Authors: Anna Small
In the Arms
of an Earl
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
In the Arms of an Earl
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Anna Small
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
Rae Monet, Inc. Design
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First English Tea Rose Edition, 2013
Print ISBN 978-1-61217-806-6
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-807-3
Published in the United States of America
Praise for Anna Small
Also by Anna Small:
Tame the Wild Wind
available from The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
IN THE ARMS OF AN EARL
Historical finalist in the 2012 Launching a Star Contest
TAME THE WILD WIND
“Anna Small takes some long-used western themes and creates a fresh, exciting love story that satisfies the heart.”
~ Long and Short of It Reviews
If you love reading about a strong heroine, this is the story for you. The story is so rich and satisfying.”
Fire Pages Book Review
Dedicated to all the beautiful women in my life,
My aunts Dolores, Norma, and Joan.
My cousins who are like my sisters: Nancy, Dawn, Catherine, and Liz.
My exquisite daughter, Megan, who teaches me something new every day.
My patient mother, Dianne, who has always been my editor, reader, critic, and cheerleader through the writing of this and all my past, present,
and future books.
Most of all to my Irish twin, Christina, who sacrificed her “modern day” Barbie playing to indulge her sister's love of historical settings
(because I wouldn't play with her if she didn't).
Special thanks to my uncle, George Hansen, who provided personal insight into what it's like to live with the loss of a limb.
My gratitude to Carey Beebe of Carey Beebe Harpsichords Australia, for his wonderful advice about Regency instruments and preventing me from making any pianoforte errors. You, sir, are a Cristofori.
A special dedication to all the Wounded Warriors
of the American Armed Forces.
You truly are the real heroes!
Jane Brooke closed her eyes as the piano crescendo soared through her, shaking her to the scuffed tips of her sturdy shoes. Lost in the music, she allowed her gaze to flicker to the program in her lap.
The Symphony of the Sea, by F.B
Those few, simple words could hardly convey the absolute magnitude of the piece.
The petite blonde at the pianoforte could not be the composer. Her playing was far too precise, too methodical to possess a soul capable of creating such ethereal music.
The symphony ended in dulcet tones, the final notes curling around Jane’s neck like a lover’s embrace, until the tiny hairs on her arms tingled beneath the long sleeves of her gray pelisse. She clutched her hands together, chafing her skin through her kid gloves. For a moment, she was not plain Jane Brooke, spinster middle sister of two others who had married well. Rather, the music had transformed her into a spirit as light as air. Had she been able, she’d have danced around the room.
The audience’s enthusiastic applause snapped Jane out of her reverie. The pianist rose gracefully from the bench and curtsied, the hint of a smile playing about her lips as she absorbed the adoration. Jane took a deep breath and exhaled a shaky laugh, overwhelmed by her exuberant response.
She brushed the corners of her eyes before her friend Lucinda Parker noticed. Lucinda had little enthusiasm for music, or, indeed, of anything other than the newest cut of a bonnet.
As Lucinda stood, her unopened program dropped from her lap to the floor. Stepping over it, she took Jane’s elbow as they walked toward the exit.
“Was she not superb?” Jane sighed. “Oh, but if I could only play like her.”
“She is very talented but not half as good as Jeremy,” Lucinda replied.
Lucinda could not have paid the slightest attention to the performance, but Jane didn’t mind. After all, she was Lucinda’s guest for the summer, and through her good nature, they had sacrificed a day of sorting ribbons so Jane could attend the musicale, a highlight of the village near Everhill, the Parkers’ estate in Shropshire.
“Your brother does play well.” Jane kept her true opinion to herself. Jeremy Parker’s arrogance outshone his performance to the point where she could barely tolerate listening to him play.
Yet when his deep-set blue eyes looked her way, she was too flustered to notice his conceit or mind that his arpeggios far outdistanced hers.
“He should practice his playing as much as he does drinking behind Papa’s back,” Lucinda retorted. “He is just over there by the punch bowl. I should have known where to find him.” Her train of thought changed abruptly when she stared pointedly at Jane’s dress. “I believe you care more about music than dancing and pretty gowns. This is the first outing we’ve had since your arrival where I think you’ve completely enjoyed yourself.”
A blush warmed Jane’s cheeks. She hadn’t noticed before, but the other girls wore light-colored gowns with matching bonnets and gossamer-like shawls. She regarded her practical dress. Like most of her clothes, it was a castoff from her sister Amelia and was at least two seasons old.
“I appreciate many things, Lucinda. But I believe the cultivation of the love of music…”
The rest of her sentence dwindled away. Lucinda had already wandered off toward her brother, who was surrounded by a group of girls vying for his attention.
“…Far outweighs a pretty dress, no matter how splendid.” A man’s low voice finished her thought.
Startled, Jane turned to face the stranger who had spoken. He bowed, the top of his glossy black hair visible for a moment until he straightened.
“Forgive my intrusion, but I could not help but notice your enjoyment of the last piece.”
Her heart tripped beneath the tight corset that received little challenge from her small bosom. She hadn’t thought anyone had observed her happy tears or noted her tapping foot beneath the hem of her dress.
They had not been properly introduced, and his swarthy skin and dark-rimmed eyes were too much like a pirate or swami to be respectable. Even she knew not to address a stranger, despite having been to Bath for only one season.
Before she could decide upon his being a gentleman or a rogue, he gave her a hesitant smile. At second glance, he did not appear very roguish, with his exquisitely cut black broadcloth coat and spotless cravat. His linen was pure white, and the silver buttons on his waistcoat gleamed in a subtle manner. If his waistcoat had been striped, or his cravat extravagantly tied, she would have turned her back on him in a trice.
For the first time in her life, she was aware of her own dowdiness. He probably spoke to her without benefit of a formal introduction because he thought her an old maid, with her string bag and yellowed gloves, and the unadorned pelisse that nearly matched, but not quite, her even plainer dress.
But he was discussing music, a subject so dear to her heart she decided to ignore custom, if only for a moment.
“I have never heard anything so lovely.” She met his gaze and was dismayed at the warmth flooding her cheeks.
He regarded her with dark brown eyes, so dark she could not make out the pupils. Long, thick black lashes surrounded them, and she wondered why she had not been the object of the Maker’s overly lush hand when it came to designing her face. Curving lips with a Cupid’s bow smiled at her in a reassuring manner, relaxing her into conversation.
“I am so pleased you enjoyed it.” His smile broadened. “I wondered how my attempts at composition would affect the hearing public after having not played in so long. I am gratified someone else feels about it the way I do.”
A moment passed before she realized he was the composer of the wonderful piece. In her enthusiasm, she reached for his arm but pulled back before she could offend with her forwardness.
His smooth forehead creased beneath its shock of black hair.
“Forgive me for disturbing you. Enjoy the rest of your day.” He bowed quickly. The heels of his top boots clicked against the polished floor as he walked away, and only then did she realize why she’d offended him.
Where she’d almost touched him, his left arm ended abruptly at the wrist.
“There you are! Would you like to see the gardens now, or did you wish to go home?” Lucinda asked.
Jane stared after the composer’s retreating figure. Should she go after him and apologize? She had wanted to discuss music with him, but the opportunity had been ruined. Shaken, she turned to her friend.
Lucinda took her arm and steered her toward the exit. “We’re going home. Listening to so much music makes one tired, does it not?”
Jane allowed Lucinda to lead her outside and nodded now and then while Lucinda chatted about the upcoming assembly ball. She managed a furtive glance around the dispersing crowd, trying to spot the composer’s dark head. She couldn’t shake her disappointment when she realized she would not be able to explain her actions. She hadn’t noticed his infirmity, and it made no difference to her, anyway. Men did not usually seek her opinion or companionship, and to have treated the composer so horribly was enough to turn her stomach.
Lucinda paused in conversation when they reached their barouche. Jeremy clambered inside after them, mocking some of the performers they’d heard. Normally, Jane would struggle to respond to his witty and sometimes cruel remarks about the people he knew, but for the first time since arriving at Everhill, she had no desire to speak to him. She pushed the composer’s anguished face to the back of her mind.
No good mourning her actions now. She was only in Shropshire for a few more weeks, and then would return to her quiet life at home.
Frederick Blakeney emerged from behind a decorative column. He knew Lucinda, having witnessed her emergence from rambunctious childhood into the frivolous young lady she’d become. Her father was a close friend, although more than twenty years separated them. The older Parker’s home had become a haven for Frederick after the war, when society turned its back on him.
Or perhaps he’d turned his. He could no longer remember. Or care, for that matter.
He’d planned to stop there later in the evening and visit a few weeks before returning to his brother’s house in London, but now he wasn’t so certain. If Lucinda’s friend was also a guest, he didn’t look forward to an embarrassing introduction. He’d noticed the shock on her face when she’d reached out to him, pulling back before she could touch what was a true monstrosity.