Captivating the Earl (Lords & Ladies in Love)(4)

By: Callie Hutton

Once she settled into her seat, she raised her cup of tea to nicely plump lips and glanced in his direction. The teacup in his hand stopped a few inches from his mouth as a very uncomfortable and foreboding feeling settled in his stomach.

Chapter Two

Lizzie released the breath she’d been holding since they’d entered the drawing room. So, Lord Hawkins did not remember her. On the one hand she was truly grateful, and on the other, quite annoyed. After all, he had danced with her once. Had she been so nondescript?

Of course, he would never expect to see a debutante of the ton working in the country as a governess, so perhaps she should forgive him. And at the same time, be grateful he didn’t recognize her. That would have been a disaster.

“You have the little ones quite in hand.” Lord Hawkins viewed her over the top of his teacup.

Why was he speaking to her? Although a governess had a different status than servants, employees were never recognized by guests. Or spoken to, except to give a request or an order.

“Yes, my lord. They are delightful children.”

If the look on his face was any indication of his thoughts, he considered them nothing of the kind. “Frankly, I’ve always found anyone under fourteen years to be quite frightful.”

“Ah, but one day you will have children of your own, and you will find them enchanting in every way.”

He placed his palm on his chest, his eyes wide as he grinned at her. “Surely you jest. When I am forced into the parson’s noose and begin to fill my nursery, you can rest assured I will employ plenty of staff to deal with the little ones.”

“Ah, but suppose your wife has other ideas?”

“Yes. There is that. Something to consider.” He tapped his lips with his finger, drawing attention to his lovely mouth. Although his expression sobered, the twinkle in his eyes told her he probably never had a serious conversation. The man was a true rake.

Lord and Lady Wycliff regarded the two of them with raised brows. Lizzie immediately flushed from her toes all the way to her face. She was bantering with Lord Hawkins as if they were in a London ballroom!

Confused at his attention, and aware of her employers’ bewilderment, and possible disapproval, she turned to the children. She wiped Daniel’s mouth and leaned in toward David to remind him not to burp out loud. The twins had recently taken up that habit, and they thought it was quite humorous, but their parents would not.

Whether he understood her unease, or simply grew bored speaking to a governess, Lord Hawkins turned his attention to Lady Wycliff.

After another half hour of supervising the children and refusing to even meet Lord Hawkins’s eyes, Lizzie stood and addressed Lady Wycliff. “I believe the children have finished their tea. With your permission we will retire to the nursery.”

“Yes, of course. Please see that Nurse presents the children as usual before bed.”

“Yes, my lady.” She hurried her charges from the room and made her way to the nursery on the top floor. Usually the climb did not trouble her in any way, but today she found herself out of breath and flushed.

She refused to believe her conversation with Lord Hawkins was the cause of her discomfort. She was a former debutante. Although she had not garnered a great deal of attention during her Season, she had enjoyed the flirting and bantering that took place at ton events.

However, this was not a ton event, and she was no longer a debutante. She had chosen her path, and for the most part, was satisfied with her current life. It was certainly better than what she would have been forced to endure had she remained in London.

Glancing at her timepiece, she estimated they would have about two hours to go over a few lessons, leaving time for play, before the children returned to the drawing room for their nightly engagement with their parents. Hopefully, Lord Hawkins would be otherwise occupied.

She sucked in a breath when she realized she would face him over the dinner table. Tonight, and every night of his visit. Some employers allowed their governesses to dine with them, since their position in the house was nebulous. Lord and Lady Wycliff were such employers, and Lizzie had always enjoyed the privilege.

Not so much, now. If she continued along the vein of her recent encounter with Lord Hawkins, it would not take her employers long to raise questions about their children’s governess and how she had introduced herself when she’d first been hired.