A Gentleman by Any Other Name (Romney Marsh Series #1)by Kasey Michaels
A gentleman by any other name...
Old enough to remember his beginning, Chance Becket has spent all of his thirty years trying to forget, hiding his unsavory youth behind a society marriage and a prestigious position with the War Office. But now the widower must confront his past and return to the windswept coast of Romney Marsh...where the ghosts of/p>/b>
A gentleman by any other name...
Old enough to remember his beginning, Chance Becket has spent all of his thirty years trying to forget, hiding his unsavory youth behind a society marriage and a prestigious position with the War Office. But now the widower must confront his past and return to the windswept coast of Romney Marsh...where the ghosts of his childhood still linger.
Newly hired governess Julia Carruthers is delighted to be in charge of Chance's young daughter and eager to escape the confines of London. Yet the excitement of the journey to her employer's strange home is nothing compared to the attraction between them. And when Julia sees something she should not, she wonders if Chance's sudden intentions are prompted by ungentlemanly desires or his need to protect his family's secrets.
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A Gentleman by Any Other Name
By Kasey Michaels
Center Point Large PrintCopyright © 2006 Kasey Michaels
All right reserved.
CHANCE BECKET SAT IN the formal drawing room of his
Georgian house located in Upper Brook Street, not two blocks from Hyde Park, unaware of his expensive, fashionable surroundings.
No, not unaware. Uncaring.
How could he not care? Wasn't this what he wanted, what he'd always wanted? What he worked for, what he longed for...what he had achieved almost entirely on his own?
Perhaps that was the rub. He had done nothing entirely on his own. His extensive education had been a gift from his father, Ainsley Becket, the mysterious, reclusive and very wealthy Becket of Romney Marsh.
This house? This house had been a gift from his late father-in-law. Even the furnishings, the fine silk sofa he slouched in now, had come to him along with his wife, Beatrice.
Chance sipped from the wineglass that had moments earlier dangled from his fingertips, nearly spilling onto the fine Aubusson carpet.
He was a sham, a farce, living no more than the shallow dream of a reality that had fallen far short of all his youthful expectations. Gentlemen were born, not constructed out of whole cloth. All he'd achieved was the pretty shell; there was nothing pretty inside.
And yet, this was all he had, all he could everhope to have, which was why Alice had to be rescued from him before she became as shallow and unfeeling as himself.
"Mr. Becket, sir? There is still one more waiting on you downstairs. Perhaps you are fatigued. Shall I send her off? Or do you wish to see her?"
Chance blinked away his self-pitying thoughts as he looked at his butler. "Forgive me, Gibbons, I'm afraid I was woolgathering. What a thoroughly depressing afternoon this has been. But there's another woman? I had thought that profane Billingsgate drab was the last of them."
"Oh, no, sir, there's still the one more, and I apologize again that Mrs. Gibbons still feels too poorly to have handled this chore herself and you've had to take the trouble. She'd be up and about if she could be, sir, but her nose is still running a treat and —"
"The last applicant, Gibbons, if you will. Concentrate, please. Time is running short if I am to have someone for Alice before we leave."
"Oh, yes, sir. This last is younger than the rest, sir, and with a civil tongue in her head, if I may say so."
"Please, Gibbons, don't raise my hopes. And please don't apologize yet again for your wife's illness. I'm sure she didn't take to her bed with that putrid cold you keep telling me about simply to thwart me in my hour of need."
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir. That is —"
Chance waved the butler to silence and stood up, heading for the drinks table, for interviewing potential nannies had turned out to be thirsty work. "We'll make this quick, shall we? I promised Miss Alice I'd join her for her evening tea, although I have been informed I am not to be the guest of honor, as that distinction is reserved, as always, for her stuffed rabbit."
"Buttercup. Yes, sir." Gibbons bowed. "We shouldn't wish to keep Miss Alice waiting. Although this establishment will be a cold and dreary place without her, sir, if I may be so bold."
"Our only sunshine, gone. Yes, Gibbons, I am aware of the sacrifice. But it is Miss Alice we must consider. London is no place for a motherless child."
"Very good, sir," the butler said, bowing yet again before leaving the room.
Chance took up his position in front of the fireplace, placing his filled wineglass on the mantel as he stood, hands clasped behind him, awaiting what was sure to be another disappointment. Buttercup. Yes, of course. A good father would have known that.
"Mr. Becket, sir," Gibbons announced from the doorway. "Miss Carruthers."
"Mr. Becket," the woman Chance now knew as Miss Carruthers said, sweeping into the room with all the grace of a duchess and the wardrobe of a miller's daughter dressed up for Sunday services. A woefully unsuccessful miller. But then, if the woman had a full purse, she would not be hiring herself out as a nanny.
"Miss Carruthers," Chance said, indicating with a slight sweep of his arm that she should take up her seat on the sofa to the right of the fireplace, while he, bringing his wineglass with him, retook his own seat. "You have come in answer to my advertisement?"
"Apparently so, Mr. Becket." Her tone was neutral, her diction reassuringly untainted by Piccadilly, her words not quite as subservient as he might have liked. And her perfect posture would put a military man to shame.
He watched, rather nonplussed, as Miss Carruthers stripped off her gloves, noting her long, tapering fingers, her neatly trimmed nails and the fine mending on the thumb of the left glove. She then removed her aged straw bonnet to place it beside her on the sofa, revealing a thick head of warm blond hair she'd mercilessly scraped back from her forehead and into a high, thick and rather lopsided bun.
Her skin was quite nice, pale but with hints of color, and her nose was delightfully straight above a full, wide mouth and a determined chin. He felt a stir of interest, which surprised him.
Miss Carruthers was down on her luck, most obviously, but she had pride and possibly breeding — definitely more than he could claim, but then, most anyone did. Best of all, she was clean and, if his luck was to have turned all the way for the better, would be desperate enough for a decent wage to give up the delights of London for the mist and damp of Romney Marsh.
In any event, at least Alice wouldn't take one look at the creature and run screaming for her nursery.
Chance didn't realize he'd been staring until Miss Carruthers raised her chin and looked at him with a most incredible pair of long green eyes framed by brows too low and straight to be considered in vogue. "Forgive me, Miss Carruthers. Have you been waiting long? Would you care for a glass of lemonade?"
Julia Carruthers frowned, wondering if she should accept — and take a step toward insinuating herself — or refuse, keeping the distance she was quite certain master and servant maintained. But, dear, she was thirsty. "Thank you, sir, I appreciate your offer. Have there been many other applicants?"
"None worth considering, no. I'm afraid you're the last," Chance said as he moved to the drinks table. A pitcher of lemonade was always kept there for Alice.
He bent over, opening the double doors beneath the tabletop, and Julia watched as he retrieved a lovely glass goblet, taking note of Chance Becket's tall, well-formed frame. That and the black mourning band pinned to his sleeve above his left elbow.
She'd expected a woman, a mother, not this young, handsome society gentleman. She'd been prepared for a woman. She'd dressed for a suspicious woman with a husband or grown sons in the house.
Now she felt an absolute drab, all angles and third-best finery and with her hair pulled back so tight a headache had been throbbing at her temples for the entirety of the three hours she had been cooling her heels in Mr. Becket's ground-floor sitting room. She'd spent that time as the very last of a steadily decreasing number of other applicants, some of whom had given her pause as she wondered if they all could have been the same species as herself. So her hopes had climbed. But now she worried.
Julia took the offered glass, happy to discover that Becket's household was one that could support the frivolous expense of ice. How wonderful it would be to have her days of scraping for any bit of luxury behind her, even if that meant she had to ride herd on a passel of thoroughly spoiled children.
"Thank you, sir," she said, dropping her gaze to her lap to pretend she hadn't seen the assessing look in Chance Becket's green eyes.
Not at all like her own eyes, which her father had told her reminded him of the color of spring grass. Chance Becket's eyes were the dark green of a stormy sea at twilight, so green they were nearly black, and decidedly intelligent.
Julia's nervousness increased, which was never a good thing, for being nervous made her angry with herself, and she often said things or did things she wouldn't say or do if she felt more in charge of the situation. She knew this because her father had pointed this failing out to her on several occasions, mildly informing her that she could, now and then, become somewhat pertinacious.
What she knew now was that she was acutely aware of the man sitting across from her and that he made her very nervous. Why was he just sitting there? Why didn't he say something? Was she supposed to say something? Describe her qualifications? Drink more lemonade, so that he could be assured she didn't approach eating and drinking like a cow at the trough? What?
She dared to look into those eyes once more. "I can only hope I am the last applicant it will be necessary for you to interview, Mr. Becket, and that you will engage my services."
There. That had sounded fine, hadn't it? She'd said enough, and just enough. It was his turn now. Julia went back to looking at him. He really did fascinate her. Perhaps in the way of the snake and the mongoose? Hopefully not.
The man had strong features that didn't seem completely English. His unfashionably long hair, combed back and tied in a thin black grosgrain ribbon at his nape, seemed darker close to his head, as if the sun had teased gold into each strand only as it grew. Not an English blonde. In fact, with his strong nose and well-defined lips, with his high cheekbones, he could almost be of Italian descent. A Roman in his ancestral past perhaps? A warrior Roman who'd conquered some fair English maiden?
And she should stop being fanciful. She had no time to be fanciful. She raised her hand, politely coughed into her fist, hoping he'd speak again before they both froze here, mute, into eternity.
Chance struggled to come up with a reasonable question, one that had nothing to do with asking her why such a strikingly handsome woman as herself would wish to be nanny in someone else's household. A woman like this should be wed, with children of her own.
"I've yet to see your letters of recommendation, Miss Carruthers," he said at last, reminding himself that he was in charge here, after all. "As to that," Julia began, then sighed. "I have none, sir, as I am new to London. In truth, I have never worked as a nanny, although I believe I am qualified. I most thoroughly enjoy children, and my education has not been lacking."
Never been employed as a nanny? That seemed fair, in some twisted way, as he'd never before employed a nanny. It might be better if neither of them knew how they should go on and just muddled along together. With Alice in charge, of course — he'd learned that much, at least, in the past six months. "And that slight accent? Do I hear a bit of Kent in your speech, Miss Carruthers?"
Julia smiled. "I didn't think it was obvious, Mr. Becket. But, yes, I was raised in the village of Hawkhurst. My father, now deceased, was vicar of a small church there, although he came originally from Wimbledon."
"Hawkhurst, you say. Very near the beginnings of the Marsh," Chance said, his tone now flat. "Then I would suppose you have no great wish to go back?"
Julia frowned. "If you are asking if I would enter your employment here in London just to leave it so that I might return to Kent? No, sir, I would not do that. There is nothing for me there now that my father is gone."
Excerpted from A Gentleman by Any Other Name by Kasey Michaels Copyright © 2006 by Kasey Michaels. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
USA TODAY bestselling author Kasey Michaels is the author of more than one hundred books. She has earned four starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, and has won an RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award and several other commendations for her contemporary and historical novels. Kasey resides with her family in Pennsylvania. Readers may contact Kasey via her website at www.KaseyMichaels.com and find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorKaseyMichaels.
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