A #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
A wave of relief suddenly swept in. Rupert had forgotten how good their camaraderie had felt. They’d been firm friends from their Eton days. Perhaps, if he cared to admit it, he was a bit jealous of Edward’s wife.
Miss Divine laughed, in her high-pitched, slightly forced, listen-to-me giggle.
Rupert glanced at her. Her gaze caught his, before it travelled on to Rowena. She said something which made Rowena laugh.
What was Miss Divine plotting? What did she hope to gain from an introduction to Ellen?
“Rupert? How are you?” Edward asked again.
Rupert was frowning as he faced his cousin. “Well enough.”
An odd questioning expression shifted in Edward’s gaze as his eyebrows lifted a little, before he smiled briefly, then said, “And my aunt?”
“No better. In fact, perhaps a little worse.”
“Then we shall call in a day or two, once we’ve settled in.”
Rupert nodded. Edward looked at him as if he was trying to read something in Rupert’s eyes.
“And you are well and happy, I see, Edward. I have no need to ask.”
“I am exceedingly happy….” A sudden smile parted Edward’s lips.
The conversation dried. Rupert thought of discussing Rowena’s suitors. He was never sure who to introduce her to, and he thought perhaps Ellen… But then again, perhaps not. Ellen’s history hardly made her the best person to seek suitable companions for his sister.
Good God, he had never not known what to say to Edward.
“Will you be going to Jackson’s tomorrow? We could spar as we used to?” Edward suggested.
They could, but nothing was as it used to be. The freedom of Rupert’s bachelorhood had gone. He’d donated that to his sister this year. Still, she would be at home in the morning, he could go out. But Edward’s life was not the same either… “Are you sure you’re up to it? Domesticity has not softened you?”
“Lady Eleanor, would you introduce me to these young ladies?”
Rupert’s gaze spun to the man who’d spoken. Then he glanced back at Edward, asking who? with a look.
Edward leant closer and whispered. “The Earl of Kendrick is an acquaintance of my brother-in-law, Richard. He lost his wife two years ago. He’s been in the country on his estates since. He lives near us, but I do not know him well.”
Rupert glanced back at the man.
Having bowed to Miss Divine, Kendrick then took Rowena’s hand and pressed a kiss on her fingers. “Would you dance with me, Lady Rowena?”
Discomfort ran up Rupert’s spine. He had never met the man, but Kendrick was no suitor for Rowena; he was in his later years, grey-haired and even balding. He may have a strong gaze and relatively slender figure, but Rupert wished Rowena happy, cherished. He wanted her to have what Edward had, even if it was a fragile, breakable thing. If there was a chance of happiness for her, he wanted her to have it.
She accepted Kendrick’s offer. She could do little else. Yet she did not appear comfortable.
Rupert wondered if he should have stepped in and refused the introduction. But that would have been churlish and domineering, wouldn’t it? He had no reason to do so.
“We are hoping Lord Morton will take us driving in the park tomorrow…” Miss Divine’s bright voice broke into his thoughts.
It was meant to, of course. Her pitch had been lifted so he would hear. He knew it.
What was she after? He hoped it was not him. She had no hope if it was.
“Ellen, shall we dance?” As Edward made the invitation to his wife, Rupert realised the tune lifting over the hubbub of conversation was a waltz.
He glanced towards the dancers to see Kendrick leaning forward to listen to Rowena speak.
When Rupert looked back, Edward and Ellen were walking away and Miss Divine had moved closer, and now looked up at him, with wide eyes. He’d never really looked at them before, but now he noticed they were a vivid blue, or perhaps they were grey. Whichever, they went well with her auburn hair, and, of course, she wished him to notice that.
She smiled. The smile, he would swear, she’d developed before a mirror, to impress and cajole. He said nothing. Nor did she. He did not smile.
The woman was a witch, and trying to weave spells about him. Her smile twisted his innards somehow.
The sound of the orchestra rose and couples began moving near Rupert and Miss Divine as they stood at the edge of the dancing.
Awkwardness hovered in the air. No one else was likely to approach Miss Divine now. It left him no option but to offer… “Would you care to dance, Miss Divine?”
Her face lit up. “Thank you, Lord Morton.”
He hoped this would not give the girl expectations. He rarely bothered with dancing. His evenings were spent watching his sister do so. It left his offer, now, open to misinterpretation. What if people thought he was favouring Miss Divine?
He lifted his arm, stiffly, and she laid her fingers on it as they stepped away from the edge, joining the dancers.
He knew women adored this dance. Rowena had crowed for days once she’d been given permission to participate.
He formed a frame for Miss Divine, lifting one hand and setting his other at her back.
Miss Divine had won agreement to dance the waltz the same night as his sister. He’d heard them speaking then, whispering about how romantic it was. It was not romantic for a man. It was an opportunity to seduce a woman.
Rupert glanced across the room to watch Rowena as he began dancing, leading Miss Divine, whose fingers were a very gentle weight on his arm, and a slender presence in his hand.
Rowena seemed to be conversing quite happily with Kendrick, yet her body expressed wariness. She looked as though she was being polite, rather than enjoying herself. She looked as though she felt uncomfortable. Rupert should have said no to the introduction.
“Will you? Well… I mean…” Miss Divine’s voice pulled his attention back to her.
He faced those eyes. He could not avoid looking at her when she was in his arms, with less than a foot of space separating them. There was a slight tilt to the tip of her nose, and her lips were as red as the roses which suddenly bloomed in her cheeks. When his gaze lifted to her eyes again, they seemed as deep as the sea.
“Rowena said you might…” she began again. His gaze dropped to her lips as she spoke, then returned to her eyes when she stopped.
“Might what, Miss Divine?”
“Take us driving in Hyde Park tomorrow,” she said hurriedly.
Ah, so she could show herself off to a world who would not wish to know her at all if she was not with his sister. Even her middling dowry did not recommend her. The fortune hunters, who trailed after Rowena, overlooked Miss Divine. The girl was bartering with her looks, yet her looks were also middling in comparison to some, no matter her vivid hair and striking eyes. Which was, no doubt, her reason for hovering so close to Rowena, and using his sister as a foil.
“I cannot take you both, I’m afraid. My phaeton will only seat myself and my sister.”
“But Rowena implied we might use the barouche.”
Did she? Or had Miss Divine asked if they might go out in his barouche?
Tomorrow, after his sparring match with Edward, Rupert would raise the subject of Ellen chaperoning Rowena, no matter Ellen’s past. He was intensely tired of this charade, regardless of how much he cared for his sister. He’d had enough of Miss Divine’s manoeuvring, especially the riotous disturbance she instilled in his blood, and he was tired of trying to judge what was best for Rowena, who to help her meet and who to avoid…
“May we, Lord Morton?” Miss Divine asked, following her words with a very bright smile, which, he supposed, was also passably pretty.
“Yes.” He looked past her, rather than at her, as he answered, to discourage further conversation, feeling thoroughly manipulated.
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’
NOTE – THIS – AND ALL MY BOOKS – ARE CURRENTLY ON SALE IN THE UK!
- 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