Mistaken for a Rake – Rose Pearson

Do hurry up, Rebecca! The carriage has been waiting for some minutes and you are, again, tardy.” Rebecca bit her lip and forced herself not to retort words she would later regret back to her father. She would have liked to have told him the reason she was a little later than he expected was that she had spent some time sorting out a strong disagreement between her twin sisters, Anna and Selina. That had been a very lengthy discussion, and thus, she had been left with very little time of her own to prepare for this afternoon’s outing. “The carriage, the carriage!” the Duke said, ushering her in. “Your sisters are waiting!” Smoothing her skirts as she sat, Rebecca looked at her sisters enquiringly, seeing the blush on both of their faces. They knew full well that the duke had been irritated with her when the fault was entirely their own. Of course, neither of them confessed, given that their father was already irritated and they did not want to incur his wrath. A little frustrated, Rebecca turned her eyes to the window, hearing her father give instructions to the driver before he climbed into the carriage. She took a breath, letting it out slowly, dampening down her frustration. “Now that we are quite ready,” the Duke said, the door closed behind him, “perhaps we can finally be on our way to Madame Bernadotte.” He sighed heavily. “You will have to be much more punctual from now on, Rebecca. From what I recall of London society, it is not at all acceptable to be late to soirees and dinner parties.” “Yes, Father,” Rebecca replied monotonously.

There was no excitement within her at the prospect of being a part of London society. Instead, there was the heavy burden of knowing that, most likely, she would have to guide her younger sisters through London in the hope that they would find suitable matches, for her father certainly would not do so. These last few years, her father had become more and more detached from his children, and Rebecca had been the one to step in where her father had failed. Nothing would change now that they were in London, she was sure of it. He would expect her to do as she had always done. What hope did she have of finding a husband for herself when she had the responsibility of her twin sisters? It was just as well that the younger three remained at the estate in the care of their governess, else Rebecca did not know how she would have managed even to step outside the house! “Rebecca?” Turning her attention back to her father, Rebecca tried to smile. “Yes, Father?” “Make sure that your sisters find what they require,” he said vaguely. “I have no notion of fashion plates and the like. They will be guided by you.” Sighing inwardly and wishing that she knew what the fashion was to be this Season, she gave her father a brief nod and then returned her gaze to the window.

This was going to be a very difficult Season indeed. “OH, I BEG YOUR PARDON!” Rebecca stumbled back, heat pouring into her cheeks as she realized that she had practically walked into another lady of the ton without realizing it. “Are you quite all right?” The lady laughed and put one hand out towards Rebecca. “You need not worry, my dear,” she said kindly, her blue eyes sparkling. “Are you going to Madame Bernadotte’s?” She gestured to the establishment just ahead of Rebecca, her smile warm and friendly. “Yes, yes, I am,” Rebecca replied, still a little embarrassed. “My father…” She closed her eyes, then opened them, taking in a deep breath. “Forgive me.” Dropping into a quick curtsy, she smiled back at the older lady. “If you would permit me to introduce myself, I am Lady Rebecca.

My father is the Duke of Landon. He is presently inside with my two sisters, Lady Anna and Lady Selina.” “I see,” the lady replied. “Then I do not think we should keep a duke waiting, Lady Rebecca. Shall we?” A little surprised by the lady’s forwardness, Rebecca nodded and turned towards the door, all the more astonished when the lady followed after her. “My son, it seems, has purchased me a pair of most expensive gloves,” the lady continued with a wry smile. “He and I have come to London to speak to my late husband’s solicitors about a few affairs. I think this gift is to encourage me to remain in London a little longer!” Rebecca turned her head, lowering her voice as they walked inside. “I am sorry to hear of your husband’s passing.” The lady smiled sadly, her expression now a little morose.

“It was some years ago, Lady Rebecca, but I miss him still.” She sighed softly, then gave herself a small shake. “But my son, the new Lord Hayward, has done very well in taking things on at the estate.” “I am glad to hear it,” Rebecca replied, still feeling a trifle uncomfortable about the amount the lady was sharing when they had not been formally introduced. “I should go in search of my sisters now.” The lady’s expression brightened. “But of course. Are you to have new gowns from Madame Bernadotte?” Without meaning to, Rebecca allowed a heavy sigh to escape her, which, seeing the astonished look on Lady Hayward’s face, only made a blush color her cheeks. “Forgive me,” she stammered, aware of her father’s rumbling tones coming closer to her. “I did not mean to make any expression of complaint, Lady Hayward.

It is only that, given that my mother is no longer with us, I have been given the responsibility of ensuring that my sisters and I are dressed appropriately. If I am truthful, I do not know precisely what would be best.” She shrugged, heat still pouring into her face. “We have never been to London, and I do not know much about society.” Quite why she was expressing this much to a lady she had never met before in her life, Rebecca could not explain, but there was something in the lady’s expression that was so welcoming and encouraging that she felt as though she could tell her anything. Lady Hayward tilted her head, her eyes considering. “I would be happy to assist you in this, Lady Rebecca,” she said slowly. “I am aware that we have only just met, but if you have no other friends within London as yet to aid you, then I would be glad to offer my assistance.” “Assistance?” Rebecca closed her eyes briefly, hearing the note of confusion in her father’s voice. “Father,” she said quickly, turning to face the duke and seeing how his green eyes—so akin to her own—were watching Lady Hayward with something like suspicion.

“This is Lady Hayward. She and I were quickly introduced as we came into this establishment. She is, very kindly, offering to do what she can to ensure that my sisters and I choose gowns of the highest fashion.” Smiling quickly, she gestured to Lady Hayward. “Lady Hayward, forgive my improper manner. I should have introduced you properly.” Praying that the lady did not think her entirely unsuitable for being anywhere near London, she tried again. “Might I present my father, the Duke of Landon.” Lady Hayward curtsied quickly, although she did not show any sign of awe or astonishment at being in the presence of a duke, as Rebecca had seen so many visitors do when they had come to the estate. “Good afternoon, Your Grace.

I am very glad to meet you. As Lady Rebecca had just informed you, I would be glad to assist her with the ordering of suitable gowns for this Season.” She smiled, and Rebecca saw the way the frown began to lift from her father’s face. “In truth, it can be quite a burdensome task!” Rebecca held her breath for a few moments, looking towards her father and entirely uncertain as to what his reaction might be. She prayed that he would be willing to permit Lady Hayward to do as she had offered for, whilst Rebecca had only just met the lady, she was certain that any assistance she could receive at this present juncture would be most appreciated. The duke harrumphed for a moment, his gaze turning towards Rebecca, who continued to watch him hopefully. “Very well,” he said, speaking slowly as though he was not quite certain that such a thing was appropriate, his brow furrowing as he looked back towards Lady Hayward. “But only if it does not delay you, Lady Hayward.” Lady Hayward laughed and shook her head. “No, it does not,” she replied with a smile.

“In truth, I would be glad for the distraction! I have very little else to occupy me at present.” Turning her head, she smiled at Rebecca, who, with relief, smiled back. “Might you introduce me to your sisters, Lady Rebecca? I should be glad to meet them.” “But of course,” Rebecca said quickly, putting one hand on her father’s arm. “Father, if you wish to wait, then might I suggest—” “I would be glad to chaperone your daughters, Your Grace, if that would be of assistance.” Rebecca stared at Lady Hayward as she not only interrupted Rebecca but spoke with such a boldness that Rebecca herself was caught by surprise. “As I have said, I have nothing else to occupy me at present and choosing gowns can take many hours,” Lady Hayward continued, her eyes dancing as the duke’s frown deepened at the obvious displeasure that came with knowing he would be forced to remain at Madame Bernadotte’s for some time. “My carriage is only just outside, and I would be glad to return them to the house when we are finished here.” “How very good of you, Lady Hayward,” the duke said, inclining his head just a little. “I confess that I am somewhat out of my depth when it comes to what my daughters require.

” His eyes studied the lady for a few seconds before he nodded. “It would be a great help to me if you would do as you have suggested, Lady Hayward. That would mean that I could continue with particular matters of business that require my attention.” A slight narrowing of his eyes betrayed his flickering uncertainty. “But are you quite certain that you have nothing else to occupy you this afternoon? I should not like to take advantage.” Rebecca feared that Lady Hayward would take offense at this clear disbelief, for it was more than apparent that the Duke was not at all certain that Lady Hayward spoke the truth, but much to her relief, the lady in question did not appear at all perturbed. “Your Grace, as I was telling your daughter only a few minutes before, my son, Lord Hayward, has purchased me a pair of gloves from Madame Bernadotte’s, which I am now to collect. Thereafter, I have nothing at all to engage me for, like you, my son has matters of business to attend to.” “And you have no daughters?” “I do,” Lady Hayward replied, her expression gentling as she thought of the young lady, “but she is not yet out and remains at the estate. I am here in London with my eldest son in the hope of resolving a few matters of business.

I will return home soon, of course, but not before such things are settled.” Hearing the two voices of her sisters echoing through the establishment, Rebecca turned a pleading gaze towards her father. “Might I take Lady Hayward to my sisters, Father?” she asked, but the Duke did not so much as glance at her. Rather, he fixed his gaze upon Lady Hayward, his eyes thoughtful as a look of interest drew into his expression. “You are very kind to offer such a thing, Lady Hayward,” he said slowly, choosing each word with care. “I would be in your debt, should you be willing to bring my daughters home once their gowns have been ordered. However, I wonder if I might, thereafter, ask if you would be willing to speak with me at greater length once you have returned them to the house.” He looked at the lady steadily, and a swirl of anxiety swept through Rebecca’s frame. What was it her father was doing? And what was it he wanted? She could not imagine what he intended to say to Lady Hayward, and, from the way the smile was beginning to fade from Lady Hayward’s expression, it seemed that she could not either. “If you wish it, Your Grace,” Lady Hayward replied, a line forming between her brows as she watched the Duke, seemingly intent on deriving his wishes a little better by studying him.

“I will, of course, do as you ask.” The Duke smiled suddenly, a light coming into his eyes that had not been there before. It was as though Lady Hayward’s agreement had brought a sense of delight to him, although still, Rebecca did not know what to make of it all. “Excellent, excellent!” the duke exclaimed before turning back to Rebecca, one hand on her shoulder. “Now, Rebecca, you shall make certain that your sisters behave with all propriety. They must make an excellent impression here in London, even within the dressmaker’s!” “Yes, Father,” Rebecca murmured, her gaze sliding towards Lady Hayward, who was, she noted, watching the Duke with interest. “I will, of course, do as you ask.” “Wonderful,” the Duke replied, seemingly now very relieved that he would be freed of the burden of his daughters. “I shall return to the townhouse, then. Make certain to do all that Lady Hayward asks and listen to her advice.

” His hand lifted from her shoulder, but the familiar weight of responsibility immediately came. “And, of course, there is no need to concern yourself with the cost of such gowns, Rebecca. Choose whatever you wish and whatever is needed and have the bill sent directly.” “Yes, Father,” Rebecca murmured, dropping her head as warmth entered her cheeks. She wished he would not speak of his wealth in such terms, not when Lady Hayward was present. It was, she considered, a little uncouth and ill-considered but, given that her father was not likely to listen to any word she had to say on the matter, Rebecca remained entirely silent. “Capital!” the Duke boomed before bidding a quick farewell to both Rebecca and Lady Hayward and then making his way to the door. A tight band released itself slowly from Rebecca’s chest as she heard the bell tinkle above the door of the shop, signaling that her father had left. A small sigh left her lips as she looked at Lady Hayward, who was watching her with a good deal of curiosity. “I should introduce you to my sisters at once,” Rebecca found herself saying, a little unnerved by the watchfulness in the lady’s expression.

“I—” “You are often given responsibility for your sisters, I think,” Lady Hayward said quietly. “Is that not so, Lady Rebecca?” “It is, yes,” Rebecca agreed, choosing not to hold back the truth from Lady Hayward. “My mother passed away when my youngest sister was only a babe. Since then, I have been given much of the responsibility of raising them and guiding them, although, of course, we have had governesses and the like.” She tried to smile but found she could not, feeling as though she was unburdening her very soul for what would be the first time. “The three youngest are still at my father’s estate, and, whilst I believe my father expects me to make a match this Season, I confess that I am not at all hopeful.” “Because you must seek out what is best for your sisters,” Lady Hayward replied, clearly understanding everything Rebecca was saying without her having to express it directly. “Well, Lady Rebecca, mayhap that might change somewhat. Perhaps there is more I can do to aid you in this so that you have the opportunity yourself to find a suitable husband.” Rebecca’s mouth lifted into a small, sad smile.

“You are very kind, Lady Hayward,” she said quietly, feeling as though she had known the lady for a good deal longer than only a few short minutes. “I will gladly welcome whatever it is you wish to offer.” Lady Haywood laughed softly, then gestured to someone or something over Rebecca’s shoulder. “Perhaps we should start with the introduction of your sisters,” she said as Rebecca turned around to see her sister, Lady Anna, standing only a short distance away, with something in her hands. “And then we must speak to Madame Bernadotte herself, to see what she requires of you all. No doubt, there will be measurements taken before we even consider what colors would best suit.” Rebecca felt the heavy burden of responsibility lift just a little as she turned around to lead Lady Hayward towards her sisters. This afternoon, at least, she would not be solely responsible for the gowns her sisters chose, the gowns that they would wear into society. She had Lady Hayward’s experience and understanding now, even though they were only very briefly acquainted. For whatever reason, Rebecca felt as though she had found a caring and concerned individual whose eagerness to help came from a place of true kindness, and for that, she found herself increasingly grateful.

“Anna,” she said, seeing her other sister standing a short distance away. “And Selina, might you join us for a moment?” Waiting until both had joined them, Rebecca turned to Lady Hayward. “Lady Hayward, might I present my two sisters.” She gestured to the first. “This is Lady Anna, and next to her, Lady Selina.” Lady Hayward curtsied. “I am glad to make your acquaintance.” “And this is Lady Hayward,” Rebecca told her sisters, who were both looking at her with a mixture of confusion and interest. “Father has returned to the townhouse and has left Lady Hayward to assist us in choosing our gowns. We will return with her once we are finished here.

” Her sisters’ eyes widened in evident surprise, but Anna was the first one to speak, excited tones pouring from her mouth as she engaged Lady Hayward in conversation almost at once. She spoke about colors and gloves and ribbons, begging Lady Hayward to join her so that she might show her what she had been considering. Rebecca smiled to herself, thinking that it was very much like Anna to be so eager, whilst Selina, as she expected, stayed back just a little, watching carefully but having none of the enthusiasm of her twin sister. “You have only just met Lady Hayward, then?” Lady Selina asked as Rebecca nodded. “And Father is quite contented to allow her to help us?” “More than willing, I should say,” Rebecca replied with a sudden smile. “In fact, I do not think he was hesitant for barely a moment! The opportunity to return to the townhouse and to remove himself from supervising the choosing of gowns was one he could not simply ignore.” She chuckled, and, finally, Lady Selina smiled. “I think we may have found an ally in Lady Hayward, Selina.” A jolt of happiness ran through her frame, and Rebecca allowed herself to sigh with contentment. “Perhaps this Season will not be as difficult as I feared after all.

.

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