Portrait of My Heart

Portrait of My Heart

4.8 4
by Patricia Cabot
     
 

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They parted in disgrace...But desire would bring them back together.

Years ago, in one explosive instant, childhood rivalry turned into wild passion for Jeremy, handsome young Duke of Rawlings, and Maggie Herbert, the object of his affections. Unfortunately, the ensuing scandal found them banished to separate corners of the world.

Now fate has joined Jeremy and

Overview

They parted in disgrace...But desire would bring them back together.

Years ago, in one explosive instant, childhood rivalry turned into wild passion for Jeremy, handsome young Duke of Rawlings, and Maggie Herbert, the object of his affections. Unfortunately, the ensuing scandal found them banished to separate corners of the world.

Now fate has joined Jeremy and Maggie again— for a long-overdue dance of desire as uncompromising as the lovers themselves. Jeremy, a decorated soldier, is determined to claim Maggie at last. And Maggie, engaged to be married to another man, finds her secret fantasies of Jeremy spinning out of control. All that stands between them and the steamy passion the years can no longer chain is the past— and a present steeped in jealousy, intrigue, and danger...

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Sexy, romantic...delightful."—Jill Jones, author of Essence of My Desire

Rendezvous
A charming and delightful read from beginning to end.
Bell, Book and Candle
Ms. Cabot is a delightful read with her humor and verbal sparring between the two main characters. Splendid!

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312968144
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
01/28/1999
Pages:
359
Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.87(d)

Read an Excerpt

Portrait of My Heart

Part One

Chapter 1

 

 

YORKSHIRE, MAY 1871

 

"Tell me you didn't," Lord Edward Rawlings groaned, dropping his face into his hands. "Not Oxford, Jeremy."

Jeremy regarded his uncle worriedly from across the tavern table. He wondered if he ought to call over the barmaid and order a cup of something stronger than ale. Edward looked as if he could have used a whisky or two. It was still early yet, however, and this was the Goat and Anvil, an alehouse located just a few miles down the road from Rawlings Manor. The staff might look a little askance at the Duke of Rawlings and his uncle tossing back whiskies before noon.

"It's really not as bad as all that, you know, Uncle Edward," Jeremy said lightly. "And you can't say you didn't expect something of the kind. After all, I've already had the distinction of being sent down from Eton and Harrow. I didn't want to deprive your alma mater of the privilege, as well."

Edward didn't laugh. Jeremy hadn't really expected him to, and he studied his uncle's bent head reflectively. In the six months since Christmas, when Jeremy had last seen him, more gray than ever had seeped into the dark hair at Edward's temples. Jeremy didn't flatter himself that he was the cause of the discoloration. After all, his uncle was currently one of the most influential men in the House of Lords, in a position of such authority that a bit of gray was not only expected, but necessary to lend authority to a man who, at only a little over forty years of age, might otherwise be perceivedas too young by his more conservative peers. But the knowledge that he was adding to his uncle's already burdensome worries didn't exactly sit well with the duke.

"Sent down from Oxford," Edward groaned again, into the foam topping his tankard of beer.

He'd been stating the phrase over and over, ever since Jeremy had casually let drop the reason for his sudden reappearance in Yorkshire. Jeremy was beginning to regret having said anything at all. He ought, he realized belatedly, to have waited until dinner at the manor house, when his aunt Pegeen would have been present, before making the announcement. While there was no one on earth whom Jeremy was more loath to disappoint than his aunt, at least she, unlike her husband, was capable of putting her nephew's many and varied misadventures into perspective. The fact that Jeremy had been sent down from Oxford wouldn't cause Pegeen so much as to raise an eyebrow. Of course, if she'd known the reason he'd been sent down ... now that would have made her unhappy, and it was for that reason that Jeremy had chosen to meet his uncle alone before making his way to the manor house.

"Bloody hell," Edward swore, finally looking up to meet his nephew's eye, as clear gray as his own. "Did you have to kill the man, Jerry? Couldn't you have simply winged 'im?"

"When a man has stated that he intends to fight you unto death, Uncle," Jeremy said, with some acerbity, "it is generally considered wisest to dispatch him permanently, if at all possible. Had I winged him, he'd only recover and come after me again. And I can't spend the whole of my life looking over my shoulder for crazed assassins."

Edward shook his head. "And yet you say you never touched the girl?"

For the first time, Jeremy looked uncomfortable. Having grown up to be every bit as large as his uncle, who towered over most other men at a few inches over six feet tall, Jeremy had trouble fitting into the narrow settles at the Goat and Anvil, and had to place his elbows on the table in order togive himself breathing room. This was not, however, the reason for his current discomfort.

"Well," he said slowly. "I didn't say I never touched her—"

"Jeremy," rumbled his uncle warningly.

"—-but I sure as hell didn't want to marry her! And there's the rub."

"Jeremy," Edward said again, in the deep voice Jeremy knew he reserved for Parliament and the disciplining of children. "Haven't I explained to you that there are women with whom a man may ... er ... dally, without exciting the expectation of marriage, and other women, with whom he'd best not associate at all unless his intentions are—"

"I know," Jeremy said, quickly cutting off a lecture he knew by heart, having heard it at least twice a month since he'd been old enough to shave. "I know, Uncle Edward. And I've certainly learned the difference over the years. But this particular young lady was introduced to me—purposely, I know now, and by her own brother, if you can imagine anything so sordid—in such a manner as would have led any man to believe she was nothing more than a charming bit of fluff to be had for the asking. She took my money readily enough, I assure you. It was only after the damage was done that Pierce came forward baying about how I'd sullied his sister's honor." Jeremy shuddered a little at the memory. "He kept insisting that I marry the hussy or meet the business end of his rapier. Is it any wonder, then, that I chose the rapier?" Jeremy lifted his tankard and sipped the yeasty brew within it. "Bad luck for Pierce he chose blades," he remarked bemusedly. "He'd have done better with pistols, I expect."

"Jeremy." Edward's face, which in the eleven years since Jeremy had first met him had grown leaner and better looking as his uncle's way of life became less dissipated, looked very stern. "You are aware that you've committed murder, aren't you?"

"Oh, come now, Uncle Edward," Jeremy chided. "It was a fair fight. His own second called it. And I'll admit, I lungedfor his arm, not his heart. But the bloody fool tried to feint, and the next thing I knew—"

"I don't condone dueling," Lord Edward interrupted imperiously. "I attempted to make that clear to you the last time this happened. And I clearly remember pointing out to you at that time that if you have to fight, do it on the Continent, for God's sake. You may be titled, but you're not above the law, you know. Now you've got no choice but to leave the country."

"I know," Jeremy said, rolling his eyes. He'd heard this lecture a few dozen times, as well.

Edward didn't notice his nephew's ennui. "I suppose the villa in Portofino would probably be best, though the apartment in Paris is currently unoccupied, I think. It's up to you. Six months ought to be enough. It's damned lucky for you, Jerry, that the college doesn't have enough evidence against you to prosecute, or—"

"Right," Jeremy interrupted with a sly wink. "Or I'd be behind bars right now, instead of enjoying a tankard with my good old uncle Ed."

"I'll thank you not to joke about it," Edward said severely. "You are a duke, Jerry, and as such are vested with both privileges and responsibilities, one of which is to refrain from killing your peers."

It was Jeremy's turn to get angry. After lowering the tankard with a thump, he banged a white-knuckled fist squarely in the center of the table and exploded. "You think I don't know that?" He kept his voice just low enough so as not to attract the notice of the other patrons of the alehouse. "Do you think you haven't successfully drilled that sentiment into my head over the past decade? Since that day you showed up on our doorstep in Applesby and told Pegeen that I was the heir to the Rawlings duchy, I've heard nothing but 'You're a duke, Jerry, you can't do that,' and 'You're a duke, Jerry, you must do this.' Good God, do you have any idea how sick I am of constantly hearing what I must and must not do?"

Edward, looking a little surprised at this sudden outburst,blinked. "No ... But I have a feeling you're going to tell me."

"I never wanted to go away to school," Jeremy went on bitterly. "I would have been far happier at the village school here in Rawlingsgate. Yet you shipped me off to Eton, and when I got myself expelled from there, you bribed the people at Harrow and then at Winchester, and on and on until I was instructed that I was to spend the next few years of my life at college. I hadn't any interest in going to Oxford—you know I hadn't—and yet you insisted, even though it was very clear that I'm far more capable with a sword than with a pencil. And now, crime of crimes, I'm sent down from Oxford upon suspicion of dueling with a schoolmate—"

"Whom you freely admit you killed," Edward pointed out.

"Of course I killed him!" Jeremy held out both hands, palms up, in a gesture of helplessness. "Pierce was a cad and a hanger-on, and I'm not the only person who's glad he's dead, though I took no more pleasure in dispatching him than in crushing a mosquito. And you have the audacity to accuse me of joking about it. Well, what else am I to do? My entire life up till now has been a joke, hasn't it?" Jeremy glared across the table at his uncle. "Well? Hasn't it?"

Edward's features, every bit as finely chiseled and handsome as his nephew's, twisted cynically. "Oh, yes," he said, in a voice fairly dripping with sarcasm. "Your existence has been tragic, indeed. You've been unloved and unappreciated. Your aunt Pegeen sacrificed nothing for you all those years she cared for you without the slightest notion that you'd ever inherit a duchy. She didn't go without food herself in order to insure that you'd had a good breakfast—"

"Leave Pegeen out of this," Jeremy cut his uncle off quickly. "I'm not talking about Pegeen. I'm talking about how after you brought us to Rawlings, and married her, you—"

For the first time since Jeremy had told him of his expulsion, Edward looked amused. "If you're upset about the fact that I married your aunt, Jerry, I might point out that it's a bit late to change that. After all, we've already providedyou with four cousins. It would be hard work to talk the archbishop into an annulment at this juncture."

Jeremy didn't laugh. "Look, Uncle Edward," he said. "Let me put it to you this way. Why did you spend all that time and money trying to find me eleven years ago, when you could easily have told people your older brother never had a child, and taken over the title yourself?"

Edward looked perplexed. "Because that would have been dishonorable. I knew that John had fathered a child before he died, and it was only right that the child should inherit his father's title."

"That's not what Sir Arthur told me," Jeremy said with a quick shake of his head. "He told me you didn't want the responsibility of being duke, and would have done anything to keep from inheriting the title."

"Well," Edward said, shrugging his shoulders uncomfortably beneath the impeccable cut of his jacket. "That isn't strictly true, but not far from the mark ... ."

"Well, how do you think I feel?" Jeremy demanded. "I don't want it, either!"

"Why in God's name not?" Edward's voice was just a little too hearty. "Haven't you one of the tidiest fortunes in England? Haven't you the finest horseflesh money can buy? Haven't you a town house in London, one of the grandest manor houses in Yorkshire, an apartment in Paris as well as an Italian villa? You've got over a hundred servants, the best tailor in Europe, a seat in the House of Lords which, now that you've come of age, I will gladly relinquish to you. You've been given every privilege, every reward, that someone of your rank deserves—"

"Except the freedom to do what I want," Jeremy interrupted quietly.

"Oh, well, yes." Again, Edward's face twisted sarcastically. "That is a heavy price, indeed. But what, precisely, is it that you want to do, Jerry? Besides go about whoring and murdering people, I mean?"

It was fortunate for Jeremy that the barmaid chose that moment to approach their table. Otherwise, he might have been guilty of yet another murder.

"Is there anythin' I kin get for Yer Grace?" Rosalinde, a girl who lived up to her name by having extraordinarily pink cheeks and a rosebud mouth, smiled at the two men prettily as she bent to swipe a damp rag over the tabletop, affording Jeremy a healthy view of the valley between her plentiful breasts as she did so. "Another pot of ale, p'raps?"

"Thank you, no, Rosalinde," Jeremy said, lifting his gaze from her bosom to her face with an effort. "You, Uncle?"

"No, I'm quite all right," Edward said. He didn't seem to have noticed the way Rosalinde's bodice gaped in the front, Jeremy noticed with disgust. But then, Jeremy had never known his uncle to notice any woman except Pegeen.

"How's your father, Rosalinde?" Edward asked kindly. "I heard he was feeling poorly."

"Oh, 'e's doin' better, thank ye, m'lord. After 'e drunk up that tonic your lady sent over, 'e was right as rain again." Rosalinde managed to convey this message to Edward without taking her eyes off Jeremy, who had given up trying not to look at her cleavage, and was now staring steadfastly out the lead-paned window instead. "Will ye be stayin' at the manor 'ouse for a spell, Yer Grace, or are ye 'eadin' straight back to school, then?"

"I'm not at all sure," Jeremy replied stiffly. "It's likely I'll stay put for a few days, at least ... ."

With his gaze so carefully averted, Jeremy didn't see Rosalinde's smile, or how her blue eyes shone when she gushed, "Oh, I am glad. An' Miss Maggie'll be glad, too. Why, just t'other day I arst 'er outside the mercantile when she might be seein' Yer Grace again, an' she said she din't rightly know, only it'd been so long she liked as if ye wouldn't recognize each other noways!"

This bit of information Jeremy responded to only with a polite nod, but that was apparently enough for Rosalinde, who drifted away from their table as if she'd suddenly grown wings. As soon as she was out of earshot, Jeremy ripped his gaze from the cart horse to which it had been riveted the entire time Rosalinde had been speaking to him and fastened it instead upon his uncle. "See?" he demanded. "See what I mean? I'm not even safe in the local pub! I have to bewatching out for mercenaries everywhere I go!"

"Rosalinde Murphy is hardly a mercenary, Jerry," Edward replied mildly. "I believe she has a genuine interest in your welfare."

"Not my welfare," Jeremy corrected him. "My purse."

"Your person," Edward said, with a laugh. "The young lady's taken with you. What's so wrong with that?"

Jeremy exhaled impatiently. "Because it's not me she wants!" he insisted. "It's my money, and that damned title! Every woman I meet, the minute she learns I'm a duke, it's Your Grace this and Your Grace that. All a woman who meets me can think about is the day when she might begin signing her name Duchess of Rawlings. I can see it in their eyes. They're already picturing themselves with a tiara on their head and ermine round their shoulders."

"What you're seeing in their eyes, Jerry, is lust, and it's not for your title." Edward attempted, unsuccessfully, to stifle a chuckle. "Look at yourself, Jerry. You might still consider yourself the scrawny little scamp you were when you were ten, but Rosalinde sees someone entirely different. She sees a tall, robust young man, with dark hair and light eyes and a good set of teeth—"

"I hardly think Rosalinde Murphy has ever noticed my teeth," Jeremy muttered, to cover the embarrassment he felt at his uncle's assurances.

"Perhaps not," Edward laughed. "But you're still a fine figure of a man, Jerry, and you can't expect women not to respond to that. And when they do, don't automatically dismiss that interest as purely pecuniary in nature."

Jeremy, thoroughly embarrassed now, muttered into his beer, "Well, being a duke certainly doesn't make that kind of thing any easier. I mean, my God, I can't even marry whom I choose! I have to marry a woman who'd make a decent duchess."

"True," Edward said. "But that doesn't necessarily follow that it's impossible for one to find marital bliss with the kind of woman who'd make a decent duchess." Thoughtfully, he lifted his tankard. "I managed to do it, after all."

"Too bad my father wasn't as discriminating," Jeremycommented bitterly. "Of a pair of sisters, he managed to pick the one who'd eventually end up getting him killed."

Edward cleared his throat uncomfortably as he set the tankard down again. "Yes, well. Pegeen was only ten years old, I believe, when John first came calling on your mother, so I don't believe she was much in the running." Then, as if remembering something, Edward leaned forward and said, in a completely different tone of voice, "You're not to tell your aunt why it was you were sent down this time, Jerry."

"As if I would," Jeremy said bitterly. "The last thing I'd want is for Aunt Pegeen to know. But she's bound to find out anyway. It will probably make the papers."

"Certainly it will make the papers," Edward said with a curt nod. "That's different, however, than you coming straight out and admitting it. That's the only way Pegeen'd ever believe you were capable of murder."

"Right," Jeremy agreed, with a smile every bit as cynical as his uncle's had been earlier. "Me, the boy who cried for hours after his first hunt, because he felt so sorry for the fox."

"You didn't cry for all that long," Edward said, shifting in his seat, a little uncomfortable at the memory of that fateful day. "But you're right. It's hard to reconcile what you were then to what you are now."

Jeremy's gaze was still sarcastic. "And what am I now, Uncle?"

"That's up to you, isn't it?" Edward took another sip of his beer, then asked, "What sort of man do you want to be?"

"One who isn't a duke," Jeremy responded promptly.

"But that," Edward said, "isn't possible."

Jeremy nodded as if this were the response he'd expected. Without another word, he started to slide from the settle. Edward looked up at him, surprised. "Where are you going?" he asked.

"To the devil," Jeremy informed him casually.

"Ah," Edward said with a nod. He settled more deeply into his seat, and lifted his tankard in a solemn toast to his nephew's departing back. "Be home in time for dinner, then."

Copyright © 1999 by Patricia Cabot.

What People are saying about this

Jill Jones
Sexy, romantic...delightful.

Meet the Author

Patricia Cabot is a writer, administrator, and freelance artist. She lives in New York with her husband and one-eyed cat Henrietta. This is her second novel.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Place of Birth:
Bloomington, Indiana
Education:
B.A. in fine arts, Indiana University, 1991
Website:
http://www.megcabot.com

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Portrait of My Heart 4.8 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cabot has outdone herself again. This book is not only home to passionate romance, but also witty dialougue between characters. It's an absolute treasure!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*Kisses you* gtg bbt
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is in her room