Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.
Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?
The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.
When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.
“How much does it matter to you that the title will go to the King when you die?”
“And the land,” Hugh said, gloomily.
Clearly he had told all and Aldridge remembered the lot.
“My uncle and my cousin renewed the fee tail; the land goes with the title.”
Aldridge said nothing, waiting for an answer to his question.
“Damn you, Aldridge. I can’t change it. I’ve tried. The lawyers say breaking the fee tail might take a hundred years and cost more than I could ever pay. I’ve had them hunt every little twig of the family tree. Nothing. I am the last of the Overtons.” ………
“But you would change it if you could.”
Hugh clenched his jaw to keep from cursing his response, but Aldridge hadn’t finished.
“I have an idea that might answer your need. Just might, mind you. It’s a gamble, but I promise you’ll not be worse off, and you might just win the heir you want.”
Hugh’s cynical snort was propelled by ten years of broken hopes. “So what have you got? A gypsy remedy? I’ve tried them all. It won’t be prayer and fasting, not from you. I know: you’ve a pregnant lover to offload.” He choked on the joke when he saw Aldridge’s face.
A flat and uncompromising no. He’d not give his name to any bitch who’d whore herself to the likes of Aldridge.
“No, Aldridge. No. I’ll not do it.”
“No.” Becky didn’t even pause to think. Baron Overton?
“Have you run mad, Aldridge? No, I will not marry Lord Overton.”
“Hear me out, Becky,” Aldridge pleaded. At least he’d had the grace to see her alone, leaving the baron in the parlour to entertain himself.
“What could you possibly say, Aldridge? Overton is a drunkard and a womanizer. He would be a worse husband than you!”
“Not usually, Becky. He has a bit of a blowout when he comes down to London, but I’m probably to blame for that.”
“Huh!” she said. “So he is weak-willed, too. Anyway, he despises me. It would never work, Aldridge.”
Aldridge, his half-smile more exasperated than amused, rubbed one hand over his head, ruining his valet’s careless tousling.
“I swear, I’ve already had this conversation! The two of you are perfect for one another. Yes, Becky, he judged and condemned you without a hearing, just as you have done him. But he was big enough to admit he might be wrong and agree to at least get to know you.”
How could he put her in such a position?
The fantasy was unwise. It didn’t make the days easier to bear, the momentary satisfaction giving way to a profound hollow only she could fill. Was she using some ancient concubine’s art to ensnare with lust?
He must forget she’d been Aldridge’s kept woman or he wouldn’t be able to go through with it. And marrying Mrs. Winstanley had become his most ardent desire.
Free copy of “A Baron for Becky” to random commenter!
Jude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April, and is first in a series: The Golden Redepennings.
Jude’s Other Books (on Amazon)
Candle’s Christmas Chair (free novella)
Farewell to Kindness (Book One, the Golden Redepennings)