Authors: Regina Kammer
Heirs series, Book Two
Sophia is presented to Society on her eighteenth birthday and is unimpressed.
Her parents encourage the suit of a duke, a man older than her father! Yet
free-spirited Sophia is smitten with her brother's handsome American business
partner, who introduces her to sensual delights beyond the bounds of propriety.
investors for his railroad enterprise, Joseph is out of his depth among the
British aristocracy. Even worse, he can't keep his hands off Sophia, a beauty
far beyond his social class who is betrothed to a duke. When the duke’s
villainy is revealed Joseph decides to risk all to protect Sophia and he
embarks upon a partnership of an entirely unexpected nature.
Disobedient and excitable Sophia enjoys a bit of disciplinary spanking.
Joseph likes to watch when he’s not part of the action and has a taste for men
as well as women—sometimes both at once. Includes references to the villain’s
evil: rape, child abuse and violence.
from Ellora’s Cave
Thank you to my family, friends and romance colleagues for
their enthusiastic and continued encouragement. Thanks to my editor Jill for
pushing me. Special thanks to my husband for transportation and investment
scheme research—and everything else.
To Curtis, wherever you are. I’m sure you’d laugh at this
Lincolnshire, 24 March 1860
Boring. Boring. Dreadful. Taken.
Lady Sophia Harwell sat upright in a baroque high-backed
chair, her hands folded primly in her lap, affecting a polite demeanor as she
surveyed the guests attending her eighteenth-birthday ball…and decided that the
eligible men Mama had picked out for her were, each one of them, somehow
Of course that might have been Mama’s plot all along. She
and Papa were quite adamant Sophia marry the rather dull Duke of Royston, which
must have been the reason they decided to hold her party on the first Saturday
of spring—the very same day as the queen’s first Drawing Room of the year.
Thus, it seemed, all the truly handsome, interesting men were attending their
sisters and cousins during their presentations at Court.
Sophia simply could not see herself as the Duchess of
Royston—well, really could not see herself as a duchess at all, it seemed such
a boring fate—but especially could not see herself marrying Royston. The man
had to be well over fifty—he was older than her parents, of that she was sure.
His hair was almost all gray, the hair he had left anyway. And he was—well, the
most polite thing she could say was
and that didn’t seem very
polite at all. She would not mind so much his portly physique and lack of hair
if such things meant he was jolly and wise. She could see herself raising a
couple of chubby babies with a man such as that, and then being widowed by the
time she was twenty-five. But Royston was boorish, arrogant, condescending and
sometimes quite vile, especially to the servants. Being married to him even for
a day would most certainly not be very pleasant, and having to give him
children was an odious notion, even if doing so meant she would end up a young
widow who could eventually marry for love.
But according to her parents—and her brother—being the
daughter of the Marquess of Richmond meant she had a responsibility to marry a
peer—the higher the better—and give him a son. They all spoke of familial
obligation, of duty to the crown and how they, as the heirs to the Richmond
Marquessate, were above sentimentality and romantic notions.
Yet somehow her brother Arthur, the actual heir to the
marquessate, was allowed his sentiment and romance.
That just boiled her blood.
She loved Arthur, she really did. He was the best brother in
the world. Why, at that very moment he danced with his fiancée
Henrietta—Henny—her full skirts swinging like a bell in perfect rhythm to his
lead, their faces flushed and smiling. His countenance reflected the swell of
pride he felt toward Henny, hers how absolutely besotted she was with him. They
were a perfect couple and Sophia did not wish them ill will in the slightest
but she did take umbrage over the fact that Arthur was allowed to marry for
love and she was not.
Or maybe she was just annoyed because when Henny, the
beautiful, charming daughter of the Earl of Bloxholme, fell in love with the
rather handsome—she had to admit, even though he was her brother—Lord
Petersham, she had decided Sophia’s fate.
Because for a short while, Henny had been considered a
possible wife for the Duke of Royston. He was her mother’s cousin and so when
Henny came of age and Royston was still unmarried, all concerned—except Henny
of course—discussed their possible union. Then she met Arthur at a grand social
occasion where he was all dressed to the nines and dashing. After that, Henny
was no longer considered a match for Royston.
She must have breathed a sigh of relief. And it wasn’t as if
her decision was intentional. No. Henny just had reasonable parents who
preferred their precious daughter marry for love.
Whereas Sophia was somehow expendable in the service of
queen and country.
She drew in a deep breath and forced a smile as the music
ended and Arthur and Henny came toward the dais where Sophia sat.
“Are you feeling well, Sophie?” Arthur’s forehead furrowed
“Oh I’m just tired, is all. I need a little respite.”
“Arthur, your sister has been dancing all night and with
some dreadful partners, I should add.” Henny touched Sophia’s shoulder.
“Darling, shall we go to the refreshment room?”
“That would be wonderful, Henny.”
The best thing about Arthur getting engaged was Sophia
suddenly gaining an older sister. Mama had her limitations as a confidante and
friend. With Henny, Sophia finally had someone to gossip with, someone to talk
to about men with, someone to tell her all about kissing. Someone who was
actually on her side in the whole Royston affair.
“I think it’s ghastly that your parents are even considering
such a match, Sophie,” Henny had said. “Let’s make sure we find you someone
else, shall we?”
Unfortunately Sophia’s birthday party was not the night to
find that someone else.
“You know I think I saw Geoffrey over by the champagne
earlier. Perhaps he’s still there.” Henny raised a suggestive brow and offered
Sophia stifled a smile but she couldn’t hide a blush. She
and Geoffrey Peel were partners in the sinfully delightful pastime of kissing.
She wasn’t in love with him—he was far too interested in boring pursuits like
hunting and fishing. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t divert each other when
the opportunity presented itself. And as a good friend of Arthur’s who lived
two hills over, Geoffrey was around quite a bit and opportunities were more
plentiful than they really ought to be.
The path to the refreshment room was fraught with guests
pausing to bestow birthday greetings, introducing Sophia to bachelors and
widowers, or stopping for pleasant chitchat. When they finally arrived Geoffrey
was nowhere to be seen. Royston, however, chatted loudly with the Countess
Asterby and her extraordinarily pretty daughter Maude—who was certainly only
sixteen—all the while brandishing disgustingly lascivious leers in the poor
Henny gently pulled Sophia back into the oak-paneled
“Looks as if we’ll have to try our luck in the ballroom,”
On the return journey once again they had to feign
sociability and gaiety. Sophia’s head hurt from offering false smiles and
tedious pleasantries to people she barely knew.
She steered them up the stairs to the ladies’ retiring
suite. There maids attended their ladies, arranging hair and dresses. In the
back room a gaggle of girls gossiped—probably complaining about the dearth of
handsome suitors. They greeted Sophia then quickly filed out. Sophia plopped on
a padded bench, her crinolines poofing up her skirt inelegantly. She patted the
spot next to her. Henny sat with the same indecorous flair.
Sophia giggled. “Henny, it’s after midnight and so, I
suppose, no longer my birthday—”
“And it’s not really your birthday anyway, darling.”
Henny was right. Sophia’s birthday was in February but
February was far too cold a month for a coming-out party. Although the first
Saturday of spring was only slightly warmer.
“Yes well, I mean, I don’t think I should have to stay until
the end, right? I’m frightfully bored.”
“Sophie—” Henny scolded.
“I just want to find Geoffrey and take a stroll.”
Henny laughed her very contagious laugh then squeezed
Sophia’s hand. “All right but don’t stay away too long or your parents will go
searching. You don’t want them catching you.”
Maybe I do
. Then she would have to marry Geoffrey and
not the horrid Royston.
“Sophie.” Henny’s voice raised in rebuke.
“No one will see me. I’ll take the servants’ stairs.”
Henny shook her head. “All right. But I know nothing about
what you are doing, remember?” She kissed Sophia’s cheek then stood and left
with a nonchalant air.
Sophia waited a moment then glided down the back stairs,
through the corridor behind the ballroom and exited into the Great Courtyard.
She crossed to the private passageway that led to the Great Wood where Geoffrey
always waited for her and inhaled the air of temporary freedom.
* * * * *
Joseph Phillips sank into the button-back, leather club
chair and gazed in admiration at Arthur’s billiard room, the dark luster of the
wood paneling and box-beamed ceiling evoking a refined manliness a world away
from the crude virility of the New York docks. He swirled the brandy in his
crystal snifter, the rich amber liquid reflecting the golden glow of the fire
in the marble-trimmed hearth, and sucked on his cigar, exhaling the fragrant
smoke with a sigh. A man could get used to such a life very easily, too easily.
Especially a man enervated from spending almost three weeks traveling three
thousand miles, using every damn mode of transportation in existence. Joseph
swigged a mouthful of liquor with a bitter blasphemy for being part of such an
The departure of the steamship
Port of New York was delayed due to a dispute with the captain of a merchant
ship left short-handed with landing his cargo. For Joseph, a former stevedore,
the episode was the height of irony, empathetic frustration mounting as he
stood idly by, inconspicuous in a crowd of other first-class passengers waiting
along South Street. He was a modern man of business now, his future in
railroads not waterways, yet his status was in stark opposition to his
Of course the lost time was made up during the Atlantic
crossing, the proud distinction of the steamship’s snub of the vicissitudes of
the wind. His rather beat-up copy of
intellectual refuge from vacuous, polite conversation during the fifteen days
at sea. The smiles of young women were especially diverting. But the daughters
of the wealthy were not the lusty damsels of the docks and only served to
remind him of his probable upcoming abstinence while ensconced among the
Liverpool was as chaotic a port as New York and he wanted to
linger but he was not a tourist. Then, lo and behold, the train was delayed due
to rain. Good heavens above! How did the British do anything in their blasted
country if their railroad could be delayed by
? But he got his day
in Liverpool. He sent a letter to Arthur explaining his predicament, then
received a reply that very same afternoon. There was to be a grand social
occasion on the night Joseph was to arrive but Arthur was certain Joseph would
not be interested in such an event and he should simply proceed to Arthur’s
entrance and his man would take care of him.
The missive in his hand begged the question—why couldn’t
Joseph simply ride with the damn postman?
The next day he took the London & North Western from
Liverpool to Manchester, transferred to the Manchester, Sheffield &
Lincolnshire line to Retford, transferring once again to the Great Northern to
Little Bytham. The choice of routes was staggering, competition among the
various railway companies creating a system of hatch marks to shade the
contours of England. One day the map of the United States would be equally
criss-crossed with its transcontinental system.
The station-master at Retford telegraphed his colleague at
Little Bytham to expect Joseph’s arrival but the message had failed to be
delivered to Arthur’s man, and when Joseph arrived at the tiny station in the
middle of the night he had to shake a local wretch out of bed, promising money
he did not have but assuring the man that the Earl of Petersham—his very good
friend indeed—would be able to pay any amount. Darkness and drowsiness made the
nearly two-hour dogcart ride dull. By the time the half-asleep driver found
himself on the gravel approach to the great Tudor hall that was the estate of
the Marquess of Richmond, he was wide awake. And by the time the man stood on
the carved stone stoop of the east wing, his jaw dropping at the sight of the
elegantly dressed butler, he said no fare was required, that the privilege was “all
mine, milord,” and wished Joseph a very good night.
Joseph would have to send the man an appropriate sum in the
As it was well past midnight all he wanted to do was sleep.
Unfortunately his body was still agitated from his travels, his thoughts
spinning and reeling from nerves or anticipation or both. The earl’s
valet—because gentlemen had such things—showed him to his rooms—not “room”
singular—and had indicated where the billiards and library were, that both had
been laid with fires and were quite comfortable, and then had left Joseph to
his own devices.
So he threw off his jacket and waistcoat, tore off his tie
and stiff collar, unbuttoned his shirt to mid-chest then staggered downstairs
to the billiard room.
Once comfortably settled in the masculine haven, the glow of
the fire burnishing the rich oak paneling, he said a quiet prayer of thanks to
the gods who sent Arthur Harwell, the Earl of Petersham—and his cigars and
brandy—into his life. He snorted a chuckle. Life was truly amazing when a poor
American dock worker could be sipping brandy in the billiard room of an English
* * * * *
Geoffrey Peel downed his champagne a little too quickly then
grabbed another glass from a passing tray. He should have known Sophia would be
busy with more eligible suitors. But—
—he was her
brother’s best friend and solicitor. He deserved a courtesy dance.
Because then he could exhaust her with far too much turning
so they’d have to take a reprieve outside. There they would walk to a dark
corner in the woods and tire each other out in far more delicious pursuits.
He grew hard just thinking about the possibilities. Ambling
back to the ballroom should take care of that. The perfumes and décolletages of
other women would be distracting.
He followed two such distractions as they babbled in what
they thought was confidence. The advantage of being a tall man meant not only a
good view of plunging necklines but the opportunity to eavesdrop undetected.