Emerald Garden [NOOK Book]

Overview

I will return to you . . . 
Sixteen-year-old Lady Brandice Townsend fears that Lord Quentin’s promise may be impossible to keep. He’s about to depart for the battlefield, leaving his adoring friend and his genteel life behind. Four years later, with London’s most eligible suitors fawning at her feet, Brandi rejects life in the capital to return to the simple country haven she loves. But Emerald Manor is no longer a welcoming refuge, and tragedy strikes without ...
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Emerald Garden

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Overview

I will return to you . . . 
Sixteen-year-old Lady Brandice Townsend fears that Lord Quentin’s promise may be impossible to keep. He’s about to depart for the battlefield, leaving his adoring friend and his genteel life behind. Four years later, with London’s most eligible suitors fawning at her feet, Brandi rejects life in the capital to return to the simple country haven she loves. But Emerald Manor is no longer a welcoming refuge, and tragedy strikes without warning.   When he went to fight Napoleon, Quentin had a premonition of doom. Now, his world shattered by his parents’ violent death, the grief-stricken soldier must unravel a tangled web of secrets and lies. But it is Brandi whose safety he prizes above all else—Brandi, who has grown into a passionate, desirable woman. He fears she’ll never be his again, unless he can unmask the truth and risk everything for love.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781453265628
  • Publisher: Open Road Media
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 340,199
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Andrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty-five novels, including fourteen historical titles and twelve contemporary novels. Her books have been published in sixteen countries and translated into more than twenty languages. Kane published My Heart’s Desire, her first historical novel and the first book in the Barrett family series, in 1991. Others quickly followed, including Samantha, the second book in that series, Echoes in the Mist and Whispers in the Wind (the Kingsley in Love series), as well as her acclaimed Black Diamond, Thornton-Bromleigh Family, and Colby Coin series. Kane’s 2000 romantic thriller Run for Your Life became an instant New York Times bestseller. Her other suspense novels include No Way Out, Twisted,and The Girl Who Disappeared Twice,a New York Times bestseller that introduced Forensic Instincts, an eclectic team of maverick investigators. The Line Between Here and Gone (2012) continues the Forensic Instincts story. Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.  
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First Chapter

Chapter 1

Emerald Manor, June 1814

Brandi sat back on her heels with a triumphant whoop. "There! I've completed the entire section of geraniums surrounding the gazebo."

"And not an instant too soon." Tucking wisps of dark hair from her cheeks, the Duchess of Colverton rose from the flower bed to lean wearily against the gazebo post. "It's grown so warm; why, it was downright brisk when I left Colverton."

"That's because we've been immersed in our gardening for nearly five hours now," Brandi informed her, pointing toward the sky. "Look at the sun. 'Twas barely peeking over the hills when we arrived at Emerald Manor. Now it's directly overhead. It must be half after noon." She came to her feet, wiping perspiration from her brow...and decorating her nose and chin with smudges of dirt. "Why don't we take a much-deserved respite and enjoy the refreshment Mary brought?"

"I need no second invitation." Gracefully, Pamela sank down on the garden bench, pouring two glasses of recently made fruit punch. "What time does Ardsley expect you home?"

Unceremoniously, Brandi flopped down beside Pamela, accepting the proffered drink. "Knowing that I'm at Emerald Manor? Father probably won't expect me until nightfall." She pressed the glass to her lips and, contrary to Pamela's dainty sips, downed her punch in five spirited gulps. "I'd rather be here than anywhere else on earth," she declared, refilling her glass.

"I know." Pamela's answer was reflective, her brows knitting in heightened concern.

A small round object dropped from the tree overhead, landing in Brandi's drink with a loud plunk. Punch flew in the air, drenching Brandi's gown with wide stains of pinklaughing. "You're a beautiful, vibrant young woman." Seizing the companionability of the moment, Pamela broached the very subject that continually plagued her. "Kenton mentioned that, according to Ardsley, that very handsome Lord Gallister has been calling on you daily."

"Hmm? Oh, Lord Gallister. Yes, he's visited Townsbourne several times." Her mind already racing onward, Brandi abandoned the cleansing of her gown, squinting at a point beyond the gazebo. "Do you think we should suggest to Herbert that he add another layer of those lovely white stones to the rock garden? I noticed that some of the current ones are beginning to lose their luster."

"That could be because you're always drippin' stream water all over them," came a gruff nearby voice.

"Oh, Herbert!" Brandi sprang up and rushed over to the manor's head gardener. "I'm so glad you overheard my suggestion! What do you think of the idea?"

"That depends." Herbert scowled, his rankled tone belied by the affectionate gleam in his eyes. "Are you gonna keep fishin' and wreckin' my rock garden with stream water?"

Brandi attempted a sheepish look. "I'll try not to."

"Humph." Herbert dragged a hand through his unruly graying hair. "All right. I'll collect a few more of those stones you like so much. But only a few! If you ruin this batch..."

"Oh, thank you!" Brandi hugged him.

"Does Ardsley know you've been frolicking in the stream again?" Pamela interjected tentatively.

Herbert's gaze darted to Brandi's anxious one. "The fact is, Your Grace, that rock damage could have been caused by lots of things," he hedged. "Rain, sun -- "

"I understand, Herbert." Pamela sighed. "How very well I understand."

"Pamela, please don't tell Papa. " Brandi gripped her friend's hands. "He'll be terribly upset. I've finally convinced him I'm trying to become a lady."

With a cough that suspiciously resembled a chuckle, Herbert ambled off.

"And are you, Brandi?" Pamela asked softly. "Are you truly trying to become a lady?"

Brandi lowered her gaze. "Honestly? I don't think it's possible."

"But why, darling? You're lovely and warmhearted and vivacious. And I'm far from the only one who thinks so. Even you can't help but notice the way gentlemen stare at you, the admiration in their eyes. Why, 'tis more than two years -- indeed three Seasons -- since you made your debut, yet men continue to fawn at your feet."

Brandi shuddered as if she'd just swallowed a worm. "They disgust me."

"For what reason? Ardsley says they all behave like proper suitors when they call. And my own eyes tell me that many of them are utterly charming, not to mention handsome and thoughtful. Surely one of them -- "

"Proper. Charming. Yes, they are that," Brandi interrupted. "And they want someone equally proper and charming on their arm. I can't be that someone." Brandi looked beseechingly at Pamela. "I just can't."

The duchess's eyes clouded. "Brandi, you're twenty years old. You can't remain a frolicking child forever."

"Unfortunately, that's true."

Gently, Pamela smoothed Brandi's downcast head. "Why is the thought of growing up so abhorrent to you? You're brimming with love and life. Surely you want a home and children of your own."

A mournful sigh. "I do. But not at the expense of relinquishing all I find such joy in savoring."

"You make it sound as if you'd be imprisoned! You needn't relinquish everything, darling. Oh, I imagine you'll have to forgo such activities as splashing in the stream without your stockings. But your gardening, your riding -- albeit with a proper sidesaddle rather than astride -- those things you can still do."

Unappeased, Brandi stared contemplatively at the ground. "Why did you marry Kenton?" she blurted at last.

"Pardon me?" Pamela blinked at the sudden change in subject.

Sitting up, Brandi turned uncertain, anguished eyes to her friend. "Pamela, I never knew my own mother; she died in childbirth. In all ways but blood, you've filled her role, and I love you as if I were your natural child."

Pamela's eyes misted. "You're the daughter I never had," she managed. "Your happiness means as much to me as if I'd borne you myself."

"I know that. Just as I know you. We're very different, you and I. However in several ways -- boundless devotion to those we love, a deep attachment to Emerald Manor -- in ways such as that, we are much the same. Both of us being women, we were raised with the knowledge that we would someday marry and bear children. And, both of us being tenderhearted, we each had dreams of the man who would one day share our life. What I'm asking you now is, how did you recognize Kenton as that man? What reason -- other than duty -- made you choose him as your husband?"

A tender smile. "That question requires no pondering. I wed Kenton because I was desperately in love with him. And, one and thirty years later, I still am."

"Kenton feels the same way. He adores you; 'tis obvious in the way he looks at you. Just as your love is obvious in the way you come alive when you're beside him. You're two halves of a whole, Pamela, and the love between you is very special and quite miraculous.""I won't disagree," Pamela said in a quiet, fervent tone. "Kenton is my heart and my soul. Without him, I wouldn't want to live."

"Precisely as I would wish to feel were I in your position." Brandi's lips trembled. "But I'm not. No man has ever awakened my heart as such. Not Lord Gallister, nor any of my other gentlemen callers. I feel absolutely nothing when I'm with them, not even a flutter. So how can I take the step Papa wants me to take -- consider marriage to a man I don't love and know inherently I never will? The answer to that is, I cannot." She lowered her lashes. "I'm sorry, Pamela. Truly I am. I loathe disappointing you, Kenton, and Papa. But evidently, between my unorthodox pastimes and my unfulfilled romantic notions, I'm destined to remain alone."

Pamela studied Brandi's burnished head thoughtfully, assailed by a relentless suspicion -- spawned long years ago -- that stubbornly refused to be silenced. "You said you had dreams. Tell me, what sort of man did you dream of?"

A small smile. "One who reveled in my spirit and rejoiced in my unladylike diversions. One whose passion for challenge matched my own. One who loved me for who I am, not for the fictitious creature he yearned I become."

"I see."

"You see, but can you understand?"

"Better than you realize," Pamela responded evenly, with the barest hint of a twinkle. "Brandi, contrary to what you've concluded, I promise you are not destined to remain alone. The man of whom you dream does exist -- I can see him as clearly as if he were standing before me. And he is someone special, someone rare. All that remains is for you to discover each other, which will happen in its own time -- a time I suspect is not too far off." <<P>"How can you be so sure?"

"Trust me, darling; I am." Pamela stretched, glancing idly toward the stables. "It just occurred to me that you haven't exercised Poseidon today."

Brandi's head came up in a flash. "I completely forgot. Of course! Quentin would never forgive me if I neglected his stallion!"

"Knowing my son, I suspect that's true," Pamela concurred, her gaze once again fixed on Brandi. "Which reminds me, you've still received no further word from Quentin?"

Joy fled Brandi's face. "Not since that letter I showed you last month. The poor mail-coach driver -- I badger him each time I see him. But, thus far, nothing."

"Letters from the mainland have been erratic, at best," Pamela murmured aloud, consoling herself and Brandi simultaneously. "I only pray..."

"Quentin is fine." Brandi knotted her fists in her gown. "I'd know if he weren't. He'll be home any day now."

"We can't be certain of that, darling. Just because the Duke of Wellington is returning to England doesn't mean Quentin intends to accompany him."

"That's exactly what it means. Quentin vowed to stay away only until the war was over. Well, Napoleon is safely at Elba. Therefore, Quentin's arrival in the Cotswolds is imminent." Shoulders squared defiantly, Brandi gathered up her skirts and rose. "I'd best exercise Poseidon. It's already past noon; soon the sun will be too strong for us to indulge in one of our breakneck gallops."

"Of course, darling, go ahead." Feigning innocence, Pamela waved Brandi off, more certain than ever that the wondrous possibility she was contemplating did indeed hover on the brink of reality.

Now it was up to God and fate.

Colverton Manor

Gone.

Desmond stared down at the empty drawer, his hands shaking with the shock of discovery.

How could that be? he thought, wildly groping for an answer. No one knew of its existence.

Like a man possessed, he began flinging things from every corner of his nightstand, not pausing until it was empty.

He slammed the final drawer to the floor, his breath coming in shallow pants, sweat beading his forehead. There had to be a logical explanation for this. There had to be.

"You won't find them, son."

Kenton Steel, the Duke of Colverton, leaned back against Desmond's closed bedchamber door and regarded his firstborn through tormented eyes.

"Father?" Desmond's head snapped around, and he fought to control his mounting terror.

"Why, Desmond? Why in God's name would you do such a thing?"

"I don't understand."

"Don't insult me. I'm not guessing; I have proof. The only facts missing are why and with whom?"

Kenton's final query struck home, and Desmond's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean, 'with whom'?"

"You're not clever enough to have managed this alone. Who assisted you?"

"Oh, I see," Desmond returned with biting sarcasm. "I'm apparently not even a praiseworthy scoundrel."

"Praiseworthy?" Kenton's fists clenched at his sides. "Are you mad? What you did was despicable!" His appalled gaze raked Desmond, searching for a man who didn't exist. "And even now you evade my questions, refuse to explain your duplicity. Well, it matters not. There is no explanation you could give that would alter my decision."

Desmond went very still. "What actions do you intend to take?"

"You've shattered my faith -- along with the few illusions I had left, where you're concerned. To be blunt, I cannot confer my holdings or my legacy to a man I do not trust."

Resentment pumped hotly through Desmond's veins. "As opposed to a man you can trust, like your beloved Quentin."

A muscle worked in Kenton's jaw -- his only overt reaction to Desmond's barb. "I intend to ensure that you're helpless to indulge in such reprehensible behavior again. Not only while I'm alive, but after. I'm changing the terms of my will."

Colors exploded in Desmond's head. He uttered a vicious oath, kicking the nightstand drawer from his path. "Changing your will? In what manner, or need I ask? Quentin will now inherit everything -- just as your precious Pamela has always prayed he would."

"Quentin has nothing to do with my decision."

"Don't expect me to believe that!" Desmond stalked across the room, flinging open the door with such impact that it struck the wall, leaving its imprint on the plaster. "Quentin might be in Spain, but his ghost is here. Every hour of every day. Haunting me with his presence. I give up. Change your bloody will. Leave it all to Pamela's son. I don't give a damn anymore."

He strode into the hallway, colliding with Bentley, Colverton's long-standing butler, just outside the room.

"Pardon me, my lord," Bentley murmured at once, smoothing his impeccably crisp uniform. "But I heard a commotion and -- "

"It doesn't matter, Bentley," Desmond interrupted, waving the butler off. "You know more of what transpires at Colverton than I do. You're also in better favor." Sidestepping Bentley, Desmond strode toward the stairs. "In fact, you too will probably inherit a portion of what was originally mine."

Bentley stared speechlessly after Desmond, his head snapping around as the duke emerged, his stance and expression bleak.

" Can I do anything, Your Grace?"

Defeatedly, Kenton rubbed his eyes. "I love both my sons, Bentley. I always have."

"Yes, sir."

"Lord alone knows where I went wrong."

"Master Desmond lost his mother quite young, sir," Bentley suggested with the unprecedented familiarity afforded to him alone. "He doesn't truly remember her" -- he tactfully cleared his throat -- "or the fact that your marriage was an arranged one. He sees only the magnitude of feeling that exists between you and the present duchess. I believe that to be at the root of his resentments."

"Pamela has worn herself out for years, trying..."

"I agree, Your Grace. But self-doubt is often blinding and destructive. Don't blame yourself, or the duchess. The problem lies with Master Desmond himself."

Kenton nodded bleakly. "Just the same, I cannot allow his jealousy and weakness to damage others."

"No, sir."

"Contact Hendrick," the duke instructed with sad resignation. "Summon him to Colverton posthaste. Advise him that my will is to be amended. Effective immediately."

"At once, Your Grace." Turning on his heel, Bentley moved off purposefully.

"Bentley?"

The butler paused halfway down the hall. "Sir?"

"Say nothing of this to anyone. Not even Pamela."

With an offended sniff, Bentley continued on his way. "That goes without saying, Your Grace."

Quiet male voices greeted Pamela as she entered Colverton the following evening -- not a welcome reception given how exhausted she was. After two successive days of rigorous planting, the last thing she wanted was to entertain pests.

"Good evening, Your Grace." Bentley bowed, taking Pamela's wrap.

"Good evening, Bentley." She inclined her head quizzically. "Is that Kenton's voice I hear?"

"Yes, Madam. The duke and Mr. Hendrick are conducting a business meeting."

"I didn't know Ellard was visiting today. I'll stop in and say hello."

Bentley cleared his throat. "His Grace and Mr. Hendrick have been closeted in the library for hours. It would seem their discussion is of significant import. Possibly you should postpone your greeting for later."

Pamela blinked. "Are you implying I wouldn't be welcome?"

"Thank you for coming on such short notice, Hendrick." The opening of the library door accompanied Kenton's voice.

"Not at all," Ellard Hendrick replied, strolling out beside Kenton. "When I read your missive yesterday, I saw immediately how urgent the situation was. Hence, I had my clerk clear my schedule so I could spend the entire day at Colverton. I'm relieved we were able to finalize the matter; now you can enjoy some peace of mind." Securing his portfolio, Hendrick headed down the hall. Halfway to his destination, he spied Pamela and hastily abandoned all talk of business.

"Pamela, how wonderful to see you," he declared, striding over to kiss her hand. "And what a pleasant surprise; Kenton didn't mention you'd be returning this early."

"Nor did he mention your upcoming visit." Pamela cast a curious glance at her husband. "Had I known you were coming, I would have made certain to be home."

"Hendrick's visit came up rather suddenly," Kenton put in. "We had some complicated matters to address."

"So Bentley told me." Another speculative look, this time at the serene-faced butler. "In any case, won't you stay for supper, Ellard?"

"I wish I could." Hendrick ran a hand through his silver hair. "Unfortunately, I'm due back in London this evening. So I mu st be going." He smiled politely. "Another time?"

"Of course."

Turning to Kenton, he murmured, "I'll substitute these papers for their predecessors as soon as I reach my office."

Kenton's jaw set, his voice lowered to a fervent hush. "I, in the interim, will continue to delve into the matter. I want all the facts, Hendrick -- every last one."

"I understand." The solicitor cleared his throat, his tone reverting back to normal. "Good night, Kenton, Pamela."

Pamela waited only until Bentley was outside showing Hendrick to his carriage. Then she drew Kenton aside, turning puzzled eyes to his. "What confidential and urgent business did you and Ellard have?"

"Why do you assume it was confidential?" Kenton straightened his waistcoat, looking as gray and tormented as if he'd just returned from battle.

"Because Bentley wouldn't allow me near the library." Tenderly, Pamela smoothed her palms over her husband's rigid shoulders, taking in every detail of his haggard state. "It's Desmond, isn't it?"

Wearily, Kenton nodded, the lines around his eyes stark with sleepless anguish.

"Won't you tell me what this is about?"

"It doesn't concern you, Pamela. This is between my son and myself." As if to counter the brusqueness of his retort, Kenton caught his wife's wrist, brought her palm to his lips. "'Tis something I must handle on my own," he added quietly.

"I understand." Pamela caressed her husband's jaw as if that act alone could ease his distress. "And I don't mean to intrude." She sighed, lowering her gaze. "Lord knows, I'm aware Desmond is your son and not mine; he's spent years reminding me of it. In truth, I've given up trying to change that which is unchangeable. But 'tis you I'm worried about -- I cannot bear to see you suffer so. Whatever happened between you and Desmond yesterday is tearing you apart. Is there nothing I can do?"

"Now, no. Later, perhaps." He squeezed her hand. "Tomorrow, Garrety, my investigator, is due at Colverton, hopefully, to provide me with the missing pieces required in order to put this sordid matter to rest forever. Should he prove unsuccessful, I'll take the situation into my own hands."

Pamela paled. "Kenton, you're frightening me. This isn't dangerous, is it?"

"Dangerous?" Kenton shook his head. "I have no reason to believe so."

By the following afternoon, he believed otherwise.

Alone in his study, Kenton stared down at the terse message a footman had delivered to him not ten minutes past. He'd reread it a dozen times, and each time his skin crawled a bit more.

You're meddling where you don't belong. Should you continue, you'll die and Desmond will pay the price.

Kenton dropped his head in his hands and squeezed his eyes shut, wondering how to discover what he must while still protecting those he loved. For long minutes, he remained thus, contemplating the choices...and the risks.

At last he took up his quill.

"Darling? What is it?"

Pamela looked up from her dressing table to see her husband leaning in their connecting doorway, studying her pensively. "Kenton?" She rose, her nightrail swirling about her legs. "Is something wrong?"

"No." He smiled, crossing the bedchamber to enfold Pamela in his arms. "I was merely thinking how very much I love you."

She pressed her cheek against the silk of his dressing robe. "That you may contemplate as often as you wish."

"Pamela, I want you to do something for me."

Drawing back, she gazed anxiously up at him. "That sounds ominous."

"Not ominous. But very important." He withdrew a sealed envelope and a key from his robe pocket. "I want you to keep these for me. Conceal them in a place where no one -- not even your lady's maid -- need venture."

With a puzzled frown, Pamela examined the two objects her husband had given her. "The letter is for Quentin?" she asked, noting that their son's name was penned on the envelope.

"Yes, to read immediately upon his return. Until then, I want to be certain no one is privy to its contents."

"Very well." Pamela's brow furrowed. "But why don't you give it to him yourself? Our war with France is over; Quentin should be home any day now."

"Even if that's true, I might be -- away -- when he arrives at Colverton."

"Away? Away where?"

"Darling." Gently, Kenton raised Pamela's chin. "Please don't ask any more questions. Just promise me you'll make sure Quentin gets the note."

"I promise."

"And the key as well."

"The key." Pamela's gaze fell on the other object in her hand. "Why, 'tis the key to your strongbox; the chest that matches my own."

"Yes, I know. And I pray that, having read my message, Quentin will know precisely what I mean for him to do."

"This pertains to Desmond, doesn't it?"

"Yes."

"I heard Mr. Garrety arrive earlier this evening. Did he provide you with the information you needed?"

"No, not yet." Kenton rubbed his palms together, thinking that, given today's threatening note, he'd taken an enormous risk ordering his investigator to intensify their search. But the outcome of Desmond's forbidden scheme -- albeit of his own making -- could taint not only his own future but also th e entire family's. So, disenchanted or not, it was Kenton's responsibility to protect his domain and all that went with it.

"Whatever Desmond is involved in -- you're searching for details," Pamela murmured, as if reading Kenton's thoughts.

"Yes. I must -- for all our sakes."

She nodded, her fingers closing around the note and the key. "I won't question you further -- not about your quandary, nor the reasons for your unwillingness to share it with me. As for Quentin, you're right to trust him. Despite all their differences, all the nonexistent rivalry Desmond perceives, Quentin loves his brother. He'll do the right thing."

The sadness in his beloved wife's voice tore at Kenton's heart. "Darling, this isn't about trust, for I'd trust you with my life. But should a conflict arise..." He searched for the least alarming choice of words, "I don't want you involved." Or at risk, he added silently to himself.

"All right, Kenton. As always, I'll respect your decision." She crossed the room, opening her bureau drawer to remove the custom-crafted strongbox that was an identical mate to Kenton's. "The key to your chest belongs nowhere but in mine," she informed him, groping along the box's rear panel for the notch in which she concealed her key. With a flourish, she extracted it, opening the chest and slipping both items Kenton had given her beneath a strand of diamonds and emeralds. "Moreover, 'tis an ideal hiding place. Since I only store my most valuable jewels here, no one touches the box but me. In fact, no one -- other than Brandi -- knows of the key's hiding place." Pamela gave a resigned sigh. "I offered Brandi complete access to my gems, hoping the prospect of donning them woul d entice her to attend a few more of the balls she so loathes. Unfortunately, my plan failed miserably." Lowering the strongbox lid, Pamela carefully locked it before slipping the key back into its home. "In any case, your articles for Quentin are safe." Meticulously, she replaced her chest in the bureau drawer, then turned to Kenton. "And now?"

"Now we wait."

A fortnight later, Kenton strode into his wife's sitting room, an air of purpose about him. "Pamela, I'm leaving for London."

Slowly, she put down her needlepoint, assessing her husband's intense expression. "You've learned something."

"Yes. And I've just dispatched a missive that will hopefully forestall any further damage. In the interim, I received a note from Garrety. I'm to meet with him this afternoon. Ardsley is accompanying me."

"Ardsley! Why?"

A brief hesitation. "Because I asked him to. This matter concerns him as well."

Pamela came to her feet. "Then why wasn't he present during your meeting with Ellard?"

"Because Ardsley didn't know of his own involvement. He still doesn't. In fact, he knows fewer details than you." Kenton's jaw set. "'Tis up to me to disclose them -- for his own protection. After all, he is my oldest and closest friend."

"Enough." Pamela's chin lifted in an uncustomary display of willfulness. "I'm coming with you."

Even as she spoke, Kenton was shaking his head. "No."

"Please, Kenton, don't refuse me," she appealed quietly. "Whatever this is about, I'd be a fool not to realize it's serious. I have no intentions of prying. But I want to be with you, to offer whatever support I can."

"My meeting with Garrety must remain private -- at least for now."

"Fine. I'll shop while you and Ardsley co nvene with Mr. Garrety. But at least I can be with you on the carriage ride to London and back. And, should your business run late, we can stay at an inn in Town."

Kenton's jaw unclenched a fraction. "Wouldn't you prefer spending the days at Emerald Manor with Brandi?"

"No." Pamela shook her head. "Brandi is relegating the entire week to assisting Herbert with the rock garden. She'll never notice my absence. Besides, I'd prefer to be with my husband."

A smile. "I'm flattered. I thought you cherished your garden above all else."

She returned his smile. "Almost all else."

Kenton could feel himself relenting. "How long would you need to collect your things?"

"A half hour at the most." She waited, a loving plea in her eyes.

"Very well." He sighed, pressing her palm to his lips. "You've convinced me." A new flicker of uncertainty flashed through his mind. "What about Brandi? Do you think she'll be all right alone?"

"She won't be alone; she'll have three sets of servants doting on her, at Townsboume, at Emerald Manor, and here. Further..." A prophetic glint lit Pamela's eyes. "Brandi is going through a most significant awakening. I think the time alone will do her good."

Kenton's brows knit in question. "What is our Brandi awakening to?"

"Herself. Her future. What it will be like when Quentin returns."

"When Quentin returns?" Kenton looked blank.

"She misses him, darling. Surely you recall that the only time Brandi comes alive is with our son."

"They've always had a very special rapport," he conceded. "But I don't see what that has to do with..."

"Everything, Kenton. You must have noticed how her exuberance has dimmed during his absence -- not to mention how she's loathe d every aspect of her first three Seasons."

"And you think Quentin's homecoming would lift her spirits?"

"Don't you? If anyone can reach her, he can."

"They haven't seen each other for four years, Pamela. Brandi was a child when Quentin went to war."

"Was she?" Pamela mused aloud. "I wonder." Lovingly, she squeezed her husband's forearm. "I'd best pack."

Kenton glanced at his timepiece and nodded. "Ardsley should be here any minute."

"Have Bentley fix him a drink. I'll be ready straightaway."

An odd sense of trepidation pierced Kenton's consciousness. "Pamela..." He put out an instinctive hand as if to protect her -- from what, he wasn't certain. "Maybe it would be best if you remained at Colverton."

"No." Pamela caught his hand between both of hers. "'Twould be best if I accompanied you. You see, darling, as I recently explained to Brandi, I love you. Our destinies are entwined. And whatever the future holds in store, we'll confront it together."

The trepidation vanished as quickly as it had come, annihilated by fate's iron will.

Forty minutes later, the imposing carriage bearing the Steel family crest rounded Colverton's winding drive and disappeared through the dense woods surrounding the estate.

Only the lone figure watching from a shadowed grove of trees by the roadside knew that the Duke and Duchess of Colverton and the Viscount Denerley would never arrive in London.

Copyright © 1996 by Andrea Kane

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Romantic

    Do you believe in true love....how about wishes of a true love? This is it. Makes me believe in wishes and dreams that do come true.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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