A Gentleman in Love
A Christmas wedding and a growing passion. Will a political scandal destroy their love?
Desperate to exonerate her family name of any wrongdoing, Shelby Chesterfield gate-crashes the Foreign Office Christmas party to ask her father’s accuser for help. When Ambassador Samuel Hardwick refuses to cooperate, Shelby is determined to ruin his diplomatic career any way she can, and a chance to do so arrives sooner than she expected.
Caught in a passionate embrace, Shelby puts Sam on the spot and tells journalists they’re engaged. But her plan backfires when Sam turns the tables on her.
Sam wants no commitment to anything or anyone except his career. But when his best friends are killed in a violent terrorist attack, leaving their daughter orphaned and in his care, he has the daunting task of finding a wife and substitute mother, or he will risk losing his newly acquired ward into the foster care system. With time running out, when Shelby asks for help to clear her father’s name in a political scandal, Sam offers support in exchange for a Christmas wedding.
The trouble is…Shelby knows about his ongoing affair with Lady Donna Ruston.
Can Shelby and Sam work together to achieve their goals, or is their winter romance fated to fail before it’s begun?
Content Warning: contains sensual love scenes
Sam was the man who had ruined her life. In ruining her father’s career and shaming her family, he had ultimately destroyed her very existence. Her engagement to Edgar Parker had been canceled, and any chance of happiness she thought she might have had for the future had been spoilt by Sam’s callous, cold-hearted actions.
She wanted revenge. Not just for herself, but mostly for her family.
Time was of the essence. Sam was due to fly back to America, and once there, Shelby knew he would be out of reach. As an ambassador to the British Embassy, he would be off-limits to members of the public, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to get to him. Red tape and office staff would make it impossible for them to speak, so tonight was her only chance for a showdown.
Deciding now was the time to act, Shelby glanced stealthily over her shoulder to see if the coast was clear, and with no one to stop her, she set about putting her plan into action. Taking strong, confident strides, she crossed the great expanse of the room, determined to reach Sam’s side unhindered. And she did.
An immense sense of achievement came over her, and then daringly, and with more nerve than she could have imagined, she slipped her arm possessively through his. She was behaving as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her to cling to him. But it wasn’t. She would rather be anywhere but where she was at that moment.
Trying to ignore Lady Donna, Shelby smiled coolly up into Sam’s dark gray eyes, and said, “I’m so pleased I caught you before you went into dinner. I thought I might have missed you.”
Shelby felt Sam stiffen. There was an instant glint of recognition shining in his eyes, and it was a relief to know he wasn’t going to create a scene. And then, with lightning speed, she saw him recover from her unexpected appearance, and a mask of indifferent coolness came down, covering his face as his guard went up.
Sam smiled, but it wasn’t exactly a smile of welcome. It was more a smile of polite caution. She waited, expecting a verbal backlash to come, or the disdainful flick of a finger to signal security to carry her off, but they didn’t.
Sam was obviously practiced in the art of maintaining a poker face, and Shelby supposed he had to be. Attending diplomatic events, he had to know what to do in dangerous situations when a stranger approached. As an ambassador, Sam always had to be on the alert, and Shelby knew he could handle himself without any problem, but she was surprised he hadn’t called for help.
She wasn’t supposed to be at the party, yet Sam was acting as if it was the most natural thing for her to be standing at his side.
“Oh…there could be no chance of us ever missing one another. And I’m sure that at some point during the evening our paths would have crossed.”
Shelby’s heart skipped another beat. The deep resonance in his voice stirred her, yet she knew she had to stay calm. She had to remain composed, and she couldn’t allow herself to succumb to his charm…that would be her undoing.
It was illogical, and even though she was still lamenting the loss of what might have been with Edgar, she couldn’t help her physical reaction to Sam. She was sexually drawn to him and always had been.
When she had first met Sam, she’d been an innocent teenager with a secret crush. She’d felt an instant attraction toward him and had admired him from afar. But any urges of desire she now felt were anything but innocent, and she had to banish them from her thoughts. She couldn’t allow her emotions and impulses to get out of control…especially tonight.
Sam Hardwick, at the age of thirty-two, was one of the most handsome specimens of manhood she had ever known. And this evening, dressed in a full tuxedo that showed his superb muscular physique to perfection, he could once again set her pulse rate soaring.
He radiated power and energy. The chiseled lines of his strong jaw, and the way his dark gray, piercing eyes looked directly into her very soul, commanded immediate attention and respect.
Even though Shelby had come to resent Sam, against her will, she had to admire him for who he was, and for what he had become. He had worked long and hard to get where he was, and she was in awe of the diplomatic accomplishments he’d achieved in such a short but eventful career.
Her father often spoke of Sam, saying that as a young student, he had studied relentlessly, and worked even harder to get where he was. She’d been told his education had been funded by scholarships and grants, and that although he’d had a tough start in life, he’d made it through the system with honors. Sam’s integrity and honesty had allowed him to reach heights in the diplomatic world that others could only dream of.
And now, after having climbed the social ladder, he was also accepted by society’s elite with open arms. The upper classes welcomed him into their homes, and into their lives. Some women even welcomed him into their hearts, and into their beds. And at the moment, a rumor was rife in the tabloids that it was Lady Donna Ruston who was his current mistress and held his interest.
With money and connections, it was possible to achieve anything and go anywhere, and Sam Hardwick had done those things in abundance, and Shelby hated him for it.
Excusing himself, Sam stepped away from Lady Donna and pulled Shelby to one side, and away from his group of friends.
“What are you doing here?” he whispered.
Sam had leaned down toward her. He was so close that she could smell the soft tang of his aftershave as his cheek brushed inadvertently against hers.
“I’m gate-crashing the party of course.” She forced a bright smile. “How else am I supposed to find an opportunity to talk with you? These days you’re an impossible man to reach. I’ve tried contacting you at your office, but your secretary keeps fobbing me off with some excuse. And I won’t allow you to walk away from the situation you’ve created. Not after the devastation you’ve caused.”
Several people were looking curiously in their direction, but they weren’t close enough to hear what she had whispered through clenched teeth. Shelby merely smiled and tried to look serene as she ignored the inquisitive stares.
Tonight, Shelby intended to demand the help she thought she deserved. Somehow, she had to get Sam to clear her father’s name and right an injustice that had been done before he left London and returned to the States.
The tight, steely grip of Sam’s fingers on her arm caught her unaware, and as he pulled her with dogged determination to one side of the crowded room, she wanted to protest but didn’t. His rough touch burned her arm. Branding her. But she didn’t care. At least she had managed to gain his full attention. She’d become a thorn in his flesh, and that was good, because now she couldn’t be ignored.
Sam was all of six-foot-two inches, and he towered above her. He was staring down with controlled anger etched on his face, and Shelby was aware that a feeling of unease was beginning to grow deep inside her. Perhaps she’d bitten off more than she could chew.
With her heart thumping hard against her ribcage, she was having second thoughts, wondering if this was the right time or place to confront him. It was a social event, a Christmas party, and not the best place to present her plan to him, but Shelby realized she had to at least make an attempt. She knew it was her only course of action if she were to save her father.
There was an inflexible, fiery glint of steel burning in Sam’s eyes, and his temper was showing.
“Is this some sort of joke?” Sam practically spat the words at her. “What’s this about? And why are you here…at the Foreign Office?”
Shelby could see the throb of his pulse beating along his jaw. He was fuming.
“We need to talk,” she said.
“About my father.”
“No, we don’t,” he replied. “That business was dealt with in the courts and judgement was passed. We sat in the courtroom and heard the verdict. Remember? The problem is over and done with.”
But for Shelby, it wasn’t over.
A few months ago, her father had worked as a senior official for the government, and his department, which he’d been head of, had been accused of leaking secret documents. Sam had led the internal investigation, and when the allegations were made official, and charges brought, the public humiliation her father had endured had taken its toll.
Henry Chesterfield had become a broken man.
Unable to cope with the dishonor and shame, her father had crumpled, and he’d become a shell of the man he’d once been. Over time he’d lost the will to challenge his accusers and fight for his name. But Shelby hadn’t lost hope. She was determined to clear her family’s name of the shame and scandal that had been wrongly inflicted upon them.
In Shelby’s eyes, Sam Hardwick—a man she had once greatly admired—was the villain. He was the arch-enemy. And if Sam wouldn’t help her, she was going to destroy him any way she could. If he refused to help, she was going to cause such a scandal that not only would it ruin Sam socially, it would also obliterate his diplomatic career—forever.
Copyright © 2020, Arabella Sheen
Publisher: Beachwalk Press, Inc.
Electronic Publication: September 2020
Editor: Pamela Tyner
Cover: Fantasia Frog Designs
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
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About Arabella Sheen