Authors: Jennifer McNare
Dreaming of You
By Jennifer McNare
Text Copyright © 2013
All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, organizations and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as factual. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, businesses, or persons is completely coincidental.
Table of Contents:
Books by Jennifer McNare
(Historical Romance Novel)
The Hellion and The Heartbreaker
(Historical Romance Novel)
(Contemporary Romance Novella)
Dreaming of You
(Historical Romance Novel)
“Honestly Gavin, if Mama mentions that dreadful Lord Hensley once more I swear I shall scream,” Natalie Montrose stated vehemently, an exasperated scowl marring her delicate features as she kicked a stray stone from the well-worn footpath with the toe of her leather walking boot.
Gavin Montrose fought the urge to roll his eyes at his seventeen-year-old sister’s fervent declaration. He adored her, but his younger sibling had always had a penchant for the melodramatic, and thus he couldn’t resist ribbing her a bit. “Hensley is quite a catch, Nattie. Are you certain you’re not interested?” he asked, his voice deceptively ingenuous. He knew very well that she had long ago set her sights on their neighbor, Alfred Marshton, Viscount Pennworth, the young man she had harbored a not-so-secret affection for since childhood.
Natalie’s head whipped toward him, her blue eyes wide and her expression incredulous. “You must be joking! The man is a complete lecher, not to mention old enough to be my grandfather.”
“Yes, but he
an earl, and rich as Croesus as well,” he said with mock sincerity, repeating the offhand comment their mother had made earlier that morning. “And considering his advanced age, odds are you will outlive him by a long stretch.” He fought the urge to chuckle as his sister gaped at him in outraged disbelief. “Who knows, if you’re fortunate you could become a wealthy young widow before too many years have passed,” he continued tongue-in-cheek, trying with increasing difficulty to maintain his earnest expression. She stared at him for a long moment, her eyes narrowing in speculation. Despite the fact that their father was a duke, Natalie, like him, wasn’t obsessed with titles and wealth like so many of their peers and she quickly caught on to his game.
“You’re teasing me,” she said, eyeing him in irritation, though her tone was only mildly aggrieved.
“Who me?” he asked with exaggerated innocence.
“You are awful you know.” She shook her head from side to side, causing her long, chestnut-colored ringlets, the color nearly identical to his own short brown locks, to bob and sway around her shoulders.
“True, but you love me anyway.”
“Of course I do you wretch,” she said, swatting his arm playfully. “As does every other female you have ever come in contact with,” she added with a grin, looping her arm through his as they continued their leisurely afternoon stroll.
“What can I say?” He returned her grin with a mischievous one of his own. “My natural charm and devilish good looks are impossible to resist.”
“Honestly, your ego!” Natalie rolled her eyes dramatically.
He laughed aloud, the sound reflecting the lightness of his mood as they walked. He loved the country, as well as the time spent with his family away from the constant hustle and bustle of Town life. Over the past years he had gradually taken on more and more responsibility within the family, assisting his
father and older brother with the direction, as well as the day to day management of their various assets and holdings. He enjoyed the challenge, but unfortunately, it meant spending the vast majority of his time in the city.
He inhaled deeply. The clean, gentle breeze that ruffled the tall grasses and lightly stirred the last of the autumn-colored leaves that clung stubbornly to the branches of the trees, was a refreshing change from the ever-present smog that shrouded London like a heavy blanket.
“Mother is right you know.”
He arched his left eyebrow in a questioning fashion.
too handsome for your own good.”
He merely grinned. He wasn’t vain, but he was well-aware that women found him attractive, and truth be told, he couldn’t say that he minded overmuch. Since losing his virginity as a precocious youth, he had bedded more than his share of accommodating females, thanks in large part to his striking features, emerald green eyes and charming personality; a potent combination, or so he’d been told. “Forgive me if I beg to differ,” he began, his tone still teasing, “but since Richard is set to inherit the title, it only seems fair that
should have inherited the looks in the family, don’t you think?”
I thought we had long ago established that
had inherited the looks in the family,” Natalie stated with mock affront.
“Forgive me, I misspoke of course.” His grin widened as he took in Natalie’s playful pout. She had always been a pretty little thing, but in the past few years his sister had blossomed into a true beauty. He and Richard were certain to have their hands full keeping all of the interested gentlemen at bay when Natalie had her Season.
Rounding a bend in the narrow walking path, their lighthearted banter came to an abrupt halt at the unexpected sight of two men standing on the trail a short distance ahead, the lower portions of their faces hidden behind dark cloths tied about their heads. Natalie clutched his arm more tightly, clearly frightened by the menacing looking figures who had no business being on the private land surrounding Rutherford Park, their family’s country estate. He tensed, two against one, the odds weren’t in his favor but he was big and strong and quick, and unless they were armed he had a chance. Unfortunately however, with his eyes focused on the men ahead, he detected the third man slipping silently from the cover of the trees just a few feet behind, a moment too late. Before he could react he was struck by a crushing blow and in the next instant the back of his head seemed to explode in a burst of agonizing pain. His sister’s terrified scream was the last sound he heard as he crumpled to the ground and everything around him went black.
Melody Cavendish, the eighteen-year-old Countess of Edgington, stared at her husband of two months in stunned disbelief. “My Lord, please…I…you…cannot expect me to go along with this,” she stammered, her voice little more than a ragged whisper.
“I assure you my dear, that I
, and I
,” he replied, his brown eyes cold and hard beneath his bushy grey eyebrows, his steady gaze almost frightening in its intensity.
Melody shook her head from side to side in dismay. “Surely there must be… another way?”
“I believe that I have made myself perfectly clear, Madam.
is how it must be, how it
be.” His voice was harsh and uncompromising. “Would you have me
someone to do the job? An impoverished gentleman down on his luck perhaps, or mayhap you think a mere commoner’s bastard will suffice?” he scoffed angrily. “This child will be my heir. He will be raised as my son. He must be of impeccable lineage, fathered by a true aristocrat. And no one,
,” he stressed, “will ever know that he isn’t truly mine.”
Melody stared at her husband in shock, her thoughts whirling dizzily. “But your nephew, why-”
He cut her off mid-sentence, nearly shouting now. “My nephew is a worthless imbecile!” he spat angrily. “I will not leave my title, my fortune and all that I have worked so hard to attain, to that incompetent lout.” He slammed his fist, speckled with dark-brown age-spots, onto the top of his ornate, mahogany inlaid desk, causing the brandy he held in his other hand to slosh over the rim of the heavy crystal tumbler.
Melody flinched. “My Lord, please…I… I cannot do it.”
“You can and you will!” he barked.
She shrank back into her seat, blinking her eyes against the sting of welling tears. Her husband’s eyes narrowed and he pinned her with an ominous glare. For a moment he said nothing, struggling it seemed to control his temper. She watched him warily, wishing she could say aloud what she was thinking,
that he had assuredly lost his mind
, but knowing she didn’t dare.
Finally, raising his glass, Charles took a sip of brandy, still eyeing her steadily. When he lowered it, his features were slightly more relaxed. Setting the drink onto the desk, he rose to his feet, leaning heavily on his ivory-handled cane as he moved to stand before the tall windows overlooking the expansive front lawn. He said nothing for several long moments, standing still as he gazed outside, his eyes surveying the wide-sweeping, impeccably manicured grounds that fronted the estate. “This child will become a man worthy of my legacy. I shall see to that,” he said after a while, seeming almost to speak only to himself now.
Melody continued to fight the sting of tears as the full magnitude of all that Charles had told her during the past twenty minutes began to sink in.
he lost his mind? Did he honestly intend to abduct a nobleman and then expect her to lay with him, expect him to get her with child? The mere idea was abhorrent, inconceivable! How could he expect her to agree to such madness, despite the severity of his
threats? And what of the man, the nobleman he intended to snatch and hold against his will? What lengths would he go to, to ensure
cooperation? The mere notion was corrupt, immoral and utterly depraved. It was nothing less than insanity. She wanted to scream, to throw something, to run away, but of course she could do none of those things. Instead, she offered one last plea. “Please, My Lord, please do not do this.”
“It is already done.”
An arrogant, self-satisfied smile appeared on her husband’s wrinkled countenance as he turned to face her, causing her chest to tighten in sudden fear. “What do you mean?” she gasped, her fingers clutching helplessly at the folds in the silk skirt of her pale-pink morning gown, unconsciously wrinkling the expensive fabric beyond repair.
“The gentleman I selected was taken without incident this very morning. I received word not more than an hour ago.”
The horror she felt must have shown on her face, for Charles’ expression once again turned cold and deadly serious.
“I meant what I said before, my dear. If you refuse to cooperate, I
call in all of your father’s debts, the debts I so graciously agreed to cover when you accepted my marriage proposal,” he stated calmly. “Your father will spend the rest of his life rotting in a debtor’s prison,” he continued, his voice callous and unkind, “and I will immediately cut off all support to your family. Your mother and that invalid brother you are so fond of will be left homeless and penniless.”