The Heiress Swap
She’ll deceive everyone… Including him…
Evie Jenkins didn’t know what she was thinking by agreeing to switch places with her American heiress cousin. After all, she’s naught but a poor—and usually quite sensible—companion. All she has to do is spend six weeks among London society, pretending to be an heiress…and ensure that absolutely under no circumstances does she accept any proposals of marriage.
When his cousin declares himself in love with a new woman visiting from the States, Alexander Trenton—the sixth Duke of Hargrave—is determined to prove that the young lady in question is just another American “Dollar Princess” desperate for an English title. She seems innocent enough, but Alex is determined to expose her…by thoroughly seducing the lovely and fiercely intelligent heiress himself.
What he assumed would be just one simple kiss erupts into something wild, uncontrollable, and much too public. Now the duke must save her reputation with a betrothal…little knowing that his charming Princess harbors a secret that would certainly ruin them both.
– Partial Excerpt
New York, July 1890
“No. Absolutely not.” Yvette Jenkins shook her head hard.
Her cousin, Aimee, regularly came up with some harebrained ideas, but this one took the cake. Never had Evie heard, let alone contemplated, such a ludicrous suggestion as the one her cousin had just proposed. “I am not swapping places and pretending to be you. Definitely not. End of story. No.”
“But please, Evie, you must agree,” Aimee begged, her big blue eyes pleading. “It’s a most brilliant idea, for both of us. You’ll get to have a holiday and visit all those museums and exhibitions you’ve always dreamed of, and I’ll get to experi- ence my dream of working for my father’s company, and he’ll have no idea I’m doing so. Just think of it, both of our hearts’ wishes fulfilled in one fell swoop, if you’ll only agree. It’s truly an ingenious plan!”
“It’s a ridiculous plan.” Evie threw up her hands and marched over to the window overlooking the front of the grand residence on Fifth Avenue. She focused on staring down at the passing horses and carriages, refusing to look back at her cousin, who had the ability to talk anyone into anything, Evie most especially of all. “I will not agree to it. Imagine if anyone found out. Imagine if your parents found out. They’d never forgive me.”
In the six years since she’d arrived in America from London, after the Thornton-Joneses had taken her in following her maternal aunt’s death when she was sixteen, Evie had been happy to take on the role of Aimee’s companion, doing her best to impart English customs and etiquette to her extremely confident and outgoing American cousin, who was only one year Evie’s junior. Thankfully, they’d become fast and firm friends, with Aimee the bolder of the two, and Evie the more sensible.
“No one is going to find out,” Aimee replied, striding over to stand next to Evie and gently grabbing ahold of the sleeve of Evie’s plain blue dress. “No one knows us in London.”
“I’m English, Aimee, and grew up in London,” Evie couldn’t help but point out, turning to face her cousin with the sternest face she could muster.
The two of them were so alike in appearance and yet oh so different in temperament.
Both had porcelain complexions with heart- shaped faces, the traditional cornflower blue eyes that were a hallmark of a Thornton-Jones, and slim figures of modest stature, both standing the same five foot six inches in height. Aimee, though, had rich, sable-colored hair whereas Evie’s was a pale, honey blonde. But the physical similarities were where their resemblance ended. Personality wise, they couldn’t be any more different.
As was the case in point, where Aimee actually believed she could convince Evie to agree to such a plan. Though Evie had to admit in fairness to her cousin, Aimee always could get anyone to do practically anything, and not through meanness or manipulation, either. Her cousin was so joyful and enthusiastic about everything, believing anything could be accomplished if one believed it, that inevitably Aimee always achieved her desires. And Evie always went along with her cousin’s plans, though none had ever included swapping places before, pretending to be the other.
“You might have grown up in London,” Aimee replied, “but that was in an entirely different area of the city than where you would be staying while pretending to be me.”
“You mean I grew up in a poor area.”
Aimee had the grace to look somewhat abashed. “Well, yes, I do. But that’s only what you’ve told me yourself on countless occasions. You also told me how different each of the so-called classes of people in England are and how they simply don’t interact amongst one another.”
“So, you do listen on occasion.”
“Very funny.” Aimee narrowed her eyes. “My mother has arranged for an old family friend, the Countess of Brexton, to host me at her house and be my chaperone for the six-week trip. She lives in Mayfair, which I believe is nowhere near where you grew up.”
The west end of London was indeed well beyond the area Evie had lived. It was for the wealthy aristocracy, not for the penniless orphan Evie had been, along with her spinster aunt who had darned clothes for a living. “No, it isn’t.”
“See!” Aimee exclaimed. “You will be fine staying with the countess in my place. She’s never met me before and wouldn’t have met you, so she’ll have no idea that it’s you taking my place instead of me.”
“I am not switching places with you!”
Aimee grabbed both of Evie’s hands and squeezed them. “This is the only chance I’ll ever get to work for my father’s company in your place. You know it’s my absolute dream to prove to him I’ll be a worthy successor to take over the family business.”
“As capable as you are and as wonderfully mod- ern as your father is when it comes to his support for women’s rights, he’s never going to believe a female can run his business empire.” She gently squeezed Aimee’s hands back and then let go of them. For a moment, her cousin appeared despondent, but then the usual glint of determination and enthusiasm was back in her gaze.
“That is only because he hasn’t given me a chance to prove myself,” Aimee replied with a smile. “Once I switch places with you and train as a secretary at the company’s London headquarters, I’ll learn so much of the inner workings of the company. And when my father discovers all I’ve learned, he’ll change his mind and mentor me as I’ve always wanted him to.”
“When your father discovers you’ve switched places with me, not that I’m agreeing to switch places, but for argument’s sake if I did, and he found out, he would be beyond furious,” Evie re- plied. “He’d probably send you to a convent, for one escapade too many.” Though her uncle was a kind man, he was formidable when it came to business, and Evie doubted he’d be at all impressed that the six-week secretary traineeship he’d arranged for Evie upon her accompanying Aimee to London was in fact undertaken by his daughter in- stead of his niece. Not impressed would be a mild way to describe what Uncle Thomas’s reaction would be.
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