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“And you think you deserve a warm welcome,” his brother spat at Richard, shaking his wrist in a way which implied it still hurt from Richard’s grip. But Richard’s nose still hurt from the punch that had hit.
“Who is it, Frederick?”
Richard looked up to the position of the voice.
He knew the lady on the landing above him. He may not have seen his mother for years and her hair may be grey not black, but she had the same appearance in the essence of her character as she clung to a handkerchief that hovered before her breast. The handkerchief was a part of her love for drama. He remembered that handkerchief very well.
She was wearing black, though, and so was Frederick – and there had been no door knocker in place.
The truth struck Richard like another blow.
“If you have come in answer to the summons I sent you almost a year ago, you are too late. Your father is dead.”
Emotion struck Richard like the wind, rain and sea-spray. In his mind he clung to the poop deck rail as his mother’s eyes continued to accuse him of betrayal.
There was no chance to find accord with his father, no opportunity to address the man who had destroyed him while he was a boy, as an adult who could show him what the child he’d condemned had made of his life.
But now Richard was the Earl. He was a part of the land owning gentry.
The responsibility fell like a ton weight. It tied him with a shackle to the land. “When did he pass?”
“Two weeks ago,” his younger brother answered. “You have missed the funeral.”
“And he died with no ease knowing his eldest son and had not returned to do his duty,” Richard’s mother added.
Duty. The inheritance had been a curse in his family. He was not the first born, it was not his by right. His eldest brother had succumbed to scarlet fever at fourteen, he had lost three of siblings then.
His gaze lifted to a large long portrait that hung above where his mother stood. Their had been nine of them in the farcical portrait. They had been dressed in Greek garb with togas and such for the amusement of his father. There were only five of them now. The next brother between him and the title had fallen from a horse at sixteen.
Richard had become his father’s heir at twelve. Richard had already made his plans–– and they had always been in opposition to his father’s. After-all Richard was the one child his father called the devil’s spawn–– a worthless rogue who could do nothing but fail.
“And now you have come to gloat over us, I suppose,” his mother continued.
He had come because the letter she’d sent him had cut into the conscience he had locked away for years. He regretted that urge to seek forgiveness and his father’s blessing. By choice he would turn about and walk out of this life just as he’d done before. But there were people reliant on his father’s estate, servants, farmers and villagers. All those people now relied on him. He could not just walk away. “I have not come to gloat. I did not even know he had died, my ship only arrived today”
“Still now you are here, I suppose you must stay.”
He stared at her, his evil streak screaming–– the devil child in him. The devil in hims wished to make a point clear and hurt this woman as she had often hurt him. “Is it not my house? I believe it is now my father has died. So in fact I may say who will stay or not.” He was not a child to be belittled.
But he did not really want this house, or this life. He had crafted a life for himself––he intended keeping that life. He neither wanted nor needed this one. This would not become a yoke about his neck he would be the master of it.
“What do you intend to do then? Cast us all out?” His brother’s voice had become childishly sulky as his mother pressed her handkerchief to her lips in distress.
Frederick had been two in the portrait above the stairs. He was six and twenty now. No doubt their father had prayed for Richard’s demise. It was clear that Frederick was a well trained, compliant son.
“I have no intentions and I do not want to create an argument with you.” Frederick carried no blame.
Richard took a handkerchief out of his pocket and pressed it beneath his nose to stem a trickle of blood.
“Richard!” Another female voice rang from the landing above.
He knew that face too, his youngest sister. She inelegantly raced past his mother and down the half circle stairs.
“Rosalind.” He held out a hand to her as she ran towards him.
She had written to him through the years. She had been six months old in their portrait. She was four and twenty now, and unmarried. His other sisters were both settled, one older and another younger than him.
He smiled at her and lowered the handkerchief as she flew at him with arms wide, ignoring his offered hand and reaching for an embrace.
Rosalind had made him promise when he had walked out of this house, to write when he reached India . He had written irregularly. She had written constantly. Every ship that arrived from England had contained a letter from her. She had been his only link to his family.
She threw her arms about his neck and held him firmly.
He held her in return and saw Emerald, younger than Rosalind and alone among those strangers somewhere.
“Oh Richard, I am so glad you came.” Rosalind pressed a kiss on his cheek.
“It is a blessing to see you if nothing else.”
She let go of him but instead held his hand. “What have you done to your face?”
“I walked into the door I was so eager to come in.” He looked at Frederick.
She ignored the awkwardness that silenced everyone else. “I knew you would come. I knew and Mama and Papa did not believe me.” She released one hand but pulled on the other. “Come and have tea and tell us about your journey. How long did it take?”
Richard looked back at the footman. “My luggage is on the pavement. Have someone bring the chest in, and have the staff line up in the hall in an hour. I wish to meet them.” He was taking the reins of this house and he was not going to have to wrestle it from his mother nor Frederick.
The footman’s eyes widened and for a second he hesitated but Richard was used to pressing orders with his eyes and his body language and making it clear that his orders were not to be disobeyed.
As he turned back to follow Rosalind he glanced up at his mother too. “I brought some lengths of muslin and silk from India, they should arrive later. You and Rosalind may have the material made up as you wish and I shall pay the expenses.” He had often sent things back to England for them with no knowledge of how they were received. He’d done it to spur his father. His interests in trade were an embarrassment to them.
His mother said nothing. But in the drawing room Rosalind profusely expressed her gratitude as she poured him tea.
Home, what a strange place.
To be continued…
The Marlow Intrigues: Perfect for lovers of period drama
The Tainted Love of a Captain #8 – The last book in the Marlow Intrigues series out in May and available to preorder
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all
The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4
The Persuasive Love of a Libertine #5.75 now included in Jealous Love, (or free if you can persuade Amazon to price match with Kobo ebooks)
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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