The Viscount’s Widowed LadyBy: Maggi Andersen
London, Mayfair, Late November 1819
Lady Althea Brookwood stood beside her brother, Frederick Purkins and his wife, Elizabeth, as they watched Althea’s Mayfair townhouse emptied of its contents. Her belongings were to be moved to a rented property in a less attractive part of Town.
“I must say my poor opinion of Brookwood has been justified,” Freddie said gloomily. “And Brookwood’s heir seems no better. Has he offered you the dower house?”
“No. But he did allow me to remain here until he sold his other property. But now he has need of it himself.” She saw no point in telling Freddie that Brookwood’s heir had taken a set against her and charged her rent. Freddie was a farmer. He didn’t understand the ways of the ton. It would only worry him.
“But will his lordship not help you further?” Lizzie asked, her eyes filling with tears.
Althea hugged her sister-in-law. “You two must not worry. I shall manage. I look forward to it.” Althea tried to make it sound as if she embarked on a new adventure. In a way it was true, to shed herself of any connection to Brookwood was a great relief.
“You must come and live with us,” Elizabeth stated.
Although Althea loved to visit their farm in Dorset and their brood of children, she would never consider living with them. The children would be pushed out of their bedroom to make way for her, and the small village would buzz with gossip. No. She had lived the life of a lady, despite the awful manner in which Brookwood had treated her, and she had no desire to return to the country.
“You are sweet to offer, Lizzie, and I greatly appreciate it. But I still own Owltree Cottage.”
“But for how long?” Freddie asked, his mouth turning down at the corners. “I’m not sure a woman should live alone in London. It’s a den of iniquity. The ton can behave very badly if Brookwood is any example.”
“Brookwood died two years ago, Freddie. I have managed.”
“Yes, but your finances are dwindling. And now you’ve lost your home. How will you manage?”
“I didn’t lose it,” she said with a smile. “Brookwood’s heir inherited the property. I’ve no need of such a grand house. I shall manage perfectly well on my stipend. Growing up a farmer’s daughter, I learned how to be frugal. And if I must, I’ll leave London and live fulltime at Owltree.” She frowned. “The cottage was bequeathed to me. It never belonged to Brookwood. They can’t take that. They’ll have to kill me first!”
“You might marry again,” Lizzie said hopefully. “You’re awfully pretty, Althea, and still young.”
The prospect turned Althea’s blood cold. “I don’t wish to, Lizzie. But if worst comes to worst, I’ll become a companion to Aunt Catherine.”
“Oh yes, that’s an excellent idea,” Freddie said with obvious relief. “You will live in comfort and be safe.”
“Aunt Catherine has invited me to stay for Christmas.” Althea had no intention of moving in permanently with her strong-minded aunt, but it served to stop her brother worrying about her.
She held out her arms. “Let us go and wait for the furniture to arrive. My servants will be there. I shall turn this new house into a home in no time.”
County Wicklow, Ireland, January 1820
Kieran Flynn, 4th Viscount Montsimon, reined in his horse and stared ahead at Greystones Manor. His father was dead, the malevolent force of his nature gone from the house. Perhaps now, a loving family would fill the empty rooms. He eased his stiff shoulders. Some other family, not his. Let the cursed Montsimon name die out with him.
In the depths of winter, heavy clouds hung low over the house, a blunted dark shape stark against the sky, like a blemish on the beautiful land it occupied.
With a sigh which was half exhaustion, Flynn nudged the flank of his bay. He rode up to the house and dismounted. Blackened stone glistened wet in the misty air, the mullioned windows blank eyes gazing inward to shadowy corridors and empty rooms.
A grizzled-headed groom hurried from the stables.
Flynn nodded. “Gaffney, isn’t it?”
“You be the young master, Lord Montsimon. I remember ye,” Gaffney said and led the horse away.