Authors: Rose Gordon
Liberty for Paul
This is entirely a work of fiction. All names, characters, events are works of the author's overactive imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places, or people is pure coincidence.
LIBERTY FOR PAUL
Published by TALC Publishing
All rights reserved
Copyright © 2011 Rose Gordon
Cover © 2011 Rose Gordon
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission. Thank you for respecting the author, their time, and ideas enough not to reproduce this book.
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Also by Rose Gordon
INTENTIONS OF THE EARL
And Coming April 2011
TO WIN HIS WAYWARD WIFE
For my oldest son who spent most of his fourth year referring to himself in the third person.
And to my husband, who reminds me every day that chivalry is still alive by coming home from work, offering me his arm and escorting me to the mailbox; then opening it and saying, “Your mail, Mrs. Gordon.”
Early December, 1812
Liberty Banks had two loves in her life. One of which was something her entire family (and most of the London society) knew about: propriety. Her other love she went about hiding a little better. Not perfectly, but well enough that for the most part she was able to keep her second love a secret, and that, was her love for revenge.
Sure, when she and her sisters were young girls Brooke, her oldest sister, knew it was Liberty who tied her slippers together with some white string that was just long enough not to catch Brooke’s notice that her slippers were tied together before she started to walk. After only three steps, Brooke fell on her face because she took too much of a stride and the string caused her to trip. Both Liberty and their other sister, Madison, laughed, but neither owned up to the prank; nor placed the blame on the other. But Brooke didn’t need a confession. She knew it was Liberty. And not two days later when Liberty opened up one of her drawers to grab a pair of stockings, a toad jumped out at her, causing her to nearly leap out of her skin!
When she confronted Brooke, who was the only Banks sister who would dare touch a toad, Brooke simply told her it was payback for tying her slippers together. Liberty just shook her head and didn’t disclose that the reason for tying Brooke’s slippers together in the first place was because Brooke had stolen them from her at the milliner’s shop. Well, maybe not stolen exactly. Liberty had seen them first and was about to grab them and claim how wonderful they would go with her new green velvet gown. Just then, Brooke accidentally knocked them from where they’d been sitting on the shelf because she wasn’t used to how puffy her new stays made her dress. Then, when Brooke leaned down to pick them up, she cried with delight about how perfect they’d match
new green silk dress and wouldn’t depart with them. This infuriated Liberty and she decided then and there to get her just revenge. And quite honestly, she’d been rather pleased to see Brooke fall on her face, even if it were only in front of her family.
The toad was a different matter altogether. It took her a while to get revenge for the toad, but when she did, she was able to escape notice and nothing happened to her in return. It was a good thing she hadn’t been discovered because she’d done something that really upset Brooke. She’d cut all the heads off her roses. Had Brooke known it was her; she’d probably be missing her own head. Brooke had always put a lot of time into her roses; they were her pride and joy. However, from listening to Brooke drone on spring after spring about her roses, Liberty knew that pruning them, or cutting the tops off, if one was being precise, actually helps the rosebush. So in a way, she did Brooke a favor, right?
Liberty didn’t always do these things to be spiteful, mind you. Of course some of it was pure, unadulterated spite. But she had a good reason to be a little spiteful. She was the youngest of three daughters and that came with a lot of disappointment.
When she was younger, her older sisters would leave her out, saying she wasn’t old enough to join in their games. With her sisters being only a year apart, and the younger of the two, Madison, being three years older than Liberty, it was easy for them to get away with leaving her out.
they were made to include her, she always got the bad part in whatever game they were playing. Sometimes she had to be the person standing in the middle while her sisters threw a ball back and forth over her head, or sometimes when they’d play Pioneers and Indians, she’d be the Indian who was given the inferior weapon. In short, she always had the bad role.
When she and her sisters got older they were able to enjoy each other’s company more. Well, maybe “enjoy” isn't the right word, but they were able to do activities together and be civil to each other. However, by then, the damage was done and Liberty made up her mind to pay her sisters back in kind for how they’d treated her when she was younger.
At first, her newfound love for vengeance involved doing harmless, good-natured things to her sisters—either for their past or present sins. But a few months ago she started seeking revenge on someone outside of her family, and it wasn’t exactly harmless or good-natured.
It only happened a few times about seven months ago. But today, she’d decided she was once again going to seek revenge against a man named Mr. Paul Grimes.
Mr. Grimes was a devilishly handsome vicar who lived near Bath. He had a flawless face with high, distinguished cheekbones, a wide mouth that could make a girl swoon when he grinned, and beautiful emerald eyes that rested behind a pair of silver rimmed spectacles. His hair was a sandy blonde color and was kept an inch or two past fashion. They’d been introduced at a house party that was being hosted by her uncle, Edward Banks, Baron Watson. Mr. Grimes came to the house party to seek out Liberty’s father—who also happened to a minister. Upon meeting, Paul had told her father he had some problems in his vicarage and asked her father to mentor him. Of course her father agreed because, one, he liked to help people, no matter who they were or how awful their personality; and two, because while spending some time in England, the man needed a hobby—desperately.
John, her father, had grown up in England and had gone on his Grand Tour at nineteen. When he reached America he was twenty and met a woman named Carolina. In no time at all he made Carolina his wife and they moved to New York where he began work as a minister. It wasn’t long after that the family grew and less than five years later they had three young daughters: Brooke, Madison, and Liberty.
This was the first time in twenty five years John set foot on English soil. He said he loved his wife, daughters, and America and saw no reason to return to England. But when Brooke had reached her twenty second year without any prospects for proposals and Madison fell into a state of melancholy after ending a semi-serious courtship, John packed them up and decided to see if the girls could make a match with an English gentleman.
Liberty had been so excited at the prospect, but knew she lacked the beauty her sisters possessed in abundance, therefore, she’d taken it upon herself to learn all the rules and execute them to perfection as her way of finding a husband. So far it hadn’t worked, but she hadn’t given up hope. Not yet anyway. Following rules of society always had a way of helping a woman find a husband—she had numerous books to prove it. A man would not wish to be embarrassed by his wife, even if he did hold her in high esteem.
It was Liberty’s love of propriety that led to her complete and utter dislike—and dare she admit, hatred?—for Mr. Grimes.
When they were first introduced he’d immediately told her his wish for her to call him Paul instead of Mr. Grimes. There was no way she was going to be so informal with a man she’d just met; so she’d insisted he refer to her as Miss Liberty and she would call him Mr. Grimes. Just as she finished explaining her wish to remain formal, dinner was announced, and because no other unpaired lady or gentleman was nearby, they were paired up. And so she had to suffer his dreadful personality all during dinner.
The whole time he sat there looking angry. His jaw was clamped shut and his face appeared hard and as impassive as stone. When she spoke to him, he’d nod or give monosyllabic answers. He asked no questions and offered no type of conversation. It took her less than two minutes to conclude he was a bore.
If that had been the end of their acquaintance she would have merely just disliked him. But no, they had four other unfortunate encounters.
The first time happened when she was having a private conversation with Madison; which unbeknownst to her, he was eavesdropping in on. In the middle of their conversation, he cleared his throat and proceeded to volunteer his unflattering opinions of Liberty. He told her she’d never find a husband and said she was mean and callous. After such remarks, he’d had the nerve to
polite by seeking her out and apologizing; which she knew he only did to save his new found friendship with her father.
The second encounter had been only days later when he purposely let someone roll a lawn bowl over her toe. When he showed no real remorse, she elbowed him in his midsection; which then led to the end of their second encounter, but produced the need for a third.
After she’d elbowed him, he had made a yelping noise and hobbled away. Not ten minutes later she was summonsed to the room where he was waiting with her parents. Her uncle, the baron and host of the house party, had born witness to the events on the lawn and told her father what happened. Papa demanded she do whatever Mr. Grimes thought was necessary for her to make amends. Then Papa and Mama left, leaving her alone with Mr. Grimes.
Not two minutes after they left, Mr. Grimes started to remove his clothing! Come hell or high water, there was no way she was going to give her virtue to that beast. So she did the first thing that came to mind: picked up the closest thing to her and hurled it at his head.
She ran to her sister Brooke for help, then went to the library to hide from her papa. He’d always been kind and gentle before, giving her no cause to be afraid of him, but after what had just happened, she’d be lying if she didn’t admit she was scared.
When he found her, he told her to stay away from the man, and that’s exactly what she had done—until now.
She’d intended to avoid him forever, but then the most embarrassing accident she could imagine happened; and made it necessary for a fourth encounter.
In late November, winter hit with a vengeance. Snow and ice covered the streets of London and much to everyone’s surprise, by early December the Thames had frozen over. When a large enough patch of ice covered the river, a Frost Fair opened.
Liberty wanted desperately to go, but neither Madison nor their parents wanted to go with her. She was certain Brooke would have gone with her, but Brooke was busy at Rockhurst with her new husband, Andrew Black, Earl of Townson. So when the highly annoying and always ill Lady Olivia claimed she had a desire to go skating, Liberty jumped on the chance. She may not enjoy the company overmuch, but it might be the only way she could ever go, she reminded herself as she accepted the invitation.
They were out there only a half hour when Lady Olivia took a brutal fall and brought Liberty down with her. Though Liberty had skated many times before, Lady Olivia had not, and she’d been hanging onto Liberty so tightly that when she fell, Liberty had no way to remain on her skates.
They fell on a thin sheet of ice and the weight from their bodies caused it to crack. When Lady Olivia started to roll around kicking and screaming like a banshee, the ice cracked more. Alex, Liberty’s cousin who just happened to be there, came to the rescue and helped Lady Olivia to her feet first—probably just to stop the ear piercing screams. He was too late in turning back to help Liberty and the ice broke completely, and down she went into the icy Thames.
She remembered splashing and trying to keep her head above water, but her wet skirts were making that impossible, and when she wasn’t able to get a grip on Alex’s hand, she went under. That’s the last thing she remembered.
A week later she woke up to see Madison sitting by her bedside, telling her that her fever had finally broken. Now that the fever had passed, she was able to be awake for longer periods and keep a small conversation. But she still had to remain in her bed, so Mama or Madison would come and keep her entertained all day.
Almost fully recovered, Liberty decided it was time to ask Madison what had happened. She told Madison she remembered going skating and her accident, but had no idea what happened after.
Madison’s clear blue eyes looked out the window for a few moments before she took a deep breath. “Liberty, you’re not going to like to hear this, but there are two unlikely heroes in your tale?”
“Two? Unlikely? Whatever do you mean? I remember Alex being there, but he’s not an unlikely hero, is he?” Liberty asked, perturbed.
“Yes, Alex was there. However, he fell in, too. The Duke of Gateway pulled you both out,” Madison said evenly, tucking one of her blonde curls behind her ear.
Liberty couldn’t believe it. That man hardly knew she existed. They had barely ever spoken. What she did know about him though was he was the worst kind of man there ever could be. He never did anything to be nice, and some—most—considered him to be very dangerous and not a man you’d want to be indebted to. Liberty shivered.
“Who was the other?” she asked curiously. If Gateway was one of her unlikely heroes, who else could it possibly be? Nobody was more unlikely than Gateway.
“Mr. Grimes,” Madison said quietly.
“That’s impossible,” Liberty snapped, crossing her arms across her chest. “That man wasn’t even there. He was at his weekly visit with Papa. And anyway, he wouldn’t help me unless his very life depended on it.”
“That’s not true,” Madison said softly. “I know you don’t like him, but there’s no reason for you not to like him. He’s actually a very nice man once you get to know him.”
Liberty scowled. “You can get to know him all you like. My opinion of him hasn’t changed. He is a filthy scoundrel who wants my virtue.” Liberty inclined her chin an inch. “But he shall not get it.”