Always a Rogue, Forever Her Love

BOOK: Always a Rogue, Forever Her Love
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Always 


Rogue,

Forever 

Her 

Love

 

 

By Christi Caldwell

For Vivian

 

Your love and care for my children will be forever appreciated.

Acknowledgements

 

To Kristan Higgins and Alexandra Hawkins. At one of the most difficult times in my life, your books lifted me up and filled me with joy. I can only say thank you. And thank you for supporting me as I put my own words to page.

 

And for Sarah. Thank you for being the first to read Sin and Juliet’s story…

 

Always a Rogue, Forever Her Love

Copyright © 2014 by Christi Caldwell

Cover design by Lily Smith

Copyedits by: Sandra Sookoo Editing Services

Proofreading Services: Judicious Revisions, LLC

Formatting by Graphics4Authors.com

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without written permission.

 

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.

For more information about the author:

www.christicaldwellauthor.com

[email protected]

Twitter: @ChristiCaldwell

Or on Facebook at: Christi Caldwell Author

 

Chapter 1

 

April 1819

London, England

 

“Hullo, Popp…”

“Shh!”

Jonathan Tidemore, the 5
th
Earl of Sinclair, slowed to a halt in the midst of the foyer. He tossed his cloak to the waiting butler and stared up the long, winding staircase to where his youngest sister sat with her legs dangling through the slats at the top.

“Trouble again, Poppet?” his whisper echoed off the marble floor and carried through the expansive space.

Poppy pointed another finger at her mouth. “I said, hush, Sin. Things are dire.” She slapped the back of her hand to her forehead in a flourishing manner.

Which could only mean…

He sighed. “You’ve driven off Mrs. Atleby, I gather?”

“Mrs. Battleby,” Poppy muttered under her breath. “She was horrid, Sin.”

“I’ve told you not to call me, Sin.”

Poppy wrinkled her nose. “Whyever not? It is vastly more interesting than Jonathan.”

He grinned and started up the stairs. “You have me there.”

Poppy drew her legs back when he reached the main level and sat with her legs crossed in front of her. He’d learned long ago to not bother himself with instructing his sisters Poppy, Prudence, or Penelope, in any matters of proper deportment.

Then, considered one of Society’s most insufferable rogues, there was very little he could contribute on topics pertaining to ladylike behaviors.

“What have you done now?”

His sister drew her knees to her chest and glared. “
I’ve
done nothing.” She smiled a mischievous smile that would either be the death of their mother or the next, poor governess surely needed for his three youngest sisters.

Jonathan leaned against the wall and folded his arms across his chest. He arched an eyebrow.

“Very well.” She let out a beleaguered sigh. “Mrs. Battleby was instructing us on the topic of watercolors.
Watercolors
,” she cried, and shook her head.

He slapped a hand to his chest. “Egad, never say watercolors?”

At her young years, Poppy still had not yet learned the subtlety of sarcasm, for she nodded. “Our sentiments exactly, Sin!
We
merely insisted on an altogether different subject matter.” She hopped to her feet. “After all, painting fruit and flowers is ever so boring.”

He narrowed his eyes. “And I gather it is the alternative subject matter to have sent Mrs. Battle…er, Atleby packing?”

She opened her mouth to speak, but their mother’s cry from down the hall cut into her response. “Please, Mrs. Atleby, I implore you!”

His sister’s eyes went wide as the old, stern-faced woman with crimped grey hair appeared down the long hall. Their mother trotted along behind her like one of the Queen’s terriers.

Which spoke a good deal to their mother’s desperation. Mother never did anything as plebian as trot.

Poppy cursed and took off down the hall in the opposite direction. With their hoydenish ways and tendency for trouble, his sisters would someday prove the end of him, and by the desperate gleam in Mother’s eyes, she’d be the first casualty of their bad behavior.

Jonathan slipped inside his office before old Battleby and Mother came upon him. After all, if Mother couldn’t manage to convince the old governess to continue working with her three difficult charges, well, then Jonathan was certainly without hope of convincing her.

The best he could say about his sisters is they could spit, curse, and deliver a solid facer with the best of them. The worst he could say was they were outrageously ill-behaved, and highly improper.

Mother’s cry from down the foyer penetrated the panel of his office door. Jonathan winced and crossed over to his sideboard. He picked up the nearest crystal decanter and sloshed several fingerfuls of whiskey into a tumbler.

He picked the drink up and took a sip, welcoming the wicked burn it blazed down his throat, bracing him for the impending storm.

Jonathan’s gaze slid over to the ormolu clock atop the fireplace mantle across the room. By his growing familiarity with how this all went, Mother would enter in a matter of minutes, shattering his solitude, and unleash a monologue to rival the greatest Greek tragedies of the woes of raising four incorrigible daughters and a roguish son who’d not do right by the Sinclair line and wed a proper English miss.

Jonathan took another sip.

The door opened, and Mother swept in. She threw her arms up. “This is an utter disaster, Jonathan. Whatever are we to do? They’re incorrigible. Utterly, hopelessly, helplessly incorrigible,” she cried.

“Mother.” He inclined his head in greeting. “To what do I owe the honor of this meeting?”

Her eyes snapped fire as she met his teasing stare. “This is not a matter to make light of. We’re now on the fifth governess. No, sixth now as Mrs. Battle…er, Atleby has gone and left us.”

Jonathan wandered over to his desk and propped his hip on the edge of the mahogany surface. “Has it been six?”

Not one given to a show for the dramatics as his three sisters and mother, he could readily admit six did seem a rather disconcerting number of governesses to go through.

“Mrs. Smith,” Mother said.

Mrs. Smith had been young and hadn’t had a single chance where his three sisters were concerned.

“Then, Mrs. Sampson,” she ticked off on her fingertips.

“Ah, yes, the whole incident with the frogs in the woman’s teacups.”

“In her bonnet, Jonathan. Her bonnet,” Mother said covering her face with her hands and shaking it back and forth. She dropped them back to her side and proceeded to go through the list. “After Mrs. Sampson, there was Mrs. Dundlebottom.”

Jonathan coughed into his hand to bury a laugh, knowing Mother wouldn’t be in a forgiving mood if he were to laugh outright in remembrance of Mrs. Dundlebottom. But really? Mrs. Dundlebottom? And she’d certainly had quite the sizeable, er…bottom. “Whatever happened to Mrs. Dundlebottom?”

“Does it rather matter now?”

No, he supposed it rather didn’t.

“Then there was Mrs. Jenkins.”

He frowned at the reminder of the sour, pinch-faced crony who’d dared to put her hands upon Penelope. She’d slapped his sister but once before he’d turned her out. “Mrs. Jenkins does not count toward the five,” he felt inclined to point out.

Mother folded her arms and tapped her foot in clear annoyance. “I’ll concede on that point, but what of Mrs. Sternwood?”

Had there been a Mrs. Sternwood? That one he didn’t remember. She mustn’t have lasted more than a fortnight. Rather disappointing for a governess with the name of Sternwood. His ears pricked up as he detected the faintest giggle.

Mother lowered her eyebrows. “Whatever is that noise?”

“What noise? Was there a noise? I didn’t hear a sound.” He glanced over Mother’s shoulder to Poppy who peeked her head into his office. She winked at him.

His lips twitched.

“Do you find this amusing, Jonathan? Because I assure you, it is not amusing in the least. I’ve run out of options where governesses are concerned. Why, I have the only girls in the whole of the kingdom without a suitable governess and it is all their fault—”

“Except for Mrs. Jenkins.”

“Yes, except for Mrs. Jenkins,” she concurred. “But that is neither here nor there, because now we’ve lost Mrs. Atleby.”

Jonathan raised his glass and took another swallow. “What do you propose then?”

“What do I propose? What do
I
propose?” His mother’s voice increased in volume and he winced at the high-pitched sound sharp enough to cut glass. Oh hell, first trotting then screeching, yes, this had only gone bad from worse for the Tidemore siblings. “What I propose Jonathan Marcus Harold Tidemore is that you do your duty and find a suitable countess…”

And she’d taken the conversation this direction. Again. It invariably found its way back to his bachelor state. Some days it would be, ‘I’m planning a dinner party, you need a countess.’ Other days it would be, ‘It is raining. You shouldn’t be out riding, lest you catch a chill and die before you carry on the Sinclair line.’

“I’d found a suitable countess,” he felt inclined to point out. It had hardly been his fault the young lady he’d set his marital sights upon had chosen to marry the more straight-laced, ever-frowning Geoffrey Winters, Viscount Redbrooke.

His mother snorted.

Trotting, screeching, and snorting. Oh, blast and
bloody
hell.

“I would hardly consider the American young lady you’d taken it into your fool head to court would ever be viewed as suitable countess material.”

Jonathan disagreed. Miss Stone, now, Viscountess Redbrooke, had been a delight. He’d imagined they would have gotten on famously. Considering his mother and four minxes of sisters, the young lady had no idea the certain calamity she’d managed to avoid when she’d selected Redbrooke. “I believe we’ve deviated just a bit,” a lot, “from the real matter of concern.”

Mother blinked. “Oh, well, yes,” she waved a hand. “There is the whole matter of the governesses, but of equal concern is your unwed state.”

And here he’d thought the disaster of his sisters’ governess-less state would have captured Mother’s sole focus for at least a fortnight, allowing him to carry on as he pleased. He sighed. He should have learned long ago that little could alter her matchmaking tendencies. Hell, since he’d inherited the earldom twelve years past, she’d made it a goal to play matchmaker for him.

Jonathan downed the remaining contents of his tumbler and grimaced. Vile brew. He detested the stuff. Since his friend Drake had returned from the Peninsula War several years back, he at least made a concerted effort to avoid all things French.

With the exception of lovely French mistresses, of course.

“Are you listening to me, Jonathan?” his mother’s question snapped into his silent musings.

No. “Yes.”

“No, he wasn’t,” a voice sounded from the doorway.

He set his glass down with a thunk as the eldest of his sisters, Patrina, swept in. At nineteen, she was the only one of them to have officially made her Come Out and hadn’t yet to secure a match, which Jonathan understood. He couldn’t name a single blighter worthy of her…even if she was a bossy bit of baggage most times.

“Trina,” he went and poured himself another whiskey. He held it up in salute.

“I told you not to call me Trina. I’m nineteen, now,” his sister said with a flounce of her black curls.

He made his eyes go wide with seriousness. “A whole nineteen years? My sister has become a world-weary woman. Tell me, have you come to discuss the situation of Mrs. Battleby?”

“Atleby,” Patrina and Mother exclaimed in unison.

“And no, I’ve not come to discuss Mrs. Atleby, but rather you, Jonathan.”

He set his drink down. Suddenly, the title-grasping young ladies he went to great lengths to avoid seemed vastly preferable to the mutinous set to Patrina and Mother’s mouths, and the like glimmers of disapproval in their eyes. He drummed his fingers on the Chippendale sideboard. “Well, on with it, then,” he drawled.

BOOK: Always a Rogue, Forever Her Love
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