Unexpected Earl, page 16part #1 of Hearts and Ever Afters Series
“My son has taken an interest in you.”
“Yes, Your Grace. He has been very kind to me, and I have come to care about him very much.”
“Let’s speak candidly, shall we?” questioned the duchess; her tone had a bit of an edge to it. “While I do believe you are a lovely girl, you are not right for my son. As the duke is well aware, he has already been promised to Lady Mary Fortington.”
“I see,” said Eleanor. “The duke never mentioned, Lady Mary. Please know that if I had known, I would not have welcomed the duke’s attention.”
“That is why I thought you should know. I didn’t want you to make a fool of yourself and ruin your opportunity to make a match with other eligible gentlemen who are visiting this weekend,” said the duchess as she stood up to leave.
“Thank you, Your Grace.”
“I will see you in the drawing room soon, Lady Eleanor,” said the duchess. “Please don’t mention this conversation to my son. It’s for your own good.”
Even though her father was an earl, and she now had a sizeable dowry, it seemed that there was always someone better for the men that she loved. First, Charles had chosen another woman over Eleanor. Nathaniel was promised to someone else, yet he still pursued her. It just wasn’t fair.
Eleanor held back her tears and decided she would not let the duke see that she was upset. Nobody would know that inside she felt as if she died. With a smile plastered on her face, Eleanor headed to the drawing room.
Nathaniel immediately came to Eleanor’s side to greet her. Although Eleanor did her best to act as if nothing had happened, her demeanor was harsh.
“Are you feeling ill, Eleanor? You don’t seem to be yourself,” said Nathaniel.
“I am quite well, Nathaniel. If you’ll please excuse me, I must speak to my sister,” said Eleanor.
“Of course, darling.”
“Darling?” questioned Eleanor, giving Nathaniel a harsh glance.
Eleanor didn’t wait for Nathaniel to respond, and she turned on her heels to find her sister. Emma was speaking to Lord Satterfield and her parents when Eleanor joined them.
“Eleanor, I am so glad you are here,” squealed Emma. “We are going to make the official announcement tonight, but Lord Satterfield has asked me to marry him, and I said, yes!”
“But, Emma, you have only just met,” said Eleanor.
Emma’s cheerful smile turned to a frown. “Eleanor, are you not happy for me?”
“Oh, Emma, I couldn’t be more pleased,” said Eleanor as she hugged her sister. She turned to Lord Satterfield and said, “I am delighted that you will be joining our family.” Lord Satterfield kissed Eleanor on the cheek.
Emma whispered to Eleanor, “Maybe you will be making an announcement soon, too. It seems like the duke is infatuated with you.”
Eleanor just smiled as she didn’t want to take any joy away from Emma’s moment.
The next morning, Rebecca packed Eleanor’s trunks. All the guests were heading home. A footman came to collect her trunk, and Eleanor headed downstairs to meet up with her family.
Nathaniel was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs.
“May I have a word with you, Eleanor? I would like to speak to you in private.”
“Of course, Your Grace,” said Eleanor, coldly.
“Eleanor, please call me Nathaniel,” he said as he smiled. “I would like to see you again. May I call upon you in a week’s time. I must ask your father, of course.”
“I don’t believe that will be possible, Your Grace,” said Eleanor, refusing his request to use his familiar name.
Nathaniel’s eyes were sad as he asked, “May I ask what brought about your change of heart? Was it something I said? Something I did? Please allow me to make it right.”
“That won’t be necessary, Your Grace. Now, if you will please excuse me, my parents are ready to leave.”
Eleanor didn’t look back. She felt the tears well up in her eyes, but she was determined to stay strong, at least until she could make it into the carriage.
December 23, 1814
Emma kept looking out the window, waiting for a carriage to arrive. Lord Satterfield was arriving, along with his mother and two sisters, to spend Christmas at Hempsted Park. They were going to be married on Christmas Day.
Emma had wanted to spend Christmas in her family’s new home, so Lord Satterfield convinced his family to join him at his betrothed’s home.
Eleanor laughed at Emma, “You do know the butler will announce Lord Satterfield the moment he arrives.”
“I know,” said Emma. “But, I do want to want to see him as soon as possible.”
“Well, then, I guess it is best if you keep watch by the window.” Eleanor squeezed her sister’s hand as she went to leave.
“Eleanor, are you all right?” asked Emma. Eleanor had shared what had transpired between herself and Nathaniel. She also told Emma about the duchess’s visit to her room during their visit to Trunbridge Castle.
“Yes, of course, I am all right. You do know that I am very happy for you. Lord Satterfield seems like such a lovely man, and I am sure he will make you very happy.”
Eleanor retreated to her room and sipped tea by the fire, lost in her thoughts. Ever since returning from Nathaniel’s home, she spent a lot of time alone. Even though it was nearly Christmas, Eleanor had no desire to celebrate.
Rebecca chose an elegant blue dress for dinner. Even in her melancholy state, Eleanor wanted to make a good impression on Lord Satterfield’s family for her sister’s sake. She dressed for dinner and put on the façade of a cheery disposition.
She headed downstairs to the drawing room, and when she entered, she came face-to-face with Nathaniel.
“Your Grace,” said, Eleanor surprised. She didn’t want to make a scene, so she kept her next words quiet. “What are you doing here?”
“Your father was gracious enough to invite my family to join you for Christmas. We have only just arrived. My mother and sister are still getting dressed for dinner.”
“I would like to speak to you after dinner, Lady Eleanor, if you will allow me the privilege.”
Eleanor noticed how he had addressed her by her formal title, and assumed Nathaniel was going to apologize and then tell her about his engagement to Lady Mary Fortington. The same thing had happened with Charles.
“Anything you have to say to me, can be said in the presence of others. Now, if you will please excuse me, I believe that Emma would like to introduce me to Lord Satterfield’s family.”
After dinner, the men joined the women in the drawing room. Emma led the group in Christmas carols, while Lord Satterfield’s sister played the piano. Lord Satterfield’s sisters and mother had already formed a bond with Emma, and it was easy to see they were happy with Lord Satterfield’s choice in a bride.
Eleanor had been avoiding Nathaniel and his mother the entire evening. Although she was pleasant and polite, she didn’t go out of her way to make them feel welcome.
Towards the end of the evening, Eleanor excused herself to go to bed. Almost everyone had retreated to their rooms, including Nathaniel. Or so she thought.
“Eleanor, before you go to bed, I want to show you something. Lord Satterfield and I have the most wonderful Christmas present for you,” said Emma.
Eleanor was intrigued, “A Christmas present? Well, you know I don’t like to wait, as I can’t handle the anticipation.”
Emma laughed, “It’s in the library.”
Emma and Lord Satterfield walked Eleanor to the library. Nathaniel was waiting outside of the large oak door.
“What have you done, Emma? You know what happened between the duke and me. I don’t understand why you would trick me like this.” Eleanor felt betrayed.
Lord Satterfield spoke, “Please, Lady Eleanor, you must hear him out.”
“You told him?” asked Eleanor, who was visibly hurt. “I told you what happened in
“Eleanor, the duke went to great lengths to arrange this meeting. I agreed to help lead you to the library because you need to speak to him.”
Eleanor turned to leave and ignored her sister. Feeling like the world was against her, Eleanor started to leave. Nathaniel gently grabbed her arm and begged her to stay.
“Please, Eleanor. I must speak with you.” Nathaniel was once again using her familiar name.
Eleanor silently relented and followed Nathaniel into the library. Nathaniel closed the door behind them and led her to the place where they first met. The fire burned bright in the fireplace, and candles provided a soft light, creating a romantic ambiance.
Eleanor walked to the window and sat in the seat that was tucked into the alcove. Placing her hand on the glass, she stared out the window. It was a full moon, and the snow sparkled and glistened in the moonlight. She couldn’t bear to make eye contact with him. She loved him, and like Charles, he betrayed her.
“Eleanor, please, will you look at me?” asked Nathaniel as he took a seat next to her.
As soon as Eleanor met his gaze, the tears that she had not yet wept began to flow. He took her in his arms and kissed her on the top of the head. The wood in the fireplace crackled and popped.
“Please don’t be upset with your sister or Lord Satterfield,” started Nathaniel. “I begged them to bring you here. I needed to explain my side of the story.”
“You don’t deny that you are engaged?”
“I don’t deny that I was engaged,” said Nathaniel, while placing an emphasis on the past tense of the engagement.
“You made a fool out of me. Do you know how awful it was to have her come to my room and tell me you were betrothed to another?”
Nathaniel was still holding Eleanor as he explained, “My parents planned the engagement with my mother’s cousin when I was just a child. I was to wed Lady Mary Fortington when she came of age, but I do not love her. In fact, I don’t even believe we could be friends.”
“Does Lady Mary want to get married?” asked Eleanor.
“Not at all!” laughed Nathaniel. “After we met for the first time, we both decided that we didn’t want to go through with the marriage. That took place shortly before I met you. After I had met you, I told my mother that you were the woman I wanted to marry.”
“You knew you wanted to marry me that long ago?” asked Eleanor.
“Of course I did. I have never met anyone like you. I would even dare to say that I knew that I loved you when you first curtsied. You were so nervous and unsure of yourself, and then you told me exactly what you were thinking. Nobody ever tells me what they think because they are so eager to be in my favor. You didn’t care that I was a duke, and I loved that about you. Then, I found out we had so many of the same interests, and I knew that you were the one for me.”
“I still don’t understand why your mother said you were engaged if you had already broken it off.”
“Mama had her heart set on my marriage to Lady Mary. When I told her we broke it off, she refused to believe it. She thought you were the reason I broke off the engagement, so she figured with you out of the way, I would go through with the marriage to her cousin’s daughter.”
“Then, why did she agree to come to my family’s home for Christmas? To make me feel even worse than I already do?”
“Eleanor, I told my mother that I am going to ask you to marry me and she needs to accept my decisions. My mother’s true concern is my happiness. When she saw how distraught I was when I thought that I’d lost you, she confessed to what she had done.”
“So Emma didn’t tell Lord Satterfield what happened? I thought that Lord Satterfield must have been the one to tell you.”
“No, Eleanor. It was my mother who confessed. She wants to apologize to you, but I told her not to speak to you about it until I had a chance to meet with you in private.”
Nathaniel leaned towards Eleanor and gently held her face in his hands. She closed her eyes, and Nathaniel brought his gentle lips to hers. Eleanor warmed to his touch and felt as if all of her worries disappeared.
When their lips parted, Nathaniel confessed, “Eleanor, I love you with every breath in my body. I can’t imagine spending my days without you. Will you ever forgive me? And if you choose to forgive me, will you marry me?”
“Nathaniel, there is nothing to forgive. And yes, my love, I will marry you.”
They sat side-by-side on the window seat in the glow of the fireplace, holding hands and whispering until the early hours of the morning.
December 24, 1814
Eleanor woke with a start. She bolted up in bed and immediately jumped to her feet. At long last, it was Christmas Eve. It was her favorite day of the year, and she was especially excited as Nathaniel planned to make the official announcement of their engagement after he asked her father for permission.
She dressed quickly and put on her warmest clothes. Eleanor didn’t wait for Rebecca to fix her hair; she just got ready by herself like she used to when she was just plain Eleanor Chatham. She could hardly wait to decorate the house with greenery. Already some of the servants were out in the woods gathering holly, mistletoe, and evergreen branches. The groomsmen had been charged with the task of bringing in the yule log.
She walked back upstairs to wake her siblings.
“Wake up! It's Christmas Eve,” she shouted, as she opened each of their bedroom doors.
Emma, Katherine, and their brother were soon dressed and joined in the Christmas festivities with their sister. The rest of the household was still sleeping. The Chatham children had always loved Christmas and treasured their time together on Christmas Eve.
They sang Christmas hymns and gathered holly branches. Katherine made a snowball and threw it at her brother. Soon, Eleanor and Emma joined the fun as they had the most magnificent snowball fight. When Katherine got too cold, they decided it was time to head back to the house. They carried the holly inside, changed into dry clothes, and then helped the servants finish decorating.
“Good morning, Mama,” they chimed as she made her way through the great hall.
“Good morning children. You are up bright and early,” said their mother. “Have you tried the fig pudding yet? Maybe we should sneak down to the kitchen for a taste.”
The two younger children squealed with delight, as they followed their mother to the kitchen.
The groomsmen and stable boys brought in the yule log. It was gigantic and required eight men to carry. Eleanor hugged Emma as they lit it; it felt like Christmas had arrived.
Before dinner, Eleanor and Nathaniel’s engagement was announced, which created even more reason for the families to celebrate.
Emma sat at the piano and played Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and Eleanor sat beside her and started singing. Nathaniel and Lord Satterfield then joined in, and it didn’t take long before the whole party was singing carols.
The duchess took Eleanor aside and apologized for her behavior. Nathaniel came over and joined the conversation. Emma and Lord Satterfield soon followed.
“Eleanor, Lord Satterfield had a splendid idea,” said Emma.
“Well, I can’t think of anything that would make this Christmas Eve better, but please do tell,” said Eleanor, smiling.
“Well, how would you and the duke feel about a double wedding?”
“What a wonderful idea!” exclaimed the duchess.
Nathaniel quickly chimed in, “Mama, I also think it is a fine idea, but I think we need to let Eleanor decide on that matter.”
“You mean, we would marry tomorrow? On Christmas Day? But, I don’t have a dress,” said Eleanor.
“Oh, but you just had that lovely blue gown made. I know it is not a wedding gown, but it’s so beautiful. You could wear that,” said Emma, happy with herself for coming up with a solution.
Eleanor looked up at her betrothed, “Nathaniel, I would love to get married tomorrow. I cannot wai
“My dearest, Eleanor. You have given me the best Christmas present that a man has ever received.”
A Duke to the Rescue
Text Copyright © 2016 by Caroline Johnson
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
First printing, 2016
Love Light Faith, LLC
400 NW 7th Avenue, Unit 825
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302
A Duke to the Rescue
By: Caroline Johnson
A Duke to the Rescue
“Good morning, Your Grace.”
The Duke of Hawdon opened his eyes blearily, a little befuddled. It seemed far too early in the morning for anyone to be rousing him, and he certainly would not have brought a woman to bed. Yet, a female voice was speaking to him, rousing him from his slumber.
“I said, good morning, Your Grace.”
"Good gracious!" Amos suddenly realized a woman was standing before him, a mischievous look on her face.
“What’s the matter, Your Grace?”
Amos rubbed his eyes, suddenly aware of his bare chest. He focused on the woman's face as a sudden realization swamped him. Narrowing his eyes, he identified her as the new housekeeper. He rolled his eyes.
JOYCE ALEC SERIES:
Other author's books:
- A Lady's Mystery: Regency Romance (Ladies, Love, and Mysteries)Alice's Arranged Marriage (Home for Christmas Book 1)An Earl's Redemption: Regency Romance (Brides of London)The Shadows: Regency Romance (Ladies, Love, and Mysteries)A Viscount to Remember: Regency Romance (Brides of London)Diamonds of the Marquess: Regency Romance (Season of Brides)The Viscount's Promise: Regency Romance (Weddings and Scandals)The Aristocrat's Charade: Regency Romance (Brides of London)
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