A Match Made in Bed (Spinster Heiresses #2)

A Match Made in Bed (Spinster Heiresses #2)

Cathy Maxwell

Chapter 1

Mayfield, the Country Estate of the Duke of Camberly

May 12, 1813

Soren York, Lord Dewsberry, was determined to marry the Holwell Heiress. He needed her money. Desperately.

The problem was, Miss Cassandra Holwell appeared equally tenacious in avoiding him.

And he didn’t understand why.

Soren stood in the short hall located between the dining room and the reception room where the other houseguests were enjoying before-dinner banter and introductions. It was a good spot to observe Cass unobtrusively and plot his next strategy. He didn’t think she knew he was here. He’d tried to keep his name on the guest list hushed. He was running out of time to find a rich wife and hoped to slip past her guard to present his case.

All he needed was a good listening to. A marriage to him would help Cass as well. She’d been on the Marriage Mart for at least three Seasons. She needed a husband as much as he needed a wife.

The other guests were from the very highest tiers of Society. They gathered at the invitation of the Dowager Duchess of Camberly for her annual country rout. An invite to this event meant one was important, and they were all very pleased with themselves, especially Cass’s father, the bombastic MP Holwell. He had inserted himself into a group of lords where he was loudly conferring his opinion on anything and everything. His wife, Helen, Cass’s stepmother, stood at his side, a look of importance on her sharp features.

Cass herself sat on a settee in the middle of the room, hands demurely folded in her lap. There was nothing to fault about her demeanor.

Or her appearance. Her hair, the color of a golden ale, was piled high on her head in artfully arranged curls secured with diamond-tipped pins. The expensive stones caught the light and winked mockingly at Soren as if daring him to come forward.

They alone would have been beacon enough to draw the eye to her. However, around her neck she wore the famed Bingham pearls, a long, lustrous strand that set off Cass’s perfect complexion.

Her height also made her stand out. Cassandra Holwell was taller than the average man, although an inch or two shorter than Soren, he was pleased to admit. She was also a notable bluestocking, that sort of woman who valued her own opinion, who thought she was as intelligent as a man, and who had a decided preference for books. Fortunately, while she held strong opinions, she lacked her father’s demeaning arrogance.

Nor did her proclivities deter Soren. He couldn’t remember a time in their acquaintance when Cass hadn’t had her nose in a book or had not known her own mind. Actually, he admired women who were bold and had something to say for themselves. They attracted him.

It also helped that he’d thought Cass Holwell one of the prettiest girls in Cornwall back in the day, and his opinion had not changed—

Huge hands clamped down on his shoulders from behind. “Are you ready to make your move?” the newly named Duke of Camberly said close to Soren’s ear, lest they be overheard scheming. “You had best be. Minerva has squawked long and hard about my insisting she invite MP Holwell to her prize event, until she learned we were up to matchmaking. Now she is onboard with our plan.”

Minerva was the dowager duchess. No one had been more surprised than she when a series of untimely deaths had left a grandson of a second son, Matthew Addison—who had been nothing more than a lowly tutor at Eton and a hopeful poet—the new heir.

To his credit, Matt had a poet’s dark, handsome looks and a fine mind. He was also without guile and na?ve to the wolves of the world. Soren both feared for him and envied him.

“Or,” Soren countered, “the dowager could also just be relieved you are not considering Miss Holwell for your duchess.” Camberly could use a marriageable heiress as well. The ducal estates were vast and in need of an infusion of money.

“That was her fear. She swears she could never abide being related to someone with the table manners of Holwell. Are his that terrible?”

“I’ve never seen him take a meal where he does not spit his food all over the place while he blusters away.”

“Ah, so it is true what I’ve heard, that he is a fool.”

“An elected fool,” Soren emphasized. “The worst sort. Before every election, Holwell returns to Cornwall to ply the masses with barrel kegs of ale and spits of roast pork while greasing any palm held out to him. They vote for him again and again. It is a travesty. They all think he is a jolly fellow. Or, knowing the Cornish, they prefer him in London instead of as a neighbor.”

“Are you certain you wish to be related to him? Didn’t you tell me once there is bad blood between your family and the Holwells?”

“According to Holwell, we are sworn enemies.”

The duke’s brow lifted. “There is a story here. What did you do to them?”

“It is what they did to us. Or rather, what we did to ourselves. My grandfather had lost heavily at the card tables and needed money quickly. He borrowed it from Toland Holwell, using a prime bit of our land as security.”

“Security?” Camberly said. “Wouldn’t he accept your grandfather’s word as a man of honor?”

“Miners don’t accept anyone’s word of honor when money is at stake. There was even a contract my grandfather had to sign.”

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