Read The Earl's Design of Love: The Stenwick Siblings Online

Authors: Morganna Mayfair,Kirsten Osbourne

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Regency, #Historical Romance

The Earl's Design of Love: The Stenwick Siblings

BOOK: The Earl's Design of Love: The Stenwick Siblings
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The Earl's Design of Love

 

Book One in The Stenwick Trilogy

 

By Morganna Mayfair

 

Copyright 2014 Morganna Mayfair

 

Kindle Edition, License Notes

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

 

 

Percy, Earl of Stenwick, spent all of his time hiding out in the country pursuing his work as a stone mason.  When his father  died, leaving everything mortgaged to the hilt, he'd turned his avocation into a job that would feed and clothe his family, and he'd slowly gotten them out of debt.  

 

Diana was the daughter of a tradesman and looked down on by most of the ton, but that wasn't the only strike against her.  She also had an odd ability to make all the men fall in love with her, which did not endear her to the other women of Society.  When Diana's father and Percy's mother decide the two should marry, they realize that they are kindred souls at heart.  Will they be able to get beyond their differences to live happily ever after?  Or will they always be at each other's throats?

 

 

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Chapter One

 

 

Percy, Earl of Stenwick, rolled his shoulders as he looked up from his desk.  He’d been working on the design for a new fountain for six hours straight, and his body was starting to give out.  He wasn’t used to working hunched over a desk for so long, because he spent most of his time actually building his designs.  This one needed to be perfect, though.  He wasn’t certain why, but he could feel it. 

His mother had asked to meet with him at his convenience that day, before the guests started to arrive for her country house party.  He’d asked her repeatedly not to do something
as ridiculous as throw a party, but she hadn’t listened.  Of course, she’d never listened to his father, either.  He stayed in the country, because he liked his privacy.  Knowing that, why would she drag people out to the country manor house?  He didn’t want anyone there.

Thinking of his father made Percy frown.  When he’d inherited the title from his father, he’d been convinced that everything in life would magically become easier.  Instead, he’d found himself saddled with a mother, two younger sisters, and estates that were mortgaged almost to the point of ruination.  Everything that wasn’t entailed had been sold off, so he was left to come home early from Oxford to try to find a way to keep the family afloat.

Percy had found it in his trade.  He smiled as he thought the word.  His mother would be scandalized if she knew he’d ever even thought it, but he didn’t care.  He’d sent his mother and sisters off to live at the townhouse in London with all but three of the servants.  Those three remained behind with him and put up with his eccentric ways, which included being something of a craftsman.  Growing up, he’d never had any idea he’d one day be a tradesman or a craftsman, but he didn’t resent the direction his life had taken.  He loved his work and felt alive through it.

One of his servants was his man about town, Bertram.  Bertram sold his creations to those willing to pay the price he asked, and even took on commissions.  Bertram had learned to evade and not tell anyone who he worked for, simply calling him, “Mr. P” to anyone who asked.  Percy didn’t care what he was called to anyone else.  As long as the money came in to slowly pay off his family’s debts and keep his mother and sisters going to parties during the Season, he was satisfied.

There was a short knock on his door and his mother breezed in without waiting for a response.  “Percy, I told you I needed to speak with you today.”  She had a cross look on her face, but Percy ignored it.  She almost always looked cross when she spoke with him.

His mother was only in her early fifties, but to Percy’s eye she looked much older.  She’d let herself go to pot after his father had died.  “Yes, Mother.  I’ve been working.  What can I help you with?”
  He tore his eyes away from the design and gave her his full attention. 

“Working?  You mean working on the estate accounts?”
  Her voice was filled with disapproval.  She didn’t like how long he wore his dark hair.  She didn’t like the fact that he worked for a living. 

“You know
it’s not, but you’ve told me never to tell you what it is that I do.  Do you want to know now?”  Percy smiled at her sweetly, knowing it would simply annoy her.  He was a good son and did his duty by his family, but he wasn’t about to be pushed around and bullied.

Horatia
wanted to know nothing of the sort, and he knew it.  She was scandalized that he’d had to actually work after his father’s death, but she certainly wasn’t scandalized enough to stop her ridiculous spending.  “You know I don’t.  Don’t get sassy with me, Percy.”

Percy leaned back in his chair and looked at his mother.  At thirty-two, he didn’t think he was being sassy, but he wasn’t going to argue with her.  “Is there something you wanted to talk to me about?”

Horatia took the seat across from Percy’s desk and carefully arranged her skirts.  “Our guests will be arriving any moment.” 


Your
guests will arrive at any moment.  I am hiding myself away doing my work like I always do.”  Percy looked back down at the drawing he’d made of the fountain.  Something wasn’t quite right yet. 
Hmm.  I know something else is supposed to be there, but what?

“Fine, Percy. 
My
guests will be arriving at any moment.  There’s something I need to tell you about them, though.”

Percy’s eyes narrowed at the sound of his mother’s voice.  She was hiding something from him.  “What?”
  He continued to contemplate the fountain as he listened to her.

“Have you heard of Alexander Smith?  He’s a tradesman, but his daughter, Diana, has been accepted into our fold.”
  He knew her use of the word ‘our’ encompassed all of society in London.

Percy raised an eyebrow.  He knew of Alexander, but only because the man had purchased one of his statues and paid a small fortune for the thing.  Of course, Alexander had no idea he was the craftsman, and it was probably better all around if he never knew.  “I know of him.”

“Well, his daughter is a true beauty, and she comes with a large dowry.  The largest being offered in London at this time.  We all know because the man was rude enough to brag about it.”  Her blue eyes met his brown.  “Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Percy shrugged.  “She’s an heiress.  Wonderful.”

Horatia sighed.  “She’s a beautiful heiress that men seem to run from for some absurd reason.  Anyway, her father is worried that she’s firmly on the shelf, which she may be because she’s twenty-three without a single prospect.  Her father made the mistake of telling her, before her first season, that she had the right to say ‘no’ to any man he suggested for her.”  She shook her head at the idea of a woman being allowed to reject her suitor.

“Why are you telling me all this?”

Haratia sat up in her chair and smiled at him.  It was a smile that had once been all the rage in London, but now he felt it was rather…sad looking.  “Because Alexander and I think she would be a wonderful match for you.”

Percy immediately shook his head.  “I’m slowly getting us out of debt, Mother.  You don’t want for anything.  I don’t need an heiress to get us out of the predicament Father left us in.”

“Don’t speak ill of your father!” Horatia said sharply. 

Percy sighed.  He knew that she spoke ill of his father whenever he and his sisters weren’t around to hear it, so he wasn’t sure why it was a problem that he did.  “I’m not marrying the girl.  Send her away.”
  He looked back down at the drawing, effectively dismissing her.

“I’ll do no such thing!  You will come to dinner tonight, and escort her to the table. You will be kind, witty, and charming, all of which I’m well aware you are capable of.  There will be no more of this
‘trade’ nonsense.  You’ll marry a nice little heiress and take your place in Society where you belong.”

Percy stood, shoving back from the desk.  “I will not!  I have no interest in marrying anyone right now.  I want to get us totally out of debt first.  Surely you can see that it’s not a good idea for me to marry anyone at this time.”
  He could make ends meet, of course, and a wife wasn’t totally out of the question, but a wife his mother chose?  That was out of the question.

“Surely you can see that I ask very little of you.  I let you sit out here in the country rusticating instead of doing your duty to your title.  You will at least meet this girl and be kind to her.  She’s coming here expecting that you will be a match.  Don’t disappoint me.” 
Horatia turned and stormed out of the room, shutting the door harder than she would have otherwise, but not hard enough for Percy to call it a slam.  No, his perfect lady mother would never slam a door.

He turned to the window and looked out over his land.  The land owned by his father and his father
’s father before him.  Land that had been bequeathed to his family by a king hundreds of years ago for some reason now unknown.  He shook his head.  He had no desire to marry and act like he was better than others.  He was happy with his trade. 

Of all the young men he’d known at University, he felt like he was the only one who was actually doing something with his life.  Yes, he’d been raised to believe the nobility didn’t work, but his attitude had changed.  He wouldn’t give up his work for anything.  He walked back over and looked down at his drawing of the fountain.  Something was still missing, and he needed to figure out what before he began building it.

 

*****

 

Diana sat beside her mother on the
seat of the family’s coach.  She peered out the window and up at the beautiful old house.  Inside there, somewhere, was the man her father wanted her to marry.  She didn’t know why she felt excited this time.  None of the men he wanted her to marry ever worked for her.  They were too judgmental.  They were too stern.  They were too…noble.  This time though?  Her excitement knew no bounds.  Was he looking out the window hoping for a first glimpse of her?  She patted her hair to make sure it looked right.

“Diana, stop fidgeting!” her mother scolded. 
Jane Smith had been raised in London, the daughter of a shopkeeper.  She had carefully learned to sound like the upper class.  She worked hard to emulate everything the nobility did.  The thought of her daughter marrying an earl gave her heart palpitations.  Of the good sort, of course.  Who wouldn’t want their only child to marry a nobleman?

“I’m sorry, Mama.”  Diana sighed.  She hated trying to always be perfect.  She missed the days when she could play in the streets of London with the other children.  When her father had struck it rich with the sugar plantations he’d invested in, she had thought her life would change for the better.  Her life had changed all right.  It had changed into a boring, perfect life.  She felt as if she were always being examined and found lacking.
  She longed for the freedom to be who she wanted to be and not have to worry about messing up her silk dress.

After five London Seasons, she was still unmarried.  Her father had paid a great deal of money for her to be able to go to all the best parties, but it didn’t seem to matter.  She kept using her…abilities and upsetting people.  How could she not, though?

Diana looked up at the house again.  She was used to the big houses of the aristocracy.  She always felt as if they were somehow rejecting her, though.  This one?  This one seemed to be welcoming her.  She could picture the house with all the doors and windows flung wide, as if asking her to step inside and join it.

When the carriage stopped, she forced herself to sit quietly and wait for the coachman to open the door for her.  She looked across at her father, who had his
work spread out around him.  He always said, “I can’t waste the time I’m in a carriage doing nothing!  I must be productive.”  He would stare down at his documents for about five minutes, and then he would fall into a loud-snoring sleep.  Diana had once thought it was funny, and teased her father about it, but her mother had shushed her, just as she always did.  For some reason, her mother thought that a young lady shouldn’t laugh in public.

Diana was the first to step down from the carriage, and she looked around her in awe.  All of the flowers and trees were blooming.  It was a beautiful place to be, and she couldn’t wait to spend the next three days there.  She was glad she’d been invited to meet the earl at a house party, because she wasn’t certain she could have been polite enough in public.  She just wasn’t good at balls.
  She preferred small intimate gatherings like this one was supposed to be.

A man in a butler’s uniform greeted Diana with a smile.  “Welcome Miss?”

Diana smiled, wishing she didn’t always have to be so formal.  “Smith.  Diana Smith.”

“It’s nice to meet you Miss Smith.  You and your parents have been placed in the
west wing with the family.  I hope that meets with your approval.”  He nodded to one of the maids who hovered nearby.  “Please take Miss Smith and her parents up to the West Wing.  Two rooms have been readied for them.”

The maid nodded once and led the way up the stairs.  Diana glanced over her shoulder to make certain her parents had caught up before following.  “This house is beautiful.  Do you know when it was built?” she asked.
  She had always been fascinated by the older houses of the nobility.  Whenever she was invited to someone’s country home, she took as much time as she could and just explored admiring the architecture.

The maid gave her a startled look, obviously not used to being asked questions
by the guests.  Diana didn’t care, though.  She knew none of the other guests would speak with her freely.  It was always good to make friends with one of the servants in a case like this.  “I don’t know, Miss.”

Diana nodded.  “Not even an inkling of century?  I’m
enthralled by old buildings.”

The maid shook her head and hurried on.  Diana sighed.  There went that potential friendship.  There’d be another, she was sure.  And there was also Anna, her own maid.  She wouldn’t learn much about the family or the house’s architecture, but she wouldn’t be completely alone.

Diana looked around the room she was taken to.  “This will be your room, Miss.  Your parents’ room is right through here.”  She showed Diana the connecting hall that could only be reached from the two rooms in question.  As the maid left to help the next guests, Diana went to the window to look out.  Maybe there would be a gardener outside she could become acquainted with.  She wasn’t picky.  She’d be friends with anyone who wasn’t afraid of her. 

BOOK: The Earl's Design of Love: The Stenwick Siblings
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