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His Contract Bride (Banks Brothers Brides 1)

By:Rose Gordon

His Contract Bride (Banks Brothers Brides 1)
Rose Gordon

       ~Prologue~





London

Spring 1781



Regina Harris would never forget the day she lost her heart to that all-consuming emotion known as love.

The day had started like every other, but somehow it had ended differently...

She'd awakened the same as she had every other morning since she'd come  to Sloan's School for Young Ladies. She and her new roommate, Sophie  Sinclair, had helped each other dress just as they had every other  morning since Sophie had come to Sloan's only six weeks earlier. Sophie  wore a gown of yellow and Regina dressed in blue, to show their school  rank. She'd then combed her hair and breakfasted. Just like every other  morning. Then, she'd gone downstairs to take morning lessons. The annual  family day the school hosted each spring was scheduled for that  afternoon, following a quick luncheon.

And that's when her life changed forevermore.

Shaking out her gown, Regina descended the stairs to wait in the  school's parlor for the families to arrive. But she didn't make it to  the bottom of the staircase at the same time as her companion. Halfway  down, she froze. Her left foot barely on the step in front of her, and  her right hand tightening its grip on the handrail. The sight below  stole her attention and perhaps even her heart.

There, at the bottom of the stairs stood two tall young men, one with  black hair and the other with blond. Sophie, who'd descended the stairs  with Regina, suddenly vanished from her side, running toward the other  side of the room to wrap the dark-haired man in a hug.

From across the room, Mrs. Hull called for Sophie to remove herself from Lord Sinclair at once.

Regina didn't hear Sophie's response, nor did she care whether Sophie  gained her wits and stopped hugging her brother in public or not. No,  Regina was too captivated by the handsome man standing next to the pair  of embracing siblings. He was tall and thin, but not too thin. His eyes  were the most unique shade of blue she'd ever seen; so pale they almost  appeared clear. He had high cheekbones, the most devilishly handsome  grin she'd ever seen, and from his coat to his boots, he was clad in  solid black.

"Hello," he said with a slow bow.

"Hello," she heard herself say. She was too nervous to remember whether  she needed to curtsy or not and doubted she'd actually be able to  perform one at the moment anyway.

His grin broadened and Regina's cheeks grew slightly warm.

"Regina," Sophie called, catching her attention.

Regina turned her eyes to look at her friend but not before noticing the way the blond stranger's eyes had widened. "Yes?"

"Regina, I'd like to introduce you to my brother, Joseph, Lord Sinclair,  and his friend, Edward Banks..." She said something else then turned  toward the men and spoke, presumably completing the formal introduction.  But Regina didn't hear her words, she was too distracted by the  handsome face in front of her-the face that now had a name, Edward-not  Mr. Banks-just Edward.

"May I escort you to the front lawn?" Mr. Banks asked.

She started, and then blushed. Gracious. Twice in the last five minutes  she'd been caught unawares while woolgathering about the man who was now  asking to be her escort. "Of course." She placed her gloved hand on his  proffered arm.

Sophie and Lord Sinclair led the way to the front lawn where benches and  lawn games had been set up in preparation for today's event.

"Miss Harris," Edward said, leading her through the maze of benches to a  vacant one under a large tree. "Would you like-" He broke off and  abruptly stopped walking. His eyebrows knit together. "Were you  expecting your father to join you today?"

She shook her head, a wave of sadness washing over her. "He wasn't able  to attend today." She hoped he'd leave it at that and not ask her why.  She really didn't wish to tell him that her father had been extended a  Social invitation he didn't want to refuse.

He nodded once. "All right. Then shall we sit?"

"Of course." She flashed him a slight smile and took a seat on the bench closest to them.

Edward returned her smile with one of his own then took a seat next to  her. But not too close, of course. Still, his mere presence so close to  her was exhilarating, which was strange when one considered how little  Regina liked to be touched. "Regina-Miss Harris-" He turned his head and  cleared his throat as if he had something important to say.

But he didn't get the chance as a young fellow about Regina's age,  presumably one of her schoolmate's younger brothers who'd come for  family day, approached them and asked, "Mr. Banks, do you know how to  calculate the speed at which the earth orbits the sun?"

Regina blinked. What on earth-

"I believe so, yes," Edward said easily, extinguishing her thoughts. His  eyes locked on the young man standing in front of them. "Do you know  how to calculate the speed at which the earth orbits the sun?"                       
       
           



       

"No," the wide-eyed boy said, shaking his head. "That's why I'm asking you."

"Pity, that," Edward said, frowning in a way that could not be genuine.  "Perhaps it would do you some good to spend your time studying academic  texts instead of thinking of ways to charm the chambermaids with your  newly acquired knowledge while away at school." He turned his attention  back toward Regina. "It's boys like this who make me fear for what the  world will one day become."

Regina knit her brow. "Because he doesn't know how to calculate how fast  the earth revolves around the sun?" She hoped he didn't expect her to  know the answer, because if he did, she was certain to disappoint him.

He flicked his wrist and a grin spread across his lips. "No. Most people  don't know that. However, had he really had an interest in knowing the  answer for scientific purposes, I'd have told him. But for boys like  him, the only science they bother to focus on is the science that takes  place between a-" His words died on his tongue; a quick, abrupt cough  escaping his lips as his face went red. "Pardon me."

"Go on," Regina encouraged.

"No, no. It's not of any import." His face was still slightly red and his eyes were unable to meet hers just then.

"You like science?" she ventured.

He nodded. "More than most."

"Oh..." Regina racked her brain for something scientific to say to him  so not to lose his interest or be thought a dimwit, the way she assumed  he thought of that boy who'd asked him a question earlier. "I once saw  an amphibian," she blurted.

"You did?" His eyes wide, whether in genuine shock or playfulness, she'd never know.

Her face grew warm. Perhaps pretending to know anything scientific  wasn't a good idea-even if all she'd done was use a word she was certain  had some sort of scientific meaning. Now she had to quickly think of an  amphibian to claim to have seen.

"And where did you see this amphibious creature?"

"At the pond."

He quirked a brow and his lips twitched. "Go on," he encouraged the same  way she had only a moment ago. "Tell me about your creature."

The way his eyes sparkled, as if he were truly interested in speaking to  her, even if it was about a silly topic, made her innards do a flip.  She licked her lips. "There's not much to tell, really. It was just a  turtle."

Edward nodded once. "I see. And did you touch him?"

"Heavens, no!"

He shook his head, chuckling. "Let me know if you ever decide you'd like  to. I have a dozen of the creatures back at my country estate that you  could see any time you'd like."

She wrinkled her nose and he chuckled again. "Such a tempting offer-"  particularly because he was inviting her to his country estate- "but I  think I'll have to decline."

"Are you sure? They're quite fascinating, wouldn't you know? Hard shells  on their backs, sticky feet, scaly skin. Very fascinating, indeed."

"And don't forget their ability to swim," Regina added. Though she'd  never given a moment's thought to the anatomy or ability of a turtle  before, just now, the topic had an uncanny ability to fascinate her so.

"Right. Did you know though they walk-and eat-slower than a tulip  blooms, turtles can actually swim as fast or faster than the average man  can run?"

"Truly? I had no idea."

Edward's broad smile slipped, leaving a wave of sadness to wash over  Regina. "Sorry," he murmured. "I forget myself sometimes. Do forgive my  chatter. My younger brother is always telling me that I have the rare  ability to bore a man senseless with all my scientific prattle."

Regina waved her hand in the air. "You're not boring me. You can  continue, if you'd like. I'm rather curious to know what they eat."

He shook his head ruefully. "There's no need to humor me. My brother  John will one day be a Man of God and has been practicing near honesty  for almost three years now. So if he says that I'm a dullard who could  talk my turtles into crawling into their shells to escape my voice, I  believe it."

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