Read Sweet Deception Regency 07 - The Divided Hearts Online

Authors: Karla Darcy

Tags: #karla darcy, #regency romance, #romantic comedy, #romance, #five kisses, #pride and prejudice, #historical fiction, #sweets racing club, #downton abbey, #jane austen

Sweet Deception Regency 07 - The Divided Hearts (10 page)

BOOK: Sweet Deception Regency 07 - The Divided Hearts
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“I’d like that,” Judith said and meant it.
There was so much that intrigued her about America. Then as another
thought crossed her mind, she blurted out, “And the black servants.
I know that Newport was heavily involved in the slave trade but I
had not realized there were so many of them here. At Priscilla’s
houseparty, I near disgraced myself for gawking at the servants
wearing those old fashioned white wigs and that ridiculous
livery.”

Nate’s sharp bark of laughter indicated his
agreement. “The Woodbridge’s are not the trend setters of our
society, thank the Lord. Priscilla, as you could tell by her house,
tends to prefer the patterned traditions of a bygone era. Most find
it offensive but put up with it. Besides, aside from the farcical
livery, she is amazingly good to her servants.”

“Perhaps I am being missish, but I am
uncomfortable around slaves,” Judith said, her mouth tight with
disapproval.

“Many are,” Nate said. “Interestingly enough
it was the Rhode Island Quakers who initiated much of the movement
to suppress the slave trade in this part of America. They were
active well before the war for independence but here in Rhode
Island their job was made particularly tricky because of the heavy
involvement in the actual trading of slaves. The slavers had the
money and therefore wielded a great deal of power.”

“But if so many people were against the
idea?” Judith questioned.

“Slavery is a necessity on many of the
plantations. It’s a base for a standard of living that is not easy
to give up. The federal act of 1794 abolished the slave trade on
paper, but the traders themselves were not prosecuted sufficiently
to be a threat to anyone. A new statute was passed in ’07 but that
rendered the law nearly unenforceable.”

“But the whole idea of slavery is immoral,”
Judith argued, not sure where Nathanael’s loyalties on this issue
lay.

“My dear, I trust you are not naive enough
to believe that wars are fought for ideals.” Nathanael’s tone was
amused but beneath the lightness there was a sarcastic sting. “Man
talks of the bold ideology of purpose but underneath there is
always an easily discerned economic reason. Man goes to war to
preserve his purse.”

“How dreadful that sounds.” Judith hated to
believe his words, yet she had heard as much from her father. “Will
it never end?”

“Eventually,” Nate said. “Many in Newport
disavow the trade and have freed their slaves. More will follow.
The blacks of Rhode Island are valued highly and not just for their
commercial contributions. The First Rhode Island Regiment was
organized during the war. It was called the Black Regiment because
it was made up of black soldiers. They had a fine record. They
fought bravely in the battle of Rhode Island and they were lauded
in dispatches during the Yorktown campaign.”

“With Rhode Island’s tradition of freedom, I
still find it strange,” Judith continued. “I am glad that Simon
owns no slaves.”

They were both silent, watching as Patrick,
intent on some imaginary battle, tumbled in the grass. Judith,
anxious to recapture the lighter tone of their earlier discussion,
tried to break the tension that had risen over the discussion of
the slaves.

“Your grandmother enjoyed your stay in
England,” she ventured tentatively. “She said you and your friends
made her feel young again.”

“They dubbed her ‘The Dowager Letty’. She’s
quite a lady. I saw a great deal of her while I was at Cambridge.
She has a country home not far from the university and she
permitted me to run quite tame while I was in England.” Nate’s
voice was warm with reminiscence. “My friends were all wild about
her but I suspect that was because she supplied us with food and
drink whenever we could get away.”

“She told me that she wrote you about
returning to England. She has high hopes that you will reestablish
yourself in London.” Judith hesitated not wanting her comments to
seem too impertinent. She was sorry now that she had ever told
Letty that she would try to find out Nate’s intentions. But
faithful to her word she would make this last push and then
consider her duty done. “I’m not sure when I will be leaving
America but if it is close to when you plan to visit perhaps we
might travel on the same ship.”

Her words sent a warning to Nate and his
hand froze in the act of reaching for the wine bottle. With a
conscious effort, he forced his fingers to lift the bottle, tilting
it against the rim of Judith’s glass. She smiled her thanks and he
refilled his own and returned the bottle to the picnic basket.

Annoyance was his first reaction as he
realized the import of her words. Other women had tried to find out
his allegiance to England, but he had usually detected the pattern
of their questions before he himself had become involved. He was
annoyed with himself that he had let down his guard at the behest
of a pretty face. Somehow this golden-haired angel had overrun his
defenses before he suspected her intentions.

At his father’s death, Nate became heir to
an ancient title and an accepted position in society if he returned
to England. He had never realized how much of a difference it would
make in his relations with the women in his life. He already
possessed a great deal of money and his handsome appearance had
made him a target for both love-struck girls and their avaricious
mothers. However with the addition of the title, he became a marked
man in the English set. Women, young and old, vied with each other
for his attention. Invariably in every conversation, the question
always came around to whether he would return to England and take
up his duties to the family.

Patrick’s shout cut across Nate’s wandering
thoughts.

“Come see the ship, Judith,” the boy yelled,
pointing in great agitation toward the bay. “It’s ever such a
beauty.”

“Do you mind?” she asked, flashing him a
smile of total innocence.

“Of course not, my dear. One must humor the
child.”

Nate got to his feet and helped her up,
waving her toward the cliff walk. He ignored the surprised look she
gave him as she strolled across the grass. Reseating himself, Nate
watched as she joined Patrick, her hand resting on the boy’s
shoulder as he chattered of the ships on the horizon. Silhouetted
against the sky and the sea, her beauty had an ethereal quality as
her muslin skirts fluttered around her. Her golden hair rippled
down her back, soft wisps fluttering around her face. She looked
angelic but Nate had caught a glimpse of the calculating woman
beneath the innocent exterior. He felt an actual pain of
disappointment. Somehow he had thought she was different.

Damn and blast! Nate muttered, emptying his
glass and pouring some more wine. He should have been alert to the
fact that Judith would be more interested than most in his
intentions. She was only in America on a holiday. She would be
returning to the social scene in London and what a coup to be
already betrothed to the Bellingham heir. Up until today she had
been aloof in her disapproval. But since the start of the picnic,
he had sensed a softening in her opinion of him. He could
understand now why she had seemed to warm to him. She probably had
decided to discover if he planned to return to England before she
considered expending any effort in his behalf. Perhaps it would
save them both time if he just blurted out that he had no intention
of ever returning to England. If only he were a free agent, he
thought bitterly.

War with England was almost a certainty. Now
more than ever, his value as an information gatherer was crucial.
He liked having a role in the destiny of America but occasionally,
like today, chaffed at the subterfuge involved. For the time being
it was necessary that no one be aware that he had already chosen
sides. His usefulness depended on his ability to be accepted by
both the tight-lipped English set and the more voluble
Americans.

Nate’s eyes were wary as Judith returned to
the blanket. She looked the picture of innocence but if he were
correct in his assumptions her mind would be phrasing questions in
order to elicit the information she wanted. Uncoiling his long
legs, he got to his feet and fussed over her as she reseated
herself.

“I was beginning to quite wilt under your
desertion, fair lady,” Nate said.

Judith looked up at his flowery speech. For
a moment she thought he was teasing her by returning to his
affected artificial manner. But looking more closely, she saw that
although his mouth was spread in a flashing grin, there was a
flatness to his eyes that had not been there earlier.

“Hardly desertion, Nathanael, merely a
respite from my chattering presence,” she said.

“Do the trees beg for a surcease from the
birds singing?”

“Now, sirrah, you’re doing it too brown,”
Judith accused, her mouth pulled down in disapproval. “Somehow your
words strike me as false in such a lovely setting.”

“Do you think they would ring truer in a
London townhouse?” Nate challenged.

“Are you practicing for your return?”

Although Judith’s voice was softly lilting,
Nate noticed the hard intentness of her expression. No words could
have spoken more clearly of her desire for an affirmative answer.
He hardened his heart as his eyes caressed the beautiful face. It
was almost a gesture of farewell. And in a way it was, because now
he realized Judith could be a real danger to him if she discovered
his true intentions.

“La, my dear, I should appear as a veritable
bumpkin in the august halls of England.” His braying laugh rolled
across the hilltop. “It would be like Patrick in the midst of a
garden party.”

“Nathanael!” Judith said, bristling in the
boy’s defense. “I thought you liked the boy. I’m sorry if my
bringing him has been an inconvenience.”

“Not at all, my dear. Think nothing of it.
The lad’s quite a gem.” Nate raised his quizzing glass, eyeing the
boy. “Bit rough perhaps, but he’ll soon realize his place.”

“His place?” Judith questioned. Ice crept
into her tone even as it closed around her heart.

“Quite frankly, m’dear,” Nate said, leaning
confidentially toward her. “The boy’s not exactly your sort, if you
catch my drift.”

“I’m not sure I do.”

“All well and good playing Lady Bountiful.
However at some point the child will have to be put to a trade.
Can’t be good for the boy to think life will go on full of picnics
and carriage rides. Look at the trouble all those republican ideals
have caused already.”

Judith could feel the expression on her face
freeze at his words. The arrogance of the man! She had begun to
think he actually had some worth and yet it was beyond her
comprehension how he could believe such rot. Republican ideals,
indeed! She should have known that any man who powdered his hair
and carried a walking stick for some non-existent injury could have
no ideas beyond tomorrow’s fashions. She must have been sun struck
to have thought she had misjudged him.

She ought never to have come on the picnic,
Judith admitted. Every time she was with Nathanael, she felt her
emotions buffeted like a ship in the midst of a maelstrom. His
personality changed with the proficiency of a chameleon. He was in
turn charming, hateful, gentle and arrogant. She was drawn to him
and yet repelled by him. Her awareness of his masculinity baffled
her since the majority of the time, Nate was content to play the
fop. Each time she thought she had recognized worthwhile qualities
in the man, he said or did something so outrageous that it threw
her reasons into disarray.

Judith shivered in the chill air and she
pulled her pelisse closer around her neck. Looking toward the sea,
she watched the clouds scudding across the sky and suspected there
would be rain before evening. For some reason she felt close to
tears, but forced away the bereft feelings, putting it down to too
much fresh air. Wearily she reached for the dishes and began to put
away the picnic things.

It was a silent group who retraced the road
into Newport. Patrick, exhausted by the excitement of the day,
leaned against Judith’s side, his head drooping. She placed an arm
around the boy, pulling him closer to her as though she could
protect him from Nate’s aristocratic presence. Nate seemed unaware
of their presence as he handled the reins, humming tunelessly under
his breath. As they pulled up outside Simon’s house, she said her
goodbyes, intending to avoid any further contact with Nathanael
Bellingham.

Chapter Five

“It’s time, Miss Judith. Well past ten o’
the morning.”

Phoebe Finney’s cheerful, adolescent voice
cut into Judith’s dreams, and, unwilling to wake, she pulled the
comforter over her head. Burrowing into the pillow she tried to
shut her mind to the sound of rattling china and the padding of the
servant’s feet across the wooden floor. A loud thump and the
prodding of an impatient finger, brought Judith to full awareness
of her surroundings. She pushed the covers away from her face and
groaned at the grinning girl.

“Have you no respect for your betters,”
Judith grumbled, pushing herself up to a sitting position and
shoving the pillows behind her back.

“No, ma’am,” Phoebe giggled. “You showed me
that book ’at said I didn’t have no betters.”

“Sometimes I wonder if I’ll be hailed before
a court for breeding sedition in my own father’s house,” Judith
mumbled, sighing as she snuggled her back against the pillows.

“If that ’dition’s got anything to do with
freedom, Master Simon has been talking about it ever since I come
to work here,” came the girl’s saucy reply. “Here’s your breakfast,
Miss.”

“It’s a barbaric country you live in, child.
In London, I wouldn’t even consider getting up before noon.” Judith
accepted the tray across her knees, sniffing sensuously at the
fresh muffins beside the teapot.

BOOK: Sweet Deception Regency 07 - The Divided Hearts
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