To Make You Mine

One slight mistake in her calculations throws Grace into the arms of the very dark and dangerous Sebastian Blackwood, a man recently returned to London. He is in need of a wife in order to smooth his transition back into society and Grace makes for the perfect sacrifice when the two end up alone. Having lost her freedom, Grace swears that she will never belong to him and despises the man. But what happens when his touch turns gentle and she sees a longing in his eyes that could never be faked?

What exactly does Sebastian mean when he claims 'I'll make you mine. Just as I promised then.' Should she trust him when he speaks so kindly to her or is he simply playing her in order to obtain an obedient wife who'll warm his bed at night. What can she do when logic tells her she can' trust him, but her heart begins to react?

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1. Chapter One

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Grace kept her sharp gaze fixed on her little sister as the young woman stood among her fellow debutantes. She had grown accustomed to her role as chaperone to the spirited sixteen year old. Annabelle was very pretty, but so naive to the world that it gave her sister no end of problems. Anna still believed that a gentleman meant every kind word he whispered in her ear or that everyone had some ounce of good in them. She had so much to learn and Grace made sure to keep her reigned in, but also made sure she still enjoyed her innocent youth as she deserved. Grace loved the child dearly and was more like a mother to Anna than an older sister, having raised her by herself. Their mother had sadly passed away while birthing Anna and their father had shut down from the loss. So Grace, at the tender age of thirteen had taken over running the household while her father hid himself in his study and focused solely on his finances.

    She doubted he could even describe them to a stranger. Did he know that Anna looked so much like their mother with her blonde curls, green eyes and slim figure? Or that Grace had his chestnut locks and vibrant, violet eyes with a curved figure that made her a somewhat striking beauty in most eyes? She highly doubted he knew anything about his children, either what they looked like or their interests. Grace felt the normal sting of resentment fill her chest and she sighed as she glanced at her sister once more. The poor thing didn’t deserve to be blamed for the loss of their mother and Grace made sure that she never let Anna dwell on the subject long enough to think so.

    She shook away the melancholy plaguing her tonight and forced herself to focus on her duties as her sister’s chaperone. She felt a presence move up next to her and turned, seeing Lady Teresa, an old friend of hers, sliding up to her. She gave Grace a bright smile as she laced her arm through and nuzzled closer.

    “Grace darling! Why ever are you hiding in this corner? Just because you are escorting your sister doesn’t mean you can’t also enjoy the evening’s festivities.” She laughed and Grace subtly rolled her eyes and gave the woman a pointed look.

    “Teresa, we’ve had this talk many times before. I am not interested in any of that. I only attend these so that I may see you and so that Anna can enjoy herself.”

    Teresa pouted and blew air through her lips in discontent, making Grace laugh. Teresa smiled again at the sound and hugged Grace’s arm tighter. The two had grown up close, but had lost contact when Grace’s mother passed. Only with Anna’s coming out were the two able to reunite. Grace looked at the beauty clinging to her and felt the unwanted stab of jealousy. Teresa was two years younger than Grace’s twenty-nine, but she was happily married with two beautiful children. The Countess was perfectly content with her life and Grace was pleased for her friend, but couldn’t stop the unwarranted envy.

    It’s not like Grace even wanted a life like that. She had purposely rebuffed any gentlemen that had attempted to show her attention. She had too many responsibilities in her life to throw it away for a man that only wanted her to warm his bed until something prettier came along. Not that she didn’t entertain the possibility of finding a love match once she was certain Annabelle was taken care of. But she was also able to think reasonably and knew that no gentleman would wish to marry a woman in her thirties when he could have a younger, more beautiful wife just as easily. She swallowed a groan as she remembered several foul occasions when a few gentlemen had offered her a proposition that was befitting someone of her ‘advanced’ years.

    Grace had responded appropriately, bringing up her knee as her cousins taught her and giving a cold remark as she walked away. Men were so predictable and Grace decided she was better off without them. If only her sister could realize how empty-headed most of the ton was. Grace looked at her sister and frowned as she noticed that the girl was being led to the dance floor by her favorite suitor. Lord Charles Huntington was the eldest son of a Baron with his sights set on snagging a wealthy wife and her dowry to support his spending habits. Grace frowned as she watched the pair, knowing that Anna was enthralled by the gentleman’s looks and sweet words, so she wouldn’t understand the reality of the life she would have with such a man.

Since they came from a well-off family, being daughters of the Viscount Preston, they were sought out by many gentlemen looking to increase their pockets. Anna was now targeted more since word had spread about Grace’s abundant disdain for men. Which made Grace’s top priority keeping secluded meetings from happening.

A commotion drew Grace’s attention from her sister as she felt the tension sweep through the room. Even Teresa gasped softly, her fingers digging into Grace’s arm. Curious, Grace followed the whispers to the source and felt her own back tense at the man that had caused the uproar. He looked like a barbarian or a pirate come to crash the party. He was quite tall, standing over many people as he passed, making sure that most could watch his march.

He walked close enough that Grace could see more details of him as he offered her his profile and felt a strange sensation at his appearance. Obviously not one to pay attention to society’s standards of dress, he stood out from the other men with his odd attire. He was wearing all black, even his cravat was a silky black cloth. His black hair was unusually long for a man, extending past his shoulders and down to the middle of his back. She wondered if he had braided it as a half-hearted attempt to fit in. He turned then, his gaze sweeping the room and she felt a shiver course down her back as the main issue with his appearance was revealed to her. His left eye was covered with an eye patch that peeked out from the long bangs attempting to hide it. A thin scar ran out from under the patch at the top, disappearing into his hair.

“Who is he?” Grace whispered and her friend shivered as she averted her gaze, worried that the man would notice her staring.

“The new Earl of Northridge...” She whispered and Grace’s eyes widened. She had read about the late Count’s untimely death after falling I'll with a wasting disease. She had briefly speculated on who would be assuming the position as he had been unmarried and no one knew of his next of kin. She felt a small amount of grief at the reminder of his death. He was the only man who had ever approached her with no ulterior motives. Simply wishing to converse with her and ensure that all was well. Alexander had been a kind soul who always managed to lighten her mood when he kept her company. She had genuinely enjoyed her friendship with the man and was shocked when he had disappeared from society. She had assumed that he had simply returned to his estate for business until word of his death reached her. But who was this man to her late companion?

“Then who is he? A cousin?” Grace asked and Teresa began them walking, obviously searching for her husband as she explained what she knew.

“Rumor is, that he is Sebastian Blackwood, second son of the Blackwood family.”

“Lord Alexander has a brother?” Grace frowned, never remembering him mentioning such a thing when they spoke of family.

“I hear he has two. But the youngest is pursuing a career as a physician so this one had to step forward and take the title.”

Had to? It is his by birth. Why would it even be considered going to the third son before the second?” She said as her eyes drifted back to the man, watching as he stood alone, drinking from a flute as his eye roamed around the room.

“I’m not sure...All I’ve heard is that he has been out of the country and at sea for so many years that his family wondered if he was even still alive.”

“How sad…” Grace whispered, she knew the pain of being estranged with your family, but at least she had Anna...Anna! She had been absorbed in the arrival of this stranger that she had taken her eyes off of Annabelle! Immediately her eyes swept the ballroom, but her sister had disappeared. She silently cursed and disentangled herself from Teresa, who gave her a curious look.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve been neglectful of my duties. I must go to Anna’s side and make sure that she is doing alright.” Grace explained, not wanting any listeners to know that the little fool had probably been pulled off somewhere by a rowdy lout. She kept looking around, hoping to catch a glimpse of her ward. Not paying attention to where she was heading she collided with someone and stumbled. The person reached out and grasped her elbow to help steady her. She lifted her head to thank them, but swallowed it. The one she had unfortunately run into was Lord Sebastian and he was even more intimidating up close.

She quickly shook off his grip and took a step back, averting her gaze as she mumbled a quick apology for running into him. She started to turn away when he gently caught her elbow again, preventing her hasty retreat. Grace gasped and turned back to him, about to reprimand him for handling her so familiarly.

“Are you…” He asked, trailing off as his good eye searched her face for something. She found herself momentarily entrapped by the grey iris as it looked at every detail of her face. Then she frowned as it widened slightly and his lips parted to say something further, but the spell had run it’s course and she came back to herself. She once more shook off his touch, shooting him a withering glare before turning on her heels and stalking away. Her heart was pounding, but she refused to look back once to see if he was watching her go. She had more important things to worry about than some eccentric lord.

“Where did that foolish girl go?” She hissed under her breath as she subtly slipped to the secluded hallways that led further into the manor. She kept a close eye out for other guests, not wanting to raise speculation on why she was moving about alone. They would either assume she was trying to meet a lover or that her sister had disappeared. Although the latter was true, Grace didn’t need the wagging tongues to be aimed at her family. She stopped when she came to a door left slightly ajar and crept closer to listen in.

“We shouldn’t be here...If my sister-”

“Your sister has nothing to do with this. This is between you and me. Come now Annabelle, don’t you care for me?”

Grace’s frown deepened as it was confirmed that Anna had been stolen away by the Lord Charles. She was just thankful that she had caught up to them before someone else did and she lost her sister to the snake’s trap. She pushed the door open, making sure to close it behind her. The couple broke apart and Anna flushed brightly as her eyes connected with Grace’s. But she quickly turned her sharp glare on the man responsible for this little tryst. The man instantly shrank back, having heard the rumors of the she-devil’s temperament. Grace moved so that she was standing in front of her sister before facing him once more with her arms crossed.

“Lord Charles, I believe there are ladies missing your company out on the dancefloor. You should return to them before they start to wonder at your absence.”

He took the hint and with one last glance at Anna, swiftly left the sisters alone with his tail tucked. Grace sighed and then turned on her sister, ready to scold her next, but Anna managed to strike first.

“What the hell was that!?”

Grace’s eyes narrowed as she squared off, crossing her arms tighter against her chest and snorting at her sister’s words.

“I should be asking you that. What were you thinking letting him drag you in here like that? What if it had been another member of society that saw you? Anna you could have ruined yourself!”

“Hmph. At least then I would be with the man I love.” Anna sulked and Grace rolled her eyes as she had to go through this discussion once more.

“You're not actually in love with him. Anna you can’t know what real love is yet. You're only sixteen, barely out in society. Don’t be so quick to throw your life away for a pretty smile.”

Her words were more gentle than the ones in her mind, but Anna still took them bitterly. She stamped her small foot, another sign of her immaturity. She pointed her finger at Grace and hissed back,

“Just because you don’t know what real love is don’t assume that I’m the same! I really like Charles and he’s not just a pretty smile. He is kind to me and cares about me!”

“Anna...He cares about the coffers that you can put in his pocket, nothing more. If you put up more of a resistance I guarantee he would find new prey. Men like him look for the easiest target that can fill their needs faster, whatever that may be.”

“Don’t clump him in with the men you’ve been approached by!”

“Do you remember what I said about those encounters!? How they all thought that they could whisper sweet words in my ear and take what they wanted? Your Charles is only different in that he has to marry you in order to get his slice of cake.”

Anna’s cheeks were heating with her anger and Grace mentally prepared herself for the tantrum getting ready to break loose. She had dealt with this more times than she could count, so she was an expert at spotting the signs of the upcoming storm.

“You know what I think? I think you're jealous!” Anna accused and Grace gave a dry laugh at that and would have found more amusement in it if not for the situation. Anna’s glare sharpened at the scoffing noise and continued with her nose in the air.

“You know that you’ve ruined your chances to find a husband and now that it’s too late, you are determined to ruin mine.”

“Annabelle!” Grace gasped, shocked that such venom would drip from her sister. She felt actual hurt at the words and their underlying meaning. Her age and the way it made people view her was a tender subject, one her sister was very much aware of.

“You know that’s not true. I want nothing more than for you to be happy.” She whispered and Anna glared back at her again, opening her mouth to argue, but Grace held up her hand to stop her.

Which is why I’m so strict about your behavior. I don’t want you falling for the wrong guy and regretting it later on.”

“But that’s not your decision! It’s mine!” Anna shouted and Grace began to lose her own temper at the girl’s stubbornness.

“As I’ve said before, you are only sixteen. You are too young to be making a decision like that. And despite your claims otherwise, you are not ready. You need to be patient and think this through before making a life-altering decision.” She explained, knowing that her words were passing right through the young woman by the defensive stance she had taken. They were running in circles and it was beginning to tire Grace.

“Maybe it is time we retire for the evening.” She calmly suggested, but Anna seemed far from done with being petulant.

“You leave then! I am going to go apologize to Lord Charles and hope that he won’t withdraw his interest.” She spat and made to leave. Grace caught the girl’s arm to halt her, but Anna didn’t meet her eyes.

“Darling, you know I’m only thinking of you and your future.” She whispered.

“You just want me to end up an old spinster like you.” Anna hissed and violently yanked her arm away as she stormed off. Grace was frozen from the ice lancing through her heart. That one word weighed very heavily on her mind. It was a word that had recently begun to pass through circles as people made snide remarks about her age and unmarried status. For Annabelle to use such a slander meant she had intended to hurt her sister. And that alone is what brought the unwanted tears to Grace’s eyes.

Her sister was only lashing out from her own hurt, wanting to spread it to another in an attempt to ease her own. Even knowing that, Grace couldn’t stop the tears from multiplying. Or the hurt from spreading deeping through her chest as she covered her face. Everything that she kept buried seem to be brought to the surface all at once and she was no longer able to fight against it. She took deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself enough to return to the ballroom so that she could retrieve her sister, but it only seemed to make things worse. The harder she tried to push the dark feelings away the stronger they became.

A soft click caused her to turn towards the door, hoping that it was Anna come back to apologize. But the person who stepped through was far different than her sister and the last person she wanted to encounter, again. Sebastian came in and immediately his gaze landed on her. She took in a sharp breath and attempted to hide her tear-streaked face from him. She felt him move further into the room and began to stutter as she tried to escape.

“F-Forgive me my lord...I-I was just...needing a moment away from the crowds...If you’ll excuse…” But as she tried to slip past, his arm stretched out in front of her chest, blocking her way. She stiffened, flinching back even though he hadn’t touched her this time.

“Are you alright?”

The whispered words were not what she had expected and it caused her to glance up at him in surprise. She was even more startled to see the gentleness in the way he looked down at her, sincere worry clear in his grey orb. She was at a loss for how to respond and simply continued to stare wide-eyed at him. He slowly shifted so that he was standing before her as his hand moved up towards her cheek. Her eyes shut instinctively, but the touch against her cheek was light and almost...comforting. She slowly opened her eyes as his thumb brushed away the remaining moisture.

Grace felt a strange jolt at his touch and knew that she had to leave before he took her pliancy as invitation. She stepped back, the warmth from his hand still lingering on her cheek. With every intention of leaving without another word she stepped around him towards the door.

“I’m sorry, but I need to be heading back to the ballroom. Good evening sir.” She gave a slight curtsy and quickened her steps, hoping to leave the stranger behind as she had with their last encounter. She made it out into the hall and took another two steps before her wrist was caught in a tight hold. Grace spun around, horrified that he would have the gall to handle her in such a way. But the harsh words got stuck on her tongue as she once more looked up at his face.

However this time his expression was dark and closed off. Gone was the gentleness from before, replaced with a cold mask. Her heart hammered in fear as he moved closer, forcing her to step back in order to keep the proper distance between them.

“S-Sir...re-release me this instant!” She hissed, unable to raise her voice as her body began to tremble. She bit back a gasp when her backside hit the wall, effectively trapping her between this imposing man and the hard surface. Grace tried to appear calm and indignant as she faced him.

“Just because you’ve only recently returned to London, doesn’t mean you can claim not to know about society’s rules.” She scolded, proud that her voice only shook slightly. Grace was surprised when he didn’t respond beyond his lip twitching. All she needed to do was stay calm and watch for an opening as she had so many times before. Although...All those other incidents had not been with a man quite so intimidating and unpredictable. She flinched away when his free hand lifted up once more towards her cheek. The gentle touch contradicted the vise-like grip on her wrist, preventing her from leaving.

“I’m sorry I frightened you...but...I couldn’t let you leave without…” His voice was very soft and raspy, not what she would expect from someone with his disposition. He was looking at her so closely, taking in every detail of her face and she wondered what it was he was searching for.

“Are you…” He began to ask, but something caught his attention as his eye flicked to the side. Everything that came next was like a carefully schemed nightmare for Grace. Just as she made to look to the side, the hand at her wrist released its hold and cupped the other side of her face. He turned her back to him and moved faster than she thought possible, his lips spreading over hers in a searing kiss.

Her eyes widened in shock and she reached up to push against his chest in protest, but he moved his body closer, trapping her arms between them. She let out a moan of protest, fighting against the heat that was strangely spreading from where his lips played across hers. Slowly, her body began to relax of its own accord to his touch, leaning in closer instead of pulling away. Her eyes were tightly closed, but she couldn’t deny that he was coaxing a response from her, something no other gentleman had been able to do when stealing a kiss.

She felt his tongue slide along her lips and her gasp allowed him the entrance it sought. Grace moaned again, telling herself it was in protest, but it didn’t sound as convincing as before. What was happening to her? Why was her body becoming pliant with such a terrifying figure, when it had vehemently rejected every other suitor that had tried to take liberties? Just as she was worried he would push further, he instead leaned back, allowing her to draw in a sharp breath. As the fog began to recede and she came back to herself, her anger roared back to life. She opened her mouth, ready to give him a dressing down when another voice cut across hers.

“Well, well...do forgive the interruption.”

Her pupils shrank in horror as she realized the voice didn’t belong to the man still holding her close. She turned to see several prestigious members of the ton staring at them. One of which was Lady Olivia, an elderly patron who loved to titter about any bit of gossip. She could see the older woman’s eyes already shining with excitement to spread the word of what she had seen. She wasn’t sure which was worse in that moment as she faced the onlookers. Seeing the anticipation in the older woman’s eyes, the smug smirk of Lord Charles, or the horror clearly written on her younger sister’s face as the girl clung to his arm.

Grace opened her mouth, desperately trying to think of something to say to save herself, but for once her sharp mind refused to work. She felt a stinging at the corner of her eyes as she realized just how far she had fallen. She was officially ruined, in the same way she had lectured her sister for moments ago. How could the situation get any worse?

“I’m sorry you all had to stumble upon my reunion with my betrothed.” A soft voice cut through the tension and all eyes shifted to the dark man that had spoken. Grace’s eyes were possibly the widest, but not by much. Lord Sebastian straightened himself up and lowered his hands from Grace’s cheeks, but only so he could draw her to his side. For some reason the hand pressing against her hip managed to comfort her slightly, which was foolish seeing as he was the cause of her current predicament.

The first to recover was Lord Charles as his shock gave way to suspicion, his eyes narrowing as he sized the other man. He snorted and in an accusing voice asked the question bound to arise at what Sebastian had said.

“I was not aware that Lady Grace was attached in any way. I’m sure I would have remembered reading such an announcement in the post.” He said, that cocky smile spreading across his face once more. However, Sebastian didn’t so much as flinch under the scrutiny and answered smoothly without any hesitation.

“That’s because we were never formally engaged.” He looked down at Grace and his face softened as a small smile lifted up his lips. She tried to justify the way her heart leapt as anxiety over this whole scene, but knew the truth deep down. Despite how scary he was with half his upper face being covered...He was also incredibly handsome and it was all accented by that gentle smile.

“Before I set sail to make a name for myself I asked Grace to wait for me. I knew it was selfish and was prepared if she had ever married while we were apart. But it warms my heart to know that she remained faithful all this time and has remained true to our promise all those years ago.” He lied smoothly and if she was one of the listeners, she would believe him easily. It was amazing how sincere he could make himself sound and now her blood ran cold with the realization that she may be tied to such a manipulating man if she didn’t put a stop to this now!

“Wait I-”
Grace…” The soft-spoken voice stopped her words and she glanced over to her sister who was pleading with her eyes for her silence. Grace bit her lip, knowing that if she spoke out now it wouldn’t only hurt her, but also Anna. As the two sisters locked eyes, Grace knew that she couldn’t willingly cause harm to her dearest love. Anna meant more to her than anything, even her own life. So for the time being she decided her silence was the smartest option. At least while they still had an audience. But Grace was determined to set things straight once she had a moment to speak with the Lord Sebastian again. In the time it took for Lord Sebastian to take her arm in his and lead her from the hallway, back into the noisy ballroom, she had already developed a plan to save face and not have to give up her freedom. Grace Preston was far from meek and Lord Sebastian had no idea just who he had challenged tonight.

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