For the Love of the Marquess

She will never trust her broken heart to him again.

Shortly after Lady Juliet gave her heart to Graham, the Marquess of Hertford, he disappeared with no explanation. Eight months later he is back in London, eager to resume their relationship, but claims he cannot tell her where he’s been.

Graham was fulfilling a duty to the duke who had once acted as his guardian. Sworn to secrecy, Graham is frustrated in his attempts to win back Juliet’s trust, and convince her he wants her for his wife. As he works hard to chip away at her frozen heart, a twist of fate might snatch the happiness away from them forever.

Or can Graham convince Elise what things are not always as they appear...

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London, England
July, 1818

The Marquess of Hertford looked up from the book he read as Stevenson, his butler, entered the library. “My lord, a note has just been delivered to our door.” He held out a cream-colored piece of vellum with the seal of the Duke of Reading’s crest on it.

Graham took the paper from the butler’s hand. “Thank you. Is there someone waiting for an answer?”

“Yes, my lord.”

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Odd that His Grace would send a note around in the evening, and then expect an answer, since in most cases Graham would be out for the night. He would have been at the theater, in fact, but had no desire to attend social functions while Lady Juliet was busy with her sister’s wedding.

He opened the note and read:

Hertford,

A situation has come up that requires your assistance. Please attend me tomorrow morning.

Reading

Graham smiled. It sounded so much like the duke. The man who had been his guardian from the time Graham’s parents had died in a fire when he was a mere three and ten years. Graham had spent the time between then and leaving University as the duke’s protégé, preparing to assume the duties that came with his title.

He scribbled that he would arrive at ten the next morning and handed the note back to Stevenson. The man took the paper and left the room.

Graham checked the time on the long case clock in the corner. An hour before midnight. He stretched and considered visiting one of his clubs. What he wanted to do was climb through Lady Juliet’s window and spend hours making love to her.

They’d been courting almost from the beginning of the Season, and just recently they’d taken the step that would have her father demanding marriage, except that was exactly what Graham had in mind. Juliet was precisely who he desired for his marchioness.

He’d wanted to speak with her father and sign the marriage contracts, but Juliet had asked him to wait until her sister’s wedding was over. It seemed their father, in order to get his eldest married, had told Juliet and her two sisters that until Lady Elise was married, he would not accept offers for the other two girls’ hands. Since Lady Elise and Lord St. George were a mere two weeks away from speaking their vows, Graham had thought it silly to wait, but had agreed to abide by Juliet’s request.

Despite the early hour, he had a small brandy, and then took himself off to bed, curious as to his morning visit with the Duke.

At precisely ten o’clock the next morning, Graham entered the duke’s study. The man stood, a grave look on his face. “Thank you for coming, son. I appreciate it.” He looked past Graham’s shoulder at the butler who had shown him in. “Please send for coffee.” He glanced at Graham. “Have you eaten?”

“Yes, Your Grace, but coffee would be welcomed.”

The duke nodded and waved at the two chairs in front of the fireplace. Once they were both settled, Reading leaned forward, his forearms resting on his thighs. “I have a serious problem to deal with. Very serious.”

Graham leaned back, concerned at the duke’s obvious distress. “What can I help with?”

The man stood and ran his fingers through his hair. “I don’t even know how to say this, since this is not a situation I had ever imagined.” He took a deep breath and looked up at the ceiling. “Amy is with child.”

To say Graham was taken aback was an understatement of great magnitude. Amy was the duke’s only child, a girl two years older than Graham’s seven and twenty. She was known as ‘different.’ A sweet girl, but very childish in her manner, and well protected by her father, who had kept her out of the public eye most of her life.

Beautiful, with curly blonde hair and wide blue eyes, Amy was lively and full of laughter, a joy to be around. The poor girl had struggled to learn to read and do her numbers. Anything else seemed to be beyond her. The duke had consulted several doctors over the years, and they all seemed to believe confinement to an institution was best. The duke threw the men out of the house one by one and continued to love and cherish his only child.

“How?” It was the only word Graham could get out. He and Amy had spent hours together when he lived with the duke on his estate, Euston Hall, in Suffolk. They’d run together, swam together, played games, climbed trees, and took their studies with the tutor until Graham was ready for University. He still remembered how she’d clung to him and cried when he’d left.

“The best I can deduce is she got involved with one of the staff at the Hall. She won’t say—as you know she can be quite stubborn—and no one, of course, is stepping up, since they know the wrath that will descend upon the head of whoever is responsible for this. Rape is about all I can label it. She is certainly unable to offer consent for such activities.”

Amy had made her come-out at eight and ten years, but after a few faux pas and social blunders, the duke had bundled her up and taken her back to Euston Hall. She’d lived there quite happily with her various activities of tending to the flower garden, sewing, and playing games with some of the staff. Until now, apparently.

“What is it you would like me to do?” They might as well get to the crux of the matter.

Reading sat and studied him. “My sister resides in Paris. Now that the occupation has ended, I feel it is safe enough for travel. She is married to the Marquis of Agneaux, and has agreed to accept Amy into her home and see that the child born is placed into a foundling home before my daughter returns.”

Graham was still confused as to his role in this drama, but kept silent as the duke stared off into the distance. “Amy is unaware of our plans, and may cause some problems when the babe is born, but I believe it is beyond question that the child must be given up, and Amy return to her life at the Hall. Although, she will be carefully watched.”

He remembered his former playmate as a sensitive, loving young girl, who, no doubt, had turned into the same type of woman. Since Amy was not fully aware of, or able to comprehend, the strictures of Society, he could see where she would balk at giving away a child born to her, regardless of the circumstances. ’Twas not an easy task his former mentor faced.

“What I ask of you, Hertford, is to accompany Amy and her maid to France. I would trust no one more than you. For several reasons, I am unable to leave London right now, and I cannot risk discovery of Amy’s condition. It would ruin her.”

Leave London to go to France? Just when he was about to offer for Lady Juliet? The duke could not have picked a worse time. The travel there, seeing Amy settled in, and then the return home, would take months to complete.

Then he thought of all the years he’d relied so heavily on this man. All the nights they sat by the fireplace and discussed Graham’s future, and the assumption of his duties. The times the duke allowed the young, confused orphan to cry, without censure. He helped to shape Graham into the man he now was. How could he deny what the duke asked?

It must be breaking the duke’s heart to see this happening to his daughter, whom he loved tremendously. Despite the inconvenience, there was no other answer he could give the man.

“Of course I will accompany her to France, Your Grace. When will she be ready to leave?”

The duke let out a huge breath that he must have been holding in. “Unfortunately, I would like you to leave today.”

“Today?” He could never be ready for such an extensive trip on short notice like this.

“Yes.” The duke stood and leaned his elbow on the fireplace mantel. “I have every reason to believe Amy will find a way to leave London and return home to” —he winced— “her lover. I cannot fully make her understand the repercussions of her actions. Since I have discovered what has been going on in Suffolk, she has become somewhat estranged from me. I am hoping getting her out of England quickly will avoid a complete disaster.”

“I can take care of that, sir. I will have my valet pack as quickly as possible. I assume we will be using your carriage?’

“Yes. It is being readied as we speak.” He looked at him with an awkward smile. “I knew I could count on you.”

“I shall return about three o’clock. Will that suffice?”

“Yes. Amy and her maid, Mildred, will be ready to go. I don’t think she will give you any trouble; she was always very fond of you. Over the years, she often referred to you as her ‘brother.’”

That brought him a sense of guilt, since he had not visited with Amy in well over a year. He and the duke shook hands and Graham left.

The first thing he had to take care of was Lady Juliet. Even though she was not expecting him, he went directly to her townhome. The man at the door informed him that Lady Juliet was away, and he had no idea when she was to return. When he inquired after Lord Pomeroy, he was told the man was also away from home.

Graham spent the next few hours attempting to find Juliet somewhere in the shops along Bond Street, and when that didn’t work, he tried a few of the clubs to see if he could run down Lord Pomeroy.

Unsuccessful in his attempts to run down either Lady Juliet, or her father, Graham penned a quick note to Juliet, telling her he had to leave London unexpectedly and would write as soon as possible. Feeling badly about the whole thing, he nevertheless appeared at the duke’s house at the appointed time.

“Graham!” Amy raced across the library and threw herself into his arms. “I am so happy you are taking the trip with me to visit my aunt. It has been a long time since I saw her.

A bit surprised at her enthusiastic greeting, since the duke had intimated that Amy was suffering from despondency. But then again, that was Amy. She had a naturally bright spirit about her. The thought had barely formed in his mind when she linked her arm into his. “We shall have a grand time while we’re there.”

Graham glanced at the duke with raised brows.

“Amy is delighted to be taking this trip.”

Apparently, Amy either didn’t know, or had forgotten, that she was to give birth to a child who was to be taken from her. With the girl’s natural loving spirit, Graham was grateful to be only escorting her, and not involved in the end result.

“It is my pleasure to escort you, my dear. Shall we be off?”

With a quick peck on her father’s cheek, they were off for Dover where they would catch a packet to Calais and continue to Paris.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Maria Dariotis, Goodreads wrote:

An enjoyable heartwarming read with a few misunderstandings that could have easily been resolved. Loved the fact that Graham wasn't the type to give up easily, he knew what he wanted and made sure he got it. He also understood that for a man keeping his word defined him as an honourable person. Juliet is driven by emotion but gave him the benefit of doubt and gave in. I have to say that my favourite person is the Earl of Pomeroy their father, he's a wonderful father with a quirky sense of humour I can't wait to see what's in store for him.

Peggy, Goodreads wrote:

The second story in the Noble Hearts Series is just as happy and heartwarming as the first.

Veronica Acevedo, Goodreads wrote:

This was a short sweet read. I enjoyed the characters and the storyline that was given to the characters. I loved how the readers got to see what happened to the mid youngest sister of Lady Elise. We got to know Juliet much more, as well as her father “The Earl of Pomeroy.