The Spinster who Tamed the Roguish Marquess Preview

About the Book


“It might interest you to know that you seem to have taken residence in my mind, refusing to leave.”

Elizabeth Davenport, daughter of the Duke of Ranleigh, is running out of time. Forced to find a husband after two failed Seasons, she feels cornered by the ton’s constant gossip. She never had expected someone to have a worse reputation than her until she meets him; every respectable lady’s worst nightmare.

Heartbroken by an unfulfilled love, Andrew Hastings, the Marquess of Stanbury, is determined to become the most vulgar version of himself; a Beastly Rogue. He spends years in the dark of his lust, only to find the light in Elizabeth’s ocean eyes.

When everything falls apart, he knows he has to pay for his mistakes but he never imagined that Elizabeth’s life would be the price. Is he ready to risk everything to save her? For this means he has to take her place.



Chapter One


As the carriage swayed from side to side, trying to stay on the rocky terrain that was the path from Ranleigh to London, Elizabeth Davenport fixated her attention on the sound of the turning wheels. It was either that, the greenery outside the windows that spoke of the just returned spring, or her loud thoughts.

The only problem was, focusing on the scenes before her would easily make her turn to her thoughts. At least, the sound from the wheels was doing a good thing, drowning out those thoughts. The very ones she didn’t want to have but couldn’t seem to stop doing just that.

She sighed. It was already too late.

London. Another season. Perhaps, another chance to prove that I am, indeed, a failure.

She imagined it would be much worse this season, the gossips. She had no doubt she would make many scandal sheets. Everyone seemed to have something to say about the Davenport daughter who had failed two seasons yet. It was especially tattle-worthy as her sister had done quite the opposite, securing marriage to the former most eligible bachelor on her very first - and utterly successful - season.

Another sigh slipped past Elizabeth’s lips.

Her younger sister, now Beatrice Ashton, Duchess of Montroy, a rare beauty, had taken the whole of London by storm, winning hearts like prizes all season-long. From the very moment she had been announced at her debutante ball and had walked down those stairs graceful as ever, many gentlemen had begun to fall over themselves just for a chance to dance with her.

Beatrice had been born for that life, it had appeared. Having grown up receiving compliments and flattery about her lovely features, her sister had happily basked in the attention and praises, smiling and blushing, stealing even more hearts with her seeming demureness and sweet nightingale’s voice.

 Eyes as clear as spring waters, hair like the golden sun, with brows just as pale. Lips that Elizabeth had heard too many gentlemen describe as made by the goddess of beauty herself. Cheekbones as high as the heavens, chin perfectly carved by a master sculptor. Skin that made one think of the finest silk soaked in fresh milk, and a waist so tiny that all men dreamed to hold it. Such was the beauty of Beatrice.

Of course, it had been no surprise when a good number of suitors had started to troop into their father’s study daily, requesting her hand in marriage. Having such an array to choose from, Beatrice had finally settled with the handsome Duke of Montroy. In her words, he had been most agreeable to her.

So yes, at the age of eight-and-ten, her sister was a wife and soon to be mother as she had only just found she was with child. By every book in London, Beatrice Ashton was considered a success and Elizabeth, a failure.

Now, in fairness to herself, where Beatrice’s beauty was unique for her uncommon features, Elizabeth was no ugly maid either. In fact she was utterly lovely to look upon. As her father so fondly would say, she could heal a sore man’s eyes.

She was yet to become a wife because unlike many ladies of the ton, she refused to batter her lashes, blush, smile and answer, “It is as you say, My Lord,” to any gentleman who as much as showed interest in her.

In truth, she could suffer very few of them. Airheaded lots who only sought wives with brains no better than a pea pod’s! They all wanted a lady of virtue as they would say, who would hold her tongue and do their every bidding. God forbid she knew how to read and write anything other poetry, books of womanly virtue or prayers for her dear husband!

She was disallowed to know anything of science and the wonders of the world, forbidden to dare question her husband’s judgement. Heavens also forbade she happened to have a mind of her own.

Ha! Preposterous!

Unfortunately, Elizabeth was all of these things and more. Now, one could see why she was yet married, could they not?

In her first season, the gentlemen had been more amused by her person than offended. Many had actually sought her hand in marriage and Elizabeth had refused them all, aware of their hidden intentions. She knew they saw her as nothing but a challenge and wanted her for a wife so they could glory in being the gentleman who had broken her spirit and wielded her into subservience.

Not her, not as long as she had Davenport’s blood running through her veins! Well, in retrospect, perhaps she could have been a little less, passionate.

Like Beatrice.

Her sister who had steel for spine and the fierce Davenport will had often said there were more ways to get a gentleman to do your bidding than butting heads with him outright. “Be soft, be gentle, be sweet and he would readily place his head on your thighs to do with as you please,” Beatrice would admonish.

Ah yes, Elizabeth could have taken her sister’s advice, handling things a little differently. After all, not all of them could have been terrible, could they? There had to be some who had had honest intentions, yes? Not that it mattered anything any longer. What was done was done.

By the time her second season rolled by, she had already made quite the name for herself.

The insufferable Lady.

As one could expect, she had a less eventful season than the first. Gentlemen who valued their sanity and peace of mind were warned to stay away from her.

So there she was, headed to London for a third season, with no hopes whatsoever, that this one would be better than the last. In truth, she was beginning to make peace with the fact that she might never marry, going on to live a lonely life until she was old and gray, finally dying with no husband or children to remember and miss her.

A rather sad life, one would agree. Still, what was she to do? She was already twenty years old. Only a few more years before she reached the spinster’s age. Then, certainly, no one would want to marry her.

Her father, Harold Davenport, Duke of Ranleigh, was quite intent on making certain that never happened. She was aware of the measures he had taken to that effect; increasing her dowry and giving her even more inheritance that would become her husband’s after marriage.

Elizabeth did not doubt that there was many a gentleman who would be all too willing to suffer The Insufferable Lady if it meant their coffers would be enlarged. They were exactly the kind of gentlemen she wished for nothing to do with. Alas, what was to be done? Would she continue to refuse? How much longer would her father allow her stubbornness?

Perhaps, there was time yet to heed Beatrice’s admonition. She could try to be a little more like the other ladies. Meek, lowly, and all those other words that made her stomach churn with revolt.

She rested her head against the wall of the carriage. Even simply imagining it put a sour taste in her mouth.

If only there was a gentleman who wouldn’t be threatened by her person. Who would love her as she was, having no desire to own or change her, accepting her, rebel and all.

He would have green eyes of course, broad shoulders she could rest upon, tall. He would delight just from seeing her, and her heart would flutter just from being near him. He would be even vaster in knowledge than she, being someone she could learn from and speak with regarding all the things in the world that piqued their interests.

He would see her as his equal and appreciate her all the more for it.

Ah yes, such a gentleman.

She sighed once more. It was heavier this time. If he ever existed, he would be in her dreams.

Soon the carriage rolled to a stop.

 “Ah! We have finally arrived.” Her mother, Anne Davenport, Duchess of Ranleigh was looking at her, eyes soft with love.

A quick look outside the window affirmed those words and Elizabeth readied her heart for what was to come. Taking her father’s hand, she dropped from the carriage. As her feet touched the earth, she beheld the elegant beauty that was Ranleigh Manor.

Her mother, face turned to the heavens, eyes closed, arms outstretched, and lips curved in a grin, chimed, “Ah, London! How good it is to be back!”

Elizabeth gave into the urge to roll her eyes. She begged to differ.

Very much so.


Chapter Two


“Oh, Rosa! My sweet Rosa! Come to me. Hide not thine face away from me for my heart aches so when you do.”

Andrew Hastings, Marquess of Stansbury plucked his lips, awaiting a kiss from one of his numerous lovers. She was so beautiful, utterly so, his Rosa. It was why he particularly favored her.

Ah but now, she was standing in the dark, refusing to come to him with an angry glare on her face.

He frowned. “What is the matter, Rosa? Did I do something? Come now, smile for me. You know I hate it when you’re unhappy. It steals your beauty away.”

Rosa cleared her throat causing Andrew’s frown to deepen. He blinked, wondering if he was seeing wrongly, if the alcohol had started to take its effect.

It was only then that it occurred to him. He had been, up until a few hours ago before he’d finally left the beauty parlor and returned home, reluctantly bidding his sweet Rosa goodbye. So, what was she doing in his study? He never brought any of his women home. Never.

Rosa spoke but her words were inaudible. Then he heard footsteps, shuffling. In another moment, the curtains were drawn and bright light spilled into the room.

Andrew jolted awake, flinching as the golden rays threatened to scorch his eyes. He immediately shielded his face with his hands, despising the intrusion.

“Bloody hell! Rufus!” That was the name of his butler. The only one who could be so bold to awaken him so rudely.

Slowly, he dropped his hands, forcing his eyes to adjust to the radiance of the sun. As they did, he looked around the room. His eyes landed on his butler who didn’t look one bit remorseful with chin raised in pride, and hands folded behind his back.

Then, he searched for Rosa.

He froze as his eyes fell upon the person he had mistaken for his mistress. He took a moment to recover and as he did, he realized that he was still sprawled across one of the sofas, shirt buttoned haphazardly and trouser barely fastened.

Immediately he sat up, rising to his feet, trouser in his hand lest it fell.

“Father!”

Dudley Hastings, Duke of Lydenburg cocked his head at his son, as though asking if he had anything to say for himself. Nevertheless, he didn’t look surprised, not in the least. After all, it wasn’t the first time he would be finding Andrew in such a manner. In the past two years, it had become a common occurrence.

“Son,” he said simply.

Andrew coughed, searching his mind for the right words to say. His head was heavy as an aftermath of all that drinking. He could feel a mild ache approaching, one that threatened to grow worse if not properly dealt with and soon.

“Did we have an agreement to meet today?” he asked, finally settling on those words.

“Hm. I didn’t realize I needed a reason to visit my son in a house that I gave to him. Nevertheless, I must apologize for interrupting your sleep. It appears you were having a hard time with this Miss… Rosa.”

Andrew flushed. He couldn’t believe he had mistaken his father for Rosa. He would never hear the end of it, he could just tell. Damn that wicked ale! It had messed with his mind more than he’d reckoned it would.

Finally fastening his trouser, he began to redo the buttons on his shirts. When he was done, he brushed his hands through his hair and rubbed his face, hoping for a semblance of presentability.   

He looked at Rufus, speaking with his eyes. He should have known better than letting his father in to find him in such a position. However, he could hardly fault his butler and old friend. When Dudley Hastings made requests, he did not like to be denied.

“May I have some water please, Rufus?”

Rufus Wilmore walked to the door of the study and returned with a glass of water. He must have had a servant waiting.

“Thank you,” Andrew muttered, picking it from the tray. As he drank, he was aware of his father’s piercing, disapproving gaze. Not that it bothered him one bit. He had chosen this life and embraced it. He wouldn’t have if he was weary of disappointing his father or perhaps, he would have stopped a long time ago.

Alas, two years later and over a thousand words of admonition, Andrew was still living his life the way he saw fit.

He returned the glass as he emptied its content. “Thank you, Rufus. I shall like to be alone with my father.”

Rufus dipped in a bow and turned to leave. His father wasn’t the only displeased one, Andrew was aware. His butler had never hidden the fact that he wished his master would lead a better life. A reminder was too often sounded on mornings like this.

He waited until the door had closed before turning to his father once more.

“What brings you here so early in the morning?”

The Duke heaved a resigned sigh. “You have no inkling what time it is, do you?”

Choosing not to answer that question, Andrew’s eyes roamed the walls until he found the wooden clock that had been a gift for his five-and-twenty birthday. He couldn’t believe it had been three years already.

He tried not to let his surprise show when he saw what time it was. A little past noon. Then again, what had he expected, returning home at four o’clock in the morning?

He cleared his throat. “I see we are well past afternoon.”

“Indeed. That we are,” his father replied simply.

There was a moment of awkward silence and Andrew did everything but hold his father’s gaze. Finally, he spoke.

“Is something the matter?”

His Grace stared him down. “Wouldn’t you say? I come to talk to my son about his drinking and whoring habits - might I add, and I meet him, wasted after a night of certainly doing just that.” He sighed.

“In all honesty, Andrew, it baffles me how you still manage to keep the family business, entrusted to you, running and how you never seem to be lacking in state affairs. Nevertheless, it is not just enough that you somehow still perform all of your duties. I have decided that I can no longer condone, neither will I enable this madness. It has to stop and it has to stop this moment.”

The headache he had been warned of hit then, causing him to grimace as he held the side of his head. He needed that god-awful soup Rita, the cook, often made him to cure the aftermath of the liquor and the medicine Rufus was ever so kind to brew him. Alas, that had to wait. His father seemed particularly angry that morning.

“I had hoped after the last time, we had finally reached an agreement,” he said as he felt a little relief.

“I keep the business flourishing, stay on my toes regarding state affairs and you let me enjoy my otherworldly pleasures in peace. It has been months since you last had cause to complain. What is the matter this time? Has my name appeared in one of those scandal sheets again? More talks about the Beastly Rogue?” For that was the nickname that had been coined for him. He rather liked it.

“Are you once more disappointed that I am bringing you shame?” He continued.

His father said nothing for a long moment, only shaking his head.

When he finally spoke, he sounded much calmer. “I had hoped this was only a phase that would be gone as suddenly as it began. How long do you intend to continue like this? You wouldn’t tell me what happened but I know you only became this way after Lady…”

“Don’t,” Andrew interrupted, suddenly furious. “Say. Her. Name.”

He didn’t want to hear it. He never wanted to. As far as he knew, she was dead and where he was concerned, the dead was never spoken about - safe for his mother.

His father exhaled. “It is shameful to let any lady do this to you, Andrew. Talk more of one so undeserving.”

“I am doing this because I want to. Because I enjoy it, not because of anyone else, Father.”

Lies.

“That’s nonsense and you know it. You were never this way. Not even as a young lad with blood running hot, yet to learn control over his lust. I always prided in…”

Andrew rolled his eyes. He loved his father, dearly. He respected and admired him because Dudley Hastings was a gentleman worthy of all these. Upright, noble, kind. A wonderful father who had been a rock for his children when they’d lost their mother even as he mourned the loss of the same lady he’d loved so dearly.

Still, there was only so much he could listen to especially on an afternoon when he would rather much be sleeping.

“I assume you’re going to get to the actual reason you’re here at some point. I’d like it to be anytime soon, Father. Preferably now,” he said, interrupting again.

The Duke looked like he was on his last patient nerve. Much to Andrew’s delight, he heeded his son’s words.

“The season, it’s finally upon us.”

Andrew nodded. “I am well aware. I will be attending as always. You know you did not have to come all the way here to tell me that.”

“Your sister will be coming to London soon.”

Andrew nodded. “Of course, she will. It’s her second season. I imagine you would want to make certain it’s her last.”

“It will be her last.” It was spoken in a way that dared Andrew to doubt it. He chose not to.

“Then I wish her congratulations. Is there anything more you wish me to know?”

“I have decided…”

Andrew waited for his father to finish his statement. When he wouldn’t, he arched his brow and asked, “Decided what?”

“I have decided that Gillian will be staying with you for the entirety of the season. You will be her guardian but beyond that, you would be her chaperone.”

It was the first time in a long while that anything truly shocked Andrew. He was suddenly grateful he wasn’t still holding the glass for he would have dropped it.

“What?” he demanded.

I couldn’t have heard right, could I?

“It is as I said. You will be her guardian and chaperone. I suggest you make time as you’re expected to be with her whenever she has cause to step foot out of this house. Balls, outings, walks in the parks, visits to the sewing mistress, shopping at Bond Street… need I go on?”

Andrew was horrified by the visions his mind so willingly played.

“Err… there would be no need for that, Father,” he said as he found his voice. “As I have no intention to do as you have just said. I already have my hands full with the business and being a Marquess.”

“I believe if you have the time to drink, keep the company of lonely wives and widows alike, amid running the business and being a Marquess, you can certainly find the time to chaperone your sister. You will do as I say, Andrew or I shall have no other choice than to cut off all your funding.”

There was that headache again but Andrew could barely pay it mind. He was busy wondering if his father had indeed said those words. Yet, he knew without a doubt he had.

The Duke’s gray eyes were fierce with unyielding resolve, his lips set in hard lines that told Andrew there would be no more room for negotiations.

“You can’t possibly be serious!” Andrew exclaimed.

“You know very well I am, Andrew. I had hoped it would not come to this. Alas, it seems to be the only way to make you get yourself together and put your affairs in order. Soon, I will be gone and you would be Duke in my stead. You need a family, a son who would be your heir. It is your duty and I wish to see you fulfill it before I am called yonder by my maker. By God, I will. No matter what it takes.”

Andrew’s chest tightened. Of course, he had wealth of his own and could manage fine without his father’s funding thanks to profitable business ventures he had been wise to partake in. Nevertheless, he was aware that being cut off went beyond not having access to the family’s resources. It meant he could lose all of his inheritance, including the title of Duke.

This mattered, not for his sake, but because he couldn’t bear to lose what had been in their family for generations. He would not be the one to bring his kin such shame.

He sighed. As wonderful and understanding a father Dudley Hastings was, he was just as formidable an opponent. One Andrew knew he would be wise not to test.

“Still, I think it’s a little extreme, Father. Do you not?”

“I have decided. That is what I came all the way here to tell you, Andrew. I cannot sit by with folded hands while you continue to ruin your future. Your reputation is already beyond repair as it is, although, I would hope very much that you’d work on redeeming it. Other than that, I must ask, do you not fear for your life? What happens if you’re found by one of the husbands of those ladies?”

“You have nothing to worry about on that account, Father. It will never happen.”

He was far too discreet, too wise and too strict in the understanding that their identities be disclosed to no one and that they must carry to their graves the truth of the affairs. The ladies knew well enough to abide.

However, his father who was unaware of this didn’t seem the merest bit convinced or reassured by his words. He must have decided to let it go though, as he spoke no more of it.

“I take it we have an agreement?” he asked instead.

Andrew lowered his head in defeat. Did he have a choice? His father had plotted a clever ploy. With Gillian to be responsible for, he would have to reduce his drinking and whoring ways.

“I suppose so,” he muttered.

“Excellent!” his father chimed, rising to his feet. “I shall be on my way then. Your sister is set to arrive in two days. You would do well to prepare to receive her. No need to see me off,” he said when Andrew made to rise. “I’d rather you spent that time getting rid of the alcohol stink.”

Andrew stood, regardless, paying no mind to the verbal punch. He followed behind his father, maintaining a two-feet distance.

The Duke had just reached the door when he stopped and turned. Then, with a sly smile, he said, “Ah. I forgot to add that the agreement includes your certain marriage at the end of the season. Failure to find a wife in the time from now till then, even if you do successfully chaperone Gillian, shall end still in the cutting off of your funding. Very well then, do have a lovely day. Until we meet again.”

His father turned around once more, stepping out as he opened the door. He had the last words and there was no room for a rebuttal.

This time, Andrew couldn’t follow. He simply stood there, mouth ajar, too shocked to move.

It was another while before he finally acknowledged what had truly happened.

His father had played a fast game and Andrew had foolishly fallen for it. Gillian had only been the bait. His father’s true intention had been none other than roping Andrew into a marriage agreement.

That cunning old Lord!

Despite himself, Andrew couldn’t keep from smiling fondly.

And wise. Very wise indeed, Dudley Hastings.


Chapter Three


Elizabeth was only allowed three days of rest after the long trip from Ranleigh to London. As soon as the morning of the fourth day dawned, her mother waltzed into her room with a happy announcement.

“Put on your best dress, Elizabeth! We are going to Madam Trousseau’s!”

Elizabeth groaned. For one, she was barely awake. For another, she had no wish to step out of the house. Gossip would start immediately, the news certain to reach the whole of London by the end of the day. After all, the mill was ever so effective. By the morrow, she expected to see her name brandished on scandal sheets with predictions of how awfully her third season was certain to go.

She groaned again, throwing her covers over her head as she turned her back to her mother. Her Grace rolled off the covers and handed them to Jean Forbes, Elizabeth’s lady’s maid and friend.

She softly poked Elizabeth’s sides, causing her to squirm. “Come now. It’s at least an hour’s ride to Bond Street and we best be getting there early if we hope to have our measurements taken today. You know how it always is at Madam’s Trousseau’s. Every Lady in London wants to get their dresses made by the finest seamstress in all of England. There’d be a crowd as always.”

That crowd is why I don’t want to go.

Alas, her mother’s excitement would not be dampened. The Duchess was always so elated during the season. For that reason, she and Elizabeth couldn’t be any more different. Where the former utterly enjoyed balls, soirees and all the numerous social functions there always were to attend, the latter despised them. It had always been so, even before she had that disaster of a first season.

Elizabeth would rather spend all day at the Library with a book in hand, walking the park on a wonderfully warm afternoon, or playing the harp in the music room. She liked the indoors, reveled in it even.

“Elizabeth!” her mother called again. “You will get out of bed right this moment, young Lady or I shall help you do so. Whichever it is, we will not be late for our visit. Have you any idea how difficult it was to get an appointment so early on in the season?”

Elizabeth could hear it in her mother’s voice. She would not repeat herself. Anne Davenport was a lady who never liked for her patience to be tested. So, resigning to her fate, Elizabeth slowly rose from her bed.

Her bathwater had been made ready and a lovely dress was waiting for her to slip into by the time she was done wiping her body dry.

With Jean’s help, she was ready for the outing in another hour. Her mother had a pleased smile on her face as they stepped out of the house into the carriage.

The ride was anything but quiet. Her mother could not seem to stop speaking, going on and on about all the numerous activities she had lined up for the day and how she could not wait to see the dresses Madam Trousseau would make them.

So many times, Elizabeth found herself wishing that her mother was more like her father. A gentleman of few words who only spoke when it was absolutely necessary.

At long last, the carriage rolled to a stop signaling that they had arrived. One by one, they dropped from the carriage and altogether, walked the remaining distance to the largest sewing house in London. As they approached the doors, Elizabeth could easily feel more than a dozen pair of eyes, looking in their direction.

It didn’t take long before the murmuring started. The moment they stepped through the threshold, it worsened. Some of them spoke in hushed whispers, others, loud enough for her to hear.

“I cannot believe it. She truly has no shame!”

“How dare she return for a third season? The audacity to still show her face!”

“She’s certain to fail again.” There was giggling this time.

“She has the looks of a born-to-be Spinster. If I were her, I’d stop trying altogether.”

“Well, if she was indeed trying, perhaps, she would have found herself a husband by now.”

“Oh, she does try. She tries hard to chase them away with her foolish ideals!”

More giggling.

Elizabeth tried not to pay them heed. She kept her chin lifted, shoulders squared, head high and spine straight. Yet, her heart ached. She had hoped she would be immune by now, believed it even.

Alas, she was just as affected as she had always been. Of course, there were times when she lied to herself - and to others - that she didn’t mind it one bit. But she did. It hurt. The ridicule, the vicious words. She wished with all her heart that she did not have to deal with any of them but it was the way of the English society.

No one truly cared about you. They all simply wanted reason to snicker and giggle with no thought of how much hurt their actions and words caused.

“Are you all right, My Lady?” It was Jean.

Elizabeth forced a smile as she turned to her. “Of course. They are nothing but overly privileged ladies with too much time on their hands, is all.”

Just how true that statement was would be proven with the morrow’s headline. She could just imagine it.

“The Insufferable Lady returns to London for a third season. An old maid would have better chances of success!”

Jean looked like she didn’t believe Elizabeth’s words but she said nothing more. Instead, she offered a warm comforting smile.

It might not be considered much but to Elizabeth, it was everything. She felt instantly better, and her smile turned genuine. With Jean by her side, she had less to worry about.

***

“Don’t tell me we’re stopping again,” Andrew warned. If he had to go into another stall to buy lady’s things, he would lose his mind.

When Gillian had told him she had some shopping to do at Bond Street that day, he had wanted to put her in a carriage and send her back to her father.

However, he had been quick to think of the good side - there always were two sides to everything. He easily decided that perhaps, accompanying Gillian wouldn’t be such a terrible thing, after all.

He would get to meet ladies with whom he would flirt with, whilst performing his chaperone duties. Perhaps, he could even get some of them to agree to a secret rendezvous at a later time. It had sounded like a perfect plan to him and the more he contemplated it, the more he liked it. So, a little too eagerly, he had helped his sister into a carriage and together, they’d bounded for Bond Street.

Alas, four hours of going from stall to stall later, he was deeply regretting his decision. The appeal that the thought of being able to flirt had held had rapidly faded away as he happened upon a harsh reality. Chaperoning was a rigorous chore and that was without taking into consideration, how indecisive ladies could be. Gillian particularly!

She would ask his opinion and discard every single one! When he said an item was ugly, she would have a fit, branding him poor-sighted as she thought it lovely. If he said it was beautiful, she would throw another fit, calling him a liar who was only pretending to like it so they could finally make a purchase and be on their way. When he chose not to speak…

Oh goodness.

The memory would haunt him for years to come. Andrew had sworn to himself, never again! He would have her lady’s maid escort her on such frivolous trips thenceforth.

He could never understand ladies and he was past hoping to try. His sister especially, was no less than the devil’s spawn. He wondered who she had taken after. Their mother had been the sweetest and softest, and their father was much too sensible for such theatrics.

“Well, it isn’t shopping if I do not get to buy any dresses! Thankfully, I was able to secure an afternoon appointment with Madam Trousseau. She is the best in London, you see, and any lady who hopes to be the talk of the season would do well to purchase dresses only from her.”

Andrew would have dropped his head into his hands if he wasn’t so averse to such public display of dismay. He could not believe it. This was what his love for ladies had brought him to. He would be better off spending his day buried in a thousand pages of ledgers. Was this what his father had hoped for when he had come up with this preposterous plan?

He narrowed his eyes at his sister.

What is to say she isn’t in on this with him? I wouldn’t put it past her.

And it would be wise not to, indeed, for Gillian Hastings had such trickery up her sleeves. She was her father’s daughter, after all, being the closest to him. For all he knew, all of these might as well be an act to frustrate him - an art that his sister happened to openly delight in.

“You have more than enough dresses, Gillian. I do not think you wore every one Father got for you last season.”

Gillian gasped. “Are you suggesting that I wear them this season? God forbid! The fashion has changed, dearest brother, as it does every season. One must keep up with it if they hope to be any relevant. Come now, this one won’t take long.”

Andrew groaned. If he had a penny for every time Gillian had said those words that day.

“Now what is that look on your face?” she asked, stopping short. “We both know I am not any happier that Father made you my chaperone. I already have much pressure as it is to find a husband. I can only imagine how difficult it would be, what with your rather colorful reputation hanging like a dark cloud over my head. You know, I had hoped you would become more than being famed for being a rogue. The Beastly Rogue.

She huffed. “I wonder what Father was thinking when he decided on this. Did he consider that being the sister of a well famed rake and having to be seen with him all season could ruin my chances of getting a proper husband? You only need consider it for a moment. What is stopping people from thinking I am no different from you? My virtue is at risk of being ruined, I tell you.”

Andrew had to admit, her words had some truth to them and they stung. She was right. If he were a proper gentleman, he probably would want nothing to do with the sister of a rake.

Truly, what had Father been thinking?

As much as this was to keep Andrew in check, it did not have to be done at Gillian’s expense.

They might always be at logger heads but it was no secret that Andrew loved his little sister to death. He would give his life before he let any harm come to her. It would appear that he was now that harm. He would consider speaking to his father to reconsider this arrangement but he knew it was useless.

Or perhaps, this is just another piece of his plan.

Andrew smiled once more. That old gentleman continued to surprise him.

Of course, his father would have thought of this as well and chosen to use it to his advantage. Knowing of Andrew’s love for his dearest little sister, His Grace would have counted on his son deciding to forego his rakish ways in favor of Gillian’s future.

Ah. A wise gentleman indeed.

“Is it funny to you?” Gillian asked. “Ah. I see. My plight does amuse you, doesn’t it? Go ahead, laugh. But don’t think I’d make this any easier for you. If I cannot escape this then I intend to make certain you dread every single moment. I reckon it won’t be long before you ask Father to release us both from this misery.”

Andrew’s smile broke into a chuckle. “Whatever you say, dearest sister. Have I told you that you look utterly stunning when you’re angry?”

That did it. It got her to pause for a moment, truly taken aback. This pleased Andrew more than he cared to admit.

“What is that?” she finally asked, finding her voice. “Do you think I’m one of your ladies that would so easily fall for such cheap flattery?”

“Good to know you wouldn’t fall for it if it was told you by another gentleman. However, you must know one thing, dear sister. It wasn’t cheap flattery, not from your brother. I meant every word. You are beautiful. However, you must be wary if another gentleman tells you these words. Very few say them with honest intention. Trust me, I would know.”

Gillian shook her head at him. “Are you ever serious?”

“Of course,” he answered. Then, with a mischievous glint added. “-when I’m wooing a lady. Come now, we do not want to keep Madam Touser waiting any longer, do we?”

“Trousseau.” she corrected with a hiss. “Madam Trousseau,” she repeated with emphasis.

Andrew hid a secret smile. “Of course, of course. Pardon me.” He placed his hand in the small of her back then, stirring her toward the entrance. “Madam Trousseau.”

They were almost at the door when Gillian muttered under her breath. “You know, brother…”

“Hm?” he prompted.

She wouldn’t look at him, but he could tell she was smiling. “There might just be hope for you yet.”

Andrew’s heart was singing for joy as they crossed the threshold into the seamstress’ house.

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  • Shirley says:

    Can’t wait for the rest of the story!!!!!

  • Bridget Lewis says:

    Yes can’t wait 😘 I am on the mailing list.