A #free short story… I’ll be telling it here, and it can also now be downloaded from Amazon.
@Copyright Jane Lark; Publishing rights owned by Harper Impulse; Harper Collins UK
Capturing the Earl’s Love
A Historical Romance story
Rupert met Miss Divine’s gaze. He stood at the door of the summerhouse, looking in at her. She sat alone.
The colour of her eyes was nondescript in the dark, though the moonlight reached into the summerhouse and turned her white dress grey.
She’d been crying when he approached.
Rupert had seen her turn and run from her father, and although her flight had occurred in full view of the room, with no attempt to mask her haste, he doubted many people had noted her departure. She was of little interest to people here.
Yet he’d sensed something odd in her sudden bolt, so he’d followed, with Edward’s words of earlier ringing in his head.
He was looking for the greys in between the black and white. Her distress had appeared genuine when she’d fled, and, now, well… Her eyes glistened with tears, making them shine like dark sapphires as the moonlight caught her face when she stood.
An hour ago he’d have thought this some ploy, but the girl genuinely looked upset.
He had misjudged Ellen. What if Edward was right and Rupert had misjudged Miss Divine, too? He’d been treating her pretty poorly if that was true. He’d made no secret of his ill opinion. But then he remembered all the weeks she had pressed close to Rowena, crowding his sister, and trying to outshine her by speaking louder, and smiling more brightly. Yet he should at least ask… It was only gentlemanly… “Is something wrong?”
She sniffed and then withdrew a handkerchief from the reticule which hung from her wrist. He supposed he could have offered his handkerchief, but his mind was caught up in trying to see any grey in the black and white he had been viewing for weeks. He was still uncertain what this was about. But whatever it was, she was plainly upset.
She blew her nose then stuffed the handkerchief back into her reticule, before looking up again.
He was used to her smiling at him when she looked at him. She always smiled. It was a broad, open expression she seemed to have perfected just for him. He received it every time he looked at her. She did not smile now, merely looked at him with eyes full of pain, and something else… Anger?
Damn, was this some ruse?
His gaze fell away from hers. Her white gown glowed in the darkness, the inky color of night staining it light blue more than grey. It was like her eyes, hard to decide exactly which. Yet there was still a contrast between skin, and hair, and gown. The opening cleft of her cleavage drew his eyes as it ran into the bodice of her dress, like an arrow drawing his attention to where it should not be. He’d noticed that the girl had curves long ago, but until last night he had not looked at her closely. And now?
His gaze lifted back up to her face. If he could see the colour of her skin, he would lay odds on the fact she was blushing, but the fire of anger had gone from her eyes; there seemed only sorrow in them now.
“My father has accepted a marriage offer, on my behalf. I was unaware of it…” After she spoke, her gaze dropped to the level of Rupert’s cravat and she sniffed again. “With his business partner, Mr Perrigrew.”
Rupert frowned. He knew Mr Perrigrew. He was older than Kendrick, and cantankerous too. Rupert would not wish such a match on her, no matter that he did not like her.
“What will you do?”
Instinctively, when she lifted her gaze and tears sparkled in her eyes once more, he lifted his hand and touched her arm to comfort her.
As soon as he did, her head lowered and her forehead fell to rest against his shoulder. His hand shifted to her back, and he could feel her sobs as they jolted her body.
“Miss Divine,” he whispered, offering verbal concern, as well as physical comfort, as behind him he heard her father call.
“Meredith! Meredith! Where are you, girl?”
There were other voices too, several.
Rupert instantly recognized the danger. He was alone with her here.
Lord Morton drew away from her, his hand slipping down her back and falling away.
Her anger had burned out within minutes of him speaking to her. For the second night, he had noticed her, and touched her. Hope and longing suddenly poured into her heart, as a flash of inspiration flared like a flame in her mind. She would… She could… Oh.
She did something she knew she should not.
There was a band of lace tucked into the neckline of her gown. It was designed to hide her cleavage, though she had always repositioned it to show her bosom off as soon as she arrived at a ball. But now… Her hand lifted, and she pulled it loose, freeing it a little on one side, so it hung from her gown, as though something, or someone, had disturbed it, and as she did so, her other hand clasped Lord Morton’s nape, and then pulled his head down. I am not letting him go. I am not.
He was obviously too surprised to react and pull away, and as his head lowered, she lifted on to her toes, and pressed her lips to his.
“Meredith Divine! What the hell is going on here?” Her father’s voice boomed into the night air, echoing across the whole garden. “Morton! Let go of my daughter! I will not have this! You are dallying with her!”
There seemed to be an outcry as Lord Morton pulled away, and she let him go.
“You are going to marry her, Morton! No other man will have her now!”
Lord Morton stood before her, looking down at her, appearing shocked and bemused and pale, but then, all of sudden, his stupor dissolved, and there was a wildfire of anger in his gaze. She thought he might strangle her when his hand lifted – his eyes were so hard and cold – but it merely curled in a fist. Then he turned away and she saw the people who had followed her father staring at her.
“I will wed her,” he growled.
She had given him no choice. He either shamed her entirely or took her.
She knew he was a gentleman; he would not shame her.
“But for now, I suggest you take her home.” Before I kill her, she heard his unspoken words.
She had done a dreadful thing. She knew she had. It had been cruel and manipulative. But guilt refused to stir inside her. If it was so dreadful, why was her heart bursting with joy? He was going to marry her! He was!
“I shall call upon you in the morning,” Lord Morton said to her father in a bitter voice, before walking away. People parted to let him go.
Her father caught a hold of her arm and growled through the side of his mouth. “I told you I had signed the contract with Perrigrew, girl, and now you must manoeuvre this. You have made me a laughing stock!” He knew she’d forced Lord Morton, then. Her gaze spun to their audience. They knew too; she could see it in their faces. She supposed Lord Morton’s anger must have made the situation obvious.
The heat of a blush flared in Meredith’s cheeks as her father’s fingers gripped harder about her arm, then she was half dragged away.
The crowd left behind them, laughed and chattered.
Meredith had not seen Rowena, but Rowena would learn about what had happened; someone would tell her.
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
Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback