Lady Abigail’s Perfect Match
The Townsbridges Series
by Sophie Barnes
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance
A kiss can cure any ailment…
Lady Abigail has been infatuated with Mr. James Townsbridge for three years. But when she is finally introduced to him, she finds him arrogant and rude. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop her heart from racing or her stomach from flip-flopping while in his presence. In fact, being near him makes her feel somewhat ill. Which complicates matters when they are suddenly forced to marry.
James doesn’t like the aloof young lady to whom he has recently been introduced. And since he has a blistering headache, he doesn’t have the patience for someone who clearly doesn’t want to be in his company. But when she lands in his lap and he accidentally rips her gown, his duty is clear. Now James must try to get along with his awful fiancée, or risk living unhappily ever after. But is that possible?
What a horrid man.
Abigail still couldn’t fathom how poorly Mr. James Townsbridge had treated not only herself but her parents. By contrast, his sisters were a delight. Even Mr. William Townsbridge, who seemed to be quite a bit younger, had proven far more courteous than his older brother. He’d even signed her dance card, for which she was very grateful, since she’d always enjoyed dancing.
But Mr. James Townsbridge…
She’d seen him for the first time three years ago when she and her parents had spent a brief time in London while Parliament was in session. Her father usually came to Town by himself whenever business required it, but that time, he’d brought his family with him. And during one warm spring day while riding by carriage through Hyde Park, Abigail had spotted him – the most handsome man she’d ever seen in her life.
He’d been walking with his sisters she realized now after having met Miss Townsbridge and Lady Athena. And he’d been smiling in response to something they were saying, which had instantly caused a bubbly sensation in the pit of Abigail’s belly. At fifteen she’d been smitten, and had looked for Mr. Townsbridge again when she’d come to Town last Christmas.
This time, she’d encountered him at the theatre where he’d been seated in a box almost directly opposite her, together with his entire family. Since then, she’d daydreamed about her coming out and him gallantly inviting her to dance. But of course this was just a dream, because when it actually came to meeting the man, her stomach had starting flopping around until she’d feared she might be sick all over him or one of his siblings. And her heart had been pounding too, while a wave of uncomfortable heat crept over her skin. Putting on a smile and pretending she was all right had proven a challenge. Speech had been near impossible.
And her illusion about James Townsbridge himself had shattered.
She’d sensed his dislike of her right from the start. With one singular glance he’d found her lacking. Well, she disliked him as well now, though this acknowledgement didn’t make her feel any better. On the contrary it was rather depressing.
“You must excuse our brother’s deplorable manners,” Miss Townsbridge said as they made their way along the periphery of the room.
“He was being a twit,” Miss Athena added with such forceful certainty that Abigail had to press her lips together in order not to laugh. She liked the youngest member of the Townsbridge family very much, even though she would never confess to sharing her opinion of her brother.
“It’s a pity you had to experience him like this,” Miss Townsbridge remarked. “He’s usually agreeable and a great deal of fun to be around. Which probably explains his immense popularity.”
At this, Abigail snorted. It happened involuntarily and caught her by surprise. Like a sneeze. “Sorry,” she said, except the word did not leave her mouth with even the slightest bit of sincerity. Instead, it was mumbled under her breath while heat rushed into her cheeks.
Miss Townsbridge and Miss Athena looked at her with raised eyebrows. And then Miss Athena said, “Do you have any brothers, Lady Abigail?”
Abigail nodded. “Lance is three years older than I,” she said, hoping to leave it at that. But of course the information she’d supplied wasn’t enough for her two new friends. They wanted details. And as Abigail provided the answers to a seemingly endless list of questions, her annoyance with their brother faded and she began to relax.
“So he’s not without flaws, then, is he?” Miss Townsbridge politely inquired when they’d all finished laughing over Abigail’s account about Lance’s once swinging a door open so hard it hit their younger sister, Petra, smack in the face.
“Of course not,” Abigail said.
Miss Athena smiled. “Perhaps you will keep that in mind before you judge our own brother too harshly. Poor judgment doesn’t necessarily denote poor character.”
And just like that, having been put firmly in her place, the calm sense of ease Abigail had enjoyed for the last few minutes abandoned her completely. Her face burned with shame and her eyes began to prick with the realization that she had ruined the chance she’d had of being friends with these women. They thought her too critical of others, and perhaps they were right.
Perhaps it hadn’t been her but something else that had caused him to act as he had.
“I’m sorry,” she said while embarrassment snaked its way around her, squeezing her until she knew she had to escape. So she took a step back, and then another. “Please forgive me. I meant no offense.”
“Oh indeed, we did not mean to imply…” Miss Townsbridge began. A look of concern marred her features.
But now that Abigail was already fleeing, it seemed there was no stopping her retreat. Without waiting to hear the rest of Miss Townsbridge’s sentence, she spun around and quickened her pace. The nervousness Mr. James Townsbridge had evoked returned, and the supper she’d had at home earlier in the evening began climbing up her throat. It was much too hot and overcrowded; the thick smell of perfume mixed with candle wax and roses put on display, making the air hard to breathe.
Desperately, Abigail glanced toward the doors leading out to the terrace. Fresh air and privacy existed beyond them. But only if she managed to circumvent the crowd blocking her path.
Her skin pricked in response to the sheen of moisture that started to gather between her shoulder blades. She sucked in a breath and felt her throat constrict in response to the stuffy heat.
Guided by her reflexes, she hurried through an archway leading out to the hallway beyond the ballroom. The air was better out here but the need to find solace in a place where she could gather her thoughts and her composure without being disturbed made her head toward a closed door a little farther along.
She tried the handle and the door gave way, opening toward a room where black shadows hid the walls. Only a purple hue entering through a tall window offered some semblance of light. Fearing the sanctuary she had just found would be snatched from her grasp if she lingered in the doorway, Abigail slipped quickly inside and closed the door.
A wave of relief washed over her, cooling her and offering comfort. Her muscles relaxed, teasing away the nausea she’d felt since coming face to face with Mr. James Townsbridge. The silence that filled the room was blessed indeed, and she savored it as she crossed to the window and opened the latch to a welcome waft of cool air. She inhaled deeply through her nose and was instantly rewarded with the fresh smell of jasmine from the garden beyond.
With a sigh, she smoothed the white muslin skirt of her gown and turned her gaze on the room behind her. The furniture stood silhouetted like irregular shapes emerging from the darkness. Identifying what appeared to be a sofa, Abigail made her way toward it, muttering lightly beneath her breath when her shin connected with a corner table. She went around it, moving her feet with small careful steps in case there were other obstacles in her path.
Locating the sofa’s armrest, she walked her fingers along its length until she was certain she had a solid hold. She then turned and sat, momentarily caught off guard by the uneven lumpiness beneath her. Until the lumpiness moved and a low voice muttered a curse.
Before she could leap to her feet, something grabbed her and pulled her close, like an octopus dragging its prey down into the depths of the ocean.
Startled, Abigail acted on instinct and screamed.
About Sophie Barnes
USA Today Bestselling Author, Sophie Barnes, has spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places around the world. Born in Denmark, she has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor’s degree from Parson’s School of design, but most impressive of all – she’s been married to the same man three times, in three different countries and in three different dresses. While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion – writing.
When she’s not busy, dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family. She currently lives on the East Coast.