Authors: Marilyn Clay
Tags: #London Season, #Marilyn Clay, #Regency England, #Chester England, #Regency Romance Novels
A Regency Romance
Brighton Beauty Copyright 1996 by Marilyn Jean Clay
Electronic Edition of Brighton Beauty
Copyright 2012 by Marilyn Jean Clay
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This book is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and of other countries. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, print or electronic, or by any means, including those yet to be invented. Scanning, printing, faxing, E-mailing, digitizing, or copying electronically by any means including methods yet to be invented, or stored in any sort of retrieval system, without written permission from the author Marilyn Clay is illegal and punishable by law.
This novel is intended for your pleasure only. It is against the copyright laws of the United States to give this book to anyone else. Please do not contribute to the unlawful pirating of copyrighted material. Thank you for respecting the copyright laws and for protecting the author’s hard work and her livelihood. BRIGHTON BEAUTY is a work of fiction. All names in this publication are fictitious; or if real, are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is coincidental.
raise for BRIGHTON BEAUTY:
"The pressure never lets up on this hero and heroine! Well done!" –
Regency author, Melissa Frederick
"Ms. Clay writing and characterization are excellent!" –
Bestselling historical author, Patricia Rice.
“A clever tale, both heartwarming and funny!” –
Emma Roundtree, author.
should like to speak with Miss Grant," demanded Miss Alayna Marchmont, a cool gaze directed at Mr. Merribone, the proprietor of Merribone's Millinery Establishment in London.
"Ah, yes," Mr. Merribone replied proudly, a quick glance taking in the exquisitely gowned young lady before him. "Miss Grant is our most popular designer. I shall fetch her for you straightaway, madam."
He turned and headed for the workroom of the small, but fashionable, millinery shop, located near Bond Street. On the way, he paused before another Quality customer browsing in the store that morning. A few seconds elapsed as he waited patiently for the woman to acknowledge him. Receiving at last the encouragement he sought, an almost imperceptible nod of her elegantly-coiffed head, Mr. Merribone smiled broadly.
"Good day, Lady Carstairs! And how are you this fine morning? If I may direct your attention to the lovely Semptress, my lady." He pointed to a pretty Italian straw confection bedecked with bright red cherries and a splash of
ribbon. "And, just there is another of our original designs, a frilled Coburg. Both bonnets were created by our Miss Grant."
"Hmmm," Lady Carstairs murmured, at once snatching up the Semptress, while another finely turned out lady, whose ears had also perked up at the mention of Grant's name, made what could only be described as a lunge for the high-crowned Coburg.
Though pleased, Mr. Merribone cast an anxious glance toward the attractive young lady who had initially sent him on his errand, and noting the impatient press of her lips, he hastened his step. Reaching the curtained partition at the rear of the shop, which separated the display area from the workroom, he pulled aside the blue damask drapery, his eyes seeking those of his most popular designer, Miss Chelsea Grant.
An exquisite beauty with intelligent brown eyes and porcelain skin, Miss Grant was a rose among weeds in the cramped little workspace. Five other women, of various ages and sizes, were crowded around the work table nearly lost beneath its burden of bare straw bonnets, spools of delicately spun lace and ribbon, miniature birds, waxed fruit and pastel-tinted flowers.
"Miss Grant," the proprietor said, a sharp gaze telling the other women, who had all looked up from their work when he spoke, to carry on. "Another customer is asking to see you this morning, Miss Grant. If you will come this way, please."
Completely ignoring her employer's bidding, Chelsea Grant merely bent her golden head lower over the lilac-satin rosebud she was industriously stitching onto the stiff straw brim of an Oldenburg bonnet.
"Miss Grant!" Mr. Merribone said again, an irritable edge creeping into his tone this time.
Still, Miss Grant did not move, did not even raise inquisitive brown eyes to meet his. However, upon hearing the insistent swish of the damask drapery being yanked shut behind him, she risked a tentative peek upward.
"As you can see, Mr. Merribone," she said evenly, "I am quite busy just now."
You will come this way at once. Miss Grant! At once, I say!"
Chelsea felt her breath grow short. A moment ago, she had not only heard, but clearly recognized, the demanding feminine voice that sent Mr. Merribone scurrying to fetch her.
How on earth had Alayna Marchmont uncovered her whereabouts this time?
Six months ago, when Chelsea had disappeared from the Marchmont town house in Bath, she had purposely taken the precaution of informing the coaching office where she had booked passage to London, that she would
be staying in England, but was on her way to the Continent where an Important Position as governess awaited her. It was a lie, of course, and Chelsea had loathed telling it, but she had to be got rid of Alayna Marchmont's continual interference in her affairs. She simply
"Miss Grant, may I remind you that you are . . ."
Chelsea's stomach churned. "Mr. Merribone, I feel I must refuse your request just now and complete my work on the Oldenburg. As you know, Lady Hepplewhite will be calling for it within the hour."
The proprietor's eyes fairly bulged from his head. "Annie Richards will finish the Oldenburg.
will follow me!"
Terror gripped Chelsea's middle as she cast an apologetic glance at poor little Annie Richards, then with a weary sigh, she rose obediently to her feet and stepped through the curtain that Mr. Merribone was holding open for her.
Chelsea's knees grew weaker with each step she took. Less than a year ago in Brighton, it had taken but a few well-chosen words from Alayna Marchmont to relieve her of her post as paid companion to the elderly Lady Hennessey. It had been Chelsea's first employment since both she and Alayna had left Miss Farringdon's Academy For Young Ladies in Brighton. True, Alayna had been instrumental in helping secure the post for Chelsea, but that did not give her the right to continue to order Chelsea about afterwards, did it?
Catching sight of her former schoolmate standing just inside the doorway of the shop, Chelsea's heart hammered in her ears. As usual, Alayna looked lovely. Today, she wore a pale blue woolen pelisse over a fitted gown of matching blue serge. Chelsea took especial note of the blue silk Huntley that topped the fringe of curls gracing Alayna's brow, curls that were the exact same shade of gold as Chelsea's.
Unconsciously, she smoothed the folds of her dark merino skirt, aware of the rough feel of the fabric beneath her fingers. Since she departed Bath last winter, which is where Alayna insisted Chelsea accompany her on holiday that fateful day she had called at Lady Hennessey's, she'd not been able to afford a single new frock for herself. Just managing food and lodging was an arduous enough task.
Still, she was happy with her new life in London, and proud of her growing reputation as a talented bonnet designer. She forced her chin up a notch. She would not let Alayna Marchmont ruin this position for her. She would not!
"Miss Grant and myself at your service, madam," Mr. Merribone said in a fawning tone.
Chelsea held her breath as Alayna directed a cool gaze her way.
"How do you do, Miss Grant. I am Miss Alayna Marchmont." The look in her steel-blue eyes challenged Chelsea.
Alayna pretending they were not acquainted? How very astonishing!
"H-how do you do, Miss Marchmont," she managed.
"Very well, thank you, Miss Grant. Now that I have located you, that is."
The icy smile on Alayna's lips filled Chelsea's stomach with dread.
What would Alayna say now?
The pretty blonde flicked a gaze at the shopkeeper. "It seems all of my friends in Town are wearing Miss Grant's designs," she said sweetly. "And, I daresay I am quite eager to acquire a number of them for myself." She paused, her ice blue eyes cutting again to Chelsea. "I understand Miss Grant is from Brighton."
Chelsea's heart fluttered wildly in her breast.
"As it happens," the young lady continued, "I, myself, attended school in Brighton."
"Ah, what a fascinating coincidence, indeed, Miss Marchmont! Surely you are aware that our Miss Grant is the granddaughter of the famous philanthropist from Brighton, Sir George Andover. You must know of the gentleman. Quite generous he was, quite generous, indeed!"
Chelsea's breath lodged convulsively in her throat. It was the very opening Alayna was contriving for. She had used the same tack with Lady Hennessey. If Alayna said
disparaging word about Grandpapa Andover today, Chelsea feared she would lose all control. No, she was
The smile on Alayna's lips turned calculating. "Indeed, I have heard many glowing accounts of the eminent Sir George. Still, one can only wonder if Miss Grant has told you . . .
about her famous grandpapa?"
"Oh, there was hardly a need for Miss Grant to elaborate," Mr. Merribone gushed. "Everyone who
anyone is acquainted with that gentleman's altruism. Quite widespread his reputation was, quite widespread, indeed."
"Hmmm," Alayna murmured, a sly gaze still fixed on Chelsea. "You must feel fortunate, Mr. Merribone, to have such a famous personage in your employ."
"Oh, indeed, I do, Miss Marchmont! Indeed I do!"
Chelsea fought for control as Alayna continued to speak calmly.
"I should like to invite Miss Grant to take tea with me this afternoon, Mr. Merribone." She favored the round-faced shopkeeper with another charming smile. "I am all a-tremor to view for myself Miss Grant's latest sketches. I am staying with my aunts in Town; number 12, Portman Square. A goodly number of my aunt's friends will also be present this afternoon. I daresay they are as eager as I to own bonnets designed by Miss Grant."
Mr. Merribone's smile was so wide it nearly split his face in two. "Your wish is my command, Miss Marchmont! Indeed, it is!"
Suddenly, Chelsea's voice cut in. "I am sorry to disappoint you, Miss Marchmont, but I am far too busy to leave my post today."
Mr. Merribone gasped. "Begging your pardon, Miss Marchmont. I assure you Miss Grant did not mean what she said. She shall be honored to take tea with you this afternoon. You have only to name the hour, Miss Marchmont. Only to name the hour."
Alayna turned a triumphant smile on Chelsea. "Four of the clock will suit nicely, Mr. Merribone."
At half past three, Chelsea rose stiffly from her place at the workbench and reluctantly reached for her own flat chip bonnet, which she had recently refurbished with a new green ribbon. After tying a perfect bow beneath her chin, she woodenly gathered up her reticule and sketchbook and quitted the millinery shop, headed for fashionable Portman Square on foot.
If her stomach were not churning so frightfully, she might enjoy the free feeling of being out-of-doors in the middle of the afternoon. As it was, the sharp sting of an April breeze whipping color to her cheeks and causing the long folds of her skirt to flap noisily against her legs as she walked only irritated her further. She hugged a light woolen shawl closer about her shoulders. It, too, was an unwanted reminder of Alayna, being one of a number of cast-off items Alayna had given to Chelsea this past winter in Bath.
Oh! Was she never to be rid of Alayna Marchmont's interference in her life?