Read Lord Devere's Ward Online

Authors: Sue Swift

Tags: #Historical Romance" Copyright 2012 Sue Swift ISBN: 978-1-937976-11-8, #"Regency Romance

Lord Devere's Ward (10 page)

BOOK: Lord Devere's Ward
9.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The fellow bowed. “Sir, may I renew our acquaintance? I am Bryan St. Wills, and have come as the guest of Ambrose Blakeney.” He nodded in the direction of another young blade who formed part of Louisa’s court. Quinn recognized Blakeney as one of the Penrose cousins. St. Wills continued, “I believe we have previously met, many years ago, in Somerset.” Quinn’s mind was bereft of any memory of the cub, but he bowed nevertheless. “Your servant, sir.”

“Thank you, my lord.” St. Wills inclined his head.

“I wonder if I may have a private word with you.” Quinn raised a brow. “I do not know about what subject we would need to be private, sir.”

“Your ward, Lady Katherine Scoville. As you must recall, our family and hers were close, our estates bordering.”

Quinn’s mind cleared. “Ah. Yes. St. Wills. Next door neighbors.” He smiled while his thoughts raced.

He did vaguely recall from his childhood visit with the Scovilles, many years previous, a callow dark lad who appeared to have been attached to little Katie as though he’d been her shadow. Quinn decided to dissemble until he could decide what, if anything, to do about St. Wills. “And have you news of my ward?”

“That is my concern,” St. Wills said. “I have written to her at Badham Abbey more than once, with no response. Kate—I mean Lady Katherine—would not be so discourteous. I am concerned.”

“Hmph.”

“How does Lady Katherine tarry?”

“I, er, believe the Lady Katherine tarries, er, quite well.”

“Why would she not answer my letters?”

“Perhaps you have displeased the lady.” Quinn evaded.

St. Wills frowned. “I doubt it. I have been sent down from Oxford, but I do not think she would have heard of it.”

“Sent down?”

The young man’s face reddened. “Just an unfortunate matter of a dancing bear in the, er, dean’s study. A trifle.”

“A dancing bear. Yes, I quite understand. If it were not a dancing bear ’twould be a dancing barmaid, would it not?” Quinn smiled reminiscently.

“Do you intend to stay in London long?”

“A few weeks, ’til the end of term.” St. Wills paused.

Quinn came to an abrupt decision. If Bryan St.

Wills stayed in London for any length of time, he would come across Kate. Young people tended to flock together. ’Twere better they meet privately, with no to do, Devere thought. “You are correct,” he said,

“this is a matter to be discussed quietly. Follow me.” The young man looked mystified but obeyed.

Devere exited the ballroom and trod up the staircase leading to the private portion of the house. A light burned in the library where Kate, no doubt unable to sleep due to the excitement and noise, read.

His ward made a lovely picture. She sat alone in the dim library, with the light of several candles glowing on her chestnut hair and green brocade dress. Her head was bent studiously over a volume.

She looked up to greet her guardian with a smile.

Advancing into the room, Quinn plucked the book from her hand. “
Lysistrata
, my dear?” She was distracted from making a response by the sight of the figure following Quinn. “Bryan!” A shard of jealousy, unexpected and violent, stabbed through Quinn’s body as Kate impetuously threw her arms around her old friend. St. Wills pulled away from her hug, exclaiming, “Kate, you hoyden! It took me an hour to tie this cravat and get into this coat.”

“Coats, cravats, who can care about such paltry matters at a moment like this one?”

Quinn silently agreed with his ward. He’d give away his fortune for a joyous greeting like the one Kate gave her childhood playfellow. St. Wills merely brushed at his lapels, the fool.

“Bryan, it’s so fine to see you.” Her gaze searched her friend’s demeanor. “But what happened to your hair?”

“It’s the latest style, but a child like you wouldn’t recognize it.” His smile took the sting out of his words as Quinn raised his eyebrows.
Child? Is he
blind? Kate’s no child!

“My lord, you are the most complete hand,” St.

Wills continued. “I had no notion you had any idea where Kate was.”

Quinn calmed when it became obvious that these two were not loverlike at all. “Wasn’t going to tell you, either. And, see here, St. Wills, you mustn’t tell anyone Lady Kate is in London. She is here under a false name.”

“What? Why?” His brow darkened. “I’ll warrant that Lord Herbert had something to do with it.”

“He did,” said Kate. “But it’s all right, Quinn is taking care of me. And I’m ever so happy with the Penroses. But you’re not to call me Lady Kate. My name is Kay Tyndale, now, and I’m from India.” St. Wills stared. “India?”

“It’s a bit of a tale.” Kate began to talk. By the time she had finished, Quinn had consumed a brandy as he moodily watched the young people chatter without inhibition. Would he ever have the same easy relationship with Kate as did Bryan St. Wills? Perhaps not, but Quinn liked the light in his ward’s eyes he had seen when he had entered the room, and the way she occasionally sought out his gaze as she conversed with her friend.

“It seems to me, Kate, you are not now so perturbed regarding Devere as when you met ten years ago.” St. Wills grinned.

She blushed. “That is true, and I am ashamed to recall my conduct on that occasion. My lord Devere has been all that is kind.”

“My lord Devere, indeed. I thought we were beyond the my lord and my lady stage, sweet Kate.” Quinn ignored St. Wills’ glare of disapproval.

“Quinn, then.”

“Thank you. And now, St. Wills, we must return to the ball, before our absence is noted.” Quinn arose, with Kate’s book still in hand.

“My Aristophanes, sir?”

He regarded her down his long nose. “
Lysistrata
is as inappropriate as Circe, my ward. Read Plato, instead. Not
Symposium
,” he added hastily. And with that shot, he departed with Bryan St. Wills in tow.

* * *

Less than one week later, Kate encountered her old friend at Lady Ursula Damaris’ al fresco luncheon.

Twirling her parasol, Kate strolled along the shore of a lovely artificial pond located on the extensive grounds of Lady Ursula’s Palladian residence, which was nigh to the edge of Hampstead Heath.

Kate recognized the pond’s unnatural genesis, but enjoyed it nevertheless. She knew she’d be more comfortable treading a carefully flagged footpath in her soft cloth slippers than struggling over a muddy track in her boots; she delighted in the reeds, swaying from the slight breeze, more than she would in the thorns which doubtless would flourish by the margin of a genuine tarn. Bees buzzed in the foliage.

She looked across the pond and observed Bryan St. Wills and several other young bucks engrossed in conversation with Louisa Penrose. How nice it would be, she mused, if Bryan and Louisa were to fall in love! Kate sighed. She knew there was no chance of Louisa looking any farther than the dark-avised countenance of Sir Willoughby Hawkes. She failed to understand the attraction, finding the baronet stern and forbidding.

Having had a life marked by sorrows had turned Kate into a person who sought joy, and she did not enjoy Sir Willoughby. She preferred the company of a gaggle of girls or even that of her guardian, who invariably was jolly. She still found Quinn’s smile charming, at least when his gaze didn’t take on that hint of deviltry which overset her so. Her mood dimmed a bit when she realized that Lady Ursula had not invited Quinn to the picnic. No one over the age of twenty-one was in attendance, including their hostess, the young wife of an absent diplomat. Quite a few of the guests were still in the schoolroom.

Kate stared again at her old friend. Today, Bryan was attired in another green coat, but with a startling striped waistcoat and trousers. His Hessians gleamed in the sunlight, and his cravat was tied in a bizarre approximation of the Mathematical style. She giggled.

She’d always looked up to Bryan, rarely finding a fault with him. However, contact with more polished gentlemen had refined her taste. She was sure neither Devere nor Hawkes owned a green striped waistcoat.

She remembered Quinn’s attire at Louisa’s ball.

No color had relieved his sober, elegant evening ensemble but for a single ruby in his cravat. The contrast between the severe black and white, and the one jewel, made him all the more striking.

The rustling of taffeta broke Kate’s reverie.

Searching for the source of the sound, she was perturbed to see a familiar figure, dressed in fashionable primrose yellow, dashing along the flagstoned path toward her.

“I say, Katherine!”

Kate clapped her hand over the mouth of the smaller woman. “Shh, Sybilla.”

Lady Sybilla Farland struggled against Kate’s hand. Lady Sybilla, although she was three years Kate’s senior at Miss Elizabeth’s School, was six inches shorter than her old schoolfellow and no match for her physically. “Mmph! Mmph!”

“I’ll let you go, if you promise not to say anything until you’ve heard me out.” begged Kate.

Sybilla, her eyes round over Kate’s gagging hand, nodded. “You always were a bully,” she sputtered as Kate released her. “I say, Kate, I believe I’m owed an explanation.”

“I’m not Kate Scoville anymore.”

“What?”

“Call me Kay Tyndale.”

“Why?” Sybilla attempted to straighten her bonnet, which was askew due to Kate’s attack.

“Well, it’s a long sad story,” said Kate. “Let’s just say that the name of Scoville became dangerous after my grandfather died and left me with the money.” Sybilla beetled her thick, dark brows. “A fortune is generally said to be a blessing rather than a curse, Kate.”

“It’s a curse if money leads your relations to lock you in the attic.”

“Locked in the attic? Ah, so that’s the way of it.

Small wonder everyone cuts the new Earl. Where are you living now?” Sybilla retied the yellow grosgrain bow beneath her chin.

“With my guardian’s sister, Lady Anna Penrose.” Kate nodded across the water. “That’s her daughter, Louisa.”

“The one they all call The Fairy?” Sybilla gave up on the bonnet.

“Is that what they’re saying about her?” Kate threw back her head and laughed. “They should see her lording it over her little sister. Nothing fairylike about her then.”

“Who’s the dandy kissing her hem?”

“That’s Bryan St. Wills, a friend from Somerset.”

“Is he party to the secret of Katie Scoville?”

“Of course, there was no helping that. He’s known me forever.”

“Good looking man, if he knew how to dress.

What’s he done to his hair?” Both girls laughed.

Sybilla continued, “Speaking of good-looking men, if you’re staying with Anna Penrose, your guardian has to be the Earl of Devere, eh?”

“Yes, Quinn is my guardian. But, no one knows I’m here. Everyone thinks I’m a cousin of the Penroses. Otherwise, Herbert might come after me again and force me into marriage to get my money,” Kate said. “If I marry his son, Herbert controls my inheritances, even my mother’s fortune. So I have to stay out of sight for the while.” She tugged on Sybilla’s elbow, urging her further down the path.

“Out of sight in London during the season?” Sybilla trilled with laughter. “Whoever thought of that plan must have been touched in the nob.” Kate flushed. “We didn’t have too many choices.

Quinn felt that I would go unnoticed in the crowds on young people in Town.”

“More likely he wanted to keep you around.”

“Why, what do you mean?”

“Your guardian has a bit of a reputation with the ladies, Kate.” The diminutive brunette continued around the pond.

“Quinn? He looks like a setter dog,” said Kate.

She hoped she was not blushing. But why did she feel the need to mislead Sybilla?

Sybilla raised her thick brows. “Not everyone shares your opinion. I’ll wager he kisses as enthusiastically as any dog. He’s known to be quite the Corinthian. Rumor is he’s hunting Staveley.” Kate’s attention was piqued. “Who’s Staveley?”

“Bertha, the Countess of Staveley. Wealthy widow, two brats.”

“Oh, yes, I met her in the park. But Devere wouldn’t chase someone else’s leavings.” Shocked, Kate realized she again felt jealous. Jealous because of Quinn? Mercy!

“Why not? She’s a proven breeder, still young and beautiful, and rich to boot. What’s not to love, or even just to bed?”

“Sybilla!” Kate found her friend’s cynicism new and startling.

“Don’t be such a prude, Kate. He isn’t married.

Do you think he’s untouched?”

“Well, he hasn’t touched me,” Kate said, concealing her disappointment. “He thinks of me as his child.”

“I didn’t mean to imply either of you had behaved improperly.” Sybilla hastened to assure her friend that she had no reason to doubt Kate’s honor.

“You must have observed things are different for men than they are for us.”

“You sound bitter.”

Sybilla’s wide, expressive mouth tightened. “It’s hard not to be bitter, with my father continually reminding me of my faults, the chiefest of which appears to be that I was not born male.”

“That is most unfair and unreasonable. You are not responsible for your gender.”

“All Father seems to ever say to me is to complain that he will not have a son to follow in his illustrious footsteps.” Sybilla rolled her eyes. “It is all too tiresome.”

“He is very prominent in the government, is he not?”

“Yes, he prides himself on being one of Prinny’s—excuse me, His Majesty’s—inner circle.” They two young women had reached the fringes of the crowd surrounding Lady Ursula’s buffet tables.

Kate snorted. “For all the good that may do for him.” Like most of England, Kate had great contempt for the licentious, lazy Prince Regent, now George IV.

“I quite agree. But the royal blunders do not prevent Father from bemoaning his sonless state.” Sybilla picked up a plate and began to load it with delicacies. “Have you eaten yet?”

“Yes. I’ll have some lemonade while you eat. It’s good to see you, Sibby, but we only just met, remember?” Kate murmured as Bryan and Louisa approached.

Louisa wore an expression Kate had labeled her

“Sunday go to church” look, a bland smile that went nowhere near her blank, bored eyes. Bryan, stuck to Lou’s side like a burr in a spaniel’s tail, continued to chatter into her ear until the pair arrived at the buffet table. Louisa detached herself from Bryan in favor of the food. Bryan, ever the gentleman, came to make his bow to Kate, who introduced him to her friend.

BOOK: Lord Devere's Ward
9.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Unbeweaveable by Katrina Spencer
Aphrodite's War by Donna Milward
Translucent by Erin Noelle
Don't Kill the Messenger by Eileen Rendahl
Last Man Out by Mike Lupica
Fated To Her Bear by Harmony Raines
No Place Like Home by Debra Clopton