A Viscount’s Love Bet (Preview)


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Chapter One

London, England


“Go!” Hugh leaned forward on the wooden railing that was painted a stark white. He could smell the freshness of the paint, but did not care if it smeared on his coat sleeves. He was too enthralled by the race to focus on any trifling matters. “Go, Jinx! Go!” he shouted, urging his horse toward the finish line.

“Never!” Ewan, his best mate, who stood at his side, cried. “Lady Luck! Lady Luck!” he shouted as he jumped up and down. Both gentlemen watched their horses closely as the pair edged each other out. With each stride, one or the other took the lead, and in just a matter of seconds, the entire race would be decided.

“Faster! Faster!” Hugh urged as he pumped his arm in the air, gesturing for the animal to get moving, and at that prompting, Jinx surged forward.

“They’re in the home stretch,” Ewan said quietly, then he rocked back on his heels, as ‌Jinx was going to edge out Lady Luck. “Blast!”

“Ha-ha!” Hugh yelled triumphantly as Jinx crossed the finish line, with Lady Luck slipping into fifth place.

“I had you…” Ewan said scornfully. He shook his head ruefully and fished in his front coat pocket for some money. “Right until the end. Lady Luck was looking fit today, and I was certain she would…”

“Ah, but she did not,” Hugh cut him off as he held out his hand, palm up, waiting expectantly for his friend to pay what he owed. “I told you Jinx would win and I was right.” Ewan counted out several bank notes and placed them in Hugh’s hand begrudgingly.

“Yes,” Ewan grumbled. “Jinx emerged victorious. But what do you say you give me a chance to earn my money back? Shall we bet on the next race? I understand there’s a thoroughbred in the heat that came from Lord Packston’s stables and…”

“No, thank you,” Hugh returned as he folded the bills and tucked them into his pocket. “I must be getting along soon. My mama insisted I be home at a reasonable hour, so I might accompany her to some soiree tonight.” He paused and exhaled deeply. Several strands of his dark brown hair hung in his eyes and this practised move helped brush them aside. 

“Ah, yes, the dowager is convinced that this will be your Season. You must find your bride or else…” Ewan waggled his fair eyebrows in a teasing way.

Hugh shuddered. “Please do not say it like that. You know my mama. She only wants what is best for me and she says that it is high-time I find a lady and make a match.” He patted his coat pocket where he’d just tucked the bank notes. “And what about you? Your mother is making you go to Lord Betton’s card party later, is she not?”

Ewan shrugged lightly. “That may be, but my mama is not nearly as determined as yours. If I marry this Season, it will please to her, but if not… that will be fine, too. I say…” He nudged Hugh in the ribs using his elbow and straightened up, gazing at someone across the way. “See that man just to our left? I bet you he is about to spill his drink.”

Hugh guffawed loudly. “That’s not a bet worthy of my time, for it is one you will win. Look at the way he is holding his cup and jumping about riotously.” He shook his head. “Should you wish to entice me into betting further, you will have to do better than that.”

His friend pivoted, swishing his long, sleek, silvery blonde ponytail behind him. “Let us see.” He clucked his tongue as he scanned the crowd. The next race was not set to begin for another few moments, and this was the usual way Hugh and Ewan occupied their time in between events. 

“Ah, do you see that gentleman over there?” Hugh questioned as he nodded across the field at a man dressed in a royal blue overcoat and a pair of tawny-coloured trousers.

“Mr Beaumont?” Lord Duncan Reid asked. He was standing with Ewan and Hugh but behaving in a much more reserved fashion. Lord Reid did not bet on sporting events, as a general rule, but he did often accompany his friends while they partook in the activities. 

“Yes,” Hugh drawled, “Mr Beaumont. Look at him. I bet you he will walk only ten paces before he trips and falls flat on his face.”

Lord Reid sucked in a shocked gasp, but Ewan just laughed boisterously. “There is no way you could know something like that. I will take that bet, my friend.”

“Reid?” Hugh asked gently. “Would you like in on this action, too?” 

Lord Reid shook his head. “No,” he said crisply, but there was no mistaking the fact that his eyes were glued to Mr Beaumont, as he was just as curious to see if Hugh’s prediction would prove correct.

“One…two…” Hugh counted aloud as Mr Beaumont turned on the spot, took several steps, and then, his knees gave way and he tumbled to the ground.

Lord Reid’s large brown eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. “How did you know that was about to happen?” He gestured wildly to the place where Mr Beaumont kneeled. “I know Mr Beaumont. He is not an ungainly fellow, given to stumbling about, and falling regularly. How did you know he would take a spill just now?”

Ewan leaned forward. He arched one eyebrow in an inquisitive fashion. “Yes, Mowatt, do tell.”

Hugh chuckled drily and shook his head. “I will never give away any of my secrets. That would be cheating.”

“Hardly,” Ewan scoffed. “Cheating would be keeping your secrets cloistered. Come now, I wish to know what made you think Beaumont would trip and fall.”

Hugh allowed neither of his friends to sway him. Instead, he once more held his hand in a supine position, waiting for Ewan to pay him. “Thank you,” he murmured as Ewan handed over several more bills.

“Well, I’ve lost a packet today,” Ewan said moodily as he dug in the pockets of his hunter green jacket. “Shall we leave then gentleman, or do you spy a way you can possibly take more of my money, Mowatt?”

“Oh,” Hugh admonished softly, “Try not to be a sore loser, Vaughan. I bet you could—”

He was cut off in the placing of his next bet by a strident laugh from Lord Reid. “The two of you will bet on anything.”

“Not just anything,” Hugh assured his friends. “It may seem that way to an outsider, but trust me, gentlemen, I only make wagers I intend to win.”


Chapter Two

“I am so glad you have finally arrived. Do come in!” The Dowager Countess of Reid cooed. Bianca Haddington and her parents, Sir Joshua Haddington and Lady Sarah Haddington stood in the foyer of Norman House at 24 Grosvenor Street in Mayfair. Bianca could not remember the last time she had visited her auntie and cousins in the city, but already, she was enjoying the adventure. 

Norman House was a gorgeous, four story, reddish-orange brick building. When they entered, the doorway was draped delicately by light lavender wisteria blooms and the smell wafted after them as they trailed into the house. The foyer was ‌a lovely place to stand. The floor was made of a glistening white marble and with every small step Bianca took, her soft heels made a clacking sound. 

“Cousin,” Lady Madeline cried as she surged forward to envelop Bianca in a hug. “It has been too long.”
“Yes,” Bianca returned. “I was just trying to remember when we last were here.”

“I believe it was seven years ago,” the Dowager Countess interjected. “I had just commissioned the portrait in the great hall, and you kept asking the master all sorts of questions.” She moved forward and her large, warm brown eyes crinkled in the corners when she smiled. “You were always such an inquisitive one, my dear. Tell me, do you still spend all day with your books?”

She was teasing, Bianca knew that, but what her auntie said was true, for the most part. “I do hope that while I am here at Norman House, I will be permitted to peruse the library, but I also wish to engage fully in this Season, Aunt.”

“Splendid!” The Dowager clapped her hands as she let go of Bianca. “That was precisely what I wanted to hear.” She shot a wink at Bianca’s mother. “I knew that a trip to town was exactly what you needed.”

“Huh,” her father said. “A trip to town…” He shook his head in an aggrieved fashion. “Seems like nothing but a bit of nonsense to me.”

The Dowager Countess swept her hands out broadly. “Come now, let us all go into the drawing room. I will ring for tea, and we can discuss this Season more fully. I have made so many plans already.”

Madeline looped her arm through Bianca’s and gently tugged her down the hall. “Do not let Mama scare you. She has already accepted a great number of invitations, but I have tried to temper her whims. We shall not have you going out and about every night.”

“But I thought that was why I was here,” Bianca countered. “In your letters, you said it was typical for young ladies to make their debut and then spend nearly every evening engaged in some formal event or other.”

“Well, we did not wish to overwhelm you,” Madeline explained as they walked into the drawing room. It was beautifully decorated. Four large, rectangular shaped windows faced the street. The wispy white curtains were thrown aside so that the people sitting within might have a view of any passersby who were coming and going. There was a pianoforte in the far corner, far away from the windows, and there was a small, round table in the middle of the room with six chairs pulled up to it. There were several other seats in the room, clustered together in small groupings, but the Dowager gestured for them to sit at the table, so Bianca followed her lead. 

“I am sure I will adjust,” Bianca assured her. 

“Yes, of course you will,” Madeline replied as she slid gracefully into her own seat. “And as soon as Mama hears you say as much, she will enthusiastically continue with her planning.”

“What was that?” The Dowager Countess asked. She waited primly for Bianca’s father to pull out her chair before she sat. The Dowager carried herself regally, moving elegantly, sweeping her full maroon silk skirts about her, before she dropped into the chair. Her lovely brown hair was done into a series of pin curls and the slippers on her feet had small jewels on them. Bianca gave a sigh, just gazing at her aunt.

She is so lovely… so exquisite… exactly the kind of lady I wish to be someday.

“Bianca was just telling me how she wishes to see and do a little of everything in town,” Madeline said as she ran her fingertips down the length of her cranberry-coloured dress, smoothing the folds. Her cousin was an almost identical copy of her mother, the Dowager Countess. She also had full and bouncy brown curls and her eyes were lit with a warmth that could only come from being a genuinely affectionate person. Her lips were drawn into a pleased smile and the apples of her cheeks were ‌rosy. Lady Madeline had lately announced her engagement to the Viscount Seton, and so Bianca was given to understand that Madeline’s smile was not just gracing her face because she was delighted to see her cousin again, but because she was deeply in love.

Ah… and that… I wish for that, too.

“Fol-de-rol,” Bianca’s father huffed. He had just helped her mother into her seat in a most gentlemanly way, but his scowl was fixed firmly in place. “I dislike this idea of going here, there, and everywhere.” He pulled out the chair next to his daughter and sat with a weary sigh. “It would be better if Bianca came home with her mother and me. At least when she is in Northwood, we can keep an eye on matters.”

“But Papa,” Bianca cried softly, “You said I could spend this Season… this one Season… here in London.”

He glanced about the room surreptitiously, as if he suspected others of spying on them and eavesdropping on their conversation. “I said that, dearest, but I have my reservations about the whole thing.”

“Try not to worry, Joshua,” her mother said as she patted his hand with her own. 

“How can I not worry?” He gestured at the open windows where people were going about their own business. Then, he leaned toward his daughter and lowered his voice, “You must be mindful of your manners and keep a close guard over your heart.”

“Papa,” Bianca said softly, using her most soothing voice, “you need not worry about me. You know I am here because I want to fall in love. I will not just give my heart away to anyone.”

“It is not you I worry about, dear girl,” her father returned. He sat up in his chair stiffly and fussed with the white collar of his shirt. He ran a hand through the light, airy fair locks that sat atop his head. He was balding in some patches, and he styled his hair in a fashion to cover that fact. He did his best to smooth his hair over those spots now. “The men in town, they will be wily. I truly wish you would rethink this whole thing and just return home to Northwood. I can call round for the carriage, and your mother and I can have you packed away back home before the end of the day.”

“Joshua, really,” her mother chastised him in a quiet voice. “Try not to ruin all the fun, my dear. Bianca has just arrived in the city. At least let her get settled before you fill her head with the worst possible scenarios.”

“I am merely trying to caution our daughter,” her father replied in an agitated way. “There are plenty of gentlemen back home, in Northwood, who would fall all over themselves to marry our daughter. Why, just last week…”

“But, Papa,” Bianca interposed, “we have already discussed this. I am not in love with any of the men in our village. I wish… if I can have any say in the matter at all… that I should be permitted to make a love match.” She turned and smiled affectionately at her cousin. “Just as Madeline has managed.”

Her mother sighed deeply. “Then that is just what you shall have, my dearest girl.” She was seated to Bianca’s right, and now she placed her hand on her daughter’s elbow. “Pay your father no mind. You should take every opportunity to enjoy yourself during this Season.” She squeezed Bianca’s elbow lightly. “Oh, I wish I could stay here with you. This Season will be so lively, and I miss the splendours of the town.”

“You are, of course, welcome to stay, Sister,” The Dowager Countess offered. “We can have a room prepared for you in a matter of moments.” She lifted her hand as though to signal one of the staff members, but Bianca’s mother shook her head.

“I appreciate the kindness, but Joshua and I must return home tonight. We have a full house to take care of and we are expecting our own visitors on the morrow.”

“Ah, yes,” the Dowager murmured, “do give my regards to Sir and Lady Wilson. I hear they are expecting their fifth child very soon.”

“Indeed,” Bianca’s mother agreed as a small smile lit her features, “Lady Wilson said she wished to visit before the baby arrived. She is overly concerned about this pregnancy and wanted to spend time with us beforehand.”

“Naturally,” the Dowager said with a noble bob of her head. Bianca’s mother, Sarah, and the Dowager Countess were sisters. They grew up in the village of Northwood with their families and at one time had both been very close to their dear friend, Eliza, who was now Lady Wilson. This connection was one of the things Bianca enjoyed most about living in the country. She knew nearly everyone and found that no matter where she travelled; she could always find an acquaintance. In coming to town, she knew she would encounter many new people, but she feared not, for she was eager to make new friends, as well as spend time with her relatives, the Dowager, Madeline, and Duncan.

Tea was served and as the Dowager stirred several lumps of sugar into her cup, she switched conversations. “I want to set your mind at ease, Joshua. I promise to keep a close watch on your daughter this Season. Madeline and I are dedicated to taking care of Bianca, and we will ensure she makes a proper match before the end of the Season.”

Her father took a sip of his tea and made a face as though he found the taste bitter and displeasing. “You cannot make such a guarantee, My Lady. How do you know Bianca will find her one true love in a city full of scoundrels?”

All the women took objection to this statement. But it was her mother’s voice which carried the most weight. “The men in town are not scoundrels. You know Duncan. He would befriend no fellows who were not fine, respectable gentlemen.”

“Oh, yes, I suppose that is true,” her father grumbled cantankerously. “Duncan is a fine young chap, and he will surely watch out for Bianca.”

“As will I,” Madeline assured him. “My beau, Lord Seton, will be on hand occasionally. He and I will chaperone Bianca when Duncan is unable, and we will guard her against making any missteps.”

“You see?” Bianca’s mother asked as she placed her fine china teacup back on its saucer. “Everything is arranged. Our daughter will enjoy this Season in London, safeguarded by her doting family members, and when all is said and done, she will have made the love match she desires.”

“I can see that I am outnumbered here,” her father said with a bit of a snort. “With a house full of five more girls back in Northwood, I should know that no one will ever see my side of things clearly. I feel I am always fighting the losing battle.” Bianca opened her mouth to comfort her father, but he shook his head. “It is alright, girl. I am quite used to it.” He dug in the pocket of his jacket and produced an envelope. She did not know for certain what was held within, but based on the shape and the jingle of coins, she guessed it was full of money. “Here,” he said as he offered it to her. “If I cannot have a hand in selecting your husband, at least allow me to support the purchasing of new gowns and accessories.”

“No, no,” Bianca replied hastily. “I will make do with what I have, Papa. Save the money for one of the other girls. I am sure Mary, or even Lily, would be happy to have a new pair of shoes or perhaps a lovely bonnet.”

Her father frowned. “So, you do not wish to have new garments?” He paused and looked at his wife archly. “I thought young ladies liked to wear new frocks to balls and things.”

Madeline rushed to answer his question. “You are so very kind, Uncle, but Bianca and I discussed this matter in our correspondence. None of us wish to put you out at all, so I have already agreed to share everything I have with my cousin.”

“Besides,” the Dowager added airily, “I am looking forward to treating my niece. With Madeline’s engagement set, and Duncan busy with work, I have no one to spoil this Season. Do let me take care of Bianca. It would be such a comfort.”

Her father weighed the envelope in his hands, but then gave a simple nod, and returned it to his pocket. “If you insist?”

“I do,” the Dowager retorted. “Now ladies, we have an appointment with the modiste early tomorrow morning. I do think something in green would be suitable for you, Bianca. You are so blessed you got your father’s lovely green eyes.” 

Bianca nodded at her auntie, thanking her for the compliment, but then she turned to her father. “I got his good sense and judgement, too.” She patted his hand across the small table. “Try not to fret, Papa. I am sure that everything will be just fine here.”

Her father opened his mouth to say something, perhaps to press his point, but her mother stopped him by saying, “Oh heavens, look at the time. We best be off soon, otherwise, we will never make it back to Northwood before nightfall.”

“But you only just arrived,” the Dowager argued, gesturing to the refreshments in front of them, “at least finish your tea before you go spiriting away once more.”

While the adults continued talking, Madeline leaned over and whispered, “This is going to be so much fun, Bianca. Mama has set up our appointment at the modiste, but after that, we will meet our dance instructor. Later that night we will go to the theatre. I do believe the company is performing one of Shakespeare’s works, but I cannot recall which. And then, on Saturday, we will…” 

Bianca did her best to listen as her cousin rattled off all the events they already had planned, and she wished now very much that she could take back her earlier comments about having a full schedule. She had no idea how she, the Dowager, and Madeline would ever find the time to do all that was already planned.

This is bound to be an experience like no other. It is best if I try to enjoy it.

She smiled at her mother and father, then turned toward her auntie and cousin. The Season had not yet begun, but Bianca readied herself for it. She knew that she only had this one chance to make her love match, and she did not wish to squander it.

“A Viscount’s Love Bet” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Miss Bianca Haddington knows she only has this one chance to find someone she can love. With her heart full of hope and courage, she sets out on her journey to the bright lights of London, determined to find a man who will cherish her for who she truly is. When she meets Hugh Mowatt, a charming Viscount, it feels like fate has finally smiled on her…

Will Hugh be the one to capture Bianca’s heart and make her dreams come true before her Season comes to an end?

Viscount Hugh Mowatt has given up on love after the woman he once cared for abandoned him for a more prestigious man. However, when he meets Bianca, the walls around his heart start to crumble. Little did he know that his best friend would also want to claim a future with Bianca. Will Hugh find the courage to risk his feelings again and find the happiness he deserves?

A wounded soul and a woman who can brighten his world…

It will not take a lot for Hugh and Bianca to realise how much their affection for each other is turning into a great love. That is until Bianca finds out that Hugh had made a bet with his friend on who will win her hand. Will Bianca be able to forgive Hugh, or will all of the trust between them be irreversibly lost, with the past being a barrier to their future together?

“A Viscount’s Love Bet” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!


Grab my new series, "Noble Gentlemen of the Ton", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

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