After the death of her father, Isabella Worth finds love and fulfillment in the most unexpected way --with the unusual and mysterious Count of Northumberland Abbey.
As the eldest, Isabella Worth guides her younger sisters into an uncertain future living with their half-brother in Northumberland. When they encounter a charismatic stranger called the ‘Count’ of Northumberland Abbey, Isabella is skeptical of both his origins and intentions. How will Isabella ever learn to trust and rely upon such a man…one that she has grown to love?
Stefan Valko may have been dubbed the Count of Northumberland Abbey by the locals because of his lost heritage, but he’s a practical businessman, one who knows precisely what he wants. When he meets Isabella Worth traveling with her sisters to his neighbor's estate, he knows instantly that he wants this take-charge young woman. But how will he break through her distrust and dislike to make her his?
“He is very dark,” Grace mused.
Esther’s eyes flew open. “What? You saw him? You stupid creature! Could you not have told us before? How does he look? Does he look just as a count ought to?”
“No.” Grace nibbled a sweet cake while she considered the question. “I think a count should be very fair and wear a blue coat with silver buttons.”
“So he is not well-looking.” Esther hid her disappointment by pouring a glass of watered wine and sipping it in a worldly fashion. “I cannot expect he would be handsome if he is from this place.”
“Well he is very dark, and he wears a black coat.”
“Then that settles the matter. He must be a gypsy!” Isabella said. Her sisters laughed, and she along with them.
“A count! My word, there is no such title in England. Now if he were an earl, and perhaps a little less…” Isabella looked to Grace for assistance.
“Yes, thank you, dear. If he were a little less evil looking, then we could be quite in love with him.” Isabella had dropped her napkin in her plate and eyed the clock.
No, this count, undoubtedly a laughable nobody with some ill-gotten means, was the last person Isabella Worth wanted to see, and she glided noiselessly down the stairs only to bump directly into him in the coffee room.
“I beg your pardon,” he said gravely, though his dark eyes were lit with a provoking degree of amusement.
Isabella curtsied and, though she coloured, she arranged her face into a mask of dignity. “That was my fault, sir. You will excuse me. I am only looking for Mr. Mills to ask for our coach to be readied.”
He lifted both dark brows. “But you will not be leaving today, surely?”
Isabella stared at him. “Of course I will be leaving today.” She curtsied again, though without any real obsequience, and turned to seek out some minion to make her escape possible.
“I am sorry to have to tell you that the weather north is too foul to go. A rider came not a quarter hour ago and claims himself lucky to have gotten this far.” His voice was so mild as to be unmistakably condescending.
“That will never do,” she said, rising to the full height of her petite frame and turning back to face him from the coffee room doorway. “We are very stout and our carriage is very good.”
He bowed meekly. “That may be, but your coachman will likely cry off the challenge.”
The idea that she and her sisters would have to endure one more day on the road before facing their uncertain future struck Isabella forcibly. “Well, and he never will!” A rush of heat enflamed her cheeks. “He is from Exeter, you know, and we have hideous weather there. I have never known a coachman to shrink from driving merry as you please.”
“This is Mr. Perth.” The count gestured to a man who stood ready to enter the room behind her. “This young lady and I were just discussing her forward journey, Perth.”
“You’ll nary be going, miss, not till the clouds lift off the ground.”
Isabella excused herself and, with a toss of her chin and a flutter of skirts, determined to be off even if she had to climb up on the box and take up the whip.