Craving the Rake's Touch (Rakes of the Caribbean)

Craving the Rake's Touch (Rakes of the Caribbean) by Bronwyn Scott

Book: Craving the Rake's Touch (Rakes of the Caribbean) by Bronwyn Scott Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bronwyn Scott
Chapter One
    Lady Sarah Dryden sat ramrod-straight in the elegant Louis XV drawing room of the family’s country seat, dressed in the highest of fashion London had to offer and surrounded by the scions of some of England’s best families, many of whom had traveled from London to bask exclusively in her charms as the selected few. She laughed, she smiled, she complimented, until there wasn’t a single man among them who didn’t feel the full force of her blue-eyed charm.
    She had never felt more like a fraud. Perhaps the gentlemen assembled did, too. She knew very well they weren’t here to simply bask. There was a job to be done over the course of this short diversion of a house party before rejoining the Season already underway in London. These men had invested in the journey from London, in the hopes of trying their luck at winning her hand, or if that failed, at winning the hand of one of the other lovely young debutantes present, just as those pretty girls were trying their luck at winning that exact proposition from one of the highly eligible men present. Everyone was engaged in an enormous play, only Sarah Dryden wasn’t playing fair.
    She was not what they thought. She wasn’t rich and she was not free to choose. In fact, she did not want to choose any of them. They were not funny, although she laughed. Many of them were not attractive, although she told them they were.
    If it had been up to her, she would have cleared the room a half hour ago, told them all to save their fathers’ money and invest in a woman who would or could choose them, a woman who might love them for themselves and not their fortunes. But that woman would not be her. She wasn’t free to choose them even if their attributes recommended them to her. She could only choose a wealthy man. That wasn’t even the biggest secret.
    The biggest secret was that the Drydens hadn’t a feather to fly with. In short, they were broke. There was nothing left to sell but herself. Her brother Ren, the earl, might have put a stop to it but he was two thousand miles away in the Caribbean salvaging a sugar plantation left to him by a distant cousin. The plantation was to be the saving of the family and it probably would be in the future. Little good it did her in the present, with creditors hounding them and her mother locked in her room refusing to see anyone.
    There was only Sarah to deal with the here and now. And, the family solicitors assured her, only marriage to stop the financial hemorrhaging. She would marry as quickly, and as much to her benefit, as possible, although such a practical, cold arrangement went against her nature. She had once hoped for more. But such sentiment had no place here.
    Sarah scanned the gathering, wondering whom it might be, which one would she choose? Did it really matter? These men were here because they were the best London had to offer; all of them heirs to titles, all of them rich, all of them looking for the same qualities in a wife. They were essentially the same. By the end of the house party, she’d have the husband picked out. There was relief in that knowledge and there was sadness, too.
    In forty-eight hours it would all be over. Not just the frenzy of the hunt, but the possibility of something more...of finding a man who was more than his pedigree, more than a set of boxes ticked off her list of standards. But current circumstances made such a dream a luxury she could no longer afford, a hope she could no longer harbor as she once had. Perhaps that was for the best. Those hopes had brought her great hurt.
    “You might as well go ahead and take your dress off.”
    A low voice at her ear made her jump, wrecking her perfect posture and nearly causing her to spill her tea as her mind registered the sound. She’d know that voice anywhere, with its laughing, gravelly tones, even if the man wasn’t on the guest list. An unlooked-for frisson of excitement, mixed with trepidation, traveled down her spine. Benedict

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