When the thoroughly poised Charlotte Worthington requests that Miss Thorn and her cat Fortune find her a position, she never dreams the savvy employment agency owner would reunite her with Matthew Bateman, her brother's former bodyguard. Matthew is about to be knighted for an act of valor, and he and his sisters could use some polishing if they're to enter Society after his elevation. Yet how can Charlotte maintain her calm, cool demeanor as their sponsor when she harbors a secret love for him?
Matthew Bateman cannot forget the beauty who is miles out of his league. Once a boxer called the Beast of Birmingham, Matthew would like nothing better than to be worthy of Charlotte's hand. As old enemies and new ones attempt to bring him low, can Matthew prove to Charlotte that their love is meant to be?
Here's a little taste:
Charlotte inclined her head. "That's settled, then. What about you?"
He frowned. "Me? I'm fine."
She was watching him. "You've been told what will be expected of you at the levee, then?"
By no less than three lords, all of whom had seemed certain he'd embarrass himself even with their wise counsel. He shrugged. "More or less."
She puffed out a sigh. "Come now, Beast. You must know there are expectations for your behavior."
He could feel his frown deepening. "Like what?"
"Like introductions, for one. How do you bow to the prince?"
He rose and inclined his head.
She stood and put her hand on his shoulder. "Deeper. He is the sovereign."
"And I'm a knight," Matthew reminded her. "Or I will be soon. Don't I deserve some dignity? If you're supposed to keel over for a kingly sort, do you at least kneel to a knight?"
"Never," she said. "Your obeisance is tempered by the elevation of the person you are greeting. Knights, even the hereditary ones, are at the very bottom."
"No, that's reserved for us common folk," he said.
Either the tone or the look on his face must have said more than he'd intended, for her eyes dipped down at the corners, and she removed her hand from his shoulder. "Now, then, you and your sisters may need to brush up on Society's expectations, but you know many things I've never been taught."
"Like what?" he asked, struggling to see her as anything less than perfect.
"Like boxing," she said with certainty.
Matthew snorted. "Fat lot Society needs to know about that."
"Some know far more than they should," she informed him primly. "But my point was that you are an expert in that area. For example, how would you go about besting me?"
His brows shot up. "What? You think I fight women?"
She laughed, a warm sound that made him want to move closer, as if he'd stepped through the door of his own home for the first time in a long time. "No, of course not. But you must have a strategy. Appearing before the prince is no different. You have to know what you hope to achieve."
Matthew stuck out his lower lip. "All right. But when I fight, I mostly think about staying alive, avoiding injury."
She frowned. "All defense? No offense?"
"Well," he allowed, "I did have one particular move that served me well. I can take a punch better than most, but if a fellow was especially trying, I'd wrap him up."
"Wrap him up?"
"Yeah, like this." He reached out and wrapped his arms about her, pinning her against his chest. Her eyes were wide in surprise, but he didn't see any fear in the grey. She fit against him as if she'd been tailored just for him.
He knew he should let go. Yet everything in him demanded that he hang on, hold her close, all the days of his life, no matter the cost.