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this novel should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
It had been weeks, and it need not be much longer.
With hands clasped behind his back, Richard stood before the hearth looking down at the flames that licked at the wood. The room was chilly, perhaps not to others but to his body that was used to the temperatures of India.
Beyond the one announcement in the paper stating that, Miss Emma Martin, distant cousin of the 5th Duke of Sunderland, had arrived in town and was residing with his Grace, following the sudden and unexpected loss of her mother, wife to the Governor of Calcutta and granddaughter of the 3rd Duke of Sunderland, Richard had heard nothing of Emerald. But they had both been in mourning, and therefore tied to the house.
But not hearing about her had not stopped her from haunting his thoughts, he constantly wondered how she was. He had feared for her, wanted to call upon her, but knew he should not. She had not been able to accept visitors in full mourning. It would raised comment if he had called. He could not even claim that he was a close friend bringing felicitations and comfort, he ought to be nothing to her. He was merely the owner of the ship that had brought her here.
Was she happy? Was she with child? No. She could not have been, it would be known by now. Had she forgiven him?
The air dragged into his lungs.
As much as he could not lose the vision of her from his mind, nor could he lose the image of Sunderland. That man had been with her every day for weeks, and every time Richard thought of it envy licked at him like the flames about the wood.
Every morning he took his letters from the tray with a thumping heart, looking for her handwriting. It was never there. He still looked. His feelings were unchanged.
What of hers? Did she ever think of him?
He turned away from the fire, his hands separating, as though in a movement to go somewhere. His body urged him to run – to go to London. To speak to her.
He had never been uncertain about anything in his life until he’d met Emerald. He was uncertain in this. He feared if he spoke to her he’d not convince her to have him.
He crossed the room and sat down at the desk to try to focus on the ledgers again.
His father’s will had been read the day after his return and then, within hours, Richard had left London to take over the main property of his father’s estate. Not his father’s––his. Richard had to keep reminding himself of that. He had received the entailed property and nothing beyond it. His younger brother had been given everything else––the livestock in the parks, the furniture and ornamentation, the pictures of their ancestors, the farm machinery in home farm, everything, even down to the utensils in the kitchen. Their father had left Richard the bricks and mortar he had to and nothing else.
It was a damn good job Richard had spent his life amassing a fortune. It was also his good luck that despite Frederick’s initial antagonism, he had more sense than their father. Frederick’s reaction to the will had been a surprise. Richard had initially imagined Fred a spoiled, greedy and jealous man. He’d been wrong. Frederick’s frustration had been empathy for their father. Frederick had probably been too young to understand why Richard had left. However Frederick had not approved of the mutilation of the estate. His response to the will had been anger. He had not liked to be used as a pawn in their father’s revenge. He had refused his inheritance and signed everything over to Richard before leaving the solicitor’s office.
Richard had tried to thank Fred before he’d left London, but his brother had also refused the gratitude.
It had taken a dozens letters flying back and forth to persuade Frederick to take something. In the end he had agreed to a sum to be put in trust, and an increase in the sum of Rose’s dowry. An outcome of their communications had been a fragile peace, and Frederick making several visits here to bring Rose to see him.
Richard had been working with the steward here, going over everything to understand how the place operated, fighting impatience, looking at the facts and figures, the stocks, the yields, planning out what to do. It was all profitable, from everything Richard had seen his father ran a tight ship, little was wasted or lost. Richard did not need to be here, not really, and yet if he were not here, where would he be? Not on a ship back to Calcutta, he was waiting for Emerald. In London, then, knocking on the Duke of Sunderland’s door.
It was better he was not tempted and remained here.
But her deep mourning period was over within the week, and that was what was making him particularly fractious. Because why the hell was he not in London?
Because he could hardly be the first to call. He breathed out heavily, unable to focus on the figures.
He would wait another three weeks. He did not wish to risk her reputation in any way and calling too soon would insight the memory of the fact that she, and he, had been aboard a ship with the crew and servants their only chaperone for weeks. But in those three weeks he must decide what he would say.
How was he going to persuade her to accept his renewed offer?
He had made her stronger. She had made him a coward. The truth was he was avoiding the moment for fear he would not succeed.
But calling on her in three weeks would be unexceptional. Expected almost. He had said he would call. He was an acquaintance; he had reason to pay his respects.
In the next days, as Emerald ventured out of the house, word of her grew, she became the talk of the social press.
‘Miss Emma Martin, the Governor of Calcutta’s only child, who recently arrived in London, was seen on the arm of the Duke of Sunderland’––in Hyde Park––in the Duchess of Gloucester’s drawing room––at the theatre––in Oxford Street.
‘She is stunning,’ it was said. ‘Quite remarkable.’ ‘Charming.” He laughed at that, Emerald, his siren of the sea, enchanting, enthralling––but charming? It implied a sweet nature. She was vibrant and glowing, not sweet.
There had been speculation about him in the papers for some weeks. There had been rumours; the will had been made public, but not that Fred had given him everything back. But as the interest in Emerald grew, the supposition about him waned.
By the second week her name became linked with other influential men, lords and politicians; she was taking London by storm even though she was still not attending parties or balls.
Envy cut him harder as he told himself to hold fast for one more week. But the interest she was arousing may help him. If he called on her more than once it would be assumed that she had caught his interest on the first occasion as she had snared everyone else’s.
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)
Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback
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