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this novel should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 ,19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 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, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61
“The Earl of Wroxeter, the Countess of Wroxeter and Lady Rosalind Farrow.” The Butler bowed as Emerald rose, her gaze looking helplessly towards her aunt before she looked at the drawing room door. This call was unexpected and unwanted and The Duke and her uncle were out.
She stepped forward instinctively as an older woman walked into the room.
Emerald had heard the carriage, then looked from the window to see Richard alight and then she had sent her maid for her aunt and run downstairs. She was not dressed for company. No one called this early usually.
“Countess…” Emerald curtseyed deeply. Richard had brought his mother.
Had he come to hound her again? She had not slept last night, not a wink, and she was tired and confused. Her heart thumped out the rhythm of her fear and anger.
Last night, The Duke had told her she was embarrassing him. “Slapping a guest and then meeting him in the gardens.” She had been seen by the servants and her aunt had been told. “Your actions imply something occurred between yourself and that man and rumours shall begin to that affect if you carry on with such behaviour.” The Duke had pressed. But he had not asked what did occur, even though she was sure she had blushed. He believed her foolish and pure.
She was neither.
“Wroxeter is a rogue, simply keep away from him.” he had said at the end of his diatribe.
But here he was. As Emerald rose from her curtsey he walked past his mother and took her hand to bow over it as his gaze captured hers for the instant before he bent. Without gloves she felt the warmth and texture of his kiss. When he let go, her other hand covered the spot. She was unsure whether it was to protect his kiss, or comfort a wound.
“Miss Martin,” he stated as she belatedly remembered to bob another curtsey at him.
“Please do sit down,” her aunt stated.
“I shall ring for some hot water for tea,” Emerald used the excuse to turn her back on them and gather herself up from her shock.
When she turned back his mother was seated facing her aunt, and his sister on the sofa where Emerald had been sitting. Richard was standing by the fireplace, in a posture which reminded her of his stature on the poop-deck as he had looked ahead.
“It is an honour…” Her aunt was saying to the Countess, Emerald did not listen as she took her seat, her eyes fixed on Richard. He smiled at her but said nothing.
“My son insisted on coming early. He wishes to resolve this.”
“Have you seen the paper?” The Countess seemed as cold and serious as her son. As her son in his business skin.
“No, I––” her aunt floundered for an answer.
“Well you ought to, Richard is accused of indiscretion and there is enough gossip. I cannot abide more. It is all over the gossip columns, that Miss Martin travelled with him and was then seen to slap him.”
“You are not to care what the papers say,” his sister whispered, leaning closer, covering Emerald’s hand with her own as it rested on the sofa beside her. “Richard has explained everything to me. He told us your mother died and that he knew she was ill and had not told you. We are to plan another public reunion so the gossips will be unable to talk behind your backs.”
Emerald looked at him, but he said nothing as his mother explained the same idea to Emerald’s aunt in more detail.
Emerald faced his sister. “He is presuming then that I want amity between us?”
She laughed. She was dark haired and brown eyed like Richard, but she had none of the stiffness and coldness he and his mother shared. “I do not know what he wishes, this is my mother’s idea.”
“What did the papers say exactly?” Emerald asked looking up at Richard.
“Miss M slapped the infamous Lord W at her own engagement dinner and was then seen to meet him privately the following day.” Richard’s voice cut through the room silencing the other women’s conversation. “Some say, Miss M had a previous relationship with Lord W; they are both lately returned from India.”
Oh. Heat bloomed beneath Emerald’s skin under his unflinching gaze. He knew everything that she knew.
“And how do you intend to repair this?” her aunt asked, of Richard.
“It is not my son’s issue you realise, it is His Grace’s as he is engaged to Miss Martin.”
“His Grace is not at home,” Emerald responded looking from Richard to his mother. She had never imagined Richard having a mother when they had lived in India. He’d been an entity––born of the world not humanity.
“My mother has suggested that you join us at the theatre this evening.” It was Richard who placed the invitation and he spoke to Emerald.
She looked at him once more. “I cannot see how my spending time in your company will help the situation.” She felt intensely uncomfortable facing him amongst his family.
“The invitation is to yourself and your fiancé. If the Duke is with us people can hardly continue speculating. Will His Grace be willing?”
“I am sure he will,” her aunt answered.
And yet he had expressed often that he hated Richard.
“Then it is settled,” Richard’s mother answered.
It was not settled. She did not wish to spend time in Richard’s company.
A knock struck the open door. “Come, bring the tea in,” her aunt called. “Set it down then go.” As the maid put the tray down on a table Emerald’s aunt looked at her. “Will you pour?”
Emerald nodded and rose. “How do you take your tea Countess, Lady Farrow?”
“She likes it with lemon.” She jumped, rattling the cup and saucer in her hand as Richard spoke near her ear. She’d not heard him move closer.
She poured the tea and placed a slice of lemon in the cup.
“I’ll take it.” He took the cup from her hand, meeting her gaze as he did so.
She poured her aunt’s next and he returned to take that. “Rose likes hers with milk and sugar,” you know how I like mine, the words were not spoken but she heard them, a reminder of their familiarity.
Her heart steadily thumping she poured his sister’s tea and let him take it then poured filled a cup for him. He he liked his tea strong.
When he came back for his cup he took it from Emerald’s hand, his fingers clearly deliberately grazing hers before he turned away.
Her hand trembled as she poured her own tea.
“Your father will be here soon.” The comment was made by Richard as she retook her seat.
She looked up at him. He was still standing as everyone else sat.
“You will need his consent,” he continued, holding her gaze.
“Miss Martin’s Uncle is her guardian. My sister-in-law gave my husband the right,” her aunt responded, taking exception to the comment.
Richard’s dark gaze past to her aunt, his eyes challenging her response with his cold directness. “Still I know Mr Martin would wish to be present, and I know Miss Martin would not wish to marry when he was not there.”
“My father cannot leave Calcutta,” Emerald answered, her voice shaking as much as her hands had a moment ago.
“You think he will not come?” Richard’s gaze came back to her, his eyes dark onyx pools of reassurance surrounded by rich brown.
She shook her head, “He cannot leave India on a whim.”
“Miss Martin, my experience of your father is that he would move heaven and earth for you. You cannot doubt he will come? When he hears of the loss of your mother…”
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
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