Read Divine Online

Authors: Nichole van

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Regency, #Romantic Comedy, #Time Travel, #Historical Romance, #Inspirational, #Teen & Young Adult

Divine

BOOK: Divine
2.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Contents

Dedication

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Epilogue

Upcoming Books

Author's Note

Reading Group Questions

About the Author

Copyright

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Mom,

for late-night readings of Coleridge and Tennyson,

for first inspiring my love of words.

 

 

And to Dave,

who still turns my insides all melty.

Prologue

The ballroom

Stratton Hall

Warwickshire

March 10, 1808

 

S
ebastian Carew was a man without a heart.

Not that he didn't have one in the conventional sense. There was definitely an organ in his chest that beat a steady rhythm, and friends regularly described him as good-humored and courteous.

He was by no means
heartless.

But rather, Sebastian had quite thoroughly lost his heart years ago.

He pondered this reality as he stood in the Earl of Stratton’s ballroom. Listening to bright, cascading laughter.

Not any laughter.

Her
laughter.

The sound had slammed into his solar plexus, hard and swift, leaving him gasping.

Straining to see through the crowd of people, he located her gleaming head on the arm of her brother. She was smiling, brilliant, drawing every eye. Candles flickered around her golden hair, surrounding her in light.

As if some angel were sending him a sign.

Sebastian swallowed and glanced away. He wasn’t sure he believed in signs, divine or otherwise.

And if there were some divine angel, it would be a decidedly ironic one with a wicked sense-of-humor.

Dwelling on
her
would only bring him heartache. And a man of his social position did not have the luxury of heartache. He should just walk away, out the door without looking back.

But against his will, his head turned, drinking her in.

He pushed against the memory of that morning six years earlier when he had topped a small hill, lifted his head into the rising sun.

And saw
her
.

Standing in the dew-kissed meadow, surrounded by wild flowers and burnished sunflare. Her back to him, blond hair hanging loose in waves down to her waist, shimmering like spun gold just as poets describe. Her arms outstretched wide, face tilted toward the sky. The goddess of morning come to embrace her realm.

The moment had seared into his soul, stretching time. The precise point which had divided his life ever after into two distinct parts.

Before her
and
after her
.

When his heart had been irretrievably lost.

And now, like a helpless planet to her sun, she pulled him into her gravity, held him tethered and thralled.

Miss Georgiana Elizabeth Augusta Knight.

It had been four years, six months and—here Sebastian did a quick calculation—fourteen days since he had seen her last. He shook his head.

How
pathetic
that he knew that.

Her grandmother’s estate, Lyndenbrooke, was part of the local parish where Sebastian’s stepfather was vicar. Georgiana had lived with her grandmother at Lyndenbrooke for a year after her father’s death. That one glorious year in which she became everything that he knew he would never have. A highborn heiress like Miss Knight did not marry a poor vicar’s stepson with nothing to recommend himself beyond a charming smile and good-natured humor.

Such were the rules of polite society.

And as one who inhabited merely the edges of polite society, Sebastian knew better than most the power of such rules.

He stared at Georgiana across the ballroom, surrounded by eager swains. She was here as a distinguished guest, whereas he had only been invited as a local gentleman and distant relation to the earl. Someone who could be relied upon to dance with every wallflower and flirt outrageously with each widow.

His lack of prospects were all that prevented her from considering him as a potential suitor. If he were wealthy and titled, then she would
see
him.

He tossed that thought around his brain. Tried to convince himself of its truth.

Tried to believe she was the kind of woman who cared about status and money.

She was not.

He watched Georgiana curtsy prettily to Lord Harward—Lord Stratton’s son and heir—and his new bride. Georgiana tilted her head. Her long neck graceful, the pearls around her throat and elegant white dress proclaiming to one and all her eligible status as a wealthy debutante.

Lovely. Angelic. Always just out of reach.

Sebastian would just watch her from a safe distance. That would be enough.

But his feet had other ideas apparently, as he soon found himself threading through the ballroom toward her.

As he drew near, her head swiveled, and his heart thundered as he saw recognition dawn. One of her wide, glorious smiles lit up her face. Warm and welcoming.

It was enough to slay a man.

His emotions seesawed between excitement and dread, neither emotion quite gaining the upper hand. He swallowed, tight and hard.

There was no helping a greeting now.

“Miss Knight, it is a pleasure to see you.” Sebastian performed a short bow and gave her his melting smile. The one that his mother said could charm birds from trees. Granted, mothers
had
to say such things.

But Georgiana returned the smile in full measure. She was something of an expert in melting smiles herself, Sebastian realized. The kind that turned one’s insides to pudding.

“Mr. Carew, what a delight!” Georgiana curtsied in return. Her brother cocked a curious eyebrow, and she turned to him. “James, this is one of my friends from my time with Grandmama, Mr. Sebastian Carew. Remember? I believe you may have met. Mr. Carew, may I present my older brother, Mr. James Knight.”

Sebastian executed another of his flawless bows, noting the resemblance between James Knight and his younger sister: golden hair, shockingly blue eyes, that same wide smile.

“Carew, eh?” Knight asked, also bending in greeting. “Any relation to John Carew, the Earl of Stratton?” Knight gestured toward the elegant silver-haired earl across the room.

“Distantly. My father died when I was a babe and my mother remarried the local vicar.”

Knight nodded, his gaze casually scanning Sebastian’s attire. Noting the serviceable coat which didn’t fit quite as tightly as it should, the boots still shabby despite the hours spent polishing them. All the subtle telltale marks that did
not
add up to money, to prospects.

There was no judgment or condemnation in Knight’s eyes, thank goodness, unlike other powerful men. But there
was
an air of dismissal. That quiet assessment which instantly placed Sebastian into a box labeled ‘Not Eligible for My Sister.’ A look with which Sebastian was long familiar.

The orchestra struck up the first bars of a waltz.

Don’t do it. Do
not
ask her.

“Miss Knight, may I have the honor of this dance?”

He asked her.

Even a poor, distant relation of the Earl of Stratton deserved a moment of heaven. A tiny taste of the life he would never have.

“Of course, Mr. Carew. I would be honored.” She placed her hand in his. Even through gloves, her fingers seared.

“Miss Knight?” she murmured as he led her to the dance floor. “Really, Sebastian, have we become so formal as that?”

Oh, how he had missed the sound of her voice in his ear.

“Well, I decided to have pity on your reputation and not call you ‘Georgie’ with everyone looking on,” he chuckled lowly.

She gave him another lushly wide smile and playful tap with her fan. “Heavens, but it is so wonderful to see you after so many years. How are you, my oldest friend?”

Gutted to the core at the sight of you but otherwise fine
.

Thank goodness his mouth obeyed him enough
not
to say that.

“Delighted to see you, Georgie,” he said instead.

He placed his hand on to the small of her back and twirled her into the familiar down-up-up rhythm.

This made four, he realized.

Four times that he had danced with her. And this was the first waltz.

“I assume you are staying at Lyndenbrooke with your grandmother, Mrs. Knight?” he asked.

“Of course. We just arrived earlier today. Grandmama has been happy of our company before we continue on to London.”

It felt shockingly right to hold her in his arms, to feel her warm breath against his chin as she spoke. Being with her had always been like this. Effortless and comfortable, without a trace of awkwardness, even now after a separation of four years. Such a pity social conventions decreed unmarried men and women could not exchange correspondence. He had to rely on chance meetings to speak with her. And for gentlemen of limited means, chance meetings were few and far between.

He saw her reflected in the mirrored walls of the ballroom. Tall and slender, white skirts swirling around them.

He had always loved her height, that he didn’t have to crouch down to talk to her as with other women. Being the tallest man in the room did have its drawbacks. As it was, her head barely reached his shoulder, golden hair contrasting with his brown.

Blood pounded in his ears. It was the worst sort of agony. Having her in his arms, feeling so much like home, and yet knowing there would never be anything beyond this moment.

BOOK: Divine
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