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Authors: Elizabeth Thornton

Bluestocking Bride

BOOK: Bluestocking Bride
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AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER

A shadow fell across the page of Catherine's book. She moved it to a better light. The shadow followed and Catherine looked up straight into the cold gray eyes of the Marquis of Rutherston.

"My dear Daisy, or Dolly, or Polly, or whatever your name happens to be," he began in frigid accents, "I approve of your devotion to literature, but I would be obliged if you would put your picture book away and attend to your duties."

She had not meant to play the role he had cast her in, but before she could stop herself she heard herself say, "If it please your lordship, I didn't mean no harm."

"Let me see which of my books has taken your fancy," he said in a more conciliatory tone as he drew the book from Catherine's grasp. "Greek?" he demanded incredulously.

"Is that what it
is,
your lordship?" she said, meeting his eyes for the first time. "I was only tracing them there squiggles with my finger. The letters are so pretty. Can you read it, sir?" she asked archly.

Their eyes held for a long moment and all mockery left Catherine's face as she read the expression in Rutherston's eyes. He heard Catherine's gasp as she turned for flight, but in an instant he had her in his arms.
      

His kiss was hard and
thorough,
and so shocked was Catherine, that she made no move to pull away. . . .

 

 

BLUESTOCKING BRIDE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Mollie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ZEBRA BOOKS

are
published by

 

Kensington Publishing Corp.

475 Park Avenue South

New York, NY 10016

 

Copyright © 1987 by Mary George

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

 

First printing: November 1987

 

Printed in the United States of America

CLS 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter One

 

Richard
Fotherville
, Marquis of
Rutherston
, flicked the ribbons of his matched grays, urging them into a brisker trot. His cousin, Charles Norton, an open-faced young man of three and twenty, looked at
Rutherston
with an appreciative twinkle in his eyes.

"By Jove, Richard, you are in a foul temper today. You have hardly said two words to me since we set off from the Bull & Finch. When I think of it, my dear cousin, you have been in a blue funk since we set off from town yesterday. Now what can have occurred to put you in the dismals?"

Mr. Charles Norton smiled broadly as he observed the frown deepen on
Rutherston's
brow. He thought that he had a fair idea of what was troubling his cousin.

"It
don't
have anything to do with the fact that you have just celebrated a birthday, Richard?" He paused for effect. "A thirtieth birthday," he added with a chuckle.

Lord
Rutherston
gave his cousin a sideways glance, and seeing the open laughter on his face, relaxed his own grim countenance. "You may well mock, you young whelp, but I see little to be amused about." A smile belied the harshness of his tone. "How the devil I had the folly to confide in you I shall never comprehend." He flicked the ribbons impatiently, urging his grays on.

A comfortable silence descended, and each man was left to his own thoughts as the soft rolling hills of Surrey flew by.

Rutherston's
frown returned. He
was in a blue funk, and Charles had unerringly fingered the cause. He allowed his thoughts to wander to that night, only a fortnight before, when there had been a small family gathering in his mother's house on Green Street to celebrate his thirtieth birthday.

The conversation at the dinner table on that cold January evening in the year of our Lord 1811 had been all of the Regency Bill that had just come before Parliament. With the sovereign, George III, reverting to one of his mad and melancholy spells and retired once more to the seclusion of Windsor, it was imperative that his heir, the Prince of Wales, be appointed to the national helm as regent. Too many matters of importance vital to the safety of the country had been left in abeyance,
Rutherston
reflected, and the British army in Portugal was suffering from lack of direction as a consequence.

Rutherston's
brother-in-law, the Duke of Beau- main, voiced his gloomy predictions.

"Daresay the prince will oust the Tories and bring in his batch of Whig supporters. If he does, we can expect even less support for Wellesley in the Peninsula. Then who will be left to clip the wings of that damned upstart Corsican?"

"Oh, I don't know,"
Rutherston
returned thoughtfully. "The prince, as regent, may not wish to align himself with the opposition. The Whigs have served their purpose. Now that
Prinny
is taking over the reins, he will not need their support against his father and his ministers. No, I think the Whigs may be counting their chickens before they are hatched if they expect the prince to bring in a new government."

He had tried to prolong the conversation as long as possible, but he had known that his mother was anxious for a private interview with him. When the covers had been removed and the port decanter and glasses set on the gleaming mahogany table for the gentlemen, she had asked
Rutherston
if he would escort her to her sitting room for a few minutes' private conversation.

He had squared his shoulders and set his expression resolutely, like a man about to embark on a well- matched duel. He was aware of a knowing smile exchanged between his older sister and her husband, Duke Henry, as he offered his mother his arm to lead her dutifully from the dining room.

Their interview had been brief and to the point. The marchioness had merely reminded him, as she had so often done in the last number of years, of his promise.

That deuced promise! He tried to recall the circumstances that had induced him to make it. He had been a mere five and twenty at the time. It was the sense of anxiety, he decided, that had pervaded the atmosphere when he was in the presence of his mother and sister and had intruded upon every conversation. To them, it was an intolerable thing and not to be borne that his name should die out and the entailed estates and the title revert to the crown.

They had used all their powers of persuasion to get him married, exerting all their energies to introduce him to every eligible young female of their acquaintance who would, by birth and breeding, make a suitable wife for the sixth Marquis of
Rutherston
. So relentless were they that
Rutherston
had begun to feel beleaguered. In desperation, and exasperation, he had promised them that he would marry, putting off the evil day till he should attain his thirtieth year. A five years' respite had seemed like an eon to him then, but the day of reckoning had come all too soon upon him.

He knew that he was in no worse position than any other eligible young man of his station. They might buck and rear, but in the end, so it seemed to him, they were always broken, bridled, and hobbled. It was the way of the world. His Name, his House must continue. And he had no doubt that if and when he had an heir of his own body, he would expect the same filial duty to Family as he was now preparing to offer.

His mother had settled herself more comfortably into her chair, but he had remained standing and looking out the window as a light fall of snow blanketed the city streets in white.

"Well, Richard?" his mother had begun with a touch of asperity in her voice.

"Well, Mama?" he returned, mocking her tone as he moved to take his place on an adjacent sofa.

"Richard, I rely on you to keep your promise and do your duty to your Name and your House." His mother spoke with impatience, not at all in the voice he was used to hearing from his doting parent.

"Is there to be no reprieve then, Mama?" he asked, charming her with his boyish grin.

"Fustian!" she replied, not taken in. "Marriage to the right woman will be the making of you."

"Ah, the right woman!
And where am I to find this paragon, pray?"

"I said the
right
woman, you incorrigible flirt, not
paragon.
Surely among your acquaintance there must be a girl with some starch—someone who isn't afraid to give you a good tongue-lashing when you fall foul of her?"

"A good tongue lashing?"
Shock registered on
Rutherston's
face, and his mother smiled smugly to see the effect of her words. "You must be joking, Mama, if you think I would countenance a match with a tempestuous wench! The woman I choose to be my marchioness will be sweet-tempered, docile, and biddable."

"Bah!" the dowager retorted in disgust. "Just like the mount your sister insists I ride now that I'm into my dotage, I suppose—a wishy-washy creature with no spirit. A comfortable ride, I grant you, but so predictable!"

"No! The Indomitable Belle
Fotherville
reduced to such a pass? Never say so, Mama!"

"Ah, you may chuckle at your mother's
misfortune,
you young whelp, but when I was a gel, let me tell you, I had some spunk. And your father admired me for it."

BOOK: Bluestocking Bride
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