Read Will She Be Mine Online

Authors: Jessica L. Jackson

Will She Be Mine

BOOK: Will She Be Mine
12.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Will She Be Mine?

Jessica
L. Jackson

 

Blush sensuality level: This is a suggestive romance
(loves scenes are not graphic).

 

Thaddeus Milborough, the youngest son of an
earl, lives quietly in North Yorkshire, patiently tending his tea roses. The
prettiest blossom of all is his new neighbor Amelia Horton—lovely, alone and
decidedly pregnant.

When Amelia’s parents sent her away, they
made no pretence that she was a respectable widow. All of Hinderwell knows her
baby is illegitimate. Shunned by her neighbours and far from the home she once
knew, her only solace is the kindness of the gentleman next door. But surely he
would not involve himself with a fallen woman and another man’s child.

When love blooms among the roses, Thaddeus
and Amelia must overcome the villagers’ scorn if they can ever hope to be a
happy family.

 

A
Blush®
historical romance
from Ellora’s Cave

Will She Be Mine?

Jessica L. Jackson

 

Chapter One

Summer, 1827

 

Thaddeus twitched the net curtains concealing him from his
neighbor’s view so that he could see her more clearly.
Ah, she’s wearing
that blue dress again,
he thought, smiling with pleasure, for the color
complemented Miss Amelia Horton’s complexion. The soft cotton gown’s long
sleeves protected her arms from the sun. The scooped neckline teased and
tantalized him with only a glimpse of creamy white skin.

She stood in her back garden tying a large dark-green
gardening apron around her increasing girth.
She must be six months along
now,
he thought, admiring the way her pink cheeks glowed in the early
morning sunlight. Momentarily, she would don the large straw hat she wore to
protect her complexion and then he wouldn’t be able to see her burnished
strawberry-blonde hair or the smattering of freckles that decorated her slender
nose.
Oh, and there it goes,
he thought, sighing in disappointment while
she tied the blue ribbons beneath her chin.

“Instead of sighin’ like a moonlin’, sir, ye should be out
in the garden and talkin’ to the wee lass,” said Angus, his manservant. He
glanced at his master as he gathered the breakfast things and Thaddeus smiled
weakly.

“Later. Maybe later.”

“Och, but ye say that nearly every day, sir,” the older man
complained. He had brilliant bushy red hair and a full beard. His shoulders
could carry an ox and his hands looked as if he could fell a bull with a single
punch. He’d served the Honorable Thaddeus Milborough for twelve years and
couldn’t ask for a better master. A quiet life he’d wanted and a quiet life
he’d got when they’d moved to Hinderwell on the Yorkshire coast five years
before so that the master could continue with his botany experiments. He tilted
his head and nodded toward the garden next door. “Ye’ve no need to be shy and
she’s not so hard to look at, even with the wee babe almost ready to come into
the world. What are ye waitin’ for?”

Thaddeus sighed again. He brushed his hand across the top of
his fine wavy chestnut hair and wondered what a woman like that would see in a
mild gentleman botanist like him.

“And ye are no goin’ bald like ye think, sir,” Angus
scoffed.

“My father had a receding hairline by the time he reached
forty,” Thaddeus pointed out, amused by his servant’s annoyance.

“As anyone can say, ye favor her ladyship, not your father!”

Thaddeus pushed his gold wire-framed spectacles up on his
bold nose and picked up his notebook from the dining room table. “Perhaps. But
Miss Horton’s beautiful and she gets more beautiful every day.”

Angus contemplated his master’s intelligent but occasionally
melancholic sharp face and thought that he looked more like a schoolteacher
than the youngest son of an Earl.

“Aye, sir. You’re right. But no man or woman of good
character will speak to her,” Angus pressed. “She must long for intelligent
conversation. That battle-axe who keeps house for her is no angel and no
blessing to the lass.”

* * * * *

In this character evaluation he wronged the good woman who
kept house for Miss Amelia Horton. Born out of wedlock herself, the fiftyish
woman knew the hardship that the young lady endured and would continue to
endure because of the little innocent that she carried. Gladys Edley, born and
raised in Yorkshire, had never before worked in a fine household but had been
hired as a maid-of-all-work by her mistress’s parents. Those two were as
unchristian a pair as had ever been born, in her opinion. Instead of setting it
about that the young mistress was a widow, they had let everyone know that she
was a fallen woman. There had been no call for passing that information on to
the curious villagers. No call at all.

Miss Amelia was as kind as she was beautiful. No complaint
passed her lips and she obeyed the doctor’s orders for her health and tried to
be cheerful and optimistic about her babe to come. Next to Mr. Milborough’s,
their nearest neighbor, their garden was the most beautiful one in
Hinderwell—or Runswick Bay, for that matter—and it was all on account of her
dear mistress’s efforts.

Gladys looked across the side garden to the big cottage next
door. She thought she caught the twitching of the curtains and knew that Mr.
Milborough had been watching Miss Amelia again.
That man,
she thought,
carrying the dishwater outside to be thrown beneath the yew tree,
he needs
to come over and meet Miss Amelia instead of making eyes at her through gaps in
net curtains. And his manservant, Angus McLeod—daft as a brush, that one. A
great gormless hulk of a man better fit for farming than as a gentleman’s
servant.

“Miss Amelia?” Gladys called. Her mistress turned from where
she contemplated the bank of roses at the end of the garden.

“Yes, Mrs. Edley?”

“‘Tis past time for me to go to the butcher’s. Will you be
all right?”

“Yes. I’ll be fine. Thank you.”

Gladys didn’t like to leave her on her own but errands had
to be run. “I’ll be chuffed if I can get me some calf’s liver.”

“Do not trouble yourself, Mrs. Edley.”

“You know what the doctor’s said, mum. You’re to have calf’s
liver once a week, sithee.”

“Yes, I see.” Her mistress laughed softly, clearly pleased
to be making inroads into proper Yorkshire speech.

Gladys nodded and went to collect her shopping basket. When
she stepped out of their roomy home, containing as it did a front parlor, a
dining parlor, a workroom, a big kitchen, two decent bedrooms and two small
ones, plus her own rooms in the attic, the woman walked straight up to Angus
McLeod, who stood at the end of the front garden as though waiting for her.

When she reached the gate Angus opened it for her. “There
thou art, thou gormless lump,” Gladys said by way of greeting. She passed
through and stood before him, folding her arms under her ample bosom. “I’ve
summat to tell thee.”

 

“Mrs. Edley,” Angus said through his teeth. She was a
comely, buxom woman, but she had a mouth on her that would curl a donkey’s
tail. “I’ve somethin’ I’ve been meanin’ to speak with ye about too.”

“I’ll be going first,” Gladys informed him.

He lifted his soft cap and indicated that they should begin
to walk toward the market.
Best to let her have her own way,
he thought
.

“It’s to do with your master and me mistress.”

“Aye?”

“She needs an ‘usband…”

“And he needs a wife,” he finished. She smiled and looked up
at him, placing one finger alongside her nose. He repeated her gesture and they
both nodded emphatically and a pact was formed.

Chapter Two

 

Thaddeus, his shirt sleeves rolled up above his elbows and
wearing a green gardening apron of his own, puttered about among his rose
specimens at the bottom of the garden. He wore a woven straw hat too, but his
had a red-checkered cotton band around the crown above the large floppy brim.
It wasn’t a stylish hat and he shuddered to think what his father would say if
he saw him, but he had no care for style anymore. Living in Hinderwell allowed
him to do as he pleased. Other than the occasional invitation to the Earl of
Mulgrave’s home near Whitby and tea with the vicar every second Sunday, he was
left mostly to his own devices.

The local squire had an interest in horticulture and so
would drop in, usually inconveniently, and expect him to discuss the squire’s
efforts to perfect a stringless variety of
Phaseolus vulgaris
—the common
French green bean. This might have been a fascinating discussion if the squire
actually knew what he was about, but unfortunately the squire mostly boasted
and puffed of his near successes.

Occasionally Thaddeus’ family came for a visit and once a
year he joined his cousin, Lord Leakesly, for a few weeks hunting close to
Thirske.
Gay to the point of dissipation, in fact,
he thought with a
chuckle.

“Excuse me, sir?”

Thaddeus froze. That soft voice. He rarely had the good
fortune to hear it. She had spoken to him precisely six times since her arrival
in Hinderwell four months previously. He had memorized each utterance. “Good
morning” three times. “Good afternoon” twice. And on one memorable occasion
when she had bumped into him on the street outside his house, “Pardon me. I’m
so clumsy these days.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Milborough? I wonder if you would mind
giving me some advice?”

Thaddeus turned abruptly, setting his hat brim flopping
about alarmingly. He closed his eyes and cursed his choice of headgear. What
had seemed sensible and comfortable for five years suddenly became the type of
hat only a fool would wear. The woman whom he longed for and dreamed of and
thought constantly about currently stood at the tall iron gate that separated
his back garden from the public foot path leading down to Runswick Bay and to
the North Sea. She had a similar gate, which usually squeaked loudly when
opened. He must have been wool-gathering not to have heard it. Her straw sunhat
made her look more charming than ever. He had to say something!

“Miss Horton?”
Brilliantly said,
he thought in
disgust. He pulled off his hat and gave her a small bow.
Damn, now she can
see that I’m losing my hair.
Thaddeus rushed forward and opened the gate
for her. “Please, won’t you come in?”

“Regretfully, no,” she replied, smiling ruefully.

Too late he remembered to have some regard for her
reputation. “Of course.”

 

She gave him a real smile of gratitude for his understanding
and when he smiled back she wondered if he realized how his smile quite
transformed his face. The moment his lips rose into a grin two dimples
appeared, giving him a certain boyish charm that made him look younger. His
dimples had been one of the first things Amelia had noticed about him when
she’d moved here. For days after their first polite greeting outside their
homes she had considered herself fickle and capricious for being so attracted
to her neighbor so soon after her only disastrous foray into the arena of
romantic love. Could she be as wanton as her parents accused?

After their second encounter, she’d also noticed that his
blue eyes were a striking clear-turquoise. Again she’d berated herself for
finding pleasure in their charm. That charm was readily apparent today, too,
for his spectacles had slipped down his nose and he was looking over their tops
at her.

“How can I advise you, Miss Horton?”

She blushed and looked down, catching sight of his strong
tanned forearms.
Goodness, I must be as dissolute as Mama and Papa believe,
she thought wretchedly.
My heart is fluttering like an excited bird merely
at the sight of the man’s bare arms!

“What is it?” her neighbor asked. He followed her gaze and
flushed. “Oh, I do apologize,” he said, turning his back to roll down his
sleeves.

“Not at all. I shouldn’t have disturbed you while you were
working,” she insisted, taking a step back. He turned and saw the action and
rushed through the gate.

“Please. Think nothing of it,” he urged. “I make no mind of
it, I assure you. How may I be of assistance?”

She held out one of her gloved hands and showed him the rose
leaves she had picked. Purplish-black dots marred their glossy green surfaces.

“Ah. That’s
Diplocarpon rosae
, I’m afraid,” he said,
taking care not to touch it. “Black spot. A fungus.”

“It sounds serious.” Amelia’s eyebrows rose and she bit her
bottom lip while she attempted to gravely consider the problem while at the
same time ignoring the unaccountable attraction she felt for this tall,
slender, scholarly man. He was nothing like the lover who had left her with
child and then laughed when she’d expected him to marry her. “Mr. Milborough?”

 

Thaddeus tore his gaze away from her lips and concentrated
once more on the rose leaves. “It is. Indeed, yes.”

“Is there anything I can do to stop the spread of the
fungus? I have found it on only two of my rose bushes.”

A sea breeze teased a few strands of hair out from beneath
Amelia’s bonnet and set them afloat. She took off her glove to push the hair
back beneath her hat. Thaddeus watched her every move, admiring her graceful
fingers before she replaced her glove.

“Um,” he said, adjusting his spectacles so that they sat
properly on his nose. “I suggest that you gather up any leaves left over from
last year and any new ones that you find and burn them. If you discover any
lesions on your plant stems, the stems must be cut out and burnt too. It is
essential, Miss Horton, that you avoid touching any of your other roses while
you are working with the infected ones.” He frowned and folded his arms.

 

His muscles strained against the soft cambric material of
his shirt, distracting Amelia from his directions. She blinked several times
and forced herself to concentrate.

“Unfortunately, this fungus is very resistant and is likely
to return. You must remain vigilant. Also, boil your gloves when you are
finished.”

“Boil my gloves, sir?” Amelia hated her breathy voice and
took another step backward. “Thank you. I will do so. You’ve been most kind.”

“You are very welcome, Miss Horton,” he said, bowing to her
as she hastened away.

 

He wondered what had startled her. He didn’t think he’d done
anything threatening. Thaddeus put his hat back on and returned to his roses.
Several times he looked over at the gate, hoping she’d be standing there, but
she didn’t return.

“You are a fool, Thaddeus Milborough,” he whispered beneath
his breath. “A complete and utter fool.”

 

Amelia stared unseeing at the offending fungus on her
bushes. There had been something unique about Mr. Milborough. What was it? She
shook herself and started to remove the infected foliage. It was not until she
had cleared most of one bush that she understood. He had looked at her as a
person, not at her swollen abdomen. The baby kicked within her and she patted
her stomach.

“That has not happened in a while, has it, little one?” A
grateful tear welled up but she did not let it fall but rather kept it close,
as a witness that not everyone found her unworthy of their regard.

BOOK: Will She Be Mine
12.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Jane Austen For Dummies by Joan Elizabeth Klingel Ray
Afterbirth by Belinda Frisch
Capitol Offense by William Bernhardt
Sparks by Bickle, Laura
The Dark Fear by Katherine Pathak
In Too Deep by Norah McClintock
Garden of the Moon by Elizabeth Sinclair
To Love a Soldier by Sophie Monroe