Mandy, page 1
By Claudy Conn
Copyright © 2013 by Claudy Conn
Edited by: Kathy Riehl
Cover Artist: Kendra Egert
All rights reserved
Published in the United States of America
Excerpt of Lady X
Copyright © 2013 by Claudy Conn
The past is certain, the future obscure.
THE EIGHTH DUKE of Margate gazed at the lovely in his bed. The letter from Skip still nagged at him and diverted his attention.
He had been diligent when he saw to the twins’ hefty inheritance. All was in order. Skip, who counted himself their devoted friend, had felt that the time had come for him to pay what he called, ‘the wild pair’ a visit.
His dear friend was quite correct of course. It was his duty to look in on them, even though they were young adults. Yes, but for the moment, he had other matters to attend to.
The duke returned his thoughts to the soft woman in his bed. Perhaps this was the time to make a trip into the wilds of Yorkshire. She was already becoming too clingy. She was already making demands that he had no intention of fulfilling.
He touched the lovely’s luscious lips and gently said, “Sally, time to go.”
The time for her to leave had come and gone, in fact, an hour ago, but somehow this afternoon had been different, Sally had lingered.
It worried him. He hoped she wasn’t getting attached. He had been frank with her from the start. He was a confirmed bachelor who enjoyed his status and she was married. She had no business becoming attached to him. Look at what Lady Caro had just done in the Park Square—burning all of Lord Byron’s love letters and humiliating her husband publically. One never knew what a woman might take into her head to do.
She had agreed that their time together was just for a bit of ‘fun’, yet now, she seemed to want more.
“Oh, no…Brock, my darling,” Sally of Benthurst complained with a pout. “‘Tis so early in the afternoon still. We have so much of it left to us.”
“I have no wish to immerse either of us in scandal. It is getting late and that is precisely what will happen if you don’t hurry home.”
“Samuel doesn’t care what I do,” the dark haired woman murmured. “Let me stay just a bit longer.”
The duke knew the time to end this was at hand. She was most certainly going beyond what they had agreed upon. He had no wish to humiliate her husband, and although it was true, Sally and Samuel seemed to openly lead different lives. Still, it would not do to be indiscreet.
He moved away from her and ran a hand through his locks. Glancing at his nightstand table, he saw the letter from Skippendon about the twins. He smiled ruefully to himself. Skip wanted him to travel to the wilds of Yorkshire and look in on his wards, because they were in need of direction. What precisely did that mean?
Why should he? They were young adults; in fact, they were only a few years younger than himself. In another couple of months, his guardianship would come to an end. He had breezed through this entire predicament fairly smoothly. Why ruin it all now, with a visit?
The woman in his bed scrambled up and held him from behind, “I love your black hair…” she turned his face sideways to meet hers, “Your blue eyes…and black thick lashes that any woman would die to own.”
He removed her fingers from his locks and kissed their tips, “I am sorry, sweetings, but it is time. Up with you now.” So saying he swung his legs out of the bed, stood and stretched.
She lay on her back and made a point of staring at his privates, “Wouldn’t you like to rub that big hard thing on me…one more time before I leave?” she touched her breasts invitingly.
“Sally, stop. I want you safely out of here and on your way home. I may be a rake and a libertine, but I won’t go out of my way to make a fool out of man who hasn’t wronged me, by allowing anyone to find out about our trysts.”
“Stuffy, old fashioned boy,” she mumbled. “What do I care for what he or anyone else thinks? Lady Caro doesn’t care and she is not ostracized.”
He laughed, “Never mind others. I am what I am, and if that is stuffy, so be it. There is no point in being indiscreet. No point in embarrassing your husband.” He reached for her hand and firmly pulled her into a sitting position. “I shall have my man call for a hack, so put your clothes on, hang your veil over your face, and put your cloak well over your hair. I shall watch the street for the right moment to usher you out of the house and into the hack without anyone the wiser.” He had already turned away from her and pulled on his maroon brocade dressing gown.
He felt her eyes on his back as he heard the rustle of sheets and turned to find her wiggling her shoulders at him, attempting to entice him as she fondled first one breast and then another and whispered, “Touch me…love…touch me some more…”
She was absolutely luscious and provocative, but he suddenly knew he couldn’t bear to touch her one more time. He no longer had any desire for her company or her body, and wasn’t sure he even liked her.
However, he smiled and gently said, “Sally, you know this has to stop.” He saw that she was shocked by the way her mouth dropped. He used that moment to hurry toward his bedroom door, saying just as he closed it at his back, “As I said, get dressed, my dear, and I shall await you downstairs and see you safely into the hack.”
He heard her stomp her foot on the Oriental rug behind the door he had just closed and grinned to himself. He was picking himself out of a sticky tangle not one moment too soon! Perhaps, he would just give some serious thought to a trip to Yorkshire to visit with his wards?
“COME ON NED, let’s wind it!” shouted a bright-eyed lady astride a fine looking gelding. “I do so need this run, don’t you?” She knew that she looked like a hoyden as she brushed a wild strand of yellow hair away from her face and saw from the look on her brother’s face, that he was about to lecture her both about the manner in which she was dressed and the fact that she refused to ride anyway but astride.
She pressed her horse lightly with the heal of her boot and the well-mannered gelding bounded forward, quite able to give his lady what she wanted.
“Ho there, Mandy!” her brother called with a frown as he caught up to her and indicated for her to slow down.
She eased her horse into a trot and then a walk as she allowed her brother to fall in step with her and sighed. She could see from his drawn brows that he was in what she called Friday-faced. “What ever is the matter?”
“I’m in no fit mood to take m’fences flying this morn. Want to talk to you,” he said shifting in his saddle to level a ‘look’ at her as he reined in his bay gelding.
She glanced sideways at his angular profile, so much like her own. She arched one fine brow slightly but slowed her horse to accommodate him.
“Time has come to give you a season, sis. You have been kept kicking your heels here in the Dales and it isn’t right. Want you to know that I
“I do not think he will bother with us, one bit Ned.” She shook her head, “If he hasn’t yet, why should he when there is little more than a couple of months left and we will be of age to conduct our own affairs,” she answered reasonably. She frowned as she gave the matter some additional thought and added, “You know, we must not blame him entirely for his neglect. He may be just too old to journey here.”
“Mandy, isn’t that just like you? Always defending everyone. I daresay you would defend the devil himself!” He grimaced at her, “No, he can’t be old, as I tell you that I didn’t get that impression from m’cronies at school. Heard tell he is something of a rogue, in fact. Goes about stealing and breaking hearts.”
“Really?” Mandy was surprised but not shocked. Her friends had always said that stealing hearts was the pastime of the most dashing of the haute ton Corinthians. She considered the matter and objected, “But, I thought because he was Grandpapa’s friend he had to be an older man. Your friends can not be right in this. Maybe they misunderstood what they had been told…maybe they didn’t hear the name correctly?”
He frowned, but waved this off, “Doesn’t matter. Going to apply to him. You must have a season.”
She met his dark eyes questioningly, but did not object at this point. Something else troubled him. He hadn’t been himself lately and she was worried about it. He was her twin and more often than not, they didn’t need many words. They understood one another completely. They had always been close and then more so, when they lost their parents and their beloved grandfather had taken on the job of raising them. Their harmony was deep-rooted, gentle and understanding in nature and quite unassailable. Mandy was very certain he was worried about another matter.
“Something else is festering in that head of yours, Ned,” she said on a serious note. “You have not been yourself lately and don’t try to fob me off.” She gave him a penetrating look and added, “Because I am quite thoroughly aware that matters between you and Celia have done a complete turnabout.”
He shot her a sharp look and moved his gloved hand through his waves of uncovered yellow hair. “Yes, you are right. ‘Tis Celia. Certes, Mandy, she has me fairly noddled,” he groaned on this last pronouncement.
“Ah,” smiled his sister. “The wiles of a woman.” Mandy chuckled and added, “It can’t be all that bad, Neddy?” She had slowed her horse to a walk and looked across at him encouragingly.
“It can’t. But it is,” he said moaning. “And it is my fault. I thought that… well… I thought that she was an angel. Then I saw she was casting lures elsewhere and I put my notions to rest. Told myself I am too young and came to see that I am, too young to settle down with my first…infatuation, so to speak.”
“Well that is good, isn’t it?” She arched a look at him, “And Ned…I don’t want to be harsh about it, but I am glad you have seen the situation for what it is. I don’t mean to speak poorly about our cousin Celia, but I too have noticed that lately she seems intent on having you, whereas last week she did not even know you were alive.” Mandy laughed, “Bantling that you are, I didn’t think you were up to snuff about it.”
Her brother cast her a withering look, “I don’t appreciate being called a bantling.”
“Come Neddy, you are too sensitive. I do apologize. You evidently are not a bantling for you have seen for yourself what the situation is.” He didn’t appear to be placated and she added, “Don’t be in a miff, Ned.”
“I ain’t in a miff. What I am, is surprised. Surprised by your lack of faith in my judgment. As though, well as though I’d let any skirt charm me into believing she cares for me if she doesn’t. And I have come to see that the fair Celia is a shocking flirt. She doesn’t care for me at all.”
“Agreed. So what is the problem?”
“She seems to think I have led her on,” Ned said totally dejected. “I would never do that. Did I do that? I had no idea I was doing that.”
“Ned, you did no such thing. Granted you followed her about like a puppy dog at first, but it was obvious that she wanted someone else. I wish I could have discovered who it was, for I saw her forever sending off notes to him with her maid. No, if she has made a roundabout it is because he has not come up to scratch and she means to marry well…so she has her sights now on you, brother.”
“Indeed, as mortifying as that is,” Ned said grimacing, “it certainly seems to be true, and I tell you what sis, it does nothing for my fragile ego.” He pulled a face at her.
“Fragile ego? Ha! Where is it this fragile ego?” His sister laughed and told him with a wag of her gloved finger, “Next week you shall be in love again.” As she then thought of Celia trying to ensnare her brother she said, “She is outrageous. After all, she is five years older than you and while if both your hearts were engaged, that wouldn’t matter, it does when it is obvious she is trying to take advantage of your inexperience with women.”
“Hold on, what do you know about any experiences I may have had or not had?”
“You may be my twin, but you are also a female. Can’t tell you everything.”
Mandy laughed, “Nevertheless, in this instance, I do think she is trying to take advantage of you.”
“Then you think she wants me for my inheritance?” Ned sighed over the fact.
“Oh my dear, any woman with a decent soul would want you—for who you are and even though you are my brother, I have eyes in my head. You are passably fair.”
“But I have never thought Celia possessed much of a soul, decent or otherwise.”
“Well, that is coming on a bit strong about her, but…”
His sister cut him off as something occurred to her, “Ned, think what it would be like to have Aunt Agatha as your mother-in-law!”
He choked and she gave over to a fit of the giggles. As they approached a large young farmer who stopped to tip his hat to her as he smiled flirtatiously, Mandy stopped laughing and gave him a warm “Good-morning.”
“Aye then, lass, it is now,” the farmer lad said.
She beamed and turned to find her brother frowning at her.
“You can’t go around the countryside flirting with every man you see,” Ned remarked disapprovingly.
She turned a shocked expression, “Now see here, brother. There is a world of difference between flirting and simply being pleasantly polite, and besides, he was ever so good looking!” This said, she burst out laughing.
“You know, even so, you don’t want to…”
She cut him off with a wave of her hand, “It isn’t fair, that men can go about saying outrageous things and stealing kisses and a woman can not.”
“Well, as to that, if a woman is discreet, there is no saying what she can and can’t do,” Ned grinned broadly. “But, you are my sister, so I don’t think I’ll discuss such things with you.”
Mandy laughed musically and shook her head and her brother said nothing more for a few minutes as they maneuvered through a wide gate and through a grassy field, but it became apparent to Mandy that he had in fact, returned his thoughts to the Celia situation when he remarked, “Aunt Agatha…mother-in-law? Fiend seize such a notion and send it to perdition, sister! I never did one thing to lead Celia into thinking I was ready for marriage.”
“Then tell her so and have done before she continues this game of hers.” Mandy eyed him and added, her tone full of banter, “I did notice Neddy, that even yesterday she managed to take you off for a long walk and I am not green enough to think that all you two did was walk.” She put up a hand to stall him. “We both know you have kissed her. So then, that allows her to say you led her on.”
“No, it doesn’t! If every man who kissed a woman could be forced to the altar, it would be all hell to pay.”
“Neddy!” laughed his sister.
Mandy grimaced, “Well, Ned, it’s marriage the chit now seems to have in mind, so depend upon it, she will cease on anything to convince Aunt Agatha you led her on, she might even say…you tried already to seduce her. Better end this clearly the next time she tries to get you alone, for you just might be seduced before you realize what has happened.”
He frowned across at her and admonished, “Mandy!”
“Faith Ned, think you are the only one up to snuff? Just because I haven’t been to London for my season, doesn’t mean I don’t know the way of things. I have many friends already married and we have had our heads together a time or two.” She laughed at his expression.
He made no response to this and they continued along the trail through the pasture, taking a shortcut to Harrowgate Village.
Both were lost in thought and neither paid any heed to the beauty of the landscape. The heather was near its glory and its purple held a tantalizing scent. Harebells fluttered in the summer breeze and invited admiration. However, Mandy was too preoccupied to do more than give it all a slight glance. She was far more disturbed than her bantering had indicated. Her brother, the young baron, Edward Sherborne was headed for trouble, and she did not see any easy way out if he would not immediately take a stand away from their cousin, Celia Brinley. Knowing Ned, he would hope it might all fade away and not seek her out to end it.
The young woman in question was a tall, elegant, fashionable (beyond her means), secretive and quite lovely chit. Their aunt and Celia’s stepmother, Agatha Brinley, had brought her to Ned’s attention, directly after their grandfather’s funeral, a little more than a year ago.
Their aunt Agatha had inherited very little from their grandfather and being a widow of limited means, this had come as a blow. She invited herself to stay on at Sherborne Halls, in order according to her, look after the twins, who at nineteen did not think they needed looking after.
by Claudy Conn have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes