Authors: Lynne Connolly
Tags: #Jacobite, #Historical, #romance
There’s more to love than meets the eye…
The daughter of a wealthy merchant, Sophia Russell has no interest in marriage, especially after a recent humiliation—and especially not to Maximilian, Marquess of Devereaux. But it’s the only way to save herself from fortune hunters—and those who wish to seize a powerful connection she prefers to keep secret—even from her future husband…
Marrying Sophia is the only way Max can regain the wealth his father squandered on an extravagant country palace. And while Max and his bride are civil, theirs is clearly a marriage of convenience—until a family enemy takes a questionable interest in Sophia—one that may lead all the way to the throne. Forced to become allies in a battle they hadn’t foreseen, the newlyweds soon grow closer—and discover a love, and a passion, they never expected…
“Lynne Connolly writes Georgian romances with a deft touch. Her characters amuse, entertain and reach into your heart. This book is a Must Read.”
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Emperors of London Series
Rogue In Red Velvet, Book One
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Emperors of London Series
Kensington Publishing Corp.
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Copyright © 2014 by Lynne Connolly
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First Electronic Edition: February 2015
First Print Edition: February 2015
Printed in the United States of America
In 1745, Charles James Stuart, aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, fled the country. Legend says he never returned. But he did.
Maximilian Wallace, Marquess of Devereaux, strode through London’s crowded streets, feeling completely at home. With the dexterity of a seasoned Londoner, Max dodged past an urchin who appeared determined to collide with him—and probably relieve him of his purse at the same time. That boy’s Wednesday haul would be absent one fine linen kerchief and a purse heavy with guineas.
Max reached his destination and flattened his palm over the weathered paint of the door to Lloyd’s coffee house. As he shoved it open, he breathed in the intoxicating fragrance of coffee and tobacco.
A group of men sat in the worn leather-upholstered chairs by the fire, puffing on long-stemmed churchwarden pipes. More sat at the long, plain tables, making deals that would cause even a duke to gulp. Max had made many in his time.
This place had been part of Max’s life since he’d attained the age of sixteen and discovered the state of the family’s finances.
Spotting the man he’d come to meet, Max made his way past the tables and cubicles to the one Thomas Russell occupied, in the corner, where they wouldn’t be overheard. Men nodded to him and he returned the acknowledgement. He was well known here, despite his title, not because of it. Men of the City had little time for aristocrats. He liked the busy hum of people doing business. Lloyd’s was the center for insurance and shipping matters and as such could get very noisy at times. Not today. Obviously, no large ships or cargoes were in dispute.
Russell stood as Max approached. He was smiling broadly, his round, apparently guileless face displaying nothing but bonhomie and pleasure. That was part of his danger. Max had been trying to work with Russell for years but had never before gathered the capital to make an investment of this size and importance. With this deal, Max would become an insurer in his own right. His fortune would expand beyond anything he’d achieved, his future secure. So much was balanced on this transaction that he was keyed up beyond the level he considered possible. Not that he allowed any of it to show.
Max went on guard at Russell’s words. When Russell showed that untroubled, smiling face, he had something on his mind. A twist in the deal?
Mentally, Max went through the complicated contract he knew by heart. They’d made a few tiny amendments, none of which threatened to wreck this agreement, and that was all. Nothing. But this man was planning something. Russell hadn’t climbed the tree to become one of the wealthiest men in the precious square mile known as the City of London by being pleasant to everyone.
Russell was in many ways the epitome of the City businessman. Dressed in sober, though excellent, clothes, today of russet brown with spotlessly clean linen and a simple bob-wig, he was neither this nor that, neither ostentatious nor puritanical. Keeping a steady course between all factions had gone a long way to his success. His shining face spoke both of his attention to cleanliness and the heat in this place. Whatever the temperature outside, it was never cold in Lloyd’s, due to the huge fire kept burning well into April and the hot air rising from the discussions.
A waiting-woman approached him. Max gave her a friendly smile and asked for tea. No women were allowed here except for the serving girls and the lady sitting behind the desk by the door, where the customers paid before they left. Knowing the caliber of some of the women in the City, Max wondered that none of them had stormed the citadel before. Perhaps they disliked tobacco smoke. Or preferred to use agents, as many of the City’s other investments did.
Max had always conducted his business for himself. Just as well, since he couldn’t afford an agent when he first started to make deals at the tender age of seventeen. He’d had to use the estate trustees to commission the actual business and sign the documents until he came of age. Now, partly due to the man who took a seat at the table across from him, he could afford much more. He was as wealthy as anyone in this room, and that was saying something.
He waited on events. One thing Max had learned over the years was the value of silence.
“You were concerned about the quantity of barrels on the lower deck?” Russell queried.
Right to business. Max settled into the final discussions. “I thought we could get more in if we stacked them deeper into the hull.”
Russell nodded. “It’s possible, but not advisable, although when you brought the matter up, I did speak to the captain of the fleet. Apparently it would unbalance the disposition of the cargo.”
Max agreed to let that part of the contract stay as it was. He dug in the inside pocket of his olive-green coat for his account book and flipped through the well-worn pages until he reached the one he needed.
The coffee house kept a bottle of ink and pens on every table for that purpose, the ink invariably gritty and the pens often blunt. It made a mark, and that was all Max required.
The girl delivered his tea. He picked it up and took a sip.
They worked through the other matters swiftly. This contract would involve a fleet of six ships with varied cargo. They’d insure them all, and Max had some investment in the cargo, too.
A failure at this stage wouldn’t ruin him as it might have at the beginning of his City career, but it meant a great deal. Success would finally boost him to the heights he’d been aiming for right from the beginning.
Light at heart, he finished his tea and prepared to leave to sign the contracts. Probably in triplicate, at least.
“A moment,” Russell murmured.
Max’s mood plummeted to his well-shod feet. He hadn’t been wrong then. Russell had suggested Lloyd’s because he wanted to discuss something else. “You have another caveat?”
Russell shook his head. “Not precisely. Hear me out, if you please.”
“I’m very happy with the business as it stands, sir.” Would be happier after they’d signed. “Is this a fresh agreement?” His heart lifted at the prospect. More business would only prove better, especially with this man.
“This is, I hope, the first of many contracts between us. Our methods suit and our processes are similar. We work well together.”
Max said nothing, but nodded. He agreed completely. Russell was so wealthy Max suspected even the man himself didn’t know how much he was worth. Max had the prestige and the contacts to find new opportunities, which benefited everyone. The burgeoning wealth of the men in the City with the new worlds they were opening could only be good for the country. This association with Thomas Russell was the start of many such contracts. He didn’t doubt that for a minute.
Was the man suggesting a more formal association? A jointly owned company? Despite his determination to remain focused, Max breathed deeply to quell his excitement at the prospect. His fingertips tingled. Under the table, he pressed them together. He forced a slight smile to his lips. “I, too, look forward to the day when we may work together again.”
“I’m gratified that you would think so.” Russell waved, flicking his hand in a gesture of dismissal.
Max turned his head. The serving girl retreated. A private matter, then. His heart in his mouth, he waited to hear what Russell had in mind.
The wily man bent nearer, speaking lower. “I have worked hard to build a business my descendants can be proud of.”
Russell was a widower with one child, a girl. Max had met Sophia Russell a time or two but taken little notice of the self-effacing, cool woman.
So Russell wanted a more permanent association. Perhaps a company that would give his daughter a good amount of money. Enough to net herself a husband.
Max needed Russell to speak clearer, but he didn’t know the man well enough to demand clarification straight out. “You’ve done much. You have a great deal to be proud of.”
“So do you.” Russell fixed him with a clear gaze. “I’ve worked hard to make the business my father entrusted to my care even greater. When it became obvious I would have no more children of my own, I expected to find a youth I could train, who would take over when I was gone. I found one and set matters in place. I was also considering marrying him to Sophia. She liked him well enough. He was an intelligent young man, presentable and bright who would continue the business after I’m gone.”
His face changed to heavy-jowled depression, his mouth turning hard and his eyes to chips of flint. “Unfortunately, the man I chose did not prove suitable after all.” He paused. “He was—untrustworthy.”
Had this person endangered Russell’s business? Was it safe to invest with him any longer?
“He attempted to…seduce my daughter before I’d given him permission to approach her.”
?” Max snapped. Had the man offered violence to Sophia? Violence to any woman was anathema to any decent man. He glanced around. Nobody sat within listening distance, but still… “Why meet here to discuss such a personal matter?”
Russell rubbed his forehead. “Sophia is at home to visitors today. The house is full of her guests. Today at least, I have considerably more privacy here than at home. I need my daughter married, and soon.”