Authors: Michelle Kelly
Jasper, Laird of Glendir, notorious womanizer and spy, has reluctantly returned home for his current mission. The ghosts of the past surround him, although one “apparition” running through his estate at night proves to be very tempting—the half-naked Lady Amelia Hedburn. The rake in Jasper cannot resist his new neighbor’s obvious charms—until he discovers she’s a virgin.
After a lifetime spent being the perfect Society lady, Amelia is on the run from a forced marriage. But the wild Scotsman awakens a shocking passion this innocent is determined to explore….
The Rake of Glendir
Jasper Glendir isn’t quite your usual Regency gentleman. He’s a Scotsman, with a wild side and more than a few dark secrets. The perfect rogue, in fact, to give the gently bred Amelia Hedburn a taste of the freedom and passion she desires. Amelia turns up in Glendir with a few secrets of her own, which Jasper quickly sets about trying to uncover….
I had great fun creating these characters and getting under their skin, and have to say that Jasper is my favorite hero so far. I hope you enjoy their story as much as I did.
Glendir itself is a fictional coastal town on the Scots border, inspired by a recent visit to Eyemouth, with its beautiful coastal scenery, and Amelia’s beloved Trevan is inspired by Gunsgreen House, which is currently being restored as a tourist attraction. In the eighteenth century this area was rife with unrest and rebellion, and a notorious center for black market trade and smuggling. The perfect setting for my red-haired rake and a young lady making a bid for freedom.
Table of Contents
Jasper, fifteenth laird of Glendir, looked through the trees at the white shape running towards him and frowned. What on earth was this? He moved forward slowly, the shadows wrapping around him like a cloak, well used to the art of subterfuge. As the shape grew closer, he saw it was a young woman, her hair flying behind her. The white, he realized, was her shift. At first thinking, due to her partly undressed state, that she must be fleeing from some attacker, he reached for the dagger he kept hidden in his belt then paused as she neared him enough that he could see the expression on her face. It wasn’t fear he saw but rather a childlike joy that made him smile himself. Neither could he fail to notice the perfect lines of a womanly body beneath the thin material of her shift. Curious and more than a little intrigued, Jasper waited for the mysterious young woman to reach him. The way she was running, she looked likely to tumble straight into him.
* * *
With the cool night breeze kissing her cheeks and lifting tendrils of hair around her face like a lover, Amelia threw her head back in exhilaration, breathing in the crisp air as she ran. After a lifetime of being trussed up and paraded about like a show pony to be sold to the highest bidder, of trying hard to do and be everything her father expected of her, she was free. Although she knew being alone in the grounds at this time of night was foolish, it had been an impulsive urge. Coupled with the inability to sleep Amelia couldn’t resist getting up and slipping out of the house. Her house, and for the next few days at least, her bolt-hole.
Trevan House, the home of her maternal family, passing to her aunt and now to her, was smaller than the grand house and London lodgings she was used to, but it was
The last link to a mother she could barely remember and an aunt she hadn’t seen since childhood. It had been expected—or certainly her father expected it—that she would sell the house, and she had never thought to see it again. Had never in truth been particularly interested in this little wild corner of the world. Yet now it had become her temporary refuge while she considered her suddenly uncertain future.
And so here she was. She wondered how long it would be before her father came after her. Or if, shamed by her actions, he would leave her alone for a while. No doubt Lord Horatio Winters, the man her father was intent on marrying her to, would turn his attentions to someone more willing.
Amelia suddenly shuddered with more than the chill of the night air as she raced barefoot through the gardens. If that was an appropriate name for the acres of land that surrounded Trevan. There was a gamekeeper with his own little cottage, she knew, and had a vague memory of her mother showing her a deer at the edge of the woods. An owl hooted, making her jump, and she smelled the salt on the wind that blew in from the nearby coast, rumoured to be dotted with smugglers’ caves, some of which supposedly led into Trevan’s lands. Her lands, at least for the moment. Trevan House itself may not be much, but the grounds and surrounding countryside had a wild beauty that had taken her by surprise. She ran until she was out of breath and nearly into a thicket of trees parallel to her grounds, and then, feeling a stitch in her side, slowed down, rapidly coming to her senses as she realized she had strayed too far, and she was alone.
Or perhaps not.
Turning back towards the house she walked right into a thickset man, who promptly grabbed her and thrust a hand over her mouth before she could scream. Amelia struggled, terrified and wondering for one horrible moment if Horatio had sent someone after her. When the stranger merely gazed down at her with an inscrutable expression, her struggles not moving him in the slightest, Amelia saw red. Twisting half out of his grasp and biting down on his hand, she screamed for help at the same time as she began to hit him around the head. The man let her go and backed away a few steps, hands raised for appeasement, but showed no signs of leaving. She could see little of him in the moonlight other than that he was tall and well built, with wild hair around a face hidden in shadows, apart from piercing eyes and what looked to be a fine jaw.
‘How dare you!’ she raged, ‘to trespass on my lands and put your hands on me so! I will have you dragged before the law!’
The man raised an eyebrow, giving his features in the dim light a mysterious expression. ‘I’m afraid, my lady, that it is you, not me, that is the trespasser here. It would appear you have wandered onto my land.’
In spite of the Scottish burr, the man’s voice was clipped and well-spoken. Amelia felt her heart sink. Her land bordered on that of Lord Glendir’s, she knew, but surely he was about eighty?
‘Jasper Glendir,’ the man confirmed, giving her a small bow that she was sure was meant as a mockery. ‘And you are?’
Amelia pulled her cloak around herself, acutely aware now that she was barefoot, in her shift, and alone with this infuriatingly mysterious neighbour. Although any gentleman would keep his gaze respectfully away from her, Jasper Glendir had no such subtlety; his eyes roamed over her, glinting in the shadows. She shuddered, aware that she quivered not just with embarrassment or the cold, but at the little frisson that curled through her at this man’s obvious appraisal. Irritated with herself, she tut-tutted impatiently and wrapped her cloak around her as tightly as she could.
‘Lady Amelia Hedburn. I’ve come to stay at Trevan following my aunt’s death, to settle her affairs. I expect to be gone within a few days, so I will not be troubling you or your lands again.’’
Amelia fully meant for her voice to sound imperious and haughty, but instead it came out a little breathy. From her run, and the fright he had given her, of course. Nothing to do with those intense eyes and the proximity of his strong, lean form.
‘We are neighbours then,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘for I am the owner of Glendir now. My grandfather sadly passed away also, no doubt eager to follow your Aunt Matilda.’
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ Amelia snapped, annoyed at the insinuation in his words. ‘My aunt kept herself to herself, I’m sure. If you’ll excuse me, I must get in before I catch a chill.’
She looked around, realizing she wasn’t entirely sure of the way back. Lord Glendir stepped towards her, and night time or not, there was no mistaking the look in his eyes. It was desire. After the way Lord Winters had lunged at her she’d thought never to want to see that look on a man’s face again, but something about the laird’s direct gaze and confident manner intrigued her. Excited her, even. She should step away, she knew, yet something kept her there, matching his gaze. A wild recklessness bubbled up in her; the same recklessness that had landed her in trouble so many times as a child before she had, outwardly at least, modelled herself into a respectable young lady.
‘Perhaps you would let me escort you?’ Lord Glendir asked, holding out an arm for her to take. A courteous gesture, yet one that left her strangely disappointed. She realized she had been waiting to see if he would embrace her, and chided herself as she felt embarrassment curling in her belly. His eyes were opaque now, and she thought she must have only imagined the flash of desire in them. What must he think of her, running around in this state? His offer to take her back to the house was a welcome one, however. She was, after all, quite lost.
Reluctantly she took his arm and allowed him to walk her briskly back the way she had come. She had roamed further than she had intended.
‘Have you come from London?’ he asked politely. Amelia answered carefully, unwilling to give away too much information.
‘I was there with my father and his sister for the Season yes; but then matters dictated I settle affairs here.’
Jasper frowned at that.
‘A young woman like yourself, coming here to the coast when the Season is in full swing? I should have thought you would have preferred to stay. You would have been surrounded by suitors, I’m sure.’
Amelia felt herself blush at his easy compliment and was glad of the dark. She wondered how best to answer when Jasper spoke again.
‘Will not your father be angry you were running around outside like this? I would not wish any scandal to fall on you, given your…attire.’
He sounded almost amused, although genuinely concerned for her welfare, and another flush of embarrassment made Amelia burst out, ‘I came alone, my lord. My father remains in London.’
Jasper stopped walking then and turned to face her, his expression serious and his eyes searching her face.
‘Are you in some kind of trouble, Lady Amelia?’
Jasper was intrigued. At first he had wondered if the girl wasn’t a little mad, to be running around so, but talking to her she seemed sane enough. Yet something had brought the young lady here, alone and unchaperoned. She was either running or hiding, or both. But from what? Jasper looked at her, torn between natural curiosity and the need for him to remain aloof from the troubles of this new young neighbour. After all, he had no intention of staying at Glendir any longer than he had to, his ownership of the land providing the perfect cover for his current mission. He had no time for a woman’s folly. No matter how attractive and desirable she may be, he admitted to himself with a swallow. It was indeed a struggle for him to keep his eyes on her pretty face and away from the lush lines of her body, the curves of her breasts pushing temptingly over the confines of her shift.
Amelia had dropped her gaze, obviously unwilling to share her secrets and looking, he thought, upset. He fancied he could see tears glistening in the corners of her blue eyes and immediately felt like a cad for appraising her form when she was clearly in some distress. She looked up at him as he moved towards her, to offer comfort perhaps, but her expression had become steely, any hint of tears gone.
‘Not at all, my lord. I merely have some legal affairs to settle and then I shall be moving on. I am visiting a dear friend who has need of me.’ Well it was half-true, she thought. She was sure her newly married friend Madeleine Wycham would only be too happy to help out when she found out about Amelia’s predicament.
‘I see,’ he said, although Amelia was sure he didn’t believe her at all. In fact he gave her the unnerving sensation of being able to see straight into her soul. ‘I apologize if I have offended you. You must understand—’ his full lips curved in a small smile ‘—I am unused to scantily dressed ladies trespassing onto my grounds in the middle of the night.’
Amelia bristled. He must think her a complete strumpet, she thought. ‘I assure you, my lord,’ she said stiffly, ‘it is not an action I make a habit of. I merely wanted some fresh air.’
‘You should be careful,’ he said, his voice softer now. ‘You never know who might be abroad. This is a wild country, Lady Amelia. It is not London.’
Amelia looked around her, for the first time comprehending the folly of what she had done. ‘I know,’ she admitted. ‘It was foolish of me. It was only…as you say, it is not London, and I think the night air went to my head.’ She stopped, unable to find the words to describe the giddy feeling of freedom that had sent her running through the night. Jasper however looked as though he understood.
‘It is beautiful here,’ he said. ‘I myself only returned a few days ago.’
Something in his tone made Amelia wonder what he himself was doing here, wandering the edges of his lands in the middle of the night. ‘And you, my lord,’ she asked. ‘Is it usual for you, this night-time wandering?’