Page 3 of Earl of Deception

Before she knew it, the second thing happened, and it was not nearly as good as the first.

The earl had requested an unnamed favor, and Jenny had readily agreed without thought for what it would entail. Was such a promise foolish? Perhaps. But Jenny did not care. For there was an air of mystery about the Earl of Deception she found thrilling.

And a man shrouded in mystery was someone Jenny could marry.

Although she had not shared it with any of her friends, after that day, Jenny began picturing the earl as the heroes in her romance novels. And she as the heroines. As far as she was concerned, she and Lord Dowding had already gone on all sorts of adventures together.

The only problem was that he wasn’t aware of that fact.

The bedroom door opened, and Unity Ancell and Theodosia Renwick entered. Although they were not related by blood, the pair resembled one another with their dark-brown curls, matching eyes, and high, prominent cheekbones. They looked so much alike that they often referred to themselves as twins.

“There you are,” Unity said as she leapt onto the bed in a most unladylike fashion. “We bought new playing cards, and Ruth has promised to teach us a new game. Would you care to join us?”

Jenny set aside her book and shook her head in disgust. Mrs. Rutley, their headmistress, had forbidden Ruth from teaching the other students any games of chance where betting money was the main purpose.

Yet forbidding Ruth from doing anything never stopped her from proceeding with whatever she wanted to do. Why Mrs. Rutley had not sent the girl back home was beyond Jenny.

“No, thank you,” Jenny said to Unity’s offer. “And don’t worry. I won’t say anything to Mrs. Rutley.”

With a quick nod, Unity crawled off the bed and followed Theodosia out of the room. But before the door could close, Louisa Dunston entered. Since Diana was now off preparing for her wedding, Louisa had taken her place as Jenny’s roommate.

With honey-blonde hair and bright blue eyes, she had what many would say was the height of current beauty. And Louisa did nothing to deny that fact. It was not as if she were vain, not entirely so, but she had become all too flirtatious for Jenny’s liking.

“How are you?” Louisa asked as she walked over to the vanity table to look through the various bottles of perfume Diana had left them. “You’re not tempted to drop any more handkerchiefs, are you?” She said the last in a teasing tone.

A brief moment of guilt tugged at Jenny’s heart. In the past—oh, very well, therecentpast—her tongue had taken on a life of its own, leaving her humiliated on too many occasions to count. It was what led her to make a promise to a gentleman with whom she was not even acquainted.

“I’ve truly put those ways behind me, Louisa. This last was just an accident. After all, I had no idea Lord Dowding was behind me. Regardless, no one can expect me not to have a relapse from time to time. You don’t think ill of me, do you? I could not bear it if you did.”

Louisa offered her hands to Jenny and pulled her from the window seat. “You’re my friend, and I could never think ill of you.” Her gaze dropped to the book that lay open on the windowsill. “Isn’t it about time you stopped dreaming and find a gentleman to marry? There are plenty of eligible bachelors available to you here in Chatsworth. Surely, someone has caught your attention?”

Indeed, Jenny had one particular man in mind. Lord Dowding. There was one thing she had not, and would not, share with any of her friends.

His moniker excited her.

The Earl of Deception.

How had he earned that name? Was he some sort of secret highwayman? Or did he steal kisses from unsuspecting women?

And were the rumors true? If so, would she be willing to marry a man with such a notorious reputation?

Don’t be so silly, Jenny,she advised herself. He would not propose marriage. Not yet. Plus, would she be foolish enough to accept if he did?

Such thoughts bothered her, for her heart pounded a firm “Yes!” whilst her mind screamed “No!”

* * *

Nicholas, Earl of Dowding, steepled his fingers and narrowed his eyes at the man across from him. Mr. Alexander Gatling had enjoyed a great deal of luxury in his fifty years on this earth, far more than was deserving of him.

The older man hailed from the small village of Eastbent, some seventy-five miles northeast of Chatsworth. Nicholas had met him at a party a year earlier, and since that day, he had gone through the tedious endeavor of bringing the man to financial ruin. Today marked the day his hard work had seen success.

“This is your fault, Dowding,” Mr. Gatling hissed as he grabbed the pen from Mr. Bromley, the solicitor Nicholas had engaged to write up the required documents. And in whose office they now sat. “I should have known better than to listen to investment advice from the likes of you. The rumors concerning you are correct. You truly are the Earl of Deception!”

Nicholas fought back the smile that played at the corner of his lips. Timothy, Lord Stickler had given him the name five years earlier when that man had also lost his entire fortune to Nicholas. Lord Stickler had become enraged, as one in his position would.

“Don’t trust this man!” he had shouted to anyone willing to listen. “He’s as deceptive as any snake! Yes, that is the perfect moniker for the likes of him! From this day forward, let him be known as the Earl of Deception!”

Since that day, regardless of his reason, anyone who disapproved of Nicholas in any way used that moniker with him.

Tags: Jennifer Monroe Historical
Articles you may like