Her Dangerous Earl – Ella Edon

The hallway at Westmore House was grand, light and airy, just as it always had been when Lady Raphaella Canmure, sister to the Earl of Rumsgate, visited in the summer. She looked up, craning her neck to see all the moldings and details on the vaulted ceiling. When she was nervous, she tended to find solace in observing details. Today, she was nervous. She glanced down at her gown, knowing that it was modish and pretty – a patterned muslin dress that her brother had helped her find, Arthur Canmure, the Earl of Rumsgate, could be surprisingly fashionable. Nevertheless, it was hard not to feel self-conscious, despite how her maid, Lettie, had assured her that the blue sprigs of the gown complemented her auburn hair and brown eyes. I have never seen a gentleman that handsome before. Raphaella bit her lip, feeling how her eyes darted back into the dining-room, where Lord Inverly stood, outlined by the light shining through the big windows. She felt her cheeks heat up with a flush, simply seeing his tall, muscled physique and his finely carved profile. From the moment she’d been introduced to him, she’d felt a strange mix of happiness and a need to get as far away as possible, just to compose her thoughts. “I probably made a complete fool of myself,” she whispered under her breath, with a mix of regret and humor. At the first chance she’d had, she excused herself to take the air. That was why she was outside in the hallway when all the other guests walked about the dining-room, eating cucumber sandwiches and talking to Lady Westmore’s latest poetrywriting guest. “Lady Raphaella? A pleasure to renew our acquaintance,” a voice at her elbow said, startling her. “Oh! Lord Graford,” she said, dropping a small curtsey.

“I’m pleased to see you, too.” Lord Alexander Graford, a close friend of her brother, smiled politely. “Charmed,” he agreed amiably. He was always very mannerly about everything, very upright. “I presume you will join us in a turn around the grounds later?” Raphaella frowned, her eyes darting instinctively back to the man in the dark suit, who had turned away from the windows and was now talking to Lady Dartmere. She had no idea if he would join them, but she suspected he wouldn’t. “I think that sounds grand,” she managed to say, surprised by how tense her voice sounded. Half of her wished that Lord Inverly would join them; the other half was frightened that he might indeed. I simply cannot feel at ease. She swallowed and smiled at Lord Graford, though she was sure the smile looked rather rumpled at the edges.

She knew her etiquette and manners, but it was difficult to recall them in the face of these nerves. “I will depart with you in a moment,” Lord Graford said politely. “I must just fetch the rest of the party.” “I see,” Raphaella managed, and felt her heart almost stopped as she watched him stride into the dining-room, going straight to Lord Inverly’s side. Oh, no! Now he’s going to come with us, and this will all be so awkward. She looked away, tucking a strand of auburn hair behind her ear as she watched him come over. She knew she was acting far younger than her one-and-twenty years, but she couldn’t help it. She felt desperately flustered. “Lady Raphaella,” he said, bowing before her, making her take a deep, steady in-breath. “Lord Inverly,” she said, feeling her heart stop momentarily.

She tried to breathe, but with the stays of her corset pulled so tight and the sudden rapid beating of her heartstrings, she was sure she wouldn’t be able to. “I thought we might take a turn about the grounds together, since Graford suggests it?” He lifted one brow on that wickedly handsome face. “I reckon that Westmore has plenty of things for us to see on the estate, what do you think?” “Yes,” Raphaella managed to say, her cheeks going pinker each minute. It was widely known to his friends that Lord Westmore, was compulsively adding to the gardens at his country estate. It was a hobby of his, and he already had a fine artificial lake, a copse of trees and a beautiful rose garden. There seemed no end to his imagination, however. The gardens continued to expand, until his wife Emilia, joked that his were starting to rival the botanical gardens of London. “I’m not so ambitious,” Westmore said, coming to join them. “I’ve just added a wall around the back of the stand of trees.” “A wall?” Logan grinned, his thin, handsome face looking almost boyish when he did so.

“Well! I would be delighted to see the new wall – if Lady Raphaella would accompany me.” “Yes,” Raphaella murmured. She noticed a strange look on Westmore’s face and wondered what it was. Lord Inverly was a friend of his, but she knew that he had a bit of a reputation with the ladies. She felt her own stomach twist uncomfortably. Was Westmore concerned? She glanced back to check that there were other guests joining them, and was reassured to notice Lady Westmore, Lady Dartmere, and several other female guests. That should be safe, then. She nodded to Lord Inverly, and he smiled, bending his arm so that she might hold onto it as they went down the front steps. Taking a deep breath, her heart thudding in her chest, she slid her hand within its fine silk glove, into the crook of his elbow. They went down the front steps into the sunshine.

Raphaella leaned on his arm and together they walked a little ahead of Westmore, who was calling out information to the newer guests as he showed them around. The day was perfect, and the garden was stunning. She soon forgot her worries and found that she was genuinely enjoying herself. She swallowed hard when she realized that the two of them had walked quite far ahead of the rest of the party and were on the edge of a secluded plot of land, completely alone. “My Lady,” Lord Inverly said, smiling affably down at her. “Forgive me, but I…” He didn’t get to finish his sentence. Suddenly, a shot rang out through the trees, and then another. He grabbed her and threw them both to the ground. “In perdition’s name, get down!” he hissed. A third and fourth bullet whizzed through the trees just overhead.

A black horse could be seen rushing off through the trees. Raphaella wondered what in Heaven’s name just happened. L CHAPTERONE ogan froze, poised over Lady Raphaella on the grass, his mind whirling. He fought his way up through a mist of confusion. The shock had unnerved him, cannoning him back into memories of war. He thought he might be in India, lying on the rich wet earth of the forests, or hiding from an enemy lurking in the thickets. His mind blurred out the English countryside and painted in its stead – the heavy, humid vegetation of the Indian landscape. He wasn’t in India, though. The danger had passed. His mind snapped back to the present, and he recalled that he was no longer Captain Inverly, but simply Lord Inverly, off duty, and walking around a country estate near York, England.

He was also, he realized somewhat belatedly, practically lying atop Lady Raphaella, sister of the Earl of Rumsgate. “My Lady! Apologies.” He rolled over, feeling his own cheeks heat up with embarrassment. He looked down at her, hoping she could forgive his imposition. She continued to look up at him in horror, and he felt disgruntled for a moment. Was he so unappealing to women that she was disgusted by close bodily contact? He was sure he hadn’t been a few weeks ago in London! There, he’d had to practically fend off female company! He felt put out. She cleared her throat and that told him what was bothering her. “My Lord! You’re bleeding.” “What?” Logan looked down at her in utter disbelief. He had felt nothing! He couldn’t be.

Then, as she sat up and reached, tenderly, for his shoulder, he realized that she was right – he could feel a dull, stinging ache coming from the spot. When he touched it, his hand became warm and wet. “Oh,” he said, blinking at his red hand as if he couldn’t quite understand what he saw. “Yes. You’re right.” Belatedly, he reached for his handkerchief, wincing as he tried to move the shoulder, to which the feeling seemed to be suddenly flooding back, causing him to realize just how much pain he was in. He gritted his teeth, pressing the cloth square to the wound. Lady Raphaella looked up at him with her big dark eyes, and his pain subsided under her gaze. She was beautiful, with a soft oval face and those eyes that were so tender, and clear, like a mountain stream. He felt his soul tingle as he stared into their lash-edged depths, as if, for a moment, her heart reached out to connect to his.

Fanciful, Logan, he told himself firmly. Things like that don’t happen. The poor dear is probably terrified of you now, and rightly so – you did throw yourself on top of her, and then appear not to notice a gunshot-wound. His reputation was certainly not going to make her feel more comfortable. He sat up quickly, feeling mortified. He made himself smile, not sure what the effect might be. “My Lady. I apologize for the alarm; the danger seems passed now.” He followed the statement with another attempt on a smile. “Lord Inverly! You need to see a surgeon at once! We must get you to Lord Westmore.

You’ve been shot in his garden, after all!” Logan’s eyes widened. This angelic beauty was giving him orders? “Lady Raphaella, forgive me,” he managed slowly. “I know it is shocking, but I believe – I know the shots were only meant for me, I cannot take this to Lord Westmore. He would be concerned, and I don’t wish to trouble him. He’s the father of a young child,” he added, as if that made any difference to anything. “He ought to know!” she scolded. “Especially because he has a young child – how can you possibly be sure the shots were only meant for you?” Logan shut his eyes. He felt her touch like a sudden shock through his body, as she pushed his hands away to press the handkerchief herself. He swallowed hard, ignoring the twitch in his groin when he saw how her small, slender hand touched him with care and tenderness. He couldn’t risk offending the Earl of Rumsgate, and that was all that counted.

He wasn’t that close to him, but he’d been part of Westmore’s circle since their Cambridge days, he needed to respect that. Lady Raphaella was looking at him with a mix of disbelief and righteous anger. He had been rude to her from the moment the shot rang out, and she had done nothing save show him concern. He coughed. “I cannot inform Westmore about this. He has nothing to do with the shots that were fired at me.” The shots, he was certain, must have been fired by somebody he had known from his campaigns. He recognized them well – the rapid succession of two bullets, and then the pause before the next. No, this had nothing to do with Westmore, and everything to do with my own mistakes “I still think he ought to be informed,” she said, more patient now. “If Lady Westmore or the child were to be out here alone, don’t you think they would be…” “There really no danger to anybody else from this,” Logan said slowly, expression grimly set.

He was becoming more aware each second. He winced as she pressed the handkerchief, the firm pressure, and the pain with it, clearing his mind. “Well – you must at least address the danger to your person!” she said firmly. He was gazing into her eyes with a mix of surprise and wonder for the third time in one day. “Yes,” he said, nodding slowly. “But I think it best if I do not alert Westmore. I insist on this.” He looked into her fine brown eyes, hoping that she understood his sense of urgency a little. If Westmore knows, then it won’t be long before the whole countryside knows, and that will drive my killer to strike again soon. Logan bit his lip, feeling the first real fear since the bullet had grazed his shoulder.

How was it possible that, now, after all this time, he had been hunted down? It made no sense! Why here in Yorkshire of all places? He wondered if his fear was written on his face. He swallowed hard and tried to compose himself. “There’s a surgeon in Westmore Village,” he said slowly. “I’ll ride there.” “No, you will not,” Lady Raphaella said gently. He became aware that she was wrapping the handkerchief around his shoulder, tying it in a firm knot over the wound. “Sorry?” He frowned, unsure if she had just said that. She was a gentle-looking sort, with a soft face, wavy reddish hair, and brown doe-like eyes. Had she just given him an order? She lifted an arched brow. “I said you aren’t riding anywhere.

Should you even try, this wound will bleed worse – you’ll likely fall off your horse and die in the woods before you get close to Westmore. We’re going to take the coach into town. Together.” Her tone was light, as if she was telling him the history of the knot garden opposite their hiding-place. All the same, it brooked no refusal. “What?” he repeated, sure that he was lost in a mirage. He must be! “You can’t ride, and so it stands to reason you must go by coach,” Lady Raphaella said, speaking slowly, as if he were a child. “I’m going to have to come with you, because somebody has to keep an eye on that wound.” She gestured at his shoulder, where the flow of blood was a trickle, his shirtsleeve now sticking to the open wound. “Yes…” He frowned, his mind still trying to grasp it all.

“We can’t tell anybody else, because they’ll tell Westmore,” she said, frowning at him earnestly. “And you insist that you want to keep it a secret. Is that right?” Logan nodded firmly, realizing that she was the one speaking sense. He was the one sitting and staring at her dull-eyed. “Alright, then,” Lady Raphaella said. He was surprised by her brisk manner. “Can you get up? We can take the path over there to the coach house.” Logan winced and stood up, realizing that he was feeling dizzy. She was right, he had to admit: if he lost much more blood, he was going to collapse, and there was no way he would be able to ride anywhere. He braced himself and sent out a fervent wish to be able to stay upright until they reached the coach.

“Can you walk?” Lady Raphaella asked, and she slipped an arm under his, supporting him. His cheeks flushing red with embarrassment, he nodded hastily. “I can walk,” he said, and tried to take his weight off her. Unfortunately, his body wasn’t quite as sure about his strength, as his mind was, and he chose that moment to sway back and forth. Feeling annoyed at himself, he gritted his teeth and tried desperately to stay upright. With Raphaella walking slowly by his side, they reached their destination. “Mr. Emms? Make ready the carriage, if you please.” Lady Raphaella said calmly, as if she oversaw the whole estate. “We need to go to Westmore urgently.


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