Authors: Rebecca Connolly
The Original Pink Collar Workers
arried to the
If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped” book.
Text copyright © 2015 by Rebecca Connolly
Cover art copyright © 2015 by Rebecca Connolly
Cover art by Tugboat Design
All rights reserved. Published by Phase Publishing, LLC. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher.
Phase Publishing, LLC first paperback edition
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015942610
Cataloging-in-Publication Data on file.
To Baga for being the most influential reason I became a bookworm years and years ago, teaching me all about Jane Austen and starting me on my love for all things British (and introducing me to the magic of Colin Firth), fostering my creativity from day one, and encouraging me every step of the way. I love you!
And to Stephen’s Gourmet Hot Cocoa. You are a magnificent gift to the world and I am a devoted admirer for the rest of my days.
There are so many people to acknowledge for bringing this book to life. Christopher Bailey and his team at Phase Publishing for seeing something worth pursuing in my work and giving my dreams a chance. Deborah Bradseth of Tugboat Design for bringing my vision to life in the cover art. Sarah Connolly for the fantastic pictures (and the fantastic price!) and for working on them while gallivanting across Europe. Caity, Whitney, Lori, Lisa, and Jenny for their support, reading, input, and not thinking I’m crazy… or at least not telling me so.
To my family, you are the best. You’re all crazy. I love you. Don’t change. I like being this lucky.
And my personal Three Musketeers. Steph, Alicia, and Whitney, you gals have been with me every step of the way. Thank you forever for reading and re-reading (and re-reading again…), editing, brainstorming, enduring my rambling ideas, talking me out of my freak-outs, and seeing this insanity through to the very end. Thanks for the playlists, the pins, the inspirational pics, letting me know it’s okay to have cupcakes for breakfast because they’re really just muffins… I’d be lost without each of you. Seriously. Let’s be friends, ‘kay?
must confess, my lord, it was quite a shock to see you dressed like this today.”
Nathaniel Hammond smiled and glanced over at the older man working beside him. “Really, Jameson? And how should I have come dressed to work? In my eveningwear?”
The old man returned his grin and shrugged. “Well, yes, I expected your finery, my lord. It is the usual apparel of a gentleman.”
A snort escaped Nathan and he shook his head. “Nothing usual about hard labor in such things. Didn’t I say I would help you with your repairs?”
“Yes, my lord, but I hardly expected you to come dressed in plain clothes, or that you would bring your own supplies, or that you would bring volunteers.”
Nathan chuckled and went back to his work. “My friends are good men, Mr. Jameson, and they came of their own accord, ready to work as any man. Fortune and title have no place up here.”
“Hear, hear,” softly called the oldest of the Jameson sons, working steadily behind him.
His father threw him a cheerful smile, then looked at Nathan again with steady eyes. “You are a hard worker, my lord.”
There could be no question but the man was impressed, and Nathan was humbled by it. “Thank you.”
Jameson suddenly laughed. “If someone had ever told me that I would have the Earl of Beverton on my roof making repairs, I would have carted them off to asylum!”
The three men laughed and Nathan clamped a hand on his tenant’s shoulder. “This particular Earl of Beverton will always be at hand to help those he can, whether it be on a roof, in a field, or a crowded London ballroom.”
“Bet you prefer the roof to that ballroom, eh, my lord?” suggested the son with a knowing laugh.
Nathan had to laugh again and nodded. “Absolutely, Elliot. Absolutely.”
As he helped the Jamesons place the final patches on the roof of their too-small cottage, he wiped the sweat from his brow and sighed, looking out on the land that had only recently become his. The area was poor and had suffered much, and would require much rebuilding, both of homes and of trust. The late earl, his uncle, had been a decent man, but had long since lost interest in his tenants and his estate in favor of an ignorant solitude.
Now, Nathan hoped, things would be different. He had spent as much of his time as he could among his tenants, learning about them and from them, discovering their expectations and their needs. He wanted to know everything he could about them, for them to see him as the new earl, and trust him with their care. He could do no less.
He shook himself from his reflections and looked down where his friends, as dirty and sweaty as he was, stood looking up at him.
“Thorn says he insists we all take some refreshment at the Horse and Rider, just up the road. If you’ve finished with the Jamesons’ roof, he is up there waiting for us.” Colin Gerrard spoke for the assembled group, as usual, and was the only one who didn’t look the least bit winded.
Nathan looked over at Mr. Jameson and Elliot. The elder man smiled and nodded at him. “We’re finished for the day, my lord. Thank you for your help.”
He inclined his head and reached a hand out. “Any time, Jameson. I am at your service. Please give my regards to your wife.”
“I will, my lord, thank you.”
Nathan shook his hand, then made his way down to his friends. It was a short walk to The Horse and Rider, and before long they were all seated around a sturdy table with tankards in front of them. Thorn, another tenant, was the proprietor of the establishment, and from all appearances, it was a fine, well-kept pub and the drinks were as good as any to be found in London.
“Ah,” the man to Nathan’s left sighed as he drank deeply. “That is good stuff. Remind me to visit you often, Nate.”
He snorted and quirked a brow. “I don’t recall inviting you back, Duncan.”
Duncan shrugged his broad shoulders easily, as was his nature. “I am rarely invited anywhere. Doesn’t mean I don’t go.”
“Now, isn’t that the truth?” Colin crowed with a laugh from Nathan’s right. “I remember distinctly the time when Lady Sutherton very publicly forbade any man by the name of Duncan Bray to ever set foot in her gardens again, and not ten minutes later, there he was! And in her fountain no less!”
“Oh, please!” Duncan protested over the good-natured chuckles from the table. “I was fourteen!”
“And more than slightly rebellious, as I recall,” came the amused voice of Geoffrey Harris, directly across from Nathan.
Duncan leveled a glare at him. “You are the one who pushed me in that fountain, Geoff, and don’t bother to deny it.”
He held up his hands and shook his head. “No one ever proved that. Mary Hamilton swore that she saw me in town with my mother at exactly the moment you were found dripping wet in Lady Sutherton’s fountain.”
“Only because you paid her, Geoff, and rather exorbitantly, at that,” the last companion, Derek Chambers, Marquess of Whitlock, chimed in, leaning back in his chair for another long drink.