His Contract Bride (Banks Brothers Brides 1)

By: Rose Gordon



Spring 1781

Regina Harris would never forget the day she lost her heart to that all-consuming emotion known as love.

The day had started like every other, but somehow it had ended differently...

She'd awakened the same as she had every other morning since she'd come to Sloan's School for Young Ladies. She and her new roommate, Sophie Sinclair, had helped each other dress just as they had every other morning since Sophie had come to Sloan’s only six weeks earlier. Sophie wore a gown of yellow and Regina dressed in blue, to show their school rank. She'd then combed her hair and breakfasted. Just like every other morning. Then, she'd gone downstairs to take morning lessons. The annual family day the school hosted each spring was scheduled for that afternoon, following a quick luncheon.

And that's when her life changed forevermore.

Shaking out her gown, Regina descended the stairs to wait in the school's parlor for the families to arrive. But she didn't make it to the bottom of the staircase at the same time as her companion. Halfway down, she froze. Her left foot barely on the step in front of her, and her right hand tightening its grip on the handrail. The sight below stole her attention and perhaps even her heart.

There, at the bottom of the stairs stood two tall young men, one with black hair and the other with blond. Sophie, who'd descended the stairs with Regina, suddenly vanished from her side, running toward the other side of the room to wrap the dark-haired man in a hug.

From across the room, Mrs. Hull called for Sophie to remove herself from Lord Sinclair at once.

Regina didn't hear Sophie's response, nor did she care whether Sophie gained her wits and stopped hugging her brother in public or not. No, Regina was too captivated by the handsome man standing next to the pair of embracing siblings. He was tall and thin, but not too thin. His eyes were the most unique shade of blue she'd ever seen; so pale they almost appeared clear. He had high cheekbones, the most devilishly handsome grin she'd ever seen, and from his coat to his boots, he was clad in solid black.

“Hello,” he said with a slow bow.

“Hello,” she heard herself say. She was too nervous to remember whether she needed to curtsy or not and doubted she'd actually be able to perform one at the moment anyway.

His grin broadened and Regina's cheeks grew slightly warm.

“Regina,” Sophie called, catching her attention.

Regina turned her eyes to look at her friend but not before noticing the way the blond stranger's eyes had widened. “Yes?”

“Regina, I'd like to introduce you to my brother, Joseph, Lord Sinclair, and his friend, Edward Banks...” She said something else then turned toward the men and spoke, presumably completing the formal introduction. But Regina didn't hear her words, she was too distracted by the handsome face in front of her—the face that now had a name, Edward—not Mr. Banks—just Edward.

“May I escort you to the front lawn?” Mr. Banks asked.

She started, and then blushed. Gracious. Twice in the last five minutes she'd been caught unawares while woolgathering about the man who was now asking to be her escort. “Of course.” She placed her gloved hand on his proffered arm.

Sophie and Lord Sinclair led the way to the front lawn where benches and lawn games had been set up in preparation for today's event.

“Miss Harris,” Edward said, leading her through the maze of benches to a vacant one under a large tree. “Would you like—” He broke off and abruptly stopped walking. His eyebrows knit together. “Were you expecting your father to join you today?”

She shook her head, a wave of sadness washing over her. “He wasn't able to attend today.” She hoped he'd leave it at that and not ask her why. She really didn't wish to tell him that her father had been extended a Social invitation he didn't want to refuse.

He nodded once. “All right. Then shall we sit?”

“Of course.” She flashed him a slight smile and took a seat on the bench closest to them.

Edward returned her smile with one of his own then took a seat next to her. But not too close, of course. Still, his mere presence so close to her was exhilarating, which was strange when one considered how little Regina liked to be touched. “Regina—Miss Harris—” He turned his head and cleared his throat as if he had something important to say.

But he didn't get the chance as a young fellow about Regina's age, presumably one of her schoolmate's younger brothers who'd come for family day, approached them and asked, “Mr. Banks, do you know how to calculate the speed at which the earth orbits the sun?”

Regina blinked. What on earth—

“I believe so, yes,” Edward said easily, extinguishing her thoughts. His eyes locked on the young man standing in front of them. “Do you know how to calculate the speed at which the earth orbits the sun?”