Read A Dangerous Love Online

Authors: Sabrina Jeffries

Tags: #Historical, #Fiction, #Romance

A Dangerous Love

BOOK: A Dangerous Love
4.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

S
ABRINA
J
EFFRIES

A Dangerous Love

To the Avon Ladies,
who’ve seen me through many tempestuous times.

To Micki, a truly superior editor.
And to lovers of Shakespeare everywhere.

Contents

Chapter 1

“I’ll be gone two weeks or more.”

Chapter 2

So this is Swan Park, Griff thought with unaccountable pride…

Chapter 3

Griff stared shamelessly at the Amazon flashing a sword in…

Chapter 4

After the maid finished helping her dress the next morning,…

Chapter 5

“By God, why didn’t you dissuade the damnable woman from…

Chapter 6

The man was sly, she’d give him that, Rosalind thought…

Chapter 7

Griff had no idea what to make of Rosalind’s comment.

Chapter 8

Why must he be so good at this? Rosalind thought…

Chapter 9

Amidst Lady Juliet’s chatter, Daniel’s attempts at charm, and Lady…

Chapter 10

Griff was up to something. Rosalind knew it. But she…

Chapter 11

Griff trudged up the servants’ stairs, weary to the bone…

Chapter 12

Griff stared at Rosalind, dumbfounded. His Athena stood there with…

Chapter 13

“That was the finest display of jealousy I’ve ever seen,”…

Chapter 14

Griff stayed away from everyone all evening while the deed…

Chapter 15

Over the next two days, Rosalind discovered that being engaged…

Chapter 16

Griff halted to gawk at Rosalind. She’d stuck her tongue…

Chapter 17

Griff braced himself for her anger. At least now everything…

Chapter 18

Half an hour later, after they were dressed and walking…

Chapter 19

Why did I have to be right? Rosalind thought. Why…

Chapter 20

Griff could not believe it—he’d won her at last. Even…

Chapter 21

I love you, and that is my curse. But you…

Chapter 22

Three days after arriving in London, Rosalind leaned against a…

Chapter 23

Rosalind paced backstage, surprised she wasn’t more nervous. She’d seen…

Epilogue

Griff stood sipping champagne at the end of Swan Park’s…

 

Author’s Note

About the Author

Praise

Other Books by Sabrina Jeffries

Copyright

About the Publisher

Chapter 1

London
August 1815

Money speaks sense in a language all nations understand
.
Aphra Behn, English playwright
The Rover,
Pt. 2, Act 3

“I
’ll be gone two weeks or more.”

Marsden Griffith Knighton watched from the head of the large table as predictable excitement rippled through his staff. The last time Griff had left Knighton Trading helmless for so long, he’d established an office in Calcutta that tripled the firm’s profits—and destroyed two of his competitors.

Even Daniel Brennan, his generally unimpressed man of affairs, straightened in his chair. Daniel rarely attended such meetings now that he managed Griff’s substantial private interests, but Griff had a compelling reason to require his presence today.

“Are you leaving Mr. Brennan in charge as usual, sir?” a young trader asked.

“No. He’s going with me.” When Daniel gaped at him, Griff bit back a smile. Daniel was hard to shock, having been with Knighton Trading since the days when it gained its primary revenue from smuggled goods. “Mr. Harrison will be in charge.”

The senior trader beamed at this evidence of preference. “So where are you off to now, Mr. Knighton? France? India?” Greed brightened his eyes. “China perhaps?”

Griff chuckled. “Warwickshire. This isn’t a business trip. I have family there.”

“F-Family?” Harrison stammered.

Griff could guess his thoughts.
But he’s a bastard. Except for his poor mother, how could he have any family that would acknowledge him?

“Yes. Family,” Griff repeated with fierce satisfaction. “It’s a personal matter of some importance.” He paused, then continued in that firm tone his staff knew never to question. “One more thing—none of you is to mention this to anyone, not even my mother. As far as you’re concerned, I
have
sailed to France or China, understand?”

A low chorus of reassurances followed.

“Good. You’re dismissed. Daniel, I need a word with you.”

His staff left without lingering, for they well knew he didn’t waste time with frivolous chatter. Besides, Griff thought wryly, they probably couldn’t wait to speculate upon the shocking news that he had “family.” Years ago it would have angered him, but he’d worn the stigma of bastardy so long it hardly chafed his skin anymore. What it chafed was his purse, but he now intended to remedy that.

As soon as the office cleared, Daniel arched one blond eyebrow and lowered his massive frame onto the expensive chair before Griff’s desk. “A personal matter?”

“It really is personal this time, believe it or not.”

Gone were the days when he and Daniel engaged in whatever machinations, illegal or no, were necessary to make Knighton Trading succeed. The future of the company lay in respectability. And ironically enough, respectability lay buried in Griff’s past.

Griff took his own seat behind the desk. “I’ve been invited to visit my distant cousin—the Earl of Swanlea. He’s dying, and his estate, Swan Park, is entailed on me.”

Daniel looked perplexed. “But how could it be entailed on you if you’re—”

“A bastard? I’m not. Not in the legal sense, anyway.”

Daniel scowled, his disappointment evident. Their bastardy was the one thing they had in common, since they were opposites in looks, manner, and education. The fair-haired Daniel had been brought up in the workhouse and then in a smuggler’s gang. Griff, dark-haired and lean, had been raised and educated as a gentleman.

Griff forced a smile, and added, “Although my legitimacy isn’t yet established.”

“Either you’re a bastard or you ain’t,” Daniel grumbled.


Aren’t
,” Griff corrected. “I’m not a bastard, though I can’t prove it. That’s why I accepted Swanlea’s invitation.”

Daniel’s eyes narrowed. “Isn’t Swanlea the chap you had me investigate? The widower whose three daughters are called the Swanlea Spinsters?”

“That’s him.” Griff handed Daniel a letter over the desk. “I received this last week, which is what
prompted the investigation. You may find it interesting.”

As Daniel scanned the clumsy script, Griff surveyed his office. Summer sunlight crept in through high windows that cost him a fortune in taxes. It danced across marble sills and an Aubusson carpet before disappearing beneath mahogany chairs. This was his third office in ten years, each better situated and more richly furnished. It lay in the heart of the City near the Bank of England, loudly proclaiming his success.

Yet it wasn’t enough. He wanted Knighton Trading to rival even the East India Company. Thanks to his distant cousin’s timely offer, it might soon do just that.

Daniel finished the letter and regarded Griff with surprise. “So if you meet your cousin’s terms, you’ll be the next Earl of Swanlea?”

“Yes. He’ll give me the proof of my legitimacy that I need to inherit his title and lands, which I assume is my parents’ missing marriage certificate. In exchange, I’m to marry one of his daughters so they may remain at Swan Park.”

Daniel’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t you find it a mite suspicious that the earl should ‘stumble across the proof in his family papers’ after so many years?”

Griff snorted. “Of course I do.” Indeed, he suspected the fifth earl of far worse crimes against his family. But only a fool acted on past resentments. And his purpose transcended any idle dreams of revenge. “I don’t care how he found the proof—I want it. Once I establish my legitimacy, I can gain a position on that trade delegation to China.”

“So you actually intend to marry one of these spinsters?”

“Give in to his blackmail? Never! That’s why I need you to come with me. I intend to get the
‘proof’ there. And while I’m searching Swan Park for it, I want
you
to distract the daughters. Entertain them, court them, do whatever you must. Just keep them out of my way.”

“Have you lost your mind?” Daniel exploded. “Entertain three earl’s daughters? They wouldn’t even speak to the likes of me! How the devil can I distract them?”

Griff smiled. “By pretending to be me, of course.”

“Me? As you? Not bloody likely. Your staff will be roaring at the thought of—”

Daniel broke off when Griff raised an eyebrow. “Christ, you’re serious!”

“Perfectly serious. If I go there as myself courting, I’ll have to be available. But as Mr. Knighton’s man of affairs, I can roam the house at will. If I’m discovered, I merely have to reveal the deception to keep from being arrested. They won’t accuse their cousin of thievery and risk a scandal. Whereas if they find
you
searching and learn of your background, the earl will have you hanged just to strike back at me.”

Daniel’s eyes narrowed. “You think him that much of a scoundrel?”

Griff considered telling him the entire truth, but decided against it. Daniel’s moral code could be damned unpredictable. He might not cooperate if he realized how far Griff meant to go to establish his legitimacy.

“Yes. So I’ll be the only one searching Swan Park. But don’t worry—changing roles will be easy. I’ve never met the Earl of Swanlea or his daughters. Thanks to the rift between our families, they don’t know how I look—”

“Ballocks! From the portrait I saw of your da, you’re his very image. Black hair, blue eyes—”

“Which makes me look Irish—more Irish than you, anyway.” Griff smiled smugly. Daniel’s looks
came from his English mother, and he’d been raised in England, so he bore no trace of an Irish brogue. “I’m told the earl never leaves his bed, so he need not see me. Why shouldn’t he believe you’re Mr. Knighton?”

The younger man’s gaze flicked over him. “Because you carry yourself like a gentleman. And I carry myself like an Irish highwayman’s bastard.”

“Which is why they’d send you off to Newgate at the first sign of treachery.” When Daniel rose to stalk the room, Griff softened his tone. “As Mr. Knighton, you’d be in your element. Unlike me, you’re quite the charmer with females.”

“Haymarket ware p’raps, but I don’t know the first thing about charming ladies.” Striding up to the desk, he planted his fists on it and stared down at Griff. “You’re daft, y’know. It won’t work.”

“It
will
. Knighton is ‘in trade,’ so they’ll expect a rough man. They’ll overlook lapses in speech or manner because he’s rich. For the most part, you can be yourself.”

Daniel seemed to weigh Griff’s words.

Griff pressed his advantage. “You want to run your own investment firm one day, don’t you? This will give you essential training in social behavior—thrash any vestiges of the smuggler out of you.” Griff smiled. “And I’ll pay you hard currency for your efforts. A hundred pounds on top of your usual salary.”

BOOK: A Dangerous Love
4.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Arabel and Mortimer by Joan Aiken
His Sinful Secret by Wildes, Emma
The Marriage Bed by Stephanie Mittman
Speechless by Fielding, Kim
Wicked Heart by Leisa Rayven