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Excerpt from

A Birmingham
Family Christmas 

For the last eleven years he'd wondered how he would address the woman who had destroyed his happiness, and when it came down to it, he couldn't even acknowledge her. That is not to say he was unaffected by her. Quite the contrary. All these years he had told himself that he despised her. Yet when he saw her sitting there, it was rather like a wallop to his chest.

Most shocking of all, she still bore her maiden name.

Though she looked much older, he found her more desirable than she'd been as a debutante. There was a womanly curvature about her he found most alluring. Her hair was the same shade of rich brown, but it seemed more radiant than ever. And it wasn’t just because there were diamonds in it. Her complexion was as milky as he remembered, and the pink in her cheeks made her looks angelic.

A pity she was not.

She was in want of a heart. Miss Annabelle Lippincott had promised to wed him, but when he met with her father to ask for her hand, he'd been informed she'd had decided to marry another. She hadn't even bothered to tell him face to face.

Her eyes, still such a brilliant blue, had regarded him icily. That one glare told him all he needed to know. There had been times in the past decade when he had made excuses for her abrupt betrayal, but any flickering hopes he’d ever had of winning back her affections were instantly snuffed tonight.

As soon as he'd sat beside her, he'd drawn in her sweet lavender scent and was swamped with the powerful  memories it evoked. With a hitch to his breath, he recalled the first time her fragrant lavender had destroyed his reserve. It was when they waltzed at the Richardsons' ball and he knew when his hand rested at her waist that he wanted to spend his life with the sweet-smelling girl.

More somberly, he recalled the last time he’d been aware of her scent that night at Vauxhall, the night she told him she loved him and wanted to marry him. The lying she-devil.

She passed him the French sauce, and their hands briefly touched. He should have recoiled, but he was too affected by her to do so. Instead his gaze met hers. Those blasted eyes of hers had always sent his pulses thumping.

The pity of it was, in all these years nothing had changed. Year after year he had loathed her, and after one moment in her presence he felt like a wet youth just down from Cambridge.

But he wasn’t a wet youth. He was a man of two-and-thirty years. He had learned the painful lesson that women were not to be trusted. And he wasn’t about to fall back under this woman’s spell.

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