By Love Undone by Suzanne Enoch - Romance>Historical Other
Scandal's daughter . . .
Madeleine Willits was shunned by London society for a scandal that was no fault of hers, and forced to seek a paid position in the country. So when Quinlan Bancroft, Marquis of Warefield, comes to direct the household during his uncle's illness, Maddie is determined to detest the nobleman on sight. But though the marquis is easy to dislike, the man himself is a different matter. Small wonder, then, that Maddie quite forgets herself when he enfolds her in a sweet embrace . . .
Meets the noble lord . . .
Caught kissing his uncle's lovely young companion, Quinlan feels he should make amends, and uses his rank to re-establish Miss Willits in society. Unfortunately, it is soon apparent that Maddie has no idea how to resist importunate young rakes who deem her ripe for the plucking. But Maddie knows there is only one rake whose attentions she truly needs to fear--because only Quinlan Bancroft possesses the power to break her heart.
The yellow-red blossoms of the Lord Penzance rosebush waved lazily in the light breeze. Humming a counterpoint to the robins singing in the trees behind her, Madeleine Willits snipped three of the perfect blooms and gently dropped them into her basket. And then she pricked her finger.
'Ouch! Blast it."
At the same time, a stentorian bellow rumbled from the master bedchamber window like a clap of thunder, and she jumped.
"Miss Maddie!" the housekeeper called frantically.
"Good Lord," Maddie muttered. Dropping her clippers into the basket, she gathered up her skirt and ran for the kitchen entry.
Mrs. Hudson pulled open the door as she reached it, and Maddie shoved the basket into the housekeeper's plump arms. "What happened?" she called over her shoulder, running through the main hall toward the stairs to the second floor. Curious servants hurried into the hallway, creating obstacles for her to dodge."I don't know, Miss Maddie," came from behind her.
Garrett was in with him!"
"Garrett!" she called.
The butler appeared at the top of the stairs. Red-faced, he wiped at the thick brown trails of gravy running down the front of his black coat. "It was just the post!" he protested.
Bill Tomkins, closely followed by a tea saucer, exited the bedchamber at high speed behind Garrett. "He nearly killed me that time," the footman panted, leaning against the bannister.
"You shouldn't have been in there," Maddie said unsympathetically, trying to regain her breath before she stepped into battle. She pulled the shawl from around her shoulders.
"What was I supposed to do, keep polishing the lamps while he's yowling like a Bedlamite? Scared the devil out of me," the footman exclaimed, shuddering.
The butler chuckled. "Then you should thank him."
Sending the servants a warning glance, Maddie fluttered the end of her shawl into the doorway. "We surrender, Mr. Bancroft. The household has been vanquished."
More rumbling issued from inside the room, followed by the thudding sound of a pillow hitting a wall. "Humph. Stop that nonsense and get your pretty face in here, girl," Malcolm Bancroft's irritated voice ordered.
Maddie entered the bedchamber. The remains of luncheon drippily decorated the near wall, while the pillows which had been propping Mr. Bancroft up in bed lay strewn about the floor, leaving her employer flat on his back amid a tangle of bed sheets.
"My, my. Such carnage." She clucked her tongue.
Awkwardly he lifted his head to pin her with a baleful, dark-eyed gaze. "Bah," he said, and lay flat again.
Stifling a grin, Maddie began gathering pillows in her arms. "Any interesting news in the post today?"
"I wouldn't be so blasted clever if I were you, Maddie. It's not news you'll relish, either. Damned stuffed shirts."
An edge of uneasiness ran through her as she levered him into a sitting position with the help of the pillows. "I see you've appropriated my favorite term for the nobility. The new king is coming to visit, I suppose. Shall I have the silver polished â or hidden? You know King George so much better than I."
As she expected, the mention of George IV distracted her employer from whatever it was that had upset him. "Mad King George, Fat King George. Who's next â Blind King George?"
Maddie chuckled, relieved as reluctant humor returned to his voice. "Royalty are blind to everything but their purses, anyway."
Mr. Bancroft snorted. "So they are." With his weakened left hand he gestured at a badly crumpled paper resting on a slice of toasted bread. "And that particular ailment infects most everyone in England who can lay claim to a title. Hand me that letter, my dear."
She complied, shaking crumbs off and resisting the urge to read...