A Penny’s Worth Of Affection: A Novel

BOOK: A Penny’s Worth Of Affection: A Novel

A Penny’s Worth Of Affection

By Oliver Queen

This book is work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Oliver Queen

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This book is licenced for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this ebook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Chapter 1
England 1825.

Mrs. Kate Barstow regarded her friend in concern. "I apologize for intruding like this Penelope, but I simply felt I had to let you know. It will be a disaster indeed if I had chosen to say nothing."

Penelope Inglewood took a deep breath, and nodded, fighting to remain calm despite the emotions that swirled within. "No, no, it is quite all right Kate, thank you for telling me. I must confess I had no idea of this." In truth she was shocked and not a little horrified at the news but she was loath to tell Kate so. "I will have a word with Edward immediately. This must be put to a stop at once."

"Oh yes. But I will advise the strictest caution, for you know how it is with these young people these days. They seem to derive pleasure from doing quite the opposite of what is expected of them. In truth it was most improper of him to be seen with Miss Rosebury in such a...compromising situation, the lady is engaged to be married after all and if the wrong persons were to come upon them, the scandal would be immeasurable."

"Not to worry, I shall be careful when I speak to him."

Mrs. Barstow rose, her wide green skirts rustling as she moved. "I am not worried dearest, I know you are more than capable of handling things discreetly. I must take my leave now or I shall be late for the parish meeting. And I give you my word none of this will pass from my lips."

Penelope stood as well, brushing down her black gown to smooth out the creases, green eyes filled with worry.

"Thank you for keeping this in the strictest confidence." At least she hoped Kate would keep mute as she hardly knew Mrs. Barstow, having just moved to Millcote less than five months ago and still getting acquainted with her neighbors, and attending a few tea parties thrown by the gentry occasionally to ease the tedium of the countryside.

Mrs. Barstow patted her shoulders comfortingly. Although the two women were of a height, Mrs. Barstow's stocky build and wide shoulders made it seem like she towered over Penelope. She smiled kindly. "You are a good sister. I have no doubt you will do the right thing by him although I must stress how delicate this situation is. You must not be harsh with Edward or he will rebel. I only caught a glimpse of them together, but it appears they have formed quite the attachment for each other. That is most disastrous indeed. If Lord Farnsworth finds out his fiancee has developed a tendre for your brother, he could call him out to a duel."

Penelope shivered involuntarily. The Duke of Newbridge had a reputation for being ruthless to those who crossed his path, tales of his actions had been whispered in polite society, each tale more gory than the last, and though in all the time she had been in London she had not so much as set eyes on him, she knew him quite well enough to know that Mrs. Barstow was right. He would not stop until he had destroyed Edward.

"I will speak to him at once," she replied, feeling another chill run down her spine. "May I see you out?"

"That will not be necessary. My carriage is right outside and you must not stress your leg. Be sure to give my love to Edward and Lucy." She patted Penelope's shoulder once more and walked out of the morning room.

Penelope crossed to the window to watch the woman climb into her carriage, her thoughts in turmoil. Edward and Miss Jane Rosebury? How had this happened when as far as she was concerned, they both moved in different social circles, and her brother had not said a word about meeting her at all, yet he always told her everything. She crossed her arms across her bosom to ward off the morning chill, casting a glance back at the empty fireplace, wondering if there would be enough wood to build a fire.

A rustle of skirts at the door drew her attention, and a smile crossed her pale features when she saw Lucy standing there, a worried frown on her pretty face.

"What did Mrs. Barstow want, Penny?" Lucy asked softly, moving further into the room, and sinking down on a faded worn chaise. "She has never paid you a visit before, so I assume it is something important."

Penelope turned back to resume her stare out the window, her thoughts returning back to the problem at hand, "Mrs. Barstow was here to pay a visit, that's all."

Lucy bit her lip and twirled a strand of pale gold hair around one delicate finger, a habit she had picked up as a child, "She's a busy body, that one. Always going about poking her nose where she is not wanted."

Penny turned from the window to pin a reprehending look at her younger sibling, "Lucille Inglewood! That is no way to talk. How many times must I teach you to be polite in company and alone?"

Lucy rolled her eyes, emerald green just like Penny's and snorted in derision, "Bah! I know she was here to gossip about Eddie, I certainly heard enough to know what she was after."

Penny groaned and rubbed her forehead to ease the headache that was rapidly forming. Lucy had a disconcerting habit of eavesdropping on her private conversations, a habit that irked her to no end. Not for the first time, she wished Papa were here to handle the fiery spirited sixteen year old, but as usual, Sir Inglewood was somewhere across the Atlantic, nose deep in excavations, leaving her to practically raise two precocious siblings at the tender age of twenty six.

"Oh Lucy!" she sighed and moved towards the door, deciding that she would deal with Edward first before paying any more attention to Lucy's irritable habits.

"Personally, I think Eddie is being silly." Lucy rose to follow Penny, climbing up the stairs and on to Edward's room. "Making eyes at an engaged woman is most absurd, when there are more girls who are willing to lift their skirts should he even bother to ask. I have told him so numerous times but does he listen to me? No, of course not. After all I am only sixteen and a female to boot, so my opinions could count for dust..."

Penny prayed earnestly for patience, feeling exhaustion wash over her in waves. "Lucy, please stop talking. You are making things worse. And I am horrified to learn you have known about Eddie's trysts with that woman and have not even bothered to tell me about it. I shall deal with you later, be sure of that."

Lucy's eyes sparked in defiance, "What good would babbling to you have done? You never listen either. But now you know, you simply must put an end to it Penny. The Duke is the nastiest fellow to ever walk the earth, I fear for Eddie's life."

Penny muttered something unprintable and paused to glare at her sister. Lucy smiled guilelessly, pouting those lips that had inspired many a young lad to write sonnets in her honor. She looked so adorable and innocent that whatever scathing words Penny had been about to utter died on her lips. She sighed instead and shook her head sadly, "Go see to supper Lucy, the potatoes and onions need peeling, and please see that the pudding turns out properly this time? I need to speak to Eddie now, but I shall be down shortly to assist."

Lucy pouted prettily and stormed off without a word. Penny rolled her eyes and knocked on Edward's door. Hearing his reply, she opened the door and went in. Edward was seated at his writing desk by the window scribbling something on a sheet of writing paper, the waning evening light forming a halo around his blond hair. He looked at her, smiling anxiously.

"Hullo sis, what brings you to my room?" His eyes studied her expression, a worried frown crossing his handsome features when he noticed how worried she looked.

Penny decided to go straight to the issue at hand, "Mrs. Barstow was just here to tell me she saw you kissing Lady Jane last night behind the church. Is this true?"

A guilty flush suffused his cheeks and he rubbed his neck absently, "Yes, it is true. But before you say anything else, please do let me explain?"

Penny sighed and moved to perch on the edge of his bed. "All right, explain."

He nodded, rising to begin pacing back and forth in the small room, hands clasped behind his back. "Jane finds herself engaged to a man she despises. She loves me and I love her just as much. Lord Farnsworth is a beast, and he does not deserve to have her."

Penelope heard these words in shock and dread. This had gone far beyond her imagination, quite far beyond anything she had previously thought and it did not bode well. She shut her eyes and prayed once more for strength and wisdom on how to put a stop to a disastrous relationship. "Eddie, she is betrothed. To a Duke no less. And she is a Viscount's daughter...far, far above our station and means. Society will never accept a union between the two of you. Please, I beg you to reconsider the path you wish to follow."

"I do not care about society thinks. I love Jane and will have her. Society be damned!"

"Then I urge you to think of Lucy. She is due for her coming out ball and has high hopes of marrying a gentleman of high society. If you do this thing you have planned, her hopes will be dashed for you will have ruined us all!" Penny said urgently.

Edward blew out a frustrated breath, running a hand through his hair. "Dash it all. Am I to stand by and watch the woman I love wed to another?"

She rose and went to him, her heart breaking at the dejected stoop of his shoulders. She knew her words had gotten to him for he was fiercely loyal and protective of Lucy. Hopefully, that would keep him from making a dreadful mistake indeed. "If the good Lord wishes for the two of you to be together, then I am sure He will make it so without you having to fight for her hand. But please, I beg you, the Duke is a nasty man to cross and I fear for our family. There are other girls of marriageable age around. And I know for a fact that at Mrs. Mangrove's ball next week, there are sure to be lots of available young women. Please Eddie, for our sakes."

"I don't want anyone else." Edward shrugged off her hand from his shoulder, jaw set stubbornly. You will not understand for you have never felt the touch of love for another. It's like a fire that refuses to be quenched at will. I will stand by Jane unless she refuses my suit. That is the promise I shall make."

His words were like a thousand needles piercing her heart and she choked back a sob of despair. How she wished Papa were here, he would be able to handle this much more efficiently. Perhaps it was time to write him again, appraise him of the present situation, hopefully convince him to come home and face his duties as a father. "Oh Eddie, please do not do this," she begged, "you will ruin us all!"

He turned to face her, his eyes mirroring her misery, "I will promise to refrain from kissing her or any open displays of affection Penny, but I cannot deny my heart what it desires, I cannot."

Penny drew in a deep breath, "I see. It is the least you can do. We will not mention this to anyone? You must be discreet for if there is even the slightest whiff of a rumour, be sure we are utterly destroyed by your foolhardiness."

She straightened her shoulders and walked to the door but stopped with her hand on the handle.

"Supper will be ready soon. Please do feed the chickens and see to it Getty and her piglets are in for the night." She opened the door and walked quickly to her room, a new plan forming in her mind. She would still write to Papa of course, but perhaps she could do something else to salvage the situation, his words had given her an idea.

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