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Authors: G.G. Vandagriff

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Lord Grenville's Choice

BOOK: Lord Grenville's Choice
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A Regency Romance

G.G. Vandagriff


{ 1 }


London, 1812

lexander Lambeth, Fifth Earl of Grenville, opened the door to the nursery on the second floor of his townhome.

“Hello, Papa!” His son scrambled off his nanny’s lap and ran across the wooden floor to greet him, throwing his arms around Alexander’s legs and hugging his knees. “I found a birdies’ nest today.”

“What a clever boy you are.” Alex hoisted his son in the air, lowering him slowly until their noses touched. “Did it have eggs in it?”

Jack wiggled in his arms. “Throw me in the air, Papa!”

“Not until you tell me about the nest!”

“It had blue eggs.”

“Did you steal it?”

“No. Nanny would not let me. She said it belonged to the mama bird and that inside the eggs were her babies.”

“Well done.” Alex threw Jack in the air and caught him. “Once! Twice! Thrice!”

His son giggled uproariously before Alex set him down. At that moment, Felicity came through the nursery doorway. He could smell her vanilla scent as she moved up behind him.

“Mama!” Jack ran on his sturdy four-year-old legs to embrace his mother, who immediately knelt down to his height.

“We are having strawberries for tea tomorrow. Shall you come?” Jack asked her.

“Of course I shall. I would not miss it for anything.”

In spite of her caramel-colored satin evening dress, she picked up the youngster until she cradled him in her arms. Felicity began kissing him under his chin, behind his ears, and finally asked him
sotto voce
, “Jack-Jack, do you know how much I love you?”

“More than all the stars in the sky!” he said.

He giggled again, and Alex’s heart warmed as it did every time he saw his wife’s unrestrained affection for their son. Her chignon of golden hair began to loosen precariously and her honey-colored eyes were bright with mischief as she tickled him.

It was all quite unfashionable. But if Felicity had her way, she would be in the nursery all the day long. He wondered, as he so often did, how such a loving mother could be such a difficult wife.

All too soon, Nanny Owens said, “Now, now, your ladyship, you are getting Lord Jack far too excited before bedtime. He will never go to sleep.” She shooed them both out of their son’s rooms.

As the doors closed behind them, Alex was feeling the glow of fatherhood when Felicity said, her voice strained, “I need to speak to you, Alex. Now, if you please.”

With a small sigh, he said, “Come, then. We will speak in my library.” He led the way down the three flights of stairs.

When they reached his very masculine room, lined with his well-read philosophy tomes and volumes of modern poetry, he stooped to light the fire.

“Shall I ring for some wine?” he asked, pouring himself a short whiskey.

“No, thank you,” Felicity said, sitting gracefully in a straight-backed chair before his desk. “This will not take long.”

He was relieved to hear it. Seating himself behind his desk, he raised his drink.

“Alex, I thought you ought to know that your Elizabeth’s husband died suddenly this afternoon. It seems he had a defective heart. He collapsed at the Norwich card party. A physician was called, but nothing could be done.” She looked him in the eye. “The love of your life is now a wealthy widow.” Her words were as much of a challenge as though she had dashed his face with a glove.

Stunned, Alex could only look at his wife. Her head was held high, her golden hair wrapped around it like an aureole, her eyes not quite steady.

Then her words hit him, and his heart leapt in his breast. There had been a time when Elizabeth, with her white-blonde hair and sea green eyes, was all he thought of morning, noon, and night.

He swallowed his whiskey in one burning gulp. “How do you know about Elizabeth?”

“Alex, the last thing I want to appear is a jealous wife. I know that is not seemly. But do you really think I do not know who my rival has always been? The woman who has always owned your heart?”

Her words jolted him. He supposed all of society knew of his love for Elizabeth, and his wife was not a stupid woman. She had known from the start that theirs was not a love match. They had been paired by their fathers after Elizabeth had become Countess of Beaton. Felicity knew she was not his choice. A gremlin of guilt entered his breast, but he banished it. She was not the first woman in history to make a dynastic marriage; she knew the rules.

“What do you expect me to do? Run off with her to the Continent? There is a war on, Felicity.”

“Please do not laugh at me.” She lowered her head and pleated the satin of her gown. “I know I am meant to look the other way.”

He stood. “You are being melodramatic. Elizabeth chose another. Our infatuation ended long ago. Now, if you please, I am off to the club.”

Felicity raised her chin. “I will order Easter lilies for her tomorrow. From both of us.” She rose and preceded him out of the room.

Alex chose to walk to the club, his stride measured and confident. Even his closest friend would not be able to discern that his mind was in an uproar. As he strolled out into the brisk night, he thought, not for the first time, how different life would have been if he and Elizabeth had been able to marry. She was a polar star in his life. She would have been tractable, elegant, a companion, not only in his bed, but in the rest of his life as well. Alex had always thought of her as his natural mate. But they had married elsewhere, and both had chosen to honor their vows. How would things change now that she was a widow?

As thoughts of Felicity intruded, he tried to push them aside. It was true she had surprised him by being an eager and passionate lover. She still was. The only time he felt like he was not disappointing her was in the bedroom. But she wanted from him what he could not give—his whole heart. As Felicity appeared to have guessed, Elizabeth still held a large piece of it, and he supposed she always would.

What now? What lies in the future for Elizabeth and me? Can we at least be companions?

Taking out his pocket watch, he could scarcely make out by the pea-sized glow of the street lantern that it was now just on nine o’clock. Elizabeth would not be gracing society tonight or any night soon. She was in mourning. He would pay a call of condolence tomorrow.

Once he was settled in his favorite armchair at Brooks,’ pretending to read the latest edition of
, his friend Sir Charles Winton approached. “Grenville! Well met!”

Alex stood and greeted his friend with a hearty handshake. “Winton! Did you buy those chestnuts after all?”

His friend was a natural born rider, holder of many records among racing gentlemen. Lean, with a handsome face given to generous smiles, he was still unmarried but greatly sought after. As a matter of fact, Alex now remembered, he had frequently been seen about town with Felicity before Alex had become betrothed to her.

After discussing his new chestnuts, Winton asked after her now. “How is Lady Grenville? Still mad about that boy of yours?”

“I know it is highly unfashionable to say so, but he is the light of our lives. You need to busy yourself about finding a wife and producing an heir yourself, Winton.”

His friend gave one of his hearty laughs and instead busied himself lighting a cigar. “I hear Lady Beaton will be available in a year’s time.” He looked at Grenville, one eyebrow cocked.

Alex shifted uncomfortably on his feet at the mention of Elizabeth. “Sit down, Winton. Brandy?”

When his friend agreed, he changed the subject from women to the news of the day, casting
aside. “The country is in more danger from within than from Napoleon, I think,” Alex said. “With this assassination of the Prime Minister, are we to go the way of France, do you think?”

“Anytime a PM can be shot on the floor of the House by a mere commoner with a grievance, I think we must worry. Poor Perceval. He left twelve children, you know.”

Alex sighed, “Yes, Felicity and I called on his widow a couple of days ago. Though Perceval was a Tory, we were friends. The woman is wretchedly downcast.”

“Who do you suppose will be the new PM? Liverpool?”

“Undoubtedly. We Whigs have fallen out of favor with the Regent.”

“Yes, and I do not know how long we are to endure this cursed war,” his friend said fractiously, tipping his ash onto the carpet.

They fell to discussing the recent defeats on the Peninsula. Alex’s younger brother, John, for whom his son was named, was fighting, his well-being a constant source of worry.

They came to no conclusions but grew more mellow with further discussion and the consumption of brandy. By the time Alex returned home, the night was far advanced.

His wife was not waiting up for him, reading by candlelight in their bed as was usually the case. She must be in her own room. Annoyed, he wondered if her unavailability had anything to do with Elizabeth.


Elizabeth, Countess of Beaton, looked stunningly regal in black as she received her calls of condolence. There were so many callers that she stood in the drawing room at the head of a veritable receiving line.

Alex thought she looked not one bit older than eighteen instead of the still relatively young age of twenty-four. Her father, Lord Whitby, stood by her, and he knew that the man would not be at all pleased to see him.

When he approached the love of his life, he noticed that she trembled and wondered if the cause was grief, exhaustion, or possibly the stern presence of Whitby. He could not flatter himself that it was because of his own appearance. Elizabeth had always been fragile, had always been in awe of her father.

He took her small black-gloved hand in his. “Lady Grenville and I extend to you our sincerest condolences,” Alex said quietly. “If there is anything either of us can do for you in your time of grief, you have only to ask.”

Those sea green eyes seemed to look a question at him. He wondered what it was. Through the glove, her hand was icy. She said, “Thank you for coming, my lord. I hope Lady Grenville is well?”

“Very well, indeed.”

Whitby was looking daggers at him, and he felt the press of other callers behind him. Alex held Elizabeth’s hand just an instant more and then took his leave. He carried her image in his mind all the way home, where he ensconced himself in the library to attempt to read his post and the

Her image fled as he noticed there was a letter from his brother, John. Moving quickly, he sliced it open.

Dearest Brother,

By the time you receive this, no doubt I will be right as rain, but this is just to inform you that although I have so far survived the continuing carnage of Salamanca, I have sustained a wound in my upper arm. There is hardly anyone I know who has not received a wound of some sort. It is a bloody battle, though Field Marshal Wellesley continues to be a brilliant leader. I think we will eventually be victorious. We fight alongside the Portuguese, but our losses are heavier.

Hope my namesake is well and thriving. I expect his marching will have improved when I return for my autumn leave. Give my love also to Felicity and thank her warmly for the new socks and blister salve she sent. She is ever thoughtful.



For John to mention his wound at all, it must be significant. Greatly alarmed, Alex sprang to his feet and began to pace, pinching the bridge of his nose.

Which arm was hit? Was it a flesh wound, or did it contain a ball? Was it inflamed? Was there a danger of amputation?

He might not know the answers to his questions for weeks. He should never have bought the commission for his brother. Guilt had plagued him ever since. But John had wanted a pair of colors ever since he was a boy. He had played with his painted lead soldiers on the nursery floor, and their father had always shared details about the battles being fought against Napoleon’s armies. John’s chief worry had always been that the war would end before he could take part.

One of the first things Alex had done, once he had received Felicity’s sizable dowry, was to purchase a commission for his brother. He remembered thinking that at least one of them should have what he wanted.

Sitting behind his desk once more, he dipped his quill, pulled out a sheet of vellum, and began to write.

My dear brother,


Your letter was welcome, but pray tell me frankly how you do. You are a hero in our little family, though you may not see yourself that way. I must confess I am anxious about your wound and wish I could be certain that it was getting the proper attention. I am following the details of your battle as they appear in the newspaper and am glad to know of your confidence in the Field Marshall.


Please write as soon as you are able.

BOOK: Lord Grenville's Choice
5.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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