His Bewitching Jewel (A Regency Holiday Romance Book 7)

 

 

His Bewitching Jewel

By Marly Mathews

A Regency Holiday Romance

 

 

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book 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 purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Copyright © 2015 by Marly Mathews

www.marlymathews.com

Cover Design by Melody Simmons from Ebookindiecovers

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All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to my good friend, Amanda Redhead for her ability to listen to me brainstorming and for her invaluable assistance with the geographical research involved with this book. Thank you, Mandy!

To My Readers,

His Bewitching Jewel is Ruby Massey’s story. She is a character that is always running, and in this story, she finally finds the family who makes her want to stay. I decided to set His Bewitching Jewel in Cornwall because of my Cornish Ancestry, and I have always found Cornwall to be a fascinating County. I hope you enjoy her story, and thank you for reading my books!

~Marly

Chapter One

"Have I caught thee, my heavenly jewel? Why, now let

me die, for I have lived long enough."

The Merry Wives of Windsor
,
SHAKESPEARE

 

Sussex, England, 182
3

 

Miss Ruby Olivia Massey had always been an introspective girl. Some had even dared to call her shy. Her quiet and unassuming personality came to her naturally. She inherited it from her meek and mild father, who had had no backbone to speak of, and had been so quiet in life that some had questioned his ability to speak.

During his life, Garnet Massey possessed a frail constitution, and had constantly bent his will to his assertive and controlling wife. He married Honoria Somersby after she proposed to him, saying that he would never find another woman to take him, as he had no title or fortune, only an education, and a love for books. He might have been as poor as a church mouse, but when Ruby came into the world, he finally found his voice, and told his overbearing wife that they would call their daughter Ruby, as to him she was the shiniest jewel he had ever laid eyes upon.

At ten years of age, Ruby lost her quiet sensitive father, and his absence left a hole in her life not easily filled, but his gentle love stayed with her for the next eighteen years. Now, more than ever, she wished he were still around, so she could seek his wise counsel. She had come to a crossroads in her life, and she didn’t know what path to take. She felt trapped, and the only way to break free was to break away from all that she knew and loved.

She wanted to run and hide, as she was usually wont to do and yet, no matter where she ran, her mother would find her. She could flee back to Lark Hall, and find solace with her Aunt Alice and her Uncle Edward. She could try to hide behind her bombastic Uncle Thomas, but somehow, someway, her mother would find a way to work on her…she always did. The woman had made an art form out of nagging. She could best any other mother out there. Her Aunt Alice looked like a saint next to Honoria Massey, indeed, even Lady Tisbury looked like a saint compared to Honoria.

Honoria would keep having a go at her, not giving her a moment of peace until she wore down Ruby’s defenses, and she would somehow talk her into doing the very thing Ruby railed against. She would have her marrying that awful pig of a Rector, and Ruby would be committed to a life of living hell.

There was only one way, and she had to act swiftly before her window of escape was gone.

She would take the money that Julia had given her when they had parted a sennight previous, and she would take the Royal Mail Coach back to London. Once there, somehow, she would prepare to make the second part of her journey that would take her to her final destination.

She had to run. She had no other choice. She wouldn’t marry the snivelling, rather amply proportioned man that her mother wanted her to marry—that her mother had ordered her to marry—and she expected Ruby to accept his proposal tomorrow when he came calling. She couldn’t do that…it was a fate worse than death! The Rector was a mean spirited man who stunk to high heaven. Reverend Beasley belched, and farted, with no regard for propriety. She couldn’t figure out how he had attained such a position within the Church of England.

Even worse, he constantly reached down to his nether regions to adjust himself, to the abject horror of his parishioners. Her mother told Ruby earlier that morning that she would be overjoyed to see the back of her once she married the Reverend Beasley. She had announced in her loud way that there was only room for one lady at Rosehill Manor.

There was no possible way that she could resign herself into marrying the despicable wretch, not after she had seen what real men were. Not after she would been around the likes of Lord Prescott, Lord Spaulding, the Duke of Stoneleigh, and the Duke of Bowdon and Lydney.

All of them scared her to death, but you could not smell them before they entered the room. Neither did their body odour linger in the room long after they had left. They didn’t have the manners of a pig, and they did not talk to her as if she were a petulant child. They afforded her the respect of her station, and she did the same for them.

Her uncle had told her mother that she was mad to think to arrange such a terrible match. After giving him an astonished look, Honoria laughed at him and told him he knew nothing of marrying off daughters. He grumbled a bit, left and called her a daft old woman.

Ruby simply couldn’t understand her Mama. She was sweet to everyone else in the family, except for her—her own daughter. She treated Ruby with a brusque, and heavy handed, contemptible manner—almost as if she despised her.

Ruby’s Lovett Cousins were coddled, and given whatever they desired, but Honoria treated Ruby like a poor relation. She had never wanted the best for Ruby, and sometimes Ruby wondered if her mother felt tenderly toward her at all. She often thought that Honoria resented her.

She didn’t know why, and now, after days of arguing with the woman, she didn’t really care. She only wanted peace in her life. She wanted away from her. If Ruby could have her own way, she would distance herself from Honoria to such an extent that she would never have to see the awful woman again.

Ruby sighed, and started packing the portmanteau she would take with her back to London. If she were lucky, she would be able to slip out of Rosehill Manor in the early morning hours, before the house awakened.

A hard series of knocks sounded on her door. She bristled. It couldn’t be her mother. Her mother would have had a footmen open the door for her. For not being the mistress of the house, Honoria acted as if she was the lady of the manor, and her brother usually didn’t correct her.

Ruby sighed, and moved to open the door. Her uncle stood with a broad smile on his face. He looked furtively behind him and once he was satisfied that he had not been followed, he stepped into the room.

“Ah,” he said, his eyes resting on her half packed portmanteau. “I see you are getting ready to run away.”

“Uncle Thomas, I…I…” she cleared her throat nervously. “Julia invited me to London to go shopping with her. She…she said I could help her select her new wedding trousseau.” She was lying through her teeth, and prayed that he would not suspect. She glanced at her escritoire with a sinking feeling in her gut. She had finally made the decision she had been hesitating to make for the last two days.

Castleton, Maidstone and London were lovely places to visit, but she would not stay in either location. Instead, she would make her way to Penryn, Cornwall, where she would find employment with a distinguished family there. From her correspondence, with the man who had hired her, she didn’t think he had recognized her name. She hadn’t expected him to, as he traveled in far removed circles from the one, she traveled in. Moreover, the name of Massey was rarely recognized. It was the Somersby name she had to worry about, and there was no possible way he could find out about that.

Her uncle raised his hand. “Do not fear, my dear, I shan’t expose you. I wouldn’t dream of telling my sister on you. She confounds me sometimes, she really does. She can have such a good, and sweet nature, and yet…”

“And yet, with me she treats me as if I am…as if she loathes me,” Ruby said softly.

His eyes filled with sadness. “I can’t explain her terrible behaviour toward you, Ruby. She doesn’t have any motherly instincts when it comes to you, and honestly, I don’t understand it myself. When you were a babe, she wouldn’t have anything to do with you, and I was saddened that didn’t change as you grew into a lovely young woman.” He pulled out a purse, and handed it to her. It was heavy with coins. “I shall have a carriage readied to take you back to London. I will do it covertly, so that my sister is none the wiser.”

“I…if you do that, Uncle Thomas, my mother will yell at you for days.”

“Not for days,” he smiled. “Only for a few hours, possibly a day. She still values the money she receives from me, and likes to fancy herself the mistress of this domain. Without me…well, she would be destitute, wouldn’t she?”

She sighed heavily. “Either way…I think I should…”

“Now, now, you will let me have my way on this matter, little miss. I shan’t allow you to talk me out of it. If I let you hop onto a public conveyance like the Royal Mail Coach, why, any manner of terror could befall you. You could get into an accident. Highwaymen could hold you up.

“No, indeed, you shall not travel that way. I want to ensure that you make it to London, safe and sound. So, you shall have my carriage.” He smiled a t her fondly. “You are a dear girl, Ruby. So much like my sweet Alice. I thank God, you didn’t turn out like your mother. Honoria has her good merits, but she can be downright mean when she wants to be. You had many handsome young bucks back in Castleton trying to win your hand. You need not take the pig that your mother is offering you. You are the belle of this county.”

Heat touched her face, as she blushed profusely. “I don’t…” she stammered. “I think that might be a wee bit exaggerated, Uncle Thomas.”

“Indeed, it isn’t. You are a rare beauty, Ruby, whether or not you believe it, you are. You are rare, in that you are beautiful inside and out. You could have had Lord Prescott as your husband, had you stayed in one spot long enough, and you might have even been able to land yourself that Dodgy Duke. I also heard from Alice that a certain Lord Cedric Wisdom had eyes for you as well, and Freddie’s father…wasn’t he a wee bit fond of you? You had so many to choose from!”

She laughed nervously. “I…I…each of them shall forget about me given time. I was only a passing fancy to them. I don’t think any of those men are right for me.”

“Well, you will know when the time comes. Your mother was never as lucky as you were. She never had young chaps vying for her hand. Indeed, she used to have them running from her, in droves,” he chuckled. “Some of them were screaming as they ran.”

“Mama says she had several suitors, and she picked Papa.”

“She picked your Papa because she had nothing else to choose from, and because he was too kind hearted to turn her down,” he snorted. “Let us forget about all of that. You go and be happy in London, and spend whatever you wish with Julia. Have fun hitting the shops on the Burlington Arcade, and do make sure you go to Gunter’s, and have one of their famous sorbets or ices. I know how much you adore that shop. If I recall correctly, you are very fond of pistachio ice cream. I like the brown bread flavour myself. You and Lady Knightwick can sit in her landau or barouche, or even her curricle, if she is still driving it, and have a lovely time enjoying your confectionary under the shade of the Maples…of course…they won’t give too much shade now, will they? And you can see all of the lovely ladies with their suitors, as it is a favourite spot for courting couples. Mayhap, you will see something you can gossip about— ‘course the two of you aren’t like that but you might find something I can gossip about,” he winked at her. “Put it all on my accounts. The money I gave you is merely pin money, Ruby. Don’t forget that. Have some fun, by all means, kick up a lark, and spend as much as Lady Knightwick.”

Impulsively, Ruby hugged him. He held her close, and patted her back. “Thank you, Uncle. Thank you for all that you have done for me. I shall never forget your kindness,” she whispered.

“There, there,” he said. “You are talking as if we won’t see each other again. We shall. Of course, we shall. I might even be tempted to travel to London myself, and tease Lady Knightwick,” he said, pulling away from her, and giving her a cheeky wink.

She laughed. “Julia doesn’t like it when you do that.”

“That is why I do it,” he said, whistling a sprightly tune. He walked out of her bedchamber with a little skip in his step. She continued laughing until he had closed the bedchamber door behind him, and then, falling silent, she went about completing the rest of her plan.

Come tomorrow, she would be well on her way to London, and then, onward to Cornwall, where she would be safe from her mother’s quest to marry her off to the most odious, and pungently scented man in all of the British Empire.

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