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Authors: Lorraine Heath

As an Earl Desires

BOOK: As an Earl Desires
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L
ORRAINE
H
EATH
A
S
A
N
E
ARL
D
ESIRES

For my mom,
my dear friend,
my biggest fan

I hope heaven is
filled with video poker machines and you're hitting the royal
flush every time, but knowing you, you're still betting way
too conservatively. I had so much fun whenever I was with you.
Thank you, Mom, for the smiles, the laughter, the
memories
.

All my love
Always

Contents

Chapter 1

“Honestly, Sachse, I don't
know how you expect to find…

Chapter 2

Camilla continued to tremble as her
carriage clattered along the…

Chapter 3

Camilla sat within her library, gazing
out the window, while…

Chapter 4

She was hiding something. Arch was
certain of it. She'd…

Chapter 5

Women adored him.

Chapter 6

Camilla was finishing her morning
toilette when a knock sounded…

Chapter 7

She had the most beautiful laugh. Arch
couldn't get it…

Chapter 8

As a general rule she loved the
glitter and glamour…

Chapter 9

Camilla did not recall being this
nervous when she'd been…

Chapter 10

“If you'll excuse me, I
believe I hear Mum yelling…

Chapter 11

They were enjoying high tea. Arch was
almost certain of…

Chapter 12

It took hours to burn. Camilla had
been right. The…

Chapter 13

She was a widow who'd never
slept with a man…

Chapter 14

Sachse Hall was a large, cold,
cavernous structure. And so…

Chapter 15

He'd opened her up to a world
that knew no…

Chapter 16

Arch stood like a man possessed. Rage
burned through him,…

Chapter 17

They arrived on a Wednesday in every
sort of conveyance…

Chapter 18

Arch hated it. Hated the way the young
available ladies…

Chapter 19

“Father seems rather enamored of
Lady Sachse.”

Chapter 20

As she walked through the gardens, her
cloak wrapped around…

Chapter 21

“What does it mean?”
Camilla asked.

Chapter 22

Arch was desperately in need of
advice, and he couldn't…

Chapter 23

Camilla sat in the library reading,
the book on her…

Chapter 24

It amazed Arch how quickly he'd
settled into the routine…

Epilogue

“Papa, when I grow up will I be
as beautiful…

London
1879

“H
onestly, Sachse, I don't know
how you expect to find a suitable wife if you refuse to be fitted
for new clothing.”

Archibald Warner, the seventh Earl of Sachse,
watched as Camilla Warner, his predecessor's widow, paced
before him, clearly agitated, wringing her delicate hands,
furrowing her youthful brow. While the previous earl had been older
than any man Arch had ever known—not that he'd ever met
the fellow, and based upon what he'd learned so far he was
rather glad that he
hadn't—his widow
was two years Arch's junior. And the most beautiful woman
he'd ever seen.

Today she wore a fashionable dress of the palest
pink silk, which accentuated her trim figure and complemented her
alabaster skin. She was quite at home in his residence—it had
been part of her husband's holdings—and had removed her
decorative hat upon entering his library. The sunlight pouring
through the windows glinted off her upswept brown hair, touching
upon it and causing it to glisten, making it appear that many of
the strands had been spun from gold.

All Season, she'd been an exemplary hostess,
accompanying him on most of his outings, introducing him to this
duke and that earl, this marquess, that viscount. She knew the
history of every aristocratic family and details about their lives
that some might prefer she didn't know. Without looking in
Debrett's
, she could advise on
the proper hierarchy and where one should be seated based on rank
so as not to give offense to anyone else at the table.

He was truly amazed that she'd mastered all
the etiquette and protocol, which he tended to bumble. He
couldn't have been more grateful for her
assistance…usually.

This afternoon being a rare exception.

She'd arrived at his residence only moments
ago and before he could even offer a proper greet
ing, she promptly began to scold him because he had no
desire to be fitted with new clothing. Rather he preferred to sit
in his library—the only advantage he'd found so far to
being the earl was the abundance of books at his disposal—and
finish reading the novel he'd begun yesterday. He often
wondered if he should advise Camilla when she went off on one of
her tirades that he'd served for a time in Her
Majesty's army and was quite skilled with a rifle.

“Sachse, have you listened to a single word
I've spoken?”

He looked into her earnest brown eyes. She cared so
much about things for which he cared nothing. And yet the intensity
with which she cared intrigued him.

“Perhaps I should simply marry you; then I
would not have to be concerned with a new wardrobe.”
Or a good many other things come to think of
it. The notion did have some merit
.

Although judging by the exaggerated rolling of her
eyes, she disagreed. “You cannot marry me. I am barren. You
must marry a woman who can provide you with an heir.”

She spoke with practicality, but as always, he
heard her hesitation and her slight quiver over the word
barren
. She tried so hard to appear
unfeeling, but he'd long ago deduced that it was simply a
well rehearsed act. Much of her behavior was a
performance, which more often than not irritated him
because she did not trust him enough to reveal her true self.

Whatever had the old earl done to make her think
that she was naught but an actress upon his stage?

“Therefore,” she continued, “you
must see your tailor when he arrives this afternoon and not find
yet another excuse to leave the house before he gets
here.”

“I have very little interest in securing a
woman who places such high regard on the cut of my
jacket.”

“It is not your jacket that will impress her,
but rather what it tells her about you.”

“Which would be what exactly?”

“You care not only about the latest fashions,
but you have the means to purchase them. You are modern. You take
great pride in your appearance. You will make an excellent
husband.”

“A woman can determine all that from a bit of
clothing?” he asked, incredulously.

“One should never underestimate how loudly
one's attire speaks to the world. Of course, in addition I
will be touting the strength of your character, and it will make my
calculated whisperings more believable if you are well turned
out.”

He set his book aside and rose to his full height.
She took a step back. She always did. Kept her
distance when he would like nothing more than to close
the space separating them—the physical as well as the
emotional. She intrigued him because she appeared to live within a
tower of her own building, much as Rapunzel, and he wondered if he
removed the pins from her hair if the golden brown tresses would
fall to the ground.

“Why do you care so much that I marry?”
he asked.

“I care that you have an heir, that you do
not lose all that you've gained from the old Sachse—may
he rest in hell.”

Arch chuckled at the answer, which he suspected
only touched upon the truth. She gained nothing if he gained an
heir, and he'd learned that she never took an interest in
anything that offered her no gain. If she wished to pretend her
motives were as she'd indicated, he'd allow it for now.
In time, though, he would discern her true reasons.

“Camilla, I will not lose any of this until I
die, at which point, I will not care what happens to any of
it.”

She turned away from him, and the temperature in
the room seemed to drop, causing a shiver to race along his spine.
He didn't know how she managed so effectively to show her
irritation with him, yet she did.

“How can you not appreciate all that
you've gained?” she asked.

“I do appreciate it.”

She spun around. “You do not. You mock
it.” She lowered her gaze. “And in so doing, you mock
me.”

He longed to console her with a touch, but
he'd learned early on that she was not a woman who relished
his touch, so he clutched his hands behind his back. “I would
never dream to mock you, Camilla. I am merely uncomfortable with
that which I've gained through accident of birth—or in
my case through lack of other significant births.”

Although his bloodline could be traced back to the
third brother of the second Earl of Sachse, he was here only
because so few males had been born between then and now, and those
who had been born had subsequently suffered through the misfortune
of death.

She lifted her gaze to his. “There are those
who scheme, plot, and murder to gain what you have.”

“A life of leisure.”

“The life of a gentleman, an aristocrat, an
earl.”

He bowed his head slightly, conceding to her point.
“I should be more appreciative.”

“Indeed you should.”

He released a weary sigh, determined to battle a
bit longer for his right not to purchase more clothing. “I do
not see the urgency in acquiring a
new wardrobe
when the Season is so near to being over.”

“Have you hunting clothes?” she
asked.

“No.”

“What will you wear when you hunt?”

“I had not planned to hunt.”

“Then how can you be an exemplary host when
you entertain at the country estate?”

“I didn't realize that I would be
entertaining.”

She closed her eyes, as though losing patience with
a dull-witted child. He was sorely temped to cross the distance
separating them, take her in his arms, and demonstrate to her that
he in no way resembled a child but was a man to be reckoned
with.

But when she opened her eyes and pinned him with
her hard-edged glare, he was grateful he'd not moved a
muscle. Not that she intimidated him, but he was unaccustomed to
dealing with a woman's wrath. He had a propensity for keeping
the women of his acquaintance jovial and in the most accommodating
of moods. With Camilla, he always felt a bit off-balance.

“Of course, we shall entertain. I have
already issued several informal invitations, and once we are
settled into the country estate, I'll formalize them. We
shan't invite many people, as you are still new to your
position, but we shall use the months be
tween
this Season and next to secure your place among those with
influence.”

“And find me a wife.”

“To determine possibilities. People are more
relaxed in the country.”

“Will people not question you're living
in the same house with a bachelor?”

“I'm a widow. I require no chaperone.
Besides, I'll have my secretary with me to serve as my
companion. Sachse Hall is large enough that you shall be in one
wing and I in the other.”

“Is that how it was with you and my
predecessor?” he asked quietly, knowing it was none of his
business but unable to resist inquiring and praying that it had
indeed been that way. “You in one wing, he in the
other?”

She lowered her golden lashes, and he watched as a
faint blush crept up her ivory throat and onto her pale cheeks. He
was accustomed to country lasses of hardier stock. She always
seemed so frail until she spoke.

“He was my husband. I did as he
asked.”

“And what did he ask of you?”

She snapped up her chin, impaling him with her
eyes. It always amazed him how quickly she could go from ice to
fire. “
That
is none of your
concern.”

Of course it wasn't, but still he found
himself brimming with curiosity. Before he could issue an
appropriate apology for his inappropriate inquiry, the
door opened quietly, and the butler stepped into the room. Arch
still found having all the servants about a bit unnerving.

In spite of their discretion and quietness, he was
never able to feel as though he'd obtained complete solitude.
He suspected he was an inconvenience to them as well. Conversations
and actions stopped when he appeared, which left him with an
incredible need to apologize for disturbing them—which
Camilla had warned him was absolutely unheard of. One did not
apologize to one's servants.

“Yes, Gibson?” Arch asked.

“My lord, you have a visitor.” The
butler presented a card on a silver tray.

Arch gave it a cursory glance before nodding.
“Send him in, Gibson.”

As soon as Gibson had left the room, Camilla took a
step forward. “Who is it?”

“Mr. Spellman.”

“The solicitor? Whatever does he
want?”

She looked toward the door as though she expected
Dr. Frankenstein's monster to waddle in. He'd read Mary
Shelley's
Frankenstein
to her
only last week. He'd read a good many books to her since
he'd met her. As much as she seemed to take delight in his
reading to her, he was disappointed he never could convince her to
return the favor.

Although he supposed he shouldn't be. Camilla
preferred to be waited on rather than to be the one doing the
waiting. One of her more irritable charms.

“He has come to discuss finances,” Arch
told her. Mr. Spellman had sent word the day before that he needed
a moment of the earl's time.

“Whatever is wrong with your
finances?”

“As far as I know, nothing.”

She rushed over to him, brushed imaginary lint from
his shoulders, straightened the lapels of his jacket, which needed
no straightening, and patted his shoulders. “Remember, you
are in command of your affairs. Your money is yours to spend as you
will, and expenses are incurred that a common solicitor cannot
possibly understand.”

He grabbed her wrists, stilling her fluttering
hands. An expression of fear crossed her features, which she
quickly masked, and he decided to ignore. Whether she realized it
or not, in whatever manner the old Sachse had treated her was
indeed Arch's business, because he couldn't undo what
he didn't fully comprehend.

“What expenses?” he asked.

“Archie, you're hurting me.”

He didn't fathom how he could be, but the
fact that she'd slipped into an informal address alerted him
that she was truly upset. He released
his hold
on her, not at all surprised that she quickly stepped beyond his
reach.

She began to adjust her own clothing, and he knew
she would not answer his inquiry regarding expenses she seemed to
know about that he didn't. The woman was a continual mystery.
Fortunately, he enjoyed the challenge of solving a good
mystery.

A sound at the doorway caught his attention.
Carrying a well-worn leather satchel, Lawrence Spellman walked into
the room. “My lord.”

“Mr. Spellman.”

Spellman bowed his head toward Camilla.
“Countess, I did not expect you to be here.”

She angled her chin. “I spend a good deal of
time with the earl. How else can I educate him regarding his
responsibilities?”

“Quite commendable, but I assure you that I
am up to the task of telling him all he needs to know.”

“Then you were aware that Lady Jane Myerson
was seen in public without gloves?”

Arch pressed his lips together to keep himself from
smiling—not only because Camilla considered bare hands
scandalous, but because Spellman seemed at a loss for words, so the
first round of their constant battling would go to Camilla.

Spellman angled his head like that of a thoughtful
dog. “I was not aware of that fact, but it is hardly
condemning behavior.”

“Of course it is. A true lady doesn't
display bare hands in public except when she is eating or playing
the piano for an audience. Lady Jane Myerson has let it be known
that she has an interest in the earl. If not for me, he might make
the mistake of actually considering her as a suitable wife when she
is anything but.”

BOOK: As an Earl Desires
9.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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