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
It was a small church, tucked away in the side streets.
Meredith knew it was normal for ton marriages to take place in St George’s in Hanover Square. So she now knew, too, that Lord Morton did not wish their marriage to be celebrated, or even noticed.
She felt like crying. She’d heard nothing from him since he’d left her at the summerhouse. She’d expected to be called to the drawing room yesterday, if only to be made to account for herself. But he had not asked for her. She’d expected him to ring a peal over her head for tricking him into this, not to be so silent. At least if he’d spoken to her, she would have had the chance to explain.
She looked up at her father as they entered the church. His anger had cooled once they’d reached home the other night. He’d realised then that his daughter would be a countess, and instead of being angry, his chest had puffed out with pride, and he’d forgotten he’d ever recommended Mr Perrigrew.
He’d spent the last four and twenty hours bragging about how his son-in-law would be an earl, and telling any of the servants who would listen that he would be rubbing shoulders with impressive company now. He had spoken about inviting Lord Morton into a business venture, and dining at his daughter’s new home.
She doubted Lord Morton would ever let her father through the door of his house. He’d always looked at her with disgust when she’d entered.
Oh, why had she forced this engagement? He did not like her. Yet she had just seen an opportunity and, terrified of the alternative, grasped it.
Her gaze scanned the quiet church as she absorbed the atmosphere of mistrust, anger and resentment.
Lord Morton stood before her. She’d expected him to be waiting at the altar, but instead he was by the door. Behind him stood Lord Edward and his wife. Rowena was with them.
Meredith smiled at Rowena. Rowena did not smile.
Tears rushed into Meredith’s eyes, but she blinked them away, she refused to cry. This life would be far better than the one her father had intended. Lord Morton would be her husband, Rowena would be her sister, and Meredith would make the best of this.
Yesterday, she’d heard Mr Perrigrew express his disgust when her father had broken their agreement. His angry shouts had rung through the house. Then Meredith had seen Lord Morton’s carriage arrive and heard his restrained knock on the front door.
His exit had been as quiet as his entrance. She had waited in her room for her father’s summons, then suddenly heard the door shut.
Of the two fates, she much preferred to face Lord Morton’s quiet fuming. He was a gentleman; he would never rage at her, or raise his hand against her. She was sure of that, if nothing else.
“Are you ready?” He spoke to her, his gaze searching her face, and then he looked down and his intense gaze equally skimmed across her body, as if judging what he was about to tie himself to in marriage.
She’d worn her prettiest dress. It was white, as all her dresses were, but it had exquisite lace decorating the skirt in rings.
She remembered the lace she’d pulled from her bodice the other night and the burn of a blush touched her cheeks, as his eyes came back to her face.
She nodded, then looked at her father, hiding behind the brim of her straw bonnet. She ought to have curtsied, she remembered, but it was too late to curtsy now.
She breathed out and gripped the chrysanthemums she’d put together as a bouquet more tightly.
Lord Morton hated her. He had good cause.
Her father gave her a stiff glance, as if encouraging her to simply grasp Lord Morton’s arm and claim her place. She could not be so bold. She wondered if her father realised how much Lord Morton disliked her. They had not discussed the incident the other night since, only the outcome.
She heard Lord Morton turn away and looked at him. He was already striding up the aisle. It was as if he just wished to get this over with. His cousin followed.
Meredith met Rowena’s gaze, but Rowena merely lifted her chin in a dismissive gesture, then turned away and followed her brother.
The only person who smiled at Meredith was Lady Eleanor, who gave Meredith what appeared an understanding and bolstering look. Meredith smiled back, only for an instant. Then Lady Eleanor turned away, too, and when she caught up with Rowena, she took Rowena’s arm.
Meredith longed to have someone who might hold and comfort her. Her mother had died when she was very young; she could not even remember what it was like to have compassionate, female comfort. Her father had never been loving, or even protective. He did not even offer his arm now. She grasped it anyway, needing something to cling to.
They followed Lord Morton’s family up the aisle, and Meredith was certain she clutched her father’s arm too tightly, but she could not let go. Desperation, fear and longing, spun in a whirlpool inside her.
Her heart hammered even harder when she had to let her father go as he left her at the altar. Lord Morton stood beside her, his posture stiff.
The service seemed to progress very quickly from that moment on as the vicar’s voice echoed about the small, nearly empty church, and she struggled to keep up with it.
Lord Morton never looked at her face, let alone into her eyes, when he said his vows – he spoke to the vicar, and when he slid the ring on to her finger, looked only at her hand.
She spoke her vows, loudly and clearly, wishing this was the wedding she had dreamed of as a child, looking at his profile and longing for him to look at her and see that she loved him. Surely he could see?
But he did not turn, and perhaps he did not even care.
Her hands were shaking when the vicar pronounced them man and wife, and the ribbon which tied the three chrysanthemums she clasped, and trailed in curling bands of green, trembled.
When the vicar asked them to sign a register, Lord Morton did not offer his arm, but once again walked ahead of her. He bent and signed it first, then stepped back so she could sit and sign it too. She was Meredith Stanforth now, Countess of Morton. She was Lord Morton’s wife.
The vicar shook Lord Morton’s hand.
He grunted acknowledgement, then turned to his cousin. “Home, I suppose, then.” He still did not look at Meredith. “You will come with us, Ed?”
Lord Edward’s eyebrows lifted.
“We shall. Of course, we shall,” Lady Eleanor interjected.
It was Meredith’s wedding, they ought to be celebrating, yet none of them showed any sign of joy. Joy swelled in Meredith’s heart.
Lord Morton was tall and handsome, and having seen him with Rowena, she knew he could be kind. His hazel eyes caught her gaze, only for a moment, and then they lifted to look at her father instead.
“Divine?” It sounded like a begrudging offer.
“I shall come.”
“Good; then you may take Meredith in your carriage.”
Lord Morton did not even want to accompany her. His dismissal cut like a knife into her breast. She was not at all welcome. Tears threatened once more. Yet she deserved his rejection; she had forced him into this situation after all. She turned towards her father, to hide her distress. But as she did so, she caught Lord Edward’s gaze, and he gave her a half a smile.
She did not know what to make of it. His expression implied he asked a silent question. She turned and walked out beside her father, leaving Lord Morton and his family to follow, feeling daggers thrust into her back.
The Lost Love of Soldier
The prequel to The Illicit Love of a Courtesan
Out 10th July
Cover Reveal 22nd June ~ Tomorrow! 😀
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