A Merchant’s Daughter
A merchant’s daughter and a destitute nobleman. Can a marriage of convenience solve their problems?
Miss Emma Brentry is happy with life, but she feels the time has come to marry. Her father, a wealthy glass merchant, has expectations of grandchildren, and Emma doesn’t wish to disappoint him. Reluctantly, and somewhat halfheartedly, she begins the search for a husband.
Mr. Aaron Trent, a gentleman of noble birth, returns to England fresh from the Napoleonic war with a scar and limp to prove it. During his absence, his estate, Windhurst Hall, has been pledged by his cousin at the gaming tables. He is now in search of the necessary funds with which to buy back his home.
Traveling to Bath, Emma finds herself stranded on the road and is compelled to stay the night at The Stag and Hounds posting inn. She encounters Aaron, an attentive, handsome stranger, who offers her some much-needed assistance. Instant attraction is felt by both, and as dusk falls, Emma makes Aaron an offer he finds difficult to refuse.
With his pride standing in the way, can Aaron stay true to his principles, or will he, with reckless, passionate abandonment, succumb to Emma’s powers of persuasion?
Content Warning: contains explicit, sensual love scenes
The danger of her plight had become apparent. She could be stranded at The Stag and Hounds for days on end, or perhaps even longer.
“I can’t rightly say, miss.”
From outside in the yard, a postilion could be heard shouting. “Coach… Stagecoach leaving.”
Chairs scraped against the hard, wooden floorboards, and eager to be gone, passengers left the remains of their meal unfinished. Shrugging into their tailcoats and grabbing their belongings, they then rushed toward the door, making haste to board the coach before it departed.
Looking through the open doorway and out into the stable yard, Emma watched as a sprightly postilion sprang onto the nearside leader. Behind him, a coachman sat perched high on his driving box.
With all the passengers squeezed tightly on board, a crack of a whip hit the air above the horses’ heads as the coachman signaled departure. The stagecoach lunged forward, and once beneath the arched gateway of the inn, it soon vanished from sight. All that remained of the chaos was a cloud of settling dust and a sudden deafening silence in the air.
Meanwhile, the landlord had fetched a glass of lemonade, and returning to where Emma stood, he set it down on a nearby table.
“There you go, miss,” he said.
Emma clutched her reticule nervously in her hands.
“How am I to get to Bath?” she asked, distressed.
The landlord looked out of the mullion windows and pointed to the empty stable yard. He turned to Emma and shrugged his shoulders.
“I’m sorry. That was the last stagecoach to Bath, and there won’t be another passing ’til morning. If you care to stay the night, I’m sure my good lady, Mrs. Griffin, has several spare rooms upstairs. They’re nothing fancy, but they suit most travelers in need of a bed. Many a fine lady caught between here and Bath has stayed the night under our roof.”
Unusually despondent, Emma sank down onto the nearest chair. With her elbows resting on the table, she placed her head wearily in her hands and gave a long, drawn-out sigh of despair. She was marooned, and there was nothing for her to do except spend the night at the posting inn.
She hoped her father wouldn’t be too distressed about her delay, and she felt thankful she hadn’t sent word ahead to let him know she would be arriving that evening. If she had, she was in no doubt he would be sending out a search party to scour the roads and comb the hills from Bristol to Bath for her ravaged remains.
As her situation was made clear, Emma became resigned to the fact she would not be leaving The Stag and Hounds anytime soon.
Action was needed, and she couldn’t delay as her coachman and horses were at risk. A decision was required about what she was to do, and in an instant, she made it.
Tilting her chin bravely upward, she said, “Landlord, I need to hire transport from you so I might fetch my belongings from my carriage.” She took a few sips of the lemon drink and felt refreshed. “My coachman and horses must also be collected, for they cannot spend the night at the roadside. May I stable my mares here for the night?”
From behind a high-backed, wooden bench placed near the open fire, a tall man emerged. Until now, Emma had been unaware of the gentleman’s presence. He had been hidden from view. Dressed in a greatcoat with many capes, he drew near and extended a booted leg. He gave an eloquent bow in her direction.
“Perhaps I can be of assistance,” the man offered good-humoredly.
His voice was deep and sensuous, and when his piercing, blue eyes honed in on her, she became somewhat flustered. She hadn’t expected such a penetrating stare.
As he stood before her, Emma was struck by the painfully perfect handsomeness of his features and the way his thick, dark hair fell onto his brow. Even in the dim light of the tavern, she thought him to be one of the most striking men she had ever seen. His tall height and the breadth of his wide, powerful shoulders were eye-catching. Irrationally, she felt an instant attraction, and her heart thumped excitedly against her ribs. It wasn’t often that a man could hold her attention, but he did.
This man was a gentleman of breeding, and not at all like the sort of merchant friends her father associated with. He was clearly a man of class and refinement, and judging by his mannerism, he appeared to be a person of some social standing. She knew the type well and had often seen them from a distance when visiting her Aunt Rose in London. But except for Lord Stratton, she’d never actually rubbed shoulders with someone of this noble caliber, until now.
Lord Stratton was one of the many suitors wishing to marry her, and not the sort of gentlemen she was usually introduced to. Generally, her suitors were young bucks of new-moneyed merchants. Merchants like her father. Not persons of the nobility.
Even though Emma had attended Miss Witherington’s finishing school and was well-educated in the ways of the upper-class, she’d never actually mingled in a social sphere with the sons and daughters of the landed gentry. She was a commoner. A merchant’s daughter. And despite the fact that her father was affluent beyond the norm, she simply didn’t mix socially with families of noble birth. It wasn’t the done thing.
A young lady wishing to enter into the world of the elite and attract the attention of rich aristocrats or noblemen of birth would first have to be presented to the Royal Court and then to members of the ton at Almack’s Assembly Rooms. And Emma had done neither.
In one swift, all-encompassing glance, she realized the man before her was above her station. Knowing he wouldn’t look twice at her if they were to meet at a ball or rout, she felt decidedly unattractive and somewhat deflated.
The landlord shuffled forward. “Major Trent,” he said. “I hadn’t realized you were still here, sir. I’ll ask Mrs. Griffin to show you to your room straight away. As I was saying to this delightful, young lady, the rooms are nothing fancy, but they ought to suit your needs.”
The man moved and was about to leave the ale room, but turned and asked again, “Can I be of service to you, Miss…” He paused, waiting for her to tell him her name.
A Merchant’s Daughter
Copyright © 2019, Arabella Sheen
Publisher: Beachwalk Press, Inc.
Electronic Publication: August 2019
Editor: Pamela Tyner
Cover: Fantasia Frog Designs
eBooks are not transferable. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
About Arabella Sheen
Arabella Sheen is a British author of contemporary romance and likes nothing more than the challenge of starting a new novel with fresh ideas and inspiring characters.
One of the many things Arabella loves to do is to read. And when she’s not researching or writing about romance, she is either on her allotment sowing and planting with the seasons or she is curled on the sofa with a book, while pandering to the demands of her attention-seeking cat.
Having lived and worked in the Netherlands as a theatre nurse for nearly twenty years, she now lives in the south-west of England with her family.
Arabella hopes her readers have as much pleasure from her romance stories as she has in writing them.
Facebook Author: https://www.facebook.com/ArabellaSheenAuthor
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Arabella Sheen http://arabellasheen.co.uk