Authors: Leigh Michaels
Tags: #Romance, #General, #Fiction
Also By Leigh Michaels
Regency Historical Romance
The Mistress’ House
Just One Season in London
The Wedding Affair
Baby, You’re Mine
The Best-Made Plans
The Billionaire Bid
The Billionaire Date
The Boss and the Baby
The Boss’s Daughter
The Bridal Swap
The Bride Assignment
Bride by Design
Bride on Loan
Capture a Shadow
Come Next Summer
A Convenient Affair
The Corporate Marriage Campaign
The Corporate Wife
The Daddy Trap
Deadline For Love
Dreams to Keep
The Fake Fiancé
Garrett’s Back In Town
The Grand Hotel
His Trophy Wife
House of Dreams
Husband on Demand
The Husband Project
The Husband Sweepstake
An Imperfect Love
Invitation To Love
Just A Normal Marriage
Kiss Yesterday Goodbye
The Lake Effect
Let Me Count The Ways
The Marriage Market
Marrying the Boss!
A Matter of Principal
A New Desire
No Place Like Home
Old School Ties
On September Hill
Once and For Always
The Only Man For Maggie
The Only Solution
Part Time Fiancé
The Perfect Divorce
The Playboy Assignment
Promise Me Tomorrow
Rebel With A Cause
Safe In My Heart
Sell Me A Dream
Shades of Yesterday
A Singular Honeymoon
Some Kind of Hero (novella)
The Takeover Bid
Taming A Tycoon
Ties That Blind
Touch Not My Heart
The Tycoon’s Baby
The Tycoon’s Proposal
An Uncommon Affair
The Unexpected Landlord
The Unlikely Santa
Wife on Approval
With No Reservations
On Writing Romance: How to Craft A Novel that Sells
Creating Romantic Characters: Bringing Life to Your Romance
For the Love of Tea
Focus on Photos
Illustrated Review of Ottumwa, Iowa 1890
(IA) (Postcard History Series)
1904 St. Louis World’s Fair
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity
to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2012 Leigh Michaels
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Montlake Romance
P.O. Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140
For Ashley and Karina
ady Emily Arden added up the column of household expenditures in her head once more, scarcely able to believe that the total could be so high. She had just dipped her quill in the inkstand to write the sum at the bottom of her list when Mrs. Dalrymple tapped at the door of her tiny sitting room and begged an audience.
“I don’t mean to intrude, my lady.” Mrs. Dalrymple’s voice was even fainter and more breathy than usual. “But it
important, and you did say that I might have a few moments after breakfast.”
“Indeed I did, Mrs. Dalrymple, and I must beg your pardon for the oversight.” Emily pushed aside her account books; the horrid truth would still be there, glaring at her, whether she took a moment to listen to her companion or not. “What did you wish to bring to my attention?”
“I took the liberty of asking Sally to bring fresh tea,” Mrs. Dalrymple went on. She fanned herself as if stunned by her own daring.
Emily was a bit startled, too. Mrs. Dalrymple was such a tentative sort—so eager to please, so terrified of offending—that Emily was often annoyed by her companion’s failure to show the slightest initiative. But of course Mrs. Dalrymple would start to request luxuries at the very moment her employer was making a concentrated effort to cut expenses…
Emily shook her head a little at her own foolishness in thinking that a single extra pot of tea would make any difference in her financial situation. Letting her companion go, on the other hand, would eliminate one mouth to feed and one salary to pay, and it would make the situation significantly easier in the tiny cottage.
But she dismissed the idea almost instantly. She had accepted responsibility when she hired Mrs. Dalrymple, and it wasn’t as if a middle-aged and completely ineffectual companion had a great many posts to choose from. If Emily were to let her go, even with an excellent reference, the woman would be fortunate to find any employment.
Mrs. Dalrymple’s eyes grew huge. “I was so afraid I might be overstepping my place! Shall I run to the kitchen to cancel the order?”
“No—why do you ask?”
“You were shaking your head, my lady.”
“About something else entirely. Of course you must order tea when you want it. Now, what is it you wished to speak to me about?”
“Oh, my lady, you are so good to me. I can hardly bring myself to ask…but I did swear that I would, and…”
Emily’s head was starting to throb. If past experience was any guide, Mrs. Dalrymple might take half an hour to come to the point, and even then she was apt to leave her listener not quite certain of what she was trying to say. Tea was sounding better by the moment. At least Emily would have something to do while she waited.
“It’s the squire, you see. Sir Cedric. It happened as we were making the last arrangements for the village flower show. Quite a surprise it was—a shock, in fact.” Mrs. Dalrymple blushed and stammered a little. “And…and he…he wished to know if it could be announced at the show next Saturday.”
Emily settled back in her chair to wait out Mrs. Dalrymple. Despite her best efforts, her mind wandered back to the list of expenditures—she was already doing without new clothes, and it wasn’t as if she kept a carriage or a full staff of maids. She’d chosen this path herself, and she’d known from the outset that her limited resources couldn’t be stretched to luxuries. But if she even had to give up things like tea and sugar…
Sally appeared, laden down. “There’s a couple of letters as has just come, my lady. I put them on the tea tray.”
Emily’s gaze wandered to the folded pages lying next to the hot water jug. The handwriting on the top one was a dark and spiky slash—her father had obviously been feeling particularly unsympathetic toward his wayward daughter when he’d dashed off that missive. She didn’t have to read it to know that much; if it was ordinary business, the Earl of Chiswick turned the matter over to his private secretary. He only wrote to her himself when he was angry or in a mood to issue orders. And since she hadn’t done anything for at least a month to make him angry…
I wonder which family he has in mind this time to marry me into.
She set the earl’s letter aside and glanced at the other one. Mrs. Dalrymple set the teapot back on the tray. “That’s the duke’s handwriting, is it not? It looks strange somehow.”
Emily put out her hand for her cup. Her companion was right; the Duke of Weybridge’s fist was not the confident sprawl she remembered. The address looked cramped, almost painful, and even the scrawled
that franked the corner of the letter wasn’t quite as strong as she remembered it. “I wonder if Uncle Josiah is ill.”
“You must not wait to find out, my lady.”
“If you don’t mind…” Emily broke the wafer and spread the sheet on her knee, trying not to listen to Mrs. Dalrymple’s fluttery and repetitive exclamations that of course she understood, yes indeed she did.
My dearest Emily,
Time marches on, and I will soon celebrate my seventieth, and I suspect my last, birthday. My various complaints are too numerous for me to list and too tiresome for you to read, so my energy (and this paper) are better spent in other ways. It is sufficient to say that at his every visit—and they are growing more numerous—my doctor shakes his head in despair.
I hope you will find it possible to visit me for my birthday. I suspect you may be in shallow water by now, with only your mother’s legacy to draw upon and your father no doubt still determined to bring you to heel. Therefore, I have given orders for a post-chaise to arrive the day after this letter, so you may make the journey in comfort.
Since I will not long need my worldly goods, I have no wish to collect more birthday trinkets. Perhaps this year we shall play turn-around instead. I have it in mind to make a gift to you and spend my remaining days watching and enjoying your happiness.
Your loving great-uncle, Josiah Weybridge
P.S. I do hope you believe me, dear Emily, when I say that you have always been my favorite of my niece’s children.