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Authors: Megan Mulry

R Is for Rebel

BOOK: R Is for Rebel
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Copyright © 2014 by Megan Mulry

Cover and internal design © 2014 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Cover design by Danielle Fiorella

Cover photo © Angela Hawkey/shutterstock.com

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, 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, Sourcebooks, Inc.

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.

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

Fax: (630) 961-2168

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Mulry, Megan.

R is for rebel / Megan Mulry.

pages cm

(trade paper : alk. paper) 1. Young women—Fiction. 2. Royal houses—Great Britain—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3613.U4556R5 2014

813'.6–dc23

2013028276

The caveman plus sweet-little-thing theory is long past. It was a theory insulting to the best qualities of both.

—Vita Sackville-West

Part One
Chapter 1

“So, are you still a lesbian or not?” Max asked, out of pure curiosity.

Abby almost spit her mouthful of scotch directly into her older brother's face. Instead, she swallowed loudly and asked, “What does that even mean?”

“You know what I mean. I'm not trying to pigeonhole you or be small-minded or anything—I'm just ill equipped to understand the parameters.”

“Do you love your wife?”

“What kind of question is that? Of course I love my wife. I'm mad about her. What does that have to do with anything?”

“Everything. It has to do with everything.” Abby tried not to get too fired up, but when Max acted like an ass, it was sort of her sisterly responsibility to set him straight. “Look. I loved Tully. I'll probably always love her. She was everything to me for almost ten years—I can't very well dismiss that as some sort of
passing
phase
. But, to be perfectly honest, I never really thought of ours as a primarily gay relationship. I think it's difficult to explain.”

“Try me.” He lifted one eyebrow in challenge.

“Especially to one's older brother.” She quirked her eyebrow up in a mirror image of his, then settled a little deeper into the comfortable deck chair. “Okay. And this is only for you, by the way. I'm not trying to be some bisexual standard-bearer in
The
Guardian
weekend section, all right?”

Max smiled. “All right.”

“I suppose I understand what you're asking and my answer is… there is no answer. Or maybe, I don't think your need to know should force me into some weird cultural-box answer. Lesbian, bisexual, pansexual. I mean,
please
. I'm not going to label myself to make you feel better.”

Taking a deep breath, Max continued. “I only meant… do you think you're going to start dating? Do you like anyone?”

There was someone, but she wasn't about to admit that to Max when she could barely admit it to herself. “That's not what you were asking and you know it. But obviously you're going to badger me until I give you some sort of data on this. You're such a statistics nerd.”

“True enough. Go on.”

Abigail sighed. She didn't resent it as much as she ought. Max was kind of forcing her to pinpoint what had been rolling around in her brain for the past six months anyway. “Tully was the best. She was… look, you know her. She's glorious. She really was
all
that
. Beautiful, caring, sexy. I loved Tully… the person.” Abby's voice went a bit quieter. “But it wore out, somehow.”

“I get it.”

Abby straightened a bit and took a deep breath. “No time for being maudlin at the end of such a splendid weekend. Devon and Sarah's wedding was lovely, didn't you think?”

“It's not maudlin.” He ignored her attempt to steer the conversation away from herself. “You don't always need to be the one who buoys everyone up, you know? I think it's amazing how much you loved Tully, but that you're strong enough to want to strive for something… more. You're brave, Abs. You're an adventurer.”

She shrugged. She didn't have the heart to tell him she was starting to feel like a bit of a coward where a certain man was concerned.

“So.” Max took a sip of his scotch. “If I were to set you up on a blind date, hypothetically, of course, would it be with a boy or a girl?”

“Max!” Abby laughed. “Enough! When I find out, I'll let you know, how about that?”

“Oh fine. I'm not trying to pry—”

“Of course you are! It's what big brothers do, remember?”

“All right. I admit it. I'm prying you open with a crowbar. You just seem out of sorts lately. You're usually so outgoing and involved in all your…
things
…”

“Oh, dear Max. You're adorable. I'm an activist. There's a word for all my
things
.”

“I know, I know.” He waved one hand as if
activist
was a word that didn't really count… a retrofitted word. “Abigail the Activist.”

Lady Abigail Elizabeth Margaret Victoria Catherine Heyworth, fourth child of the eighteenth Duke of Northrop, sister to her filial inquisitor, the nineteenth Duke of Northrop, felt the weight of all those powerful, regal names pressing down on her. “I'm sick of monikers,” she added with a touch of defeat.

“Well, if nothing else,
that
I understand entirely,” Max added with bitter enthusiasm. “When Bronte really wants to set me off, she insists on calling me ‘your grace' or refers to me in the third person as ‘the duke' when it's only the two of us in the room, like, ‘Is the duke in a bad mood?' or ‘What does the duke want for dinner?' She knows it's the worst possible taunt. No one wants to be a moniker. Sorry, Abs.”

“That's all right. I know what you were asking. Maybe I'm just trying to avoid having to really think about it. I feel like I've been Abigail-the-lesbian-younger-sister for so many years, especially in Mother's eyes, it might be easier to maintain the role.”

“As long as you also maintain that Mother is often cruel and senseless, then go right ahead. Otherwise, just be you. We all revel in your independence and free will, especially those of us who are more tethered to tradition through no fault of our own.”

“Are you complaining about being a fucking duke again?” Bronte's cheerful, flat American accent cut through the hot Caribbean night air as she stepped out onto the misshapen deck that extended at a precarious angle overlooking the moonlit bay.

Abby looked up and smiled at her fabulous, if brash, sister-in-law, and watched as Bronte settled happily into Max's lap. Her long, straight chestnut hair hung over one shoulder (and Max gave her a quick kiss on the other) as she looped her hand around the back of his neck.

“Even worse,” Max drawled, “I asked Abby if she was
still
a lesbian, and
then
I started complaining about being a duke.”

“You didn't! Oh, Abby, he's so dim sometimes! I'm trying to be patient, but…” She gave him a kiss on the cheek and turned back to her sister-in-law. “He's not as smart as he is handsome.”

“In any case,” Abby said, looking pointedly at her brother, “and regardless of what Mother would euphemistically refer to as
my
choices
—I need a plan for when we get back to England. It's been great of you two to weave me into the fabric of your happy little family at Dunlear for the past few months, but I have to start a life of my own at some point. I don't even know where I want to live, let alone what I'm going to do.”

Bronte spoke with quick efficiency. “I'd offer you a job at the agency in a second—I think you could sell steak to a vegan, with all that enthusiasm and fire—but advertising would probably be tantamount to heresy as far as your moral compass is concerned. What do you want to do?”

“Damned if I know… something that does good?” Abby's voice sounded unsure, then she barked a laugh. “What a toff I sound like!”

“Well, aren't you?” Bronte asked.

“Ha!” Max laughed. “Yeah, Abs, aren't you a toff?”

“Very funny. You two are beastly. I'm not the one living in a castle.”

“Really?” Max pushed. “Last time I checked, you were living with us in said castle.”

“I'm not living with you! I'm staying… with you… for a while.”

“Right.” Max smiled and took another sip. “After six months, staying is also known as living.”

“Enough!” But Abby laughed because he was right. “I'm going to be staying in London a lot more once we get back.”

“At Mother's? In Mayfair?” Max asked with another taunting smile.

“That was low.” Abby smiled and took a long swallow of scotch.

“Well? If it looks like a toff and quacks like a toff?”

Bronte burst out laughing. “That's so fucking true!”

Abby tried to keep a straight face. “I am
not
a toff… moving on. Do you two want to help me get on with my life or not?”

Bronte clapped her hands together, as if embarking on a new adventure. “Yes! What should Abigail be?”

Max watched as the two women discussed the various ideas for Abby's future, enjoying their easy camaraderie and the warmth of Bronte in his lap.

“I didn't love being removed from civilization,” Abby mused.

“What do you mean?” Bronte asked.

“Well, all those times Tully and I were away—working on the organic farms in New Zealand or helping build the wells in Kenya or living in the caravan at Findhorn—I loved all the work, the physical labor and having something real to show for our efforts, but I kept thinking, not always, mind you, but often enough, that all I really wanted to do was walk out my front door at two in the morning and get a pint at some crowded pub off of Leicester Square and smoke a few cigs and laugh at some dirty jokes. But then I felt guilty that I wasn't
satisfied
with the simple life and all of the good we were doing. I see now that a lot of that was due to what was, well, disintegrating between Tully and me. I think I want to be in a city for a while and work with an organization that's really hands-on, with people. I still sound like a toff, don't I?”

Max smiled as Bronte launched in.

“No! I know exactly what you mean. You need to talk to my friend Cammie; she's the head of an organization in New York that funds one-woman projects. You would love her—”

“You are impossible,” Max mumbled.

“What?” Bronte turned to her husband in mock innocence.

“Don't pay her any mind, Abby, she's the world's worst matchmaker.”

“The last thing I want is to be set up on a date, Bron!”

“No! Nothing so transparent,” Max said. “She would hardly try something as easy as meddling in your
love
life; she will orchestrate your
whole
life! Just wait, she'll have names and numbers and emails flying your way within a day.”

Bronte conceded, “He's right, of course, but there's nothing wrong with that as far as I'm concerned. I just want the best for everyone.” But she looked a tiny bit sheepish.

“And you know what is best for everyone, I presume?” Max said as he gave her a little pinch on the behind.

She leapt from his lap and laughed. “Well! At least I don't fucking ask people if they're still lesbians!” She looked at Abby and continued, “You'll get years of payback on that one, Ab. Years! And”—she turned back to Max—“as for you in particular, yes, I do know what's best.” She leaned over his chair and kissed him briefly on the lips. “I finally got Wolf to sleep and I'm about to nod off myself. So, stop pestering your poor sister and come fulfill your husbandly
ducal
duties.”

Max looked over at his sister and gave her a guilty shrug. “You heard the lady, Abs. I have duties. Are you going to turn in? Do you want me to stay up with you? Sorry about all the gender-labeling nonsense before.”

“No need to apologize, Max. I know you're only trying to fit me into your neat spreadsheet view of the world. The duke needs order in his life.” She winked at her brother. “I'm going to turn in soon, you should go.”

He crossed the deck and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and turned back to Bronte, putting his arm around his wife's waist as they headed back into the villa.

Abby stood up and looked out over the bay below. She had never been here before, but the island of Bequia had completely captured her imagination. Her other brother, Devon, had been married earlier that day on the small, crescent-shaped beach at the base of the steep hill below. The villas—if you could even call them something that sounded so posh—had been constructed about fifty years ago by a friend of the family of Devon's new wife, Sarah James. The entire complex was called Moonhole. The name suited. Especially as it neared midnight and the full moon shone down, the free-form curves and prehistoric feel of the buildings evoking a strange lunar landscape. Trees grew into and out of windows that had no screens or glass. Many of the homes had no doors, limited running water, and occasional electricity, yet they still managed to exude a feeling of quiet dignity. Abby was in heaven. It felt raw and beautiful.

She thought about her mother's favorite quotation from Coco Chanel: “Elegance is refusal.” And, in that sense, Moonhole was pure elegance. It relied on nothing; it refused everything extraneous. Its existence was a study in simplicity. Abby took a deep breath, savoring the unfamiliar warmth of the scented night air.

Calm.

And then she felt a slight shiver of recognition. When she opened her eyes, she saw Eliot Cranbrook on the narrow beach below, walking under the bright Caribbean moonlight.

She took the last slow sip of her watered-down scotch and stared. Her stomach churned in a slow roll of emotion that was an unfamiliar mix of fear, anticipation, hope, and lust. Somehow over the past few months, she and Eliot had become a very unlikely pair of fast friends. She was a hippie: rebellious, erratic, joyful. He was a capitalist: driven, successful, precise. They loved the same bottles of scotch, the same dirty jokes, the same stupid action films. He was like a really great older brother.

Abby frowned at the realization that she already had two of those, and she really didn't need another. Added to that, the mere sight of Eliot lately was making her feel all sorts of things that had nothing to do with brotherly love.

He must have felt her eyes upon him, even from this distance, because he turned swiftly to look up the steep slope. The quick smile that came to his face had the unexpected effect of warming Abby's skin from the roots of her unwieldy mane of black wavy hair to the tips of her unpolished toenails. He made a pantomime gesture, pointing to himself and then up to the villa. She shook her head
no
and pointed at herself and then the beach. He made a quick drinking motion. She smiled and raised her glass then pointed at him. He nodded enthusiastically then raised his clasped hands in an exaggerated display of victory.

BOOK: R Is for Rebel
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