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
When Mr. Aaron Trent left Bath that morning to call upon his cousin at Merton Manor, he had not expected to lodge overnight at The Stag and Hounds. During previous visits, he’d often used the inn as a watering hole, but had only once before, when a snowdrift had made it impossible for him to reach his cousin’s house, sought bed and board beneath Griffin’s roof.
That morning, Aaron had traveled to Newton Saint Loe, a small village near Corston, with the intention of calling upon his cousin, Lord Phillip Merton. However, upon reaching Merton Manor, Aaron had been greeted at the door by Carter, the butler, and informed his cousin wasn’t receiving visitors that day. Carter had been instructed to say his lordship was indisposed until further notice.
Ignoring this message, Aaron entered the manor, and shrugging off his caped greatcoat, he passed it to the butler, along with his beaver hat and kidskin gloves.
“There is no need to worry.” Aaron touched Carter reassuringly on the shoulder. “I shall see you are not dismissed for allowing me entry. But if you should be, you may call upon me at Windhurst Hall, and I shall find you a position. That is, if I still have a roof over my own head.”
Then, unceremoniously, and with angered haste, Aaron made his way up the grand staircase until he reached his lordship’s bedchamber.
Without a knock, he entered.
The room wreaked of stale smoke, alcohol, and the stench of…sex.
Beneath the curtained canopy of the four-poster bed and shrouded in rumpled, disheveled bedsheets were Lord Phillip Merton and an unknown woman. They were naked and lying entangled in one another’s arms.
Fleetingly, Aaron wondered how long his cousin and the young woman had been asleep. It was nearing mid-afternoon and they were still dead to the world. But with ruthless disregard for their slumberous condition, Aaron walked to the window, pulled back the heavy, velvet drapes, and flung the windows open wide, allowing the chilled air outside to invade the stiflingly hot, reeking room.
The woman was the first to stir. “Oh…lordy, lordy, lordy. I ain’t supposed to be found here. If Mrs. Hawkins should find me…”
She reached for the sheets, trying to cover herself and shield her body from Aaron’s scathing stare. From her accent and words, Aaron surmised that the wench was a house servant of sorts.
“I suggest you leave,” Aaron told her.
Scurrying to collect her scattered clothes, she hurriedly dressed and fled the bedchamber, slamming the door fiercely behind her before Lord Merton had an opportunity to stir.
“Phillip, wake up. Get out of bed, man.” When there was no response from his unconscious cousin, Aaron picked up a pitcher of water from the washstand and poured its contents uncaringly onto the dozing Phillip.
His lordship was instantly awake. Spluttering and shouting, he cursed until he eventually recognized Aaron as his abuser.
“Damnation, Aaron. I thought you were Carter. What in the world are you doing in my bedchamber? And why the sudden awakening?” Phillip put his hand to his brow, shielding his eyes from the bright sunlight as he turned the air blue with profanities. “I feel as if an axe is buried in my head. How much did I drink last night?”
Aaron shrugged his shoulders and returned the now empty pitcher to the washstand. “How the hell should I know? I was not here.”
Standing with his arms akimbo, Aaron assessed his cousin’s condition.
“Well, you ought to have been here,” said Phillip. “That scullery maid was more than accommodating, and I’m sure she could have found a suitable friend to satisfy your needs.”
Aaron gave a snort of disgust. “Your offer, although I’m sure kindly meant, would have been refused. I like my women willing, not coerced. Servants generally feel under an obligation to their masters, whereas courtesans, although more expensive, are less of a problem in the long run. Take my advice and stay away from the servants.”
Phillip scratched his head. “What are you doing at Merton Manor, and at this ungodly hour? As far as I knew, you were supposed to be somewhere on the south coast, recovering from war wounds. I was told it would take at least a year for you to fully recover. There were also rumors you would not make it at all―that you would die.”
“Is that why you spent most of my fortune and entailed my estate?”
Before enlisting and leaving England to fight Bonaparte in France, with the likelihood of not returning from the war, Aaron had signed a document stating that in the event of his death, his cousin was to be the sole beneficiary of the estate. During his absence, Phillip was also to act as trustee and executor of any business involving Windhurst Hall. Only the plan had backfired.
Returning to England, Aaron discovered the trust he had placed in his cousin had been abused. Having gained access to Aaron’s fortune, Phillip had squandered most of the holdings and had entailed Aaron’s home, Windhurst Hall, leaving Aaron with only a pittance upon which to live.
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