Seduced By the Devilish Lord – Lucy Langton

“Emily, Emily,” Emily heard before seeing her younger sister push her head through the crack in the open door to look into the room they both shared, well the three of them, she, Dorothy, and Jane. She raised her hand and waved to her sister, signifying that she heard her call and was rounding up what she was doing. If I can just finish this story before leaving for breakfast. “Emily, breakfast is ready and served. Tarry not, Mother requires your presence at the table,” Jane said. “I’m right on my way, Jane. I just need to put some finishing touches to this short piece,” Emily answered. She felt Jane had gone but raised her head about a minute later to see her sister still looking in the room from the door with the trademark Amesbury auburn hair falling over her face, to one side. “You know you have all the time in the world to finish that,” Jane said after Emily looked up to see her again. Emily had to agree. She was insufferable when it came to creating stories and probably would never come to an end if she kept sitting here. She would come back later to finish it, after dinner. She nodded to her sister and moved off the bed, closing the book around the pen and dropping it on the table in front of their changing mirror. She gave herself one last look before appearing before the rest of her family for breakfast. She smiled, triggering the deep dimples in her cheeks and shook her head to untangle any tangled hair.

She had left her hair in straight locks, flowing down her head and over her shoulders. Its red shine seemed to absorb the light without giving off any sheen but still managing to look great. She was in a sky blue plain morning gown that did nothing to accentuate her figure, but that was alright, she wasn’t expecting Lewis today. The only decorations on the gown were the net strapping on the neckline and sleeves. “You look beautiful, Emily. You always do. Are we expecting Lord Baring for breakfast? Dear me, you really should have informed me as I am too shabbily dressed to play hostess,” Jane said. Emily shook her head. “No, Lewis isn’t visiting today. He should be in London now, something about making preparations for his father’s yearly ball,” Emily answered.

Satisfied with what she’d seen, she dropped the brush she had earlier picked up but had failed to use and walked to the door. Jane moved outside of the room, giving her sister room with which to walk out. “We did miss that last year. I’ll make sure to be in attendance for this one,” Jane said as they hurried down the short passage to the dining room. “I didn’t miss it. You and Dorothy just chose to go to Bath when it held last year. I did meet Lewis in that ball if my memory fails me not,” Emily answered, pattering down the fabric of her skirt as it kept flopping upwards. “Oh dare I say our time in Bath was just glorious. I do not regret it one bit,” Jane answered. “Regret what, Jane?” Mrs Amesbury asked.

Emily shook her head as they entered the dining room. Her mother would never stop this habit of trying to snoop into every discussion that went on in that house, or outside of it. She was a real newsmonger. “Going to Bath, Mother. You really should come with us this year, Mother,” Jane said as she walked to her seat and pulled it backwards before sitting down. “What if the ball is to hold around that same time?” Emily asked. Jane looked away. Her quandary could not be starker. “What ball do you speak about, Emily?” Mrs Amesbury asked. “You really should let us eat our food first, Melissa, before encouraging them in this talk about balls and travelling,” Mr Amesbury said.

Emily knew Father was tired of his wife’s undying nose poking nature, and it was very evident in the bite of his shout. Mrs Amesbury looked across the table to her husband and appeared appropriately chastened. Emily said nothing and held her breath to prevent the chuckle that was welling up to release itself. Mr Amesbury then looked at both sides of the table, obviously taking scores of who wasn’t at the table. As always, Lawrence wasn’t. “Lawrence Amesbury … Lawrence,” Mr Amesbury shouted, and Emily could not hold in the chuckle anymore. She burst out into a small chuckle and wasn’t surprised to see her younger sisters doing the same. “Yes, Papa,” Lawrence’s reply came from outside the house. There was a sound of pattering of feet, and Lawrence ran into the room, his brow shining with beads of sweat. “Where have you been this early morning, mister?” Father said, his vexation evident, and his eyes as hard as stone.

“I was just going through the garden, Father,” Lawrence answered and ran up to the table, taking the seat in between his father and Jane. Lawrence was the last child of her parents, her youngest sibling and everyone’s favourite. She found it humorous that her father was posing to be vexed with him when he was always the one that encouraged him to run out of the house and forage in the field behind their house. “Let us say grace,” her father said. Emily closed her eyes, saying nothing and opening them only after her father was done with the short prayer. Her mother stood up and leaned across the table, taking off the silver top of the big dish to reveal a breakfast of bread, milk, butter, and a huge serving of mutton. She still looked a bit annoyed at her husband’s most recent warning and uncharacteristically served breakfast wordlessly. Her poor mood didn’t last for long, and Emily wasn’t surprised when her mother was chatting again after a few bites of food. “The season is about to start. Jane, were you saying something about going to Bath?” Mrs Amesbury said.

Jane nodded and gulped the food in her mouth before speaking. “Yes, Mother, I was wondering if I should go to Bath again this year –” “Of course, we’ll go to Bath,” Dorothy chipped in. Emily raised her head to look at her sister. Dorothy was the second child, next after her, and she didn’t speak a lot. She spoke even less at the dining table. “Wait, Dorothy, I know how much we love Bath at the beginning of the season. But the Earl of Huntingdom is having a ball right around that time,” Jane says. “Oh!” Dorothy commented, and her brows rose as she realised the source of her sister’s confusion. “The ball muddles up the waters pretty much, doesn’t it? Lord Baring would duly expect that we attend his father’s ball,” Mrs Amesbury said. “Can all this be discussed after breakfast?” Father asked.

“Yes, Father, it’s just that it is a matter of incredible confusion. I had high hopes of returning to Bath this summer,” Jane said. “I hear a lot of eligible bachelors go to Bath to pick a bride. It is a sensible decision, one needs to be away from the bustle of the towns to have clear-headedness when picking a mate,” Mother said. Emily wondered the logic in her mother’s comment as Bath at the beginning of the season was more hectic than their town at the height of the season. It was at the centre of everyone’s visiting plan and surely clear-headedness couldn’t be found in a place with an increased volume of people. Emily took in bit of the bread and had to stop chewing to marvel as her brother ate with such gusto. Lawrence was a playful boy and could speak more words than all of them combined, except maybe their mother, but whenever he was at the food table, his mouth remained mute, and he made sure nothing was said till the food was entirely gone. Emily had never seen such a character as her brother. Breakfast rushed by quickly with Lawrence saying nothing, Father intermittently stating that they could enjoy their food without the continuous rant about going to Bath, and Jane and Mother repeatedly talking about it without making up their minds on which of the events they wanted to attend.

Emily was almost done with her breakfast and hoped to return quickly to her story. She had finished the meal and was just dropping the cup of milk when Miss Parish walked into the dining room. “Miss Amesbury,” she said, causing Emily and her two sisters to raise their heads to look at her. “I meant, Miss Emily Amesbury,” Miss Parish said, looking benignly bemused at the multiple responses to her soft calling. Emily nodded and waved at her to bring the letter. “Was it just dropped off?” her father asked the maid. “Yes sir, a young man brought it along,” she said. “Where was he from?” he asked again. “I was not made to find out from whence he came, sir. But the letter was addressed to a “Dear Emily,” so I understand that it has to be from someone quite familiar with Miss Emily,” Miss Parish answered.

Emily gestured for her to bring the letter closer and collected it, her hands grazing Miss Parish’s as she did so. She mouthed thanks to Miss Parish and gestured for her to leave. Then she dropped it on the table and continued sipping her milk. There was a silence around the table that caused her to raise her head again. All eyes, except Lawrence who was very busy with his mutton, were peering at her. “Have I become the centre of attraction because of the presence of a mere letter?” Emily asked. “We do expect that you inform us of the contents of that letter,” Mother answered. Emily had not been confused to think Mother wouldn’t be interested. But she was staring at her father, wondering why he looked so interested. He must have noticed her glare because he quickly looked away and half-heartedly encouraged Lawrence to eat quickly, a lad that needed no such encouragement.

“You should also expect that I would read it first, in the security of my privacy before I inform you of its content,” Emily answered. “Well, if that is the case, do read it quickly, my heart can bear only a small amount of bated anxiety,” Mrs Amesbury said to her daughter. Emily nodded and grabbed the letter before standing up. She was done with breakfast. “I am retiring to our room, to finish my story, and to read my letter. The contents of both will be made known to you before the end of the day,” Emily said and left the dining room. She walked into her bedroom and flopped on the bed. Her intention had been to open her book and finish the story. It was at its conclusion, and she still had a few lines to add to perfect it, but she found that she couldn’t rest her mind enough to craft the necessary words. The unusual letter had struck up more than a storm, and she needed to read its content.

Breaking through the seal, she opened it to find it was sent from Lewis. “Oh from Lewis, has he come upon an unfortunate occurrence in London? Or is this his way of asking me to marry him? That would be strange,” she considered. She had always hoped he would ask her in his garden, surrounded by blooming flowers and in the coolness of the morning’s sun, just after a light breakfast too. “That would be so lovely,” she said, already daydreaming. 14 th April, 1816. Emily, Do not expect my visit, today or any day on the morrow, in your house as I have no interest in appearing before you or your family anymore. I have broken whatever engagement we have as it is ill fitting that I, Lord Lewis Baring, next Earl of Huntingdom be found to have taken a woman of such lowly station for a wife. It is rather expected that a woman with a much larger dowry and who provides a man more connections and prestige be made my wife. As a result of this, I have befriended and set up an engagement with Miss Lydia Swinton, a much more sensible choice for a peer’s wife, as she possesses the right amount of poise and af luence, and a much more impressive inheritance than you. I would suggest that you take these words with the most minimal outcry and you take heart for it did not escape my notice that you are quite far gone to remain a spinster.

Take the next man that shows any interest for favourable time is short for a woman, especially one of your station. Cease to contact me as I have cleaved myself of any relationship with you. And this will be my last communication with you or any of your kin. Lord Lewis Baring. Emily disbelieved the words that her eyes had just read, or was it her brain giving her the wrong interpretation? She stood up and hurried out of her room to the bathroom down the passage. There was barely any water in the bucket but even the three handfuls she scooped were enough to douse her eyes and chase away any misleading drowsiness. She rushed back to her room in haste and almost at the verge of tears, her doubt in what she had just read barely keeping the tears at bay. She grabbed the letter, which she had left on her bed, and read it again. The first line was the same, and the tears started rolling down immediately, wetting the piece of paper before she could even finish rereading. What game is this? Could this truly be a letter from Lewis? “Lewis wouldn’t do this to me,” Emily said to herself.

She was tempted to stand and look into the mirror, to see the impact of the letter on her. But she pushed that thought behind her because of the unspoken fear that her eyes would confirm it and repeat the words that her conscience had always spoken, that Lewis didn’t truly love her. She was a beauty, and despite her attempts to achieve humility, she couldn’t deceive herself. She was very beautiful. Her red hair, perfectly round face, finely sculpted nose and eyebrows, and that small mouth with pink lips were fine characteristics inherited from her parents. She had been chased by many men right from her sixteenth year and turned down many requests for courtship. Lewis had been the most determined, and being an Earl’s son immediately put him in her father’s favour. Emily accepted him after many dances the season before. But the feeling had been there, unmoving and rather quiet but always present – a constant reminder in her mind that Lewis only coveted the beauty of her looks and not who she was. “He doesn’t love you,” the voice would say and would receive an instant rebuke as she told herself that love grew.

His didn’t. He was tired now, disenchanted with the peripheral quality that physical attractiveness brought. He had been made aware of her lowly station and the little inheritance that was due her. Now he was tired of the sound of her voice and was demanding that she ceased all communications with him. Emily shook her head and pushed her face into the softness of the bed. The mattress muffled her cries, but it did nothing to temper the pain that shook her. She felt like her heart was tearing in two and couldn’t hold in the wave of tears. “This is unfair. Does he aim to make me an ape leader?” she asked, crying and rubbing her face against her thick bed sheet. It was unfair.

He had allowed her to quiet her doubts to silence and made her feel comfortable in the inevitability of their approaching marriage. She had called herself Countess sometimes but only in privacy, just to see how it felt to be referred to as one. Those dreams were banished now and all that was left was pain. Emily picked up the wet paper and was tempted to tear it, but something told her not to, and this time she listened but still threw it as far away from her as possible. She knew Lydia, Miss Lydia Swinton, the daughter of Mr Swinton who was said to be the wealthiest among common folk. He had more than one building in Mayfair and was rumoured to be soon named Knight as he was in the King’s favour and had just built a small estate specifically for the King’s biennial visits to Huntingdom. If those rumours turned out to be true, then the man was already a Gentry and his daughter a step closer to being a peer. Accompanied with her very large dowry, Emily could see why Lewis would want to marry her. But he had been very aware of the limitations of her entail before starting an engagement with her. Emily rubbed her face, failing woefully to dry the tears with the back of her hands which were just as wet as both cheeks now as the occurrences of the day he had first asked her flooded her memory.

Chapter 2 Be My Bride They were in the balcony, in the first floor of his father’s house in Rumerbarn, Huntingdom. It was late July last year, and the season was almost coming to an end. The Earl of Huntingdom, Count Jack Baring had held his ball that day, and Emily had left the dancing hall after the second dance. She had danced once with her chaperone, Miss Parish, for lack of a male partner and had danced the second dance with Lewis when he finally appeared. He had made sure to dance with her at almost all the balls they attended, and she had known he had designs on her. But she always limited his dance per ball to one, to prevent him from laying unofficial claim to her. It was better he was known as a suitor than to already have informal claim to an engagement. The third dance had been going on at that time, but Emily had cunningly escaped because she didn’t feel much like dancing and didn’t want to have to reject Lewis’ sure offer. She was at one end of the balustrade, and the young man at the other end was making her uneasy. His eyes never strayed off her face or body, and he kept making her overly aware of his glare.

His eyes especially seemed to focus on her breast region, and Emily had a good mind to give him a good talking to if that continued for very long. She could already feel herself going red. What perverted young man was this anyway? The door behind her whined as someone else came onto the balcony. Emily didn’t look back, but she was grateful to the person because immediately he entered, the young man at the other end stared at him, bowed stiffly, and made his way out. It was Lewis, Emily knew very much before she even looked back. Lewis was arrogant and seemed to dislike every individual that wasn’t in the peerage. This had been making her even more sceptical of his advances. She disbelieved that he could really like her or have true, good intentioned interest in her since her station was also far below his. He only had one aim, and Emily’s determination not to provide it to him made her twist her legs together in a taut crossing of her feet. He isn’t going to be coming through here, not him or any part of him.

This, she had thought as his presence became even more obvious behind her. Her gown was a flowing peach coloured one, and the skirt rolled all the way past her high heels to the ground, so her manner of standing couldn’t be seen and did nothing to Lewis’ perception of her. She knew what he would do even before he did, and when he finally did, putting his hands around her neck before moving them down to her arms, Emily shrugged hard and removed his hands from her. He always did that, even in the middle of dances where physical contact was a given and no one took notice of his excessive touching. “You gave no verbal warning of your disappearance,” he said before appearing by her side. Then she hadn’t been used to him, his height, and the thickness of his voice. His appearance was daunting and was one that, she knew, also added to the fear many common men and even a few in the gentry showed him. She looked into his face, and his smile belied his intimidating appearance. He had a spotted face with a lot of small pimples on his skin, visible from where his beard grew. It covered the lower part of his face, for he was a hairy man, and Emily would later notice that he made it compulsory to shave almost daily.

His teeth were white then, they always were, even till two days ago when she had seen him last. But then he smiled more often, making her more aware of them. He took her hand gently, taking it off the railings. She had been instantly aware of the whiteness of his skin, that distinct lack of a tan that told her he hadn’t worked much in the sun in his life and the presence of rings on the three middle fingers. She wasn’t from an affluent family and still couldn’t tell if the ruby on the middle ring was real. She had never asked, mostly because she cared less about those things and had only sought that he loved her and treated her right up till marriage for she was no young chit anymore. “Forgive my carelessness, My Lord, I intended very much to return, but I felt a searing heat from within me and couldn’t see properly. Much good this light breeze has done me, and that convinced me to tarry here till the end of the dance,” Emily responded. He had smiled and rubbed his fingers into her palm. Emily felt awkward in that position and slowly withdrew her hand till it was free of his grasp and then put it behind her, joining it in a tight lock with her other hand so he could make no attempt to take it once again.


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