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What an Earl Wants

What an Earl Wants by Shirley Karr
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A delightful Regency–era tale of an earl who always gets his way and the woman who is determined to resist his an exciting debut author!

The Earl of Sinclair is fit to be tied! His servants have been pairing up and eloping, leaving the rest of his household staff referring to him as the matchmaking earl. His newest hire is his secretary Quincy.

It isn't long before his insolent employee wraps the household staff around his finger, which Sinclair is willing to overlook, especially when he realises that the backside he finds himself constantly staring at is not that of a boy, but of a full–grown woman! Quincy never actually lied; she simply never said she wasn't a he.

Desperate for employment, she dressed as any secretary would and let her employer make his own assumptions. Now if only she can keep her mind on her work instead of Sinclair's devilish charm, she just may stop herself from falling in love with him.

HarperCollins; May 2009
384 pages; ISBN 9780061931314
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: What an Earl Wants
Author: Shirley Karr

Chapter One

March 1816

"It ain't my job," cried a feminine voice out in the hall." 'T'ain't mine, neither," a male voice replied.More voices joined in the squabble, and the volume rose.

Benjamin, Earl of Sinclair, leaned forward in his leatherchair and wondered what else would go wrong today. Hestared at the young applicant seated across the desk fromhim, who stared calmly back, unfazed by the shoutingmatch. Just as Sinclair was about to rise to quiet down theservants, the group moved on. Silence reigned at last.

"Why should I hire you, Mr. Quincy?" Sinclair sank backinto the chair cushion.

Blast. Now he couldn't see over the ledgers and paperspiled on his desk. He sat forward again, studying the youngman seated opposite. "I've already interviewed five othersecretaries this morning, each with more experience thanyou. I doubt you even shave yet."

Quincy adjusted one clean but frayed cuff, his gazenever leaving Sinclair's. "Is shaving a requirement for theposition?"

Sinclair blinked in surprise. He propped his boot heelson one corner of the desk, sending a pile of folios sliding tothe floor. They disappeared amongst other piles already litteringthe carpet. He stared at Quincy from around a remaining,quivering stack. "I haven't decided yet."

Another commotion in the hall made them both glance atthe door. Voices rose and fell, then faded away altogether,and Sinclair returned to the task at hand. He picked up asheet of foolscap from a pile still balanced on his desk."Since you've only had one previous employer, and you sayBaron—" he glanced at the signature at the bottom of thesheet "—Bradwell recently died, I can't even verify thisreference. How do I know it's not a fake?"

"You don't." Quincy pushed his spectacles farther up onthe bridge of his nose, concealing the expression in his grayeyes. Or were they green?

Sinclair studied the lad. Though wearing a threadbarecoat, the set of his shoulders spoke of confidence, and theset of his chin suggested a stubborn streak. Quincy mightdesperately need this job, but he wasn't begging for it. Another,still louder commotion in the hall interrupted Sinclair'sperusal.

It was beyond Sinclair how being short by just one maidcould cause such chaos. Why weren't the upper servantshandling this? Sinclair slid his heels off the desk, stalked tothe door, and yanked it open. Half his household staff stoodclustered in the hall, abruptly silent at his appearance. "Doyou mind?"

The servants scattered amid a chorus of "Beg pardon,milord" and "Won't 'appen again, milord."

By Juno, he'd had more peace and quiet when theycamped a mile from Boney's forces. Sinclair returned to hischair with a sigh and propped his feet once more on thedesk. "Give me one good reason why I should hire you,Quincy. Just one."

Quincy gestured toward the door. "I could get your businessaffairs in order, so you would be free to get your householdaffairs in order."

Sinclair shook his head. "Any of the men I interviewed this morning could do that. Why should I hire you?"

Quincy pushed his spectacles up again. "I can forge yoursignature."

Sinclair's feet slammed to the floor, all annoyance gone."The devil you say."

The young man continued as though discussing theweather. "As my employer, you could supervise my activities.Make certain they were in your best interest."

Sinclair raised one eyebrow. "I could have you thrown inNewgate."

"You could, but that would be a waste, wouldn't it, mylord?" Quincy pointed at the mountain of mail teetering betweenthem on the desk. "If I were in prison, I wouldn't beable to save you from all that dull paperwork. You should beout tending your properties or attending balls and such, nothere signing every little thing."

"Little things such as bank drafts?"

He watched as Quincy glanced around the room, at thethick Turkish carpet and two floor-to-ceiling bookcasesoverflowing with leather-bound books. Quincy stood, andstepped over the debris as he walked past the red-stripedarmchair that clashed wonderfully with the burgundyleather wing chair, to the mahogany side table supporting asilver tea service. "Judging by this room, I would wagerbank drafts are never ‘little' where you are concerned, mylord." He wiped one gloved finger through the dust on thetable. "Though perhaps you should find a replacement forthe downstairs maid before you go off to your properties."

Sinclair allowed one side of his mouth to curve up. Intriguedby the cheeky lad, he rummaged through one of thepiles on his desk. "Here's an invitation I don't wish to accept.Let's see how you handle it."

"Certainly, my lord." Quincy took the invitation, read it,then unearthed the inkwell and a pen while Sinclairsearched the desk drawers for a clean sheet of paper. A fewmoments later, Quincy handed over a neatly penned missive.It bore Sinclair's signature at the bottom.

Sinclair frowned as he studied the note. "Very diplomaticrefusal. As it happens, I do have another engagement that evening. But the body of the note is written in a differenthand than the signature."

"Of course. My writing, your signature. Your ownmother could not tell it's not by your hand."

"Damned if you aren't right." Sinclair glanced from themountain of newspapers and ledgers to the young man,then to the clock striking the hour, and grimaced. Lateagain. He shuffled a few folios together, casting anotherlook at the lad. Quincy held Sinclair's gaze, unblinking.

Sinclair never had been able to resist a puzzle, and theimpertinent pup intrigued him. Five years as a cavalry offi-cer had trained him to make decisions quickly and followhis instincts, and those instincts shouted at him to keep theyoung man around. All was not as it seemed ...

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