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Garden Follies 2



























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Sinful Education

© 2013 Layna Pimentel

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Pleasure Garden Follies 2


Copyright © 2013


Chapter One


Sussex, England, 1819


Avonlea, the Earl of Bridgeton, sat behind his desk just as sour as the weather
plummeting from the sky. Heavy rain, thunder, and flashes of lightening had
shaken every window in his family estate for over two days. And with the precipitation
came his mother, who escorted his elderly Aunt Agatha from the country.

His family’s
estate on the outskirts of Sussex offered many commodities, but not the one he
desperately needed at this moment. Solitude. What he would not do to return to
his townhouse in London, away from his doting relatives. Both women meant well,
but when they put their minds to it, they embarrassed him deeply. Especially when
the season came around.

conversations always started and ended with when he would marry. As far as they
were concerned, he was wasting time. They incessantly reminded him they did not
have much left, though he would wager differently.

While his mother
pretended to put on airs that she was lonely, he had heard her giggling with some
of her lady friends about gentlemen who came to visit every so often. The mere
thought of her engaging in activities with a man at her age made him shudder.
Who would have guessed women in their
advanced years still wish to—?

Why in heavens name am I thinking about that?

Suddenly, the
front door slammed shut, and his aunt cursed aloud for all the manor to hear of
her aversion to being drenched.

“Now, now,”
his mother chided, as he pictured her passing her belongings to the butler. “If
I remember correctly, Aunt Agatha, you were the one who insisted on traveling
right away. I would have been happy to have waited out this dreadful weather.”

eyes rolled into the back of his head.
so it begins
. He rose from his seat and walked around to the desk when his
mother’s displeased tone echoed down the corridor.

“Where is
that ungrateful son of mine? And would someone bring me some tea before I catch
my death?”

He stood
there, pondering what could have her in such a mood. He stepped into the
doorway, leaning against the frame, and folded his arms across his chest.
“Mama, I would say welcome home, but you look as if you wish you were not

She gave him
a frightful scowl, swatting at him. “
posh. Can’t
you see the condition us crones are in? We are tired, hungry, and most of all,
wet! Be sure the fire is nice and hot, for when I return to the parlor with
your aunt, we have much to discuss. Now run along, I won’t be but a few moments.”

Avonlea could
already imagine the conversation they would have.
You must take a wife. I am not getting any younger. Your father’s
legacy demands you produce an heir. What on earth is taking you so long in choosing
a wife? Are you secretly a molly?
Oh, yes, he could hear them both now.
Niggling at his delay. But the trouble was not of what his dear mama thought.

difficulty lay with his lack of trust in anyone, or anything, these days. That,
and the fact that he had a deep feeling his past would come back to haunt him.

after graduating from Oxford, both he and the Marquess of Stoughton were
enlisted by the war office. They only spoke of their time in university, and their
assignments overseas were kept in silence. Nathaniel had been sent on one
mission, while Avonlea was stuck spying for the crown in France and Italy.

He had traveled
many places, witnessed the poorest of living conditions, and over-indulged too
frequently. Lady Fortune had been good to him so far—that news of his romps
when he should have been working had not made it to London. But that day would
come. His visits to brothels and smoke houses would make for good gossip, the
war office would question his honor, and his family would be scandalized.

Then, there
was the matter of falling in love with a fallen girl, who had been expecting a
child last summer. In the midst of making preparations to return to England, she
had disappeared from his apartment and was later found in a back alley, not far
from the smokehouse he had patronized.

T’was in
that moment he concluded his work for the war office, advising them there was
nothing left to discover, and returned to England. The thought of falling
again, much less to marry, only brought back terrible memories.

Avonlea stalked
toward the fireplace, added more logs, and then shifted the others at the
bottom. Ash plumed upward, the dust making his nose twitch. The crackling of
the additions drowned out his previous thoughts.

Life was
unpredictable, much like a fire. A slight breeze could whoosh in and wreak
mayhem. And that mayhem, at present, was called Mother.

She entered
the parlor, gossiping away with his aunt.

He stood,
holding out a chair for first one and then the other at the small round table
facing the front yard. The sky was still quite dark and dreary, but the rain
seemed to have stopped for the time being.

When he sat,
his butler poured the ladies some tea and a port for Avonlea. “Will that be
all, sir?”

He nodded,
though he was tempted to find some excuse to keep the man in the room with him.

The butler left
the parlor, closing the doors behind him.

“So ladies,
how can I entertain you this evening? I imagine it won’t be over a game of

“You, young
man, are remiss in your duties. We expect an announcement by the end of the
season. We are tired of waiting, and…and if you do not choose a wife this
season, we will arrange to have your inheritance amended.” His mother glared
daggers at him, a cold and empty gaze that penetrated to his soul. He knew in
that instant she meant every word and would not hesitate in wielding what power
she had left as a dowager countess.

He downed
the contents of his glass as if they were his last. Avonlea preferred to enjoy
the sweetness of the deep purple tones of the liquor, but it seemed the conversation
would end up making him crazed. Every muscle from his neck down tensed to a
frightfully uncomfortable level.
Christ. She
cannot be serious
? “Mama, Aunt Agatha, I do not take threats well. I
understand you mean well, but I am not ready to take on a wife.”

“Who said
one has to be ready? You marry, and then you carry on with your affairs of the
estate. Besides, what are you waiting for? Love?
a female inclination, not a man’s. And hear me now—I do not threaten the
inevitable. I simply remind of what’s to come, if no action is made.”

Avonlea supposed
his inheritance could be amended, but that would take months, even years.
And who exactly does she think I will lose my
estate to? Hmm.

There was
always his cousin, Albert, who was presently taking up residence in his
expansive manor in Scotland. Would the man really trouble himself in coming so
far? Besides, while Albert made his own riches at gambling whenever he sought
out the tables, his family’s fortune afforded him the security and comforts of
the privacy he required upon his return to England. Perhaps it was best not to
tempt fate.

His mother
set her teacup down with a clatter. “There are a handful of young ladies I have
my eye on. Would you take care in paying attention? I will only mention their
names once, and I will begin arranging for some informal meetings.”

twisted and
anxiety. Would fate be so cruel to make him go through this again? The painful
memories were too much to even give thought to in the presence of his mother
and aunt. At least the woman had suggestions. Though, he could not wait to hear
what prizes she had to offer. “What if I had my own list of women I was

His mother
scoffed. “Pray, amuse your ailing aunt and I, who is on this supposed list?”

Of course, she’d ask me for examples.
is Lady Emily Thompson, the Marquess of Stoughton’s sister. I have also

She gasped
loudly. Her bright blue eyes widened with visible shock. The look alone spoke
volumes. He was in trouble. “You will not tarnish our family’s reputation by
bringing in a Thompson. Scandal will only follow. Or did you happen to miss
last season’s events?”

How could
he? It was as if the devil had his hand in the unfortunate and untimely deaths
of the Duke of Brimley and the Duchess of Downsbury. He could not have been happier
that Nathaniel and his marchioness finally were together.

And then
there was the
’ sister. Emily was an
attractive girl. She had somehow managed to get under his skin. He had thought
of her on occasion these last few months. He had even departed Madame Martine’s
without finishing the evening’s festivities. There were moments whenever he saw
a redheaded young lady, when he somehow wished it had been her.

Yet here was
his mother exclaiming how much she disapproved, even though Emily had played no
part in the scandal. “If that is your only objection to the girl…her familial
relations cannot be helped. One cannot be at fault for who they have for a
mother. Pity that. Though, you have piqued my curiosity. Pray tell, who do you
think would be my match?”

“At the top
of my list of recommendations is Lady Eloise Morton.”

“Was that not
the chit Lord Thompson’s mother tried to pawn on him?”

eloquently put, you clod. More politely put, she was jilted. She’s nice, comes
from a good family, and she’s pretty enough.”

enough! What in damnation does that have to do with anything?”

“A pretty one
is easier to take to bed than an unsightly one.”

While his
mother spoke the truth, he was beguiled more by a woman who spoke her mind. He
needed a companion who was sharp-witted, one who did not cower at the first
sign of a challenge.

“La! Do not
tell me you prefer slightly unconventional girls, Charles?”

“No. Though,
a plain girl would not make many demands, nor have high expectations,” Avonlea
chided while he tapped the edge of the table, waiting for his mama’s reaction.
When she swatted him, he only laughed in response.

“My dear
boy, I am simply considering our lineage. Think of the excellent structure you
have. Were it not for the inheritance of my mother’s eyes, and your fathers
very appealing…
that. Anyway, I have the
most handsome of men for a son, who’s an Earl at that. So, begin to behave as

Avonlea smacked
his forehead. “Mother!”

Besides, think of the darling children the two of you would have.”

His aunt
nodded at the comment. The conversation had clearly gone too far.

“Mama, Aunt
Agatha, I am going to my chambers now to forget everything you’ve just said. If
I find a wife, it’ll be on my own. The day I need my mother to find me one is
the day I take a vow of celibacy. Am I understood?”

He got up
and strode out of the room, slamming the door behind him. His mother’s words rang
loud in his head.
A pretty one is easier
to take to bed than an unsightly one.
What would ever possess her to say
such a thing? Though his vow of celibacy was nothing but malarkey, he wanted
his mother to stop meddling, so he needed to act right away.


* * * *


precious they are, Isabel. They rival any other babies I have seen!” Emily crooned,
cradling the female twin. She envied her glowing sister-in-law, and the brood
she and her brother had created. One day she would be a wife and have children,
mayhap a whole house full of little ones. Warmth washed over her—content
children meant a happy mother and household.
One day this could be my family.

brother mentioned this was your first time around young children, but I will
take your saying so as a compliment.”

“I do hope I
will get to see them often. Mama is in such a state, still. I hope she gets
over the fact you are the new marchioness. She has only had months to get used
to the idea.” Mama would never get over it. Emily knew her far too well to
expect anything less. The woman was likely to take her vengeance to the grave,
if permitted.

“I do, too,
but for the meanwhile, I have other matters with which to occupy my time.”
Isabel winked at her as she rubbed her son’s arm.

As Emily
leaned back into the chair, a nursemaid lifted the sleeping babe from her arms.
She was jealous of her brother and his wife. They had found each other and
happiness, even after all the interference and scandal. She hoped one day to
have a husband who would love her the same way.

But the
question of the hour was whether her mother would ever approve of such
happiness. The dreadful woman would niggle her way into Emily’s life, and
somehow find a way to hinder progress. Were it not for the fact that her mama
was her official guardian—for the time being—she would have found a way to stay
and live here at Stoughton Hall with her brother, his wife, and the twins.

nursemaid entered to collect the second twin, and Isabel rose with a stretch
and yawn. She held out her hand to Emily. “Come now, my dear. You and I shall
take a walk in the garden. I need to talk with you about some rumors I have
heard and could use the fresh air.”

followed her sister-in-law out the side door and down the path where the roses

“So, it has
come to my attention—well, at least the rumors—that the Duke of Downsbury has
returned to town. The servants have been whispering about his intentions to
find another duchess.”

“What does
any of that have to do with me?”

BOOK: 9781618858467ASinfulEducationPimentel
13.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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