Snowed in with a Rogue – Cerise DeLand

The rattle of the harnesses and the jarring bumping of the wheels against the rough road sent the Duke of Dunmore to a dark place he would rather not visit. Reaching up to move the curtain away from the window, his gaze vaguely registered the movement of the landscape as it whisked past him, but he could not focus on it. His mind was elsewhere. He’d left Lambourne House without giving the party a reason, and he was sure they thought something awful had happened for him to leave so suddenly. The note he left for Lilianne was vague at best, letting her know he was sorry for his abrupt departure, but there were things he needed to address in his private life and the sooner they were dealt with the better. It wasn’t a lie, but his vagueness was sure to worry her and if there was one thing he didn’t wish to do, it was worry Lilianne. She’d been through so much over the past months and had come through more easily than he thought she would, but he knew she was a strong soul. Her life, though privileged, was not an easy one. Having lost her mother at birth, her eldest brother in the prime of his life, her fiancé in the bloom of her youth, and now her father, Dunn was surprised she wasn’t more emotional than she was. To others it came off as her being aloof, and perhaps heartless, but he knew her better than that. In fact, he’d known her for her entire life. He’d befriended Thomas, her late brother, while they were at Eton. Dunn was 15, in his middle year when he was made to lead Thomas about the school as a first-year entry. He’d enjoyed bossing him about and pushing him to his limits but quickly learned Thomas’s fortitude and determination ran strong. Even after Dunn graduated, they remained friends.

They’d joked over the years about standing up for one another when they wed, but neither made it that far. Thomas had gone off to Spain to handle issues with family land when the war broke out. He disappeared for long periods of time, not able to get news home as to his health or well-being and it wasn’t until the war ended when he had to deal with issues at Leighsham Park, his late mother’s estate. It was there he died suddenly of lung fever, but Dunn long expected it was Spanish influenza and not lung fever at all. Either way, his friend was gone, and neither would be standing up for the other. Which was probably for the best considering he’d never found a woman to share his life with until now, and he wasn’t sure Thomas would approve of his choice at any rate. Lilianne was seventeen years his junior, for one. She was also Thomas’s sister, which made the situation a difficult one. Dunn was an honorable, well thought of man in town, but the fact that Lilianne was part of a family he cherished as his own made his current situation heartbreaking. When her brother, Carson, found them together in the library not a day earlier, the look on his face confirmed his fears.

Their relationship would not be met with acceptance. Leaving her to deal with the aftermath of that intrusion and rushing out of the house without talking to her eldest brother, Dane, gave him a bitter taste in his throat. It was very unlike him to avoid his responsibilities, but this situation had blindsided him. When Lilianne was kidnapped along with Carson’s wife months earlier, it put into motion a string of events that would change both of their lives forever. Carson’s Moroccan-born wife had been the target of the attack, but she escaped and was able to alert the men Dunn hired to watch the family from the day Carson arrived with her in London. He’d used his influence to garner information about the Qaid that once owned Nasrin and tracked his actions from afar, but in the confusion, the Qaid’s men were able to move Lilianne to a ship and within moments, she was gone, headed for the states. The journey to find her was a long, daunting one. The trip across the Atlantic so late in the season that it was marked with rough seas and moments of sheer panic. Even though he’d hired one of the fastest sloops in Britain to catch her, they lost no fewer than seven men in the effort. Upon arriving in New York ahead of her, he was able to pull his weight once more and call on colleagues who could not only help him when the ship arrived but arrest the men that took Lilianne before they could set foot on the dock.

Dane, who had come with him to rescue his only sister, was confused as to how Dunn had so much power in such an unfamiliar place. Dunn was a Duke, there was no refuting that, but in America peerage held a different grace. English nobility was a novelty to them, not something to honor and oblige. But Dunn was more than a Duke and that was a secret none of the Lambourne’s were aware of. Even after all these years, they had no idea the power and connection he had all over the world. And right now, that information was a dangerous secret to keep. Chapter 2 AUGUST 15, 1821 LAMBOURNE HOUSE, LONDON Lilianne Lambourne was not a typical English rose. Though her beauty and grace were the talk of London for more years than she could recall, her mind was full of curiosity and the need to know more than her brothers were telling her and that marked her as a bit of a nuisance. She was no frail, delicate flower and after living through the ordeal of being kidnapped and taken from her family, her view of the world had become jaded and suspicious. Untrusting.

Having been protected from the world all her life, she knew nothing of danger, fear or hatred, but that changed in an instant the night she was taken away, bodily thrown onto a ship and didn’t see land again until she was carried onto a dock in New York City. The journey was harrowing, and the rough seas made her violently ill for nearly two weeks. Not being able to eat or keep down liquids, she found herself hovering near death several times. But that fact alone didn’t startle her. What did startle her was that her mind was blank. Perhaps it was delirium or exhaustion, but she’d always thought that when one was on the brink of death they’d be comforted by thoughts of family and friends. Yes, she thought of her family, but it wasn’t in a way she expected. She loved her brothers, but aside from Carson, she was not close to them, and her thoughts of them were if they would blame her for this event. It angered her. There was no comfort to be found there.

When she was carried off the ship upon arrival, she was relieved to see Dane there and to hear his voice, but not as relieved as she was when she saw Dunn. Through her life, he had been the vein of strength that ran through her family. He was the father she never had, the mentor she never thought to need, and the friend she could always trust. He was unwaveringly honest and open with her and treated her as a person, not as a child with a delicate disposition as her Aunt Trudy oft said she had. For that, she loved him more than he knew. Once she recovered and was able to finally tour the city, Dunn had become her guide and escort. He took her to dinner at fancy restaurants and bought her gifts to help ease her troubled mind. And in all of this, she realized the love she had for him had shifted to something… more. He was much older than she, older than her late brother even, but she didn’t note the age difference between them now. They were of similar minds and spent hours just talking about life and the world.

He was intrigued by her curiosity, and she was mesmerized by his knowledge. He was a worldly man, having traveled widely, and she could just sit and listen to his stories about other continents for hours. Until she set foot in New York City, she’d never been out of England, so though the circumstance of her being there was definitely not a preferred one, she was actually happy to have been given the chance to see more of the world. Fate, she felt, had a way of changing one’s life in the most spectacular of ways. But now, as she sat in the window seat of her bedroom, holding Dunn’s brief note in her hand, she was perplexed. This is not what it seems, but I cannot tell you why I needed to leave. I shall return when my business is handled, and I am able to share the world with you. It said nothing other than the fact that he was gone, and she had no idea when he’d be back. She’d written to him days before but received no response. In fact, she was told he was not at his estate.

And he wasn’t at his London home. He was just… gone. “This is not what it seems” perplexed her. She assumed he meant that his abrupt departure was not because her brother found them together. It had been more than a week since that night and Carson had yet to speak to her about it. He had yet to even look at her, and it was starting to weigh on her. She needed to clear the air between them, or they would never be the same again. Folding Dunn’s note and placing it in the drawer of her dressing table, she headed downstairs in search of Carson, but instead found the house empty, its lower rooms and hallways quiet and still. “Reynolds,” she called out and the family butler came around the corner at her request. “Yes Ma’am?” he answered.

“Is there something I can help you with?” “Where is everyone?” she asked, poking her head into the sitting room to find a maid dusting, and no one else. “Archer and Cassi are meeting with friends for lunch in town. Dane has a meeting with his steward,” he said, counting on his fingers. “Nichola and the children went to visit her family in town, and Carson and Nasrin are at the shop.” Wonderful. She was alone. She didn’t mind being alone, but right now, she needed someone to talk to. If only Dunn hadn’t gone away. Damn the man. “Can you have Marcus bring the carriage around? I would like to go into town to shop.

” “As you wish,” Reynolds said with a bow and quickly left the room. She wasn’t about to spend the day by herself and the only thing that could brighten her mood was shopping, so she collected her things and headed out into the sunshine of the early afternoon and soon her carriage was trundling down Bond Street where she would spend the rest of the day. With her maid in tow, she visited the local shops and viewed all the new fashions. Dresses all seemed the same to her, the fashion never seemed to change. And now that she’d been to New York, London fashion seemed outdated. There was no doubt Paris fashion was her favorite, but there was something about the fashion she saw in New York. The fabrics were crisper, the colors more brilliant. And of course, evening gowns were flashier and had more flounce than she’d ever seen. Against Dane’s wishes, Dunn had bought her several gowns while they were there and she was so eager to wear them now that they had returned to town, but parties and balls were scarce this late in the season, and her brothers were far too occupied with their families to attend any of them. There was to be one in a few weeks, but there was no one to take her now that Dunn was gone.

He was her only saving grace. She did find several pairs of shoes that caught her attention though. A man by the name of Master Sapronelli had set up shop on the west end of Jermyn Street and his designs were miraculous. She allowed him to trace her foot to keep on file so that he could make her new shoes as the fashion beckoned. She ended up purchasing two new pairs of slippers for the day and a pair of beautiful dancing slippers that she hoped she would have the chance to wear before the season ended. As her maid handed the parcels to her driver, Lilianne stood by straightening her gloves. She turned then and spied a young couple sitting on a bench chatting. The woman was smiling radiantly as the man cooed over her and a sudden burn travelled up the back of Lilianne’s neck at the sight of it, memories of similar times with Dunn suddenly flooding her mind… “Did you ever think to marry after you lost Colvin?” Dunn asked out of the blue as he fiddled with the cuff of his jacket, his gaze darting back to her when she didn’t respond. “I beg pardon, Lil. I thought perhaps after so many years the subject wasn’t such a hard one to discuss.

” Lilianne bowed her head momentarily before looking to Dunn. It wasn’t that the question was hard for her to answer, it was just that once Alexander had died, her mind never dared go in that direction, and it wasn’t until recently that thoughts of marriage started to surface once again after so many years. “Youth is such a frivolous time for one’s heart. Young women are so besotted with the idea of being in love and being loved before they even know what their hearts need or desire,” she said, her eyes searching his face. Furrowing his brows, Dunn shook his head. “Are you saying you didn’t want to marry Colvin?” “No, of course I did,” she said, then shrugged and looked away as a lump suddenly lodged in her throat. “It’s just that, looking back I ask myself why. We hardly knew one another when he proposed, but I was so enamored with the idea of having a fiancé. Of being able to use that moniker in town and get the reaction I desired for so long. He was a handsome man and I found little fault in him even though my brothers never approved.

But my brothers were always on the tons lips and even though I was touted like some jewel at the balls, it’s not like I was newsworthy or even talked about. I was tired of being invisible. One by one my brothers married and went off to have families of their own and here I am. What do I have now?” “You still have your family,” Dunn offered, turning toward her, concern on his face. “They will always be there for you, as will I.” “And I thank you for that, but the point is that I have wasted so much time mourning a man I’m not even sure I was in love with. What does a nineteen-year-old heart know of love anyway? I had no idea then and I’m not even sure I know five years on. What I do know is that I made my own mistakes and now I have to accept where I am.” “You’re still a young, beautiful woman. Your life is far from over,” Dunn said with a chuckle.

“But what man in his right mind would want me?” she asked, shaking her head. “I’m on the shelf now. I may as well accept that Aunt Trudy will be my housemate for the rest of my life.” Dunn cleared his throat at that and shook his own head. “I think one day the perfect man will surprise you,” he said. “And you will know in your heart you are ready to take that step with him.” Had she known then that Dunn was implicating himself in that equation, she would have jumped at the offer, but he hadn’t. Offered, that is. Their conversations while in New York became deeper and more personal as time went on. During the journey back to England one night at the rail of the ship, he’d kissed her.

His own actions seemed to surprise him, and it caught her so off guard that she stumbled away from him and rush back to her cabin and bolted her door, breathless and out of her mind with shock. It wasn’t until several weeks later in her brother’s library when they finally came together and spoke about what transpired over the last weeks. Though Dunn did not profess his love for her, he did say he planned to make things right between them and that one day soon, as he repeated in his note, he’d give her the world. Now, as the days and weeks passed, she wasn’t sure she could hold him to it. To Kiss A Lady By Gina Danna Chapter 1 DECEMBER 1813 ENGLAND~ Joseph George Revington, Viscount Riverdale, scanned the players in front of him, under the guise of eyeing his cards. It was late, the brandy bountiful and the gentlemen before him had yet to hold a winning hand, but he wasn’t so foxed as not to realize they’d rather break his winning streak than quit the game. “Well, Riverdale, any minute now.” Ah, Lord Sutfire, no, Stuttfield, couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Couldn’t keep his eyes off the wenches here, either. A fact that’d played well for him a few hands back.

Riverdale looked down at the bounty before him. His winnings included gold pieces, a deed to some parcel off in who-knows where, a ruby, a knife with an ivory handle and the lineage to a thoroughbred, all thrown in in an attempt to win. The stakes now were higher and he knew it was the last round if he won. Biting back the grin that threatened, he picked up a stack of debtors’ markers, rounding to ten thousand pounds, and threw them into the pot. Half the table threw their cards down in disgust, muttering he was either cheating or had poisoned their thinking with the brandy. Two more shook their heads, slowly adding to the list of quitted players, till it left just him and Stutterfield. No, he corrected his thoughts, Stuttfield. “Well, my lord, what have you?” He stared at the man, adding pressure to his opponent. The elder nobleman ground his teeth. Riverdale heard it from across the table and found the noise annoying yet satisfying, as it meant he, too, would concede.

“Just down to us, laddie,” the man drawled. His Scottish lilt, brought by a childhood in the north, always appeared when he was drunk. He gave a crooked smile. “I do believe I won.” Riverdale maintained a stoic expression after a minute passed, letting his opponent gleam at a win he thought he had. He laid his cards out while struggling to contain his emotions. Stuttfield’s lips twitched, angry and surprised all at once. “Again the winner, it appears,” the lord grumbled, pushing himself off the chair. “You’ve taken all I have. I am done with you, sir.

” Riverdale bit back the smirk as he watched the lord storm off. He took the insult in stride, especially since he possessed a summer home in the north and funds to maintain it, all at the courtesy of these players. It was a good evening. “Ahem, you seem to have cleared them out, Lord Riverdale.” Riverdale smiled. Claudia, one of the serving wenches of the club, gazed down at him as he pulled his winnings in. “Thought you were going to find a wife.” She spat into the cuspidor. He found the habit foul, especially out of a woman. “Do not start that again.

You know why I’m here.” “Yer just ran into some foul luck. That’s all.” She sounded sincere. He wanted to agree but instead, he buffered his emotions. Afterall, when one believes he’s found the one to wed, only to discover they were engaged to another, left him with no one in his corner but this unwashed woman now lecturing him on gambling and love. “Tell you what, love, wash that pretty face, stop that spitting and be seen on my arm,” he countered, his voice a little rougher than needed, but he blamed it on the drink. “The good Lord knows, any woman seen with me doesn’t stay single for long.” “Ah, naught. Rather like my comin’ and goin’ with no offers whatsoever.

” She rolled back on her heels, a crooked smile on her lips. “Just because you’ve hit a rough patch with the ladies and they keep stealin’ ’em away from you t’isn’t your fault. You need to be a bit quicker comin’ to the point.” He snorted. Three ladies from the last go round of society, all lovely and eligible, were indeed snatched from his grasp before he truly got to know them. A few dances, a ride in the park, cosseting their parents did him no good. Because he danced with them first, as the rumors went, their future husbands came running. Now, the ton whispered if a girl wanted to be wed, all she needed was a walk with Lord Riverdale. His stomach clutched. “On that note, Miss Claudia, I bid you good night.

” As he left the club, her laughter echoing in his wake, he climbed into his carriage richer but more disgruntled than ever. He banged on the front wall of the conveyance and ordered, “Grant, time to head north!” “Aye, my lord.” The coachman snapped the ribbons and off they went. Riverdale wrapped his coat around him tighter. The cold winds of winter whipped across London and would be more so up north, at Riverdale Abby. Fine, he inwardly snarled. He’d welcome the holidays alone, and dream of a lady he hoped next spring he might meet. Settling into the cooler climate as they left London, he sneezed. LINNWOOD HOUSE~ Rose Harris perched on the edge of the chair, watching her cousin folding the little garments with gentle care. She couldn’t help but smile.

“So how is the marquis handling your condition?” Charlotte didn’t break her rhythm of stacking the clothes. “He’s taking it in stride.” She stopped and chortled. “Well, perhaps I’ll tell you, his grumbling is decreasing.” “Grumbling?” “Yes, as you might guess, he was not as excited as I was with the little one coming.” Her cousin leaned back, her hand slowly stroking her rounded belly. “After his last encounter with a lady in my condition, I believe he is frightened something will happen to me, but the midwife, Mrs. Beasley, assured him that all was progressing as it should. Well, despite feeling retched in the mornings at first, though that has subsided now.” Rose grinned.

“I’m so happy for you!” Charlotte nodded. “Thank you. You can just imagine how my parents feel.” “Oh, I’m well aware of how they feel. I believe even Uncle Harold has given more toasts towards this than anything else Aunt Mary or I can recall.” She laughed. But her laugh was cut short by a cough, then two. She put her hand over her mouth and moved away from Charlotte. Her cousin frowned as she reached for the teacup, adding more to fill it and handing it to Rose. “I thought you had beat that ailment.

” Rose sipped the warm tea, instantly relieved it coated her throat, ending the hacking. Her cheeks flushed. “I’ve nipped it for the most part. I feel fine, just a lingering cough. I apologize. Perhaps I should have refrained from visiting.” “Oh, Rose, no, it is fine.” Charlotte took her hands and squeezed. “You wouldn’t be here unless you had recovered. You look good.

I know coughs can sometimes be the hardest to be rid of.” She smiled. Rose swallowed. “Thank you.” “Besides, you’ve had a rough Season, so the least I can do is put up with a bit of a cough now and then.” Rose squirmed uncomfortably at the mention of the past social season. “It wasn’t the best of times for me.” That was an understatement. To be proposed to by the most eligible and handsome lord of the Season, only to discover what a scoundrel he was still made her shiver. Pushing the memory aside, she glanced at her cousin.

“It was a total success for you, Marchioness of Linnwood.” Charlotte glowed. “Yes, I do believe you are right. I’m not sure how I was so lucky.” “He loves you. That much everyone can see.” Charlotte returned to her stack of baby clothes. “I know everyone tells me I don’t need to do this. The servants will see to it, but I guess,” she looked up. “It calms my nerves.

” “All will be good. I believe it.” Another round of coughs spilled out of her. She downed her tea and put the cup down. “I believe it is best that I take my leave, before the marquis arrives and throws me out.” “I wish you’d stay. The holiday will seem so different without you or Mama or Papa.” Charlotte bit her bottom lip, as if concentrating, and then she bloomed into a grin, her eyes dancing. “You three are heading to North Hancock House?” “Yes. Aunt Mary’s family is to meet us there.

Should be quite a holiday. Perhaps you could convince the marquis to bring you.” She sounded pleading, even in her own ears. Despite all the family, she feared loneliness would engulf her. Charlotte shook her head. “He does not want me to travel. So we shall start a new tradition here.” She eyed her cousin, making Rose shift her stance. Charlotte could always read her so well. “Are Mama and Papa traveling with you?” “No.

They left last week. I was given the time to rest and recover, leaving me to travel with Aunt Clare.” “Oh, dear! That far and with no male escort? How truly scandalous!” She laughed. Rose joined her. “Yes, well, I’m under fine tutelage with Aunt Clare. Besides, that is only a half day journey.” Charlotte tapped her toe as she sat deep in thought. “I think I have a solution for your problem. You need an escort, and I believe Gerard’s best friend, Lord Riverdale, is here as well on his way in the same direction. Perhaps he can ride with you.

” She grinned mischievously. Rose felt her blood race to her feet. Her throat too parched to speak at first. “Oh, that would be grand, but I’d prefer not, not, not—” she swallowed the lump in her throat, praying it wouldn’t bring on another coughing fit. “Not after what happened…”

.

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