The Trouble with Harry (Nobles Series #3)by Katie MacAlister
1. He is Plum’s new husband. Not normally a problem, but when you consider that Harry advertised for a wife, and Plum was set to marry his secretary, there was cause for a bit of confusion. 2. He has a title. Plum has spent the last twenty years hiding from the ton, and now Harry wants her to shine in society? Horrors! 3. He doesn’t know about her shocking secret. How… See more details below
1. He is Plum’s new husband. Not normally a problem, but when you consider that Harry advertised for a wife, and Plum was set to marry his secretary, there was cause for a bit of confusion. 2. He has a title. Plum has spent the last twenty years hiding from the ton, and now Harry wants her to shine in society? Horrors! 3. He doesn’t know about her shocking secret. How is she going to explain about the dead husband who isn't a husband . . . and who now seems to be alive again? 4. He’s fallen in love with her. And yet, the maddening man refuses to confide in her. For Plum knows the real trouble with Harry is that he’s stolen her heart. \
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The Trouble With Harry
By Katie MacAlister
Copyright © 2004
All right reserved.
Harry wished he was dead. Well, perhaps death was an
exaggeration, although St. Peter alone knew how long he'd be
able to stand up to this sort of continued torture.
"And then what happens?" His tormentor stared at him with eyes
that were very familiar to him, eyes that he saw every morning
in his shaving mirror, a mixture of brown, gray, and green
that was pleasant enough on him, but which surrounded by the
lush brown eyelashes of his inquisitor, looked particularly
charming. And innocent. And innocuous-something the possessor
of the eyes was most decidedly not. "Well? Then what happens?
Aren't you going to tell me?"
Harry ran his finger between his neckcloth and his neck,
tugging on the cloth to loosen its constricting grasp on his
windpipe, wishing for the fifteenth time in the last ten
minutes that he had been able to escape capture.
"I want to know!"
Or found another victim to throw to the one who held him
"You have to tell me!"
Perhaps death wasn't such a wild thought after all. Surely if
he were to die at that exact moment he would be admitted into
heaven. Surely St. Peter would look upon the deeds he had done
for the benefit of others, deeds such as spending fifteen
years working as a spy for the Home Office, and grant him
asylum.Surely he wouldn't be turned away from his rightful
reward, damned to eternal torment, left to an eternity of hell
such as he was in now, a hell dominated by -
Harry sighed and pushed his spectacles high onto the bridge of
his nose, bowing his head in acknowledgement of defeat. "After
the hen and the rooster are-er-married, they will naturally
wish to produce chicks."
"You already said that," his thirteen-year-old inquisitor said
with the narrowed eyes and impatient tone of one who is
through being reasonable. "What happens after that? And what
do chickens have to do with my unpleasantness?"
"It's the process of producing offspring that is related to
your unpleasantness. When a mother hen wishes to have chicks,
she and the rooster must-er-perhaps chickens aren't the best
example to explain the situation."
Lady India Haversham, eldest daughter of the Marquis Rosse,
tapped her fingers on the table at her side, and glared at her
father. "You said you were going to explain the
unpleasantness! George says I'm not going to die despite the
fact that I'm bleeding, and that it's a very special time for
girls, although I do not see what's special about having pains
in my stomach, and you said you'd tell me and now you're
talking about bees and flowers, and chickens, and fish in the
river. What do they have to do with me?"
No, Harry decided as he looked at the earnest, if stormy, eyes
of his oldest child "death was distinctly preferable to having
to explain the whys and hows of reproduction" particularly the
female's role in reproduction, with a specific emphasis on
their monthly indispositions" to India. He decided that
although he had been three times commended by the Prime
Minister for bravery, he was at heart a coward, because he
simply could not stand the torture any longer.
"Ask Gertie. She'll explain it all to you," he said hastily as
he jumped up from a narrow pink chair and fled the sunny room
given over to his children, shamelessly ignoring the cries of,
"Papa! You said you'd tell me!"
"You haven't seen me," Harry said as he raced through a small,
windowless room that served as an antechamber to his estate
office. "You haven't seen me, you don't know where I am, in
fact, you might just decry knowledge of me altogether. It's
safer that way. Throw the bolt on the door, would you, Temple?
And perhaps you should put a chair in front of it. Or the
desk. I wouldn't put it past the little devils to find a way
in with only the door bolted."
Templeton Harris, secretary and man of affairs, pursed his
lips as his noble employer raced into the adjacent room.
"What was it this time, sir?" Temple asked as he followed
Harry. Weak sunlight filtered through the dingy windows,
lighting motes of dust sent dancing in the air by Harry's rush
through the room. "Did McTavish present you with another of
his finds? Has Lord Marston decided he wishes to become a
blacksmith rather than inherit your title? Are the twins
trying to fly from the stable roof again?"
Harry shuddered visibly as he gulped down a healthy swig of
brandy. "Nothing so benign. India wished to know certain
facts. Woman things."
Temple's pale blue eyes widened considerably. "But-but Lady
India is only a child. Surely such concepts are beyond her?"
Harry took a deep, shaky breath and leaned toward a window
thick with grime. Using his elbow he cleaned a small patch,
just enough to peer out into the wilderness that once was a
garden. "She might be a child to our minds, Temple, but
according to nature, she's trembling on the brink of
"Oh, those sorts of woman things."
Harry held out the empty brandy snifter silently, and just as
silently Temple poured a judicious amount of smoky amber
liquid into it. "Have one yourself. It's not every day a man
can say his daughter has-er-trembled."
Temple poured himself a small amount and silently toasted his
"I can remember when she was born," Harry said as he stared
out through the clean patch of glass, enjoying the burn of the
brandy as it warmed its way down his throat. "Beatrice was
disappointed that she was a girl, but I thought she was
perfect with her tiny little nose, and a mop of brown curls,
and eyes that used to watch me so seriously. It was like she
was an angel, sent down to grace our lives, a ray of light, a
beam of sunshine, a joy to behold." He took another deep
breath as three quicksilver shadows flickered across the dirty
window, the high, carefree laughter of children up to some
devilment trailing after them. Harry flung himself backward,
against the wall, clutching his glass with fingers gone white
with strain. "And then she grew up and had her woman's time,
and demanded that I explain everything to her. What's next,
Temple, I ask you, what's next?"
Temple set his glass down in the exact same spot it had
previously occupied, and wiped his fingers on his
handkerchief, trying not to grimace at the dust and decay
rampant in the room. It disturbed his tidy nature immensely to
know that the room had not seen a maid's hand since they had
arrived some three weeks before. "I assume, my lord, that as
Lady Anne is now eight years old, in some five years time she
will be demanding the very same information. Would you not
allow a maid to just clean around your books? I can promise
you that none of your important papers or items will be
touched during the cleaning process. Indeed, I would be happy
to tend to the cleaning myself if you would just give me
Harry, caught up in the hellish thought of having to repeat
with his youngest daughter the scene he'd just (barely)
escaped, shook his head. "No. This is my room, the one room in
the whole house that is my sanctuary. No one but you is
permitted in it, not the children, not the maids, no one. I
must have someplace that is wholly mine, Temple, somewhere
sacred, somewhere that I can just be myself."
Temple glanced around the room. He knew the contents well
enough, he'd had to carry in the boxes of Harry's books, his
estate papers, the small bureau of curios, the horribly
muddied watercolors that graced the walls. "Perhaps if I had
the curtains washed"
"No," Harry repeated, sliding a quick glance toward the window
before daring to cross the room to a large rosewood desk
covered in papers, scattered quills, stands of ink, books, a
large statue of Pan, and other assorted items too numerous to
catalog. "I have something else for you to do than wash my
Temple, about to admit that he hadn't intended on washing the
drapery himself, decided that information wasn't relevant to
his employer's happiness, and settled with a sigh into the
comfortable leather chair to one side of the desk. He withdrew
a memorandum notepad and pencil from his inner pocket. "Sir?"
Harry paced from the desk to the unlit fireplace. "How long
have you been with me, Temple?"
"Fourteen years on Midsummer's Day," that worthy replied
"That's just a fortnight away."
Temple allowed that was so.
"I had married Beatrice the summer before," Harry continued,
staring into the dark emptiness of the fire as if his life was
laid out there amid the heap of coal waiting to be lit should
the warm weather turn cold.
"I believe when I came into your service that Lady Rosse
was-er-in expectation of Lady India's arrival."
"Hmm. It's been almost five years since Bea died."
Temple murmured an agreement.
"Five years is a long time," Harry said, his hazel eyes dark
behind the lenses of his spectacles. "The children are running
wild. God knows they don't listen to me, and Gertie and George
are hard put to keep up with the twins and McTavish, let alone
Digger and India."
Temple's eyebrows rose a fraction of an inch. He had a
suspicion of just where the conversation was going, but was
clueless to envision what role the marquis felt he could serve
in such a delicate matter.
Harry took a deep breath, rubbed his nose, then turned and
stalked back to the deep green leather chair behind the desk.
He sat and waved his hand toward the paper in Temple's hand.
"I've decided the children need the attention of a woman. I
want you to help me find one."
Harry's lips thinned. "No. After Miss Reynauld died in the
fire-no. The children must have time to recover from that
horror. The woman I speak of" He glanced over at the miniature
that sat in prominence on the corner of his desk. "will be my
marchioness. The children need a mother, and I"
"Need a wife?" Temple said gently as Harry's voice trailed
off. Despite his best intentions not to allow himself to
become emotionally involved in his employer's life -emotions
so often made one uncomfortable and untidy -he had, over the
years, developed quite a fondness for Harry and his brood of
five hellions. He was well aware that Harry had an affection
for his wife that might not have been an all-consuming love,
but was strong enough to keep him bound in grief for several
years after her death in childbirth.
"Yes," Harry said with a sigh, slouching back into the
comfortable embrace of the chair. "I came late to the married
state, but must admit that I found it an enjoyable one,
Temple. You might not think it possible for someone who is
hounded night and day by his rampaging herd of children, but I
find myself lonely of late. For a woman. A wife," he corrected
quickly, a faint frown creasing his brow. "I have determined
that the answer to this natural desire for a companion, and
the need for someone to take the children in hand, is a wife.
With that thought in mind, I would like you to take down an
advertisement I wish you to run in the nearest local
newspaper. What is the name of it - the Dolphin's Derriere
"The Ram's Bottom Gazette, sir, so named because the journal
originates in the town of Ram's Bottom, which is, I believe,
located some eight miles to the west. I must confess, however,
as to being a bit confused by your determination to place an
advertisement for a woman to claim the position of
marchioness. I had always assumed that a gentleman of your
consequence looked to other members of your society for such a
candidate, rather than placing an advertisement in an organ
given over to discussions that are primarily agricultural in
Harry waved away that suggestion. "I've thought about that,
but I have no wish to go into town until I have to."
"But surely you must have friends, acquaintances who know of
eligible women of your own class"
"No." Harry leaned back in his chair, propping his feet up on
the corner of his desk. "I've looked over all my friends'
relatives, none of them will suit. Most of them are too young,
and the ones who aren't just want me for the title."
Temple was at a loss. "But, sir, the woman will be your
marchioness, the mother of your yet unborn children"
Harry's feet came down with a thump as he sat up and glared at
his secretary. "No more children! I'm not going through that
again. I won't sacrifice another woman on that altar." He
rubbed his nose again and re-propped his feet. "I don't have
time to hunt for a wife through conventional means. I mean to
acquire one before anyone in the neighborhood knows who I am,
before the grasping title-seekers get me in their sights.
Cousin Gerard dying suddenly and leaving me this place offers
me the perfect opportunity to find a woman who will need a
husband as much as I need a wife. I want an honest woman, one
gently born and educated, but not necessarily of great family
-a solid country gentlewoman, that's what's needed. She must
like children, and wish to-er-participate in a physical
relationship with me."
"But," Temple said, his hands spreading wide in confusion.
"But-ladies who participate in a physical relationship often
"I shall see to it that my wife will not be stretched upon the
rack of childbirth," Harry said carelessly, then visibly
flinched when somewhere nearby a door slammed, and what
sounded like a hundred elephants thundered down the hallway
outside his office. "Take this down, Temple. Wanted: an
honest, educated woman between the ages of thirty-five and
fifty, who desires to be joined in the wedded state to a man,
forty-five years of age, in good health and with sufficient
means to ensure her comfort. Must desire children. Applicants
may forward their particulars and references to Mr. T. Harris,
Raving-By-The-Sea. Interviews will be scheduled the week
following. That should do it, don't you think? You may screen
the applicants for the position, and bring me the ones who you
think are suitable. I shall interview them and weed out those
who won't suit."
"Sir" Temple said, even more at a loss as to how to counsel
his employer from such a ramshackle method of finding a wife.
"I -what if - how will I know who you will find suitable?"
Harry frowned over the top of an estate ledger. "I've already
told you what I want, man! Someone honest, intelligent, must
like children. I would prefer it if she possessed a certain
charm to her appearance, but that's not absolutely necessary."
Temple swallowed his objections, and asked meekly, "Where do
you wish to interview the candidates for your hand? Surely not
here, at Ashleigh Court?"
Harry ran his finger down a column of figures, his eyes
narrowing at the proof of abuse by his late cousin's steward.
"The man should be hung, draining the estate dry like that.
What did you say? Oh, no, any woman of sense would take one
look at this monstrosity and run screaming in horror. Find
somewhere in town, somewhere I can meet with the ladies and
have a quiet conversation with them. Individually, of course.
Group appointments will not do at all."
"Of course," Temple agreed, and staggered from the room, his
mind a whirl. The only thing that cheered him up was the
thought that Harry's wife, whoever she would turn out to be,
would no doubt insist on the house being cleaned from attic to
Harry was just settling down to make notes about what needed
attention first on the estate, when a sudden high-pitched
shriek had him out of the chair, and almost to the door before
Temple appeared in the open doorway to the hall.
Harry hesitated at the sight of Temple's weak smile. "The
children - is someone hurt?"
"Peacocks," Temple said concisely.
Harry blinked, then relaxed. "Peacocks? Oh. Peacocks. Yes,
they do have an ungodly scream. I thought one of the children"
Another blood-curdling screech cut across his words. Before
Harry could draw a breath, a huge green and blue bird raced
passed him down the hall, its once magnificent tail feathers
now ragged and muddy. Hoots, yells, and assorted shouts
followed the peacock as the three younger children pounded
after the poor bird. Anne stopped next to the great curved
staircase, threw her head back, and let forth the most
hair-raising sound Harry had ever heard.
"As I was about to say, sir, it is not the peacock making the
noise, it is the children."
Harry closed the door quietly, leaning back against it as the
sounds of one agitated peacock being pursued by three noisy
children around and around the hall filtered through the solid
door. "Write the advertisement, Temple."
Excerpted from The Trouble With Harry
by Katie MacAlister
Copyright © 2004 by Katie MacAlister .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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