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
Meredith Divine laughed loudly and uncomfortably as she clung to Rowena’s arm. Arriving with Rowena’s cousin and his wife, made her feel awkward. She did not really know them. Her heart raced.
She ought to be used to the censure of the ton by now – she had been out for a year – she was not. She was very thankful for Rowena. Rowena had accepted Meredith from the moment she’d come out, without judgement. Rowena was Meredith’s shield.
They reached the receiving line. Lord and Lady Marlow were introduced first, then Lady Rowena, and finally Miss-insignificant-Divine.
She was here because several of the ton were in business with her father, but she was only tolerated, not welcomed.
Her father was coming later this evening, yet he’d bid Meredith to come early with Rowena, as he’d had a meeting with his business partner over dinner.
Meredith’s gaze spun about the ballroom as they entered. It was overcrowded; she could hardly see through the crush of people, but even so her gaze searched for one person. She wasn’t even sure if he was coming. Rowena had not said, and Meredith did not like to ask. Where was Rowena’s brother? She’d not seen him since last evening, and he had not taken them out as he’d promised. His cousin’s wife had been in the barouche when it arrived.
Meredith’s heart kept beating with a firm rhythm. She knew Lord Morton did not like her, though she tried hard to be pleasing. She just wished he might at least smile at her. He never did.
Like the others in the ton, he thought she was lacking because of her low birth, and that was insurmountable. Why did it have to be him her heart favoured? Someone so very proud. He always looked as though he thought he was above most of life. The only time he showed any interest in anything was when he looked at Rowena.
“Now then, Rowena, Miss Divine, shall I fetch you a glass of orgeat to refresh you before you dance?” Lord Edward spoke to Rowena first, then glanced at Meredith.
Meredith smiled. Lord Edward smiled back.
He seemed pleasant and far less judgemental than his cousin. Yet there was little between the two men in handsomeness. They were lean, muscular and tall. Though Lord Morton’s hair was a lighter brown, and he had hazel eyes, rather than Lord Edward’s dark blue.
Meredith had been lost in Lord Morton’s hazel eyes last night as they’d danced, and she’d dreamed of them too, and dreamed of that waltz, of being held and steered so beautifully by his muscular arms.
Her heart fluttered as she nodded a thank you to Lord Edward, accepting his offer.
Her attraction to Rowena’s brother had been instantaneous on their introduction. Yet he’d only ever looked at her with disdain and suspicion, and sometimes she’d caught him staring, in his judgemental way, as if he was disgusted by her and could not believe just how ill-mannered she was.
She glanced about the room again as Lord Edward left them, her fingers grasping the reticule which hung from her wrist.
She still could not see Lord Morton. Now that he had passed the responsibility for chaperoning Rowena to his cousin’s wife, Meredith had no idea whether he would even come. He never normally danced.
Last night, then, had been a very precious exception.
For long, unending minutes she’d thought he would leave her standing there like a prize idiot, but then he’d finally asked, obviously unwillingly. She was going to treasure the memory of that dance. She was certain it was the closest contact she would ever have with him. He was too many miles above her reach. It was just a shame her heart would not be directed elsewhere.
“Lady Rowena, may I impose upon you for a dance…?”
Meredith’s gaze spun to the older gentleman, Lord Kendrick, who’d been introduced to them last night.
Rowena was blushing. Earlier she’d whispered to Meredith that Lord Kendrick had asked to marry her today. He’d met Rowena only hours before making the offer. Of course, Rowena had declined.
Meredith’s heart pounded again. If an offer was made for her, she knew her father would not let her decline. Whoever the man was, she would have to accept him, and she’d even be expected to show she was glad of the honour he’d shown her, no matter her feelings. Her father was impatient for her to make a match. Her days were numbered. If no one offered soon, her father had said a week ago, he would find someone for her.
If only Lord Morton could be encouraged, but everything he said and did implied he not only was not interested in her, but hated her.
Yet Meredith had met no one else she wished to encourage
She did not hate Lord Morton. Last night he had looked at her, properly for the very first time and glanced down at her lips as she spoke, then looked right into her eyes. Weakness had assailed her as he’d held her, and she’d wondered if he’d sensed the trembling she’d felt inside…
“Come, let me introduce you to my family, Miss Divine.” Lady Eleanor touched Meredith’s arm, gently pressing her elbow to lead her.
It would be embarrassing if Meredith was left to sit the dance out. Especially as she was with people she hardly knew. She glanced back at the people dancing, then looked desperately about the edges of the room, trying to catch the eye of some gentleman who might ask.
Meredith’s heart leapt in her chest as her gaze spun to Lord Morton. He’d come from the direction of the entrance; he must have just arrived. His voice had that deep, subtly angry pitch she’d become used to, but, nevertheless, her heart ached at the sight of his harsh countenance.
His eyes were a clutter of light brown, green and gold.
His gaze dropped from Lady Edward to Meredith, as if saying, I did not speak to you, why, are, you, looking at me? Then in his very formal voice, he said, “Miss Divine,” before looking back at Lady Edward.
Anxiety tied Meredith’s stomach in a knot..
“Miss Divine, would you accept my hand?”
Meredith turned to face Hugh Holland. Hugh had no title, but he was born from old money, simply a couple of generations below any wealth. He was fortune hunting. But he was not hunting any fortune from her; her dowry was as many miles off what this man needed as the level of her birth was below what Lord Morton considered genteel.
However, Hugh wished something else from Meredith. He’d made numerous inappropriate suggestions since they’d been introduced. She did like him, though. If he had been at all prepared to make an appropriate offer, he was one man she might have been willing to accept, although she’d never love him. But she did enjoy dancing with him. Hugh made her laugh.
She had even let him kiss her once or twice, but never let him do more. The last thing she needed was to have a ruined reputation on top of a poor heritage and an equally poor dowry.
“I would be honoured, Mr Holland.” She dropped a curtsy, and smiled, feeling Lord Morton’s gaze burning into the back of her head. Her skin prickled. Lord Morton made her feel such odd, delicious things. It was him she wished to dance with, not Hugh. But she would simply have to keep wishing, because undoubtedly, last night’s dance would not be repeated.
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