Playboy – Logan Chance

As a rule Vicar Humbly did not believe in premonitions. He was a sensible man who did not seek ominous omens or hope for miraculous messages from above. Such flamboyant symbols did not suit a simple vicar. But this morning he could not deny a vague sense of unease. Three letters. All delivered in this morning’s post. Three letters from three separate brides, all of whom had haunted his conscience for the past several months. Could it be a sign? With a frown he tapped a finger upon his cluttered desk. On first glance there was nothing in any of the letters to stir his concern. They contained nothing more than mundane details of the young ladies’ days, local gossip, and a hope that he was doing well. But the mere fact that he had often worried over the fates of Addy, Beatrice, and Victoria made him sensitive to the realization that none of them revealed the giddy happiness that surely should be apparent in the letters from a new bride. Indeed, they were oddly stilted as if each were afraid of revealing too much in their guarded words. His notoriously soft heart clenched at the thought that they were in any way unhappy. Perhaps he should not have ignored the doubts that had plagued him before he had agreed to perform the weddings. Although the marriages had been months apart, he could not deny that each had made him hesitate.

Deep inside there had been a decided fear that all was not well with the three couples. Poor Addy Morrow being wed to Mr. Drake who deeply disapproved of her vivid spirit. Beatrice Chaswell who Humbly feared was being wed for her large fortune. And Victoria Mallory who had been unexpectedly compromised and forced into marriage with a complete stranger. Three marriages that had been chosen for reasons other than love. Hoping to clear his muddled thoughts, Humbly left his desk and slipped through the open door to the garden beyond. There were few things more delightful than Surrey in April, he decided as he carefully bent down to weed around his beloved roses. Rare sunlight dappled the countryside, warming the soft breeze that was liberally laced with the scent of wild flowers. Butterflies danced in twirling patterns, while newborn foals awkwardly stretched their legs in a nearby pasture.

Even the distinctly shabby Vicarage with its worn red bricks and slate roof acquired a mellow beauty in the golden glow. It was a day to appreciate one’s blessings, Humbly tried to tell himself. And he had a great deal to appreciate. A rich, full life in service of God. Remarkable health for a gentleman staring sixty directly in the eye. And dear friends that often filled the Vicarage. And, of course, he would soon be leaving his duties to retire to a lovely cottage only a few miles away. At long last he would have ample time to devote to his garden and the freedom to indulge his fancy for titillating novels that he had always adored, but that had never seemed quite proper for a Vicar to read. Yes, he should be in a joyous mood, he acknowledged with a faint sigh. But instead he found his thoughts dwelling upon those disturbing letters.

Could he truly retire in peace with the knowledge that three of the marriages he had blessed were in trouble? Did he not have a duty to assure himself that he had done all that was possible to help those in his care? He heaved yet another sigh as a shadow fell over him. Glancing up, Humbly regarded the iron gray hair and forbidding expression of the stout woman who towered over him. Mrs. Stalwart had been the housekeeper at the Vicarage for the past thirty years. Like a seasoned general she kept his household running with a smooth perfection, turned aside those who would take advantage of his soft heart, and ensured that he was kept somewhat in order. Not a day passed that he did not send up a small prayer of thanks for God’s good sense in bringing Mrs. Stalwart to his life. Even if she did tend to scold him as if he were six rather than sixty. As if to prove his point, the housekeeper placed her hands upon her ample hips and glared down at his rumpled form. “I thought I would find you here.

” “Oh, Mrs. Stalwart.” He conjured his most innocent smile. “Is it time for tea?” She gave a loud snort. “Tea will be served at four as usual. I thought you were devoting the afternoon to sorting through the books in the library?” “Yes, well, it was such a lovely day I decided to spend a few moments tending to the roses.” “Fah.” The wily old woman was not fooled for a moment. “You are dawdling. Shall I attend to the books myself?” Humbly shuddered in horror.

Mrs. Stalwart might be the very best of housekeepers, but she had no love for his precious books. Given the opportunity she would no doubt pitch the lot of them in the nearest fire. “Certainly not,” he said firmly. “Only I know which references must remain and which I may take to the cottage.” Not about to be diverted, she lifted an iron gray brow. “Then make a list. I can read.” Ignoring the protest of his knees, Humbly rose to his feet. It was difficult to possess a measure of dignity while a large woman hovered over him.

“I am not leaving today, Mrs. Stalwart. It will be six months before the new Vicar arrives.” “Good thing, since you have not so much as packed a candlestick.” Too accustomed to the woman’s gruff manner to take offense, Humbly merely smiled. “Everything in its time, my good lady. We must enjoy what the Lord has given us this day. Beautiful sunshine, a lovely breeze. It would be a sin to waste such a blessing.” “You may save such sermons for the pulpit,” she warned him, her shrewd gaze noting his air of distraction.

“I know you far too well. Whenever you begin weeding the roses it is a sure sign that something is troubling you.” A faint hint of color touched his plump cheeks. It was disconcerting to realize he was so very predictable. “Ah well, as one becomes old we must expect the occasional troubles. Aches and pains, and of course, one’s digestion is always so unpredictable. I do hope Mrs. Graves has prepared a few of her lemon tarts for tea. They always settle my stomach.” Distracted at last, Mrs.

Stalwart lowered a disapproving gaze to his comfortably rounded midsection. “You mean they settle around your stomach,” she corrected. “I have had to move the buttons on your waistcoat on three occasions during the past year. You will have to settle for cucumber sandwiches.” Humbly grimaced in distaste. “Judas.” Unrepentant, the woman tapped an impatient foot upon the graveled path. “And I was not speaking of your constitution. You have been fretting and brooding since the morning post arrived. Are you disappointed that a new Vicar has been chosen?” “Gracious, no.

I shall be quite happy to settle in my cottage with nothing to concern me beyond my garden,” he was able to deny in all truth. “Then what has you so unsettled?” Realizing that the tenacious woman was not to be easily distracted, Humbly gave in to the inevitable. “ ‘From the fruit of his words a man is satisfied with good and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him,’ ” he quoted softly. She offered him a puzzled frown. “What does that mean?” He gave a faint shrug. “Perhaps it is only the eccentricities of an old man, but I can not leave my position with a clear conscience. Not when I fear that I have been neglectful in my duties.” Mrs. Stalwart swiftly bristled with indignation at the hint he had somehow been remiss in his responsibilities. “Absurd.

You have dedicated yourself to your duties for forty years. How many nights have you gone out to comfort the sick and dying? Or trudged through the rain to visit the orphanage? I should like to give anyone a piece of my mind who would say you ain’t done your duty.” Humbly could not help but smile at the woman’s fierce loyalty. He did not doubt she would readily thrash anyone daring to insult him within her hearing. “Thank you, Mrs. Stalwart, but it is in my own heart that I am uneasy.” “What is it then?” “Just an old man’s fancy, no doubt, but I should like to be sure,” he murmured, his thoughts returning to the three letters lying in his library. Dare he meddle in what was by rights a holy sacrament between a man and a woman? Could a feeble Vicar do more than cause even more troubles? Then again, could he be satisfied if he did not make some sort of effort? Dear heavens, it’s all very confusing. Still, he supposed that deep inside he had already made his decision. If one of his flock was in need of him, then he could not turn his back.

“God’s will can occasionally use a helping hand.” “Does this mean you will not be packing away those musty books?” “Do not fret. I shall attend to them the moment I return.” “Return? Where are you going?” Humbly took a moment to consider. He supposed that it was only sensible to impose some order on his vague plans. Addy and Adam had been married the longest. He would begin with them. “I shall be traveling to London,” he said in decisive tones. “London?” Mrs. Stalwart was understandably shocked.

Humbly rarely traveled more than a few miles from the Vicarage. He firmly believed his place was among his people, not gadding about the more fashionable neighborhoods. She gave a click of her tongue. “I fear that the sun has gone to your head. Return to the library and I will see to your tea.” Not wishing to endure a lengthy lecture on the dangers of London, Humbly merely smiled with pleasure. “Please do not forget the lemon tarts.” “Cucumber sandwiches,” she corrected, turning about her considerable bulk to march back into the Vicarage. Sifting through the numerous details that would have to be attended to before he could comfortably travel to London, Humbly reached into his pocket and removed a napkin containing a lemon tart he had earlier filched from the kitchen. At least in London he would be free to indulge his love for sweets, he thought with a faint smile.

He could only pray he was making the proper decision. And that he was not about to do more harm than good. He had precious little experience in playing Cupid. Chapter One It was generally conceded that Adam Stonewell Drake was a gentleman of great presence. Standing nearly six feet, he possessed a thick mane of dark hair that was liberally winged with silver and unnerving gray eyes that could make the most brazen soul tremble with unease. His features were lean, almost austere in their beauty. And his large form had been chiseled to hard, uncompromising lines. But it was not just his noble bearing or physical perfection that created an image of formidable power. He was also an intelligent, well-spoken gentleman who demanded precise order in his life. Heaven help anyone foolish enough to interfere in his rigid schedule.

Adam paid little heed to his ominous reputation. It was true that he preferred a well-regulated household and maintained a detailed schedule of his daily activities. And certainly he possessed little patience with those fribbles who preferred to waste their days upon fashion and gossip. Such self-indulgence seemed to indicate a weak character. But he did not consider himself rigid or unyielding. Or at least he had not until the past few weeks, he grimly acknowledged. Pushing aside the schedule he had just completed, Adam sat back in his chair and laid his hands upon the polished desk. He was seated in his library as he was every morning. There was a solid sense of security in the book-lined walls and mahogany furnishings. And of course, it was here that he maintained his vast collection concerning military history that had been his passion since his days at Oxford.

It was a passion that had led to his current position at the War Department, offering his expertise in war strategies. This morning, however, his gaze did not fondly linger upon the rare leather-bound books or large maps of the Continent that were tidily rolled up on a polished table. Instead he brooded upon the icy tension that filled the London townhouse. He had expected his life to alter somewhat when he married Adele Morrow. It was inevitable that both would be expected to make compromises and adjust to living within the same household. But while he had prepared himself to endure occasional disruptions and even the inevitable confrontation, he was caught off guard by the disturbing chill that had grown steadily more pronounced between himself and his bride. Damnation, he silently cursed, a slender finger tapping a frustrated tattoo upon his desk. It was growingly obvious that his expertise in war strategies had been of precious little help when plotting a strategy for marriage. He had been so certain that it was imperative that he instruct Addy upon what he expected from his wife. Surely it was best to have the ground rules out in the open, he had smugly decided.

And so, he had lectured her upon the proper conduct of a young lady, going so far as to make a meticulous list of behaviors that would and would not be suitable. And he had even personally chosen her wardrobe to ensure the gowns would be suitable. After all, she had been born into a notoriously scandalous family. Lord Morrow was a lecher and a drunkard who readily made a fool of himself among society. Lady Morrow was hardly better with her eccentric habit of painting nude young men in her own drawing room. Even her elder brother had managed to cause gossip when he had set up household with a married countess and her five children. How could he not be concerned by the distasteful influence her upbringing must have had upon Addy? Especially when their marriage was not based upon mutual affection, but instead had been arranged years before by their respective grandfathers? Addy was a tempestuous beauty with an impulsive nature, which he had often rued. It would be all too easy for her to blunder into scandal without realizing the danger to their position in society. It only made sense to avert disaster before it was too late. All very reasonable.

Unfortunately he had miscalculated the effects of his well-intended efforts. Addy had indeed become the very model of propriety. Her bold, dashing manner was now thoroughly subdued. She dressed modestly, her raven curls were painfully scraped into a knot and she rarely left the townhouse. Precisely what he requested, but Adam could not deny that beneath the cool composure a deep resentment smoldered within Addy’s heart. A resentment that kept a firm barrier between them and surprisingly sent uncomfortable prickles of guilt rushing through him. Even more surprising, he discovered himself regretting the disturbing loss of Addy’s infectious love for life. It was one thing to request she behave in a manner befitting her position and quite another to see her fading to a mere shadow before his very eyes. At last a soft knock on the door brought an end to his dark thoughts. Glancing at the gilded clock on the mantel he realized that it was precisely nine o’clock, the hour he met with Addy each morning.

Although he suspected his wife considered their daily meeting rather like a reluctant child forced to confront an overbearing parent, he continued to insist she make an appearance. It was not that he desired to create further ill will between them, he thought wearily. Heaven knew that he felt chilled to the bone when she was near. But perhaps absurdly he continued to hold the faint hope that they might eventually establish a closer relationship. Addy was his wife. For better or worse they were stuck together. He did not believe he could endure fifty years of their armed truce. Smoothing his expression to polite lines he watched Addy slip into the room and obediently move to settle in the chair across the desk from him. This morning she was attired in a dove gray gown with her hair ruthlessly pulled atop her head. Only the heavy gold bracelet that encircled her wrist added a dash of color, a bracelet that had been a gift from her wretched father.

He smothered a sigh at the pallor of her lovely countenance and the unmistakable shadows beneath the midnight black eyes. Gads, to look at her one would presume he beat her at least once a day. “Good morning, Addy,” he forced himself to murmur in cool tones. “I hope that you slept well?” She folded her hands in her lap and reluctantly met his gaze. “Quite well, thank you.” He studied how thin her countenance had become. “You appear somewhat pale. I hope that you have not caught a chill? The weather has been very unpredictable this spring.” She shrugged aside his concern. “My constitution has always been quite sturdy.

’Tis certain a few showers are not enough to make me ill.” He smiled with rueful humor. “Yes, I recall how you used to love walking in the rain. Usually barefoot with your hair hanging down your back.” “I was very much the hoyden when I was young,” she retorted stiffly, as if presuming he were somehow censuring her youthful exuberance. “I assure you I no longer run through the rain with or without my shoes.” Adam’s smile faltered. Blast it all. What did he have to do to soothe her prickly defenses? “No, I realize that you have become all that is proper.” “That was what your requested, was it not?” “So I did.

” He paused before leaning his arms upon the desk and regarding her with a growing sense of frustration. “I did not mean, however, that you were forced to become a mere ghost of yourself, nor that you imprison yourself in this townhouse. Do you have plans for today?” Her chin tilted in a familiar defensive manner. “I shall go over the menu with Cook and see that the linens are aired.” “Such tasks can be easily put off,” he retorted. “Surely you would prefer to go out?” “Where would I go? I know few people in London.” “There are several places of interest. You could visit a few of the more notable sights. Tower of London. St.

Paul’s Cathedral. Or perhaps you would prefer an afternoon at the museum?” “On my own?” she demanded. “That would surely look odd to the rest of society?” Adam breathed out a harsh sigh. “You are right, of course,” he acknowledged, knowing he had too readily used his duties with the War Department as an excuse to abandon his bride. In his defense, however, she did not bother to hide her preference for his absence from their home. “I shall arrange my schedule so that I will be free to accompany you later in the week. I have been quite remiss not to introduce you to a few ladies who would include you in their activities.” He had meant his words as an apology, but with a jerky motion Addy rose to her feet. “That is not necessary, Adam. I realize you are very busy.

” “Meaning you would prefer that I did not make the effort?” “Meaning that I understand that you do not have the time.” She conjured a cold smile. “Now, if you will excuse me I must speak with Mrs. Hall.” Adam opened his mouth to argue. Could she not bend even a little?


PDF | Download

Thank you!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments © 2018 | Descargar Libros Gratis | Kitap İndir |
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x