Authors: Jeanne Savery
Tags: #Romance, #Fiction, #Regency
Book 1 in The Ghost and Romance series.
Verity Tomlinson, the daughter of the late Earl of Everston’s son and his housekeeper’s sister, feels as if she is neither fish nor fowl. It certainly would not be proper to wed the late earl’s heir and she will
become his mistress.
But it is not certain Jacob Moorhead
inherit. Only if he gives up his rakish life in London and lives for a year on the estate in the wilds of Yorkshire will the Hall become his.
While Jacob does his best to contravene none of the requirements for inheriting, he also has to deal with the sprightly ghost of the deceased earl who has very clear notions on how Jacob should—or should not—live his life. To complicate matters further, the earl’s eccentric daughter is in great danger as a result of her last adventure overseas.
All in all, a happy outcome for Verity and Jacob, the most fervent wish of the ghostly earl, is not something that can be presumed.
Ellora’s Cave Publishing
The Ghost and Jacob Moorhead
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Ghost and Jacob Moorhead Copyright © 2007 Jeanne Savery Casstevens
Edited by Carole Genz
Cover art by Lissa Waitley
Electronic book Publication December 2007
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The Ghost and Jacob Moorhead
Verity Tomlinson took the front stairs very much in the manner of an octogenarian. Her twenty-six years had not been proof against the long days and nights of worry, of constant care, and now the still more tiring convalescence of her beloved Aunt Jenna, more formally known as Mrs. Honey Jennings. But Honey was a much-despised name and had been forgotten long ago. She was Jenna to everyone who knew her.
Jenna had reached that difficult stage of an illness where it was very nearly impossible to convince an invalid that rest and care were important. Verity feared a relapse.
When she’d reached the landing halfway down the last flight, the front door suddenly burst open and Verity froze, staring.
“Hello!” shouted the tall sun-gilded stranger striding into the comfortably large marble-tiled entry. Tossing his hat onto the table set in the middle of the flagged floor, he very nearly upset a vase of wilted flowers. He frowned at it as if, man fashion, he knew something was the matter with it but couldn’t decide what. Then, glancing around, he muttered, “Where the devil is everyone?”
Startled by the man’s informal entrance, Verity moved back a step. Her mouth felt dry and her heart beat more quickly.
, she thought.
It is only fear
But she lied. With more than a quarter century in her dish, Verity had an inkling of what that energy surging through her body meant—unfortunately, the men who roused it were never of a
she admired. It was always their
. This one was tall, broad in the shoulders, slim in the hips, and he wore, like a second skin, that devil-may-care attitude that always inspired a tingling throughout her body.
Trying to avoid the knowledge that she was once again attracted to someone who would prove to be unsuitable, she too looked around, echoing his thought.
where is the footman who should be stationed here
Her movement caught the man’s eye and he looked up. His brows arched and were very nearly hidden under a wild tangle of auburn curls that fell over a high forehead. “Well,” said the stranger, a wealth of meaning in his tone, “what have we here? And coming down the front stairs too! Tsk tsk, my dear.” The brows, which had lowered to more normal but well-defined arcs above his eyes, arched high once more. “Does Mrs. Jennings know you do it?” he asked.
A twitch to his lips suggested something of the tease or the flirt, but Verity was too tired to respond in kind. “The housekeeper knows. She insists,” replied Verity. Anger at him, at her reaction to him, revived her tired body, giving her strength. Her chin tilted. “However
may be,” she added, her tone firming, “she’d be outraged that a total stranger has walked in uninvited without a single trace of abashment.”
The brows not only lost the arch but lowered over deep-set eyes in something of a glower. “And just who are you to chide me? A
? A person from whom I should expect nothing but service? You’ve no right to hand out lessons, Miss Snippety. Find Mrs. Jennings. I must see her immediately.”
Verity hesitated. “I…am housekeeper for the nonce. Just who might you be?”
?” He roared with laughter, an odd mix of hilarity and doubt.
The sound echoed around the hall and Verity, descending the last half dozen steps to the tiled floor, rushed to shush him. “Quiet. You must be quiet.”
Something in her tone stilled him. He studied her worried features. More quietly he asked, “Why?”
Verity rubbed a hand over tired eyes. The enlivening if angry energy seeped away and her stiff spine slumped slightly. “There is illness in the house. I’ve only just got my patient to sleep and you’ll wake her. She must sleep.”
“Illness.” His voice sharpened. “What is wrong?”
“Nothing which need concern
,” said Verity and sighed. When his expression demanded more of a response, she added, “Nothing but worry and overwork, preparing for an heir who doesn’t seem to care a jot. Also concern for a relative, and, last but not least, what must be a weakness of the heart. She is not young, after all, and she frightened us half to death when she collapsed. Now we cannot convince her she needn’t rise from her sickbed and kill herself for an ingrate who isn’t going to show his face in any case.”
“Preparing for an heir? You mean the housekeeper?
? Jenna-mine is
?” His mouth hardened and a cold look appeared in his eyes.
Idly, Verity wondered why the mere sight of such well-defined lips should cause her pulse to leap when his inconsiderate behavior was such she shouldn’t find him of any interest at all.
“The ingrate,” he continued, his deep voice something of a growl, “will be the first to tell Jenna that she must not work herself to death. He needs her. She’s the only one who may make exile to the wilds of Yorkshire tolerable.”
Before Verity, bone-tired and not thinking well, could question that, the green baize-covered door, half hidden by the rise of the staircase, opened and a young under-housemaid, raced in, tears spurting from her eyes. “Miss, miss, come quick. Cook sliced his thumb and is bleeding all over everything.”
Verity, who had arrived at the Hall only a few weeks before the copper-headed stranger, couldn’t immediately decipher the broad speech of the locally raised maid. Before she’d managed to do so, the man set his hands to either side of her shoulders, lifted her, set her aside, and long strides took him toward the baize-covered door behind which he disappeared.
It was still another moment before Verity’s wits returned and she followed at a run.
* * * * *
Hearing the arrival of Jacob Moorhead, the heir designated to inherit this particular property, the late Lord Everston floated in rather tentative fashion toward the library doors. He hesitated. Then taking in a nonexistent breath, he lifted his hand, placed it where once he’d have felt dark wood and, after one more instant’s hesitation, pushed it farther ahead of himself. The shadowy hand eased into…through…the door. After another of those nonexistent breaths, the whole of him followed.
His jaw firmed at the sight of his granddaughter arguing with the lad he wished were heir to his title instead of the hypocrite his brother had sired. His
brother’s grandson was just such a one as he’d been himself in his youth, wild and foolish as bedamned, but he’d outgrown it and—the nonexistent jaw tightened still more—so would this twig of a branch of the Tomlinson family tree.
On the other hand, that female—his granddaughter—needed a lesson or two of another sort. Arrogant little witch.
Lord Everston’s head turned, his gaze burning into the maid’s mind. Without a thought of how he’d done it, his late lordship found himself in the kitchen and was already there when Jacob, his granddaughter on his grandnephew’s heels, rushed in.
The kitchen was in an uproar.
“You,” ordered Jacob after a quick survey, “stop those hysterical maids from making themselves sick.”
Verity stiffened. “Who the devil are you to give me orders?”
“The ingrate, of course,” he said without stopping in his direct route to where Cook was screaming French imprecations that Jacob hoped the young woman didn’t understand.
Verity did and, for a moment, admired the Frenchman’s fluency. Her education on the Continent, reared by parents too much in love to pay her sister or herself much attention, had been rather broader than her parents had known or approved. After ascertaining that the stranger knew what he was doing, she turned to where the maids were enjoying a companionable but rather competitive chorus of hysterics.
Verity might not have been in residence long but she knew the ringleader among the maids, went straight to her and slapped her sharply although not harshly on either cheek. When the chit, her mouth still opened, stilled, Verity ordered her to prepare Cook’s bed for when he was bandaged and ready to retire to recover from the shock. Other maids slunk away leaving only one, who, eyes tight shut, was slumped against the wall. This one sobbed real tears.
Verity sighed. Jane actually had some reason for emotion. The cook was her secret lover—as everyone knew but tactfully avoided “knowing”. Cook was French and Roman Catholic and the maid had been reared in a strict local chapel. There was no possibility of marriage but they seemed unable to keep away from each other, even after swearing solemn oaths they would do so.
This maid needed somewhat more gentle handling but, when a hand on the girl’s shoulder got no response, Verity shook her. That resulted in a gulping sob. Tightening fingers on the thin flesh made the girl, her eyes shiny wet, look up.
“Oh, miss,” Jane said, gulping.
“He will be quite all right. Have you not heard him? Listen. A man does not swear like that if he is dying.”
The maid glanced across the room, saw a stranger putting a bandage on the injured hand and rushed across the flagged floor. Cook drew her against his side and mumbled French endearments into her hair.
Jacob finished his work and looked around. He saw Verity watching him, her arms crossed and a scowl on her brow. A few words to Cook and Jacob sauntered across the room while the maid led her lover toward a door leading to the male servants’ bedrooms.
Lord Everston watched his favorite grandnephew and his granddaughter, and his nonexistent brows arched as an idea flittered around in his equally nonexistent head. He grinned and drifted off, wondering how it might be arranged. Despite his original dislike and continuing irritation with the independent little chit, he’d discovered since her arrival that his granddaughter was
the hoyden she’d been during visits made by his second son and his granddaughters—but not his daughter-in-law—after his elder son and heir died.
Miss Verity, despite what he considered an irrational dislike of himself, was respectful of Jenna and had worked herself to a frazzle nursing her aunt when the woman collapsed. In fact, his lordship discovered that Verity had a great deal of sense in her cockloft, her intelligence hidden under a head of thick walnut-colored hair, which he also liked, always having had a penchant for dark heads. Much against his will, the deceased earl had had to recognize he actually admired this misbegotten whelp, the only remaining consequence of the runaway union between his younger son and his housekeeper’s much-younger sister.
His lordship regretted leaving Verity out of his will—but a union between Jacob and Verity would solve that particular problem. Besides, if Jacob fell in love, he’d obey the instructions whereby his inheritance of High Moor Hall would be made permanent, legally validated.
With grim satisfaction, his ghostly lordship thought of the secret clause known only to his solicitor, now he himself was dead. Yes, Jacob’s marriage to Verity would solve all sorts of problems…
* * * * *
In a tall narrow London townhouse situated on the edge of the best of
neighborhoods, a lady entertained an unexpected guest. “Oh yes,” she said, yawning. “A bore. A
bore, this being a widow.”
The well-endowed beauty lifted another bonbon to her painted mouth and popped it in. She glanced at the new Lord Everston who looked older than his years. Round-shouldered and pot-bellied, with thinning reddish hair, a small mouth that tended to purse into a tight little knot under a nose far too long and thin… No, not a man she’d have looked at twice when indulging in the “freedom” that marriage to a despised and elderly husband had allowed her.
Instead of wedding the love of her life, she’d been married off at far too young an age and much against her will to an old man. Her own true-but-merely-moderately-well-off love was sent packing as her father gleefully accepted the settlements the old gentleman made. She recalled how she’d shuddered, shrunk from the man who, almost drooling, stared in a goggled-eyed fashion that reminded her of a dead fish. Her father ignored the hot look with which the elderly
watched his young fiancée, the avid
was happy. He had what
wanted and never mind what she might want… Melissa Rumford shuddered at the memory.
It was no wonder she’d rebelled against the union she’d been forced into, had done her poor best to avoid. Suffering from a desperate need for the love and the affection she’d lost by it, she’d taken full advantage of that freedom. Marriage had not lived up to her immature dreams. The horrors of her wedding night soothed any faint twinges of guilt at her subsequent wanderings. The unofficial benefits of wedded
, assuming one had nerve, were, she’d discovered, satisfying at several levels.
There was revenge, of course. And occasionally some mild pleasure.
The new earl drew her attention. A shudder reminiscent of what she’d felt for her husband roused butterflies in her tummy.
With this man
pleasure will not be an option
, she thought.
The new earl was not only soft and pudgy and unpleasantly unwashed, he was, according to gossip, sneaky, underhanded and not to be trusted. She nodded occasionally at snidely told
, most of which she’d heard weeks previously, and wondered just why he’d appeared on her doorstep when most of the
avoided it like the plague. Melissa had developed just enough cynicism she understood why the men with whom she’d formed briefly amusing connections were afraid to be seen coming and going through her front door. That was understandable. Aware of each and every affaire, no matter how carefully Melissa conducted them,
women had, for several years now, done their best to snub her. She understood that too.