‘Damn you, sir. I have had enough of your wild behaviour,’ the Earl of Hartingdon thundered at his grandson. ‘I shall not tolerate the disgrace you have brought upon us.’
‘Forgive me,’ Viscount, Lord Luke Clarendon said and looked contrite. ‘This should never have come to your ears. Rollinson was a fool and a knave to come prattling to you, sir.’
Tall and almost painfully thin, yet with a commanding presence, the earl’s bushy white eyebrows met in a frown of disapproval.
‘Do you deny that you seduced the man’s wife?’
Luke hesitated. The truth of the matter was that he had no idea whether or not he had seduced Adrina Rollinson. The evening in question was hazy to say the least. He had been three sheets to the wind and, when he’d woken to find himself lying next to the naked and undoubtedly voluptuous beauty, he had hardly been given time to wonder before her husband came storming into the summerhouse to demand satisfaction.
‘I can only tell you that I have no memory of it happening, sir.’
‘What sort of an answer is that pray?’ the earl demanded. ‘You puzzle me, Luke. You have had every advantage and yet you insist on carrying your wildness to excess. If you cannot recall making love to a woman like Lady Rollinson, you must have been drunk.’
Indeed, that I shall own,’ Luke said instantly. ‘I would not call the lady a liar but I doubt I was capable of making love that night.’
‘I suppose your taste is for whores?’
‘I do not know what you may have been told of me, sir, but I assure you I have done nothing of which I am ashamed.’
‘Indeed? I know that you have set up a mistress in Hampstead.’ The earl’s top lip curled in scorn. ‘You are a disgrace to your family. Thank God your parents did not live to see what you have become.’
‘Perhaps had they lived I might have been otherwise.’
‘Are you blaming me? Impudent pup!’ The earl’s eyes darkened with temper. ‘Well, sir, I have done with you. It was in my mind to make you my sole heir, for although the estate is entailed, the patent allows the title to pass through the female line and my fortune is my own to dispose of as I wish. However, I have a cousin who would restore both honour and fortune to the family name.’
‘Horatio Harte I presume? I wish you joy of him, sir.’ Luke’s temper was barely in check. ‘Good afternoon. I shall not trouble you with my presence again.’
‘I did not give you leave to go.’
‘Yet I believe I shall. You have never liked me, sir. I have done things of which I am not particularly proud, but I am not the rogue you think me.’
‘Come back here!’ The earl’s voice rose petulantly. ‘You will hear me out. I shall give you one more chance, but you must marry a decent girl – one with perfect manners who knows how to behave in good society. I need an heir I can be proud of before I die.’
Luke turned at the door, denial on his lips. He would marry when and whom he wished and meant to say so, but even as he began the earl made a choking sound and sank slowly to his knees before collapsing in a heap on the floor.
‘Grandfather! Someone, give me some help in here.’
Luke rushed to his grandfather’s side. Rolling him on his back, he saw that his colour was slightly blue and acted swiftly in untying the tight starched cravat at his neck. He felt for a pulse and discovered a faint beat and yet his grandfather did not appear to be breathing. He was for a moment unsure of what to do for the best; then, recalling something he had once witnessed a vet do for the foal of an important mare, he opened his grandfather’s mouth and made sure there was no obstruction in the throat. Then he pinched the earl’s nostrils and breathed into his mouth. Luke repeated the action three times and noticed that a more natural colour had returned, though he had no idea if his actions had helped.
A voice spoke from behind him. ‘He has had one of his attacks, my lord. He will recover in a moment.’
‘He just keeled over. I thought he was dead or dying.’
Here is a taste of my new book out in USA. Not yet published in UK
The picture is of The Lord's Forced Bride, which continues to sell well on amazon, better than Bought For the Harem at the moment. In October the hardback of Hostage Bride is out. This has a fantastic cover but I don't yet have an image. Will put it up next time I post if I have it.
Best wishes, Anne Herries
Hope you enjoy.