Thief of Dreams Read Online Mary Balogh

Categories Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Tags Authors:

Total pages in book: 132
Estimated words: 118742 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 594(@200wpm)___ 475(@250wpm)___ 396(@300wpm)

On the eve of her twenty-first birthday ball, Cassandra would finally be free. Free from mourning her father’s death, and free to begin a new life as Countess of Worthing. Cass had no intention of marrying — not yet. Instead, she planned to rule her land and bask in her independence.
Then the dashing Nigel Wetherby arrives at the ball — an uninvited guest on Cassandra’s most magical day. To young Cass, he is the sweetest of passions. But Nigel has plans of his own. Plans that could break her heart, and defy their love. At once, he is both her worst nightmare — and her dream come true …


Chapter 1

The day was going to be an extraordinarily busy one. A birthday was to be celebrated—the one and twentieth of Lady Cassandra Havelock, Countess of Worthing.

Normally such a birthday would have been of no great significance to a lady. But this was an exception. The late Earl of Worthing had died a year ago to the day, leaving behind him an only daughter and one of those rare earldoms that devolved upon the female line in the absence of a male, the idea being that the new countess would hold the title in trust for her own son. The late earl’s brother had been appointed her ladyship’s guardian during her minority. She was not married and it was impossible for her guardian to arrange a marriage for her during the year of her mourning.

The birthday that was to be celebrated, then, was an enormously significant occasion. The Countess of Worthing—a mere woman—was to achieve her majority and her independence. There was no one in her life—no man— with the power to order that life for her. Yet it was an indisputable fact that no woman could live her life independent of a man’s superior wisdom and guidance, especially when that woman was titled and wealthy and the owner of a large estate in Somersetshire.

The fact that she was also beautiful, lively, and charming merely compounded the problem.

They were all agreed upon that—her uncle and former guardian, her aunts, and the one male cousin who was old enough to be allowed an opinion of his own.

There was the evening’s ball for which to prepare—it was to be the grandest ball within the collective memory of the neighborhood and its environs for miles around. There was to be a full orchestra, and so many guests had been invited—and had accepted their invitations—that the event was expected to rival even some of the more modest squeezes of the London Season.

In addition to the preparations for the ball—and none of the countess’ relatives was willing to admit that the brunt of that task would fall squarely upon the servants’ shoulders—there was to be the whole business of greeting and entertaining the houseguests during the afternoon, and then there were those who were coming from too far away to be expected to return home in their carriages after the ball was over. Almost all of the spare bedchambers were to be occupied.

Once the afternoon came, the day would be carried along on its own hectic momentum. They all realized that. But the morning was relatively free. And a family conference was imperative. One was called in the morning room. There was the whole question—the whole problem—of Cassandra to be discussed.

Conveniently, Cassandra herself was away from home during the morning. She had walked over to the dower house to call upon her cousin and friend, the Honorable Miss Patience Gibbons. More to the point, she had gone there for a final fitting for the gown she was to wear to the ball. The mantua maker and her two assistants, who had been brought down from London in order to create ball gowns for all the ladies, had been lodged at the dower house rather than at the house itself.

Cassandra did not know of the family conference that was held in her absence—and in her interests.

The Honorable Mr. Cyrus Havelock presided from a standing position before the empty fireplace. No one disputed his leadership since he was the only brother of the late earl and indeed had missed the title himself by a mere half hour, having been born the younger twin by that exact margin of time. Not that Mr. Havelock was in any way embittered by his subordinate position, as he was frequently at pains to assure his family. He had been dealt with generously on the death of his mother, when the neighboring estate and manor of Willow Hall had been made his. And he was fond of Cassandra.

The other members of the family in attendance were Mrs. Althea Havelock, Lady Beatrice Havelock, unmarried sister of the late earl, Lady Matilda Gibbons, widow of Baron Gibbons and also a sister of the late earl, and Mr. Robin Barr-Hampton, the son of Mrs. Havelock by her first marriage. Robin could not be called a member of the family in the strict sense of the term, but he was four-and-twenty years old, he was a respectably prosperous landowner in his own right, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale than either his stepfather or his stepcousin, and he was a sensible and amiable young man.