Though he had half the women in England at his feet, criminally handsome Alain Devenish had–at the ripe old age of thirty-three–eluded all the trappings of matrimony.
Perhaps it was his devotion to his ward, Miss Josie Storm, the irresistible little minx he'd rescued from gypsy captors. Who'd have guessed such a tragic waif would become such a beautiful lady?
With suitors lined up offering for Josie'shand, "Don Juan" Devenish was suddenly feeling less like a parent and more like a jealous lover! A situation Miss Josie Storm found most agreeable indeed!
"If you are not already an avid Veryan fan, she can become addictive."
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About the Author
Patricia Veryan was born in England and moved to the United States following World War II. The author of several critically acclaimed Georgian and Regency series, including the Sanguinet Saga, she now lives in Kirkland, Washington.
Read an Excerpt
Give All To Love
By Patricia Veryan
Ballantine BooksCopyright © 1987 Patricia Veryan
All rights reserved.
London October, 1823.
The exquisite little shop in London's elegant new Burlington Arcade was crowded. Arms linked with those of friends or relatives, ladies wended their way among ells of velvet, silk, satin, and fine goat's wool; or admired feathers and fringes, lace and frogging and braids. The day was dark, but despite the chilly outer air the arcade was ablaze with light, the fine new gasoliers throwing out a great heat so that customers wearing heavy shawls and coats to combat the autumn chill were obliged to throw back hoods or loosen buttons, and several of the maids and footmen who followed their employers laden with packages found furs or wraps added to their burdens. The warm air rang with polite laughter and low-voiced chatter and the occasional more exuberant exclamations of friend encountering friend.
Among the throng, a slight girl wearing a long coat of dull red velvet trimmed with ermine, and a very smart matching bonnet, bent over a table to examine a card of braid fashioned in the shape of tiny red roses. "Oh, look, Pan," she cried. "How well this would be on the pink velvet for my Christmas gown, do not you think?"
Mrs. Pandora Grenfell turned a judicial gaze on the braid indicated.
Miss Josie Storm watched her anxiously, and the clerk who had come up watched the girl. She was not, he thought, a beauty. The dark curls that tumbled from beneath the stylish bonnet were luxuriant, true, but rather inclined to frizz instead of being sleekly fashionable. Her chin was a little too pointed, her nose neither classically slim nor saucily retroussé, and her mouth was too wide. Yet her skin was almost translucent in its purity and there was about her an aura of happy expectancy. She put him in remind of his small daughter's new kitten — full of playfulness and fun.
At this point, the large and decidedly formidable lady said in a deep rumble of a voice, "We approve."
The girl gave a little squeal of pleasure, as though some enormous largesse had been bestowed upon her. Her eyes were dark brown, large, and brilliant, with flecks of hazel, the clerk noticed, and they seemed at this moment as if lit from within. Her lips curved to a smile; her whole face seemed to smile. He felt warmed as the smile was turned to him, and decided, firstly, that he would do his utmost to please this charming creature and, secondly, that if she were not a beauty, she was very pretty indeed.
Hugging the arm of her companion, she enquired as to the price of the braid. "Two shillings and sixpence ha'penny an ell," said the clerk. Miss Storm gave a little gasp, and again looked uncertainly to the older lady.
The clerk found himself waiting as anxiously. "It is rather dear, I allow, but it is very well made, madam," he said in his soft, persuasive voice. "You will note, I feel sure, how finely the roses are crafted."
The young lady turned a grateful beam upon him. The clerk began to cast about for ways to lower the price.
Mrs. Grenfell inhaled deeply. The clerk and the girl held their collective breaths. "Not exorbitant," quoth that great voice. The girl clapped mittened hands. The clerk grinned, measured the required yardage, and wrapped it tenderly. A footman, already weighed down with packages, stumbled closer.
"Oh, dear," said the girl. "Poor Klaus. I shall take this one."
"No, Miss Storm," mumbled the footman, his chin balanced on a large bundle. "I can manage."
"Pooh!" Miss Storm fumbled for her purse. "You never can." She counted out the required amount. The clerk handed over the small package, basked in the sunny, "Thank you," that was bestowed upon him, and stood watching as the small procession proceeded towards the doors. He was so entranced that a dowager who had tried to attract his attention for a full five seconds was driven to raise her voice, and it required all the poor clerk's tact to quiet the lady's indignation.
The porter was in the act of opening the door, when Miss Storm heard her name called, and turned back. A well-groomed lady of pleasant countenance and middle years was waving at her. With a joyous exclamation, she hurried to hug and be hugged. "Aunt Louisa! Oh, how lovely! Do you stay in Town?"
Lady Louisa Drummond led her niece into a corner somewhat out of the way of the crowd. "Yes. Only for tonight. Yolande and Craig had brought the boys down to visit us, but are promised next to the Leiths. We accompanied them as far as Town, since I wanted to shop at all events."
An emptiness had come into Josie Storm's brown eyes. Very well aware of it, my lady asked swiftly, "Are you alone, my dear?"
Miss Storm denied this and called Mrs. Grenfell, who had paused to admire some lavender gauze. The two older ladies were distantly related, and entered upon a brief exchange of information regarding Colonel Alastair Tyndale and his wife, concluding which, Lady Louisa again turned to her niece. "How is dear Alain? He is with you, I fancy?"
Again, those expressive dark eyes changed. The warmth in them was marked as the girl answered brightly that her guardian was very well, and that they stayed at the Clarendon.
"Good gracious!" exclaimed my lady. "We are at the Pulteney. I thought Dev usually put up there."
"Well, he does," admitted Josie with a twinkle. "But he thought his daughter might like a change."
"Daughter!" scoffed Lady Louisa. "Why, the boy's not so many years older than you are. Let me see now ..." She wrinkled her brow. "He must be — good heavens! He was but three and thirty in July!"
"Oh, I cannot think so, Aunt," said Josie demurely, "for he insists he is approaching one hundred. I gather he has that many grey hairs, and counts a year for each one of them."
My lady laughed. "Yes, and although I always thought Alain the most handsome man I ever saw, I will admit that silver streak over his right temple —"
"Left," Josie interjected automatically, and then blushed as her aunt smiled and her eyebrows arched a little.
"Left temple," my lady corrected, "makes him almost unbearably good looking. Tell me, love — I'd heard Elvira DeLange is the latest to drop the handkerchief. Will he have her, do you think? It is past time he wed, and The DeLange is a beautiful creature."
"And determined," said Josie, a grim set to her chin.
Lady Louisa giggled. "The lady who wants Dev to husband will have to be! He'll not be easily captured — not after all these years a carefree bachelor. I'd fancied Isabella Scott-Matthias had him fairly snared last year." Her eyes became sad. "I only hope Dev does not still grieve for —" She caught herself up and went on hurriedly, "Speaking of Lady Isabella, what's all this I hear about you and her brother? Naughty puss! Do you aim for a title?"
"Good gracious, no! The Viscount and I are friends, merely."
"When you danced with him at the Bolsters' ball this Spring, the look in his eyes was not that of a friend, my dear."
"Nor of an enemy, I trust?"
My lady did not at once reply, but her vaguely troubled look prompted Josie to ask, "Do you not like him? Now, how can this be? Everyone likes Elliot."
Avoiding her eyes, Lady Louisa admitted, "I've no reason not to like him only ... He is too old for you, my love. Much older than — er, than Devenish, even."
The girl's brown eyes flashed to meet her innocent hazel ones and hold them steadily for a moment. Then, Josie smiled mischievously. "Pray do not tell Dev that. Elliot has not a single grey hair."
"And if he did, would dye it."
The sharp comment further astounded Josie, who had not in all the years she'd known this lady, heard her speak to the disparagement of another. Before she could respond, however, they were joined by Lady Louisa's younger daughter. Great friends, the two girls embraced delightedly. Rosemary Drummond was a lively creature in her mid-teens, with the auburn hair and green eyes of her handsome sire, and showing promise of the beauty that had made her sister Yolande a famous Fair some years earlier.
"I'd no notion you meant to come to Town, Josie," cried Rosemary. "Oh, what a dashing hat! Do you stay long? Is Dev with you? Can you come back to Park Parapine with us?"
"A capital idea," said my lady, beaming. "Do say you will, dear."
"Oh, I wish we could. But Dev must get home. He came only so that I could do some early Christmas shopping and because he has some sort of business to attend to. But he's in quite a pickle with one of our neighbours, and means to leave Town first thing in the morning, I know."
Rosemary looked disappointed but pressed Josie to travel back to Sussex with them. "Dev won't mind, and you can travel in our carriage. It would be such fun, Josie, and I've not seen you for an age."
Mrs. Grenfell had met an acquaintance and paused to chat with her, but now came to remind Josie that they should be leaving. Rosemary, who was almost as afraid of the ponderous lady as was Devenish, dropped her a shy curtsy and was permitted to kiss the large, florid cheek.
"Yes, and we must go, too," said Lady Louisa. "Rosemary, stop pestering Josie. We have been gone for hours and you know how Papa and your brother will fuss are we late for dinner."
"Is Arthur come home, then?" asked Josie, surprised.
"No, dear. John. He returned from Canada last week. It is one of the reasons Craig brought Yolande and the children down so early, for their new Town house is not quite ready for them, you know. Now, do ask Devenish if you may come to us. You can have a note sent round to the Pulteney, for we do not expect to leave until tomorrow. But — if you cannot, we will see you at Cloudhills for Christmas — no?"
"Lovely," said Josie, adding casually, "Shall Craig and his family stay in England until Christmas, do you think?"
"I fancy Craig would not think it worthwhile to return to Scotland. Their house will surely be ready at any day, and certainly the Nine Knights will wish to be together, as usual." Josie murmuring agreement with this, my lady gathered up her daughter and her maid, and they all went into the Arcade, the commissionaire hurrying to call up my lady's carriage.
Outside, the afternoon was waning and there was a smell of rain in the air. The lamplighter had already begun his rounds, his coat flapping as he climbed his ladder. The cold wind sent the ladies' skirts flying, and whipped a gentleman's high-crowned beaver from his head, so that an enterprising street urchin was galvanized into earning a groat for retrieving it.
Josie declined an offer to be driven to the Clarendon, which would have severely taxed the capacity of the graceful brougham, and waved farewell as the vehicle edged into the stream of traffic.
Klaus, who had left some of the packages with Mrs. Grenfell while he went to the corner to hail a hackney, returned, followed by a neat coach. The hackney pulled into the kennel, the ladies were assisted inside, the fur rugs drawn over their knees, and the packages deposited on the seat opposite. As short as the delay had been, shouts of impatience were rising from the drivers of a tilbury and a carriage, and the jarvey waited only until Klaus had started to swing up beside him before cracking his whip.
Mrs. Grenfell leaned back with a sigh of relief. "We shall be very well pleased," she observed, "to return to the hotel. We hope Devenish is not become anxious."
"I'll lay you odds," said Josie, her eyes full of merriment, "he is not alone when we get back to the Clarendon. He has friends everywhere!"
"Ladies," Mrs. Grenfell pointed out, "do not lay odds, Josephine."
Her charge sighed. "Shall I ever learn? I wonder Dev has any patience with me. Seven years since he rescued me from those dreadful gypsies, yet still I lapse so hideously at times!"
Mrs. Grenfell saw the droop to the girl's mouth and patted her hand kindly. "You do splendidly. We are sure Devenish is proud of you."
"I wish that I could be as sure." Josie was silent, staring into the blustery afternoon as the hackney picked its way towards the Clarendon. "Did you hear what my aunt said? The Tyndales mean to remain in Town."
"Yolande Drummond Tyndale has been happily wed for nigh seven years and has three fine children," said Mrs. Grenfell, without expression.
"And is as beautiful as ever." Inside her cosy muff, Josie's hands tightened into fists. "Oh, how I wish we did not have to go to Cloudhills for Christmas!"
"We are, we believe, still fond of Colonel Tristram Leith and his lady and their children. And of the Bolsters, and Sir Harry and Lord Mitchell and their wives, and —"
"Oh, I know. I know. I should not have said it. Truly, I love them all dearly. Only ..."
"Forgive and forget, child."
"No!" A fierce and rare frown drew Josie's slim brows together. In a husky, grating little voice she said, "I shall never forgive her! Never!"
"You would have been happier, perhaps, to have had her for a mother?"
Josie stared at the impassive features, then gave a lilting little trill of mirth. "Mother? My mother? Oh, Pan, dear! Thank you for making me laugh! As if Yolande Drummond could have been my mother!"
"She is Mrs. Craig Tyndale now. But when she was Yolande Drummond, we are told she was most kind to you, and did, in fact, influence Devenish to make you his ward."
Josie's laughter died away again. Coldly inflexible, she said, "She tore his heart out. If you could have seen him. Even now, I remember the look in his eyes — so much worse than when his leg troubles him, or when he was ill two years ago. For months afterwards he looked dazed sometimes, like — like a child who has been terribly injured and is striving to comprehend what has happened to him."
Mrs. Grenfell looked grave, then said slowly, "Many people are so unfortunate as to suffer the pain of unrequited love. The lady had every right to —"
"She had no right! He had loved her all his life. They were betrothed! And she jilted him after she had told him to name the wedding day!"
"This was very bad, we admit. But — it was a long time ago, child, and Devenish does not seem to us a man scourged by grief. Indeed, when we all are together every year, it appears that he is fond of Yolande. If he does not hold the lady in abhorrence, why should you?"
Such a lengthy speech from the taciturn Mrs. Grenfell was a rarity, but Josie's silence was not occasioned by awe. The truth was that her chaperon had misunderstood the matter. Josie's concern was that Alain Devenish still felt for his cousin's wife an emotion far removed from abhorrence.
* * *
"I hope Craig may not call me out and put a bullet between my eyes!" Alain Devenish flung open the door to the parlour of his luxurious suite at the Clarendon and bowed the beautiful Mrs. Craig Tyndale inside.
Yolande laughed, stripped off gloves of soft green kid, and took off her high poked and plumed green bonnet.
"Fletcher," called Devenish, crossing to knock at the connecting door to Josie's bedchamber. There being no answer, he knocked again, then opened the door and peeped inside. "Blast! She must have gone out." He closed the door and limped back to take the cloak Yolande discarded, toss it over a chair, and grip both her hands, turning her to face him. "My lovely, lovely creature! What a delightful piece of luck to find you in the Strand! I can never believe you're the mother of three savage boys!" His admiring gaze took in her thick chestnut ringlets, her fine green eyes and fair complexion. She was not, perhaps, quite so slender as in the days when he had fondly expected she would become his bride, but her figure was neatly curved and, to his way of thinking, lost nothing by its more rounded lines.
Excerpted from Give All To Love by Patricia Veryan. Copyright © 1987 Patricia Veryan. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books.
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