A Hellion in Her BedBy: Sabrina Jeffries
To the two women who’ve been essential to
my career from the beginning: Micki Nuding, otherwise known as
Super Editor, and Pamela Gray Ahearn, aka Super Agent. I greatly
appreciate your using your superpowers on my behalf !
And to Claudia Dain, Deb Marlowe, Liz Carlyle, Caren Crane Helms,
and Rexanne Becnel—ya’ll are the best friends an author could
ever wish for. Thanks for always talking me off the ledge!
A Hellion in Her Bed
Thirteen-year-old Lord Jarret Sharpe didn’t want to spend the night in hell. He glanced out the coach window at the moon and shuddered. It must be nearly eight—they would arrive at Eton just when the boys were being locked into the Long Chamber. And hell would begin.
Tugging at his black cravat, he looked over at his grandmother. What could he say to make her change her mind? Six months ago, she’d carried them off to live with her in London—away from Halstead Hall, the best place in the whole world. She wouldn’t take him to the brewery with her anymore. And she made him go to horrible school. All because of how Mother and Father had died.
A chill froze his soul and he felt like something had died in him, too. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep … he couldn’t even cry.
What kind of monster was he? Even his older brother Oliver had cried at the funeral. Jarret wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. Not even late at night, during his nightmares about Father in the coffin.
He’d read the newspaper accounts of how the bullet had “shattered his lordship’s face,” and he couldn’t forget that image. Bad enough that he was still haunted by seeing Mother, stiff and pale, lying in the casket with her snowy gown covering her bullet wound. Every time he thought of what Father’s closed casket must mean, he could hardly breathe.
“Tell Oliver I expect him to write me every week, do you hear?” Gran said.
“Yes, ma’am.” A sharp pain seized his chest. He’d always secretly believed he was Gran’s favorite. But not anymore.
“And you, too, of course,” she added, her voice softening.
“I don’t want to go to school!” he burst out. When her eyebrows lifted, he added hastily, “I want to stay home. I want to go to the brewery every day with you.”
“Jarret, my boy—”
“No, listen!” He mangled the mourning gloves in his lap as his words came out in a rush. “Grandfather said I’ll inherit the brewery, and I already know everything about it. I know how the mash is made and how long to roast the barley. And I’m good at math—you said so yourself. I could learn to manage the books.”
“I’m sorry, lad, but that’s just not wise. It was wrong of me and your grandfather to encourage your interest in the brewery. Your mother didn’t want that for you, and she was right. She married a marquess precisely because she wanted greater things for her children than mucking around some brewery.”
“You muck around it,” he protested.
“Because I have to. Because it’s the primary support for you children until your parents’ estate is settled.”
“But I could help!” He yearned to be of some use to his family. Plumtree Brewery was far better than learning about who crossed the Nile and how to conjugate Latin; what good were those to him?
“You can help more by taking up a respectable profession, the kind you can only get at Eton. You were born to be someone far greater—a barrister or a bishop. I could even bear your being in the army or the navy, if that’s what you wanted.”
“I don’t want to be a soldier,” he said, appalled. The very thought of holding a pistol made his stomach roil. Mother had accidentally shot Father with a pistol. Then she had shot herself.
That part was confusing. Gran had told the newspaper that when Mother had seen Father dead by her hand, she got so sad that she shot herself. It didn’t make sense to him, but Gran had ordered them not to speak of it again, so he didn’t. Not even to ask questions.
It hurt something awful to think of Mother shooting herself. How could she have left the five of them alone? If she had lived, she might have let him have tutors at home, and he could have kept going to the brewery with Gran.