Say You Love Me (Malory Family Series)by Johanna Lindsey, Michael Page
Her parents' death has left Kelsey Langton penniless - and responsible for the well-being of her younger sister, Jean. Kelsey knows that the only way to avert their doom is to allow herself to be sold at auction. Resigned to becoming the plaything of a well-heeled gentleman, she gets more than she bargained for. Lord Derek Malory is the highest bidder - a dashing… See more details below
Her parents' death has left Kelsey Langton penniless - and responsible for the well-being of her younger sister, Jean. Kelsey knows that the only way to avert their doom is to allow herself to be sold at auction. Resigned to becoming the plaything of a well-heeled gentleman, she gets more than she bargained for. Lord Derek Malory is the highest bidder - a dashing rakehell from a family of charming London rogues. Enthralled by the lovely young woman with shining eyes and dark hair, he purchases her to be his mistress, unaware of the true worth of his prize. He never imagined that this woman he so frivolously acquired would be blessed with all the attributes he was looking for in a wife - grace, wit, intelligence as well as beauty. He certainly never expected to fall in love.
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It wasn't such a bad place, this place that was going to witness her sale to the highest bidder. It was clean. Its decor was quite elegant. The parlor she had first been shown to could have belonged in the home of any one of her family's friends. It was an expensive house in one of the better sections of London. It was politely referred to as a House of Eros. It was a place of sin.
Kelsey Langton still couldn't believe that she was there. Ever since she had walked in the door she had been sick to her stomach with fear and dread. Yet she had come here willingly. No one had carried her inside kicking and screaming.
What was so incredible was she hadn't been forced to come here, she had agreed to -- at least she had agreed that it was the only option available. Her family needed money -- and a lot of it -- to keep them from being thrown into the streets.
If only there had been more time to make plans. Even marriage to someone she didn't know would have been preferable. But her Uncle Elliott was likely right. He had pointed out that no gentleman with the wherewithal to help would consider marriage in a matter of days, even if a special license could be obtained. Marriage was simply too permanent to be jumped into without careful consideration.
But this ... well, gentlemen did frequently acquire new mistresses on the spur of the moment, knowing fall well that those mistresses would be every bit as costly as a wife, if not more so. The great difference was that a mistress, though easy to acquire, could also be easily disposed of, without the lengthy legalities and subsequent scandal.
She was to be someone's mistress.Not a wife. Not that Kelsey knew any gentlemen personally she could have married, at least none who could afford to settle Uncle Elliott's debts. She had several young beaux courting her in Kettering, where she had grown up, before The Tragedy, but the only one with a large income had married some distant cousin.
Everything had happened so swiftly. Last night she came down to the kitchen as she did each night before refiring, to heat a bit of milk to help her sleep. Sleep was something she'd had difficulty with ever since she and her sister Jean had come to live with their Aunt Elizabeth.
Her insomnia had nothing to do with living in a new house and town, nor with Aunt Elizabeth. Her aunt was a dear woman, their mother's only sister, and she loved both her nieces as if they were her own daughters, had welcomed them with open arms and all the sympathy they had desperately needed after The Tragedy. No, it was the nightmares that disturbed Kelsey's sleep, and the vivid recollections, and the ever-recurring thought that she could have prevented The Tragedy.
Aunt Elizabeth had suggested the warm milk all those months ago when she had finally noticed the dark smudges beneath Kelsey's gray eyes and had gently prodded for the reason. And the milk did help -- most nights. it had become a nightly ritual, and she usually disturbed no one, the kitchen being empty that time of night. Except last night ...
Last night, Uncle Elliott had been there, sitting at one of the worktables, not with a late repast before him, but a single, rather large bottle of strong spirits. Kelsey had never seen him drink more than the one glass of wine Aunt Elizabeth allowed with dinner.
Elizabeth frowned on drinking, and so naturally didn't keep strong spirits in her house. But wherever Elliott had obtained that bottle, he was more than halfway finished. And the effect it had on him was quite appalling. He was crying. Quiet, silent sobs, with his head in his raised hands, tears dripping down onto the table, and his shoulders shaking pitifully. Kelsey had thought it was no wonder Elizabeth didn't want strong drink in her house....
But it wasn't the drink that was causing Elhott such distress, as she was to discover. No, he'd been sitting there, with his back to the door, assuming he wouldn't be disturbed while he contemplated killing himself.
Kelsey had wondered several times since if he would have had the courage to actually go through with it if she had quietly left. He'd never struck her as being an overly brave man, just a gregarious, usually jovial one. And it was her presence, after all, that had presented him with a solution to his troubles, one that he might not have considered otherwise, one that she certainly would never have thought of.
And all she'd done was ask him, "Uncle Elliott, what's wrong?"
He'd swung around to see her standing behind him in her high-necked nightgown and robe, carrying the lamp she always brought downstairs with her. For a moment he'd appeared shocked. But then his head had dropped back into his hands and he'd mumbled something she couldn't quite make out, so she'd had to ask him to repeat himself.
He'd raised his head enough to say, "Go away, Kelsey, you shouldn't see me like this."
"It's all right, really," she'd told him gently. "But perhaps I should fetch Aunt Elizabeth?"
"No!" had come out with enough force to make her start, then more calmly, if still quite agitated, he added, "She doesn't approve of my drinking ... and ... and she doesn't know."
"Doesn't know that you drink?"
He didn't answer immediately, but she had already assumed that was what he meant. The
family had always known that he would go to extremes to keep Elizabeth from unpleasantness, apparently even those of his own making.
Elliott was a large man with blunt features and hair that had gone mostly gray now that he was approaching fifty...
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