Authors: Angela Conrad
A Regency Historical Romance
Angela J. Conrad
Copyright 2014 ©
Angela J Conrad
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is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Dedicated to my wonderful husband, who reads, edits and discusses my characters, as if they were known friends. My family, friends, past publishers, and especially my readers, for all their support and following over the years. I hope you enjoyed the Rayburn Park Series.
Cover design by Carol’s Cover Design
2014 Books by Angela J. Conrad
Rogues of Rayburn Park
Young Bucks of Rayburn Park
Dedication & 2014 Book List
Chapter One: The Dilemma
Chapter Two: The Cad
Residence of Viscount Castleford
Early spring 1814
Lilly Castleford thought her aunt amusing, a nonconformist who wore too much rouge and drank too many brandies. Isolated as they were, no locals seemed to mind Aunt Mary Castleford’s eccentric ways. She was a splinter off the block of her brother Lord Franklin Castleford, known for his star gazing, military inventions, carriage designs, and dressing in bizarre fashions.
Lilly was responsible for the manor’s financial and domestic harmony, making sure bills were paid, her father ate, and her aunt was comfortable. Lord Castleford’s income had supported his daughter and sister in pleasant circumstances, and if nobility was rated by their longevity in England, the Castleford’s would be in the top twenty of old families. On the other hand, if rated by its fortune, the Castlefords would be at the opposite end of the graph.
“Fortune isn’t everything,” was Au
nt Mary’s favorite saying. This pearl of wisdom held up fine in Lilly’s early life, but lost its luster when she turned twenty.
The last three years had turned a pearl into an oyster shell, from shining
iridescent white to cracked grey, with poor harvests and sick cattle. Negative occurrences increased when her father’s experiments cost more than he’d planned. There were new designs that did not sell and repairs to the manor house that could not be pushed back.
These circumstances bothered Lord Castleford not at all. Aunt
Mary would frown and have another brandy. Lady Lilly would sit at her small desk, scribbling columns of numbers until her eyes blurred, her shoulders long stiff with worry.
the secure future of her small, eccentric family fell to Lilly and what could a young lady of twenty do to bring in funds? After crossing off other ideas: invest in a Caribbean ship, sell off parcels of farmland, become a quality seamstress, raise champion horses, the only idea left on Lilly’s list was the one she dreaded most, get married.
Lilly desired marriage, longed for a grand romance, a great love, an everlasting passion. She wanted it so badly, she smothered it with practicality and duty. Lilly was a dreamer, she entertained thoughts no one would ever guess existed inside her.
Once disappointed, she dared not raise hope too high again, fearing it would change her forever and destroy her loving spirit. To plan a marriage was Lilly’s forlorn hope. She craved it as much as feared it.
“I’ve decided aunt,”
Lilly announced the next morning over biscuits and tea.
“Decided what dear? I hope you’re not going to harp about finances again, it makes my head hurt dreadfully.”
“Partly, as it is my motivation. I intend to marry,” Lilly stated proudly, as if the deciding was the difficult part.
“Who to dear?” her aunt asked, pushing her lace cap back and trying to focus.
“Well, I don’t know yet. I haven’t anyone in mind around here. You must take me to London. We will stay with Aunt Ellen.”
“Ellen? Gads no. I dislike my sister immensely. I don’t care much for town either
Lilly. Couldn’t you just marry someone locally?” Aunt Mary asked, hope rising high in her blue eyes.
“Well, let’s see the vicar is fifty and married already. The
surrounding neighbors are all married and have daughters. Widower Myerson turned ninety I believe. There are the Donaldson brothers, but they are farmers and have no ready funds. There is no one here to marry aunt, I must go to town,” Lilly smiled, picturing the thin selection of men nearby.
“Too bad Joshua married that young miss in Bath last spring,” Aunt Mary sighed. “We always thought he would marry you.”
“He did come to call often. He loves father’s ideas and remember when the design of the first pistol looked so promising? Joshua would join us for dinner every night and talk to father for hours about it,” Lilly shrugged. “I guess the grass is always greener and Joshua found better than me.”
It hurt so much
to speak of Joshua’s marriage aloud that Lilly turned to the window so her aunt would not see her fresh tears.
Lilly, look in a mirror will you?” her aunt complained. “You have the loveliest chestnut brown hair and eyes, a womanly body with pleasing curves and the prettiest face for twenty miles.”
thought of their desolate area and laughed at the compliment, twenty miles of nothing but fields and tree covered hills, how many beauties were hidden amongst those rural meadows? She shook herself and lightened her voice.
“I’ll admit I am passable, though not in the current rage of short blondes, but I’m getting old
er and there’s no time to spare. You will not go to London then aunt, even if I asked you nicely?” Lilly tried.
Aunt Mary shifted her eyes to the brandy decanter sitting in the corner and licked her lips. She stood and wondered over to the window, reaching
for the brandy behind her skirt at the same time.
“Oh aunt stop,”
Lilly laughed. “Just pour some in your tea, I don’t judge.”
“Bless you dear, you don’t and that’s another of your wonderful qualities, you let us all l
ive as we like here. I know!” Her aunt shouted.
Lilly asked, startled.
“Who you could marry. He was
never married before, or maybe that was his brother.”
“Who are you talking about?”
Lilly asked, genuinely puzzled.
“He’s an earl, of course he’ll need an heir,
” Aunt Mary beamed, as if the matter was settled and took another long sip of her newly improved tea.
“You’re not thinking of Lord Randall are you?
He, on no occasion mixes with local gentry when he stops at his estate. I’ve never even seen him. Why aunt, he lives almost exclusively in town, and I’ve heard rumors he’s very handsome and popular. He’d never look twice at me,” Lilly said, looking down at her old gown of soft blue.
I think he would. You could appear even better, but we’ll need Ellen to come down, though I hate to suggest it. She will bring her seamstresses, lady’s maids, and together we’ll turn you into a fetching temptress,” her aunt grinned, looking excited about having a project.
“I thought you didn’t like your sister
“I don’t, but it doesn’t mean she can’t be useful and handy for once.
She did marry well to a titled lord, Viscount Hawken and though he’s old, he’s flush in the pockets. I will write her today, for there’s nothing she likes better than meddling and making a person over.”
t sounds horrid. What if she does improve me and this Lord Randall still doesn’t want me?” Lilly asked, having fun watching her aunt’s mind whirl with ideas.
“Dear, you’re not very optimistic or cheerful or even realistic if you think he won’t want you when we are finished. You are the
raw ingredients, you just need polishing.”
jagged rock in the stream?” Lilly asked. “How about a mangy dog before a bath, or a sheep not sheared?”
Lilly dear, you are a card. I promise you this. Next month when Lord Randall comes here for his yearly inspection of his fine country estate, you will have him!”
“Like a trout, I’ll set out a thin line and when he rides by, I shall
snap it around his waist and drag him into the house,” Lilly smiled, picturing a fine lord tied up on the front lawn.
“Not as drastic as that, we ladies have more delicate lures.”
Aunt Mary batted her eyelashes and shared a hidden grin from behind her brandy laced tea.
had no serious thoughts in her head of doing anything Aunt Mary suggested. To her it was just a conversational lark to pass the morning. She’d heard men in the study, father’s friends, discussing Lord Randall and his estates. The earl was as high and out of reach to her as the moon.
Mr. Commons Office
Lord Randall resided in London. He was a rich earl who loved cards, horse racing, women, his freedom, and taking risks more outrageous than his peers. He liked excitement and extremes. He was tall, handsome and very used to having his own way. His black hair and eyes, his dark line of beard in the evenings, made him appear mysterious and dangerous. He was experienced, constantly talked about and all the ladies wanted to test their allure and experience the heights to which he might take them.
This morning in London, Lord Randall was experiencing
a mysterious tandem moment with Lilly Castleford, for he too was hearing similar unwanted and silly advice from his solicitor, about marriage.
“So, after reading you
r father’s will and having you pass your five and thirty birthday, I advise you to marry and start on that heir as quick as you can,” Mr. Commons stated, shuffling papers like a deck of cards.
“I have two mistresses, I’m involved in several flirtations, and I have horse races to attend in Newmarket. When would I have time to find a wife, and before you answer, she won’t be a lady from town. I want someone I can
plant in the country and never see. I still want my life just the way it is, free, easy, and with a variety of female companions. I’ll have no meddling or crying baggage.”
“I recall your instructions
and after careful inquiry and investigation, I’ve found the perfect candidate,” the solicitor announced with pride.
“You’ve found her already?”
Lord Randall asked, feeling a chill.
precisely fits your needs. She’s been isolated and lives simply in the country with her little family, but nevertheless a lady from a noble family. Her father is a recluse, but a viscount. Her family is short on funds, and I believe she would be satisfied with a small allowance.”
“You know I have a vast fortune of my own and father’s will is just a test to try and turn me, but everything’s entailed and for that to continue I do need a son. That’s the only reason I’m considering this plan. Now tell me, what is she like?”
his lordship asked, dreading the response.
solicitor stalled and Reece Randall asked again.
“What is she like, be ho
nest, remember I have to have sons with her, she must be somewhat pleasing.”
perhaps not as stunning as your town women your lordship, but very pretty.”
“Very pretty will do then, for I’ll just see her a few times in the dark and be off. What is her name?”
He asked, feeling a slight chill of excitement mixed with caution.
Lady Lilly Castleford. You might know the father Viscount Castleford, an inventor, sells things to the Crown from time to time, pistol designs and such. They live very near your country estate, Hillside Park.”
“I’m not sure
I know him, no I don’t think I do. I don’t like to mix with locals, even gentry while at Hillside Park, I go there to see the new crop of horses, I save my adventures for town. Will this viscount go for the scheme, quick wedding; no courting? I’m not wasting my time bringing flowers and kissing her hand. I would arrange it by mail if I could,” Lord Randall laughed.
“Her father is a strange character and mixes
solely with military men. He also recently got into debt and has no means of repaying the loans he secured. My guess is he would accept any gentleman of good fortune, who bothered to come down and marry his daughter. Lady Lilly runs their manor, is quick with numbers, and a skilled rider. You off to town and her managing the Park residence, it should be a perfect match.”
Mr. Commons made it sound s
o simple. Could it be that easy? Reece doubted anything concerning a woman could be trouble free.
“How old is she?”
“Just turned twenty.”
Lady Lilly go for it? No love or courting? It might seem cold to a young lady with dreams. Is she a dreamer Commons?”
“Heaven’s no, realistic and
practical. Just what you want.”
he sounds dry and boring, but she will serve as long as you give your word she’s passable pretty?”
“Yes, your lordship, my word. How would you like to handle it? I was thinking
, I could have my clerk Stanley write her letters pretending to be you. Set things up, so you can just walk right in next month and propose.”
“Brilliant that saves me time and effort. Start it at once. Tell him not too heavy on love, but something to attach her. Remember, I want her
ready to say yes on a short visit,” Reece Randall ordered, wanting to be finished with this task.