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       Historical Romance: Regency Romance: The Heartless Rake (Sweet Regency Historical Romance Short Stories), p.1
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           Rose Haven
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Historical Romance: Regency Romance: The Heartless Rake (Sweet Regency Historical Romance Short Stories)
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  Regency Romance

  The Heartless Rake

  Defiant Lords Series

  Rose Haven

  Regency Romance: The Heartless Rake

  Chapter One

  “There you are! Where have you been all day?” Lady Elizabeth Sonhurst, the Marchioness of Norfolk asked her only son, Lord Adam Sonhurst. “I’ve been waiting for you the entire afternoon.”

  “Good evening to you too, Mother” said Lord Sonhurst in an agitated tone. He had spent the entire day looking into the matters of the estate and was too tired to pretend to be happy about his mother visiting him. “When did you get back from Essex?”

  “I returned this morning and decided to pay you a visit. And I am not going to waste your time and my time in exchanging pleasantries. I am sure you know the reason behind my visit.”

  “Like Hell, I do!” muttered Adam.

  “I’ve raised you better than this Lord Sonhurst! Swearing in front of a lady is as improper as it gets!” shouted Lady Sonhurst.

  “Thanks for reminding me that YOU’VE raised me. Because all I can remember is Mrs. Hopkins waking me up, helping me get ready, cuddling me when I got scared at night, singing lullabies to me when I couldn’t go to sleep…” Adam replied bitterly.

  “Lady Eleanor Rothert is the perfect match for you. Her father is the famous Earl of Dunkirk and being the only daughter, she’ll bring a sizeable dowry too. Besides, she is extremely pleasant to look at and will make a perfect Marchioness. By now you should be thinking of settling down and producing an heir. It is your duty towards your family and the estate. And it is high time you realize your responsibilities.” Lady Sonhurst continued, completely ignoring what her son had just said.

  His mother had a way of making him feel small and irrelevant. Like he wasn’t doing enough for the estate, wasn’t realizing his responsibilities as a Marquess. He didn’t want his mother to see how her words had affected him. Deep inside, he knew that his mother was right. Time was running fast and he had to produce an heir soon who would take over this vast estate after him. But for that, he’d have to get married. And that was a risk he just wasn’t willing to take!

  Marriage, love…these were the words he absolutely loathed. His father had been foolish to fall in love. That too with a woman who just wasn’t worth it. His mother was an extremely self-centered woman who didn’t know the meaning of fidelity. His father, the erstwhile Marquess of Norfolk had been a famous and influential man in his days. The people of his estate loved him and he was quite popular. But his downfall started when he fell in love with Elizabeth Nesbitt, the minister’s daughter. No doubt she was absolutely gorgeous, she looked charming even to this day! But her heart, well that was a different matter altogether.

  Not only had his mother been unfaithful towards her husband, she’d also not cared much for him, her only son. He had grown up without the warmth of a mother’s love and that had made him even more bitter. Although Mrs. Hopkins, his governess, had filled that void to some extent, he had always craved for his mother’s love and affection. His father had been too blind in love to notice all this and eventually when he did realize, it was already too late. He drowned himself in liquor and the few times he was sober, he confined himself to his study.

  It had cost him a lot of his fortune too and Adam had promised himself long ago that he would never repeat his father’s mistakes. He knew he had to get married sooner or later to produce an heir. But he would NEVER marry the girl that his mother had chosen for him. He wouldn’t give his mother that kind of satisfaction. Besides, who knows she might have chosen a woman just like herself-cold and empty hearted.

  His mother’s words forced him back into reality. “I’ve already talked to Lord Rothert and he is agreeable to the match. It would do you good to meet Lady Eleanor in person and see for yourself how charming a lady she is! I am sure….”

  “Good night, Mother! It’s been a long day and I am tired.” With a curt bow, Adam turned and left his mother standing alone in the study. The study that once belonged to his father- where he sat alone for hours probably repenting having married his mother.

  No, he would never do something as foolish as falling in love. Marriage, yes, that he had to do to ensure the marquessate. But love was not necessary to get married. He would marry well, no doubt about that. But not to that Lady Rothert that his mother had chosen for him. In fact, NEVER to her!

  Adam decided that he’d have to attend all those meaningless parties in London next month after all. He was on the prowl for a suitable mate and he would most definitely find one. So he mentally braced himself to face all those ambitious mothers on the lookout for titled husbands for their daughters. “It is not going to be as difficult as you think, Adam” he said to himself. How much could dallying with a few pretty faces hurt?

  He would attend the parties, look out for some charming ladies, have conversation with a few of them and then in a matter of a few days, he would choose one of them to be his bride. No, it should not be difficult at all! In fact, he would get an opportunity to practice his charm on unsuspecting pretty chits and he was sure that most of them would find it difficult to resist him. It had always been this way and this time would be no different.

  Chapter Two

  Lady Eleanor Rothert had grown up to be an extremely fine looking young lady. As the only daughter of one of the most powerful and influential people in the whole of England, she was looked upon as a nice catch by most of the eligible bachelors in ton.

  It was her first Season in London and she was enjoying it to some extent. Though she liked mingling with other ladies and having a little chitchat, she could not stand the unwarranted display of wealth that most people indulged in at the lavish and extravagant parties. And she hated all the meaningless gossip that was such an intrinsic part of all of it. She yearned for the peace and quiet of her hometown, Dunkirk.

  Moreover, she wanted to marry for love. She knew that her father was on the lookout for a suitable match for her although she had barely turned twenty this year. But her father meant the best for her. He wanted to see her settle down in front of his eyes. Of late, he had not been in the best of health and that had been the reason why she was here in London, attending parties and meeting suitable gentlemen.

  She had often told her mother about how she felt. She wanted to have a marriage like her parents, who were so much in love, even after twenty five years of marriage. She longed for that kind of understanding and love. But her mother had always told her that love comes with time. She had told her that she hardly knew her father when they got married. But as days and weeks passed, they both grew fond of each other and then fell in love. She loved t
he dreamy look in her mother’s eyes whenever she narrated her story to Eleanor.

  So maybe mamma is right, Eleanor thought to herself. Maybe love did happen after marriage only. She was engrossed in these thoughts when her mother entered the room.

  "Good morning, Eleanor! “Lady Helena Rothert said kissing her forehead. Her mother's smile had the power to light up an entire room. She was the epitome of beauty and Eleanor had inherited her mother's charm and grace.

  "Good morning, Mother."

  "So, what are your plans for today? Are you going with Eliza to Hyde Park? And then maybe you both can go shopping. I think you need a couple of good gowns. The ones you have aren't too much in fashion these days.

  Besides, they are a little too modest for a lady looking to attract a gentleman's attention" quipped Helena.

  "Mother!" gasped Eleanor. "You shouldn't be saying all that to your daughter. And I don't think I need any more gowns. Already my wardrobes are overflowing with clothes I hardly wear."

  "You don't understand dear. Your father just told me that Marquess of Norfolk, Lord Sonhurst is rumored to attend Lady Botsworth's ball next week. And his mother has shown interest in taking you as her daughter-in-law. Your father is also interested in this alliance as the Sonhursts have an enviable reputation plus a good fortune to their credit."

  "Hmmm... Lord Sonhurst. I've heard that name before. Is he not that elusive Marquess who is said to be allergic to the institution of marriage? Yes, I believe he's the same gentleman. Eliza told me about him. She said he barely attends parties and balls and is a confirmed bachelor."

  "Darling, people do have change of heart. Maybe now he has realized that it's time to take a wife. After all, he needs an heir for his estate, doesn't he?" Helena pointed out.

  "You may be right Mother. But I am not promising anything. I'll only consider him if I genuinely like the gentleman."

  "Of course, dear" smiled Helena. "It’s not like your father will force you into marrying him. He loves you too much to do that! You can form an acquaintance with Lord Sonhurst and if you feel he is suitable enough for you, you can give him an opportunity to court you."

  "Sure, Mother. Now let get ready or Eliza will be after me for being late", laughed Eleanor. Eliza was Eleanor's best friend and her father and Lord Rothert were great friends too. It was her second Season and she was determined to find a perfect suitor this time around. Eliza had also taken upon herself the task of getting Eleanor acquainted with the who's who of London and she gave some very useful fashion tips to her too. Like wearing the corset a tad too tight gives the effect of ample bosom! Eleanor laughed at that ridiculous fashion tip. She loved Eliza, so what if she gave such questionable statements!

  Helena kissed her daughter goodbye and left the room. Eleanor called the maid to fill her bath. She had a long day ahead. First a visit to the Hyde Park and then as mother suggested, she had to buy a few more gowns for the upcoming balls. Her thoughts strayed to Lord Adam Sonhurst. She decided to extract as much information on the gentleman from Eliza as she could. Surely she would know all about this mysterious man who avoided parties and London like the plague. She hoped Eliza had good things to say about him.

  Chapter Three

  The next week went by like a blur for Adam. He had almost resurrected his estate to its former glory and he was proud of the fact. Now the most pressing matter at hand was to find a suitable bride and then produce an heir for his estate. He planned to go to London to attend Lady Botsworth’s ball.

  Lady Botsworth was known for her lavish balls and they were attended by almost all the members of the town. He absolutely hated attending such parties but then if he had to look for his Marchioness, there was no place better than that damned ball.

  Adam downed his last glass of whiskey and moved to his chamber for a peaceful night’s sleep. Tomorrow he would have to leave early for London.

  “My Goodness, Lord Sonhurst! Why, it has been ages since you attended my ball. I hope everything here is to your liking,” Lady Botsworth exclaimed in delight upon seeing Adam.

  “I am extremely sorry for my absence at your previous functions, Lady Botsworth,” Adam unleashed his charm on the Baroness. “You see, Norfolk is a large estate and I have been extremely busy these past days with some pressing matters. As for the party, I assure you your arrangements are par excellence as always. I don’t remember having so much fun of late.” Lady Botsworth swelled with pride at his words.

  Adam politely excused himself and moved towards the refreshment tables for another drink. The Season was in full swing. He could feel a lot of curious gazes upon him but ignored them. Many pretty faces tried catching his attention but none really caught his fancy. He was sure Lady….er… what was her name - Eleanor Rothert was among these eager looking debutantes. He had to avoid her at all costs. He had already seen her father, the Earl of Dunkirk, engaged in a deep conversation with a few gentlemen on his right. He planned to go to the opposite side of the room lest the Earl notice him and subject him to his daughter’s attentions. He would not marry Lady Eleanor Rothert, not if she were the last woman on this Earth.

  And just when he started towards the other end of the ballroom, he saw his mother. She was laughing merrily apparently at some joke that the balding man accompanying her had just shared. Upon further scrutiny, he found that the man was none other than Lord Collin, his late father’s best friend.

  After his father’s demise, Lord Collin had been like a father-figure to Adam. He was a widower and Adam held him in high regard. But the way his mother and Lord Collin were getting cozy, Adam just couldn’t stand it. He didn’t understand how any intelligent and sane man could easily fall into his mother’s trap. No doubt she was a charming lady, but surely any man could see behind that pretty façade. When he saw his mother literally batting her eyelashes at Lord Collin, Adam could take it no more. He wanted leave this party as soon as he could.

  Suddenly, Adam started feeling as if the room was closing in on him. He felt suffocated and couldn’t stand the music and the noise anymore. He started moving towards the balcony for some fresh air. As soon as he opened the doors to the balcony, he felt relieved. Outside, the night was quiet and peaceful. A mild breeze was blowing and he thought to himself that he would prefer the chirping of crickets any day to the loud music that was playing inside. He thought of staying there for a few moments and then making an early exit.

  He had yet not accomplished his purpose of attending the ball, but he couldn’t torture himself anymore. He just had to leave. He probably needed a woman’s company for the night. The thought made him smile and he decided to pay a visit to one of his old acquaintances in London.

  As he was thinking of a valid excuse to give for his early departure, the swishing noise of doors made him turn. A beautiful, no, exquisitely beautiful lady was walking out of the ballroom and moving towards the terrace. Apparently, she too was in need of some fresh air. From where Adam was standing, she could not see him. But Adam caught a full view of her small frame. Yes, she was small, she would hardly reach his shoulders. In the darkness of the night, Adam couldn’t clearly see the color of her dress, but he could tell that it was some pastel shade. And a beautiful dress it was, hugging her curves at all the right places.

  She had worn her hair in a loose bun and few tendrils had escaped that were now teasing her bare shoulder. How his fingers ached to put those daring tendrils back to their place. He was amazed at his body’s reaction towards a complete stranger. It had been too many days since he’d had a woman in his bed. This reaction was probably a result of that only.

  Now Adam suddenly didn’t want to leave early. He wanted to talk to this lady who had caught his attention. By the way she walked, he could make out that she was from nobility. He stood there mesmerized by her beauty. In the soft moonlight, she looked no less than an angel. Adam decided to go up to her and introduce himself. He knew it would be improper to do so as he could see the lady was unchaperoned. But he
could not resist himself. And his “Devil may care” attitude was not famous without reason!

  Chapter Four

  What a beautiful night it was! Eleanor was truly enjoying herself. She was wearing an off shoulder baby pink gown, a little too daring for her own taste, but she knew that she was looking gorgeous in it. Eliza had forced her to buy this gown and now she was thanking her in her heart for it. Her mother too had loved the gown at the first glance.

  By the way she was attracting gentlemen, she was sure that the gown had worked its charm. Her dance card was almost full and her cheeks were aching terribly with constant smiling. Almost every man in the party had requested a dance with her. She was a bit overwhelmed, what with the continuous introductions, dances and chatting. Eleanor now knew the names of almost all the gentlemen in the party but none of them was Lord Adam Sonhurst. She wondered if he was actually attending the party or not.

  She had asked Eliza about the elusive Lord but she too didn’t have much information about him. She had only told her that Lord Sonhurst had a rakish reputation and was a treat to look at. It wouldn’t be such a task to fall in love with a man who is a ‘treat to look at’, Eleanor had thought in her heart. She smiled to herself at the thought.

  Eleanor could see Eliza was having a great time too. Dressed in a lilac gown complete with intricate embroidery, she looked like an angel from Heaven. Apparently she had caught the fancy of a young Baron and he seemed completely besotted with her. She was hoping to hear an announcement of Eliza’s engagement soon.

  Just as she finished a dance with one of the gentlemen, Eleanor heard her father calling her to meet someone. “Come, my dear. Meet Lady Elizabeth Sonhurst, the Marchioness of Norfolk. And my lady, this is my beautiful daughter that you were so eager to meet.”

  “Good evening, my Lady” Eleanor gave a small curtsey and smiled at the most strikingly handsome woman in front of her.

 
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