Authors: Merry Farmer
Praise for Merry Farmer….
The Loyal Heart
This is a really entertaining book with love, lust, action, intrigue, humour, stress, happiness and sadness and is well worth taking the time out of your day to read.
-Lindsay and Jane’s Views and Reviews
The Faithful Heart
There is enough adventure, romance, and moments of genuine heartbreak here to keep readers glued to their e-readers for the duration.
The Courageous Heart
The action and intrigue begin in the first chapter and continue to the very end. … Readers will root for these star-crossed lovers
Our Little Secrets
[Keeps] the reader believing and turning pages at a rapid rate! … Ultimately making this a totally unique and refreshing bit of fun!
Copyright ©2013 by Merry Farmer
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 this author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover design by Pehr Graphic Design
Cover image of couple
© Konradbak | Dreamstime.com
Cover image of cows in field
© Natalia Bratslavsky | Dreamstime.com
Fool for Love
By Merry Farmer
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kristine Medley Farmer, Angela Quarles, and Samantha Warren for helping me bring this novel along and make it into everything it has become. Their help, opinions, and nagging mean everything to me.
Special thanks also to Constance Philips, Felicity Young, and Cheryl Kidron for putting up with me, listening to me, and helping me out where they could. It isn’t possible to do this whole novel-writing thing without the help and support of friends like you guys!
For my wonderful editor and friend, Alison Dasho
You taught me everything I know about writing well.
I’ll miss working with you!
Table of Contents
The ballroom of Mr. Reginald Hamilton’s townhouse was awash in bright, swirling colors. The lamps were all lit, bathing the room in a warm, sparkling glow. Musicians played a lively waltz. The scents of candles, perfume, and bodies was rich as half of London society danced their cares away. But above it all, the room buzzed with the sound of lords and ladies spreading the latest gossip.
Amelia Elphick wedged her way through it all, heart pounding terror in her throat, one hand clutching the not-so subtle curve of her stomach. Her simple cotton skirt and blouse marked her as an interloper amongst the finery, even as she struggled to keep her head high.
?” she caught one of the ladies murmuring.
“Dear Lord, that’s the Marquess of Horsham’s daughter!” a second woman gasped.
Amelia blanched, pushing on through the crush. It was too late to turn back.
“Look at the state of her!” the first woman said.
“I heard she’s the governess here now,” the second woman informed her with a haughty sniff.
“That’s not what I meant,” the first replied. “Look at the
Amelia dropped her trembling hand from her belly. She was well aware that she was past the point where her sins could go unnoticed, but this was her last chance. Nick was at this ball.
She spotted him several yards away, deep in conversation with her employer, Mr. Hamilton. Nicholas Hayworth stood tall and handsome, the aristocratic lines of his face sharp in the lamplight. The rich blue of his eyes and black of his hair drew the attention of every woman in the room. She knew his face so well, knew every contour of his nimble body. Even now, with shame threatening like a thundercloud, she wanted to embrace that body, to melt into him and have him tell her everything would be all right.
A different body, as tall as Nick’s but broader and more muscular, bumped into Amelia as she surged toward Nick. The man knocked her off balance, sending her spilling over her feet and his. She flailed for balance and hit a glass out of one of the fine guest’s hands. The man caught her, but the sound of shattering glass and a lady shrieking broke through the hum of gossip. All eyes snapped to her.
“Watch it there, Miss Amelia.”
Amelia raised wary eyes to the man who had both tripped and caught her. Her heart sank. Of all the Hamilton’s guests, she had bumbled into Mr. Quinlan, the American that had been staying in the house for the last few months. He smiled at her with his artless brown eyes and boyish grin and set her back on her feet. The hush that had followed her spill burst into a full roar of whispers.
“You all right?” Mr. Quinlan asked again as he brushed imaginary dirty off of her skirt.
All Amelia could manage was a tight nod. “I’m fine, thank you.”
It was a lie. She swallowed and turned, wincing, to Nick. He had seen her stumble. Everyone had seen her stumble. Nick sneered at her, his head tilted with aloof grace. She had to do this now, before it was too late. All eyes bored into her as she rushed through the gap that had formed in the crowd.
“Nick,” she kept her voice low as she reached him, “Nick I must speak with you. It is a matter of utmost urgency.”
She reached out to him. Nick backed away. His glance darted through the crowd that now judged him as much as her.
“I have nothing to say to you, Miss Elphick,” he hissed.
“Please, Nick!” The threat of tears pinched Amelia’s voice. “You know … you know what it’s come to.” She smoothed her hand over the bump of her belly.
Nick sniffed and backed further away. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
To his side, Reginald Hamilton’s back stiffened. His eyes went round with shock and disgust. “Miss Elphick!” he exclaimed in a whisper. “What is the meaning of this?”
A flash of boldness stiffened Amelia’s back and her resolve. “Ask Mr. Hayworth,” she said. “It is his doing.”
Nick blanched, shrinking from the eavesdropping guests. “How dare you!”
“No, Nick, how dare you!” Her attempt at bravado withered as the horror of the situation spilled over her. “I have your child growing inside of me and you know it. You have known it all along, yet you turn your back on me?”
“Miss Elphick,” Mr. Hamilton was red with rage, “Have I have entrusted the care of my precious little girls to a harlot?”
Before Amelia could summon a defense, Nick muttered, “Like mother, like daughter.”
The pitch of whispered gossip around her spun with such fevered intensity that Amelia thought she might swoon. Ripples of shock spread through the room as London’s finest stood on tip-toes to see the tragic farce unfold.
Amelia met Nick’s eyes with what was left of her pride, tears running two hot trails down her cheeks. “I loved you. We were to be married … before.”
“Yes, well that clearly isn’t the case now.” The smirk that bit at Nick’s beautiful face was too much to bear. Every promise he had made shattered.
“My family is not what it once was.” Amelia made one last attempt to stave off ruin, sniffling and wiping her eyes. “But you and I have been friends for too long to break over such things. I thought … I thought you still cared for me.”
“I care for certain parts of you.” Nick’s gaze flickered down.
“Mr. Hayworth,” Mr. Hamilton warned, “my house has seen enough scandal for one night. Pray do not make it double.”
“Forgive me, sir.” Nick bowed low to his host. “It was not my wish to disrupt your magnificent gathering. That, I believe, was the lady’s intent.” His stare pierced Amelia with such malevolence that her heart withered.
“I have no wish to make our private emergencies public,” Amelia countered.
emergencies?” Nick balked. “I think not.”
Amelia’s chest constricted in panic. “You must help me, Nick,” she implored in barely more than a whisper. “You must-”
“There is nothing I
do,” he clipped his reply. “You have ruined yourself, now face the consequences.”
Amelia gulped, tears stinging. A sob caught in her throat as the weight of her sins piled down on her. She stole a desperate glance around the room. Men and women who had smiled and welcomed her at her coming-out just three short years ago now turned up her noses at her as if she was diseased. It was all because she couldn’t control her instincts. Her cheeks
burned scarlet in humiliation.
With one last deep breath she laid her life at Nick’s feet.
“So you have no intention of fulfilling your responsibility toward….” She couldn’t say it. She couldn’t even think that Nick’s child was inside of her. “After all we-”
“Enough, Miss Elphick!” Mr. Hamilton snapped. “Go to your room! We will discuss this in the morning.”
Amelia gasped, blinking rapidly. She had heard that tone of voice, seen the same sharp glower from Mr. Hamilton when one of his daughters had disobeyed. She took another step back, lowering her head. It was no use resisting. Her great gamble had been a failure. Her life was over.
She turned to flee, but where she had hoped to find a quick escape, she was met by a wall of faces. Women and men of refinement and breeding, their jewels as bright as the scorn in their eyes, stared at her as though she was a guttersnipe loose amongst her betters. The turned-up lips, the pointed glares at the bulge of her stomach, the whispering behind hands and fans, flayed Amelia like a scourge.