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Authors: Cari Hislop

Tags: #historical romance, #regency romance, #romance story, #cari hislop, #romance and love, #romance novel

A Companion for Life (26 page)

BOOK: A Companion for Life
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“Like me.”

“You’re not noble.”

“My grandfather was an Earl.”

“My grandfather was a Duke”

“Well will you be my hermitress or not?
You’ll have to ponder me…unless you can’t bear to think about me. I
suppose you’ve been hermiting away in some corner of the house
thinking of your old flame Lord Morley.”

“Why do you always bring him up? He was a big
sheep turd. I’m glad I bit him.”

“So am I, but you didn’t think he was
revolting when you thought he’d make you his countess.”

“I was a stupid child. Are you going to hold
that against me for the rest of my life?”

“Well you did break my heart, even if I don’t

“At least I wasn’t the one who bed your
uncle’s mistress and then attacked Aunt Lily with a penknife.”

“I was drunk.”

“You were stupid. Why else would you bed Lady
Gillingham and then believe her lies about Aunt Lily’s hair casting
a spell over Uncle? If the simpering Miss Gruffydd knew what you’ve
done she wouldn’t be half so impressed with you.”

“She wouldn’t believe you; she thinks I’m a

“She’s an idiot!”

“True, but I find pretty idiots rather

Grace choked on a sob. “Are you going to
marry her?”

“Probably not…she’d insist I sacked my
hermitress. Why would I give up my goosey-girl for a young lady who
laughs like a horse?”

“Because she has seventeen thousand pounds
and good connections.”

“Pity she bores me. Will you be my hermitress
or do I have to pay some other pretty wench to sit in my garden and
think of me?”

Isn’t a hermit supposed to think
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
or something?”

“I’ll have no hermitress in my garden
thinking about some dead Frenchman. You either take my coin and
think of me or stay here with Uncle Penryth and eat porridge

“I’ll be your hermitress; I’ll think of you
every day. I’ll even sing songs when you come to visit me.”

“Bawdy ones? About ladies losing their

“Don’t be disgusting. I’ll be your hermitress
not your mistress. I’ll only sing nice songs about…lovers.”

“I don’t know if I want a hermitress who
won’t sing me bawdy songs.”

“You can’t keep changing what you expect me
to do Idiot! Do you need a hermitress or not?” The man holding her
burst out laughing holding her tightly in his arms.

“What’s so funny?”

He was laughing so hard his eyes were
watering. “You’re such a silly goose; having a hermit in the garden
went out of fashion years ago and I wouldn’t let you sleep in a
cave Goosey-girl; you’d be ravaged by every libertine this side of
Offa’s dyke.”

“I hate you!” Her heart threatened to crack
as she renewed her sobs. She was going to be left behind and she’d
never see him. She was still crying when he’d run out of

He sighed in contentment his voice suddenly
husky, “Will you hate me Goosey if I tell you that your recent
hermiting has hurt like a rotten tooth?”

“You’re lying!”


“You missed me?”

“Terribly. Why were you hiding from me?”

“I was practicing being lonely without you. I
miss you and you haven’t even left yet. I’ll be lucky if I see you
once a year and I want to die.”

“Silly goose…” She was swept off her feet
into his arms like the time she was ill and couldn’t make it back
up the stairs to her room. She wrapped an arm around his neck
knowing she’d have to soon let go; he’d sworn countless times he’d
never ask her to marry him a second time. He was shouting orders
over her head and then she was being carried outside. She could
feel sunlight on her arm and his footsteps crunching over the
drive. Then he was stopping. “Hop in and sit down. There’s
something I want to show you.” She was eased out of his arms into a
carriage. She sat on the forward facing bench and looked through
her tears to see he was reaching out the door for something. A few
seconds later he turned back towards her holding one of her
bonnets. “I told them I wanted the blue one and they brought the
blue-green one. It’ll have to do. Here put this on.”

She was so surprised by the inanity of the
statement she stopped crying. “Why?”

“Trust me!”

“Every time you say that I end up eating
porridge and water for a fortnight.”

“You’ll never eat porridge again, I

She wiped her eyes and listened to the
familiar thud of trunks being dropped onto the carriage as she tied
the ribbons on her bonnet into a bow. “Where are we going?”

“I’ll tell you in a minute…no that trunk goes
on top…here give me my hat…yes, tell Mrs Jones we’ll eat the
cake…Oh Mam bach! What now? Leave it. I’m not waiting ten minutes
for a blasted bonnet.” William climbed in now carrying a basket and
wearing a hat. Pulling the door closed with a satisfying click he
sat down across from her with his back to the horses. “Servants!”
He dropped the basket on the bench and held out his handkerchief.
“It’s mostly clean.”

The coachman cracked the whip and they were
trundling down the drive. She tried to blow her nose, but she
inhaled his scent and burst into tears. “We’re going to get in
trouble…Uncle will make me eat porridge for a month.”

“You won’t eat porridge again, I’m kidnapping

“But you lost last month’s allowance for
shooting Mr Lloyd’s prize milk cow.”

“That was very unfair. I wasn’t aiming for
the stupid cow, I was practicing my shot. The stupid animal
committed suicide.”

“Cows can’t commit suicide; they don’t even
know they’re alive.”

He laughed from the belly and then sighed in
contentment. “That’s why I’m kidnapping you.”

“You’re kidnapping me because cows can’t
commit suicide?”

“I’m kidnapping you because you’re a silly
goose who makes me laugh.”

“You’re mad! Where are we going?”

“Scotland. I understand the scenery is quite
stunning this time of year.”

“How can you afford a trip to Scotland? You
told me three months ago you’d spent all your money. Did you steal
from Uncle Penryth? He’ll kill you!”

“I borrowed two hundred pounds from Jones.
The old miser tried to charge me forty percent interest. He refused
to go under twenty-five percent, but it’s worth it.”

“How would Jones have two hundred pounds? And
why would he lend it to you?”

“He’s probably made a fortune off Uncle.
He’ll earn 50 pounds, why wouldn’t he lend it to me? I bought you
something. He dug in the basket and pulled out what looked like a
thick stumpy tube of paper.

Grace untied the string and unrolled a blue
silk shawl that would have matched her blue hat. “Oh William…it’s

“Not as lovely as you.”

She hadn’t seen that look since the morning
she’d seduced him. She blushed in relief that he couldn’t remember.
“I can’t be your mistress; I’d rather eat porridge the rest of my
life. I thought we were friends. I thought you cared; you know it
hurts when people sneer at me for being a disgraced bastard. Why
would I want to add hussy to the list?”

“Only my Goosey-girl would think on being
told that she’s being carried off to Scotland that her abductor
wanted her to be his mistress. When the smithy strikes the anvil
and I address you as Mrs Bowen will you let me kiss you?”

“But you said you’d never marry me.”

“No, I said I’d never ask you to marry me
again; they’re two separate things silly.” Her traveling companion
suddenly switched seats and slid up next to her. “Give me your


“I want to practice holding it for the
ceremony.” He took her offered hand and pulled it to his lips.

“I didn’t think we had to hold hands to be
married over an anvil.”

“We don’t, but you’ll hold my hand.”


“Because I love you and I want to hold your

Grace felt her heart lurch as she snapped her
head to the side to see his whole face. “You love me?”

“Since the day we met. I asked you a question
and you said something silly that made me laugh for days. I thought
I’d never drag you away from those simpering English Lords long
enough to convince you I was superior in every way.”

“Uncle said you never loved me.”

“How would that old fart know what I felt?
Every time I look at you I feel like I’m in heaven. You’re the
loveliest Goosey-girl ever born.” Grace blushed with pleasure at
hearing the longed for words. “You may now tell me how much you
admire my handsome figure. Don’t try to deny it. I’ve seen you
watching me.”

“Vain beastly toad! If I didn’t love you I’d
marry Mr Price. He never laughs at me or calls me an idiot.”

William pulled her hand to his lips.
“Goosey-girl, he doesn’t know you like I do and even if he did his
heart couldn’t love you more than mine. If you’re an idiot, it’s
because you love me even though you know I’m a toad. If that awful
Miss Gruffydd knew what a heartless cad I can be she’d run away so
fast they’d say her mother had four legs. Now how can I not love
you for being the most charming, loveliest idiot?”

“You’ll never disown me?”

“The day I disown my Goosey-girl I’ll be a
lunatic chained to a wall. In which case I hope you discount it as
the ravings of a madman and visit me all the same because deep down
I’ll be dying for you.”

“I love you.” He looked nineteen as he
clutched her hand and leaned closer. She tipped back her head and
stared into adoring eyes. “Are you really taking me to Scotland to
marry me?”

“Ei! If I have to see Mr Price smile one more
time as he asks after your health I’m going to punch him. We’ll be
married before Uncle can give me a lecture on husbandly courtesies.
Fart on that! Do you want me to be some sort of chivalrous
doppelganger of Uncle Penryth?”

“Na! If you weren’t a toad I’d think you were
possessed by an angel. I’d have to get a priest in to exercise
you.” Her companion burst out laughing and took possession of her
lips leaving no room for the past or the future.

Behind them, standing in front of the
house Mr Jones smiled as his wife appeared at his side. “I’ll send
word after Master Bowen that all has gone to plan.”

“Do you think they’ll ever guess the Master
masterminded their elopement?”

“I planted the idea of kidnapping Miss Grace
so subtly Master William will think it his own idea to his dying
day. Master Bowen said I could keep the interest; the easiest fifty
pounds I’ll ever earn. I’m going to buy you a new bonnet. I hate
that one you bought in London.”

“I like it.”

“It doesn’t suit you. It’s too…cheap.”

“You just hate being reminded you were wrong;
I told you Mr Bowen would fall in love again. It’s a pity she’s
English, but no one’s perfect.”

“No one except for you, Mrs Jones.”

Mrs Jones silently accepted the compliment
with an adoring look reserved for her husband. “I hope they reach
Scotland; you know what happened last time Master William insisted
he knew the way to Cardiff. Heaven only knows how he ended up in

“The coachman knows the way and has specific
instructions to be deaf to any of Master William’s suggestions of
shorter routes. I sent that irritating Goodman with them. I hope he
gets left behind in Scotland. I don’t like how he looks at

“Don’t be ridiculous Mr Jones; he’s just

“If he’s kind,
I’m English. No, when he looks at you his heart is singing…” Mr
Jones filled his lungs and in the lovely tenor voice that first won
his wife’s heart sang,

“A simple
youthful lad am I

Who loves at
fancy’s pleasure:

I fondly watch
the blooming wheat,

Another reaps
the treasure.

Oh! Wherefore
still despise my suit,

Why sighing
keep thy lover?

For some new
charm, thou matchless fair,

I day by day

Each day
reveals some newborn grace,

Or does fond
faith deceive me?

In love to Him
who formed thy face,

With pity now
receive me,

Then lift thine
eyes, one look bestow.

Give me thy
hand, my fairest,

For in thy
bosom, lovely maid,

My heart’s true
key thou barest.

While hair
adorns this aching brow

Still I will
love sincerely,

While ocean
rolls its briny flow

Still I will
love thee dearly.

Then tell the
truth, in secret tell,

And under seal

If it be I or
who is blest

As thy true
heart’s best lover”

BOOK: A Companion for Life
4.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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