“My dear, the most delicious scandal from Cape Town,” said Lady Laura Hardwick, picking up the missive from her brother.
Her dearest friend, Miss Delilah Sutton, laughed. “How can that be, Laura? One doesn’t know anybody in such a forsaken place.”
Laura raised both brows. “Lieutenant Lord Cecil Hardwick, the third son of the Marquess of Trentwater, is not precisely a nobody,” she scolded.
Delilah made a quick save. “I hardly think your brother is writing scandal about himself, and you have told me yourself that no-one else of consequence is posted there. That is a scandal, if you like, that a man like your brother is not given his own ship, and a more suitable posting.”
Laura’s eyebrows returned to their normal position and she picked up the letter. “Quite so. But listen to this.” She looked up again to meet her friend’s eyes. “The man in question is the fourth son of the fourth son of an earl, so nobody of consequence, but Delilah, we know the lady!”
Delilah leaned forward with all the enthusiasm Laura could desire, as Laura skimmed through the letter, turning from one sheet to another.
“Hope you are well. Off to sea tomorrow. Not much to amuse. Ah. Here we are.” She grinned at Delilah, drawing out the moment. “Are you listening?”
“I’ve told you the youngest Redepenning is a great favourite here. One presumes it is through his parents’ influence he has already made captain. His mother’s father was an admiral, you know, though not one of our kind of people. His own father is a crony of Prinny’s, of course. Every one knows he made Brigadier-General, yes, and picked up his barony, by lifting elbows with Wales.“
Laura skipped a few more lines. “The next bit is about how Father doesn’t help him. Ah. Here’s what I was looking for.”
“Redepenning lives with a Batavian native woman whom he bought off his old Captain years ago when they were both in the East. Word is she’s dying, so when another woman moved in a few weeks ago, we all thought he was making a start on training up his replacement mistress.”
“No,” Delilah said, the ‘o’ on a long drawn descending note.
Laura grinned again, and went on reading. “It was much more scandalous than that. The woman is actually his wife, a lady by the name of Euronyme Redepenning. Do you know her?“
“We do!” Delilah exclaimed. “We’ve both met her, Laura.”
“Yes, I know. Now shush. He has more to say, and you won’t believe it.” Laura turned back to the letter.
“Apparently, and I heard this from Mrs Redepenning myself, so you need have no doubt it is true, Redepenning’s wife has come all the way to Cape Town to nurse his dying mistress, and adopt his little yellow bastards. What do you think of that?“
“I cannot believe it,” Delilah gasped. “She will be shunned. The little children will be outcasts.”
Laura shrugged. “I daresay the Redepennings think they can make Society dance to their tune.” Her eyes gleamed and she bared her teeth. “What a pity if poor Mrs Redepenning returns to London to find that everyone already knows what she has done, and their minds are already made up.”
Delilah was alarmed. “Oh, Laura, do be careful. She is a favourite of the Duchess of Haverford.”
Laura glared at her friend. “Are you going to help me? Or not?”
Book 4 in The Golden Redepennings series
She wants to negotiate a comfortable marriage; he wants her in his bed
“… oaths and anchors equally will drag: naught else abides on fickle earth but unkept promises of joy.” Herman Melville
Naval captain Jules Redepenning has spent his adult life away from England, and at war. He rarely thinks of the bride he married for her own protection, and if he does, he remembers the child he left after their wedding seven years ago. He doesn’t expect to find her in his Cape Town home, a woman grown and a lovely one, too.
Mia Redepenning sails to Cape Town to nurse her husband’s dying mistress and adopt his children. She hopes to negotiate a comfortable married life with the man while she’s there. Falling in love is not on her to-do list.
Before they can do more than glimpse a possible future together, their duties force them apart. At home in England, Mia must fight for the safety of Jules’s children. Imprisoned in France, Jules must battle for his self-respect and his life.
Only by vanquishing their foes can they start to make their dreams come true.
My next novel, Unkept Promises, has just gone to the proofreader and is now on preorder. Read on for an excerpt. See my book page for the previous three books, and The Golden Redepennings web page for more about the series. And all my novels are on 50% discount at Smashwords this month.
His little wife had grown. Not ‘up’ exactly. She was still a tiny creature, her head no higher than his chest, but no-one would take her for a schoolgirl now! Was it the modern fashions that gave her curves he’d not seen seven years ago—not a lush endowment but decidedly female?
Annoyed with her though he was, he could not deny that his body responded to hers, as if something primitive within him rejoiced in the link formed by their long-ago wedding and yearned to set seal to his claim. A physical lust. That was all. It could be ignored.
But the change in her was not only physical. She had been an endearing mix of child and adult. Her isolated life as the only child of a reclusive scholar had given her a wisdom and maturity beyond her years and the innocence of a much younger girl. Now she was a woman. Confident and in charge.
Which was extremely irritating, since she had placed herself in charge of his house! As he allowed his two daughters to drag him back upstairs and show him and Dan around their domain, he had to concede she was competent. No. More than competent.
He couldn’t complain about the changes in the nursery—new paint, shelves instead of trunks for books and toys, new furniture—sturdy painted furniture that would withstand much more activity than the rejects from the rest of the house that had been there before.
“Sit in Ibu Mia’s chair, Papa,” Ada commanded.
Marsha scoffed. “Not Ibu Mia’s. Papa is too big. Sit in Hannah’s chair, Papa.”
“Is Hannah looking after you while she is visiting?” Jules was not above finding out his wife’s intentions from his children, if he could.
“Hannah is not visiting. Hannah is our new nurse,” Ada explained. She was dragging his duffel bag from where Dan had dropped it by the door.
Marsha offered her morsel of information. “Hannah used to be nurse to our cousin Daisy, but Daisy has a governess now, so Hannah came to be our nurse.”
“And to look after Ibu Mia,” Ada corrected. “Hannah said Lord Henry said Ibu Mia could not travel all this way on her own. Is Lord Henry our grandfather, Papa? Hannah says he is.”
“Yes, sweetheart,” Jules confirmed. “Lord Henry is my father, so your grandfather.” Father had approved this trip, had he? He had never been happy about Jules’s irregular living arrangements, Jules was sure of that, though his letters were devoid of any criticism. Susan, Jules’s sister, was more direct in her letters, castigating him for leaving his wife for so long. They probably sent Mia to bring Jules to heel.
But he wouldn’t be leashed by her or anyone else, either.
He pulled the first object from his duffel: a mancala board in carved wood, with stones in bright colours to play the game.
“How pretty!” Ada marvelled. “Look, Marsha. Look at the carvings. What does it do, Papa? Who is it for?”
“This is to share,” Jules warned, “and Dan will teach you how to play the game.”
Next, he pulled out a skipping rope each. One of the men on the Advantage had made the brightly painted wooden handles, sized for small hands, and the ropes fed through a hole in the butt of the handle, so they could be lengthened or shortened to suit the height of the user.
The girls fell on them and wanted to try them out immediately, but settled quickly when he suggested that Hannah would expect them to skip outside, and he had not yet emptied the duffle.
Two of the maids carried in trays with glasses of milk for the children, plates of scones, bowls of jam, and a pot of coffee for Jules. He waved them to the table while he distributed the strings of beads he’d purchased in the market at Toamasina.
“May I serve you a scone, Papa?” Marsha asked.
“I shall pour Papa’s coffee,” Dan insisted. “I know how he takes it.”
Ada’s face fell, and Marsha must have noticed, because she gave the prepared plate to her sister. “You shall take this to Papa, because you helped make them, too,” she said. Jules’s smile must have said how proud he was, for his shy daughter blushed while the bold one climbed on his knee and instructed him on the fine art of scone-eating.
The girls set aside the book each he gave them for reading later, but when the bundle of silk scarves and the handful of pretty combs for their hair emptied the duffel, they forgot about their milk and scones for the pleasures of dressing one another’s hair, and parading the results in front of Dan and Jules.
Jules kept looking to the door, but Mia stayed away. He was disappointed, and annoyed with himself for the emotion. She had charmed his mistress, his daughters, and his servants; was well on her way to charming his son. She would not find him such an easy conquest. Though, to be fair, most of what he’d had against her had evaporated.
Now he’d had time to calm down, he could not object to Mia moving Kirana from the room next to his own, with only one small window, to the top floor at the far end of the wing, with windows on all three sides, though he wouldn’t have called the room over hot. It was, after all, still winter. Though the Cape Town winters were very mild by English standards, Kirana was used to the heat of Ceylon and India.
Still, the difference in temperature and the freshness of the air spoke for itself, and Kirana’s praise for Mia was genuine.
The whole house had the Mia touch. The surfaces gleamed. Every corner was scrubbed and clean. The windows sparkled. Since Raquib and Jwala had returned to India, and Kirana’s illness left her without the strength to supervise the servants, he’d had to ignore cobwebs and dust in remote corners, because it upset Kirana when he spent the first few days of every leave chasing the servants to do their work.
Even if Mia was overstepping her mark by taking over the house he kept for his mistress—whoever heard of a wife doing such a thing? —he couldn’t deny the results were pleasing.
But she had still dismissed a pregnant maid to fend for herself in a port town where men outnumbered women four to one.
And she was still here when she ought to be in England.