Dishonor and Desire [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Juliet Landon
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: Having run from two previous engagements, Caterina Chester knows that marriage cannot be avoided for much longer. But to be parceled off as part of a wager to clear her family's debts? Sold to society's most disreputable rake? Caterina is outraged at the proposal. Yet Sir Chase Boston, for all his impeccable manners and charm, reveals an undeniably exhilarating wild streak that taunts and teases her. She has kept her passionate nature tightly confined. Now it seems that this most improper husband may be the only man who can free her!
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Historical
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2007
8 Reader Ratings:
Still smiling at some absurdity, Miss Caterina Chester and her sister rode into the stable yard behind Number 18 Paradise Road, patting the damp glossy necks before them and fully expecting the usual smiles of welcome from the grooms eager to help them dismount. This sunny morning, with steam rising from the tiled rooftops, the stable yard was busy with lads sluicing mud off the wheels of a coffee-and-cream-coloured crane-neck phaeton while another groom in an unfamiliar green livery held the bridle of a large grey hunter in the shade of the covered walkway. No one came running to meet them.
'Father has a visitor,' said Sara.
'That's Aunt Amelie's phaeton,' said Caterina, coming to a halt. 'Why is it covered in mud? Joseph,' she called, 'what's all this?'
Joseph lowered his dripping broom and turned, shading his eyes. 'Sorry, Miss Chester. I didn't hear you coming,' he said, wiping his hands down his apron.
He came forward to take the bridles, but Caterina threw one leg over the pommel and slid to the ground before he could reach her. 'Help Miss Sara,' she told him. 'I can manage. Who's been out in the phaeton?'
'Master Harry,' said Joseph, leading Sara's horse. 'He borrowed it last evening and—'
'Borrowed it? Without asking?' Angrily, she looked up at her sister. 'Did you know of this, Sara?'
'Certainly not. Aunt Amelie lent it to you, not to Harry.'
'So why didn't you mention this to me when you brought the horses round this morning, Joseph?'
The groom stared apologetically at the grimy phaeton, blinking in surprise at the sudden deep waters. 'Well, because I thought you knew, Miss Chester. Master Harry told me he'd had permission to use it, and to be quick and get it ready.'
'Ready for what?'
'He didn't say for what, miss. But whatever it was, I don't think Lady Elyot would've liked it much. Just look at it, caked with mud and splashed all over. We're having to scrub every last inch of it.' He scowled at the shining areas of panelling just showing through runnels of water. 'It only came back a half hour ago.'
Pretty Sara did not intend to dismount by herself as long as there was an attractive groom to help. Bouncing lightly onto the cobbles, she removed her hands from Joseph's shoulders but, even then, was not able to get her question in before her sister's. 'Back from where?'
The stable yard grew quiet at Caterina's razor-sharp tone.
Joseph let out a breath. 'It's been over at Mortlake all night, Miss Chester. In Sir Chase Boston's stables. That's Sir Chase's groom over there. They brought it back this morning. Shall I ask him…?'
'No, I'll find out the rest for myself.' The hem of Caterina's dove-grey riding habit skimmed over the wet cobbles as she strode away to the steps that led up to the house, her slender back curved like a bow, both hands raised to unpin her veiled hat. Before her sister had reached her level, a mass of dark copper curls came loose with the net, tumbling onto her shoulders like a fox-fur cape, glinting with red highlights in the sun. Her slender figure appeared to pour through the door with a fluidity that typified all her movements.
'So that's her,' said Sir Chase Boston's groom, smirking.
'Aye, that's her,' said Joseph, leading the two horses away. 'Now for some fireworks.'
The man grinned. 'Should be interesting, then.'
Joseph glanced at the big grey. 'I shouldn't bother unsaddling him. Your master'll be out in five minutes with his ears afire.'
'Want a bet?' the man said, settling himself onto the mounting-block.
* * *
In the elegant white-and-gold hallway, Caterina paused only long enough to glance at the table where a beaver hat, a pair of pale leather gloves and a silver-banded riding whip lay where the butler had placed them. A row of calling-cards marked the exact centre of the silver tray, and the reflection in the ormolu mirror above received not even a cursory acknowledgement in passing. From the upper landing came the slam of doors, a woman's faintly commanding voice, the siren-wail of infants, nurses cooing and strains of a distant lullaby. Wincing at the cacophany, Caterina just failed to hide the grimace before she opened the study door.
Not usually minding her interruptions, her father stopped his conversation abruptly, sensing the arrival of a minor whirlwind. 'Ah, there you are,' he said, turning to face her. 'You received my message?' Middle-aged and lean with the look of a harassed greyhound, Stephen Chester did his best to smile, though it did not come naturally to him.
'No, Father. There appears to be a breakdown in the system somewhere. I received no message about the phaeton, either.'
'So you've seen it. Well, Sir Chase has ridden over from Mortlake to explain the situation. I don't believe you've met. Sir Chase Boston. My eldest daughter, sir.'
There was a movement behind her and, to her discomfort, Caterina realised that her father's guest had been lurking behind the door, watching her without being noticed. Well, perhaps not exactly lurking, but one could not help thinking that he had positioned himself there on purpose.
Copyright © 2007 by Juliet Landon.