Reckless in Innocence
for my Historical Romance readers ❤
© Jane Lark
Publishing rights belong to Jane Lark, this should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
Reckless in Innocence
Read the earlier parts
one , two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen
Abigail held up the sealed envelope and waved it in her hand. “Miss, you have a letter.”
Elizabeth turned, her light kid leather gloves clutched in her hand. She was ready to leave. Her blue spencer was already tightly buttoned across her chest.
“Let me see, Abigail.” Elizabeth held out her hand to take it, ignoring how much her fingers shook as her heart leapt in the faint hope that it would be news from her brother at last. Every day when she looked at the post she still looked for the particular strokes of his writing but it had been four years since he’d argued with their father and deserted her.
Her hands trembled as she opened the letter. She was nervous; afraid she would be among the greenery again at Marcus’s. She would be like a poor relation compared to the others the Campbells would invite – a nothing – a no body. Why had Marcus asked her?
Elizabeth opened the neatly penned letter and read the details carefully.
“Miss?” Abigail said in question. The cheeky girl was waiting to know what it said.
Elizabeth smiled. The news was too good not to share. “It is a letter to invite me for an interview, Abigail. I have applied for a position to be a lady’s companion and the lady concerned has written back to ask to see me.”
The screwed up face that Abigail pulled almost made Elizabeth laugh. She understood the maid’s perspective. At sixteen she would never have considered life as a spinster, but her perspective had changed sharply when she’d seen her parents and the world for what it was. She no longer believed in love, or desired marriage. She would be happy with a position that would keep her away from her parents and away from the world.
“Give me a moment, Abigail, I will write a reply. I can see her Thursday next, and you must find someone to deliver it. The Duke will be here soon.”
“My youngest brother, Billy, Miss… He’d do it for a penny or two. The house where he works isn’t far away, if I run.”
“Thank you, Abigail. But you must make sure that neither you, nor he, tell anyone about the letter, I do not want my family to know.”
“Yes, Miss, I wouldn’t.”
“Fetch your cloak, you’ll be riding on the box so you’ll need it. I’ll go to Father’s office.”
Lady Derwent’s excitement at the prospect of her daughter’s increasing status, spending time in the intimate company of the Duke of Tay, had led to her suddenly becoming conscious of appearances, despite her lack of concern for all the weeks they’d been in town. In response she’d insisted on Elizabeth taking Abigail rather than relying on the Duke of Tay’s household to share a maid with her.
When Elizabeth stood in the hall, having written her reply; her mother rushed in from the parlour. “The Duke’s coach is here and his brother accompanies him on horseback. You must hurry. We can not have them left waiting; they have put themselves out considerably to call for you.”
Elizabeth sighed and slipped on her gloves, then put on her bonnet and tied its blue ribbons beneath her chin. “Mother, they are passing by our door. It is not out of their way.”
The bonnet was a gift from her father, or rather an investment. An invite to the Duke of Tay’s country estate equalled promise in her father’s eyes. She had not enlightened him otherwise.
“But he need not have asked you at all.”
“Yes, Mama.” Elizabeth agreed, knowing that agreement was the only thing that would end her mother’s obsessive behaviour. There was something surreal and a little bewildering in her mother’s concern. It was too contrary to her mother’s nature. But then of course this was the Duke of Tay, and his Grace would be a significant – and profitable – catch. Well if her mother anticipated her gambling debts being cleared, she was making a huge mistake.
“Mother, promise me you will not play too deep at the tables while I am away?”
“Of course, dear.”
Despite the denial, Elizabeth could see the glint of need in her mother’s eyes even at the thought of the tables. She had hopes for Elizabeth and the Duke. Or rather she had hopes for funds to spend at the tables.
“Mother, he will not marry me.” She spoke as the door was knocked and she knew her mother disregarded the words as she turned to the door.
“Abigail! Where is that blasted girl? Abigail! Is she not ready to go? Where has she gone to? Damned maid.” Lady Derwent opened the door herself. Marcus probably heard the last of her diatribe.
Marcus stood proudly in his grey coat and black unmentionables, his tall hat still on his head, as he lifted his gloved fingers to its rim. “Lady Derwent, your servant. Is Miss Derwent prepared?”
Her mother stepped aside to reveal Elizabeth. “She is indeed, your Grace. There is just the one small trunk to accompany her.”
“I will have my men take it.” He turned to descend the steps and returned with two men from the footplate at the rear of the carriage. Elizabeth’s pulse raced, her insides turning to fluid. How could he look more handsome every day?
Marcus stepped forward and his hand caught hold of her forearm and drew her gently aside as the men carried out her trunk. She turned and bobbed a brief curtsy to her mother. “Goodbye.”
“Good day, Lady Derwent.” Marcus acknowledged before turning her away, and leading her down the steps in the wake of her small trunk of clothes. There was a very large trunk on top of the carriage.
“My maid is not here, Your Grace. She went to say goodbye to her brother. She should be only a few moments if you would not mind waiting?” Elizabeth said as they walked. But as soon as she finished the excuse Abigail ran around the corner of the street, her skirts hitched above her ankles and the ties of her waist-length cloak flailing about her.
She came to a breathless halt In front of them. “I didn’t think I’d make it, Miss. I couldn’t find Billy, he was busy, but I got him in the end. I give him the penny and he said he’d do it, sure enough.”
As though sensing subterfuge, Marcus looked at Elizabeth.
She ignored him, avoiding his inquiry. “Thank you, Abigail. Hurry now, His Grace is ready to leave.”
He touched Elizabeth’s elbow and led her to the carriage door, shepherding her, but tension seemed to hover in the air. Perhaps he thought she had sent a note to Lord Percy.
A footman opened the carriage door and his sister-in-law called from inside. “Miss Derwent! What a pleasure to meet you again. I am so glad you are able to come.” She beckoned from within with a wave of her hand.
To be continued…
If you cannot wait until next week for more of Jane Lark’s writing there’s plenty to read right now 😀
To read the Marlow Intrigues series, you can start anywhere, but the actual order is listed below ~ and click like to follow my Facebook Page not to miss anything…
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all ~ The paperback would be a lovely stocking filler 😉
The Illicit Love of a Courtesan #1.5
Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ A Free Novella #1.5
The Passionate Love of a Rake #2
The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ A second Free Novella #2.5
The Scandalous Love of a Lord #3
The Dangerous Love of a Rogue #4
Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback 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