Bexley-Smythe Quintet 02 - Rhyme and Reason

 

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

Rhyme and Reason

Copyright © 2013 by Catherine Gayle

Cover Design by Adrienne Thorne

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without written permission.

 

For more information: [email protected]

Summer, 1814

Scarborough, Yorkshire

 

Just looking down at Danby’s red wax seal upon the letter was more than enough to cause Thomas Goddard’s blood to
bubble up beneath his skin. Perhaps that was why, when the damned thing had arrived, he’d set the letter aside and attempted to forget about it for three full days. Yet despite his best efforts, every time he’d returned to his office covered in sweat and dust and grime from his work with the horses, the letter had seemed to grow in stature until it could quite nearly mock him.

Thomas’s feelings toward the duke were mixed, at best. Danby hadn’t known that Thomas and his brother and sister—
or even their father, for that matter—had even existed until around Christmas time a year and a half ago. Considering that Father was the duke’s by-blow, the lot of them really shouldn’t have any expectations of the man.

Whether they’d had expectations or not
, Danby had made it possible for Abby to marry a gentleman. He had even granted her a dowry—something which Father would have found impossible to provide with his butler’s wages. If aiding Abby hadn’t been enough, Danby had secured Robert a position as a butler in the employ of Lord Upton Grey.

But he
hadn’t stopped there. Then he had purchased a horse breeding enterprise in Scarborough, and set Thomas the task of running it. “I expect to see a healthy profit, too,” he’d said boldly on the day he told Thomas of the venture. “I don’t care two figs about horses and racing and breeding, or any of that other gibberish, but
you
do. This is yours now. What profit it makes is yours, but the losses will be yours as well.”

If
all of that hadn’t been outside of enough, the duke had settled a handsome sum on both Robert and Thomas that nearly matched the dowry he’d granted Abby.

It was more than any of them had ever
allowed themselves to dream, being the legitimate offspring of an illegitimate father.

If that were all the duke
had done for them, then Thomas would have no complaints about his newfound grandfather. Not any
real
complaints, at least.

Regrettably, Danby seemed to have ulterior motives
behind his generosity.

Namely, he expected both brothers to marry
like Abby had done. Well, that wasn’t the truth of it. Marriage, in and of itself, was not such a horrible prospect. He doubted Robert would be opposed to taking a wife at some point in the future, and Thomas certainly wasn’t. He had every hope to someday find a lovely woman of a similar social status and begin his own family, much as his parents had done many years ago.

The problem
, however, lay with the fact that Danby expected both brothers to marry so far above their station as to be laughable.

Last Christmas, when
the duke had summoned all his children and grandchildren to Danby Castle, he’d had marriage licenses in hand for both Goddard brothers and some of their still unmarried cousins. He’d even had the brides and grooms he’d selected in residence at the castle as well! Danby’s attempts at matchmaking seemed to know no bounds.

The
young lady he’d selected as Thomas’s intended was a viscount’s daughter, for God’s sake. He couldn’t marry a viscount’s daughter. She was a
lady
. She ought to marry a peer, or at least a son of a peer—someone who was a gentleman.

Thomas, despite his
overly rapid rise in station thanks to his supposedly well-meaning grandfather, would never be a
gentleman
.

So he
had taken to his horse and rode off as fast as the beast could travel.

Two weeks later, the marriage license had arrived in the post
along with a curt letter detailing how the marriage contract would be drawn up once Thomas took it upon himself to meet the lady, speak to the viscount, and do what he’d been bidden to do.

The
letter and the marriage license had both perished a hasty death in Thomas’s hearth. He’d hoped that that would be the end of Danby’s ill-advised attempts at matchmaking—or at least the last of Danby’s attempts at making a match for
Thomas
, even if he didn’t cease his attempts for his high-born grandchildren.

Apparently, he was a fool to have hoped for such a thing.

In the spring, he had been expecting some correspondence from Danby about the stables and the duke’s expectations for the running of them. As such, when a letter arrived and Thomas saw the red wax seal, he’d broken it without a second thought.

It had been another marriage license. This time, he was
supposed to marry the daughter of an aging baronet. “It will be a favor from me to Sir Jasper Finchley,” Danby had written in his unwavering hand. “He despairs what will become of all his seven unwed daughters when he has passed on. I promised I would do what I could to find them eligible matches with respectable and honorable gentlemen to marry.”

A
n
eligible
match now, was he? He’d thought being of high birth was requisite to eligibility, at least according to those of the
beau monde
. And what did Danby know of his honor? True, Thomas could provide for a wife, though perhaps not in such a lavish style as a baronet’s daughter was accustomed. Nevertheless, whoever he took to wife would not want for any necessities in life. Danby’s settlement, combined with the now-thriving horse breeding venture, had seen to that in equal parts.

But a moderate income did not a gentleman make.

There had been no correspondence about the stables enclosed with the missive…only the brief letter, the marriage license, and a London address for Sir Jasper Finchley, where Thomas was to call upon the certain-to-be-lovely Miss Letitia Finchley.

Thomas had placed
each and every piece of that letter and marriage license in his waste receptacle, and Marcus, one of the lads working for him, had seen it disposed of properly.

This
letter, though? He had not been expecting any correspondence from Danby.

Christmas was still nearly half the year away, so
the duke’s annual summons wasn’t due to arrive for many months.

It had become abundantly clear that
Danby wanted nothing whatsoever to do with the actual running of the horse breeding business—he’d left that entirely to Thomas—so it surely wasn’t anything to do with the stables.

There
was only one thing which might be found inside, should Thomas dare to break the red seal.

The three days since
its arrival had done nothing to assuage his dread about what he would undoubtedly uncover folded neatly within.

Yet delaying would not change what was sure to be inside.
There was nothing for it. He had to open the damned letter and be done with it.

When he’d finished with his day’s work and made certain the stable boys were properly seeing to the horses’ care, Thomas put on his coat and beaver hat, picked up the sealed
missive, and left his office.

The air was brisk, drawing the salty scent of the ocean over the cliffs. It felt invigorating after a long day’s labor, even if he did shiver against the cold of it. He
started off walking, allowing his long legs to stretch out in great strides.

Sitting behind a desk was something he doubted he would ever enjoy. Thank goodness
his secretary Lindley handled much of that sort of work for him. That allowed him to spend as much time as possible in the stables.

The walk felt almost as good as
the sea air filling his lungs. He waved at acquaintances as he passed them, speaking briefly with Mr. Fortescue about the mare he’d just purchased, then politely declining an invitation for tea with Sir Julian and Lady Purnell. Before long he’d arrived at the limestone cliffs he had most enjoyed since his arrival in Scarborough. One bit of jagged rock in particular looked out over the vast ocean, its point almost like the bow of a ship. Thomas often found himself here on a quiet, lonely evening. It always proved a good place for thinking about the future and what he wanted for his life.

When he arrived today, however, he did not take his customary seat with his legs dangling precariously over the edge of the rock,
listening to the sound of the waves crashing into the rocks below him. Instead, he remained standing and broke the bloody, blood-red seal.

As
he’d expected, the marriage license was the first thing he saw.

The word
Lady
, printed neatly upon the parchment, was the next, preceding some long, high-born name or another.

Thomas ripped the bits of parchment into shreds, tossing them out into the air to flutter down into the ocean below.

“Damnation, Danby!” Thomas couldn’t have stopped the curse rolling from his tongue if he’d tried—which, admittedly, he hadn’t.

A
woman’s terrified scream rent through the air, followed by, “Milady!”

Before he could even think of what it might mean, he was racing in the direction of the screams, his heart at a complete standstill
.

So far, t
he sound of the waves crashing into the cliffs had proven to be just as peaceful and soothing as Bea had promised it would be. The fortnight Mattie had spent in North Yorkshire, well away from the
ton
and its censorious eyes had done a world of good for her peace of mind. Sir Lester Hammond’s attention didn’t hurt either—particularly since he seemed thoroughly unaware of her brother Percy and all of his various exploits.

She allowed herself to smile
, just thinking about how blissfully unaware her suitor seemed to be. The foibles and scandals of the
beau monde
didn’t seem to have any effect upon him in the slightest.

One day when he’d taken her for a walk through town, she’d told him that her brother had a rather unsavory reputation.
“Does he?” he’d said in response, just before turning the topic of conversation to the book he was reading at the moment.

Sir Lester had only
begun to call upon her more frequently after her revelation, and taking on her more and more adventurous outings. There was something very daring and exciting about him, and she found herself inordinately attracted to a gentleman who could have such a different reaction to anyone else in Town upon when realization of who she was. She could only hope he remained undeterred long enough to offer for her. What chance would she have of making a match otherwise?

Mattie breathed in the fresh scent of the salty air
, her eyes squeezed closed against the brightness of the sun. She pulled her pelisse closer to her body and hugged her arms tight over her chest for warmth. Summer did not feel quite like
summer
here in the northern counties, not like it did at home in Hampshire, but she couldn’t really complain.

After the tumultuous Season Lady Matilda Bexley-Smythe had just endured, a
crisp, summer wind was hardly worth worrying over.

“Are you cold, milady? I knew we ought to have brought something more substantial
for you. You’ll catch your death from the cold, you will.” Lizzie, the young maid who’d been assigned by Lady Teasdale to accompany Mattie on her walk today, worried her lower lip with her teeth. “We should turn back and get a warmer coat.”

Other books

Sanctuary of Roses by Colleen Gleason
The Broken Kingdom by Sarah Chapman
The Killing Season by Mason Cross
Let Me Love You by Davies, Amy
Plataforma by Michel Houellebecq
Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty