A Traditional Regency Romance
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 7 continued…
Some years ago, Georgina’s parents had hired a house in Claremont Square for the London Season. They had taken her to London with the intention of presenting her to society so that she might find a suitable man to make a match with and marry. Georgina had done all the things a debutante should do. She’d gone to balls, danced the night away, and she’d made lots of new friends.
It was whilst paying a morning visit to one of her friends―Clarissa Davenport―that Georgina first encountered “Cousin Giles.” He had been known as the Marquis of Glentworth, and her encounter with him was anything but pleasant.
At the time, Georgina hadn’t known who the Marquis of Glentworth was, and it was only later in the season when someone pointed him out as being none other than the next Duke of Westbury, that she discovered his true identity.
Having called upon Clarissa to indulge in a delightful tête-à-tête about a ball they attended the night before, Georgina left her friend’s house and was making her way back to Claremont Square on foot when the Marquis of Glentworth almost knocked her down with his phaeton.
He was considered London’s most eligible bachelor and thought of by the ladies of the ton as the undisputed dandy of the Season. But that didn’t matter to Georgina. All she remembered about the Marquis was that he was the most arrogant, high-handed man she’d ever met, and he’d behaved atrociously toward her.
Whether he’d seen her crossing the road or whether she’d stepped off the curb too quickly was irrelevant. It was the fact that he’d chosen to give her a dressing down in public that riled her.
There was no doubt the Marquis veered his horses away to the side of the road with great skill. And his competence in avoiding an accident was excellent. But she felt there was no need for him to have shouted her down in such an ungentlemanly fashion in front of passers-by. He’d been completely and utterly discourteous.
His displeasure with her was apparent, and people at the roadside, witnessing their altercation, had been thoroughly entertained by her discomfort. For her it was an excruciatingly painful and embarrassing event. And she’d been disconcertingly mortified.
“You there,” the Marquis had called out. “Where are you bound in such a hurry? I assume you know you have crossed the road with unseeming recklessness?”
The Marquis was a fine figure of a man. Handsome enough, with a crop of thick, raven-black hair swept back from his brow in the style known as a Brutus. His features, although not rugged, were strong and compelling. And his penetrating eyes, by startling contrast, were of a cool steely grey that was mesmerising. But his good looks and manly attractiveness did not sway her from the fact that his gentleman-like behaviour wasn’t up to scratch or that he was shouting, giving her a dressing down in public.
Flustered and on the point of apologising for her hasty action, Georgina remained silent. When she heard his angry words and the tone of voice in which he spoke, she pointedly ignored his outburst and concentrated solely on straightening her lopsided bonnet. But when his horses moved, restlessly shaking their manes for attention, her bonnet, which had by now fallen from her head and dangled by its ribbons down her back, was completely forgotten.
Drawing near to where the high-perch phaeton stood, and with total disregard for her safety, she’d gone to the front of the carriage, taken the horses’ bridles in her gloved hands, and tried to calm them. Stroking their forelocks, she’d spoken soothing words before fixing a steely glare of disdain upon their owner.
Never before had she been more thankful for all the hours she’d spent in her bedchamber as a young girl, standing in front of the mirror, practising and perfecting the art of delivering the harshest of stares imaginable. Any lesser man than the Marquis would have baulked at her glower, but her unflinching look seemed not to affect him.
“Had you been more attentive, sir, there would have been no need for you to have pulled so harshly on these reins. You might have ruined their sensitive mouths.”
“Let me tell you, young Miss, no one has ever dared question me on the treatment of my horses before. You are the first person to do so.”
Georgina was surprised by the incensed and irate reaction of the Marquis. She’d ruffled his feathers.
“Really? You astonish me, sir. Perhaps someone ought to have done so before.”
He adjusted his grip on the reins. “I pride myself on giving my thoroughbreds only the finest. Nothing is of more importance to me than my horses’ wellbeing. They always have the best of everything. The best stables, the best grooms, the best fodder, and I never leave them standing outside in the cold waiting on my pleasure. Never. How dare you say I might have ruined their mouths?”
Bravely ignoring his outburst, Georgina began gingerly inspecting the horses, searching for any damage that might have been caused. There was none. But that was of no account.
Although the Marquis had skilfully handled his animals as any Corinthian, it was of no consequence to her. Her hackles were raised, and she was on the warpath. Given half the chance, she was ready to accuse him of anything and everything because of the way he made her feel and because of the telling off he’d given her.
“Had I not been vigilant, madam, my greys could have floored you, and the world would be minus your beauty.”
Georgina thought she detected a hint of tightly control sarcasm about this man, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, she decided she might be wrong. There was such an air of condemnation about him that she doubted he would ever have the inclination or the ability to stoop so low in order that he might indulge himself in something as meaningless and trivial as cynicism.
“I’m realistic enough to know I’m not a beauty, sir. I agree I may have momentarily lost my wits when crossing this road and that I might have been quite inconsiderate to these magnificent horses, but I’m not so stupid as to believe you when you call me a beauty.” Georgina tilted her head proudly in the air. “I must inform you that on more than one occasion I’ve been told my looks are passable, but a beauty I’m not. And never shall be.”
Giles had regarded her with a measuring look and then he’d laughed in disbelief. “Never before have I paid a woman a compliment and had it thrown back at me. I’m intrigued to know what kind of modest, self-effacing woman I’m talking to.”
“I’m not self-effacing, sir. I’m only truthful.”
“Then if you tell me you are not a beauty and inform me that my judgement is to be questioned, I must insist on having a closer look―for my eyes must be deceiving me. Come, step up into the carriage and allow me to inspect you.”
Giles drew off his gloves and tossed them onto the seat beside him. He reached down a hand to help her up, but with a shake of her head, she refused.
“Sir, I will not,” she said, affronted. “And you cannot make me.”
“Don’t fly into high fidgets. If you will not come to me then I shall have to come to you.”
With great agility, the Marquis tossed the reins of his phaeton to his tiger, the small groom who rode behind the carriage, and springing down, approached.
Even though Georgina trembled at his unexpected nearness, she stood her ground. Squaring her shoulders, she faced him full on, unafraid.
“I stand corrected,” he said, containing his merriment. “Allow me to revise my assessment.” Placing his fingers beneath her chin, he had tilted her head first sideways then up and down as he inspected her features. “You’re quite right. And I must with great reluctance agree with you. You do indeed have indifferent eyes, and your nose―it is only just passable. But I shall stand by my first impression concerning your lips. They are truly beautiful. So beautiful, that I deem they must be kissed. But perhaps we must save that for another time. Instead, I shall…”
And before Georgina realised what was happening, the Marquis had captured her hand in his and had raised it to his lips.
There had been no chance for her to move away or resist.
Someone amid the crowd of onlookers let out a loud roar of approval, but Georgina, ignoring the shouts of encouragement, began to struggle against the Marquis’s determined grip.
Her heart beat furiously in her chest. “Unhand me, sir,” she’d said. But the Marquis had paid no heed to her protests.
Instead, his hold had tightened further, and lifting her into his arms and tossing her carelessly onto the high perch of his phaeton, he’d climbed the steps of the carriage and positioned himself beside her.
Once again taking control of the reins, he’d asked, “Where to?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” she’d said, quite vexed.
“Where are you living? For I’m sure, that if I were to leave you here, you would soon be knocked over again. Or worse. Next time you might manage to get yourself killed.”
“Thank you,” she’d said between gritted teeth as she tried to maintain her countenance. “But I believe I can find my way home without your assistance.”
Wriggling on the seat, she removed the gloves upon which she’d been sitting and offered them to him but he completely ignored her activities and comments. With an adroit, dexterous flick of the wrist, he whipped the reins on high and set the horses in motion. Georgina couldn’t help but admire his skill with the ribbons as he controlled the high-steppers. His hands, adorned only with an elaborately embellished sardonyx signet ring on his left hand, were set off to perfection by the brown, white and tan bands of the precious stone, but they looked too soft to have the ability to control such powerful animals. But he could handle them well, and he did―with great expertise.
“This is not about you being able to find your way, madam. It is about the fact that you’re on the streets of London, unaccompanied. I trust you realise that I might not be available to save your reputation on another occasion such as this.”
Georgina couldn’t help herself. She scoffed at his remarks.
“Guff, sir!” she’d said crossly. “That is flimflam and nonsense. You think walking these streets unaccompanied and without my maid has done me harm? Let me inform you that by taking me up in your phaeton, you’ve placed me in a far worse position. I’m here with you―alone. More than likely this jaunt will be the ruin of me.”
“On the contrary, madam. It’s not every day I permit a female to ride beside me, and I suspect being seen in my company is going to do you a great deal of good.”
And so it was, that in great style, and accompanied by the Marquis of Glentworth, who was indeed a complete stranger to her, Miss Georgina Morton was dropped unceremoniously at the door of the hired house her parents had leased in Claremont Square.
Throughout the remainder of her London Season, occasionally, and through no doing of her own, she caught fleeting glimpses of the Marquis. She also heard ample gossip linking his name to that of Charlotte Bambridge. There had been rumours of a wedding, but that was all it must have been―rumours—because Abigail had said that Charlotte Bambridge was now Lady Thornton.
And as for the Marquis of Glentworth, all Georgina knew from what her father once read aloud from the public declarations in his much-valued journals, was that the Fifth Duke of Westbury had died, and that his son, Glentworth, had inherited the title.
The Marquis of Glentworth was now the Sixth Duke of Westbury.
Could ‘Cousin Giles’ be the Sixth Duke of Westbury? And if so, Georgina believed the difficulty of finding Abigail’s next-of-kin might be solved.
Georgina was going to have to make a difficult choice: to betray Abigail’s trust and contact the Duke or to wait until Abigail was discovered by her relatives, as she must eventually be.
After great deliberation, a difficult decision was made, and having sent off a letter informing the Duke of his cousin’s stay at Rose Hill House, Georgina didn’t anticipate a reply for at least a se’nnight―if not longer. She knew titled people such as Dukes and Earls were notorious for being constantly away from their estates, and she assumed the present Duke of Westbury was no exception.
Georgina felt the only course of action open to her was to sit and wait and see what happened. But meanwhile, there was the urgent problem of how to engage and entertain the Duke’s ward so that Abigail willingly remained at Rose Hill until the Duke arrived.
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Any names or characters have no existence outside the imagination of the
author or are used fictitiously, and actual events are purely coincidental.
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Copyright © 2019 by – Arabella Sheen
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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.
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