The Wild Baron (Baron Series)by Catherine Coulter
Catherine Coulter introduces the dashing Carrington brothers with the story of Rohan, a man with a rakish reputation but a heart of pure gold...See more details below
Catherine Coulter introduces the dashing Carrington brothers with the story of Rohan, a man with a rakish reputation but a heart of pure gold...
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The Mountvale Townhouse, Cavendish Square
London, April 1811
ROHAN CARRINGTON, FIFTH BARON MOUNTVALE, BELLOWED
at his brother’s portrait, ‘‘If you did this, George, and if you
weren’t already dead, I’d thrash you within an inch of your
bloody life. You little bounder. Were you even capable of
such a thing?’’
Even as he yelled, Rohan felt a knot swell in his throat.
George had been dead nearly a year. No, George couldn’t
have done this. George was studious, a scholar with no interest
in matters of the flesh. Rohan remembered once, a long
time ago, their father had taken him and George to Madame
Trillah’s on Cliver Street. At the sight of a very voluptuous
redhead with magnificent breasts, George had blanched and
then run half the way back to Mountvale Townhouse.
After that, their father had left George alone. George had
stuck to his maps and his studies. At least so Rohan had
‘‘No,’’ Rohan said, his voice low and deep now, his eyes
still on his brother’s portrait, painted when George was eighteen.
‘‘I don’t believe this damned letter. It was another young
blood using your name, wasn’t it? Did you really manage
to bring yourself to the sticking point and ravish a young
lady? Hell, did you even know what ‘ravish’ meant?
‘‘What does this man who calls himself her father want
from me? Stupid question. Money, of course. Damn you,
Georgeor rather damn the man who did this in your
George didn’t answer.
The last Carrington to ruin a young lady and find himself
shackled as a result had been Rohan’s great-grandfather, the
fabulous Luther Morran Carrington. Old Luther would shake
his head, according to Rohan’s grandfather, and mutter that
he’d only tossed up Cora’s skirts one miserable time and
he’d nailed her but good. He’d continued to nail Cora fourteen
more times, eight of his children surviving into adulthood.
Rohan pulled the bell cord behind the immaculate mahogany
desk. His secretary, Pulver, must have been standing just
outside the door, his face pressed against the wood, for he
was in the library in but a moment, not a bit out of breath.
He looked pale, gaunt, and put-upon, all three of which he
deserved, because, as his friend David Plummy had told him,
‘‘It serves you right, slaving like you do for the Wild Baron.
Just look at all those uncivilized hours he keeps, and he
works you harder than a dog in all the hours in-between.
What’s more, he beds more women than you and I will ever
even speak to in our lives and everybody loves him for it,
just like they love his mother and his father. He’s a philanderer.
It isn’t fair, damn him. As for you, Pulver, you deserve
to look like you’re on your last legs.’’
Pulver would shake his head mournfully, but the truth of
it was that Pulver enjoyed himself immensely. Working for
Baron Mountvale gave him a certain cachet. He’d even been
set upon by several ladies trying to bribe him to get them
into the baron’s bedchamber.
Pulver came to a halt in front of the baron, who looked
bilious and whose fair hair was standing on end. He was
curious to know what news had sent his master over the
edge. It wasn’t every day that the baron talked to himself.
‘‘Pulver, get my solicitor Simington over here. No, wait.’’
The baron broke off, staring at the portrait of his mother that
hung beside George’s above the mantel. It had been painted
when she was twenty-fivenearly his age now. She’d been
glorious when she was young, and she was still incredibly
beautiful at forty-five. In her younger years she had been
wilder than a storm-tossed night, and he’d been told from
his earliest memories that he was just like her, and like his
proud papa, of course. They’d told him that he’d been
blessed with their wild blood and tempestuous natures.
‘‘No,’’ he said, bringing himself back to the problem at
hand, ‘‘I will see to this myself. It’s strange and I don’t
believe a word of it. Besides, if there’s no bastard, how can
one prove ruination? And there’s no mention at all of a bastard.
Surely there would be mention in the bloody letter if
there was a bastard, don’t you think?
‘‘No, I must do it myself. I don’t want to, but I must,
dammit. I will be gone for three days, no more.’’
‘‘But, my lord,’’ Pulver said, near desperation in his voice,
‘‘you must need me to do something. You are agitated. There
is even a wrinkle in your sleeve. Your cravat is crooked.
Your fair locks need a brushing. Your valet would not approve.
Perhaps you are not thinking too clearly.’’
Rohan waved the letter in Pulver’s face. ‘‘I am thinking
clearly enough to know that I will probably put a bullet
through this bleater’s brain. The man’s a damned liarthat,
or someone else is.’’
‘‘Ah,’’ Pulver said. A woman has managed to get hold of
him. Was she a former mistress he didn’t want to see anymore?
She wanted money?
‘‘I am a very good negotiator,’’ Pulver said with a modesty
he did not possess, not budging from in front of the
baron. ‘‘I can deal with almost any bleater in London. Give
me a bleater from outside London and I’ll mash him.’’
Rohan became aware that his secretary was bearing down
on him. ‘‘Negotiator?’’ he repeated, distracted. ‘‘Oh, you
must be thinking about Melinda Corruthers. She was a tough
little bit of leather, wasn’t she? That was well done of you,
Pulver. You convinced her that she was swimming up the
wrong creek since I had truly never heard of her before.
Well, this isn’t the same. I will handle it myself, I owe it to
my brother. Turn down all invitations for the next week.’’
He paused, frowning, looking into his secretary’s gaunt face.
‘‘Eat something, man. You look skinnier than you did just
yesterday. People already believe I pay you so little that you
can’t even afford a turnip for your dinner. Even my mother
thinks I torture you.’’
Pulver was left standing where he was, watching the baron
leave the library, that piece of foolscap wadded in his hand.
It had to do with a woman. A woman and his brother? Surely
that was beyond strange. Which brother? Neither of the
baron’s brothers was the least like him. It was a start. Pulver
mentally arranged the few facts already in his possession.
Not much, but he was patient. He could begin to imagine
the look of envy on David Plummy’s face when he heard
about this new exploit.
Rohan strode into his bedchamber and paced, muttering
about a straight-as-a-stick younger brother who must have
had wicked friends who had used his name. His valet, Tinker,
who didn’t hear the baron’s muttering, even though he tried,
packed a valise for him. Tinker wondered why his lordship
wasn’t in a better humor. Surely this trip must involve a
female. Nearly all the baron’s trips did. Everyone knew that.
The baron was famous for his trips to his little hideaways.
But more than lust and passion seemed involved here. What
could it be? Tinker was patient. He would find out soon
enough. He wondered if Pulver knew more than he did.
Rohan didn’t think of Lily until he was tooling down the
Reading road at a fine clip, some fifteen miles out of London.
He sighed. He’d forgotten to send a message to her to tell
her he wouldn’t see her this evening. Ah, there was so much
to be done. Well, he wouldn’t be gone more than three days.
T H E W I L D B A R O N 5
Who the hell was this Joseph Hawlworth of Mulberry
House, Moreton-in-Marsh, a town that wasn’t far at all from
Oxford, where George had lived and pursued his solitary
Susannah raised her face to the sun. It felt wonderful. It had
rained continuously for two days, making everyone testy, but
today the sun was shining as if God himself had sent it blazing
down just for her. She gently patted the rich, black dirt
around the base of the rosebush. She moved on to a patch
of candytuft, her pride, sent to her by her cousin who had
spoken to one of the gardeners in Chelsea Gardens and
learned that the flowers had come from Persia to England
just a few years before. John had managed to spirit a cutting
out of Chelsea Gardens to her the previous fall. Now as she
lovingly traced her fingertips over the dark evergreen leaves
to the shower of white flowers atop the stem, she remembered
his note, telling her that the name ‘‘candy’’ had come
from Candia, the ancient name of Crete. She wondered if she
could ever work that bit into a conversation with her father.
Probably not. She wondered if she would ever be able to
work that bit into any conversation, with anyone in the environs.
She jerked out a particularly nasty weed, made certain that
the soil was well drained and moist, and prayed the sun
would continue shining, for the candytuft thrived with sun.
She turned on her heel at the sound of a curricle drawing
up in front of the cottage. Her father was supposedly in Scotland,
so he’d told her, but she knew he was very likely gambling
away his shirt with his cronies down in Blaystock. She
sighed and rose. A tradesman? No, it couldn’t be. She had
made very certain that all the tradesmen had been paid before
she allowed her father to leave Mulberry House, complaining
bitterly under his breath about what a shrew she had become.
Who would come in a curricle? She rounded the side of
the house to see a magnificent gray snorting and prancing to
a stop. The man driving the curricle was speaking to the
horse, a spirited conversation that drew an occasional snort
from the massive animal, who stood at least seventeen hands
high. When the horse quieted, the man looked about, probably
for a stable lad.
Susannah called out, ‘‘Just a moment and I’ll fetch Jamie.
He’ll take care of your horse.’’
‘‘Thank you,’’ the man called back.
When she returned with Jamie, who had been napping in
a mound of fresh hay at the back of the small barn behind
the house, the man was patting the horse’s nose, still speaking
‘‘Oh, aye,’’ Jamie said, sprinting forward now. ‘‘Yicks,
jest ley yer peepers on that purty boy. I’ll feed him good,
Guv, don’t ye worry. Wot’s the name of this beauty?’’
‘‘Odd name fer sech a manly beast and that’s what ye
bemanlydespite they cut off yer conkers. Gulliver, aye,
the name niver come to me ears afore, but who cares? I’ll
take ’im now, Guv. All gray ye be, and that lovely white
star in the middle of yer forehead. Come with me, ye purty
Rohan had never heard such an odd rendering of the English
language. It was both illiterate and intriguing and very
nearly sung in a deep baritone. He watched the stable lad
lead Gulliver and his curricle toward the back of the house.
Gulliver was prancing beside him, shaking his mighty head
at the lad’s words, just as he did with Rohan, only it seemed
to Rohan that his horse was showing more enthusiasm with
the stable lad, a damned stranger, than he normally did with
his true master, the one who paid for his oats.
And Susannah watched him watch his horse. When Jamie
and Gulliver were gone around the side of the house, she
was left standing in the drive looking at the man in a very
elegant greatcoat with at least six capes. He took off his hat
and ran his fingers through his pale blondish-brown hair. He
was young, not above twenty-five or twenty-six, and very
handsome. Too handsome, and probably very well aware of
it. She frowned. He looked familiar, but she couldn’t place
him, not at first.
It took her ten more seconds. She sucked in her breath
and took a step back. She said, ‘‘You’re George’s brother.
You’re the Wild Baron. Goodness, I didn’t realize how alike
She was so pale he thought she would fall over in a dead
‘‘Oh? You’re entirely wrong. George had black hair and
dark brown eyes. We looked nothing alike.’’
‘‘I don’t understand,’’ she said slowly. ‘‘Why are you saying
that? George had eyes nearly as green as yourshe said
his were the same color as his father’sand his hair was
just a bit darker blond than yours.’’
Well, damn. His ruse hadn’t paid off.
‘‘Very well,’’ Rohan said. ‘‘It was George, then. You did
know him.’’ Perhaps it also meant that she wasn’t part of
this plan to skinny down his coffers. At least he now knew
one thing for certain. It had been George, as fantastic as it
seemed to Rohan.
‘‘So,’’ Rohan said, not bowing, not offering to take her
hand, not doing anything except standing there, looking at
the run-down house, bricks missing from one of the chimneys,
and the beautiful gardens that surrounded it. ‘‘Since
you guessed who I am, since you described George nearly
to his eyebrows, then you must be the girl my brother supposedly
She stared at him. The black smudges of dirt on her face
stood out starkly against her pallor. She had become mute.
‘‘You’re not, then. Very well. You’re a maid, and a dirty
one at that. You simply saw George when he visited here?
You work at this house? For that paltry bugger who wrote
me that impertinent letter? If you do work here, you don’t
appear to do a very good job. The place looks like it’s ready
to fall down and crumble.’’
She got hold of herself. ‘‘That’s true enough, but I ask
you, how could a maid be responsible for how the house
looks on the outside?’’ That stymied him and she smiled to
herself. She realized, of course, that most self-respecting
maids would turn up their noses at her. Her hands were dirty,
there was black dirt on her muslin gown and under her fingernails,
her hair was straggling about her face.
She let him wriggle free from that one finally, saying, ‘‘I
not only work here, I also live here.’’
‘‘Then you are not a maid?’’
‘‘No, I’m not a maid.’’ She didn’t say anything more. She
watched him draw a piece of foolscap from his greatcoat
pocket. He waved it at her. ‘‘If you live here, then perhaps
you can tell me why this man named Joseph Hawlworth
wrote me this insolent letter telling me that George had ruined
you? It is you who are ruined, is it not?’’
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