Authors: Carole Mortimer
Tags: #Romance, #Regency, #Historical Romance, #Nineteenth Century
was born in England, the youngest of three children. She began writing in 1978, and has now written over one hundred and fifty books for Harlequin Mills & Boon
. Carole has six sons: Matthew, Joshua, Timothy, Michael, David and Peter. She says, ‘I’m happily married to Peter senior; we’re best friends as well as lovers, which is probably the best recipe for a successful relationship. We live in a lovely part of England.’
Previous novels by the same author:
In Mills & Boon
THE DUKE’S CINDERELLA BRIDE
THE RAKE’S WICKED PROPOSAL
THE ROGUE’S DISGRACED LADY
LADY ARABELLA’S SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE
THE LADY GAMBLES
THE LADY FORFEITS
THE LADY CONFESSES
SOME LIKE IT WICKED
SOME LIKE TO SHOCK
The Notorious St Claires
The Copeland Sisters
You’ve read about
The Notorious St Claires
in Regency times. Now you can read about the new generation in Mills & Boon
The Scandalous St Claires:
Three arrogant aristocrats—ready to be tamed!
JORDAN ST CLAIRE: DARK AND DANGEROUS
THE RELUCTANT DUKE
TAMING THE LAST ST CLAIRE
And in Mills & Boon
AT THE DUKE’S SERVICE
CONVENIENT WIFE, PLEASURED LADY
A WICKEDLY PLEASURABLE WAGER
SOME LIKE IT SCANDALOUS
And in Mills & Boon ® Regency
THE WICKED LORD MONTAGUE
To my very special Dad, Eric Haworth Faulkner, 6/2/1923–6/12/2012. A true and everlasting hero!
The dedication of this book says it all for me. I lost my Dad in December, a man who was and always will be a true hero to me, in every sense of the word. He was always very proud of my writing, but I am even prouder to have enjoyed the absolute privilege of being his daughter.
I hope you will all continue to enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them!
Late April, 1817—the London home of Lady Cicely Hawthorne
, for one, am disappointed that you do not seem to be any further along with finding a bride for Hawthorne, Cicely,’ Edith St Just, Dowager Duchess of Royston, gave her friend a reproving frown.
‘Perhaps we were all being a trifle ambitious, at the start of the Season, in deciding to acquire suitable wives for our three grandsons?’ Lady Jocelyn Ambrose put in softly.
The three ladies talking now had been aged only eighteen when they had shared a coming-out Season fifty years ago and had become fast friends, a state of affairs that had
seen them all through marriage and their children’s marriages. They now had their sights firmly set on the nuptials of their errant grandchildren.
‘Nonsense,’ the dowager duchess dismissed that claim firmly. ‘You had no trouble whatsoever in seeing Chambourne settled—’
‘But not to the bride I had chosen for him,’ Lady Jocelyn pointed out fairly.
‘Nevertheless, he is to marry,’ the dowager duchess dismissed airily. ‘And if we do not see to the marriage of our respective grandsons, then who will? My own daughter-in-law is of absolutely no help whatsoever in that enterprise, since she retired to the country following my son Robert’s demise three years ago. And Royston certainly shows no inclination himself to give up his habit of acquiring a mistress for several weeks before swiftly growing bored with her and moving on to the next.’ She gave loud sniff.
Miss Eleanor Rosewood—Ellie—stepniece and companion to the dowager duchess, glanced across from where she sat quietly by the window with the two companions of Lady Cicely and Lady Jocelyn, knowing that sniff only too well: it conveyed the dowager duchess’s disapproval on every occasion.
But Ellie could not help but feel a certain amount of sympathy towards Lady Cicely’s dilemma; Lord Adam Hawthorne was known by all, including the numerous servants employed on his many estates, for being both cold and haughty, as well as totally unapproachable.
So much so that it must be far from easy for Lady Cicely to even broach the subject of her grandson remarrying, despite his first marriage having only produced a daughter and no heir, let alone finding a woman who was agreeable to becoming the second wife of such an icily sarcastic gentleman.
Oh, it would have its compensations, no doubt; his lordship was a wealthy gentleman—very wealthy indeed—and more handsome than any single gentleman had a right to be, with glossy black hair and eyes of deep impenetrable grey set in a hard and arrogantly aristocratic face, his shoulders and chest muscled, waist tapered, legs long and strong.
Unfortunately, his character was also icy enough to chill the blood in any woman’s veins, hence the reason he was known amongst the
as simply Thorne!
Hawthorne’s cold nature aside, Ellie was far more interested in the dowager duchess’s
efforts to find a bride for her own grandson, Justin St Just, Duke of Royston…
‘Adam is proving most unhelpful, I am afraid.’ Lady Cicely sighed. ‘He has refused each and every one of my invitations for him to dine here with me one evening.’
The dowager duchess raised iron-grey brows. ‘On what basis?’
Lady Cicely grimaced. ‘He claims he is too busy…’
Edith St Just snorted. ‘The man has to eat like other mortals, does he not?’
‘One would presume so, yes…’ Lady Cicely gave another sigh.
‘Well, you must not give up trying, Cicely,’ the dowager duchess advised most strongly. ‘If Hawthorne will not come to you, then you must go to him.’
Lady Cicely looked alarmed. ‘Go to him?’
‘Call upon him at Hawthorne House.’ The dowager duchess urged. ‘And insist that he join you here for dinner that same evening.’
‘I will try, Edith.’ Lady Cicely looked far from convinced of her likely success. ‘But do tell us, how goes your own efforts in regard to Royston’s future bride? Well, I hope?’ She brightened. ‘Let us not forget that a week ago you wrote that lady’s name down on a piece
of paper and gave it to Jocelyn’s butler for safekeeping!’
The dowager duchess gave a haughty inclination of her head. ‘And, as you will see, that is the young lady he will marry, when the time comes.’
‘I do so envy you, when I have to deal with Adam’s complete lack of co-operation in that regard…’ Lady Cicely looked totally miserable.
‘Hawthorne will come around, you will see.’ Lady Jocelyn gave her friend’s hand a reassuring squeeze.
Ellie, easily recalling the forbidding countenance of the man, remained as unconvinced of that as did the poor, obviously beleaguered Lady Cicely…
‘Oh, do let’s talk of other things!’ Lady Jocelyn encouraged brightly. ‘For instance, have either of you heard the latest rumour concerning the Duke of Sheffield’s missing granddaughter?’
‘Oh, do tell!’ Lady Cicely encouraged avidly.
Ellie added her own, silent, urging to Lady Cicely’s; the tale of the missing granddaughter of the recently deceased Duke of Sheffield had been the talk both below and above
stairs for most of the Season, the duke having died very suddenly two months ago, to be succeeded by his nephew. The previous duke’s granddaughter and ward had disappeared on the day following his funeral, at the same time as the Sheffield family jewels and several thousand pounds had also gone missing.
‘I try never to listen to idle gossip.’ The dowager duchess gave another of her famous sniffs.
‘Oh, but this is not in the least idle, Edith,’ Lady Jocelyn assured. ‘Miss Matthews has been seen on the Continent, in the company of a gentleman, and living a life of luxury. Further igniting the rumour that she may have had something to do with the Duke’s untimely death, as well as the theft of the Sheffield jewels and money.’
‘I cannot believe that any granddaughter of Jane Matthews would ever behave so reprehensively,’ Edith St Just stated firmly.
‘But the gel’s mother was Spanish, remember.’ Lady Cicely gave her two friends a pointed glance.
‘Hmm, there is that to consider, Edith.’ Lady Jocelyn mused.
‘Stuff and nonsense,’ the dowager duchess
dismissed briskly. ‘Maria Matthews was the daughter of a grandee and I refuse to believe her daughter guilty of anything unless proven otherwise.’
Which, as Ellie knew only too well, was now the end of that particular subject.
Although she knew that many in society, and below stairs, speculated as to why, if she truly
innocent, Miss Magdelena Matthews had disappeared, along with the Sheffield jewels and money, the day of her grandfather’s funeral…
One day later—Hawthorne House, May-
o not scowl so, Adam, else I will think you are not at all pleased to see me!’
That displeasure glinted in Lord Hawthorne’s narrowed grey eyes and showed in his harshly patrician face, as he heard the rebuke in his grandmother’s quiet tone. Nor was she wrong about his current displeasure being caused by her unexpected arrival; he had neither the time nor the patience for the twittering of Lady Cicely this afternoon. Or any afternoon, come to that! ‘I am only surprised you are visiting me now, Grandmother, when I know you are fully aware this is the time
of day that I retire to the nursery in order to spend half an hour with Amanda.’
His grandmother arched silver brows beneath her pale-green bonnet as the two faced each across the blue salon of Adam’s Mayfair home. ‘And may I not also wish to visit with my great-granddaughter?’
‘Well, yes, of course you may.’ Adam belatedly strode across the room to bestow a kiss upon one of his grandmother’s powdered cheeks. ‘It is only that I would have appreciated prior notice of your visit.’
He scowled darkly. ‘My time is at a premium, Grandmother, nor do I care to have my routine interrupted.’
‘And I have just stated that I have no wish to interrupt anything,’ she reminded him quietly.
‘Nevertheless, you are—’ Adam broke off his impatient outburst, aware that his grandmother’s unexpected arrival had already made him four minutes late arriving at the nursery. ‘Well, you are here now, so by all means accompany me, if you wish to.’ He nodded abruptly as he wrenched open the salon door—much to Barnes’s surprise, as the butler stood attentively on the other side
of that door—for his grandmother to precede him from the room.
‘You really are the most impatient of men, Adam.’ Lady Cicely swept past him into the grand hallway, indicating with a nod that her paid companion should wait there for her return. ‘I do not believe even your grandfather and father were ever as irritable as you.’
Adam placed a gentlemanly hand beneath his grandmother’s elbow as he escorted her up the wide staircase, in the full knowledge that Lady Cicely’s overly fussy nature—to put it kindly!—had irked his grandfather and father as much, if not more, as it now did him. Nevertheless, his grandfather and father were no longer with them, leaving Lady Cicely alone in the world but for himself and Amanda, and so it fell to Adam, as the patriarch of the family, to at least attempt kindness towards his elderly relative. ‘I apologise if my abruptness of manner has offended you,’ he said.
His grandmother released her elbow from his grasp to instead tuck her hand more cosily into the crook of his arm. ‘Perhaps as recompense you might consider dining with me this evening…?’
Adam stiffened as he easily recognised Lady Cicely’s less-than-subtle attempt at coercion;
he hesitated to call it actual blackmail, although he could not help but be aware of his grandmother’s recent attempts to introduce him to suitably marriageable ladies—suitable according to Lady Cicely, that was. Adam was having none of it. The ladies. Or the marriage. ‘I have to attend a vote in the House tonight, Grandmother.’ After which he fully intended to retire to his club for the rest of the evening, where he hoped to enjoy a few quiet games of cards and several glasses of fine brandy.
‘Then perhaps tomorrow evening?’ Lady Cicely pressed. ‘It is so long since the two of us spent any time together…’
Deliberately so, on Adam’s part, since he had realised what his grandmother was about. He had absolutely no interest in marrying again and his life really was now such that he had little time for anything other than his responsibilities to the House of Lords and his many estates. The dinners and balls, and all the other nonsense of the Season, held no interest for him whatsoever.
‘We are together now, Grandmother,’ he pointed out practically.
‘But not in any way that—never mind.’ Lady Cicely sighed her impatience. ‘It is obvious
to me that you have become even more intransigent than you ever were!’
Adam’s mouth tightened at the criticism. Well-deserved criticism. But his grandmother knew the reason for his intransigence as well as he did; having been married for over two years, and so been dragged along as his adulterous wife’s escort to every ball, dinner, and other society function during the Season, and to summer house parties when it was not, Adam now chose, as a widower these past four years, not to attend any of them. There was no reason for him to do so. Most, if not all, of society bored him, so why would he ever choose to voluntarily put himself through those days and evenings of irritation and boredom?
Even so, he instantly felt a guilty need to make amends for the tears he now saw glistening in his grandmother’s faded grey eyes. ‘I may be able to spare an hour or two to join you for dinner tomorrow evening—’
‘Oh, that is wonderful, Adam!’ His grandmother’s tears disappeared as if they had never been as she now beamed up at him. ‘I shall make sure to serve all of your favourite dishes.’
‘I said an hour or two, Grandmother,’ Adam repeated sternly.
‘Yes, yes,’ she acknowledged distractedly, obviously already mentally planning her menu for tomorrow evening. And her guest list. Some of which would no doubt be several of those eligible females Adam wished to avoid! ‘How is the new girl working out?’
‘New girl?’ Adam’s mind had gone a complete blank at this sudden change of subject, not altogether sure he understood the meaning of his grandmother’s question; surely Lady Cicely could not be referring to the woman he had briefly taken an interest in the previous month, before deciding that she bored him in bed as well as out of it?
‘Amanda’s nursemaid.’ Lady Cicely clarified.
Adam’s brow cleared at this explanation. ‘Mrs Leighton is not a girl, Grandmother. Nor is she Amanda’s nursemaid, but her governess.’
‘Is Amanda not a little young as yet for a governess? Especially when you know as well as I that society does not appreciate a bluestocking—’
‘I will not have Amanda growing up to be an ignoramus, with nothing in her head other
than balls and parties and the latest fashions.’ Like her mother before her, Adam could have stated, but chose not to do so; the less thought he gave to Fanny, and her adulterous ways, the better as far as he was concerned!
‘—and you never did explain fully why it was that you felt the need to dispense with Dorkins’s services after all these years?’
Lady Cicely was slightly out of breath as they ascended the stairs to the third floor of the house where the nursery was situated.
Nor did Adam intend explaining himself now. Having the nursemaid of his six-year-old daughter make it obvious to him that she was available to share his bed, if he so wished, had not only been unpleasant but beyond acceptable. Especially as he had never, by word or deed, ever expressed a carnal interest in the pretty but overly plump Clara Dorkins.
Now, if it had been Elena Leighton, Amanda’s new governess, then he might not have found the notion of sharing her bed for a night or two quite so unpalatable—
And where, pray, had that particular thought come from?
Since the death of his wife Adam had kept the satisfying of his carnal desires to a minimum, considering them a weakness
he could ill afford. And, whenever those desires did become too demanding, even for his now legendary self-control, he only ever indulged with those ladies of the
whose company he considered he could stand for longer than an hour, possibly two. Less-than-respectable ladies, who expected nothing more than to be handsomely paid for the parting of their thighs.
Adam had certainly never so much as thought of forming an alliance with one of his own employees, hence his hasty dismissal of Clara Dorkins two weeks ago.
Admittedly Elena Leighton, Dorkins’ replacement, was quite beautiful in an austere way; she always wore her silky black hair secured in a neat bun at the slenderness of her nape, the severity of her black widow’s weeds emphasising the pale beauty of her face rather than detracting from it. Her eyes were a strange light colour, somewhere between blue and green in her heart-shaped face, and surrounded by thick dark lashes, her tiny nose perfectly straight above bow-shaped lips, her jaw delicately lovely, neck and throat slender. Nor did those severe black gowns in the least detract from the willowy attractiveness of her
figure: firm breasts above a slender waist and gently swaying hips—
Dear God, he thought, appalled with himself. When had he noticed so much about the looks and attraction of the widow he had recently employed to tutor his
Leighton…?’ his grandmother prompted curiously.
‘I believe she was widowed at Waterloo,’ Adam said distractedly, still slightly nonplussed by the realisation he had actually noted Elena Leighton’s physical attributes. The woman was his employee, for heaven’s sake, not some lightskirt he could take to his bed for a night and then dismiss. Moreover, she was a widow, her husband having died a hero’s death during that last bloody battle with Napoleon.
‘Old or young…?’
Adam raised dark brows. ‘I have no information whatsoever on the deceased Mr Leighton—’
‘I was referring to his widow,’ Lady Cicely chided with a small sigh.
Until this moment Adam had given no particular thought to Mrs Leighton’s age, but had assumed her to be in her late twenties or early thirties.
He scowled now as he realised, when he thought about it carefully, that it was the lady’s widow’s weeds which gave her the impression of age and maturity, that, in fact, she was probably considerably much younger than that…‘As long as Mrs Leighton carries out her employment to my satisfaction then I consider her age to be completely immaterial,’ he dismissed as he stepped forwards to push open the door to the nursery before indicating that his grandmother should precede him into the room.
Elena looked up from where she had been studying a book of simple poetry with her small charge, her expression one of cool politeness at the entrance of her employer and his paternal grandmother.
A cool politeness, which she hoped masked the fact that she had heard herself become the subject under discussion by grandson and grandmother before they entered the nursery. And that she had tensed warily at that knowledge…
She had hoped the fact that she was the widowed Mrs Elena Leighton, employed by the cold and unapproachable Lord Adam Hawthorne as governess to his young daughter,
would be enough to ensure that she escaped such curiosities. But she could see by the assessing way in which Lady Cicely now viewed her that, in that lady’s regard at least, this was not to be the case.
Elena resisted the instinct to straighten the severity of her bun, or check the fall of her black gown, instead straightening to her just over five feet in height as she stood up to make a curtsy. ‘My lord.’
‘Mrs Leighton.’ Lady Cicely was the one to smoothly respond to her greeting, his lordship’s expression remaining coldly unapproachable as he stood remotely at his grandmother’s side.
Elena had already ascertained, before deciding to accept her current employment, that the chillingly austere aristocrat was a man who chose not to involve himself, or his young daughter, in London society, preferring instead to utilise his time in politics or in the running of his country estates. An arrangement that suited Elena’s desire—need—for anonymity perfectly.
She had to admit to having been a little startled by this gentleman’s dark, almost satanic handsomeness at their initial interview, having had no idea until that moment that
Adam Hawthorne bore the dark good looks and muscled physique of a Greek god: fashionably styled dark hair, equally black brows over those dark-grey eyes, high cheekbones either side of a long patrician nose, sculptured and sensual lips, his jaw square and uncompromising, with not an ounce of excess flesh on his tall and muscular frame—as evidence, surely, that he did not spend all of his time seated in the House of Lords or behind the mahogany desk in his study…
But after only five minutes in his company that day Elena had also realised—thankfully!—that not only was he the most haughtily cold and unapproachable man she had ever met, but that he did not even see her as being female, let alone have any of the lewder thoughts and intentions towards her that another male employer might have shown to the woman he was to employ as his young daughter’s governess.
Elena now clasped her trembling hands tightly together in front of her, as the warmth currently engulfing her body forced her to realise that was no longer the case, as Lord Hawthorne’s narrowed grey gaze slowly perused her from head to toe in what was obviously a totally male assessment. ‘Lady
Cicely.’ She nodded a polite greeting to the elderly lady. ‘Stand up and greet your greatgrandmother, Amanda,’ she instructed as she realised her young charge was still seated at her desk.
Elena had found it strange at first to realise that there was none of the spontaneity of affection in this household that she had been used to during her own childhood, Lord Hawthorne spending only half an hour of each day with his daughter, and even that was usually spent in discussing and questioning what Amanda had learnt during her lessons.
Consequently, Amanda became a quietly reserved child whenever she was in her father’s company, the perfect curtsy she now bestowed upon Lady Cicely also reflective of that reserve.
Which was not to say that Elena did not see a different side of Amanda when the two of them were alone together in the nursery, Amanda as full of fun then as any other six-year-old.
Tall for her age, Amanda’s face already showed the signs of the great beauty she would become in later years, her eyes a deep blue, her cheeks creamy pink, her little mouth
as perfect as a rose in bud, her hair the colour and softness of spun gold. Amanda looked especially enchanting today in a deep-pink gown that perfectly complemented the fairness of her colouring.
A look of enchantment totally wasted upon her father as he stood across the room, his attention focused on Elena rather than his daughter. The same gentleman whom Elena, after only a week spent in his employment, considered to be utterly without any of the softer emotions.