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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

Part 123456789101112131415161718 ,192021222324252627282930313233,34,35,363738394041424344454647484950515253545556575859606162636465, 66

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Chapter Nineteen

 

Emerald

“I shall take you to the ladies’ retiring room, to freshen up,” Rose whispered as they left Richard.

Emerald sat in a chair staring at her reflection while a maid repositioned the slipped pins in her hair. Rose remained beside her and when the maid moved away she asked quietly, ‘Did Richard cause your distress?’

‘No.’  He had not upset her, everything had suddenly simply overwhelmed her, everything she missed. His reassurance and comfort had uncorked the pain she had tried to bottle up inside.

Emerald sighed.

Richard had said her father would come and if he believed it, she did, despite his earlier lies.

When they left the room, Rose wrapped her arm about Emerald’s. “He means no harm. He does not relate to people easily,” she said quietly as they walked along the upper landing. “He has not been close to us.” Then she stopped, half turning and looking Emerald in the eyes. “He will not thank me for saying this, but I think I should. Richard was not born the heir. He and my father never got along. Richard was wild in nature, he liked exploration. He would not sit in a school room. He always absconded. My parents hated him. They called him a devil child. He was forever fighting with my eldest brother whom they adored and so he was punished, beaten, made to sit in a chair for hours and tied to it if he would not stay. When he was twelve, scarlet fever struck my family. Three of my brothers and sisters were taken by it, including my eldest brother. Richard became heir then.

“They made him fit my eldest brother’s mould. He was locked away with tutors and beaten more frequently if he did not listen and learn. He was never sent to school or college for fear he would rebel. I am too young to remember it but Amelia is older than Richard, she remembers it all. Once she saw him held down and being beaten. He is not bad, Miss Martin. He was just full of life and they tried to crush him. They did not succeed.

“My mother mourned my eldest brother’s loss for years and my father told Richard he would rather the line ended than pass to him. The day he became twenty-one there was a ball arranged, he did not even stay for it, he had his freedom. He took nothing from Papa but found a position in the East India Company and simply left.

“He is not cold, as he seems, Miss Martin, he does not hold people at a distance because it is his choice. Others have pushed him away. Their lack of love has made him hold people at an arm’s length. Even since he has returned he retired to the country to be alone, until your engagement ball. It has become a way of life for him.

“I wish him happy, Miss Martin. We all do. We think you can make him happy, you draw him out, and I think he would make you happy.”

Emerald did not know what to say.

Rose gripped her elbow. “I should not have spoken. You are in no state to hear it. Forgive me. Let me take you back to your aunt. But please do not think ill of Richard. He is not what he seems.”

***

Rose’s words rang in Emerald’s ears as she sat across from The Duke in the carriage. He is not what he seems. No. Richard had lied to her and pretended to everyone that he had no family. But he had been kind tonight. The carriage rocked gently over the cobbles as it travelled in a swift pace, reminding her of the sway of the sea.

“It was very inconvenient of you to feel unwell,” her aunt complained, Emerald turned to look out through the window, catching glimpses of the houses in the gas light.

“Emma was feeling unwell,” her cousin stated, “it was not a choice.” The Duke had insisted that they all accompany Emerald.

Richard’s words passed through Emerald’s thoughts. ‘That is what you are choosing, a lifetime in a loveless match. You cannot imagine it. You have only known love. You are not happy now. You will be unhappy for the rest of your life.’

She could not do it. She could not marry The Duke.

As they rode through the streets, in silence now, she thought of the words, how she would tell him, and the children would need to be told too. She could not allow this to continue. It was wrong.

The coach drew to a halt in front of The Duke’s townhouse.

Her cousin, stepped down first, followed by her uncle, who turned to take her aunt’s hand. When Emerald descended, The Duke offered his hand palm upwards. She accepted the offer of help and his fingers closed around hers. He did not let go but walked her on into the house.

She would do as Richard had said and sleep before she told The Duke. She was too tired to face any arguments tonight.

“May I speak with you a moment before you retire.” But perhaps it would not be her choice.

“I have a headache, your Grace.”

“Just for a moment,” he asserted. “We will speak in the library?”

Her aunt and uncle looked back as they walked in to the hall. The Duke waved a hand, encouraging them silently to walk on and leave Emerald with him.

A footman moved to open the doors of the library. The Duke walked Emerald through the double doors that were shut in their wake.

She pulled her hand free from his and stepped backwards a couple of paces.  “Your Grace?” They may be engaged but they still ought not to be in a room alone, she looked towards the closed doors.

“I have something important to ask you, Emma, and I am sure you would prefer no one hear this conversation. Sit down.” He pointed at a winged armchair near the hearth. She walked to it and then sat in a rigid position, her hands in her lap, uncertain of what would come next.

He had not sat down but his hands slid behind his back and clasped. “I hope that our privacy will encourage your honesty. What is between you and Wroxeter? You spoke with him tonight did you not? He was not in the ballroom during your absence.”

The sense of a blush warmed her skin. She opened her mouth but could not speak.

“Did something happen on his ship? Were you physical with him? If you were, I would know it?”

“I––.”

“Did he seduce you?”

Not as The Duke was portraying it.

“If there is something between you it cannot go on when we are wed.”

She was certain that the colour in her skin must be growing stronger by the second.

“I will marry you, even if that is the case. My situation is unchanged, I want a wife. You are suitable and I like you. But I will not be made a fool of. I cannot have been the only person who noticed you both gone. If we are to see this through you must end whatever this is with Wroxeter and send him away.”

Like was not enough! “He said my father is coming.” She took a breath and stood, she was tired but she not a coward and his anger was understandable but now was the moment to do as he had asked and speak honestly. “I cannot marry you.”

He looked struck as his lips parted and his eyes widened.

“I am sorry,” she continued.

His expression turned from shock to anger, and then both emotions were secured behind a mask of indifference. “As you will, Emma. I am not sorry as you have proven yourself to be a deceitful woman.”

Had she deceived him? 

Someone struck the library door. “You have a visitor, Your Grace,” a voice called through the wood.

“At this hour?” The Duke turned away. “Enter!”

“Who is it, Wallis?” he said as the door opened.

“It is the Governor of Calcutta, Your Grace.”

“Father!” Emerald rise, clasping the skirt of her evening dress as she did so, lifting the hem away from her feet so she could hurry across the room and out into the hall.

He stood there, in that giant room full of cold marble and stone. Her arms lifted as she neared him and then she was holding him, warm and flesh and real in her arms. “Papa.” Her arms clasped tightly about his neck as tears of joy moistened the collar of his coat. “Mama is dead.”

“I know, sweetheart.” His hand rested on back. “I received your letter and your mother’s along with Farrow’s.”

She loosened her hold and stepped back, all though her hands remained at his shoulders. “How did you get here so quickly? Should it not have taken longer.”

“By steamer, child, and across Egypt. Then I picked up one of Farrow’s ships.” His hand braced her cheek as his eyes swept across her face, looking her over, looking for signs of how she had faired. His thumb wiped away the tears on her cheek.

“I did not think you would come,” she breathed, biting her lip to stop more tears.

“Why on earth not? Of course I would come. I left Calcutta within hours of receiving word.” She held him again and he held her.

“Mr Martin.”

Emerald let her father go, there was a need for introductions she clasped her father’s hand unwilling to let go of him entirely. “Papa, you must meet my Cousin, and Mama’s cousin, The Duke of Sunderland.”

“Your Grace,” Her father said, bowing slightly. “Would you mind if I stay here this evening? I have only just arrived and have had no chance to seek accommodation.”

“Of course,” The Duke answered, all though his colour was high. He looked at Emerald, his blue eyes speaking of his disapproval, but it was not voiced. “I shall leave you in the company of your Father, Emma, goodnight. Goodnight, Mr Martin.”

Her father bowed once more. “Thank you, Your Grace.”

“Thank you,” Emerald lowered in a deep curtsey. Then as he walked away she looked at the footman. “Please have someone prepare a room for my father.” She smiled at her father. “We shall speak in the library until it is ready.”

“You are engaged to him…” her father said as they walked across the hall once the Duke was out of earshot. “I came in on Farrow’s ship and saw Mr Bishop at the dock, he told me the announcement was made a week or so ago.”

“Mr Bishop, is he not on The Rose?” Surely it was not The Rose that had come into dock.

“No, Farrow has grounded him here in London for some misdemeanour. But, tell me Emma, is that true, are you to marry the Duke of Sunderland? Farrow’s quartermaster seemed very concerned. He did not think it a good thing. He believed you to have been very upset when he last saw you.”

“It was a long time ago that I last saw Mr Bishop, but the engagement was real. I did not know what to do, without anyone to turn to here. But I have ended the arrangement this evening. I thought it would make you happy to know I had made a good match, but I realised tonight I could not accept a marriage without affection.”

As they stood in the library alone, he held her hands in his and looked at her face with the affection he had always expressed for her. “What makes me happy, child, is your happiness. I would not have sacrificed you to a loveless match and nor would your mother. She brought you here in the hope you would find affection, she would not have forced your hand no matter how much she wished you married to a peer.”

“Oh father, I have longed for you so often.” She would go home. She could go home.

To be continued…

 

 

 

The Marlow Intrigues: Perfect for lovers of period drama

106849-fc50
The Tainted Love of a Captain #8 – The last episode in the Marlow Intrigues series

 

The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~

The Illicit Love of a Courtesan #2

The Passionate Love of a Rake #3

The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4

The Dangerous Love of a Rogue #5

The Secret Love of a Gentleman #6

The Reckless Love of an Heir #7 shortlisted for the UK’s

Historical Romantic Fiction Novel of 2017

Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback

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 ‘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

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

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 67, 8, 9, 101112131415161718 ,1920212223242526, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33,34,35,36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 5455, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 6162, 63, 64, 65,

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Emerald

When Richard had gone the room had a screaming emptiness as Emerald’s thoughts swam. His entire family had joined the game of pin Emerald down, surrounding her in a pack, hemming her in and keeping her talking until he had asked his inappropriate question. Only they had heard it. Of course she had known from the beginning that Richard was a clever and persistent man. She had just never thought that those powers would be used on her one day.

The thought of what he intended to do next distracted her as she ate dinner.

“Is all well, Emma?” The Duke asked. She looked up to face his stare. Perhaps he had spoken to her before. She had not been paying attention to the conversation. “I hear Wroxeter called today?”

“Yes.” What else was there to say, she could not tell him what Richard had said. “With his sisters.”

The Duke nodded, but she could see that he saw through Richard as clearly as she had. She ought to be cautious this evening.

When they reached the Merchants’ home, The Duke remained with her after they had passed the receiving line. Emerald strained to see Richard. She saw his family first. Then she saw him. He was speaking with his brother, who had not called that afternoon. Richard’s gaze turned from his brother to her, as though he had sensed her look without breaking the conversation.

She turned away and faced her cousin.

“Shall we have some refreshments, Emma?”

“Yes, thank you.”

He patted her hand. ‘Do not worry it will not be long before you can dance and enjoy yourself.’

But her grief would not simply end when her period of half-mourning did, the emotion was not bound by time in the way that society dictated.

Every moment she could sense where Richard was in the room but he did not come close, and nor did any of his family. Instead she remained at The Duke’s side as he moved about the room speak with his friends.

As she ate supper she could see Richard seated among his family. While she struggled to converse Richard talked and laughed. Why could her heart not comply with the sensible and disciplined woman her mother had wanted of her?

As people began drifting back into the ballroom Richard’s youngest sister approached. Perhaps Emerald had stared too much. “Miss Martin, will you walk with me? I hoped you would tell me more of India.”

Oh. Emerald’s heart raced,questioning the reason for this tête-à-tête as she glanced at her cousin but she stood without asking The Duke’s permission to leave. She curtsied, “Lady Rosalind.”

The Duke glanced across the room. Richard was still seated and he had his back to them talking to his brothers-in-law.

Rosalind threaded her arm through Emerald’s as though holding on so Emerald could not escape. “Let us promenade about the ballroom?” Once they were in the ballroom where the noise of conversation and music filled the air, Rosalind leant close. “Richard would like to speak with you. He will not come near you in here to protect your reputation but he suggested, if you are willing, that we walk out into the garden and find somewhere for you to talk privately.”

“And his meeting me in private will not affect my reputation…” Emerald’s voice was sharp. It was Richard manipulating again.

His sister smiled. “He promised he means you no harm. He will be careful.”

“Are you aware how many lies your brother tells?”

They continued walking, circulating about the edge of the dancers. “I am aware of the effort he will go to, to hold people back, yes. What you said about the way he lives in India did not surprise us. But I do not think Richard is lying tonight or that he would harm you. If you wish, I will stay with the two of you.”

“No, I will speak to him alone.” She was not afraid of him.

Within minutes they were stepping out through the french-doors on to a terrace illuminated by lanterns that had been hung in the trees. No one else was outside.

Rosalind turned away from the lighted paths and into the darkness. “There is a seat farther along.” She whispered. The farther they walked the more they relied on the intermittent moonlight that reached through the shrubbery.

“Rose,” Richard’s voice reached through the darkness then he stepped from the shadows. “Emerald.” There was a rare sound of vulnerability in his tone. Rosalind released Emerald’s arm and as Emerald’s hand fell Richard caught hold of her fingers then he lifted them to his lips for an instant. She could feel the warmth through the black satin of her evening glove as he kissed them.

“Thank you,” he said to his sister as their hands lowered.

“I will leave you, but I will not go far,” it was said to Emerald, to let her know she had a chaperon.

Richard smiled as Rosalind slipped away.

Emerald glanced backwards, half expecting her cousin to appear. It was tempting fate meeting Richard here.

As though sensing she might pull away he gripped her hand more firmly. “Will you sit with me?” The stone seat was tucked into the yew hedge. She nodded but he was already leading her there.

She pulled her hand from his as they sat.

“I am no threat to you,” he said quietly, in a pitch his sister would not hear. She stared into the eyes that months ago she treasured looking into. “Why did you agree to marry The Duke of Sunderland? You cannot convince me you desire that after what occurred between us at the engagement dinner.”

“I struck you.”

“You know full well I am referring to the kiss that came before the slap.”

“It was a moment madness.”

“Madness or not, it does not convince me you would choose to marry another man. At least wait until your father arrives.”

“He will not come,” the cold penetrated the thin sleeves of her evening gown and a shiver rocked her.

“He will come. He would resign his post rather than leave you alone here after what happened.”

 

Richard

Emerald’s eyes were wide in the darkness, and they said she did not believe him. Her hands clasped in her lap. This was the beleaguered, besieged woman of England, not his vibrant fire filled Emerald from India––her whole body expressed defeat.

“Give him time,” Richard urged. “Do not rush into this marriage. It is not right.”

“How do you know what is right for me?”

I am right for you. The words breathed through him. “I remember what you said on the ship, you wished for more than marriage,  more than than a life of parlour talk. That is all you would have with Sunderland.” I can give you more, you wanted more.

“I would have honesty and safety.”

“Emptiness. What of adventure? What of love? What of your precious happiness? Do you not wish yourself happy anymore?”

Her look sharpened but there was pain in her eyes. No grief.

He twisted sideways, reached and held her hand leaving their joined hands resting in her lap. “Do not do it.”

“I promised my mother.” Her pale eyes were silver in the moonlight.

“That you would spend the rest of your life unhappy? She would not have wanted that. Break this folly off. You do not care for him.”

“It is not as simple as that. My aunt has my purse. The Duke has paid for all I have. I am beholden to him and what would I do without their help?”

She was being honest at least.

He gripped hers fingers tighter. They felt so small and fragile. He remembered the feel of her hand aboard ship, when she’d nearly died. He should have stayed near her in London and kept calling irrespective of gossip, no matter that she’d not wished to speak to him.

“You would ask for your money back,” he answered.

“And if I they cannot return it…”

“Then you may use your father’s name at the docks to gain credit––or mine.”

“You know I cannot do that.” But as she answered her fingers held his in return and warmth pulsed into his blood as she accepted his comfort.

“You should have written to me.”

“You deceived me.” Her fingers slid free of his.

“Emerald,” he found himself whispering harshly, losing patience, he’d never pleaded to anyone but her. “Cease this misunderstanding. If I had told you I would have lied to your mother. I made a promise to her. I did not tell you because it is what she wished.”

“And your mistress?” she threw back.

“I did not have a mistress when I slept with you, I had ended that relationship.”

“The day before and she was waiting in Calcutta without knowledge of your views.” Their conversation had become an exchange of cutting whispers.

“I did not ask to speak with you to argue.” His hand rested against her cheek, touching her as he’d longed to for weeks. “I love you. It has taken me a lifetime to fall for a woman as I have for you. I did not know what I was lacking until this journey. When I knew, why would I not have made the decision to end a relationship with a mistress? What we had on the ship was good, Emerald, I dare you to deny it.”

“It was a lie.”

“My love for you is no lie. Forget all else.”

“Forget you lived a lie in Calcutta. You denied your family and your name. I do not know you. I thought I had begun to, but I did not.”

“And you know Sunderland?”

“He has not pretended to be anything he is not.”

“Nor does he pretend to love you. That is what you are choosing, a lifetime in a loveless match. You cannot imagine it. You have only known love. You are not happy now. You will be unhappy for the rest of your life.”

She shivered. “There would be love, he has children. They love me and I them. He is marrying again to give them a mother.”

God the foolish, openhearted––adorable––woman. She was beautiful in spirit as well as face. “Do not sacrifice yourself for his children.” His hand slipped to her arm. “They are not your responsibility. They will have nurses and governesses to love them and a father.”

“But they have no mother.” Tears glittered in her eyes and rolled onto her cheeks before dripping onto her gown.

Now he understood. The night on the ship, when he’d heard her in the day cabin, she’d cried like this. He’d gone to her then and kissed her, he should have only offered comfort and nothing more––not love. She was crying for her own mother again. Her forehead fell onto his shoulder. He held her, embracing her rigidly, every muscle in his body taut, pain hitting him like a punch with a knife blow. He owed her the comfort that she had sought in the beginning. He ought to concede, if to be left alone was what she wanted. Mark and Joseph had been right on the ship, she’d been coerced into his bed.

She did not love him. That was the knowledge that was growing like fermenting bread. His feelings were unrequited.

Even the night he had come to find her here she’d only sought comfort in his kiss, grasping hold of something she knew and understood in her new uncertain world. Perhaps she was right, Sunderland was perfect for her. He was reliable and trustworthy––not the spawn of the devil––a restless, groundless man. She would be safe with Sunderland. Perhaps not loved yet happy to some degree.

He ought to let her go.

He would know the grief that she knew then.

His fingers longed to comb through her hair but it was curled and pinned, he could not disturb it. Instead his palm lay on her back feeling her sobs run through her body. “All will be right,” he whispered. “Your father will come and if you choose Sunderland, so be it, just speak to your father first.”

Richard wouldn’t go back to Calcutta. If she returned there he would not want to be where she was and have to pretend nothing had happened between them. Nor would he remain in London, not when he would have to watch her marry someone else, be it Sunderland or another man. Someone who would be right for her. Richard was not. He would go to another country, another continent. Perhaps America––was that far enough away to forget her? He had already commenced the arrangements here, he could leave. He had informed his man of business about his plans and spoken to Frederick, who was prepared to accept the responsibilities of Earl in Richard’s stead, overseeing everything, and taking a proxy vote in the House of Lords. Richard would bid Frederick wed and bear heirs too. This family did not need sons born by him. He had never planned for children anyway, it was only Emerald that had stirred up such madness of wanting in his head.

“Richard?” Rose must have heard Emerald crying.

“A moment more,” he responded. Rose’s dark eyes took in the scene, seeing Emerald’s distress and Richard’s comfort.

She disappeared back into the darkness.

“Emerald.” He kissed her temple. This would be the last time he touched her. She did not pull away. He straightened and his fingers lifted her chin so he could look into her eyes. The moonlight shone on her face revealing her desolation and the tear stains on her cheeks. “Have Rose take you to your aunt. Insist your aunt take you home tonight. Sleep and tomorrow eat. I can see you have not been doing so. When you feel stronger, speak to Sunderland and tell him you want to wait until your father arrives, at least you will want him there when you marry. But your father will give you another choice, to go home.”

He longed to kiss her but he did not. It was what he had done that night on the ship when he should have given her confidence that her pain would end. It would end.

God he hoped it ended. Could a lost-love hurt forever?

He rose, holding her hand. She stood too.

“Rose,” he called into the night air. She reappeared almost instantly. “Emerald is feeling unwell. Please take her back to her aunt and ask that she take Emerald home.” He caught Emerald’s gaze for a moment as he let go of her hand. “Goodbye.”

She turned as Rose took her arm. Rose looked back as they began to walk away. He nodded. Rose smiled. Emerald may not love him but he was not unloved. Even Alicia and Amelia held affection for him, no matter that he’d cut these ties years ago. He would send more letters and gifts, but he would not come back.

He did not follow them back to the ballroom but left via the stables. There was a ship docking tonight.

To be continued…

 

The Marlow Intrigues: Perfect for lovers of period drama

The Tainted Love of a Captain #8 – The last episode in the Marlow Intrigues series

106849-fc50

 

The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all 

The Illicit Love of a Courtesan #2 

The Passionate Love of a Rake #3

The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4

The Dangerous Love of a Rogue #5

The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel #5.5

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) 😉

The Secret Love of a Gentleman #6 

The Reckless Love of an Heir #7

Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback

106848-FC50

Go to the index

For

  • 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

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