A new #free short story… I’ll be telling it here, and it can also now be preordered on Amazon.
@Copyright Jane Lark; Publishing rights owned by Harper Impulse; Harper Collins UK
Capturing the Earl’s Love
A Historical Romance story
Lord Rupert Stanforth, Earl of Morton, watched his sister, Rowena, approach.
She was smiling, and her friend, Meredith Divine, clung to her arm.
His gaze briefly passed over the other girl. He was increasingly convinced Miss Divine only kept Rowena as a friend because Rowena was the perfect foil to show off Miss Divine’s more striking looks. Her auburn curls glowed in the candlelight beside Rowena’s lacklustre, light-brown locks.
Miss Divine was also slightly taller, and a little fuller in the bust.
While they crossed the room, she appeared to press as close as she could to Rowena’s side, letting Rowena’s less impressionable looks make Miss Divine’s stand out among the white-clad debutantes in the ballroom.
His eyes focused on his sister once more. She was out of breath, having just completed a country dance, and her cheeks were flushed, while her eyes glowed, expressing the fun she was having.
“I want to introduce Meredith to Ellen. Will you escort us and do the honours? Meredith is dying to meet her.”
Mmm, now what is this little game? He glanced at Miss Divine only to receive a very bright but subtly restrained smile.
She was trying to win his approval.
He was not interested. He wished nothing to do with the little schemer. Her father was in some sort of trade. Rupert had not even wished Rowena to befriend Miss Divine, let alone become so thick with her. The two of them were inseparable; or rather, Miss Divine hung about Rowena like a moth around a flame. Except Miss Divine was no moth. Her beauty was far too vibrant.
Rupert was Rowena’s guardian. Their father had passed on long ago, so Rupert was responsible for keeping his sister safe. It fell to him to help her choose her friends wisely. Yet the more he disparaged Miss Divine, the more Rowena favoured the girl. He’d ceased his complaints. Their friendship had still blossomed. He’d hoped it would wither and die back. It had not—yet.
He expected Miss Divine to make a wrong step soon though, one which would open his sister’s eyes, and end this arm-in-arm behavior.
“They are over there,” Rowena prodded.
Their cousin, Edward, had come up to town yesterday with his wife, who was with child again, although her condition was still barely visible.
Rupert ought to be glad they’d come. His mother rarely rose from her bed, due to her rheumatism, which she eased by drowning herself in laudanum. It left the burden of chaperoning Rowena on his shoulders. Ellen could help. Yet he felt uncomfortable about the notion. His cousin’s wife had a disreputable past.
Complying with Rowena’s request, he offered his right arm.
Miss Divine let go of Rowena and swept about to claim his left, without an offer.
While the girls chattered excitedly, he walked about the hall in the direction of his cousin, not listening to a word they said.
Edward was standing in conversation with his wife and his in-laws.
The Pembroke sisters, of whom Edward’s wife was one, stood out like dark-haired sirens. It was difficult not to stare when they were all together.
Edward’s wife, Ellen, was the eldest, but unfortunately, as Rupert looked at her, an unwanted image of her in her former life slipped into his mind.
She’d been a courtesan when he and Edward first saw her, and he’d seen her in one particularly compromising situation. It still made his spine tingle, like hackles rising, to let Rowena mix with Ellen. Yet Ellen’s family, along with the whole of the ton, society’s elite, had disregarded her past, if they were aware of it. It had simply been swept away.
Rupert could not forget.
Miss Divine gripped his arm too tightly. God, he found the girl irritating. Her voice was shrill, as though the excited pitch was forced.
He’d thought Edward’s wife a schemer, too, in the beginning, angling after his cousin for some reason. Rupert had been wrong. The moment they’d come back to town after their elopement, he’d seen that. A mutual affection lingered in the air between them.
Rupert could not fathom it. His parents had hated one another. Even his cousin’s parents had only displayed comfort with one another. Yet Edward had changed character in many ways since meeting Ellen. She’d become the pivotal focus of his life, when for weeks Rupert and Edward had been as inseparable as Rowena and Miss Divine. So there must be something in the word love. Edward certainly seemed to have a deep intimacy with his wife.
Rupert missed his cousin’s company, and he wanted nothing to do with love. He’d seen his cousin travel through hell to be with Ellen; he did not fancy that for himself. And it was a farce, as far as he was concerned; Rupert half-expected Edward’s haven of happiness to collapse at any moment. Solid relationships were built on mutual respect and nothing else.
Miss Divine’s grip shifted a little on his arm, as if she sought to gain his attention. He ignored her.
When Rupert took a wife, which would not be for a few years yet, he wished for someone who would bring him contentment. A woman he would not argue with, someone quiet, who would be willing to make his home, and perhaps his bed, comfortable, and manage all else without needing to refer to him.
“Ellen,” Rowena exclaimed as they neared the couple.
“Edward,” Rupert acknowledged. His cousin’s eyes were shining with both humour and happiness when he turned.
“My friend wishes an introduction—” Rowena began.
“So I have been asked to do the honours,” Rupert completed. “Lord Edward Marlow, this is Miss Meredith Divine, Lady Eleanor, Miss Divine.” He bowed slightly to Ellen, who bobbed a shallow curtsy as both girls on his arms did the same, but dipped a little lower.
“Miss Divine…” Ellen acknowledged, then began asking the girls questions, finding out from Rowena what she had been up to in town.
Rupert could answer that — shopping mostly, spending a small fortune, as well as visiting constantly.
Lord, he prayed she would hurry up and find a suitor he might accept.
Rowena’s fingers slipped from Rupert’s arm, while Miss Divine’s clung a moment longer. Awareness prickled across his skin when she finally let go.
Edward set an arm about Rupert’s shoulders, drawing him aside from the women.
“How are you?” Edward asked.
A Lord’s Desperate Love is the story of two of the secondary characters from the 1st book in
the Marlow Intrigues Series
‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’
- the story of the real courtesan who inspired The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
- another free short story, about characters from book #2, A Lord’s Scandalous Love,
- the prequel excerpts for book #3 The Scandalous Love of a Duke
Go to the index
Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.
Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark