Emily Moss cannot stand the roguish Alexander Bredon. As this season's most desired debut, she could have any man she wants. Unfortunately, Lady Lancaster pairs her up with none other than the incorrigible man himself.
With mutual dislike and contempt, Alex would rather be doing anything other than escorting the high and mighty Emily, until a secret about her falls into his lap. Suddenly, he realizes there may be more to the lady than he originally thought.
Perhaps the only thing that can keep them from killing each other is falling for each other instead.
Each book in the Lady Lancaster Garden Society series is STANDALONE:
* Taming Her Forbidden Earl
* Romancing His English Rose
* Tempting Her Reluctant Viscount
* Enticing Her Unexpected Bridegroom
* A Rogue For Emily
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
No one is perfect, but it is better to try to be the best you can be and fail, than not even make the attempt.
~The Duke of Lancaster
"I found a new position for that woman I was telling you about, Father. The Albemarles took her on as their head housekeeper. She was given quarters for herself and her two little ones. Maybe Baby Charlotte will finally get over that cough."
Emily continued to chatter on about Charlotte and her family as she knelt before the gravestones of her father and mother. She brushed away leaves and plucked an errant weed or two from around the base of the large granite stone. Standing, she placed two white roses into the outstretched hands of the carved angel perched atop the somber gray grave marker.
Her parents had died a year ago, just days after her eighteenth birthday. It still felt like yesterday to Emily, and every day since still felt surreal — a nightmare she wished she could awaken from. But it wasn't a dream. It was 1814 and the reality was that her parents were gone, and she was now living in her rambling mansion with people who were near strangers.
Emily had met her uncle and his wife on numerous occasions, of course, but they had always been more focused on talking to the adults than to a child. They spent much of their visits commenting on whatever new acquisition they had made and asking the duke and duchess when they planned to redo the old manse. Appearances and things seemed to mean a lot to her father's younger brother and his rather snooty wife. They were nothing like her parents, and Emily didn't feel like she belonged in her own home anymore. She was richer than any person had a right to be, and she had grown into a beautiful young woman, if the word of those of her acquaintance were to be believed. Even Emily couldn't say with any honesty that she wasn't pretty. She looked just like her mother, and her mother had been the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. But Emily refused to be defined by her wealth and beauty. She had larger goals than marrying an even richer gentleman and settling into the role of mother and homemaker.
She supposed that was why she had happily joined Lady Lancaster's Garden Society.
Like many of the girls on the marriage market, Emily had heard whispers of the ladies' club in the quiet corners of a ball or in the retiring room at an evening soiree or two. It was, by all accounts, a very exclusive club that invited only the most impressive debutantes of the season, but Emily had had her doubts.
Yes, Lady Lancaster was a paragon of wisdom. Of that, there was no question. But she was also a little strange in Emily's opinion. What kind of duchess — dowager or otherwise — would insist on being addressed as "Lady" and not "Her Grace," as convention dictated?
Emily knew that it had something to do with Lady Lancaster's deceased mother-in-law. It was rumored that there had been some tension between the two women. But it must have been something more serious than simple tension for a woman of Elizabeth Plantagenet's status to rebuke her rightful address.
It boggled the mind. That oddity, in addition to the reputation of some of the girls who had been invited to join, and Emily felt she had been justified in her suspicions.
Granted, Hannah Cowden and Hope Stuckeley were lovely and accomplished ladies, but Rose Warren and Sarah Jardin? The latter two had been curious choices in everyone's opinion. Rose was a shy wallflower. Pretty enough, but she went largely unnoticed by the ton due to her propensity to hide among the chaperones or curtains, whichever was more handy. And Sarah ... that girl couldn't help but draw attention, but never in a good way. She was clumsy and awkward, but even worse was her penchant for saying the most inappropriate things at the most unsuitable times.
If those were the type of people the lady was looking for to join her society, Emily had almost been grateful she hadn't been invited.
Almost, but not quite. The truth was, she wanted to be part of the highly private gathering. She wanted to be included by the grand Lady Lancaster. She wanted to learn how to be more like the dowager duchess. The woman seemed to be in constant control of herself and her surroundings. And despite the fact that she interminably intimidated most people, they also were in awe of her charity and goodness. She could do no wrong, it seemed. She was universally loved and respected. And she always appeared completely at ease and satisfied in every situation.
Emily couldn't remember the last time she had truly been comfortable anywhere. Not since her parents had died, certainly, but even before that tragedy. All she really wanted was to find her place in the world. And for some reason, Emily felt sure that Lady Lancaster could help her find it.
The day she was pulled aside by the grand woman and invited personally to join the group had been the happiest in her recent recollection. It had happened at a ball, like most important things had since coming of age. She had been standing within a circle of her peers, chatting and waiting for the next dance to begin. She had received a dance request from every appropriate man in the room, none of whom she had had any interest in, and she remembered she had just been waiting for the whole affair to end.
As she had pretended to listen to the conversation around her, Alexander Bredon and David Cowden walked by the group. They had been loud and obnoxious, as usual, and it had been clear to Emily that the men were trying to impress the girls. Not that it mattered what they did or said. The two were considered great catches among the ladies. David more so than Alexander, as he was to inherit his father's title of Earl, but Alexander was a wealthy, and some thought handsome, younger brother of a well-respected family and therefore a decent prize in his own right.
Emily remembered thinking that both of the men were immature boys. Alex, in particular, seemed to pluck her last nerve.
In fact, even now as she sat at the foot of her parents' grave, she found most of the eligible men of the ton were lacking in some way or another. Where were the heroes she had read about? The kind of gentlemen who swept ladies off their feet? So many of the conversations in which she found herself engaging with her suitors involved the man bragging about the horse he just bought or how he was wealthy enough to shower her in jewels.
Now Emily could admit that dripping in gems would probably appeal to most of her set, but just once she would have liked to hear about how the gentleman was enriching the world around him. The charities he supported or how he provided for his loyal staff; something showing he was humbled by the wealth he had earned — or more likely inherited.
But as of yet Emily had not met such a man. She feared she never would in time. She would be nineteen in a week, and her uncle had already told her that if she didn't pick a suitor by the time she turned twenty, he would pick for her. As her guardian, he had the power to do so. Emily knew the man would find the richest and most well-connected man he could, regardless of age, character, or manners.
Emily could not let it be left up to her uncle; therefore, she was on the hunt for the least objectionable man of her acquaintance. And she would wait until the last possible moment to make her choice.
In any case, whenever she recalled the night when Lady Lancaster had changed her life, Emily remembered how the ladies had tittered and cooed over the lads when David and Alexander had moved out of earshot. The memory of the conversation was still emblazoned in her mind.
"Isn't that David a beautiful specimen of golden perfection?" Lavinia Brudenell gushed.
"And Alexander is so tall, dark, and handsome," Susan added, equally smitten.
Lavinia raised a perfect eyebrow. "Let me guess, Emily dear ... both men are beneath you?"
Emily simply shrugged.
"Oh Emily," Charlotte admonished. "How do you ever expect to find a husband with that attitude?"
With a snort of derision, Lavinia waved her hands. "And to think, she has been deemed the Diamond of the season. Every man in this room wants to make a match with 'Lady Emily the Cold,' and she doesn't want a one of them."
"I am standing right here, Lavinia," Emily replied. "Please refrain from speaking as if I were not."
Eyes flashing, Lavinia tossed a long lock of light brown hair over her shoulder. "Be that as it may, Emily, but I rather think you should be over there."
The girls had looked in the direction Lavinia had indicated. In the far corner, by one of the heavily laden refreshment tables, Rose Warren and Sarah Jardin stood awkwardly. Neither one had danced with anyone that Emily had noticed and despite being with each other, they both looked like they would have rather been anywhere but in that ballroom.
These two ladies were generally avoided like the plague by the other debutantes. They were the kiss of Judas to attracting dance partners, as the men may be obligated to ask either Sarah or Rose — or God forbid both — to dance, as well.
Emily had felt the insult, but she had been compelled to stand up for other women, nevertheless.
"I feel certain they would be better company than you, Lavinia. In fact, I believe a full chamber pot would be better company than yours."
The small group gasped. Emily had been pleased to see a couple of the girls smile.
Lavinia, however, had not smiled.
"How dare you?" she hissed.
Again Emily shrugged. "Frankly, I'm surprised no one else has ever dared. You are an awful person and I, for one, believe that every man in this room would rather gnaw off his arm than offer it to you."
Emily had then turned on her heel and walked away, but not before seeing Lavinia's face turn a most satisfying shade of purple. It was all she could do not to laugh. She had wanted to put the little widgeon in her place for the longest time.
It had been during her glorious exit that Emily remembered being approached by Lady Lancaster. The dowager had apparently overheard the entire exchange. Emily had been expecting a complete tongue lashing, but instead she found herself being invited to attend the next meeting of the Garden Society.
In that meeting, Emily was told the truth about the group. She wasn't going to learn much of anything about deportment and comportment with this group. Unbeknownst to the rest of the ton, Lady Lancaster was grooming the ladies to become spies.
In addition to uncovering plots and mysteries, Emily had been thrilled to learn the girls would also be helping the less fortunate.
It was a cause in which Emily was already embroiled. Since her parents' deaths, she had been dressing up in servant's garb so that she could infiltrate the lowest areas of London and hand out food and coin. Knowing that most of the people she encountered would be too proud to take money from her directly, she would drop the coins through a hole in her pocket for them to find on their own.
Within Lady Lancaster's group, Emily found she would be able to continue her visits, but now she would have help. The trips also allowed the group to hear all sorts of gossip. Not one to usually condone such behavior, the girls eschewed most of what they heard, but every now and then they heard about someone in need, and not just for food or money.
Servants talked. It was a well-known fact, but Emily was amazed by just how much a household staff member knew about the inner workings of some of the grandest estates in London. Thanks to this new line of "informants," the ladies had been able to help with cases of blackmail, embezzlement, and abuse of all kinds. It was becoming a challenge to keep their little enterprise a secret.
Still, Emily couldn't be more thrilled to be a part of Lady Lancaster's Garden Society. Not only was she able to further her own charitable acts, she had made the best friends she could possibly imagine. Even Sarah and Rose, the supposed wallflowers, were a joy to have in her life.
In the last year, Emily had watched her dear friends solve amazing mysteries, rescue those in need, and fall in love. Mission by mission, Hannah, Rose, Hope, and Sarah found themselves aided by the men in their lives, and ultimately the men proved to be worthy of each of the ladies' hands.
It was amazing to see, and Emily was truly happy for her friends, but she was also a little jealous.
"What do you think?" Emily asked of her parents' graves. "Do you think there is love out there for me somewhere?"
Knowing an answer was impossible, Emily stood up and brushed at her dress absently.
"It's all right. I know that if such a man should exist, you will find a way to let me know where he is."
She turned to leave, when suddenly a whirl of wind spun up. It tugged at her hair and skirts insistently and, before Emily had a chance to stop it, a ribbon came loose from her black curls and was carried off by the brisk wind.
"Oh!" she cried and ran after the crimson strand.
The zephyr carried the ribbon hither and yon, and whenever Emily got close enough to grab it, it would elude her, almost as if it had a mind of its own. After the fourth miss, Emily couldn't help but laugh. She continued to giggle as she trotted after the bow. At one point she had to stop. She leaned over and rested her hands on her knees. Between the running and laughing, she had lost her breath.
"This is ridiculous," she panted, looking at the green grass at her feet. "It is just a silly trifle."
"But the red looks so lovely against your raven hair."
Emily jumped as if she had been stuck with a needle.
"Alexander," she gasped. "Whatever are you doing here?"
For a moment, Alexander gazed almost wistfully as he looked off to his right. The notion surprised Emily. There were many emotions she could attach to the man standing before her, but something as romantic as nostalgia would not be one of them.
A split second later, Alexander's mien became downright roguish. "I'd tell you, but it's ungentlemanly to kiss and tell. I know how you women are. Feigning disapproval but really wanting to know everything. What else do you all have to do but gossip?"
And there he was, the person Emily knew him to be.
Truth be told, he was a very handsome man. Tall, lanky, and with a natural grace, Alex had beautiful brown hair styled in the latest fashion and chiseled features that made most women swoon. In Emily's opinion, however, it was a shame that God wasted such good looks and breeding on one as contemptible as Alexander Bredon.
As if all girls did was sit around gossiping. Granted, it was something of a common pastime — even she was guilty of it once or twice — but to imply that is all a woman did ...
Ugh, that man.CHAPTER 2
Always forgive your enemies — nothing annoys them nearly so much.
~The Duke of Lancaster
Emily was staring at him in disgust. It was a look with which Alexander was very familiar.
"And on that note ... I believe I will bid you adieu," Emily replied airily.
She made as if to leave, but Alexander reach out a hand to stop her.
"You will not touch me, sir," Emily said, sidestepping his grasp.
"Oh for God's sake, Emily!" Alexander exclaimed. "I just wanted to return your hair tie."
He held out the red ribbon and shook it.
Emily looked at him suspiciously. "Where did you get that?"
Alex stared at Emily, flabbergasted. Was the chit not just chasing the blasted thing all over the cemetery?
Speaking slowly and clearly, he said, "I was wandering around, quietly minding my own business, when your silly red ribbon blew into my face. I looked up and saw you bent over, presumably catching your breath from running after it. So I thought I would be nice and bring it back to you."
Truth be told, Alexander wasn't in the park for a secret tryst, at least not the kind he had intimated to Emily, but he didn't want her to know the real reason for his being there. She would find it abominably silly, he was sure. It seemed her estimation of him would never change from that determined when they were children. But the hair tie had come out of nowhere. One minute the day was calm and serene, and then suddenly a storm of wind had come up. And he had seen red.
The red strip hit him in the face, right across his eyes. If the ribbon had startled him, the sight of Emily chasing it had even more so. She was his nemesis, if ever he had one.
Lord but that girl disliked him.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Rogue for Emily"
Copyright © 2018 Catherine Hemmerling.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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