Friday, 23 October 2020

Westbury by Arabella Sheen - EXCERPT 6



A Traditional Regency Romance

Arabella Sheen

Can Miss Georgina Morton surrender her independence and accept the Duke’s love?

Miss Georgina Morton, at the age of four-and-twenty, with a modest annual income of four hundred pounds, believes she has no need of a husband and can manage quite nicely without one. Yet within a matter of weeks, she’s betrothed to Giles Glentworth, the Sixth Duke of Westbury, and bound for Regency London.
Set in rural Wiltshire and elegant, fast-paced London...a runaway ward, a shooting at midnight, and a visit to fashionable Almack’s, are only a few of the adventures Georgina enjoys while falling for the Corinthian charms of the Duke.

Chapter Two    Excerpt 6   continued…

A few days later, while sat one afternoon in the sunny walled garden, they were sharing a tête-à-tête when Georgina heard some vital information concerning Abigail’s guardian.
“I’m so pleased the dresses fit you,” Georgina said. “It would have been awful if you had to continue to wear that ill-fitting gentleman’s outfit.”
Abigail smiled. “It was kind of you to have given me so many lovely gowns. I’m only amazed you can suffer to part with them. I adore pastel colours, don’t you? And this one I’m wearing is simply perfect for me. I promise to return them to you when I have something of my own to wear.”
Abigail smoothed out the soft material of the emperor-styled morning dress she wore, and Georgina thought Abigail did indeed look delightfully charming in the gown.
“There’s no need. I insist you keep them. The gowns were bought several years ago for my London Season, and I’m sure I’ve outgrown them. My only concern is that they might be a little dated in style and fashion. I expect you’re used to much finer things.”
Georgina was unwilling to accept further thanks for the gowns, and wished to change the subject. She tried to introduce other avenues of conversation, but it was not to be. Abigail was determined to have her say.
“Do you know, you’re far more generous to me than my guardian. You have given me so many nice things, whereas he gives me nothing at all.”
This was the first time Georgina had heard talk of a guardian.
“Giving you a few of my old gowns cannot be counted as generosity,” said Georgina. “In fact, it is you who is doing a service by taking them off my hands. And I’m positive that, in his own way, your guardian is a kind-hearted and benevolent man. Is that not so?”
Georgina hoped she might discover a little more about Abigail’s background, and she did.
“Oh, no, Georgina! You’re wrong! Completely wrong!” replied Abigail with avid conviction. “Cousin Giles is very old fashioned in his ways, and although he might have a large house and is comfortably off, he is extremely tight-fisted. We have to ask him for everything, and he is particularly reluctant to give. You on the other hand are truly a kind and generous person. Look how you cared for me when you found me stranded at the inn. I dread to think what would have happened had you not chanced by.”
Abigail shuddered with horror as her gruesome experience with the stagecoach and its coachman was recalled.
“I’m sure you would have managed on your own,” said Georgina, in an attempt to alleviate Abigail’s distress. “Eventually, one of your relatives would have followed and found you.”
Abigail rolled her eyes heavenward. “I think not.”
There was a woeful look in Abigail’s eyes that Georgina could not ignore. “Why is that?” She kept her tone deliberately level.
“Well, I didn’t exactly tell them where I was going. And as I’ve never been permitted to venture out on my own, I imagine they will not for one moment think I would dare travel such a great distance or that I would go in search of my Great Aunt Wilhelmina. They will probably assume I’m still in Bath, hiding with friends.”
Georgina was curious. “Are you really so dependent on your cousin that you have to apply to him for everything?”
“Oh, yes―truly I am,” whispered Abigail confidingly. “I’ve been told that I have some money which my parents left for me in trust, but Cousin Giles will not permit me to know how much it is. Nor will he allow me to spend it. He was used to say it was entrusted to him for safekeeping. And he tells me I must come of age or wait until I am leg-shackled to a husband before it becomes mine to do with as I wish. Did you ever hear such a thing? Leg shackled indeed! How dare he say such an awful thing to me? Everyone knows I will only ever marry for true love.”
It was from this innocent imparted confidence that Georgina learnt that Abigail had an austere cousin named Giles, and much to Abigail’s annoyance, he acted as her guardian and banker.
“How dreadful for you,” Georgina said in a consoling manner. “To be deprived of your inheritance and forced to marry to gain it. How monstrous he must be!”
The more Georgina heard of this Cousin Giles the less inclined she was to like this unknown person.
“Cousin Mary, who is Cousin Giles’s sister, says that when she overspends the allowance her husband has given her, she applies to her brother for extra funding. But he is so tight-fisted and mean with handing over the ready that it’s like squeezing blood from a stone. Although it’s not the most genteel thing for her to have said, I must say it’s completely true. You see, I know from experience Cousin Giles has plenty of money, yet he is quite a skinflint when it comes to parting with his wherewithal.”
“But surely payment of your Cousin Mary’s debts are for her husband to solve.”
“True, but Cousin Giles has such a great fortune that it would be of no consequence to him if he paid all her bills. He’s simply reluctant to part with his fortune. And because of this, I decided I would travel to London and seek advice from Great Aunt Wilhelmina on how best to proceed. There are some things that are absolutely essential for a lady’s comfort and must be bought if she is to be seen in society. Do you not agree, Georgina? Do tell me that travelling to London and seeking out my Great Aunt is the right thing to do.”
After careful consideration, Georgina replied, “Well, to be truthful, I don’t think I could do what you’re doing. I would be too scared to venture from Avebury on my own. And I’m also sure your guardian―Cousin Gileshas a valid reason for withholding your allowance. He seems horrid, but surely he cannot be all bad. After all, someone at some point thought he was a good person. At least good enough to entrust you into his care.”
Georgina tried to be diplomatic, but secretly she thought, if what she had heard was true and Abigail’s guardian was indeed withholding sufficient funding, then it was completely dishonest of him to do so.
“Another thing that is most, most, most vexing is that Cousin Giles will not permit Mr Bentley to pay his addresses to me,” said Abigail in a forlorn manner. “I’ve been forbidden all contact and told to sever all acquaintance with him. You might not believe this, but I have formed quite a fondness for Mr Bentley, and I’ve very nearly given him my heart. But Cousin Giles believes he is not good enough for me and says Mr Bentley’s family isn’t at all well connected.”
Georgina was heartily sick of hearing about Cousin Giles. The man was dictatorial and seemed to have power over everyone around him. Not only did he hold Abigail’s purse-strings tightly shut, he was also determined to decide who Abigail could—or could not—see. As for Cousin Mary, apparently she worshipped the ground her brother walked on despite his withholding funds. Abigail was indeed in an unfortunate position.
faint puzzled frown of bewilderment crossed Georgina’s brow. “Surely Mr Bentley’s lack of family connections is not sufficient reason for your cousin to stop you from seeing him. If Mr Bentley is a man of character and a true gentleman, then surely that is of more importance than his rank.”
“Oh, no, Georgina. I can assure you that is not so. Cousin Giles is an expert when it comes to knowing with whom to associate and whom to avoid. You see, he is invited to all the best ton parties and balls of the season. Everybody knows Cousin Giles, or at least they want to know him. And all the unmarried debutantes are after him. I’m told he is quite a prize―although I cannot think so myself. Eight-and-twenty is far too old to be considered eligible, do you not agree?”
As Georgina was all of four-and-twenty, an age when most young ladies were considered to be on the shelf and no longer in their first bloom of youth, she thought it prudent to remain silent.
“Every year he gives a ball at his country home, and these occasions are beyond compare. His balls are considered to be legendary, and generally, only the crème de la crème of society are invited. Invitations are like gold dust, and women consider themselves extremely fortunate if they are able to attend. When he asks to see their dance cards, they simply swoon.”
“Really?” was Georgina’s dry retort. The man sounded insufferably obnoxious.
“I can assure you his home is most marvellous. It’s so spacious even I cannot comprehend how one man can rattle around in it on his own. Although to be fair, he does have my Aunt Henrietta residing with him. If Mr Bentley and I were to marry I would dearly love to have a home such as the one Cousin Giles has. It’s enormously splendid.”
Georgina, ever eager to fight a good cause, was more than willing to take up arms and do battle to defend the innocent. And in her opinion, Abigail was both vulnerable and an innocent.
Abigail wanted her freedom; she wanted her inheritance, and she wanted Mr Nathan Bentley, and Georgina was willing to help her achieve those desires if she could.
Anyone who would dare stop another from doing as they wished—which was exactly what Cousin Giles appeared to be doing―should be held accountable for their actions. And Georgina was quite prepared to do this, if and when she saw the man. She detested the thought of anyone having power over another, and she was willing to help Abigail gain her independence. Not just because she liked Abigail and had come to look upon her as a friend but because Cousin Giles sounded like a most arrogant, pompous person with overbearing manners, and he needed to be taught a lesson.
“I hope I meet this cousin of yours sometime,” Georgina said with fury smouldering in her eyes. “No man should part another from their true love, and if you have formed a real affection for Mr Bentley…”
Normally Georgina wasn’t the type to put herself forward, but if she thought an injustice had been done, she was prepared to crusade for another.
Thinking Abigail inconsolable and grieving the loss of her true love, Georgina was willing to fight the causeIf need be, she would go in search of this Mr Bentley and advise him on a course of action to overcome all obstacles.
“Cousin Giles believes what I feel for Mr Bentley cannot be real love, and he should know. I once saw him at a ball held at the Bath Assembly Rooms. He was dancing the Cotillion with Lady Charlotte. When I happened to whisper to Cousin Mary that perhaps there was soon to be a wedding, Cousin Mary said it couldn’t possibly be. Because although her brother was besotted with Lady Charlotte and pursued her for his own amusement, he couldn’t offer marriage as she was already married to Lord Thornton and had been for a number of years.” Abigail broke off from what she was saying and hurriedly covered her mouth with her hands. “I’ve said too much,” she exclaimed.
But it was indeed too late. Georgina had been listening, and she’d gleaned some vital information.
Instantly alert, Georgina asked, “Do you mean Lady Charlotte who was once known as Charlotte Bambridge?”
Bambridge?” echoed Abigail. “The name does sound familiar, so more than likely she was called Bambridge before she married. But I’m not sure. Do you know of her?”
The pieces were falling into place and Georgina believed she had discovered the hidden identity of Cousin Giles.
The names, Giles and Charlotte, when coupled together, had a ring of familiarity, and Georgina wondered if “Cousin Giles” could be someone with whom she was already acquainted.

Disclaimer, Copyrights and Publishing
Any names or characters have no existence outside the imagination of the
author or are used fictitiously, and actual events are purely coincidental.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, copied,
stored in a retrieval system known or hereinafter invented, without
written permission of the publisher.

Copyright © 2019 by – Arabella Sheen
Published by priceplacebooks

All rights reserved.
ISBN 978-0-9575698-4-3

About Arabella Sheen

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.

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