Read All The Ways To Ruin A Rogue (The Debutante Files Book 2) Online

Authors: Sophie Jordan

Tags: #Historical, #Fiction, #Romance, #19th Century, #Rogue, #Viscount, #Love, #Hate, #Friendship, #Distraction, #Friends Sister, #Kisses, #Retaliates, #Infuriating, #Vixen, #Meetings, #Debutante's, #Ruin, #Adult

All The Ways To Ruin A Rogue (The Debutante Files Book 2)

BOOK: All The Ways To Ruin A Rogue (The Debutante Files Book 2)
4.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Dedication

For Lindsay.

Thank goodness for mommy/toddler

gymnastic classes.

The idea that I could never have met you

strikes terror in my heart. I love you, friend.

 

Prologue

A
urelia fell in love with Maxim Alexander Chandler, the fourth Viscount of Camden—Max to his familiars—instantly. This portentous event occurred on the seventh day of April, one week before her ninth birthday. The moment the fire was lit, the flame burned bright and fierce in her young heart.

She recalled the actual date only because she recorded it in her journal that very night. Whenever she pulled forth that journal in later years, she stroked her fingertips to the aged parchment and marveled at the girl she had once been. Now those youthful scribblings made her cringe. Granted, she had been young, but he had owned her heart wholly and utterly.

Her brother had been home from Eton that April afternoon. Will had brought Lord Camden with him. She had been in the stables, playing with Nessie’s new puppies, selecting her favorite and crafting arguments in her mind to present to Mama in the desperate hope that they could bring a puppy into the house to live with them.

She was bending over, her hair falling loose around her—it never stayed within her plaits. Breathless and huffing, she tugged a particularly feisty puppy by the hind legs in an attempt to stop him from fleeing the stall, when she heard voices.

“What have you there, Aurelia?” Will called out.

She released the puppy and shot straight up, shoving hanks of hair behind her ears as Will and his companion entered the stall.

The puppy made a mad dash right between the stranger’s boot-clad legs. She gawked as the newcomer quickly whirled around and caught the squirming little beast in his hands. “Oh! Isn’t he a cute fellow?” he said cheerfully, lifting the puppy up to his face so he could examine it. The puppy licked his chin and the boy laughed. Aurelia felt that sound to her core.

She drank in the sight of him, the strikingly handsome man he was to become fully seeded in his strong jaw and brilliant blue eyes. He wore his hair long. It fell low over his brow, and he tossed his head in an effort to force it back.

He was all lean lines and a good head taller than her brother.

One might say a girl of such tender years could not know real love—could not feel its truth, and perhaps that is the circumstance with most girls. But Aurelia was not like most girls. The longing and infatuation borne in that moment for Max, who was to become a regular addition to their family in the ensuing years, consumed her.

She wrote odes to the young viscount in the secret journal she hid in the loose floorboard of her bedchamber. She reveled in his kind attentions. When Will and her cousin, Declan, treated her to barbs and insults, commanding her to cease following them whenever they roamed the countryside, Max was tolerant, even affectionate, insisting that they let her tag along with them.

It was love.

Until her fifteenth year. Until the greenhouse. When the fire burning in her heart was forever banked.

The day the fantasy had shattered dawned with all the promise of the spring morning pressing against the windowpanes of her bedchamber. Warm and bright with only the slightest nip in the air, she hadn’t even donned her cloak as she skipped outside to her mother’s greenhouse.

Max was to arrive that very day for Mama’s annual garden party to herald in the Easter holiday. She wanted to surprise him with fresh flowers in his bedchamber . . . and alongside the flowers she intended to leave the sketch of him she had labored over since his last visit

Smiling widely to herself, she tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear as she made her way to the greenhouse. Her fingers roamed over the rest of her hair, pinned atop her head. The heavy mass swept up off her shoulders was a new sensation. She had been waiting for this day forever. Six years. Ever since she first met Max.

Mama had agreed she was old enough to leave the plaits behind and wear her hair as a lady did. Aurelia could not wait to see the viscount . . . to show him that she had grown up since his last visit. Mama even agreed that she could attend the garden party this afternoon. A victory of epic proportions. She might not be permitted to attend balls and soirees yet, but this afternoon would be hers. Her moment to shine. The first time to see Camden in a year, and the first step in him seeing her as a woman.

She squared her shoulders, wondering if he would notice that she had grown nearly three inches in the last year. And that wasn’t the only thing that had grown.

She glanced down at her bosom on display in her prim bodice. In the last year she had developed, gaining breasts that felt as cumbersome as melons strapped to her chest. And that was not all she had gained. She had grown curves, too. A surfeit of curves. Her hips, her derriere . . . all were embarrassingly
present
. She tried not to resent these changes. She had an older brother and cousin. She was not blind to the fact that men preferred such things in a female.

Finally. She was no longer a little girl, and she hoped Camden would notice.

He’d always been kindly attentive, but she hoped today would be different. Today, she hoped he would see her as more than a child. More than a friend. More than Will’s little sister. She was, after all, a woman of fifteen.

Once in the greenhouse, she crouched before her mother’s roses, carefully snipping the stalks and nestling them gently inside her basket, careful with the delicate yellow petals and mindful not to prick herself on the thorns.

The sound of soft laughter startled her. She had been so lost in her musings, cocooned in the silence of the greenhouse and her happy thoughts of seeing Max again, she had assumed herself alone amid the flowers and lush greenery.

She rose to her feet and moved deeper into the greenhouse, clasping her basket of flowers close as she followed the sound of voices farther back. The sun wasn’t high enough to reach there yet. She could peer only into shadows. At first she thought it was a groom making free with one of the household maids, but then she identified the fine cut of dark blue fabric stretching over a man’s back. It wasn’t Merlton livery. She recognized the maid’s dove gray skirts, however. All the household maids wore the same uniform. Clearly, this was an assignation between a maid and a gentleman
not
in her father’s employ. Perhaps one of the guests had arrived early.

Leaning closer, she recognized the female’s wild coppery curls as belonging to Ingrid, one of the kitchen maids. Usually her hair was pinned up and tucked under her cap, but it drew the eye regardless. Aurelia had envied it, wishing for it over her own dark brown hair.

Ingrid was propped up on a potting table, her legs dangling over the edge of the table, skirts hiked to expose her shapely, stocking-clad legs. Heat flooded Aurelia’s face. It was a scandalous scene, made even more shocking when she realized the man’s trousers were down past his hips. She couldn’t see his backside. The fall of his jacket covered him, but from his movements between the maid’s splayed thighs she had a fairly good notion what activity these two were about.

Mama had not yet explained the nature of male/female relations, but Aurelia had indulged herself in the numerous medical texts in the library. Mama had no concept as to the content of such books, but they proved illuminating for Aurelia.

Face burning, she turned to leave, feeling uncomfortable spying on the intimate scene, but then the maid’s breathy sigh stopped her. “Oh, my lord . . .”

My lord?

She could go no farther. She had to know. Was that her brother dallying with Ingrid? Or her cousin? Her parents would
not
approve of that, to be certain, and Aurelia was not certain she approved either. She could think only of poor Ingrid. Did she fancy herself in love with Will or Declan? Nothing could come of it. Even she knew that a romance between a servant and a nobleman was doomed to fail. She did not wish heartache on the girl who always saved the very best sweet buns for her.

Turning, she peered again through the branches as Ingrid slid her hands down the man’s back. The maid moaned and issued encouragement in a choking voice. The man’s sounds were less frequent and quieter. Aurelia narrowed her gaze on him, seeking to identify him.

“Did you miss me, my fine lordling?” Ingrid gasped.

He chuckled, and something inside Aurelia twisted at the sound. “Indeed . . . I could scarcely wait to return here and get beneath your skirts again.” He turned his face then. The motion cast his profile into view, and in that instant Aurelia’s heart broke.

She gazed at the strong lines she had envisioned every night as she dozed off to sleep and every time she sat down to work on his sketch. It was Max. Max ravishing one of the kitchen maids whilst Aurelia had been so stupidly picking flowers for him and envisioning their reunion.

With a swallowed cry, she whirled around and fled on silent slippers through the greenhouse, leaving the sight of him behind—wishing she could leave the memory of him there, too. But that would chase her. Into the early spring day, the sight of him, the memory of him taking his pleasure with Ingrid, hounded her, nipping at her heels.

She tripped on the lawn, sending her basket flying. Roses sprawled all around her. Rising on all fours, she stared at the fallen flowers through eyes that had gone blurry with hot tears. It dawned on her that it had not been the first time. He’d been with Ingrid before. She gathered that much from what she overheard. And how many others had there been for him?

She choked on sobs, her hair falling loose all around her, as wild as the emotions roiling through her. Bile rose in her throat.
Stupid. Stupid.
How could she have ever thought he might wish to wed her someday?

She pushed herself up. Pain scored her palms. With a cry, she dropped back down. Shaking, she lifted her hands and inspected the deep punctures left by the thorns. Several wounds welled crimson blood against the pale backdrop of her palms. It was fitting that she should bleed. Her heart felt as though it was hemorrhaging inside her chest.

Still shaking, Aurelia finally regained her feet. She grabbed her skirts, smearing blood across the pale fabric of her pinafore. She staggered a few steps, trampling over the roses, leaving her basket behind, not caring that they would wilt there in the dirt. It felt appropriate that the flowers intended for him should wither and die. Just as her heart was.

She ran blindly then, emotion clogging her throat.

Too late, she forgot that the back of the house was a carnival of servants setting up for the afternoon’s garden party. She darted among servants and tables and chairs and circled to the side of the building, ignoring the looks cast her way as she fled, her hair tumbling down her back in a wild banner that would send Mama into a dither.

Dodging free of the melee, she cut a path to the great oak tree where she often sat to sketch. It was a place of solace for her, and today would be no different. Today it was more of a comfort than ever.

Dropping down on the soft earth, Aurelia dug into the wide front pocket of her pinafore and withdrew her drawing pad. She flipped to her sketch of Max. She traced his image with shaking fingers, her heart clenching. She’d relied on her memories of him over the last year. Not too difficult. It was no challenge to recount every line and hollow, even though she had not seen him in a long while. He was probably even more handsome now at eighteen. Ingrid certainly thought so.

She stifled a sob as she gazed at the rendering. She had fashioned Max into a beautiful angel, his strong profile hallowed in divine light. She snorted at her fancy.

The sight of him, even on paper, hurt. He wasn’t this angel. He was human. A man flawed like any other. She knew about flawed men. Her father preferred spending time away from home. He ignored her. Looked at her blankly whenever she was in his presence—almost as though he did not know her. He was little better with Mama . . . ignoring his own wife in favor of the gaming hells.

She dashed the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand and sniffled. So she was learning early. Getting a taste for disappointment now.
Brilliant
. With a strangled sob, she flipped the pad to a fresh page and fished her pencil out from her pocket. She was never without pad or pencil. Mostly due to Camden. It was he who first encouraged her to nurture her talent. Called her talented and smart and funny. He’d made her feel special . . . her ability special.

Her fingers flexed around the edges of the pad. She had been so eager to show him her latest drawings. She had practiced a great deal over the last year. Plenty of people observed her laboring over her pad, but never inquired. Watercolors and sketching were a common enough pastime for most girls. Only Max knew the true extent of her passion. He’d listened and offered suggestions and encouragement as though he cared.

All her hopes, all her dreams . . . gone. Burned to cinders. She wiped furiously at the hot spill of tears. What a fool she was to think he would
see
her this time. But what did she expect? That he would look across the room and observe she was no longer a child? No longer a duckling but a swan?

Without thinking, her pencil flew over her sketch pad. She drew through a blur of tears, her fingers working from memory, from some hidden instinct—or impulse. She didn’t know. She wasn’t thinking. She worked until she felt purged, and when she finished, she dropped the pad facedown beside her.

BOOK: All The Ways To Ruin A Rogue (The Debutante Files Book 2)
4.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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