Authors: Sarah Mallory
“I have come back to prove my innocence, if I can.”
Ten years ago, Wolfgang Arrandale was discovered standing over the body of his wife. Forced to run, he has lived as a fugitive ever since, doing anything to survive. But now the revelation that he’s a father compels him to prove his innocence!
Parson’s daughter Grace Duncombe is intrigued by the wild stranger who arrives one night seeking refuge. It’s clear Wolf hides many secrets, but she’s drawn to him like no other. And soon she must defend this honorable outcast whatever the cost!
The Infamous Arrandales
Scandal is their destiny!
Meet the Arrandale family—dissolute, disreputable and defiant. This infamous family has scandal in their blood, and wherever they go, their reputation will
Don’t miss any of the fabulous books
in Sarah Mallory’s dazzling quartet!
The Chaperon’s Seduction
Temptation of a Governess
Return of the Runaway
The Outcast’s Redemption
All available now!
This is the fourth in The Infamous Arrandales miniseries, and Wolfgang’s story is the one that started everything off for me. The Arrandales are a wild family, but Wolfgang Arrandale has always been the worst of them all, a rake and a rogue who fled to France after murdering his wife. His story is like a cloud on the horizon of the other stories, faint but always there, and finally in this book I have the chance to bring Wolf home.
The Outcast’s Redemption
, Wolf returns to England to clear his name, and in the process he falls in love with a good woman. A
good woman, because Grace is the daughter of a clergyman. She has lived a blameless life, a world away from Wolf’s own experiences. Grace has suffered heartache, but her belief in justice and goodness has never yet let her down. However, saving Wolfgang Arrandale proves to be her greatest challenge.
I do hope you enjoy Grace and Wolf’s adventure. In the process of discovering the truth of what happened at Arrandale Hall ten years ago, they discover each other, and if they can overcome all the obstacles in their way, they might even find their happy ending.
was born in the West
Country but now lives on the beautiful Yorkshire moors. She has been writing for
more than three decades, mainly historicals set in the Georgian and Regency
period. She has won several awards for her writing, most recently the Romantic
Novelists’ Association RoNA Rose Award in 2012 (
Dangerous Lord Darrington
) and 2013 (
Books by Sarah Mallory
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A Lady for Lord Randall
The Notorious Coale
Beneath the Major’s Scars
Behind the Rake’s
The Tantalizing Miss Coale
Linked by Character
Lady Beneath the Veil
At the Highwayman’s
Bought for Revenge
The Scarlet Gown
Trust a Rebel
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he village of Arrandale was bathed in frosty moonlight. Nothing stirred and most windows were shuttered or in darkness. Except the house standing within the shadow of the church. It was a stone building, square and sturdy, and lamps shone brightly in the two ground-floor windows that flanked the door. It was the home of Mr Titus Duncombe, the local parson, and the lights promised a welcome for any soul in need.
Just as they had always done, thought the man walking up the steps to the front door. Just as they had done ten years ago, when he had ridden through the village with the devil on his heels. Then he had not stopped. Now he was older, wiser and in need of help.
He grasped the knocker and rapped, not hard, but in the silence of the night the sound reverberated hollowly through the hall. A stooping, grey-haired manservant opened the door.
‘I would like to see the parson.’
The servant peered out, but the stranger kept his head dipped so the wide brim of his hat shadowed his face.
‘Who shall I say is here?’
‘Tell him it is a weary traveller. A poor vagabond who needs his assistance.’
The servant hesitated.
‘Nay, ’tis late,’ he said at last. ‘Come back in the morning.’
He made to shut the door but the stranger placed a dirty boot on the step.
‘Your master will know me,’ he stated. ‘Pray, take me to him.’
The old man gave in and shuffled off to speak to the parson, leaving the stranger to wait in the hall. From the study came a calm, well-remembered voice and as he entered, an elderly gentleman rose from a desk cluttered with books and papers. Once he had passed the manservant and only the parson could see his face, the stranger straightened and removed his hat.
‘I bid you good evening, Mr Duncombe.’
The parson’s eyes widened, but his tone did not change.
‘Welcome, my son. Truscott, bring wine for our guest.’ Only when the servant had closed the door upon them did the old man allow himself to smile. ‘Bless my soul. Mr Wolfgang Arrandale! You are returned to us at last.’
Wolfgang breathed a sigh of relief. He bowed.
‘Your servant, sir. I am pleased you remember me—that I have not changed out of all recognition.’
The parson waved a hand. ‘You are a little older, and if I may say so, a little more careworn, but I should know you anywhere. Sit down, my boy, sit down.’ He shepherded his guest to a chair. ‘I shall not ask you any questions until we have our wine, then we may talk uninterrupted.’
‘Thank you. I should warn you, sir, there is still a price on my head. When your man opened the door I was afraid he would recognise me.’
‘Truscott’s eyesight is grown very poor, but he prefers to answer the door after dark, rather than leave it to his wife. But even if he had remembered you, Truscott is very discreet. It is something my servants have learned over the years.’ He stopped as the object of their conversation returned with a tray. ‘Ah, here we are. Thank you, Truscott. But what is this, no cake? Not even a little bread?’
‘Mrs Truscott’s gone to bed, master.’
Mr Duncombe looked surprised. ‘At nine o’clock?’
‘She had one of her turns, sir.’
‘Pray do not worry on my account,’ put in Wolfgang quickly. ‘A glass of wine is all I require.’ When they were alone again he added drily, ‘Your man does not want to encourage dubious fellows such as I to be calling upon you.’
‘If they knew who you are—’
‘They would have me locked up.’
‘No, no, my boy, you wrong them. Not everyone in Arrandale believes you killed your wife.’
‘Are you quite sure of that, sir?’ asked Wolfgang, unable to keep a note of bitterness from his voice. ‘I was found kneeling over her body and I ran away rather than explain myself.’
‘I am sure you thought it was for the best, at the time,’ murmured the parson, topping up their glasses.
‘My father thought it best. He was never in any doubt of my guilt. If only I had called here. I am sure you would have counselled me to stay and defend myself. I was damned the moment I fled the country.’
‘We cannot change the past, my son. But tell me where you have been, what you have done for the past ten years.’
Wolfgang stretched his long legs towards the fire.
‘I have been in France, sir, but as for what I did there—let us just say whatever was necessary to survive.’
‘And may one ask why you have returned?’
For a long moment Wolf stared into the flames. ‘I have come back to prove my innocence, if I can.’
Was it possible, after so long, to solve the mystery of his wife’s death? When the parson said nothing he continued, giving voice to the thoughts that had been going round in his head ever since he decided to leave France.
‘I know it will not be easy. My wife’s parents, the Sawstons, would see me hanged as soon as look at me. I know they have put up the reward for my capture. Florence’s death might have been a tragic accident, but the fact that the Sawston diamonds went missing at the same time makes it far more suspicious. I cannot help feeling that someone must know the truth.’
The parson sighed. ‘It is so long ago. The magistrate is dead, as are your parents, and Arrandale Hall has been empty for years, with only a caretaker there now.’ He shifted uncomfortably. ‘I understand the lawyers wanted to close it up completely, but your brother insisted that Robert Jones should remain. He and his wife keep the house up together as best they can.’
‘Jones who was footman in my day?’ asked Wolf.
Mr Duncombe nodded. ‘Yes, that is he. I am afraid your lawyers will not release money for maintaining the property. Your brother does what he can to keep the building watertight, at least.’
‘Richard? But his income will not cover that.’
‘I fear it has been a struggle, although I understand he has now married a woman of...er...comfortable means.’
‘Ah, yes. I believe he is now step-papa to an heiress,’ said Wolf. ‘Quite a come-about for an Arrandale! Ah, you are surprised I know this. I met Lady Cassandra in France last year and she gave me news of the family. She also told me I have a daughter. You will remember, sir, that Florence was with child and very near her time when she died. I thought the babe had died with her but apparently not.’ He gazed into the fire, remembering his shock when Cassie had told him he was a father. ‘The child is the reason I must clear my name. I do not want her to grow up with my guilt hanging over her.’
‘An admirable sentiment, but how do you begin?’
‘By talking to anyone who might know something about that night, ten years ago.’
The old man shook his head.
‘That will not be easy. The staff are gone, moved away and some of the older ones have died. However, Brent, the old butler, still lives in the village.’
He stopped as a soft, musical voice was heard from the doorway.
‘Papa, am I so very late? Old Mrs Owlet has broken her leg and I did not like to leave her until her son came—oh, I beg your pardon, I did not know you had a visitor.’
Wolf had risen from his chair and turned to face the newcomer, a tall young woman in a pale-blue pelisse and a matching bonnet, the strings of which she was untying as she spoke to reveal an abundance of silky fair hair, neatly pulled into a knot at the back of her head.
‘Ah, Grace, my love. This is Mr...er...Mr Peregrine. My daughter, sir.’
‘Miss Duncombe.’ Wolf found himself being scrutinised by a pair of dark eyes.
‘But how did you come here, sir?’ she asked. ‘I saw no carriage on the street.’
‘I walked from Hindlesham.’
She looked wary and he could not blame her. He had been travelling for over a week, his clothes were rumpled and he had not shaved since yesterday. There was no doubt he presented a very dubious appearance.
The parson coughed. ‘Mr Peregrine will be staying in Arrandale for a few days, my love.’
‘Really?’ she murmured, unbuttoning her pelisse. ‘I understand the Horse Shoe Inn is very comfortable.’
‘Ah, you misunderstand.’ Mr Duncombe cleared his throat again. ‘I thought we might find Mr Peregrine a bed here for a few nights.’
* * *
Grace sighed inwardly. Why did Papa think it necessary to play the Good Samaritan to every stranger who appeared? She regarded the two men as they stood side by side before the fire, the guest towering over his host. She turned her attention to the stranger. The dust of the road clung to his boots, his clothes were positively shabby and as for his linen—the housewife in her was shocked to see anything so grey. Grace was not used to looking up at anyone, indeed she had often heard herself described as a beanpole, but this man topped her by several inches. His dark curling hair was as rumpled as the rest of him and at least a day’s growth of black stubble covered his cheeks. She met his eyes and although the candlelight was not sufficient to discern their colour they held a most distracting glint. She looked away, flustered.
‘I do not think...’ she began, but Papa was not listening.
‘And we have been very remiss in our refreshments, my love. Mrs Truscott is unwell, but I am sure you will be able to find our guest a little supper?’
‘Why, of course,’ she answered immediately, glad of the opportunity to get this man away from her father, who was far too kind-hearted for his own good. ‘Perhaps Mr Peregrine would like to accompany me to the kitchen?’
‘The kitchen?’ her father exclaimed, surprised. ‘My dear—’
‘It will be much easier for me to feed Mr Peregrine there, sir, since he will be on hand to tell me just what he would like.’ She managed a smile. ‘I came in that way and noted a good fire in the range, so it is very comfortable. And you may finish your sermon in peace, Papa.’
Her father made another faint protest, but the stranger said, ‘Pray do not be anxious for me, sir. If you have work to finish, then I must disturb you no longer.’ He picked up his battered portmanteau and turned to Grace. ‘Lead on, Miss Duncombe. I am at your service.’
It was most gallantly said, but Grace was not fooled. She merely inclined her head and moved towards the door.
‘Oh, Grace, send Truscott to me, when you see him, if you please. I need to apprise him of the situation.’
She looked back in surprise. ‘There is no need, Papa, I can do that.’
‘It is no trouble, my love. I want to see him on other matters, too, so you had best send him up. As soon as you can.’
‘Very well, sir.’ Her eyes flickered towards the stranger. ‘Come along.’
She crossed the hall and descended the stairs to the basement with the man following meekly behind. No, she amended that. There was nothing meek about
. Hah, she almost laughed out loud. That was no more the man’s name than it was hers. Clearly Papa had made it up on the spur of the moment to give him some semblance of respectability. It was the sort of thing her father would do. Papa was a scholar and Grace’s own education was sufficient for her to know that the name meant traveller in Latin. No doubt Papa thought that a good joke.
She went quickly to the kitchen, despatched Truscott upstairs to see his master and turned to face the man.
‘Very well, you may sit at the table and I will see what we have in the larder.’
‘A mere trifle will do,’ he murmured, easing his long legs over the bench. ‘A little bread and butter, perhaps.’
She pursed her lips. Even sitting down he dominated the kitchen.
‘I do not think
a mere trifle
will do for you at all,’ she retorted, reaching for an apron. ‘You look the sort of man who eats heartily.’
‘You have it right there, mistress, but with your cook indisposed I would be happy to have a little bread and cheese, if you know where to find it. Perhaps your man Truscott will help us, when he returns.’
Grace had been thinking that she would serve him just that, but his words flicked her on the raw. She drew herself up and fixed him with an icy look.
‘I am quite capable of producing a meal for you. It is a bad housewife who has to depend upon her servants for every little thing!’
* * *
Wolfgang rested his arms on the table as he watched Grace Duncombe bustling in and out of the kitchen. She must be what, twenty-three, twenty-four? He couldn’t remember seeing her, when he had lived at Arrandale, but ten years ago he had taken very little notice of what went on in the village. He had been four-and-twenty, reluctantly preparing to settle down with his wife. He thought of Florence, lying cold and broken on the stone floor, and her daughter—their daughter. The baby he had always believed had died with her. He rubbed his temples. He would consider that tomorrow. For now he was bone-tired from travelling and ravenously hungry. From the delicious smells coming from the frying pan his hostess was rising admirably to the challenge of feeding him.
When Truscott returned, Wolf knew he had been informed of their guest’s identity. The man was bemused and not a little embarrassed to find Arrandale of Arrandale sitting in the kitchen. Miss Duncombe was absent at that moment and the manservant stood irresolute, shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other.
Wolfgang stopped him. ‘Hush, your mistress is returning.’
She came in from the yard.
‘Truscott, pray fetch a bottle of wine for our visitor.’
‘Nay, not just for me,’ said Wolf quickly. ‘Bring a glass for your mistress, too.’
He thought for a moment she would object, but she merely frowned and went back to her cooking. The kitchen was warm and comfortable and Wolfgang felt himself relaxing as he watched her work. She was well named, he thought, there was a gracefulness to her movements, and an assurance unusual in one so young.
When Truscott went out again, Wolf said, ‘Are you only preparing a meal for me?’
‘Father and I dined earlier,’ she replied, dropping pieces of lamb into the pan. ‘Papa will take nothing more than a biscuit or two until the morning.’ She finished cooking the meat and arranged it neatly on the plate. ‘There,’ she said with a hint of defiance. ‘Your dinner.’
Wolf regarded the meal she had set before him. Besides the collops of mutton there was a dish of fried potato as well as cold potted hare and a parsnip pie.