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Authors: Liana Lefey

Tags: #Historical romance

To Ruin a Rake

BOOK: To Ruin a Rake
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Table of Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Prologue

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty One

Twenty Two

Twenty Three

Epilogue

About The Author

Champagne Books Presents

 

To Ruin A Rake

 

By

 

Liana LeFey

 

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Champagne Books

www.champagnebooks.com

Copyright 2015 by Liana LeFey

ISBN 978-1-77155-183-0

May 2015

Cover Art by Trisha FitzGerald

Produced in Canada

 

Champagne Book Group

19-3 Avenue SE

High River, AB T1V 1G3

Canada

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Champagnebooks.com (or a retailer of your choice) and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Dedication

 

For Kim, my long time friend and accomplice. You handed me my first romance novel…look what you started!

Prologue

Early February, 1741, London

 

“Sweet Lord in heaven,” Harriett whispered, still in shock over her sister’s unhappy revelation. “What are we to do?”

“We are going to keep quiet,” snapped her father. “Because if this gets out, neither you nor Catherine will have a chance.” Rising, he went and poured himself a glass of port. His hands shook as he lifted the decanter. “We’ll move her to the country—quickly, before her condition can be discerned,” he went on. “God willing, no one will ever know. At the very least, we must hope no one learns of it until
after
you and Catherine are safely married.”

Married. A wave of melancholy washed over Harriett.
No.
I cannot think of William now.
The crisis at hand demanded all of her attention. “And when will—when will Lord Oxenden be informed?” Never again would she refer to the man as “George” or think of him as her brother-in-law.

“Why bother?” he growled. “It isn’t as if the blackguard is going to claim it.”

Though she knew his fury was not directed at her, Harriett trembled. “No, but he ought to at least provide for his child.”

A snort erupted from her father, and his expression grew even more thunderous. “You wish to appeal to his sense of duty, do you? Do you really expect him to own to his perfidy?” He slammed his palm on the table, causing the crystal it bore to shudder and clink. “No! The rotten scoundrel will deny it—and with complete impunity. He’ll know we cannot pursue him without bringing the worst sort of disgrace upon us all, including our poor Elizabeth.”

Our poor Elizabeth indeed
. Once, she’d been jealous of Elizabeth for having escaped with her fairytale prince, leaving her behind to manage everything. Now she regretted her resentment.
How could Arabella do such a thing to her own sister?
What madness had possessed her to lose all sense of honor and decency? “Surely Elizabeth won’t allow him to shirk his obligation,” she argued after a moment. “After all, the child is innocent of any crime.”

“You may be able to see it from such a generous perspective, Harriett, but I doubt Liz would be so forgiving.” He took a swallow of port. “The mere existence of the child would be a constant thorn in her side, a living reminder of betrayal. I certainly wouldn’t expect any quarter from her.”

Harriett leveled a hard stare at him. “You speak as though this child isn’t a reality, but it
is
. Or at least it shall be in a matter of months.”

“Not as far as Elizabeth is concerned,” he replied, squaring his shoulders. “If at all possible, I mean for her never to find out.”


What?
Papa, be reasonable. It’ll be next to impossible to conceal something like this from her. I know you wish to protect her from further distress, but—”

“We need only keep them apart until Arabella is recovered and the child can be disposed of.” He must have marked something of her dismay at his choice of words, for his tone gentled. “We will have to find a home for it, naturally.”

“Liz will wonder at her prolonged absence,” Harriett insisted. “She’d be a fool not to suspect something after...” She fell silent, her cheeks tingling.

“Perhaps,” said her father. His lips pursed. “But she won’t ever know for certain, will she?”

“But it will take months for Arabella to look her old self after the babe comes, maybe longer, and—”

“They will be kept away from each other, even if I have to send Arabella to the Continent for a year or two.” He paused, taking a sip. “And she
will
keep her silence upon her return. That, I can guarantee.”

The chill in his voice put a knot in Harriett’s stomach. “Do not be too harsh with her, Papa,” she pleaded. “After all, she is but seventeen—and he deceived her in the most terrible manner.”

“Do you think my anger is any less toward him?” His voice trembled with indignation. “He deceived us all! I should run the devil through, would it not risk exposing our shame. As for Arabella, I have little choice but to be harsh. She
knew
it was wrong,” he rasped. “She ought to have fled the devil the first time he approached her rather than allow herself to be persuaded into such wickedness! You cannot tell me our Catherine would have made the same choice had
she
been in her place.”

“No,” Harriett agreed. “But Catherine isn’t a sentimentalist like Arabella. All the same, do not, I beg you, heap so much condemnation upon her that she fails beneath its weight. Remember the Crowley girl.” Elaine Crowley had taken her own life the year prior. The thought of Arabella following that path made Harriett’s blood run cold. Her sister was of the same cloth, highly emotional and prone to dramatic acts.

He sighed and shook his head. “Wroth as I am with her, she is still my child, Harriett. Her misfortune grieves me greatly, but so much is at stake I dare not be too lenient. She must understand there is no room for any more mistakes.” His free hand slashed the air. “I have to protect us—
all
of us. Even if it means being hard on her.”

“I understand, Papa. But remember, too, that she is already to suffer the worst imaginable punishment for her lapse in judgment. She will never see her child again after it is born, and she will never be able to marry.”

“Not necessarily,” he said, surprising her. “If we are quick and clever now—and if she can manage to hold her tongue—we may be able to salvage the situation. We will need to wait a year or two, of course, to ensure her full return to health. And he will have to be the gullible sort.”

Her jaw dropped. “You would have her deceive her husband?”

“It is far more common a practice than you know,” he replied, his words laden with bitterness. “I find it as distasteful as you, but it may be her only hope for a future. Before we can even consider such things, however, we must address the immediate problem of concocting a plausible excuse for getting her out of sight.”

She bit her tongue.
He’s right. One problem at a time.
“Who shall see to the babe’s upbringing if Oxenden refuses to provide for its care? If we are required to pay someone to raise it, it will mean paying for their silence, as well. Such secrets can grow expensive, and our resources are already stretched thin.”

Her father peered at her for a long, uncomfortable moment. “Perhaps that hospital to which you devote yourself with such fervor might finally prove of some use.”

“It is one thing to take orphans off the street and care for them there, but a child of our own blood?” She did not bother hiding her dismay. “Surely you cannot mean to—”

“Do you have a better alternative?” he barked. “At least there you’d know it’s well cared for. You can tend to it yourself, if you like. And when the time comes, you can help nudge things in the right direction with regards to finding a home for it. Isn’t that what you do at the place?”

It was indeed. “Only if there is no other alternative,” she conceded with a heavy heart. “It would be better for the child to be placed with a family immediately following birth. Newborns given to the hospital sometimes stay there for a long time. People assume they are sickly or that something else is wrong with them. It might be months before the babe is adopted, or never at all. And I cannot be at the hospital every hour of the day to look after it, no matter how much I might wish to do so. Oxenden must be made aware of his obligation and given an opportunity to meet it. Only if he refuses to be persuaded will I consider such a course.”

BOOK: To Ruin a Rake
12.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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