When the door opened Elizabeth looked up into the face of an austere butler while Abigail hovered behind her. “May I help you, Miss?” He intoned arrogantly.
Elizabeth’s hands clasped each other at her waist, her fingers weaving together, holding tightly, refusing to let her anxiety show, and her eyes widened as she looked up from beneath the brim of her bonnet. “Is His Grace at home? I must speak with him urgently.”
The butler looked at her, his gaze falling to her boots then running upwards, taking in her attire. When he had finished staring he tipped his chin upwards. “I am sorry, Miss, His Grace is not at home this evening.” Obviously it was not at all normal, or proper, for a young woman to call on a bachelor at home, but the situation was hardly normal.
“Do you know where I may find him?”
“Forgive me, Miss, I cannot say, His Grace does not inform me.” But something about her must have touched the butler because then he said, “You could try Lord Campbell, Miss. Lord Campbell may know of His Grace’s whereabouts.”
“His Grace’s brother. Thank you. Thank you.” Grateful for any hope of finding him, Elizabeth took the address and left, her walking boots striking the path in a desperate rhythm, with Abigail beside her.
Within half an hour she faced her third front door of the day, and the hour was nearly nine now. Far too late to be abroad and on foot.
A porter opened the door, not their butler. “Yes, Miss?”
Elizabeth could see that the man was very proud of his position as gatekeeper and a little hesitant at her appearance, alone, at such an hour.
“Are Lord and Lady Campbell at home?”
“They are in the middle of dinner, Miss, and not expecting visitors.” He was refusing her. He could not; she must see them.
“They will see me, I am sure. Please tell them that it is Miss Elizabeth Derwent who calls. I stayed with them recently at Larchfield.” How ridiculous that she must explain her association, but then she looked to her walking boots. She was not dressed as the gentry would be at this hour and had arrived without a carriage to convey her.
“Wait here, Miss.”
The man shut the door in her face, leaving Elizabeth standing in the dark, shivering with cold. She looked back at Abigail who stood behind her. Abigail had forgotten her gloves. She stood at the bottom of the steps rubbing her upper arms.
The door was suddenly pulled open sharply. Elizabeth spun about.
“Elizabeth! Come in, come in. What are you doing here?” It was Angela who welcomed her and taking Elizabeth’s hand she then drew her into the hall, beckoning to Abigail to follow.
“You are freezing, Elizabeth. Come, there is a fire in the drawing room.”
“I need to speak with Marcus. Do you know where he is?”
Angela did not answer. Instead she took Elizabeth’s elbow and led her down the hall while Abigail was directed to the warmth of the kitchen by the porter.
Elizabeth was led into a large drawing room, where Angela steered her to a seat before the hearth where a fire burned. “I’ll send for hot chocolate,” Angela stated as Elizabeth looked up to see Marcus’s brother enter.
“There is no need,” Elizabeth answered, obediently staying seated, feeling utterly out of her depth. She did not wish for any fuss, only to speak with Marcus, to tell him what must be said. “Please, do you know where Marcus is?”
“Miss Derwent,” His brother now stood at the hearth, his hands behind his back beneath his coat tails. “I have no idea where Marcus is and he most certainly is not here. We have not seen each other since he left Larchfield; hurtling after you, I presume.”
“I have not seen him.” Elizabeth rose from the chair that Angela had led her to and began to wring her hands in agitation, trying to think of where to go. Where would he be… “My maid said that he came to our address and left but I have not seen him. I must, Lord Campbell. Where do you think I may find him?”
Elizabeth felt ghost-like, still fully clothed for the outdoors, but shaking with the cold. Lord Campbell’s expression changed slipping from a distant look of irritation to one of pure concern.
“What is it, Elizabeth? Why do you need to speak to my brother?”
“It is nothing that I can share with anyone but Marcus.”
Angela’s fingers covered her mouth as she spoke. “No, Elizabeth. No, I shall not believe it of him.”
It seemed even though she had not spoken it they divined her cause as Lord Campbell looked at his wife, his eyes wide, and then his head spun to her. “Are you carrying my brother’s child?”
She did not respond, but they were already certain.
“Have you told your family?” Angela asked.
Elizabeth shook her head. She could not tell her parents.
“I will find him.” Marcus’s brother turned away. “I will find him and bring him here. Stay with Angela.”
Marcus had been out of sorts since leaving the country; he had, in general, avoided all his usual haunts, especially those where he would meet his brother. Instead he’d been seeking any entertainment that may divert his thoughts from Elizabeth. Trust him to fall for a woman who was an out an out schemer. He trusted nothing about her now. He was not even sure that he’d found her anymore, or if she had found him.
He should have known it was too good to be true. Touch me. God, he remembered that siren call, although now he remembered it with a vicious hatred. She had sucked him in, seduced him, to trap him. The little harlot. She had come down to the billiard room to snare him too, and he’d felt guilty. Deserting him after that had been the perfect trick. It had finally made him want to secure her. She’d told him that night she’d only chased after Percy to spur Marcus’s jealousy, well he was not jealous now, now he was relieved. Thank heaven he’d overheard that dreadful conversation and his eyes had been opened.
But sadly he could still not forget. She had lodged herself in his heart and head, taken up a permanent bloody residence, and he had tried to chase thoughts of her away with other woman, like tonight, but none of them inspired his desire.
He’d taken his latest flirt to the Opera, hoping that it would capture his interest but the woman had sat through the performance with her hand on his thigh and his enthusiasm had not even stirred.
“Will you come home with me,” she whispered to him as they descended the stairs looking down onto the foyer.
“I will take you home and deliver you to your door,” he acknowledged. He had no desire to go in. His appetite for women had entirely dulled. In fact he’d slept with none apart from Elizabeth since that dark enchanting night in the Phillips’s conservatory; in fact he’d slept with no other women since he’d met her.
Looking down into the lobby Marcus saw his brother pushing through the exiting crowd, fighting against the flowing tide of humanity. “Marcus!” he called again.
What on earth? Marcus lifted his hand. Despite their falling out Marcus cared for him – and enough to be instantly worried over what had brought him here. If it was Angela? Or his aunt?
Making his way through the dispersing crowd Jason did not shout again as Marcus descended the stairs and moved in his direction also, his fingers gripping the elbow of the woman who accompanied him. But when he faced his brother and met Jason’s gaze his concern evaporated. What Marcus saw in his brother’s eyes was intense anger.
“I need to speak with you alone.”
Smiling, or rather grimacing, Marcus nodded, intrigued by the urgency in his brother’s voice and his presence here. He turned then to the blonde on his arm. “Forgive me, Sophia, I shall be but a moment. It appears that I am lately returned from Coventry and my brother is now happy to speak with me. Wait here.”
Having left the blonde behind, he allowed Jason to draw him four steps away, where they stood face to face, of equal height, while others pushed their way past them.
“You humour is misplaced, Marc. I have Miss Derwent at home with Angela. She wishes to speak with you immediately.”
Marcus’s expression stiffened, they were not the words he’d expected, nor were they words he was interested in. “Send her home, Jason. She is nothing to do with me and certainly nothing to do with you.” With that he turned away but Jason gripped his shoulder.
“I beg to differ, brother. I believe that her condition is everything to do with you.”
Marcus went still at first, and then a shaky hand rose to brush through his hair. So she had done it. She had played her father’s final card.
Releasing a callous laugh from the back of his throat, Marcus glowered at the heads which turned his way. “A fine ploy, Jason. Her father is a genius. The final hand of the game is played. His timing is perfection. She has had an entire weekend in which to inform me. Why delay Jason? I will tell you why, brother, because it is a lie.”
“I do not think so.” Jason was firm.
“Then you are an idiot, as I was.” Meeting his brother’s accusatory gaze, Marcus stood tall. He would not be cowed by this deceit. Let Jason believe what he would. Marcus knew that he would be proven right.
“But you will come.” It was not a question. “It is not my place to turn Miss Derwent away and Angela would not allow it.”
“I shall come, Jason, but I will not appease the woman. Allow me to see my companion to my carriage and I will be more than happy to join you. My conversation with Elizabeth Derwent is long overdue.”
To be continued…
If you cannot wait until next week for more of Jane Lark’s writing there’s plenty to read right now 😀 And if you have read them all already, then there’s another treat out now, you can begin devouring, The Dangerous Love of a Rogue
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 Marlow Intrigues
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 #2
Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ A Free Novella #2.5
The Passionate Love of a Rake #3
The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ A second Free Novella #3.5
The Scandalous Love of a Lord #4
The Dangerous Love of a Rogue #5
The Secret Love of a Gentleman #6
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