Through the beauty of music, brings love and the will to live a life lost.

It is only at the pianoforte with beautiful music flowing from her fingertips that Teresa Seton is happy. New to English society, she feels awkward and unsure of herself.  Only the attentions of her handsome neighbor can convince her that she is where she belongs—a stolen kiss proves that he means what he says. But the kiss is witnessed and the pair is forced to marry for propriety’s sake.

Once known as the “Merry Marquis”, Richard, the Marquis of Merrick, now lives the life of a recluse. Finding a beautiful stranger at his pianoforte strikes a chord within him, bringing back feelings he thought were lost with the passing of his wife. He is mesmerized by Teresa and her beautiful music, but can he convince her, and himself, that he can live and love again?

Chapter One

Richard heard the beautiful music and felt all of his muscles tense. His ghosts were back.

As he stepped into his desolate house, he thought that the fog outside had somehow penetrated his mind. The shadows cast by the single candle flickering on the dusty table somehow accentuated the gloom. He stopped and listened, his coat and hat slipping from his fingers on to the floor.

Surely he was imagining the music?

He had to be.

He shuddered. The only people who had ever played music in this house had been his sister and his wife. But they were both dead.

Their ghosts still haunted his imagination, it was true, but he had never actually heard them playing music. Beethoven’s fourteenth sonata had been his wife’s favorite. How she had loved the sweet soft melody! Today, however, the music echoing through the empty townhouse sounded eerie.

Richard swallowed hard. In the mist of his mind’s eye he saw Julia, smiling and playing her music. She was there beckoning to him, with her light brown hair pulled up, leaving only tendrils curling lightly about her face and neck. Her soft green eyes were laughing at him, loving him. His senses were flooded with the tantalizing scent of roses, which she had always worn. Her voice called to him through the music she played. It moved him toward her, ever closer.

He found himself just outside the music room, his hand on the door handle. He stood there, staring at the narrow strip of light spilling out from under the door. He had not been inside this room since she died. He was not sure he wanted to go in now.

No, he could not do it. He just could not open the door.

Although he knew that the ghosts were only in his imagination, the music seemed so very real. And, for once in his life, Richard Angles, the intrepid Marquis of Merrick, knew he was truly frightened.

Richard squared his shoulders. He would prove to himself that the music was not there, that she was not there. Taking a deep breath, he flung open the door so hard that it banged into the wall.

The music stopped. Richard blinked, his eyes adjusting to the brightness of the room. As he focused on the grand pianoforte in the corner, he let out his breath. There was someone there, but it was not Julia.

The girl sitting at the pianoforte had black hair and eyes. Her face was alabaster white, with deep pink lips.

His relief and wonder transformed into an overpowering rage. Who had dared to play such a trick on him?

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” he demanded in his most stern, masterful baritone.

The girl stood up so quickly that the gilt chair she had been sitting on fell to the floor with a crash. She stood for a moment looking him over from head to toe.

He watched as the emotions in her marvelously expressive eyes changed quickly, from alarm and shock to assessment and then to flashing pride. “I am Teresa Seton. I am staying next door with my aunt, Lady Swinborne. The housekeeper has given me permission to be here. She said his lordship was away from home, and that I might practice on his pianoforte.” Her small chin rose a fraction of an inch. “Who are you?”

As her eyes raked down his body, Richard was immediately made aware of his inappropriate attire. He was dressed in one of his most threadbare coats, at least three if not four, years out of date. His boots were scuffed and well-worn and his breeches clearly had seen better days.

He assessed the situation, his anger fading quickly. If she were indeed Lady Swinborne’s niece, then judging from her age, which could not have been more than eighteen or nineteen, that meant only one thing. She was in London to make her come-out. And, if that was so, Richard wanted nothing less than for it to be made known that he was in town. He knew the ways of matchmaking mamas—or aunts.

He made up his mind quickly. As Teresa Seton clearly had no idea who he was, he saw no reason to enlighten her about his identity. Yet, he did want to hear that music again.

It was like a need deep inside him, which he had not realized existed until the music had stopped.

He stepped further into the room, deliberately slumping his broad shoulders a little and making his voice sound as contrite and timid as he could manage without losing face altogether. “My name is Richard. I, ah, look after the house.” That was honest enough. He hated lying outright, but by leaving out the details, he could get by without revealing who he was. “I am sorry to disturb you. I was not told that anyone was here. Could I … do you think I could listen to you play a little? It was very beautiful.”

The girl looked at him, a little confused and evidently taken aback by this sudden change in his demeanor. Then, shrugging her shoulders, she turned around to right her chair, saying, “Yes, of course. I do not mind if you listen.”

She went back to the Beethoven sonata she had been playing, but kept a wary eye on Richard. He came further into the room and sat down gingerly on the edge of one of the chairs arranged in neat rows in front of the pianoforte, trying to give the impression that he wasn’t sure if he were allowed to sit there. But very soon, he realized that she was completely taken up by the music and was paying him no attention.

As Miss Seton lost herself in the music she seemed to change as well. Richard watched her body sway with the flowing notes, taking on the same sort of ethereal quality as the music. She had a glowing luminosity that was amazing, enticing. It was as if the pianoforte and the girl were one instrument, developed for the sole purpose of creating the shimmering brilliance of the sonata.

Richard smiled to himself at his fanciful imaginings, but he could not deny that there was something remarkable about her. As she played, she moved with grace, her head tilted slightly sideways, her eyes mostly closed. Her black eyelashes were long, providing a striking contrast to the pale cheeks on which they lay. To add to her ghostly quality, she was dressed in a white gown with full long sleeves. A faint print of light pink flowers and a pink ribbon around the high waist of the dress were the only touches of color present.

The music slowed and then faded away as Miss Seton gently touched the last lingering notes of the piece. Her dark eyes slowly opened and met his. For a moment, neither of them moved, just letting the last of the notes slowly evaporate into the silence of the room.

She broke the contact, quickly turning back to the pianoforte. Toying with some music in front of her, turning over pages, she silently prepared to play the next piece. This one she clearly did not know as well, and had to play from the score. Richard did not recognize the piece, but the sound was still soft and lilting.

She was really superb at the pianoforte. Richard closed his eyes and sat back in his chair, letting the music carry him away. The graceful melody was calming, filling him with a sense of his long-lost happiness.

A pause in the flowing music brought him back into the room with a jolt. He opened his eyes to see Miss Seton struggling with the sheets of music, trying to turn the page. He jumped up and helped her straighten them out then stayed standing next to her so that he could turn the pages for her.

As she reached for a key directly in front of him, her arm accidentally brushed against his leg. Although it was the briefest of touches, it seemed to leave a trail of heat on his thigh. With a shock, he found himself fighting an intense desire to lean closer to her, to feel the touch of her skin. His heart was pounding, and parts of him were tingling in ways he had not thought to feel again for a long time.

Guilt stabbed at him at his body’s betrayal of the loving memory of his wife. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to take a step back. As he did so, however, he wondered whether she too was aware of him. Since he had moved closer to her, she had begun playing self-consciously, not allowing the music to fully take over her whole body as she had before.

He had to make himself concentrate on the pages of music in front of them. He noticed that Miss Seton had reached the end of the page, and reached out to turn it, so that she would not need to pause in her playing. She did stop, however, and looked up at him with her dark eyebrows raised.

“You know how to read music?”

Richard was caught off guard. Of course, he, the Marquis of Merrick, knew how to read music. But would someone who was only a steward? No, of course not. What a fool he was to be caught out in his lie so quickly.

“I, ah, yes. My mother played the pianoforte, and she taught me when I was young.“ Let her make of that what she will, Richard thought defiantly.

Richard had hoped that this terse explanation would leave Miss Seton no other choice than to accept what he said, and to resume playing. But she continued her searching look. Perhaps she was trying to figure out exactly who he was, or perhaps she simply felt the same sort of warmth he was feeling now as he stood so close to her.

She nodded her head, finally accepting his explanation. “Bring another chair forward, so you do not have to stand,” she directed him.

Although the marquis in him bristled at her calm commanding manner, he did as he was told. Once he had settled himself, Miss Seton went back to playing. He turned the pages of music as she played and let the music and her faint lavender scent wash over him.

As he reached for the sheet of music to turn it, the clock in the hall began to strike the hour. Miss Seton stopped playing with a start, and began to count. “Five! My aunt will be furious if I am late!”

Jumping up, she fled for the door. But before running out, she hesitated, then turned to him. Her pale face broke into a soft smile. “Thank you, ah, Richard.”

Richard had instinctively risen. “My pleasure. When will I see…” his sentence was left unfinished as he realized that she was already gone. As he sat back into his chair, he was surprised to find that he was smiling. He also realized that, for the first time since Julia had left him, he looked forward to tomorrow.