Lord Robert and His Bride – Fiona Miers

Lord Robert Melton frowned as the rain thundered heavily against the coach. Coincidentally, the weather bore a striking resemblance to his mood. He stared down and frowned for a long while, ignoring the presence of his Clerk-of-Chambers, Mr. David Pyne, who sat opposite him in the coach. This morning at the courthouse Robert hadn’t expected his case would be overturned in such an abrupt manner. Despite his various attempts to persuade the judge of the accused’s guilt, he had been told that the evidence was too circumstantial. He’d been a barrister for six years, and in that time had come across many lowlives, from petty thieves to wealthy businessmen embezzling large amounts of money, to crimes of passion, which resulted in horrendous deaths. He had defended justice as much as he was able to, but perhaps some battles were not meant to be won. “I will submit an appeal to the judge’s chambers when I return to London, Robert,” David said quietly, the determination in his tone obvious. But will that make a dif erence? He shrugged. His jaw clenched in annoyance and he flicked his gaze up to David. “I am yet to understand and comprehend Judge Farrington’s state of mind. Dismissing the case when the accused was clearly guilty is beyond me.” “The judge is perhaps slightly biased towards the side of the defendant.” “Even a blind man could see that woman was lying through her teeth, David,” Robert protested.

“There is no manner to mend this. Judge Farrington’s decision is final. I very much doubt another appeal will be sufficient to sway him,” Robert huffed. “You are not one to give up so quickly, Robert,” David said with a questioning tilt of his head. “Are you all right?” He sighed and leaned back against the velvet seat of the coach. “Perhaps I merely need a break, a chance to recuperate. This year has been nothing short of terrible and strenuous. I believe a holiday is in order.” David narrowed his eyes for a moment. “You seem nervous.

” Perhaps I am. “No doubt my brother, Charles, and his wife will gather a welcoming committee upon my arrival. I am, quite frankly, too tired to graciously accept their welcome.” David chuckled and shook his head. “You are undoubtedly the worst liar I have ever met, Robert.” “I will graciously accept that compliment. Not many barristers can say they have received such a compliment before,” Robert said, his tension easing slightly, a small smile tilting up his lips. David lifted an eyebrow at him. “Perhaps spending the summer in Dorset will do wonders. I hear there are plenty of young, unmarried damsels in Weymouth this year.

Perhaps I shall stick around as well.” Robert scoffed with amusement. “Be sure to give your wife my contact details. She will require legal counsel after she strangles you.” David laughed heartily. “I will do so.” Robert looked out the window as Finlay Manor appeared through the veil of rain. The estate had belonged to their paternal grandfather, and had been inherited by his eldest brother, Charles. L As the current Duke of Waign, Charles ensured that every year all four Melton brothers spent their summer at the estate. Charles enjoyed entertaining more than Robert cared to understand, but he relished spending time with his siblings, nonetheless.

There was only one problem. As the third brother, Robert had not been blessed with the gift of being able to speak easily with women. And despite numerous attempts from Charles and James to change his single status, Robert did not wish to be introduced to more young ladies. He was awkward in the presence of beautiful young women and had no clue how to hold a conversation with them. He stuttered, stammered and became flushed, and made a complete fool of himself. Charles and James, on numerous occasions, had offered to teach him tricks and techniques on how to appear more approachable and articulate, but that sadly had not helped. Robert shone in court, appearing at ease with himself and exuding confidence, which according to his peers, was unrivalled. It was only when beautiful women came into the equation – and perhaps the pressure associated with finding a wife – that made the usually eloquent Barrister Robert Melton transform into a giant pile of manure. He glanced out the window once more and stared at his family’s estate home. Finlay Manor still looked the same as it had the previous year, except now it was drenched from the downpour.

The trees and lawns were lush and green, and it brought a sense of peace and belonging back into Robert’s heart. He had spent many days at the estate as a boy, frolicking with his brothers in the lake and climbing the trees when their father, the late Duke of Waign, was not looking. The late duke had been a strict man who demanded respect and expected obedience. Of course, all his sons were raised as gentlemen and to be strong and resilient in the world. Perhaps in the late duke’s pursuit of excellence, he’d failed to bestow his wisdom regarding women onto his third son. The only occasions when Robert felt as though he could rip hair from his scalp was when he would be teased by his brothers regarding his shyness. He didn’t find it problematic to speak to women while in court, as those relationships were professional. Personal relationships did not exist for Robert. However, it was not an issue for him. While his male friends preferred to spend evenings in the city being social, Robert favoured staying indoors with a whiskey and a good book.

Unfortunately, he knew Charles would have planned quite a few social gatherings during both afternoons and evenings while they were in Weymouth. The coach came to a stop and the door opened. Robert reached for his coat, draped it over his shoulders and looked at David. David inclined his head. “My gratitude for you bringing me here.” Robert smiled at the man who he’d worked alongside for years. “There is no need to thank me. Your destination was en route to my father’s home. I am grateful to you for the company.” “I was not good company at all.

” “It was still better than no company,” David said and climbed out of the coach, rushing to the portico of the manor house. The footman brought his luggage and the front door opened almost immediately. The young maidservant who had opened the door stepped aside and allowed Robert and the footman to enter. The footman excused himself and returned to the coach. Robert glanced over his shoulder and gave David a wave before the front door closed. He shivered at the change of atmosphere. The inside of the manor was warm, comforting and most importantly, it was quiet. “I shall inform His and Her Grace that my lord as arrived,” the maid said, and even before he was able to respond, she turned and rushed down the hallway. As much as he wished to greet his brothers, he also wished to simply retreat to his bedchamber for the day but that would not be possible. Within moments, his brothers’ voices were heard coming from the parlour and as Robert handed his drenched coat to the servant, Charles and James, the two eldest, came into view.

The bright smiles on their faces said they were pleased to see him, and Robert could not help but grin in return. “Robert, my dearest brother,” Charles greeted him with a fatherly embrace. “It is good to have you here. How was your trip?” “Windy and torrential,” Robert answered and greeted James with a brotherly handshake. “One would think it would be clear skies all the way to Weymouth. No such luck, it seems.” “No matter. The manor is large enough to host indoor functions.” Robert forced a smile and cocked his head at Charles, who was oblivious to his discomfort. “Robert.

” He heard his name uttered and turned to the left. The duchess and another young woman gracefully approached them. Robert froze, already wanting to crawl into his shell. “Emma, how lovely to see you,” Robert greeted Charles’s wife. James and Charles grinned at him, obviously impressed that Robert had not stuttered while greeting Emma. He’d had difficulty speaking to her in the past but seemed to be more at ease this afternoon. However, when he looked at the young woman at Emma’s side, a lump formed in his throat. “Brother, this is the lovely Abigail I mentioned in my letters,” James said and stepped towards her. “My dearest and future bride.” “It is an honour and a pleasure to meet you,” Abigail greeted him politely with a warm smile.

“James has told me so much about you. How was your journey from London?” Robert was taken aback by her confident and easy way of speaking. She was a lively young woman with bright eyes and a pretty face framed by illustrious dark brown curls. Both she and Emma were dressed in long-sleeved day dresses in similar blue hues. He opened his mouth to respond. “I…uhm, it was…” Robert stammered, his face flushing instantly. “It was fine. Lovely to meet you as well.” “Are you all right, Robert? You seem as though you are in discomfort,” Abigail asked. “Please do excuse my brother.

He suffers from a rare condition,” Charles said with a grin. Abigail’s brow furrowed for a moment before Charles continued. “Whenever a beautiful woman is present, he seems to lose the ability to speak in coherent sentences and all the blood in his body travels up to his face.” “One would think a barrister who has the gift of the gab would be more articulate among people,” James said with a grin on his face. “I am certain Robert is more than able to do his job with his condition, as you so insensitively referred to it. And in my opinion, he is an excellent barrister,” Emma interjected. “You are a barrister, Robert?” Abigail asked, her bright eyes staring straight at him. He must retreat at once. For a moment, Robert took his time pointedly glaring at his brothers, who were much more amused than the women then finally shook his head. “Pardon me, ladies.

” Robert could still hear his brothers’ amused chuckles as he made his way up the staircase, desperate to escape to the sanctuary of his bedchambers. He was, of course, rather disappointed that he had allowed himself to be at the root of James and Charles’ amusement, but there wasn’t much he could do to change it. Leopards did not change their spots, after all.

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