Trystam Raven is the heir of one of the most powerful and enigmatic Earls in all of England and he has been for almost two hundred years. Something he has come to resent over time. But when his father's own pride and arrogance endangers the life of Trys's younger brother Elias, the young heir finds that he has no choice but to take upon himself the one quest which will allow him to steal his father's throne: marriage.

Clara Grace Moreau has lost everything. Her father died leaving her penniless and alone. Her fiance has gone off to Gretna Green with another woman. The only option she has left is to find employment as the companion of her best friend, Augusta. But her first ball goes less than well as she allows Augusta to go off alone with a man. She attacks the hostess. And to make matters more shameful, she finds herself waking up curled next to a man of her own.


Prologue

Trystam Raven frowned as his brother made his way into the study, a rather smug look on his face. "And how has that disgusting look found it's way onto your face?" he demanded arching an eyebrow. He had a feeling he honestly didn't want to know. But the question had already been asked and Elias looked far too eager to share.

"It's time," the young man said excitedly. "Father has finally given me permission to go! I'm to take Harrold with me for my second. I'm to leave in two days!"

"Stop!" Trystam snapped holding up his hand. "Wait here Elias," he ordered. He wasn't sure what his father was thinking, but he was going to find out and if he didn't like the answer, his father would have a world to pay for it.

Gritting his teeth, he stormed out of the study and through the North Wing of the manor and into the library his father had long ago claimed as his own domain. Without bothering to knock or allow one of the servants to announce his presence, Trys stormed into the room, a snarl twisting his lips. "What are you thinking?" he demanded.

The Earl of Wellwood, Lord Gabriel Raven, was a rather striking man for being three hundred years old. A tall, stocky man, Lord Gabriel was a man to be feared and admired by the outside world. It was also how he had managed to get, and keep quiet, during that time. He sat at his desk reviewing one ledger or another from some part of the estate.

"Father...what are you thinking?" Trystam demanded more slowly. He was trying to contain his rage but it was nearly impossible. His father had gone too far this time.

"I was thinking of how to get the money from that little farm on the Southern end of the property," Gabriel explained easily.

Trys growled, his hands clenching. He stalked forward and slammed his hands down on the table. "Enough!" he snapped. "You know what I mean Gabriel," he hissed. "What are you thinking sending Elias out? The boy is only twenty. He's human."

"Are you really so sure?" Gabriel asked finally looking up. "Your mother thought you were human. Look how that turned out," the man pointed out with a smirk. "Why don't you give him a chance Trystam. Or are you afraid that he'll take my place instead of you?"

It was all Trystam could do not to lash out at the man then and there. The only thing that stopped him was knowing that Gabriel, as the head of the family and the only one who had married, was the more powerful of the two of them. "I don't want to see him die," he snarled.

"Than why don't you do something about it," Gabriel dared. "Marry yourself within a week and challenge me. If you defeat me, you can do whatever you want. However, if I win, he still goes."

Trystam gritted his teeth before spinning on his heel and stalking to the door. He paused there for a moment. "After I'm married, I'll kill you Gabriel. Remember that."

Gabriel's laugh followed him out of the room.