The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club, #1)

Gavin studied the cover again. “Why this one?”

Mack smirked. “Because it’s about an idiot who screws up his marriage and has to win back his wife. Sound familiar?”

He swallowed against his rising humiliation. “What do I have to do?”

“Simple,” Malcolm said. “Listen to us and read the book.”

“Yeah.” Del snorted. “And for fuck’s sake, do not kiss your wife again until I tell you to.”





Courting the Countess





The seventh Earl of Latford had seen many a woman in various stages of undress in his nine and twenty years, but that had not prepared the man for the first breathtaking sight of his wife on their wedding night, looking like an angel in a sheer dressing gown.

Especially since her eyes conveyed the rather clear message that she’d just as soon bathe herself in a pig trough than feel his hands upon her skin.

Bloody inconvenient, that. Because for the first time in his life, Benedict Charles Arthur Seymour was good and truly in love.

“I will do my duty, my lord,” his new wife said, her voice flat and hands trembling as she untied the sash at her waist. Her gown floated to the floor in a pool of white silk, leaving her before him in a simple shift that robbed him of speech and thought.

Benedict ordered his feet to remove themselves from their roots in the doorframe separating his bedchamber from hers. As he drew closer to her, his heart shattered with every sign of her discomfort. The clenched fists at her sides. The shaky rise and fall of her chest. The defiant gaze that refused to look away from his.

He had done this. It was his fault.

“You may rest easy,” Benedict rasped, bending to retrieve the silky garment from the floor. Her blessedly bare feet were suddenly the most erotic thing he’d ever seen. Standing, he held the robe open for her. “I am not here for that.”

Confusion replaced anger for a brief moment in her gaze. She allowed him to hold the gown as she threaded her arms through the silk openings once again. She blushed a pale pink as he tied the sash at her waist, a liberty he should not have taken but could not resist. Dear God, just being close to her was going to destroy every shred of coherent thought in his brain.

“May I ask, then, why you are in my bedchamber?” she asked, stepping back from him.

“I have a gift for you.” Benedict pulled the small package from the pocket of his own robe.

Her eyes fell upon the plain brown paper. “I do not require a wedding present, my lord.”

“Benedict.”

“Begging your pardon?” She arched an eyebrow, a sardonic expression for such a well-bred young woman. Precisely the sort of hidden surprises that made him fall in love with her.

“We are married now. I want you to use my Christian name.” He extended the gift farther. “Please.”

A heavy sigh escaped the seam of her lush lips. “What is the purpose of this?”

“Does a husband need a reason to give his wife a present?”

“I thought I made it clear that we are not going to have that kind of marriage, my lord.”

“Benedict. And I don’t recall agreeing to any terms defining what kind of marriage we would have.”

“You established the terms of our marriage quite clearly with your accusation.”

Regret sliced through him, deepening the wound that had bled inside his chest from the moment he realized how wrong he’d been. But by the time he had learned the truth, it was too late. He’d betrayed her trust when it mattered most. “A mistake for which I will be eternally sorry,” he finally rasped.

“And this is an apology?” she asked with a glance at the gift.

“I am not so foolish as to think I can buy your forgiveness, my love. This is just a token of my affection.”

Avoiding his gaze, she carefully unwrapped the paper and opened the long, velvet box to reveal the strand of rubies and diamonds that had cost him a small fortune. Her eyes widened. “My lord . . .” she breathed.

“Benedict,” he corrected quietly. “Does it please you?”

“It is beautiful. But far too lavish for me.”

“Nonsense. You are the Countess of Latford. You should be draped in jewels.”

“Thank you, my lord.” She turned to set the box on her vanity table. “If there is nothing else . . .”

Her politeness was a cold draft in the room. He wanted the heat back, the one that had scorched between them before he’d let his pride douse it with a single, reckless misunderstanding. Benedict once again closed the distance between them. “Please, my love. I beg you to give me a chance to make this right.”

Her lashes fluttered as her pupils dilated. “To what end, Benedict?”

“A long and happy life together.”

Her slim, elegant throat worked against a nervous swallow. “I don’t believe in such things anymore.” She brushed past him and crossed the room to stand beside the bed. “I told you I would do my duty, and I will. I will give you an heir as soon as possible. And then I and the child will away to the country so you can be free of me.”

“I don’t want to be free of you,” he growled.

“My lord, two weeks ago, you accused me in front of the most vicious viper of the ton of arranging for us to be caught in a compromising situation to force you into marriage for your title.”

“And I have since learned the truth.”

“Yet the damage has been done.”

“Then let me fix it.” He rushed forward in words and steps. “Please, Irena.”

Her lips parted. Perhaps it was the use of her name. Or perhaps it was the strain of his voice, heavy from carrying the weight of an apology he would never stop repeating. Not until she believed it.

“I cannot change what I’ve done or the horrible things I said. All I can do is try to prove the depth of my regret for what I have done and the sincerity of my feelings for you. If you will let me.”

There. A flutter of something other than disdain lit up her eyes. It dissipated immediately, but it had been there, and that mattered.

“Irena—”

“It’s too late,” she whispered.

“It’s never too late. Not for love.” He raised her hands to his lips, taking time to kiss each knuckle before meeting her shocked gaze. “And I do, Irena. I love you.”

A brittle smile met his words as she tugged her hands away. “Love isn’t enough, my lord.”

“Benedict,” he said, tracing his finger along the delicate line of her jaw. “And you’re wrong. Love is all that matters. And I will do whatever it takes to prove that to you.”

The arched eyebrow returned. “And how, daresay, do you plan to accomplish such a thing?”

“I am going to court you.”

Irena snorted in a particularly unladylike way. “Don’t be absurd.”

Her laughter made him stand tall, the idea taking root as its brilliance bloomed with certainty. “My love,” he said, “we are going to start over.”





CHAPTER FOUR




“I am so disappointed in you.”

Thea jumped at the sound of Liv’s voice behind her. Her hand slipped on the dustpan, and the entire pile of dust and debris from the wall landed back on the floor. She glared over her shoulder. “Why?”

“I leave you alone with a perfectly good bottle of wine, and you ignore it to clean?”

It was Sunday night, and Liv had offered to put the girls to bed so Thea could apparently stare mindlessly, but Thea didn’t have time for navel-gazing. She had to clean up the mess from the wall before the girls and the dog decided to play in it. Thea dumped the dirt in a trash can as Liv opened a bottle of Riesling chilling in the fridge. She poured two glasses, handed one to Thea, and plopped down on the couch. “Where’s the fun in getting divorced if you can’t use it as an excuse to get drunk?”

“I haven’t found any part of getting divorced to be fun yet,” Thea said, taking the opposite end of the couch.

“Hence, the wine,” Liv said, stretching her legs out until her feet rested on Thea’s lap. The fact that her legs were long enough to do that didn’t help Thea’s mood. How had Liv gotten lucky enough to get their father’s tall, lean build, and Thea got stuck with the stature of a Smurf? Anytime Thea complained about being short, though, Gavin always said she was perfect because he could prop his chin on her head when he held her.

“You look like you’re having second thoughts,” Liv said.

“I’m not.”

Liv tilted her head and narrowed her eyes, as if she didn’t believe Thea’s denial. “You’re making the right decision.”

“I know.” Thea took a small sip to cover the twinge of guilt about all the things she hadn’t told Liv. And wouldn’t. Thea pointed at the pockmarked wall to change the subject. “This might have been a bit impulsive.”

“I know. That’s what I love about it. The feisty version of Thea clawed its way out with a roar.”

Thea raised her eyebrows. “The feisty old Thea?”

“Yeah. Remember her? The one who went through a phase of painting naked and once handcuffed herself to a bulldozer to protect a tree on campus? I’ve missed her.”

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