Authors: Gloria Gay
Fate Is A Stranger
Copyright © 2007, 2016, Gloria Caballero Gay
This Edition, Published, 2016
Published in the United States of America in 2016 by Gloria Caballero Gay.
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, including xerography, photocopying and recording now known or hereafter invented, without the prior written permission of the author.
First published by Booklocker.com, Inc., in 2001 in a different form under the title,
Known To All.
Printed in the United States of America.
First Printing, Gloria Caballero Gay 2016
Manufactured in the United States of America
Fate Is A Stranger
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, existing brand names and events in this book are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, or places, situations or events are coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright Gloria Caballero Gay, 2016,
Cover Design and Interior Format by The Killion Group
To My Daughter,
Mariana Gay Hughes
Sometimes, a secondary character in a book refuses to stay as such, and by her actions develops a life of her own and prompts the author to develop her story into
When I wrote
Kissed In The Dark,
I wrote it as a stand-alone book. It was only later, while I was busy with other writing projects, that Violet Durbin, a secondary character in
Kissed In The Dark,
to insist that I write
Kissed In The Dark,
Violet had been instrumental with great danger to herself, in saving the life of Cecilia Sentennel, by alerting Cecilia’s betrothed, the Earl of Arandale, of Cecilia’s kidnapping.
Violet refused to leave my mind. She wanted her story told. I resisted, for I was too busy.
But Violet didn’t give up. She often woke me up at night, prodding me to write her story, hinting at how it should be done and eagerly whispering scenes in my ear. The scenes became very real to me and they began to form a book…
This is Violet’s story.
The Duke of Hawkinston gazed at his nephew with disapproving eyes.
Viscount Jared Falweir seemed even younger than his twenty years as he glanced back at the duke, nervously avoiding his eyes. His flaxen hair stuck in a cowlick and his collar rose to the absurd height dandies favored.
This morning he had been certain of his attire as giving him the bang up to the mark image most young men of his circle sought. Now, he wasn't sure of that.
He felt disconcerted and uncomfortable at this meeting with his uncle. He wished his father had left as guardian the amiable Lester Cawlingford, rather than the formidable duke whom there was no way he was ever going to please. It was amazing to him that the Duke must only be about ten years older. This fact never failed to astound him, for he could not imagine the duke as ever having been young.
Only a few months left in his guardianship
, Jared told himself, in order to cope with the trying meeting. He closed his eyes momentarily, wishing himself somewhere else. His uncle considered him immature and unable to have any opinion of his own on any subject. Even when he had dared to discuss the war with him a few years back, he had been sternly informed that he should not dare opine on something he knew little about and even less experience with.
Jared was repulsed by the duke's power and wealth and made certain his path seldom crossed with his. He thought of him as more princely that Prinny himself. And as the duke didn’t seem inclined to marriage, Jared shuddered at the idea of himself someday inheriting the title. There wasn’t anything he wished less on this earth than to be a duke.
"I cannot comprehend why it is you cannot stay out of the gossip columns, Jared," his uncle said. "Surely it isn't that difficult. From the rather explicit content of one column in particular it appears you have been frequenting
, a den of inequity that is well-known for plucking greenhorns like you and you were seen there cavorting with Casey Sallingate…"
"There ain't nothing wrong with Casey, Uncle Perry, we went to school together. He's a right cove and a tight friend, and admitted in the best circles!"
"Kindly abstain from talking fustian, Jared," interrupted his uncle impatiently. “Sallingate hasn’t got the sense the Lord gave a goat in his choice of debutantes. He's courting Lady Jessica Blayne, Lord Kelly's niece."
"And you take exception to Lady Jessica, Uncle? Her bloodlines are sterling!"
"That may very well be," said the duke with a shake of the head, "but Lord Kelly became her guardian on her father's death. Lord Kelly went beyond the pale when he married his mistress, Jared. Anyone who associates with Lord Kelly now is stained by association. Lady Jessica's prospects are diminished by association with that family."
"Lord Kelly is a right—"
"Yes, I know, a right 'cove'," said his uncle. "Nevertheless, he is not admitted in the inner circles of the ton anymore, in case you haven't noticed, and they will remain closed to him because of his choice of brides. Why he had to go marry his mistress is beyond me. Bed, them yes, but marry them? Next you'll be telling me that the daughter he acknowledged publicly—what's her name…"
"That name sprang quickly to your mind, Jared, suspiciously so. I hope you are not developing feelings for the young lady, because I will be forced to nick that in the bud and very quickly too."
"Violet will never belong to anyone, Uncle Perry. But if she even glanced my way, I swear I would give up the world just to be a few minutes in her favor."
"Those Byron poems are going to your head. Less poetry and more schoolbooks would be more salutary in your case. You have your head in the clouds when it comes to women."
The duke sighed in exasperation. He had never been as intense and impulsive an adolescent as his nephew was.
The Duke of Hawkinston was thirty-two years old and all of those years he had spent in the luxury, privilege and ease that his position had ensured him from birth.
"The little master is a old one," his old caretaker, Joseph, had said when Hawkinston was a child, "and 'e'll never be a young 'un."
He had been treated by his caretakers more like a miniature adult than a child. So it was hard for him to understand his nephew Jared's youth and impetuosity.
The duke was not handsome in the classic way that was favored in his time, but he was arresting nevertheless and his presence filled a room, overwhelming even the least timid. His eyes were the gray-green of moss under abundant lashes and became magnetic when his interest was held. This attraction rarely appeared in his eyes as his interest was rarely held, but when it did it surprised those who witnessed it for it was quite unexpected.
His other good feature was his well-shaped head of which attraction he was absolutely unconscious. His hair fell in rich brown waves that grazed his shoulders and his height, wide shoulders and regal composure made him an arresting sight whenever he entered a room.
"Ah, well, favors is what Violet would be bestowing right and left if her mother had not had the immense fortune of trapping that idiot, Lord Kelly, in her net," the duke was saying. "I could not believe my ears when I heard the dolt actually allows her to use his name."
"Violet and her mother are in the favor of the Earl of Arandale," said Jared. His uncle’s criticism of Violet had caused a shudder of pain within him, which he suppressed. His love for Violet made him daring. Even the thought of Violet sent a delicious shiver throughout his body so that he wished this interview over and he be left free to call on her.
"Yes, I believe you're right," said the duke. "It seems this girl, Violet, alerted Arandale about the Lady Arandale's kidnapping, thus saving the countess. Arandale is forever in the girl's debt and rightly so. But even that won't get 'Lady' Kelly and her daughter vouchers to Almack's."
"I have accepted an invitation to a musicale at Lord Kelly's, sir," Jared said tentatively, alarmed that his uncle's unexpected animosity about Violet and her mother might interfere with his social plans. "I have already sent my acceptance."
Hawkinston frowned as he saw Jared squirm. This was not the first person he saw squirm in his presence. It occurred to him for the first time that there were some people that would rather not be too long in his company. Being extremely fond of his own company, Hawkinston wondered why this was so.
"Well, I suppose a musicale is harmless," said the duke and remembered that he too, had been sent an invitation. If Wattling hadn't tossed it in the ash can as he had been advised to do with any invitations from Lord Kelly, it might still be there.
Hawkinston was suddenly curious by Jared's words that the girl, Violet, would never belong to anyone.
"What does Violet look like?" he asked.
"She's…" Jared thought of Violet's tourmaline blue eyes under thick dark lashes. "Violet cannot be described."
"Come, now," said the duke with a frown. "She's not exactly an angel, from what I recall. She was the mistress of that cad, Alex Shackel, who was run through with a sword by the Earl of Arandale. That was six or seven years ago, I believe. I was in Scotland at the time so I don't know the particulars…"
Do,” said Jared, eager to explain Violet’s tragedy. "She was
to become Shackel's mistress, Uncle Perry, She was a mere girl of fourteen when that evil man discarded her mother and forced Violet. Surely you cannot blame Violet for the actions of a cad. It was fitting that the Earl of Arandale killed him."
"Well, that may be, but her mother was a courtesan long before she married Lord Kelly," said the duke impatiently. " And by the way, Jared, Violet may be Lord Kelly's acknowledged daughter now but she is not exactly a girl, nor an example to her sex. She is known to all
"No, Uncle, she is not—" said Jared, in the same instant wondering at his daring, "—
don't know her
Hawk wondered how anyone could awaken such a passionate defense on a young buck like Jared. Up until now Jared had taken a
lazy attitude towards everything except horses. Jared, on the other hand, wondered how it was possible for him to have descended from such pompous prigs as the duke and his own father, who had been the duke's brother. A revolutionary like himself was an ill fit in such a family.
"How can you dislike someone you have never met, sir?" Jared asked, more boldly than his usual, even as his uncle noticed how he had leaned forward in his chair, earnestly.
"Violet does not pretend to possess a virtuous past but she leads an exemplary life. Neither the circumstances of her birth nor being forced into prostitution for a few weeks were her fault. She seldom goes out in society and has accompanied Lady Jessica only to the places where she is allowed entrance. She does not attend the Almack balls, of course, because vouchers will never be offered to her or her mother."
"Nor to Lord Kelly, added the duke, "He sealed his fate when he married his mistress and recognized his by blow."
Jared winced at the description of Violet and his uncle noticed it.
"The duke leaned over to the bell cord and rang for his valet.
"Bring me the invitation to Lord Kelly's musicale, Wattling," he said.
"Yes, your grace."
When Wattling had left Jared stared at his uncle in disbelief. "You are planning to attend Lord Kelly's musicale?"
"I believe I shall, just to keep an eye on you," said the duke.
"I—" Jared stopped what he was about to say, alarmed that the duke planned to attend the musicale and ruin Jared’s plans for the evening. For weeks he had looked forward to it, as it was the only social event held at Lord Kelly's house and one of the very few where he could dance with Violet.
"Don't worry, Jared," said the duke in a sardonic tone, "I promise I will not cast a shadow on your movements. That is, if you behave. I believe your actions of recent months warrant a closer scrutiny. I don't believe your father would sanction your attending gaming hells in Whitechapel or your interest in women on the fringes of society.
“As your guardian I am not going to let you get out of hand. I have a duty to uphold to your father and I intend to keep it."
"There is to be a dance, too, Uncle Perry." Jared looked at his hands and winced as he waited for the duke's reply.
"Ah, now I see," said the duke, "when I had not expressed a wish to attend it, it was only a musicale. But now that I will be attending, you must disclose that it is to be a dance. And with whom are you planning to dance, Jared—the woman, Violet? And how old is she, by the way?"
But—" the duke frowned. He had imagined Violet to be in her late twenties or early thirties. This certainly gave a whole different perspective of her.
"She was a few days from fourteen when that cad, Alex Shackel forced her to become his mistress," Jared insisted. "Surely you can’t blame Violet for the actions of a villain."
"You have become too attached to that family, Jared, and in particular you admire that girl too much. Where will this lead you?”
So Violet was a young girl, after all. However, the fact that Kelly had recognized her publicly as his daughter changed nothing. That part of her life could never be erased. It would be much better to nip this interest in the bud, for Jared seemed to be unusually taken with the girl. If he allowed this to turn into a full-blown passion it would be more difficult to stop. Now was the time to act.
* * *
It was useless to argue with the duke, thought Jared. He would never view Violet as anything but a courtesan, no matter that Violet's conduct was impeccable and that her reputation, save for those unfortunate few weeks six years ago, was above reproach. He would marry her in a heartbeat and brave the havoc it would create with his family, if only Violet would agree to marry him.
"You have become thoughtful all of a sudden," said his uncle suspiciously. "What’s going through your mind, Jared?"
"Nothing, Uncle Perry, other than to wonder if this afternoon at Tattersall's I shall be able to obtain that sweet goer, Brightstar, for my curricle."
"I know when I'm being gamboled, Jared, so don't attempt it. I would lay a hundred to one that your thoughts are not far from that girl.
"And now, this meeting is over; I have other matters to attend to."
Jared sighed in relief. The half hour meeting had seemed like hours to him. Would there ever be a time when he would feel comfortable in his uncle's presence? He seriously doubted it.
"I shall see you at the musicale, Uncle Perry," said Jared at the door, his face lighting up with a broad smile, for he was thinking that in a few more months he was to obtain his majority and then the duke's orders would fall hollow on his ears.
He would then be free to marry whomever he chose. He was well aware of the firestorm it would cause in his family but he cared not a whit. He was determined to marry Violet.