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Sattler, Veronica

BOOK: Sattler, Veronica
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It was a misunderstanding that could
cost a young woman her virtue, and a notorious rake his heart.

THE DUKE OF RAVENSFORD: 
He decided his
grandson needed a woman with a reputation to complete his education, and he
made it his business to find her.

ASHLEIGH SINCLAIR: 
She was an
orphaned kitchen maid in one of England's brothels until she was tricked into
taking the post as "governess" to the duke's grandson.

LORD BRETT WESTMONT: 
He was handsome,
heartless, a man who'd had every kind of woman there was—except one. And now
his grandfather had arranged that for him, too.

They
could rob her virtue, but never her heart.

 

 

 

 

 

WORLDWIDE

TORONTO • NEW
YORK • LONDON • PARS AMSTERDAM • STOCKHOLM • HAMBURG ATHENS • MILAN • TOKYO •
SYDNEY

Ashleigh
awoke slowly

A
pleasant warmth infused her body as she gradually moved into consciousness.
Then, as the last vestiges of slumber left her, she began to remember where she
was and what had happened to her here.

"You!"
she breathed as she turned to look at the man who hovered over her, entirely
too near.

"The
name's Brett," he answered with a lazy grin, just as his hand reached to
tuck an errant tendril of hair behind her ear.

The
movement, especially the touch of his fingers on her delicate flesh, sent a
shiver through her, and Ashleigh tried to pull away but found she was trapped,
for part of her long hair was caught under his arm as he leaned on the
mattress. "Wh-what are you doing, my lord?" she managed to whisper as
she felt his finger trace the delicate line of her jaw, then move to brush her
lips.

"Brett.
The name is Brett," he said as his finger again grazed her bottom lip.
"Say it, beautiful Ashleigh. Say my name."

THE BARGAIN

A Worldwide Library book

First published September 1987

ISBN 0-373-97043-9

Copyright © 1987 by Veronica Sattler.

All
rights reserved. Philippine copyright 1987. Australian copyright 1987. Except
for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or
in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or
hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any
Information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of
the publisher, Worldwide Library, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario,
Canada M3B 3K9.

All
the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the
author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or
names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown
to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.

The
Worldwide design trademarks, consisting of a globe surrounded by a square, and
the word WORLDWIDE in which the letter "O" is represented by a
depiction of a globe, are trademarks of Worldwide Library.

Printed
in U.S.A.

 

For Alyssa,
beloved daughter and bright, shining star

PROLOGUE

Kent,
England, 1795

 

"Your
parents are dead, boy, as is your brother, and you have yet to utter a word at
their passing. Now I am asking you, what do you have to say for yourself in the
matter?"

Ten-year-old
Brett Westmont raised heavily lashed, startling turquoise eyes to meet the keen
regard of his grandfather as he stood before him in the library at Ravensford
Hall. The boy's small, square jaw was firmly set and gave no evidence of the quaking
turmoil that had been threatening to break loose from a place deep within his
small yet sturdy frame; he had been fighting to hold it in check for the past
forty-eight hours, ever since he'd received news of the accident.

Leveling
his gaze at the old man, Brett broke the silence in a clear, strong voice that
did nothing to betray his chaotic feelings. "Only one parent, Grandfather,
and the brother, a half brother, though I loved him well."

John
Westmont, eighth duke of Ravensford, drew heavy, iron-gray brows over a pair of
piercing blue eyes that endeavored to pin the boy to the carpet. Rising slowly
from behind the carved-oak Georgian desk where he'd been seated, the duke drew
himself up to his full six feet, three inches, and frowned disapprovingly at
his grandson for several long seconds. "Boy, you are being impertinent! I
requested your reaction to a senseless tragedy, not a nitpicking digression on
the family tree!"

The
turquoise gaze never faltered. "There was no impertinence intended, sir. I
merely wished to point out that it was only one of my natural parents who was
killed in the accident. My true mother—"

"Silence!"
thundered
the duke. "How
dare
you invoke the name of a person who ceased to
exist for this household from the moment she left, over seven years ago? Have
you forgotten my orders forbidding all mention of that female? A woman whose
perfidy and betrayal could only result in her being branded and dismissed as
the harlot she was? A woman who compounded the sin of her faithlessness to your
father by then deserting both him and you—and you a child not yet out of the
nursery? Well, boy, answer me!"

"No,
sir," came the steady reply. "I've not forgotten." How could he
forget, when every trace of the woman who was his mother had been removed from
these halls, wiped away as if she'd never existed? When all his questions about
her had been met by stony silence or the anguished look in his father's eyes?
When the name, Mary, Viscountess Westmont, was forbidden from his lips while he
went about yearning for some words that might put to rest his confusion, impart
some sense to the tales he'd heard whispered. He had failed to reconcile those
rumors with faint but persistent memories of warm, loving arms and—

"A
terrible and senseless tragedy," the duke was saying, "and once
again, a woman's fault. It was your stepmother, Lady Caroline, who brought them
to this end. It was only after he married her that Edward began his profligate
ways."

"John,
can you not spare your censure at such a time? I—I cannot bear it. It is,
moreover, not fitting to speak ill of the dead!"

It
was only now that young Brett realized he and his grandfather were not alone.
Looking toward the deepest of the shadows reaching across the far end of the
richly appointed room in the fading autumn light, the boy perceived the tall,
ramrod-straight form of his great-aunt, Lady Margaret, twin sister to the old
duke, as she moved closer to the desk.

Her
brother turned a disdainful profile to Brett as he coldly met the gaze of his
twin. "I am not in the habit of being reminded of anything remiss in my
behavior, Margaret. If you wish to continue to be privy to this
interview—though why you would wish it is beyond me—you will refrain from
interrupting. As for my castigation of the dead, let me simply say this— for
the boy's benefit as well as your own: My son and his second wife were a pair
of besotted fools!"

Ignoring
the gasp of outrage that broke from his sister's throat, the duke continued.
"It is no secret that they were blind drunk when they left the hunt party
and appropriated the carriage that carried them and their young son to their
deaths. Old Henry tells me it was Edward himself who wrested the reins away
from the driver and insisted on driving the ill-fated vehicle at a breakneck
speed; left the befuddled man in the dust on the drive as he whipped my finest
pair of matched bays into a frenzy and took off for God-knows-where, with his
still-tippling wife and their son in tow. Aye, and there's the real pity—that
they had to drag young Linley with them! Who's to say if that faulty axle
wouldn't have spared them a fatal end, if the carriage had been driven more
sanely? Or at least have spared the life of that innocent child!"

The
duke paused for a moment, and Brett thought he saw a flicker of pain cross his
grandfather's face before the blue eyes shuttered and his anger returned in
full force.

"Drunken
fools, both of them, swilling and gambling their way from one drawing room to
another, up to London and back again, in a continuing orgy of self-indulgence
that made me ashamed to call Edward mine! And, say what you will, Margaret, you
cannot deny that, on Edward's part at least, this unconscionable behavior began
almost from the day he wed Caroline Hastings—a marriage, may I remind you, dear
sister, that
you
arranged!"

"John,
you cannot blame—"

"I
can, and I
do!"
spat the duke, glowering at his twin.
"Caroline Hastings was a worthless piece of trash, no matter how fine her
lineage and title. But, then—" the duke smiled thinly "—what else
could one expect? She was—" he returned his gaze to Brett "—after
all, a
female.
Remember that, boy. Your life will fare far better if you
never let yourself forget—as I shall take pains to see you are never
allowed
to forget—that
women
are the major source of evil in this
world."

"Evil!
Really, John," interrupted his sister, "I cannot allow—"

"Cannot
allow?
Allow?
Woman,
I
shall decide what is allowed here! And I
remind you for the final time that it is only through my sufferance that you
are presently allowed in this chamber!"

The
duke turned his attention back to Brett. Bracing his hands on the desk top
before him, he bent forward and lowered his voice, the blue eyes piercing as
they bored into the boy. "It was a woman every time, Brett. First, there
was my mother, insisting on educating my twin sister here in much the same
manner as I was educated, giving her unsuitable notions with regard to her
place in life. Why, there were times in our childhood when I was hard put to
remember Margaret was a girl!" He gave his sister a sneering half smile.
"Isn't that so, Sister? And, being the elder twin by some fifteen minutes,
didn't you chafe under the restrictions of the laws of primogeniture that gave
the dukedom to me, the younger, simply because I was the firstborn
male?"

BOOK: Sattler, Veronica
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