Captivating the Earl (Lords & Ladies in Love)(9)

By: Callie Hutton

“I merely thought a few weeks away from London would be a good thing. Sometimes the Season can be a bit arduous.”

“For a young, titled, wealthy man-about-town? Very difficult having all the ladies falling at your feet, eh?”

“Hardly falling at my feet.” A bit of a lie there, since at his mother’s house party, Lady Spencer had purposely tripped in front of him to garner his attention. Never one to disappoint a lady, he had arranged to visit her bedchamber that evening since Lord Spencer had opted to stay in Town. Most likely in the bed of his current mistress.

It had not been the best of decisions, based on the screaming fit she’d subjected him to a month later when he’d told her he wished to end their liaison. Within days he had decided to visit Wycliff.

“You know, right before I met Leah, I had decided to offer for a lovely young lady whose parents, as well as mine, were very much in favor of a match between us. When I saw my wife for the first time across a ballroom, all thoughts of the other woman vanished.

“I realized later—after we were happily married—that my decision about that young lady had been made because I was so very tired of my mother pushing me toward the ‘perfect’ bride.”

“What is it you are trying to tell me, Cousin?”

Wycliff swirled the brandy in his glass, studying the movement intently. “I’m not quite sure, actually. Only that I see myself in you when I had spotted Leah across that ballroom.” He shook his head, then took a sip of the liquor and continued. “Maybe I’ve misread you, but I never thought you wanted the typical ton marriage. If that’s true, then don’t return to London and just grab the closest woman in the hope she will fix whatever it is that’s broken inside you.”

Hawk snorted. “There isn’t anything broken inside me.”

“No?” Wycliff laid his glass on the table in front of him and stood. “I will wish you a good night. I believe my wife awaits me.”

Once Wycliff left the room, Hawk continued to sit and stare at his empty glass, his legs stretched out before him and crossed at the ankles, his head tucked into his chest.

There isn’t anything broken inside me.

Chapter Four

Lizzie oftentimes considered how lucky she was. She could not have asked for better employers. Having seen the way some companions and governesses were treated, Lord and Lady Wycliff had been a godsend.

They gave her sufficient time off, the children were a handful, but adorable, and Lizzie was allowed privileges of which she imagined most governesses could only dream.

One of her favorite things was to ride first thing in the morning. Nurse took care of feeding the children breakfast and washing and dressing them. So Lizzie was free to make use of Lord Wycliff’s stables and enjoy an early morning ride.

This morning she needed to race across the grounds, lose herself in the wind, inhale the deep smells of grass, trees, and summer air. She strode from the house to the stable, anticipating seeing Magpie, her favorite mare. Lizzie even had an apple in her pocket for the horse.

Perhaps the ride would clear her mind of the confusing emotions from the night before. She had no idea what had happened when she had played the pianoforte for Lord and Lady Wycliff, something she had done numerous times. Was it the presence of Lord Hawkins that had rattled her so?

Certainly, the news that her father had been killed had been a shock, but not an unexpected one. When she’d left London two years before, he had already been in America for some months. Rumors of him being charged with treason had surfaced during her Season, and she had been whispered about behind fans and, in some cases, given the cut direct.

It had not been until he had failed to return home one evening, and every evening after that, that she realized the danger she herself was in. She’d even been visited by men from the Home Office who’d believed she had information on where her father had gone. They’d even insinuated that she had been part of her father’s betrayal.

Despite having no money or other resources, Lizzie had decided to escape London. She’d turned to a close, very discreet older friend, who had found the position with the Wycliffs and given her a written reference.