The Glittering Prize

Blue-stocking Jemima Percy’s talent for ancient languages gives her father the advantage as an archaeologist and treasure hunter until, on the verge of their greatest discovery, Jemima finds her father brutally murdered and their house ransacked.

When a valiant saviour plucks Jemima from the ruthless killer’s arms she thinks she and the key to her father’s ground-breaking discovery are safe until her anonymous protector is killed while defending her.

Alone and without means, Jemima stumbles from one danger to the next until her only hope of survival is to join the demimondaine in London as mistress to a rich and powerful aristocrat.

Forced to surrender honour and reputation, Jemima still harbours a spark of hope and when handsome and charming Lord Ruthcot provides a possible means of escape, Jemima faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Will she risk everything to claim the treasure that was the culmination of her father’s life’s work?

Or is it time to relinquish the glittering prize that is rightfully hers in return for safety, respectability, and love?

 

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He darted forward and gripped her shoulder, pulling her into his embrace. She seemed to yield but perhaps that was only wishful thinking. Pressing his face against her hair, he breathed deeply. The orange water fragrance was like a drug and his senses spun. “Admit you have feelings for me else you’d never have phrased your rejection like you did.” He drew back and cupped her chin. Her breath, short and shallow, was sweet against his lips as he gazed into her lovely face, her large gray eyes round with…? Desire? Either way, she didn’t pull away. “You reject me out of fear of what Deveril will do, not because you have a disinclination for me.”

With resolute purpose, she stepped back, and he dropped his arms to his side as she raised her chin. “The reasons don’t matter, Lord Ruthcot, merely the fact that it cannot be, no matter the circumstances.”

“Then you do love me!” Relief was intense but though she resisted, briefly, in his embrace, almost immediately she opened her lips against his and with a sigh, twined her hands behind his neck. He’d never felt her like this, with just the light fabric of her nightgown and a shawl about her shoulders.  He pressed her closer but it was a mistake, for just as he felt her resolve slipping, like the shawl around her shoulders which pooled about her feet, she snapped to attention, struggling as she pulled her mouth back. Her eyes were dark and frightened.

“You make me forget myself, Lord Ruthcot. No, I do not love you. I love no one and you have not proved yourself my friend. Besides, I’ve promised no man would ever have that power over me.”

“I don’t seek power over you. I wish merely to…show you how I feel.”

“I already told you, it’s not possible. Even now we court the gravest danger. If you truly care for me, you’ll leave.”

“Please, Miss Mordaunt. Jemima. I love you.”

“Love!” She spat the word, though she sagged against him, not withdrawing completely. There was a bleakness to her tone he knew was not for effect. “If you really loved me, you’d show it by esteeming me as a woman of virtue. You’d declare that your love was so strong only a legal union could bind us for all eternity. Yes, see how you shy away from words like that. They sound grasping to you? Once, I was a lady. The husband I would accept would only enjoy what you have now through a legal union. How do you think I feel, knowing my chief value is in my youthful body, my face? That I will be discarded when both show the ravages of age, and I no longer give pleasure? A wife? Well, a man is shackled to a wife for life, but I’m not the kind of girl a man like you marries, am I, Lord Ruthcot? And I don’t want to be another man’s mistress. Even to a man as attractive as you. And so, even as I forget myself yet again, I will not weaken and succumb, no matter how hard you press me.”

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