Page 14 of Earl of Deception

Yet, his gaze held her. Her words had not sent him running. What was it about this man that had her head spinning? All she wanted was to enjoy the thrill of his nearness.

“Then share your request with me, so I can help.”

Lord Dowding sighed. “My mind tells me to leave and never return, but my heart begs to see you again. I find myself in a difficult position. I’m lost as to what to do. Trust me, this matter is far more complicated than you know.”

A groan escaped Jenny’s lips, and her legs swayed. But before she could topple to the floor, strong hands grasped her by the waist, steadying her. Never had she been held in such a possessive way, nor had she felt such desire rise inside her. A desire to have him kiss her right there and then.

“Don’t ask me to call on you, Miss Clifton, I beg of you. I will only hurt you in the end.”

“But it is a risk I’m willing to take,” she replied.

It was then that Jenny realized Louisa was pulling at her arm. What was she doing allowing a man to hold her so intimately? Granted, she enjoyed the feel of his hands holding her, but if Mrs. Rutley were to enter the room, she would forbid Lord Dowding to call on her ever again.

Just as Jenny took a step back, the headmistress arrived. Lord Dowding turned and said, “Your timing is impeccable, Mrs. Rutley. I was just about to say goodbye.”

Mrs. Rutley smiled. “I hope you had a pleasant visit.”

“I can say without a doubt that it has been one of the most interesting I’ve experienced.”

Jenny’s heart dropped. Did he wish to say goodbye? Would this be the last time she would see the earl, or was his meaning limited to his leaving today only?

“When shall we expect you again, my lord?”

Jenny held her breath as she waited for his response.

Please, don’t let me have frightened him away!

“May I invite Miss Clifton to Rosling Estate for luncheon on Friday? And Miss Dunston, as well, of course.”

Mrs. Rutley glanced between Jenny and the earl again, just as she had done earlier. “Yes, I believe she is available at that time.”

As the headmistress walked Lord Dowding to the door, Jenny turned and grabbed Louisa by the arm. “I don’t understand what just happened. One minute he wants to leave and the next he invites me to luncheon? Why did he change his mind, do you think?”

Louisa shrugged. “I don’t know, but you really must show better restraint. He clearly desires you, Jenny. But whether that should worry or please you remains to be seen.”

Remembering the feel of Lord Dowding’s hands gripping her waist, Jenny knew the answer.

Chapter Six

Mrs. Rutley’s School for Young Women had changed, or so thought Jenny. As young women left the school, new girls took their places, and Jenny missed those who had already set out in their new lives. Julia had always had good advice to share with everyone. Sweet Emma had always been the one their circle of friends had protected. And Diana, she was the most giving of them all.

Only five remained of the Sisterhood, all who walked into Chatsworth on a chilly Thursday afternoon. All were bundled up in woolen mufflers and heavy coats. Jenny had donned two pairs of thick socks to wear inside her winter boots, and still she was cold.

“I’ll not miss walking into the village,” Ruth grumbled at Jenny’s side. “Especially when it’s this cold.”

Theodosia sniffed. “You say that now, but in a few months, when we’re all gone, you’ll miss these days as much as the rest of us.”

Jenny gave a sad nod. All four were nearing the final days of their schooling, which was why so many of their days were free. Her parents had requested she remain at the school a while longer until they returned from a tour of the Continent. Theodosia and Unity would be leaving in April, and Ruth and Louisa would remain until May.

The road snaked around a bend, and the village proper came into view.

“I’ve been thinking about your earl,” Louisa said.

“My earl?” Jenny asked, amused. “He’s notmyearl.”

Louisa gave her a sideways glance and raised an eyebrow. “Be that as it may, I’ve been considering your question as to why he said he did not wish to see you and then reversed that decision.”

When Louisa did not elaborate, Jenny urged her on, “And? What did you determine?”

Tags: Jennifer Monroe Historical
Articles you may like