Authors: Grace Burrowes
Copyright © 2014 by Grace Burrowes
Cover Design by Wax Creative, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Grace Burrowes Publishing.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Hadrian: Lord of Hope
is Published by Grace Burrowes Publishing
21 Summit Avenue
Hagerstown, MD 21740
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-941419-06-9
To the victims of crime—may they have the truth, safety, restitution, and a meaningful expression of remorse—and to the champions of restorative justice, now more than ever.
“Must you be so gleeful about your departure?”
Hadrian Bothwell’s question carried a hint of peevishness, because in addition to leaving behind the title, the wealth, and the status of Viscount Landover, Harold would also leave
Hadrian, the only family Harold could claim for the past two decades.
“Yes, I must be so gleeful. I’ve waited years to be this gleeful, Hay.” Harold rummaged inside the vast depths of the estate desk, then held up a piece of paper. “I knew it was in here!”
“My Domesday list.” Harold fairly bounced around the desk, bringing the paper to Hadrian. “These are all the petty instructions I’m afraid I’ll forget. If you read them now, I can decipher them for you.”
Hadrian set the paper aside rather than crumple it in his fist. “You really are leaving.”
“God willing,” Harold replied, his smile fading. “I pray you won’t hate me for it.”
Prayer. An interesting notion, considering Hadrian had left a vicar’s calling in Yorkshire to heed Harold’s summons.
“You’ll come back and visit?”
“As often as you like, Hay. Give me time to dust off a convincing amount of Danish and settle myself among mama’s cousins.”
Sea voyages would lay between Hadrian and his brother, and sea voyages could be fatal. “You’ll let me know if you don’t end up in Denmark?”
Harold picked up his appropriately named list. “The address of my residence, the exact address, is right on this paper. Louise has been given the same information, in case you lose it, which you won’t.”
“I most assuredly will not be asking your… associate’s wife where my brother has got off to.”
“Associate.” Harold leaned a hip on the desk and crossed his arms, the picture of typical Bothwell blond, blue-eyed good looks and country-squire health. Hadrian would look exactly like him in ten years.
“What do you call him?” The peevishness was back, closer to the surface, and Hadrian hated it. He also hated Harold’s traveling companion, proof positive the Church of England was better off without Hadrian Bothwell in any pulpit.
“I call him Andy,” Harold said, though they both know knew he also referred to the man in far more intimate terms. “Or Finch, or sometimes, when he’s being difficult, James Anderson Finch. If I want to twit him, I call him your lordship.”
“Finch, then.” A handsome blond fellow with sad blue eyes and a quiet laugh. Also—Hadrian could not fathom this—the father of two boys and a baby girl.
“Do you resent Andy because I’m going away with him, or resent him because he has the audacity to be close to your one and only brother, Hay?”
. The very word made Hadrian shudder. “Both, and because you are intent on traveling so far away.”
Harold plucked a set of keys from the wax jack and tossed them aloft, catching them neatly. “Off I shall sail, leaving you orphaned amid all this wealth and comfort.”
“I don’t want the wealth and comfort.” A vicar learned not to want them, but Hadrian hadn’t missed them one bit during his sojourn with the church.
Up the keys went again, nearly to the cherubs cavorting about the molding.
“Yes, Hay, you do. You’ve always known you’d be my heir, always had the expectation of the titles, no matter you never traded on them. You’ll be good at this.”
All true enough, damn the man for his honesty. “I will do my duty. What makes you think I’m any more suited to marriage and procreation than you are?”
Harold’s fine blond brows rose in consternation, and this time when he caught the keys, he kept hold of them. “
“You assume because I was married to Rue I’m eager to trot up the church aisle and fill the nursery with my offspring.”
“You were married to
,” Harold said, firing the keys into a desk drawer and slamming it closed. “Meek, pretty, sweet Rue.”
“You didn’t like my wife?”
“She was lazy.” Harold took a seat behind the desk, looking exactly appropriate there. “Ask your former parishioners if Vicar Bothwell’s missus sat at many sickbeds or lying-ins. Ask them if she came to call as soon as condolences could be offered. Did she ever entertain a neighbor’s children so the new mother could get off her feet?”
Hadrian perched a hip on the corner of the desk, because they were, after all, to have some difficult, plain speaking. “It’s not like you to pillory Rue posthumously.”
Though Hadrian would listen to Harold’s criticism of Rue endlessly if it kept James Finch from the conversation.
Harold twiddled a white quill pen, a habit Hadrian had seen him indulge in since boyhood. “You do not approve of Andy; I was not pleased with your choice of spouse, either.”
Finch was not Harold’s spouse and never would be.
“You’ve had the good manners to keep this discontent to yourself,” Hadrian surmised, “because Rue might have produced the Landover heir?”
Abetted by her husband, of course.
Harold brushed the quill across his chin. “You married her, and because she was part of your flirtation with the church, I preferred her company for you to that of some cavalry regiment’s.”
“Good of you.” Hadrian shoved off the desk, because he, too, would have preferred marriage to a cavalry regiment for his only brother. This sailing trip fit somewhere far closer to the regiment than marriage. “Rue wasn’t that bad.”
Harold set the pen in its stand. “Neither is Andy. I will have this trip, Hay, whether you like him or not, so please like him.”
“I’m trying,” Hadrian replied, dredging up a smile for his brother. Though Hadrian was all but certain Harold and dear Andy were engaging in hanging felonies upon which the church frowned mightily.
And yet, who better than a former vicar to grasp the need for tolerance among frail and imperfect humans? Who better than a man with only one brother to call his own to admit the folly of casting aside that brother when Harold had all but raised Hadrian?
“Are you asking me to stay?” Harold pretended to study his list, but he was a considerate man, and he’d afford Hadrian what fig leaves he could. “You would still have the burden of the succession, and the Continent is a much more tolerant place for such as I.”
What of Andy’s lady wife, who had borne him three children—the requisite heir and spare among them? How was she to fare during this indefinite travel in search of tolerance and a fine command of Danish?
“I know you deserve to travel, after all these years of tending your acres, Hal, but I still feel as if I’m sending you away to war. I can’t protect you when you’re off across the water.”
“Nor can I protect you,” Harold pointed out, and as the elder by eight years, Harold had protected Hadrian from much. “When’s the last time you really needed a big brother, Hay? You’ve been all grown up for some time, and I think you turned out rather well.”
If honesty was all that remained to them, then honesty they would have.
“I need you,” Hadrian said, wandering over to the family Bible, which sat on a gate-legged table across from the hearth and by custom lay open to the Twenty-Third Psalm. Hadrian turned the page, to the Twenty-Seventh Psalm.
Hide not thy face far from me
“Maybe I don’t need you the way I did as a youth,” Hadrian went on, “but you are all the family I have, and when Rue died, nobody could have stepped in as you did.”
“I’ll still step in. The mails are more reliable than ever now that the Corsican isn’t a threat.”
“I’ve been thinking about that.” Hadrian kept his voice even, lest he betray that he’d in truth been fretting endlessly, not merely thinking. “You should take some pigeons with you when you leave here.”
Hadrian flapped his hands. “The ones that fly
Hazelton raises them over at Blessings. Wellington used them, and not much besides a bad storm can stop them.”
“I hadn’t considered them, that’s all. It’s a good idea, one of many you’ll no doubt bring to Landover in the coming years.”
Hadrian didn’t bother parrying that thrust. He instead appropriated Harold’s list, for the Viscount Landover had atrocious handwriting, and there would be no deciphering it in his absence.
“What’s this? Aviary? Apiary?”
“Avie,” Harold said. “Lady Avis Portmaine, Hazelton’s sister, who yet resides at Blessings.”
She also yet held Harold’s affection—in some manner—for she figured near the top of his list.
“What of her?” Hadrian asked. “She’s the lady of the manor now, isn’t she? The other three siblings went south, or somewhere.”
“She does run the place,” Harold said, rising. “She and I are friends, and I regard it as a neighborly responsibility to keep an eye on her.”
“She has to be quite of age, and she has two brothers.” She also had more than her fair share of bad memories, though those memories would be more than a decade old by now. “What is this eye you want me to keep on her?”
“Avie’s isolated over there, Hay,” Harold said gently. “She remained cordial with me, because I am no threat to any lady, and she needs friends.”
As if being no threat to a lady were an asset—though a vicar was also supposed to be no threat to a lady. “How does she know you’re no threat?”
“Because I told her. She was relieved, and you’re clergy, or you were, and that means you won’t be a threat, either.”