Lady Gwendolyn, Countess of Drayton entered her older brother’s townhouse and handed her parasol to Edmond’s butler. She should not be out this morning, not in her delicate condition, but she had to ensure her brother’s welfare.
“Is he home, Edgar?” she asked with familiarity. Her brother’s butler had been with the Worthington family for longer than Gwendolyn could even recall.
“He is, my lady, and in his study going over the accounts,” he replied. “If you would follow me…”
“No need, Edgar, but if you could have Mrs. McDaniel’s brew some tea I would be most grateful.”
She did not wait for a reply but made her way towards her brother’s study. She could not wait to gloat over the fact that for once she was not the subject of this morning’s gossip in that horrendous rag, the Teatime Tattler. She had not taken time to read the morning paper herself but instead had hurried across town instead. A smirk of satisfaction turned up the corners of her mouth before she opened the door.
One look at Edmond Worthington, 9th Duke of Hartford and her smile fell as she rushed across the room to his side. His head rose from his desk as she came near. Bloodshot eyes met hers and it was obvious her brother had been far into the half-filled brandy near at hand.
“I have lost her, Gwen,” he slurred before rubbing his hand across his eyes as though that alone would clear his vision. “How shall I get her back?”
All thoughts of teasing her brother left her when she placed her arm around his shoulder and leaned down to kiss his cheek. “By talking to her, of course.”
“She will not give me the time of day. Probably deserve it given what she saw,” he muttered before pointing to the paper upon his desk. “And those damn Danver sisters! Why they cannot find someone else to gossip about is beyond me. They continue to spread their tales hoping to be the center of attention.”
“Forget about them, Edmond. No one will believe whatever malicious gossip they are spreading this week. Who reads such nonsense anyway?”
His brow rose at the implication, his ducal stare just as unnerving as always despite being well into his cups at such an ungodly hour of the morn. “Everyone who is anyone, Gwen. You know that first hand,” he whispered, reaching for the decanter.
She pushed the crystal away and scooped up the paper but not before pursing the few lines open for her to read.
This reporter has learned from the “D” sisters that a certain Duke of H has been caught in a compromising situation by his fiancé at a recent house party. This would hardly be of much interest except the lady who was found sprawled in his lap was none other than his ex-mistress – or is she really an “ex”? Inquiring minds will eagerly await news of how the rest of this story unfolds…
Remorse filled her at her early thoughts to rub whatever news focused on Edmond today in his face. She threw the paper into the hearth and enjoyed a moment of satisfaction whilst she watched it burned. She then went and pulled the bell cord.
When a maid entered, she went towards her brother to help him rise. “Send for my brother’s valet and have food sent up to His Grace’s bedroom,” she ordered. It was time for her brother to pull himself together.
Coming this summer… One Moment in Time: A Family of Worth, Book Two
In the meantime, dive into Gwendolyn’s story in Nothing But Time: A Family of Worth, Book One, currently #FREE at online retailers.
They will risk everything for their forbidden love…
When Lady Gwendolyn Marie Worthington is forced to marry a man old enough to be her father, she concludes love will never enter her life. Her husband is a cruel man who blames her for his own failings. Then she meets her brother’s attractive business associate and all those longings she had thought gone forever suddenly reappear.
A long-term romance holds no appeal for Neville Quinn, Earl of Drayton until an unexpected encounter with the sister of the Duke of Hartford. Still, he resists giving his heart to another woman, especially one who belongs to another man.
Chance encounters lead to intimate dinners, until Neville and Gwendolyn flee to Berwyck Castle at Scotland’s border hoping beyond reason their fragile love will survive the vindictive reach of Gwendolyn’s possessive husband. Before their journey is over, Gwendolyn will risk losing the only love she has ever known.
Lady Gwendolyn Marie Worthington strode across the floor of her brother’s study, carelessly threw her bonnet onto a high backed leather chair, and crossed her arms. The missive she held in her hand had driven all thoughts of a trip to the milliner with her friend Lady Calliope out of her head. Her shoe tapped a rapid staccato on the wooden floorboards. Her brother remained indifferent to her demand for his attention whilst he continued writing. The insufferable lout did not even have the decency to acknowledge her presence in his pursuit to finish his correspondence. She cleared her throat, hoping to gain his notice.
He continued whatever business he was attending to without a pause, except to say, in a barely civil and flat monotone, “You did not knock.” His disinterest in her presence served as a reminder of his place within his household, as if she could ever forget she was subject to his directives.
Her brother had had the arrogance to send a servant to deliver his note to her bedroom. He should have come there himself to speak with her, given the news he wished to impart. She tossed the crumbled parchment onto his desk. He, in turn, swatted it aside like it was nothing but a pesky insect.
“You have been given your instructions, Gwendolyn. We have nothing further to discuss.”
“Do not take that tone with me, Edmond. You may hold our father’s title, but that in no way gives you leave to treat me as if I must comply with demands such as these,” she fumed. Where had her carefree older brother of years past gone? Surely some measure of the young man she had adored in their youth lurked behind the expressionless mask of this unfeeling cad before her?
Edmond Gerard Worthington, 9th Duke of Hartford, set his quill down. The blue eyes he at last bothered to turn upon her were just as cold as his voice. Since he had inherited his rightful title of duke after their father’s passing, along with all the responsibilities such a position held, Gwendolyn hardly recognized her brother. She swallowed hard, knowing she could not easily sway this uncaring man. Still, she had to try.
“Mother will hear of this,” she warned. “She will not allow her only daughter to be wed to a man in order to fulfill some business deal made years ago.”
“Mother is fully aware of the obligations that must be met. I should not have to explain how things of this nature are done, sister. Arranged marriages happen every day within the ton. Yours will be no exception.”
“Brandon, then. Surely my younger brother cares what happens to his sister since you have made it painfully obvious you do not,” Gwendolyn retorted sharply.
“He is my brother, too, if you would care to remember.” Edmond sighed heavily. “Both mother and Brandon have been summoned to return to London immediately. The marriage contract was agreed years ago and bears the signatures of all parties, including your own. You would have already been wed, had it not been for father’s death.” Edmond leaned his elbows upon his desk, fingers forming a steeple as if contemplating his next counter to whatever argument she could muster.
She quickly thought of the first excuse that crossed her mind. “I am still in mourning,” Gwendolyn declared through clenched lips.
His eyes roamed down the length of her pink floral gown and his brows rose in unsuppressed amusement. “Your mourning period is long since over, as your garments surely attest. Resign yourself to wedding Lord Sandhurst.”
She stomped her foot in frustration. “Bernard Sandhurst is a lecherous old man and ancient enough to be my father.” She barely held back a cry of despair. “How can you condemn me to a life with that horrible person, however long the vermin will still remain on this earth?”
“I am doing the best I can to save this family from financial ruin. You should be grateful Sandhurst will still have you, given the limited amount I could spare for your dowry. I will not be swayed in my decision, Gwendolyn, and Sandhurst can no longer be put off. He has all but stated his time waiting for you is over. He has been as patient as one could ask of a man getting on in years. You are now twenty years of age and should have been wed with children of your own by now.”
Thoughts of being intimate with a man who repulsed Gwendolyn made her shudder. The few times she had had the displeasure of being alone in the same room with Lord Bernard Sandhurst, he had mauled her with his cool clammy hands. He reminded her of a fish, and an unappealing one at that.
Her brother cut her off with a wave of his hand. “Father made this decision and you must abide by it, along with the rest of us.” Edmond picked up his quill and examined the tip before dipping it into the inkwell.
“You are a duke, Edmond. Surely you can pay the man off so I can find a worthy man to love.” She silently pleaded with him, and, for the briefest instant, she held the smallest measure of hope he would accede to her wishes.
His piercing blue eyes leveled on her but briefly. “Love is for fools. Better to marry for wealth and a decent position in society than to lose your heart to such a frivolous emotion as love.” Edmond returned to his work, the quill scratching across the parchment. The sound echoed in her head as though the missive sealed her fate. “Resign yourself to your marriage Gwendolyn. Sandhurst has made arrangements for the wedding to take place two weeks hence.”
Sherry Ewing is proud to be one of the Bluestocking Belles. Sherry picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. When not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist.
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