Authors: Shereen Vedam
Tags: #Regency, #30 Minutes (12-21 Pages), #Historical Romance, #Romance, #Historical, #Fiction
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
To Capture Love
COPYRIGHT © 2007 by Shereen Vedam All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected] Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press
PO Box 706
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0706
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com Publishing History
First English Tea Rose Edition, January 2007
Published in the United States of America Matthew ‘Stone’ Livingston, the sixth Earl of Ashford, tapped his good foot on the museum’s marble floor in rhythm to the pounding at his temple. The headaches assaulted him frequently these days, ever since he received news of his brother’s death. Waiting a good hour for the artist he’d employed had exacerbated the throbbing. He checked his timepiece, snapped it shut, and slipped it back into his pocket.
“My lord,” the curator said, “I’m sure Mr. Black will be here shortly.” His nervous glance at the front door dissuaded Stone of any such fortunate occurrence.
Stone strode with his lopsided gait to the window.
The museum fronted Montague Street, which was heavy with London’s morning traffic of hackney carriages, gentlemen on horseback, and carts carrying produce to the city center. No Mr. Black rushed up the museum steps to keep his overdue appointment.
He could not believe he stood here like a dunce waiting for the rude fellow. If anyone else had dared to keep him waiting,
refusing to meet him at the Ashford estate, the offender would have lost Stone’s custom within a minute of the appointed time. He approached the opposite window, but it provided no better prospect.
He should simply hire another artist. However, just a week previously, he had seen one of Black’s works–a statue of a man petting his dog. An innocuous enough representation. Yet, he’d been entranced by the kindness he saw in the man’s face and the depth of feeling shared between master and pet so skillfully depicted in hard cold stone. At that moment, he knew that he wanted only this artist to sculpt a statue of Geoffrey. Just the thought of his slain brother brought a lump to his throat. No, he must have Black. Only he would do Geoffrey justice.
“Enough waiting. I shall attend him at his home.”
“But…but,” the curator sputtered.
“Come, man. Have I not wasted enough time? Give me his direction.”
“My lord, I do not have Black’s address. All my dealings with him have been here, at the museum, by way of a third party. That’s how we arranged this rare engagement. It took much convincing, I assure you.
Perhaps the shy gentleman could not bring himself to reveal who he is.”
“That’s not acceptable,” Stone replied. “I must meet him. Talk to him about Geoffrey. How else will he be able to depict him as he truly was?”
“Perhaps his lordship will allow me to arrange another meeting?” the curator asked tentatively. “I shall stress even more the importance of the interview.”
Stone’s leg would not allow him to stand still much longer. He sighed in resignation. “Very well.” He flung open the front door, and slammed it behind him. Half way down the steps, he crashed into someone running pell-mell the other way. Stone pushed him away and gave a repelling stare that should have quelled the reprobate, only to find he beheld a gently borne female accompanied by a maid.
“My pardon, miss,” he said. “You should watch where you step.”
“Oh, no,” the lady said, glancing at where he gripped her by her arms. “You’re crushing my Spencer, sir. Pray, show a modicum of caution. You shall make it seem as if I slept in the thing and this is already the second time I’ve had to change.”
The inanity of the comment struck Stone with force.
He released her and bowed. “My apologies for wrinkling your garment,” he said with studied sarcasm.
She met his gaze, and he found himself pierced by a pair of clear gray eyes that seemed to perceive him for the first time.
“Oh,” she said and stumbled down a step.
Pedestrians stopped to view their exchange and whispered among themselves. Stone made to pass by but she halted his progress.
“My lord,” she said, with a hesitant smile. “Pray forgive me for…”
He cut her off with a raised hand. So, she had 2
To Capture Love
recognized him as a peer. Well and good. “Kindly step away,” he said in a cold voice designed to give the most determined miss a clear set-down.
“But you don’t understand, my lord. You see my carriage was caught behind a toppled cart of vegetables not a block away. And I’m…”
“Pray desist! I’ve no interest in being introduced to you in such a ramshackle manner. Let me make myself perfectly clear, so you waste little time in the coming weeks as the season progresses in attempting to make my acquaintance at a ball, a musical, or even in public in front of the museum. I am not in the least entertained by bird-witted females more concerned with their attire than proper conduct, nor in those who have no more enlightened thoughts in their heads than the cut of their bonnet or the crease on their Spencer.”
The young lady looked as if she’d been suitably chastised and a titter of laughter erupted from the crowd gathered. Stone ground his teeth at having provided entertainment for strangers. His head throbbed as he gave the woman a sardonic bow and left.
Pauline Blackburn sent the limping form of the retreating earl a worried look. His proud silhouette reminded her of a fine English Alabaster statue.
“Oh, Miss Pauline,” her maid whispered. “What are we to do? This story is sure to grease the mills ‘fore sunset. Every household in the city will know that his lordship has given you a set-down. You may be refused a card to Almack’s this season.”
“I’ve no interest in attending ever again, so that hardly signifies.” Her Almack days were long past.
Pauline had made her come-out over three summers ago and had not ‘taken,’ which, according to her mother, was entirely due to Pauline’s forbidding aspect whenever a gentleman came to call on her.
Having successfully married off three other daughters, but seeing no method of getting around their stubborn youngest girl, her parents had relented and allowed Pauline to pursue her passion for sculpting. They only insisted on one caveat, that during the Season, she must attend no less than five assemblies or balls or the theatre, and
at the gentlemen when they asked her 3
to dance or spoke with her. Pauline had agreed absently, knowing it to be a small price to pay for having gained the freedom to sculpt.
She lost sight of the earl among the crowd and continued on her way inside. The short meeting with the earl had brought back vivid memories along with an uncomfortable fluttering in her heart. Feelings that she thought had shattered into rubble long ago, now reformed.
Though Lord Ashford did not know it, she had met him before, in the Queen’s Drawing Room, during Pauline’s presentation. He had hardly noticed her then, so focused had he been in conversation with his friends, but she had been entranced by the young officer in red.
He had had a magnificent physique and when he took a lady onto the dance floor, he moved with the grace of an athlete. He cast every other gentleman into the shade, leaving her with an instant tendre for the handsome uniformed soldier. He had been merely Mr.
Matthew Livingston then, cousin to the late earl.
Still, the young ladies in the room had used every artifice designed to ensnare him. Pauline too had asked her mother to procure an introduction, but he had hardly given her a second glance. That had been her one and only dart into the realm of love. She had decided soon after Mr. Livingston was shipped off to the Peninsula that her sculptures provided far more entertainment and less emotional turmoil.
Now, he was an earl. His ascension to the title had been quite a surprise, as the late earl had both a wife and a legitimate son and heir. However, a tragic carriage accident had wiped out the whole family last fall, making Mr. Livingston, the new Earl of Ashford.
Her father had said that even after having heard the news, the new earl refused to give up his commission and leave Spain. Only after being wounded in the knee during a skirmish did Ashford’s commanding officer order his lordship to return home.
“A regular right one,” Pauline’s cousin called him. A month after the earl returned home, news arrived that his brother had been killed. ****
To Capture Love
While her maid waited outside the open door, Pauline went into the curator’s office for a private consultation. It took much convincing before he believed her tale that she was the commissioned artist, P. Black.
He sat abruptly in his chair, his eyes widening like that of a startled mouse.
“What will the earl do to me when he finds out?” The curator grew smaller in his chair, almost shrinking within himself. “He will hold me at fault and I shall lose my position. How will I pay my rent at my lodging house?
And I shall have to sell my box at Haymarket Theatre.”
“Sir,” Pauline said, upset that she had placed this poor man in such a vulnerable situation. “Do not worry so.
I’m sure I shall be able to make his lordship understand.”
“Understand?” the curator asked in an appalled tone.
“His lordship will not understand. He will be furious.” The man shuffled the papers covering every inch of his desk as if hoping to somehow find a solution in the surfeit of sheets.
Pauline paused, considering the curator’s words. She too wondered at his lordship’s tolerance. Recalling his disinterest at the Queen’s reception and the contempt he’d shown during their meeting on the museum steps, she had a sudden urge to complete this commission. She wanted the earl to notice her, even if only with a modicum admiration for her work on this commission. Yet, if he knew she was P. Black, he might dismiss her out of hand.
A consequence she must avoid at all costs.
“You’re right, sir. Best, if his lordship never finds out that I’m not the ‘man’ he thinks he has employed.”
“Exactly, Miss Black,” the curator said. His frightened gaze grew thoughtful. “Perhaps we can find another artist and convince him to pretend to be P.
Pauline shook her head. “If you do, the earl will not be as satisfied with the statue. I recall you saying he particularly liked my style of carving.”
The curator spread his arms wide. “Oh, it’s hopeless.
He will pauper me as just punishment. I shall not have sixpence to scratch with by the end of the Season.”
“Calm yourself, sir, for I’ve an idea.” If the curator had known her as well as her family, this statement 5
would have sent him immediately into doldrums.
However, to her favor, the poor man had no such knowledge of Pauline’s mad schemes. “We shall simply tell his lordship that the artist is a recluse.” She shrugged. “He already believes this and we shall convince him that not even to meet the man who intends to pay the vast sum his lordship has proposed, would she, or ‘he’ be willing to come out of hiding.”
The first sign of hope flashed across the curator’s face. “Could this work?”
“Why should it not?” Pauline asked. “I’ve already displeased him once by missing our appointment. Yet, he still wants me to do the work. There is only one problem I see. To do a credible job of the earl’s brother, I shall need to view a depiction of him. And hear stories of his character, his likes and dislikes. I must know him as well as the earl. Yet, how can I?”
“I’ve a portrait of the gentleman.” The curator ran to fetch it.
Pauline waited with a racing pulse, anticipation and fear warring within her. Could she do this? Would she get caught? And what would the earl do if he found out he’d been tricked?
On the curator’s return, Pauline pushed away her worries and bent down to study the large canvas. “This is good, but I need more. I need to know what type of man he was.”
“How about his friends?” the curator asked. “The men of his company are in town. Since word has spread of the exhibition, they have called on me in droves to confirm that we indeed intend to have a sculpture made of The Honorable Geoffrey Livingston.”
“It would be out of place for me to speak with them privately,” Pauline said with disappointment.
“Many of his friends are gentlemen of the ton,” the curator said. “They travel in similar circles as yourself.”
Pauline refrained from telling him that she rarely attended social events any more. However, it might be time she fulfilled her obligation to her parents and took part in the Season’s festivities. They need never know that the reason for her sudden interest was not to procure a husband, but rather to quiz the guests for information 6