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by Laura Lee Guhrke

Genre: England, Historical Romance

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Devonshire, 1902

“Go to hell,” Beatrix said and stood up. “Or better yet, go back to Egypt. That godforsaken place is probably hotter and more miserable than hell anyway.”

She caught a flash of her own anger mirrored in Will’s eyes, but when he spoke, he was smiling. “Go back to Egypt?” he said, sounding as if he thought her off her onion for even suggesting such a thing. “And forgo the most important social event of the season? I couldn’t possibly. The scandal-mongers are counting on me to make an appearance and upset the applecart. They’d be so disappointed if I failed to show.”

“You have not been invited!” she cried. “Neither Aidan nor I would ever dream of allowing you to attend our wedding.”

With that, she turned her back on the man sitting in the road and started toward her motorcar.

“Aidan?” he echoed as she walked away. “Ah, yes, Aidan Carr, the Duke of Trathen. Trading up, aren’t you? Trathen’s what—tenth in line to the throne, or something like that?”

“Trading up? I’m not doing any such thing. I’m—” She broke off, realizing that she was starting to explain when she didn’t owe him any explanations.

Clamping her lips together, she turned away without another word and resumed walking to the front of the vehicle. Still ignoring him, she leaned down, grasped the brass handle, and with the expertise of long practice, gave a hard twist to crank the engine just as Julia had taught her, keeping her thumb back to avoid breaking it on the kickback.

“Wait!” Will shouted over the rumble of the motorcar’s engine as she walked around to the driver’s side. “You have to take me with you.”

“No, I don’t,” she shot back and climbed into the vehicle. Hitching up her ankle-length motoring coat, she settled herself on the red leather seat. “You can lie in the road until you rot as far as I’m concerned. If you want to go to Sunderland Park, you’ll have to walk.”

“Walk? But I’m injured, and it’s five miles to the house from here.”

“Five and a half,” she corrected as she pulled her driving goggles up to protect her eyes. She turned in her seat to look at him over one shoulder, watching as he struggled to his feet, and she forced herself to ignore the pain that crossed his face, reminding herself of all the pain he’d given her. “Don’t worry, Will. I’m sure some farmer will come along and give you a ride. Eventually.”

“Beatrix!” he shouted, limping forward toward the vehicle. “You can’t just leave me here!”

“Why not?” she countered smoothly. “You had no compunction about leaving me six years ago.”

With that parting shot, she turned her back, curled her gloved fingers around the polished wood steering wheel, and pushed the petrol pedal. As the motorcar rolled down the road, it took all the willpower she possessed not to turn her head and look back at the man she’d left behind.

There was no looking back, she reminded herself, keeping her gaze fixed on the road ahead. Not now, not ever.