Status: Inactive at the moment; may return to this later

Love's Fierce Embrace

Chapter 1

Charles Knight was bored.

At no fault to his hostess, of course. Lady Danvers, vibrant and lovely woman that she was, put together a magnificent ball to put all others to shame. Always did. And, like every year, Charles was in attendance. He had little choice. Either he could insult a friend of his mother, God rest her soul, or he could bite the bullet and attend one of the few balls he had any intention of attending that season.

He hadn’t even been there long. An hour at most. After warding off mommas set on wedding him to their daughters, he’d managed to slip away to the refreshments table. Away from the rest of the attending members.

And he was bored.

Over the rim of his glass, he watched men and women swirl around the ballroom, dancing to the booming music of orchestra. He recognized many of the passing faces from brief run-ins at previous balls and dinners. Mainly mothers and daughters that had been shoved in his path, men who he went to school with, men who knew his father, people who existed in his forced social circle. No one he would fill his time speaking to.

He wanted to leave, wished he could simply stride from the large home, get in his carriage, and return to his home. A glass of brandy and sitting alone in his office sounded lovely. But he couldn’t leave, not without feigning an illness. He’d insult his hostess and he wouldn’t dare do that.

Not to mention the talk among the members of the ton that would follow. He’s reputation bordered on reclusive bachelor. He could only imagine what would come from him leaving Lady Danvers’ ball early. The gossip papers would be covered with his name by the next morning.

Then again, he wasn’t helping himself by standing in the corner, away from everyone.

And he wasn’t helping his boredom.

Sighing quietly to himself, he took another sip of his lemonade and resisted the urge to pull out his pocket watch. He caught sight of an excited mother catching sight of his unoccupied state, a flash of excitement crossing her face. Great, another dance with another silly chit whose mother desired to make her his Countess. Subtly as he could, he searched for an exit.



And then he saw it, a familiar angel darting toward him, broad smile, dazzling blue eyes, and a halo of blonde hair, coming to save him from a fate worse than boredom.

“Nathaniel,” Charles exclaimed.

Nathaniel Blanchard. His best friend from his years in Oxford.

“Charles,” Nathaniel returned warmly.

No one seemed to notice their lack of formalities. If they did, no one cared. Despite their drastically separated titles—Nathaniel the son of a wealthy viscount and Charles the current Earl of Ashbourne—they were close friends and that was well known.

“Thank goodness you’re here,” Charles said.

His obvious relief was more than inappropriate at such an event, and any passerby would have heard him, but he didn’t much care at the moment. He’d certainly care later when exaggerated rumors accusing him of any number of social blunders would spread, since the members of the ton had nothing better spend their time speaking of, and Lady Danvers would be most upset.

He cleared his throat, resuming the look of boredom that had become de rigueur. “I assumed you wouldn’t be in attendance.”

“Where else would I be? Locked in my library, nursing a bottle of brandy?” Nathanial asked, the corner of his lip quirking ever so slightly.

“If I recall you had tenant troubles to handle. Though, I have no doubt you consumed a whole bottle of brandy before you arrived. In your carriage, perhaps?”

“Would have made this dreadful ball more enjoyable,” he muttered. Louder, he said, “The issue was settled with enough time to escort Laurel. She did so want to be here.”

Charles raised an eyebrow. Laurel, Nathaniel’s sister whom he had been acquainted with years ago on one of his visits to the Blanchard household, would have been present at the ball regardless of his ability to escort her. She had a chaperone, the mother of her friend—what was her name? Anne, Agatha, something that began with an A. She didn’t require her brother’s companionship.

“How sweet of you to indulge your sister’s fancies.”

Nathaniel’s voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. “I’m spying. Father is worried she isn’t taking marriage seriously.”

“Ah, the disinheritance.”

Their father Viscount Blanchard’s threat to disinherit Laurel should she not marry was common knowledge among the ton. How a gossip columnist acquired the information was still questionable but the story was published for all to read. And all did read, too enthusiastically if Charles would admit. The excitement died down, of course. At least a year had passed since the story’s release, Laurel was still unwed, and no one seemed to care.

“Where is she?” Charles asked.

Nathaniel nodded into the packed crowd. “Talking to the Duke of Wakefield.”

Charles gave him an approving look. “A fantastic prospect, to be sure.”

“Should she choose to pursue it.”


Surely Nathaniel was jesting. Viscount Blanchard was resorting to threats, empty or not, to get Laurel to marry, and she was allowed to choose her husband. Absurd. Very few women of Charles’ knowledge had much choice, marrying who their families decided fit from their pool of suitors. If Viscount Blanchard wanted his daughter married, he’d have to pick a husband for her.

He had to admit, he did not envy her, or any woman for that matter. To be expected to marry or be thrown from society was not a burden he wished to bear.

“He does want her to have a decent marriage. To someone she can at least get along with. It’s not as if we are in dire straits.” He shrugged. “Besides, he knows he can not force her hand.”

“Can’t he? I expected that was his goal.”

A sheepish smile graced his face. “Well, perhaps it is.” He glanced into the crowd, in the direction where Charles’ supposed Laurel and the Duke of Wakefield were located, and let out a frustrated huff, as though he could see his sister’s wrongdoings in the cluster of people. “If she would try, she would find someone agreeable enough. She is getting long in the tooth, you know. Her options are becoming limited.”

“Her options don’t appear limited.”

The numbers may have dwindled since her coming out, but, should Lady Danvers’ ball be any representation of the Season thus far, Laurel did have a number of eligible bachelors attempting to monopolize her time.

Nathaniel dismissed the statement with a wave. “The dowry was raised.”

Spoken like a true brother.

“She is rather pretty, too. A regular diamond of the first water.”

Instead of expressing pleasure at the compliment or reprimanding Charles for so much as looking at his sister, Nathaniel grunted, staring at the attendees blocking his view of Laurel.

Charles cleared his throat.

And Nathaniel continued to stare.

And Charles lost him to his spying, if his dreadful attempt at reconnoitering his sister’s actions could really be called “spying.” At this rate, his father wouldn’t be getting anything more than vague statements that would not indicate Laurel’s feelings either way.

“I’m sure His Majesty’s Royal Army could make use of your talents,” Charles said dryly, hoping to garner Nathaniel’s attention again for the sake of his own entertainment.


“I say, you’re looking rather foppish this evening. Have you been you taking lessons from Mr. Brummel?”


“Perhaps, you should stop stalking your sister and search for a potential bride.”

Nathaniel’s attention snapped to Charles, eyebrows drawn, jaw dropped. “Are you mad?”


“I was simply stating—”

Nathaniel shushed him. “Not so loud, they will hear you and they will get ideas.”

Charles resisted the urge to smile at his distress. It was so good to see he was struggling with matchmaking mommas, too. In fact, Nathaniel likely suffered more than he, since he attended far more of the Season’s festivities. And the idea of watching him politely ward of a sea of young ladies was tempting.

Perhaps if Charles drew attention to Nathaniel, he could slip away into the shadows and have a good laugh.

“Better you than me,” Charles said.

Nathaniel’s eyes narrowed. “You have to marry at some point. The earldom has to be passed on.”

The earldom. Funny, that. The earldom, his father’s most beloved treasure, would pass to the very idiot cousins his father despised upon Charles’ faraway death. He would not marry. No matter how much he would have liked to have the opportunity to court some pretty young lady, and certainly would have liked to, he could not. There was too much risk in marriage, in living with someone who wasn’t aware of who—what—he was. And he could never produce a male heir to take his place. Because he was incapable. Completely incapable.

The dull throb from the too-tight bandages under his clothing reminded him of his shortcomings as a man.

“I don’t have a father prepared to pester me to the alter.” Charles refrained from verbally thanking God for that. “But you do,” he added.

“I will marry after Laurel has done,” Nathaniel stated, air of a defiant child surrounding him.

“And if she doesn’t marry?”

She wouldn’t anytime soon, of that Charles was certain. Whether she ever would settle down for matrimonial bliss was a question only time would answer. Were Charles a betting man, he’d bet against it.

“I hear death threats are effective.”

Charles choked on the sip of lemonade he’d chosen to take at that moment while Nathaniel watched with a satisfied gleam in his eyes. When his throat cleared, he opened his mouth to retort but stopped short, eyes drawn to the approaching Lady Bickenhill and her daughters.

Apparently, there was no safety in numbers.
♠ ♠ ♠
I'm not too sure I like this one. At all, really. But whatever.
There are probably some words or phrases or ideas, even, that are unfamiliar to you if you do not read Regency anything.
I would list them out and explain them, but I'm in a rush.
So if there is anything you don't understand, message, comment, whatever and I will put a definition/explanation at the end of the next chapter.
That should solve that.
I think I'm only going to be able to get through one more chapter before this is due on Thursday.
So the next chapter should be the last of what I'm turning in for school.
It's not much, I know, at most it'll be ten or so pages in Word.
Ah, well, that's life.

Thank you to choliecole for the story comment.
Thank you to animal_lover053 and xoxoChristina for the messages in reference to the introduction.
Thank you to the subscribers.
And thank you for the recs.
I hope you all enjoyed this chapter, though I did not.
Please, please, please let me know what you think.
This is my graded project we're talking about here.
Comment/Message (and Subscribe if you want, I guess)
X's and O's
Dakota Ray