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
The penultimate part
In the evening, Rupert watched Rowena closely when they went to the Hartford’s ball. She danced with Kendrick, twice, and she smiled at him, no longer looking wary. But surely she could not be interested in Kendrick? Yet she ate supper with him, too, after their second dance. Ellen and Edward sat with them, and the conversation seemed continuous and easy from what Rupert could see as he sat across the room with Meredith.
Meredith touched his arm, drawing his attention back to her. She’d done it deliberately, he guessed, to stop him staring at Rowena. His observation had probably been too obvious; others were looking at Rowena and Kendrick now. In reality, Kendrick had done nothing wrong. Rupert put Rowena from his mind, and focused on Meredith.
He had introduced her to his other cousin, Edward’s brother, Robert, tonight.
Robert then ribbed Rupert mercilessly for a half-hour while Meredith was dancing. He thought it highly amusing that Rupert had been snared – and snared so unwillingly. Yet he’d told Rupert, when Rupert protested, not to complain if a beautiful young woman wanted him so much she’d felt forced into laying a trap for him.
Robert’s view was that Rupert should be flattered.
He did feel flattered tonight. Meredith was sitting beside him, smiling openly, with none of the coercion he’d sensed previously, and she chattered merrily with his acquaintances who’d come to congratulate him on his choice of wife, even though they all knew his hand had been forced.
She seemed so different to the person he thought he’d known.
He danced a waltz with her after supper. It was not like their first waltz. He was starting to barely recognise the man who’d danced with her then. It seemed it was not only Meredith he’d seen another side to. This man felt companionship, need and cherishment as he danced with her, holding her gaze and smiling as he looked forward to tonight.
She smiled, too. Not the smile which had always angered him, but another, a new one, one which caught as light shimmering in her blue eyes.
His heart beat steadily.
When Rupert came downstairs the following morning, Rowena was waiting in the hall, looking up at him.
“Good morning, Rowena.”
“Oh Rupert.” She rushed forward. “I have to tell you something, and you must listen.”
He took her hand to stop her outburst as she neared him. “Tell me while I eat, Rowena. I’m hungry.”
He’d built an appetite up with his wife again this morning. He’d discovered at least one thing he’d never expected from marriage, that he liked to sleep beside a woman just as much as he enjoyed making love to her. Tonight he might simply tell Meredith to always sleep in his bed.
“But, Rupert, I’ve something important to tell you.”
“Very well, I will send the servants out while I eat.”
She did not look happy to wait, yet it would only be moments.
Just as they seated themselves, the door knocker struck.
Rowena immediately stood, and her eyes spun to Rupert.
“Will you ask Lord Morton to receive me?” Kendrick’s baritone voice echoed in the large hall, reaching through the open door of the breakfast room. Rupert looked at his sister as she looked at him.
“His Lordship is at home, sir. Let me show you to the library, you may wait there.”
“If I must…” Kendrick’s voice rang with impatience.
Rupert put his finger to his lips when he saw Rowena was about to speak.
They heard footsteps, and then a door opened across the hall. “I shall fetch his lordship, sir.” The door closed, and in a few moments, the butler was at the door of the breakfast room.
“Lord Kendrick, my Lord—”
“Yes, I know, Owens, we heard. Leave us alone now, and shut the door. I’ll be there in a while.”
Once he’d gone, Rupert looked at Rowena. “Well? I suppose you knew he was coming. Why is he back?”
She blushed. “I wished to tell you—”
“That you spent an afternoon with him yesterday, I know. Meredith told me, as she should have done. She is my wife, Rowena; you should not ask her to keep secrets from me, and do not disparage her for telling me.”
His thoughts turned to the woman he’d left sleeping in the room above them. She’d been warm and soft. He wished he’d not risen.
“Rupert, do not judge Lord Kendrick so ill just because he is older than me. I… He has come to ask for my hand again.”
“I have said I shall accept him.”
Rupert felt cold. “Why?”
“Because I like him, Rupert.”
“Liking is a poor foundation for a marriage.”
“No, like is a good foundation. I do not seek more than that. I will be happy. I like his children, too, and…” Her words dried, but then they began again. “I can give them the childhood I wished for…”
His brow furrowed. “You must want more for yourself; something like Edward and Ellen have… I’d not thought I wished for it, Rowena, but I am….” He felt himself flush. “I’ve discovered it with Meredith, Rowena, and I would not be without it, now.” It? Love… Was that what it was? Had he fallen in love with Meredith? If he had, he’d only realised it just now as he’d spoken.
Rowena came to take his hands. “Then I’m glad for you, Rupert. But I do not look for that. There is no one I’ve met, other than Lord Kendrick, who I think I would be happy with, and happiness is enough for me. Say yes to him, please.”
Rupert didn’t know how to answer. She’d obviously thought about her response. It was not a whim. “You’re sure? He’s not coerced you in any way?”
“No. He’s been kind, he cares, and he can make me laugh. I know I was scared of him at first, but now I do not know why.”
Rupert smiled, remembering looking into her eyes a dozen years ago, when she’d been a small child.
If this is what she wished… “Very well, I will accept him, but you must come and speak with him in front of me, and let me see how you are together.”
She nodded, then hugged him.
Capturing The Earl’s 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’
To read the full Marlow Intrigues series, you can start anywhere, but this is the actual order
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel
#1 The Illicit Love of a Courtesan
#1.5 Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ This Free Novella
#2 The Passionate Love of a Rake
#2.5 The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ Free here, see index
#3 The Scandalous Love of a Lord
and, yes, there are more to come 🙂
Go to the index
- 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
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