Posted as a gift of my time and thoughts to the readers of my books, thank you for the lovely messages of appreciation,
© Jane Lark Publishing rights belong to Jane Lark,
this novel should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
The black lace fan that Emerald swayed beneath her chin was now the only black in her attire, she was in half-mourning, in mauve. She lifted it a little higher to cover her face, so she could stare across the top of it. The ballroom was crowded. Sometimes in this country there so many people they were crushed in, shoulder to shoulder. She could not dance because she was in half-mourning but even if she could she did not think it would be pleasurable in such a tight squeeze
The room felt suddenly suffocating. “I feel faint Aunt Millicent, may we find some air?” It was so thin in here, with so many people breathing it and the noise was becoming irritating. People talking over the orchestra playing in the gallery above and their feet tapping on the parquet floor all intermingled. It had made her head ache.
“Nonsense child. It is too cold to go outside this evening.”
Emerald sighed and turned to The Duke of Sunderland, touching his arm, he was speaking with a friend. He smiled down at her. “Forgive me,” she said to the Duke of Pembroke, whose conversation she had interrupted. Then to her Cousin she said. “I have a headache, may we take the air.”
“And I have told her it is far too cold,” her aunt pressed.
“It is not cold,” The Duke of Pembroke, responded, smiling , “I was outside myself earlier, the cooler air is refreshing. Take Miss Martin on to the terrace, Sunderland. Such a pretty lady cannot be allowed to suffer in this heat.'” The comment was punctuated by a bark of laughter.
“Come then, Cousin. Excuse us.” The Duke of Sunderland lifted his arm towards her, as he gave his friend the slightest of bows.
She laid her fingers on his arm, recalling the times she had accepted Richard’s arm.
Her aunt trailed behind as they began to walk about the hall, passing through the crowd that parted for The Duke.
Women looked at him as they moved out of the way, and then at Emerald with eyes that expressed envy. She should be happy, everyone in this room would be happy to be with The Duke of Sunderland. But she could simply not lift herself out of the doldrums. She had become trapped by unhappiness. It was ungrateful. But she was bored and lonely most of her days and the homesickness that had sometimes whispered on the ship, screamed.
Her friends in Calcutta would have lifted her mood and made her laugh. Her father would have held her.
Perhaps when she could dance she would feel better, life was so tedious when it was constant conversation and everyone said the same thing. Afternoon calls, at-homes, late breakfasts, garden parties, then came dinners and musical evenings and balls. Her cheeks ached constantly from pretending a smile, and her head hurt from trying to maintain a placid conversation when they spoke of her mother who none of them knew.
A footman moved and opened the French door before The Duke could. The cool night air rushed into the room. Her aunt had probably been right, but Emerald breathed in the refreshing air and stepped out beside The Duke. Of course the men were in their shirts and coats, she had bare arms and thin silk gloves.
“Is that better?” The Duke asked as he turned her to the right to walk along the terrace. The sun was setting on the far side of the river and the lawn and trees was gilded with the last throws of sunshine.
“I feel cooler, yes,” she said, as a shiver stirred the arm that held his.
“Would you rather leave early?”
“No.” That would be cowardice, and she was not a coward. This was what her father and mother had wanted her to do. “Thank you. I will be happy to return to the room in a moment.”
He walked to the balustrade and stopped, looking out across the garden, silent. Her aunt stopped and waited behind them.
In her head she stood at the rail on the ship beside Richard, and he was pointing out stars to her, while her heart was breaking over fear for her mother. Where was he? He had said he would come back but he had not. He had lied about that too.
The Duke never spoke to her of his business, he would disappear in the morning after breakfast and leave her with her aunt and uncle. She knew he attended the House of Lords, sometimes he’d speak of it to her uncle, but never to her.
With Richard she had never been bored.
Here, her aunt and uncle told her what she may and may not do, and her Cousin treated her with condescending gentleness. She felt like a child among them. The dumb little bumpkin, raised in India, who must be taught even the merest social act. She should rebel for the sake of her sanity, but she did not have the heart. This was what her mother had wished for.
Another memory of Richard came to her, of him leaning over the charts beside her, pointing out their position and route. Richard had conversed with her as an equal, as her father had. And that had been before they were close.
She missed him suddenly. It was foolish but it was true. Every time she remembered the knowledge swept over her like a high wave crashing over the deck in a storm. Had he returned to India? Her heart ached for India, for her father and for Richard. There it was admitted. But nothing could be done. Perhaps that was why she was letting herself recall her affection, because it was too late. This was her fate.
‘It is a very pretty sky, is it not?’ The Duke commented.
‘It is.’ She turned to look at him. ‘Let us go back.’ Running away would not help.
Richard increasingly pushed into her thoughts. He was in her mind every hour now his memory had been unleashed, and despite believing he must have returned to India long ago she started looking for his card in the hall every day and listening for his name when the door knocker struck.
The last words he had spoken to her played in her mind as she listened to others speaking. “I wish you to know my feelings are unchanged, Emma. I am staying in England. I will give you time to grieve. But afterward I shall call upon you.’
Why had he not come then? ‘
“I love you, believe me. Believe I meant you no harm. I did what I did for the best.”
Was it because she had pushed him away. “What we had was built on a lie. You were wrong.”
To be continued…
The Marlow Intrigues: Perfect for lovers of period drama
The Tainted Love of a Captain #8 – Available 12 May
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