unlike other unattached girls of her age, she viewed this more as a freedom than a failure. It was more relaxing to dance, speak or flirt only when one felt moved to do so, instead of obsessing on each social interaction as if it was to be a life-changing event. If one simply wished to watch others, it was much better to be that Summoner girl.

No. Not the pretty one. The other one. The odd one.

After her first few balls, she had known that she was not going to be a major success. She had been classified by the patronesses as an ‘unconventional beauty with an excessively sharp wit’. Any other girl would have been hurt by such a damning compliment. It did not take a bit of Amy’s vaunted intelligence to know that only her desirable family name kept her from being labelled ‘plain and opinionated’. A connection by marriage to Lord Summoner could make a young man’s future, in politics or society. But even those men were hoping for a wife who was conventional in all ways and excessively pretty, rather than excessively sharp.

But it was Amy’s intention to remain just as she was. Thus far, her character had been formed without compromise and she was satisfied with the result. She’d yet to meet a man for whom she was willing to change. In the face of her stubborn refusal to aid in their ambitions by marrying them, even the most stalwart of suitors had given up wooing her ages ago. This Season, if a gentleman wished to dance with her, she knew it was out of pity.

More likely, it was because he wanted to be seen as the nice sort of fellow who bestowed his friendship evenly about the family, and was willing to stand up with her quiz of an older sister if it would make Miss Belle Summoner smile. This year, London buzzed with talk of Lord Summoner’s younger daughter, the most celebrated beauty of the decade. Tonight, as she moved through the crowd, Amy had overheard more than a few men sighing that a single smile from that delicate beauty, Belle, would be worth any sacrifice up to and including being nice to Miss Amelia, the spinster.

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