Authors: Jane Godman
Tags: #second chances, #Georgian, #secret baby, #amnesia, #romance, #ptsd, #1745 rising, #Jacobites, #Culloden, #historical
Their love never died…but now they must fight to get it back.
The Georgian Rebel Series
, Book 3
Before he rode off to the cataclysmic battle of Culloden, rebel Lord Jack Lindsey swore he would return to make Rosie Delacourt his bride. Instead, Rosie’s heart was broken by the news of his death on the field. Her burden of heartbreak only grew as she was blackmailed into marrying Sir Clive and mourned her father’s mysterious death.
By the time Jack emerges from a coma, retrieves his memory and returns home with a royal pardon in hand, it’s two years too late. Rosie belongs to his sworn enemy. Yet her cool, indifferent façade doesn’t fool him. This pale shadow of the woman he knew is suffering, arousing his chivalrous instincts.
When Sir Clive shows his true colors, danger throws Jack and Rosie together, reigniting the passion they once shared—and revealing the devastating secret she has tried so desperately to protect.
Warning: Contains a handsome, rebellious lord who’d sooner forget his own name than the girl of his dreams, a woman who’s been forced to hide the home fires she’s kept burning for him, and a classic love-that-never-died tale.
The Jacobite’s Return
To my editor, Anne Scott, who makes all my books, and particularly this one, the best they can be.
“You look remarkably well for a man who has recently returned from the dead.”
Although he smiled at his uncle’s words, Jack Lindsey’s expression quickly resumed its former seriousness. “I cannot believe you made the journey all the way from England merely to compliment me on my good health, sir.”
Sir William Lindsey cast a disparaging glance around the cramped room. “I would never willingly travel to France, and Versailles has always reminded me of an elegant rabbit warren.”
“An apt description. Life at the French court is a taste I have not been able to acquire. I’ve been here only a few weeks, but have already formed the intention of moving on.” Jack took a sip from his glass of claret.
“Might I enquire as to your next destination?” Sir William was a large man, and the furnishings in the courtiers’ quarters within the splendid palace were not built for one of his imposing build. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Then again, Jack decided, it might be his mission that was the cause of his discomfort.
Jack shrugged. “Who knows? Vienna maybe. Or Lisbon. I haven’t visited Venice this year.”
“Can I make an alternative suggestion?” Knowing what was coming, Jack waited without speaking. When Sir William continued, his voice was softened by a note of sympathy. “London awaits you, my boy.”
“Not yet.” The words were not strong enough to be a statement, yet not quite weak enough to constitute a plea. Even though Jack kept his eyes fixed on the window, he saw nothing of the formal gardens laid out beyond his room. Instead, his mind insisted on taking him back to a time he struggled to…not forget, never that.
. He supposed that was the word he was looking for.
“It is ten months since the king passed the Act of Indemnity granting a pardon to all those deemed to have committed treason during the Jacobite rebellion. You are a free man.”
Jack turned back to his uncle then, looking directly into the other man’s eyes. “Am I?”
Something in Jack’s expression must have given an indication of his pain, because Sir William flinched. Bravely, the older man ploughed on with his task. “You have been given your life back. There is no longer any reason for you to stay away.” He waited. When Jack made no response, Sir William tried a different approach. “You are not only the head of our family, Jack, you are the last of your line. Do you need me to spell out what that means?”
Jack felt his mouth thin into an uncompromising line. “I must marry and beget me a fine lusty heir who will inherit the St. Anton title and carry on the noble name of Lindsey.” He sighed. “Forgive me, I did not mean to disparage the family honour. Although some might say I have already done a fine job of that over the years.”
“Because you supported Bonnie Prince Charlie? The heads of many of the noblest houses in the land did so. Not all of them publicly. Never be ashamed of following your beliefs.” Sir William seemed to become aware of losing the thread of his conversation. “But in answer to your question… Yes, it is your duty to marry and provide an heir.”
Jack’s lips twisted into something approaching a genuine smile. “And I’m not getting any younger?”
Sir William gave a shout of laughter. “No, but at twenty-eight you are hardly at your last prayers, and you appear to live a charmed life. Escaping death once at Swarkestone Bridge would have been enough for most men. You managed to do it again at Culloden.”
And there it was. That word. Three innocuous little syllables. Put them together and they had changed his life forever. Turned it into a living nightmare.
You chose Culloden. No-one forced you to lift your sword that day.
He had told himself the same thing countless times over the last two years. It didn’t make it any easier.
Sir William was speaking again, and Jack forced his mind back from the shouts, stench, agony and fury of that stinking battlefield so he could focus on what his uncle was saying. “The king is beginning to ask questions. Such as why did he issue a pardon to a man who is not prepared to make his bow at the English court?”
“King George can go to hell.”
“Yes, that’s the sort of talk we need from a reformed Jacobite. Those are the sentiments that will restore the Lindsey name to its former glory.” Sir William nodded with mock approval.
“Your pardon, sir.” Jack knew his voice was too stiff for apology. “I have no liking for the Hanoverians.”
“I’m not asking you to love the king. I’m asking you to do the right thing by your name.” Sir William paused, taking a sip of his own wine. His eyes were bright as they scanned his nephew’s face. “Who is she?”
Jack flung up a hand. Rising to his feet, he walked to the window and stood looking blankly at the scene below. It was some minutes before, with his back to the room, he spoke again. “How did you know?”
“There is only one reason I can think of for this reluctance to return and enjoy all that is yours by right.”
He owed his uncle something. Could he speak of it? It was time to find out. “I met her after I was injured during the battle at Swarkestone Bridge. She rescued me and nursed me back to health. We fell in love.” There. It had been easier than he thought. “A foolish act, you will no doubt tell me, since I had sworn to fight at the prince’s side.”
“Love is never foolish.” His uncle’s voice remained sympathetic. “Where is she now?”
“Believing me to have been killed at Culloden, she married another man.” Jack turned, and once again saw his expression reflected in the shock on Sir William’s features.
“Now I understand.”
“Begging your pardon, sir. No, you don’t.” Jack heard the raw anguish in his own words and fought to get his emotions under control. “How can I return to England knowing that I risk meeting her?” He could not bring himself to add
. “Worse than that, what would the impact of my return do to Rosie and her new life?”
“Have you considered that it may do very little?” As Jack winced, his uncle continued relentlessly. The words were cruel, but his eyes were kindly. “It has been two years, Jack. During that time, she has been getting on with her life. It is time for you to follow her lead and do the same. By staying away, you are prolonging the agony, living in a bubble in which you are unable to face reality. The world has moved on, but you have not.” Sir William rose from his seat and, coming over to where Jack stood, placed a firm hand on his nephew’s shoulder. “Come home.”
* * *
Riding up to the wide front porch, Jack paused, surveying the beautiful, golden manor house as it slumbered in the afternoon sunlight. How often during the long months of exile had he dreamed of this place? Even now that he was free to return to the land of his birth, it was this Derbyshire mansion he thought of as home rather than his palatial family seat in Northumberland. Twenty-four long months had passed since he had held Rosie in his arms and sworn undying love for her. Almost as long since she had married Sir Clive Sheridan, the very man who had betrayed Jack and his cousin Fraser Lachlan to the redcoats.
Rosie had moved on…and who could blame her? For the first two months after Culloden, Jack might as well have been dead. Delirious, in the grip of a high fever, not aware of his own name, Jack was nursed in a French convent while Rosie had—what? Forgotten him? It certainly looked that way if her choice of husband was anything to go by. If he was to follow her lead and finally take up the reins of his old life, he must cross this threshold and lay to rest a phantom. The living ghost of the darling, laughing girl he had once hoped to call his wife.
Jack dismounted and tethered his horse to the post at one side of the house. He used the heavy knocker to rap out a tattoo on the door, waiting impatiently and tapping a booted foot against the worn sandstone of the step. When his summons was not answered quickly enough, he knocked again, louder and longer. The door was opened slowly to the accompaniment of a woman’s grumbling voice. The complaints stopped abruptly as Mrs. Glover beheld the visitor. Her rosy cheeks blanched as she stared at him in surprise.
“Mister Jack…my lord!” The housekeeper stepped back in obvious dismay, her voice scarcely above a whisper. It was only when Jack’s familiar, teasing grin appeared that she permitted herself a shaky smile in return. “Oh, sir, is it you for real?” Overcome, Mrs. Glover dabbed at the corners of her eyes with her apron.
Jack couldn’t help laughing, even though he understood her shock. “I can assure you that it is I indeed.”
The laughter died on his lips as he looked around. The house had a quiet, dull feel, quite unlike the warm atmosphere he remembered. He could see into the main drawing room, where covers shrouded the furniture and the curtains were drawn to keep out the sunlight. A strange hush hung over the place, a silence that would never have been allowed to exist had Rosie and her over-exuberant brother, Harry, been here. This stillness would have been banished by their laughter and vibrancy. In the two years since he was last here, the heart had been ripped out of the place.
“I’ll fetch Tom, my lord. ’Tis best you speak with him.” Mrs. Glover scurried away.
Jack waited in the hall but glanced into some of the other rooms. Motes of dust hung in the air, and there was an all-pervading stale scent of disuse. Each room brought a different memory, sharp and bright. The drawing room was so cold that he shivered and could not reconcile it now with his memories of dallying there with Rosie to talk late into the night. The dining room instantly took him back to that fateful night—the night he and Rosie had celebrated their betrothal—when the soldiers had searched the house after Sheridan informed them that the Delacourt family were harbouring a dangerous Jacobite rebel. Hidden away in the attic, Jack and Fraser had heard a gunshot and emerged to find a dead redcoat captain and an aftermath that had sent them fleeing towards the Scottish border.
His reminiscences were disturbed by a sound, and he looked up, surprised to see Tom Drury descend the wide staircase. As Mr. Delacourt’s farm manager, Tom had once occupied the rooms above the stables. Now it would appear that his friend—the man who, with Rosie and her cousin Martha, had saved Jack’s life—lived in the house itself. An amazed smile lit Tom’s eyes.
“Forsooth, my Lord Jack! It
you.” Tom echoed the housekeeper’s words. “I thought Mrs. Glover had run mad when she told me.”
The slow, rumbling voice swept Jack back in time, and he grasped Tom’s hand briefly. “Damn it, Tom.” He embraced as much of the larger man as he could.
Tom returned the hug, almost crushing the life out of him, before indicating the study. They entered the room together.
“I may be a prodigal, but I did promise I would one day return to thank you for saving me.” Jack tried to keep his tone light.
“I did not expect you to do so from beyond the grave, however.” Tom went over to a side table and, unstopping a decanter, poured two glasses of the rich, ruby port that had always been his favourite drink. He handed one to Jack and, taking a sip from his own glass, perched on the edge of the desk.
“Can it be that you did not know I was alive?” Jack frowned. Fraser and his wife, Martha, had known the truth for months, and the Act of Indemnity was well documented. Of course, because Jack was presumed dead when the king signed the act, he had not actually been named as one of the pardoned. It was a technicality his uncle had ironed out on his behalf.
Tom’s solemn assurance interrupted his thoughts. “I would not jest about such a matter. In any case, I would not have known you in all your finery. Perhaps because I became used to seeing you wearing Mr. Delacourt’s castoffs.” He indicated Jack’s practical but fashionable riding gear of buff coat, buckskin breeches and gleaming top boots.
Jack closed his eyes briefly, remembering Rosie’s father, the scholarly, kindly man who had taken him into his home and accepted him as part of the family. “How did he die?”
“His good heart failed him in the end. The first attack came just before Culloden. It appears he sustained a great shock, the cause of which remains a mystery since he was unable to speak of it. He died a few weeks later of a second heart attack.”
Jack took a steadying sip of his drink. He had come here to ask questions. There was no point shying away from them. “By which time Rosie was already married?”
Tom’s expression was lugubrious. “She was. Mr. Delacourt died on her wedding day, a few hours after the ceremony.”
“That must make the anniversary celebrations uncomfortable.” Jack grimaced at the crassness of his own remark.
If Tom noticed, he did not acknowledge it. “Could you not have let her know before now that you were alive?”
“I barely knew it myself for so long. After Culloden I was smuggled out of Inverness on a fishing boat and taken to France, although I recall nothing of the journey. I spent two months in and out of consciousness, being nursed by French nuns who did not expect me to live. When I finally regained consciousness, it was too late. Rosie was already married to Sheridan.”
“What did you do then?”
Jack gave a flourishing bow. “Behold, the masked adventurer, companion to that well-known scourge of the redcoats, the Falcon.” He knew he could trust Tom with any secret, even one as great as that.
Tom laughed. “Aye, that sounds like you, my lord. You’d take the devil’s road with no hesitation. Every time.”
Jack became serious again. “Fraser knew I was alive, but when he discussed the matter with Martha, they could see no point in telling Rosie. I was a fugitive, wanted for treason against the king, and she had made a new life. It was best to leave things as they were.”
“But when you were pardoned? Surely then there was always a risk she would find out?”
Jack shrugged. “I suppose I assumed she would learn it through the scandal sheets or that Martha would tell her eventually.” He held up a hand in an impatient gesture. “Yes, your look tells me what you think of my assumption, Tom. It was a delicate matter. The Act of Indemnity granted a pardon to those accused of treason, but—being dead—I was something of a special case. Fraser’s brother-in-law, Sir Edwin Roxburgh, and my own uncle, one of the king’s advisors and an opponent of the Jacobite cause, entered into some lengthy negotiations on my behalf. In the end, it was agreed that the Act of Indemnity
apply to me and I was free to return and resume my old life. I confess, when I considered how to return, how to see Rosie again, how that would feel… Well, I took the coward’s way.”