Captivating the Earl (Lords & Ladies in Love)(6)

By: Callie Hutton

Although it was a question, there was no doubt her employer had requested her to perform, and perform she would. At least when she played, she found it easy to lose herself in the music. With any luck, she would be able to forget the man who sat alongside her long enough to bring her thumping heart and fluttering stomach under control. “Of course, my lady.”

“Tell me, Miss Moore, since children, and their care, are foreign to me, what encompasses your typical day?” Lord Hawkins asked.

Lizzie shifted in her seat. The Wycliffs had had several guests for dinner during her tenure, and she had joined in the conversation, but never had anyone paid particular attention to her. She’d always enjoyed the discussions, and her meal, then usually played for the company afterward.

The few other social events they had invited her to, she’d demurred, stating chores needed to be done, correspondence to be caught up. They’d never questioned her, for which she was grateful, since she still feared being recognized in a large group.

However, they had very few, if any, overnight guests from London. Lord Hawkins had been a surprise. With the reputation he’d had when she was a debutante in London, he was the very last person she would have guessed to grace her employers with his presence. But then she was unaware of his relationship to the Wycliffs before his visit.

“My schedule is very similar to all governesses’, I am sure. I doubt you would find it of interest.”

“Not so. After all, I will one day have children of my own—at least that is what my mother reminds me of on a regular basis—and I will need to hire someone to tend to the urchins. Oh, sorry.” He flashed a grin at Lady Wycliff. “I meant the little darlings.”

Lady Wycliff laughed merrily. “Oh, my dear Hawk, I am sure whomever you take to wife will have every intention, and ability, to engage the perfect governess when the time comes.”

“I daresay, I have been waiting for the day you succumb to the vicar’s noose and begin to fill your nursery. ’Tis a well-known fact that rakes make the best husbands.” Lord Wycliff turned to Lizzie. “Don’t you agree, Miss Moore?”

Lizzie was shocked and nearly choked on her wine. Why would Lord Wycliff assume Lizzie would know anything about rakes, London, and the lives they led? Was he testing her? Had Lord Hawkins’s attention to her made her employer suspicious?

Her heart thudding, she smiled warmly. “I assure you I have no knowledge on that subject, my lord.” She quickly returned her attention to her food.

Lizzie was relieved when Lord Wycliff changed the subject and asked about the latest news from London. Until he asked Lord Hawkins, “What happened with that Loverly situation? Hadn’t he absconded to America?”

All the blood drained from Lizzie’s head, leaving her lightheaded, fighting black dots in front of her eyes. She fought the desire to run from the table and hide in her bedchamber.

“Yes, the situation has been resolved. While still in His Majesty’s service, the new Duke of Bedford had been sent to America to find the man. Bedford returned with Loverly in hand to discover the prior Duke of Bedford had died, and he was now the new duke.”

“Yes. Yes. I believe I remember that part. But didn’t Loverly later escape his prison hold?”

“Indeed, he did. But Bedford, Lord Campbell, Mr. Templeton, and I surrounded him one night. Bedford had to kill him.”

“Well, that’s one treasonous devil gone to his reward.” Lord Wycliff took a sip of his wine and shook his head. “Good riddance, I say.”

Lizzie closed her eyes, her entire body trembling. She took deep breaths to fight off the encroaching darkness.

Father is dead.

Chapter Three

Miss Moore’s eyes snapped open when Hawk asked, “I say, Miss Moore, are you well? You’ve turned quite pale.”

It looked like the girl was suffering from some sort of a shock. She’d gone completely ashen, and her hand shook as she raised her wineglass to her lips. She took a sip of wine and shook her head. “No, I am fine. Thank you for asking.” The whispered words barely made it out of her mouth.

He continued to study her throughout the rest of the meal. She appeared distracted, jumpy. Sad, almost. He fought the urge to probe deeper but realized how out of place that would be. He found her fascinating, though she was an employee in his cousin’s home, and therefore, strictly off-limits.