Wish List





  WISH LIST

  By

  Lisa Kleypas,

  Lisa Cach,

  Claudia Dain,

  and

  Lynsay Sands

  LEISURE BOOKS ®

  First Edition November 2001

  Published by

  Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

  276 Fifth Avenue

  New York, NY 10001

  Wish List copyright © 2001 by Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

  “I Will” copyright © 2001 by Lisa Kleypas

  “Puddings, Pastries, and Thou” copyright © 2001 by Lisa Cach

  “Union” copyright © 2001 by Claudia Welch

  “All I Want” copyright © 2001 by Lynsay Sands

  ISBN: 0-8439-4931-7

  The name “Leisure Books” and the stylized “L” with design are trademarks of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

  Printed in the United States of America

  Contents

  “I Will” by Lisa Kleypas

  Puddings, Pastries, and Thou by Lisa Cach

  Union by Claudia Dain

  All I Want by Lynsay Sands

  “I Will”

  by

  Lisa Kleypas

  Chapter One

  London, 1833

  It was not easy to ask a favor of a woman who despised him. But Andrew, Lord Drake, had always been beyond shame, and today was no exception. He needed a favor from a morally upright woman, and Miss Caroline Hargreaves was the only decent female he knew. She was proper and straitlaced to a fault… and he wasn’t the only man to think so, judging by the fact that she was still unmarried at the age of twenty-six.

  “Why are you here?” Caroline asked, her voice threaded with quiet hostility. She kept her gaze fastened on the large square frame propped by the settee, a wooden lace stretcher used to reshape curtains and tablecloths after they were washed. The task was a meticulous one, involving sticking a pin through each tiny loop of lace and affixing it to the edge of the frame until the cloth was drawn tight. Although Caroline’s face was expressionless, her inner tension was betrayed by the stiffness of her fingers as she fumbled with a paper of pins.

  “I need something from you,” Andrew said, staring at her intently. It was probably the first time he had ever been completely sober around her, and now that he was free of his habitual alcoholic haze, he had noticed a few things about Miss Caroline Hargreaves that intrigued him.

  She was far prettier than he had thought. Despite the little spectacles perched on her nose, and her frumpy manner of dressing, she possessed a subtle beauty that had escaped him before. Her figure was not at all spectacular—Caroline was small and slight, with practically no hips or breasts to speak of. Andrew preferred big, voluptuous women who were willing to engage in the vigorous bedroom romps he enjoyed. But Caroline had a lovely face, with velvety brown eyes and thick black lashes, surmounted by dark brows that arched with the precision of a hawk’s wing. Her hair was a neatly pinned mass of sable silk, and her complexion was as fine and clear as a child’s. And that mouth… why in God’s name had he never noticed her mouth before? Delicate, expressive, the upper lip small and bow shaped, the lower curved with generous fullness.

  Right now those tempting lips were pulled tight with displeasure, and her brow was furrowed in a perplexed expression. “I can’t conceive of what you could possibly want from me, Lord Drake,” Caroline said crisply. “However, I can assure you that you won’t get it.”

  Andrew laughed suddenly. He threw a glance at his friend Cade—Caroline’s younger brother—who had brought him to the parlor of the Hargreaves family home. Having predicted that Caroline would not be willing to help him in any way, Cade now looked both annoyed and resigned at his sister’s stubbornness. “I told you,” Cade murmured.

  Not willing to give up so easily, Andrew returned his attention to the woman seated before him. He considered her thoughtfully, trying to decide what approach to use. No doubt she was going to make him crawl… not that he blamed her for that in the least.

  Caroline had never made a secret of her dislike for him, and Andrew knew exactly why. For one thing, he was a bad influence on her younger brother Cade, a pleasant-natured fellow who was far too easily swayed by the opinions of his friends. Andrew had invited Cade along on far too many wild evenings of gambling, drinking, and debauchery, and returned him home in a sorry condition.

  As Cade’s father was dead, and his mother was a hopeless feather-wit, Caroline was the closest thing to a parent that Cade had. She tried her best to keep her twenty-four-year-old brother on the straight-and-narrow path, wanting him to assume his responsibilities as the man of the family. However, Cade naturally found it more tempting to emulate Andrew’s profligate lifestyle, and the two of them had indulged in more than a few dissolute evenings.

  The other reason that Caroline despised Andrew was the simple fact that they were complete opposites. She was pure. He was tarnished. She was honest. He tailored the truth to fit his own purposes. She was self-disciplined. He had never restrained himself in any regard. She was calm and serene. He had never known a moment’s peace in his life. Andrew envied her, and so he had mocked her mercilessly on the few previous occasions when they had met.

  Now Caroline hated him, and he had come to ask for a favor—a favor he desperately needed. Andrew found the situation so amusing that a wry smile cut through tension on his face.

  Abruptly he decided to be blunt. Miss Caroline Hargreaves did not seem to be the kind of woman who would tolerate game playing and prevarication. “I’m here because my father is dying,” he said.

  The words caused her to accidentally prick her finger, and she jumped slightly. Her gaze lifted from the lace stretcher. “I am sorry,” she murmured.

  “I’m not.”

  Andrew saw from the widening of her eyes that she was shocked by his coldness. He did not care. Nothing could make him feign sorrow at the passing of a man who had always been a poor excuse for a father. The earl had never given a damn about him, and Andrew had long ago given up trying to earn the love of a manipulative son of a bitch whose heart was as soft and warm as a block of granite. “The only thing I’m sorry about,” Andrew continued calmly, “is that the earl has decided to disinherit me. You and he seem to share similar feelings about my sinful way of living. My father has accused me of being the most self-indulgent and debased creature he has ever encountered.” A slight smile crossed his lips. “I can only hope that he is right.”

  Caroline seemed more than a little perturbed by his statement. “You sound proud of being such a disappointment to him,” she said.

  “Oh, I am,” he assured her easily. “My goal was to become as great a disappointment to him as he has been to me. Not an easy task, you understand, but I proved myself equal to it. It has been the greatest success of my life.”

  He saw Caroline throw a troubled glance at Cade, who merely shrugged sheepishly and wandered to the window to contemplate the serene spring day outside.

  The Hargreaves house was located on the west side of London. It was a pleasant Georgian-style manor house, pink-washed and framed by large beech trees, the kind of home that a solid English family should possess.

  “And so,” Andrew continued, “in an eleventh-hour effort to inspire me to reform, the earl has cut me out of his will.”

  “But surely he cannot do so entirely,” Caroline said. “The titles, the property in town, and your family’s country estate… I would have thought they were entailed.”

  “Yes, they are entailed.” Andrew smiled bitterly. “I’ll get the titles and the property no matter what the earl does. He can’t break the entailment any more than I can. But the money—the entire