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Authors: Emily Hendrickson

Lord Barry's Dream House

BOOK: Lord Barry's Dream House
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LORD BARRY’S DREAM HOUSE

Emily Hendrickson

 

The Best Laid Plans.

Lovely Lady Juliana Hamilton had bold plans indeed. She intended to follow in the footsteps of her late father, who not only was a lord of the realm, but was also one of the finest architects in it. She would complete his greatest project—a magnificent manor that would stand as his monument and her first giant step toward recognition of her own talent.

Only one thing stood in her way: Lord Edmund Barry, for whom the manor was being built. When he returned to England, he never expected to find a female doing what he firmly believed was a man’s work. Even more humiliating, the masterful Lord Barry made clear to Juliana his designs had nothing to do with hers. Somehow Juliana had to convince him she wanted to plan his bedroom, not share his bed—even when her passion for her profession began to yield to a passion that not only could bring her dream house down in ruins but her honor as well...

 

Chapter
One

“That bottled spider, that foul bunch-back’d toad!” Lady Juliana Hamilton brushed back a strand of soft brown hair from her forehead, streaking soot across her fair skin, and compressed her lips in righteous wrath as she surveyed the ruins of a storage hut that had been built close to the house under construction. “ ’Tis a blessing the fire did not spread to the house. It likely could have, had you not happened to stay around here later than you usually do.”

She nudged a charred timber with the toe of her half-jean boot and sighed. This was another in a long chain of misfortunes that had plagued her since she took over the building of the house following her architect father’s death. She strongly suspicioned who was behind her ill luck. “I wish the man to Jericho.”

“Now, Lady Juliana, we cannot prove that it was
him
that did this.” Henry Scott gave her a commiserating look while striving not to acknowledge that the man they both suspected of foul play was responsible for the fire. That they both immediately thought of the same man, baronet Sir Phineas Forsythe—gray fringe ringing his balding head, a hawkish look to his face, especially his eyes—was not remarkable. The amateur architect had made it clear he intended to take over the late Lord Hamilton’s project.

“And I cannot prove the sun rises in the east and sets in the west,” she snapped, then gave her worthy assistant and cousin an apologetic look. “I am sorry, Henry, but will he never leave us in peace to finish this house? Why can he not concede, admit I am doing a good job of completing what must be my father’s finest work?” She bestowed a fond look at the house that soared behind her. Every line was known to her like the back of her hand.

She eased her tired self down onto a pile of wood destined for wainscoting and studied her outstretched boots that peeked from beneath the dusty hem of her oldest gown. She really ought to buy new half-boots, she supposed. Her attire when working at the house was sufficient to give her mother the vapors, did she chance to see her eldest daughter before she slipped off
to
the site. However, it was not practical to come to the work site garbed in delicate muslin. Juliana had donned a serviceable corded muslin in faded blue with a simple spencer over it, figuring the workmen neither noticed nor cared what she wore.

That was probably the only practical streak in Juliana. She was a dreamer, an adventuress on paper. She wanted to design and build just as her papa had. She had studied his books and learned all she could from him before a bout of pneumonia snatched him from his loving family.

Being a woman had distinct drawbacks, for she could never achieve her dream. Her mother insisted Uncle George chaperon her, but never bothered to see if he always tagged along. But she
could
finish this house for the patron who had contracted with her father for a large home, suitably decorated and furnished, to be situated on a splendid knoll on his fine property. He would likely never notice that she had made subtle changes and additions. But, she stubbornly insisted, they were for the better; they made a more livable and far more new-fashioned house.

“Your being a woman likely galls the man,” Henry said with a wry smile. “It would be a feather in his cap to claim he completed the work on this mansion.”

“True, the odious toad,” Juliana murmured in response. She studied the smoking ruins and continued. “Thank heavens we have managed to conceal most of the
accidents
around here, or those who are superstitious would refuse to step on the property. Can you imagine what would happen were the patron to catch wind of them? The longer he stays in Jamaica, the better. Father always said that patrons proved to be the greatest problem in building. They go sticking their noses into
every
corner
, demanding silly changes that inevitably increase the costs, not to mention the work, and utterly refusing to understand the need for the improvements you incorporate.”

“I fancy you mean those new-fashioned water-closets you ordered,” Henry said musingly.


And
the latest design in ranges for the kitchen—a Rumford rather than a Bodley, I think. A man would likely think it extravagant, never mind it would result in better cooking, not to mention making the kitchen more convenient and pleasant for the kitchen staff. No, I can do quite nicely without his lordship around.” Juliana gave her assistant and trusted friend a tired smile. “Although I must confess he writes a very nice letter.”

She drew up her legs, tucking her skirts closely about her, then rested her chin on her knees. An approaching sound caught her ear, and she glanced in that direction. “I suppose that is our carriage. Mama persists in sending it for me, even when I ride over.”

“She worries about you.”

“Uncle George says it is because I am the cement that holds our family together.” Juliana grimaced at the burden her uncle would place on her slim shoulders.

“George Teynham says a lot of things, most of them outrageous,” Henry said with a smile. While most assistants would never give voice to such a thought, Henry was somewhat a member of the family, being a distant cousin and having been trained by Juliana’s father to ably further his work. Now Henry remained with his late patron’s daughter because he would see the project to its conclusion and
...
because he could not leave her.

“I do believe he has memorized every insult ever written by Shakespeare and simply dotes on shocking people.” Juliana smiled when she thought how she had slipped into the same usage, for she dearly loved that quote from
Richard III,
the one about the foul bunch-backed toad. It so aptly fit their neighbor, the nasty Sir Phineas Forsythe.

Henry straightened as a stranger turned the
corner
of the great house and walked toward them. The chap was studying everything about him in a very considering way—examining
the mortar between the stone, the joints, and fitting of the windows. He paused to look upward at the cornice that crowned the windows, an exquisitely classical feature of the house design and one that Juliana had added. A frown crossed his brow, then he continued toward the two who sat by the ashes of the fire.

At the sight of a leather case tucked under the stranger’s arm, Henry murmured, “Another damned salesman to plague you.”

Tired and annoyed past all politeness—Juliana rose and militantly advanced upon the stranger. He was unusually tall and quite dark-skinned, as though he spent much time in the sun; his eyes flashed a surprisingly bright blue at her as she neared. Dark he might be; he was a handsome man. Broad shoulders admirably filled out his coat, which looked to be the latest thing in fashion. How odd for a salesman. He must represent a superior company. And his pantaloons were impeccably cut and fit to him like a glove. Young ladies of quality were not supposed to notice things like that. She hurriedly turned her attention.

She gave a pointed glare at the leather case and spoke in her best daughter-of-the-mansion manner. “Good day, sir. Whatever it is you are selling we want none of it. We purchase all our goods from none but our chosen sources.” She made a point of studying all available information and carefully ordered her materials based on what she learned and with Henry’s guidance. She believed in sensible economy

abhorring waste, yet demanding the best quality in everything that mattered.

Her toes curled in her half-jean boots at the lazy—and most superior—smile he bestowed on her. Perfectly splendid teeth parted, and in a rich, deep voice he said, “And who are you, may I ask? I seek Julian, Lord Hamilton. Where is he, and why do
you
talk of ordering goods? Does Lord Hamilton employ a female assistant!” He seemed vastly amused by the idea.

A look of anguish flashed across Juliana’s face as she thought of her talented father who was no more. She half turned to motion Henry to silence before answering. “May I inquire as to whom
you
are, my lord?” she bestowed a title on him, figuring that whether he was or not, he would be flattered by it. He certainly looked and acted the part.

“Since you correctly address me, I gather you have surmised I am Barry.” Edmund, Lord Barry bowed most faintly in her direction.

“Lord Barry! All the way from Jamaica?” Juliana exclaimed softly and with a sinking heart. What a perfectly dreadful time for him to make an appearance. Lord Barry was in for a few surprises. He would soon learn of her duplicity, not to mention all the changes she had made.

“I have in my case a wealth of correspondence from Lord Hamilton. I thought all was going as I wished when I received a letter from his neighbor claiming that Lord Hamilton had died some time ago and his daughter had taken over the building. This in spite of efforts by a capable architect to assume control of the works. Yet I continued to receive letters and information from Lord Hamilton all this while. I decided it time to return to England and see for myself what is going on.”

J
uliana shifted uneasily under that penetrating gaze. She sensed that there was no gentle man to cozen with sweet words and guile as her sister Barbara liked to do. He possessed a hard polish over his aristocratic manner, most likely from giving orders on his Jamaica plantations. This situation was not likely to please him in the least.

“I am Lady Juliana, Lord Hamilton’s daughter,” she replied with an air of hauteur at odds with her appearance.. She attempted to draw him away from the house. She wanted him to see it at its best, not at half-light and when he was tired from travel. “Perhaps you would come with me to our home where we can discuss this in comfort and out of the evening chill. It is growing late, and I feel certain you would appreciate a good meal. You must have traveled a long way this day,” she con
c
luded with hope. “I know my mother would be pleased to meet you.”

“You
are Lord Hamilton’s daughter?” He could not have looked more astounded if a toad had jumped up to kiss him.

“Indeed, sir,” she admitted with a faint smile. “I have written you a good many letters over the past years, for I have served as my father’s assistant and secretary. Papa said I have
a good hand and excellent understanding of construction.” She hoped this tiny clue might lead Lord Barry step-by-step to the truth of the matter.

He stared down at her, eyes narrowed and the smile gone from his oddly sensual mouth. “I have a feeling there is a great deal more to this than I know at the moment.” He looked behind her then, catching sight of the still-smoking ruins of the hut. “What’s this? A fire? So close to the house? It does not seem prudent to do away with rubbish in such proximity.”

A breeze ruffled the skirt of Juliana’s gown, emphasizing how dangerous such action might be, for a wind carried embers a fair distance. He frowned at Juliana, and she wished she were a mile away from this man. He was odiously arrogant, and she would wager he ate young women like her for breakfast.

“Henry came upon the blaze—having remained later than usual—and put it out.” She crossed her fingers behind her back and continued. “I feel certain it was a mere accident, most likely by one of the workmen, who left, thinking it safely out. I chanced to come over here as well—wishing to check on things—so between our efforts the fire did not spread.” She did not like the speculative expression that entered his lordship’s eyes at her words. Surely he did not think she would have an assignation with her works supervisor! Dismissing the thought as silly, Juliana said, “No great harm was done, but I suspect we should have a guard here day and night.” These last words she directed to Henry, who nodded in understanding. To Barry she added, “This is Henry Scott, our works supervisor. I do not know how we would manage without him.”

Lord Barry acknowledged the other man’s presence with a nod of his head and murmured, “Scott.”

“We are pleased to see you here at long last, my lord,” Henry said, ignoring Juliana’s glare. “I believe it a good thing for a man to watch his home being built.”

Dusk crept across the fields, and a setting sun illumined the house with warm rays of peach and gold, giving the Portland stone a beautiful glow, highlighting the Ionic capital at the
corner
of the portico with a blaze of color. She looked at the house with fond pride in her eyes, then turned toward the rough drive that had been laid out before the house.

“I know you must long to explore your home,” Juliana said
hesitantly. “However, I suggest you wait until tomorrow.
There is scaffolding about, and pots of paint and buckets of paste lurk for the unwary, not to mention piles of lumber and sawdust elsewhere. The house is close to completion, I feel sure you will be happy to know. I have designed
...
” and here Juliana halted her flow of words, fearing she had uttered far too much already.

“Yes?” he queried smoothly. “You have designed what?”

“Nothing, my lord. Come, let us go.” She placed a dainty

if somewhat sooty—hand upon the arm held out for her, then turned to Henry. “I shall see you first thing tomorrow.”

“Aye,” Henry replied. Only when Juliana had turned away from him did a wistful longing slip into his eyes. It disappeared immediately, quite as though he remembered how impossible any yearning in her direction might be. He resolutely headed for his pleasant and empty home.

Juliana chattered about the weather all the way to where Lord Barry’s traveling coach awaited him. Here she stopped.

“I had best take my mare and lead the way. Even with excellent directions, these roads can be deceptive.”

“Like a number of other things around here, it seems,” he murmured. He climbed into his coach and leaned out of the window to signal his coachman.

She had swiftly mounted Beauty and motioned to the driver with no outward sign of her fluttering heart. While the coach rumbled along the lane away from the house being built for Lord Barry, she tried to think of what she should say to him. Would he possibly understand?

It was not as though she sought a future as an architect
.
She knew better than that. She merely wished to complete the home her father had designed and of which he had been so very proud.

And she would, too—if Lord Barry permitted and that odious toad of a Sir Phineas Forsythe would keep his nose to home. True, she had not a shred of proof that Sir Phineas was behind all the ills that had plagued her since she had assumed re
sponsibility for the completion of the house. But she felt in her bones that he was the one answerable. “He has not so much brain as ear-wax!” she seethed softly, adopting one of her uncle’s many favorite expressions from Shakespeare. Sir Phineas heard only what he pleased.

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