This story is in the DRAFT stage - It is being uploaded as I write - which I dislike doing. As a result, I am informing you that I may go back and rewrite some of what has been published on Inkitt. I will put a “Revised mm/dd/yy” as the first line on each chapter if this is necessary so that you can flick through the chapters and reread updated versions. I sincerely hope that this does not make the story disjointed. I don’t usually need to rewrite but I do need the ability and the freedom to do this if I’m uploading in this manner...
I hope you enjoy this book and thank you for supporting my work.
The man was a pig. He might have been sitting opposite her dressed in the finest attire and the world might know him as nobility, a distinguished Lord to her peers, but she wasn’t fooled. He was clearly an arrogant pig of a man. And she wasn’t about to marry a swine, no matter what her father wanted.
The day was a beautiful spring morning and she had woken with a smile on her face and brimming with hope and excitement. She had been optimistic. Her father was of sound judgement and spoke highly of the gentleman’s good character and handsome looks. It should have been a good match. And at first, it had seemed so, but this was soon proven to be a false impression.
It was not his appearance that soured the meeting. In fact, he might have once been extraordinary handsome. His almost pitch-black hair was thick and wavy, parted on the left then quaffed to frame his face. The back was longer than was currently fashionable and he’d tied the curls together with a simple strap of leather. His beard was well-groomed and was trimmed to be short with sharp edges. His moustache was not oiled or sculpted but blended in with the other facial hair, as did his sideburns. His cheekbones were high, and his eyes were both brown and green. Nearest the pupil they were a bright yellowish or golden brown which blended with the leafy green as it radiated out. His jaw was square, his chin was strong, and he held his head high and with confidence.
Had it not been for the scars he would have been the envy of many. But it was these broad, red, and rough etched lines that dominated his face and distracted the eye. Three ugly scars ran parallel to each other from his left temple down over his jaw and then disappeared into the collar of his shirt. His eye was luckily missed by whatever slashed his face and marked his skin, but she doubted that this was much of a consolation. His beard grew around the scars, and she was surprised that he trimmed it short enough to show the evidence of the horror. She wondered if he did so to horrify or to intimidate those he met.
She did not scare so readily. The fact he had survived such a catastrophic assault should have been evidence of a strong character and a resilient constitution. The man should have been happy to be alive and thankful for his good luck. This did not seem the case. Upon being introduced he was immediately sour and condescending. He made no effort to show polite interest in the meeting nor did he hide his disdain for her. He was horrible and pig-like.
He sat in her father’s parlour, drank their tea, and looked down on her as if she was livestock. His obviously negative assessment had her wanting to look away and cringe from his sneer. But she refused to oblige him. A man like this would welcome a demure wife who allowed such insult to go unchallenged. She wanted him to know she was not that sort of woman. Manners dictated that she had no voice to put him in his place, all she could do was meet his eyes without fear and let that enunciate her contempt for him.
“Does she play the pianoforte?” the swine asked her father while his eyes lingered on her breasts.
“Yes, she does,” Anna answered before her father could, “And she plays it rather well, too.”
“Lady Anna sings too,” her father shot her a clear look of disproval, “Would you like more tea Lord Godfrey? Maybe Anna could play while you enjoy another cup?”
“Certainly,” the swine’s lips curled into a cold smile as he shuffled in the chair in order to offer his cup to be topped up with more of their best tea, “And her mother?”
Even seated he was an imposing figure. If his scarred face was not enough to shock, his stature was intimidating. He was extraordinarily tall with broad shoulders and lean muscular physic. His midriff was narrow, he did not display the pouch of overconsumption of food and liquor that many men his age carried, his long limbs were graceful despite their slender appearance, and he held himself with all the pride of an accomplished man. The tone of his skin indicated that he was fit and in good health and his eyes sparkled with life. He was not a man who blended into a crowd.
“Lady Josephine?” her father prompted as if reminding the man of his wife’s name, “She is well enough given the situation.”
“I have no interest in her constitution,” he looked towards the window, “Does she still have ties to her family, the Warwick’s?”
“Yes, of course,” the elder man surprised by the bold and impertinent question, “And Anna is a favourite of her Grandparents. They are very close.”
She settled her fingers on the pianoforte in front of her. It would have been expected behaviour for her to play a gentle piece to demonstrate her talent and allow the men to converse while she played. Given the tone of the conversation, she wasn’t interested in showing this man her skill or her respect. She thrust the keys down hard and played the loudest and most spirited piece of music that she knew. The contempt was clear in each note played.
“Anna,” her father was standing at her side, interrupting her playing, his annoyance, and a touch of fear in his expression, “That is enough. She is not usually this disobedient. Please excuse her, Lord Godfrey, she must be feeling off-colour.”
Anna exhaled slowly. She had gone too far. The query about her mother had angered her and her temper had flared. She knew better than this. Irrespective of how rude Lord Charles Godfrey had been, she was still a Lady, and she should have behaved as such. Instead, she had demeaned herself and her family. She had shamed her father in front of an important man and someone he hoped to ally himself with.
“My apologies,” she bowed politely to Lord Godfrey her cheeks red with both embarrassment and exertion as the musical piece she had played had tired her, “I did not mean to cause insult. Please excuse me, my father is correct, the excitement of our meeting has caused me to feel faint.”
The man didn’t look up from his tea.
“If you would excuse her, my Lord,” her father gave her a meaningful look, “I am sure she would benefit from some rest and join us later, perhaps for a stroll in the gardens?”
“Yes, yes,” he waved his hand dismissively without looking in her direction.
She walked through the door without thanking him for his consideration. She couldn’t, even though it was expected behaviour. She didn’t trust herself to do so with any sincerity.
The door closed and she spun to lean against the wall. The voices inside the room were muffled but still audible, and she wanted to hear what was being said. It was this man whom her father had chosen for her to marry. He spoke with respect and implied admiration when referring to their brief meetings. Her father was confident in his suitability. All that remained was Lord Godfrey’s approval and the betrothal would be formalized.
She had no idea why my father had favoured this man over others. And many others were both equally suitable and had expressed interest in courting her. There had been balls, luncheons, promenades, and picnics but none of the men who danced with her, strolled along the river in her company, or who came for tea were adequate in the eyes of her father. She had almost given up hope of finding a man who would gain approval when her father announced that he was making arrangements with Lord Godfrey for her hand in marriage.
Yet, on meeting this gentleman, she would hazard to say that any would surpass him. It was true that he held an enviable title, was in dire need of a wife, and was a member of the same Gentleman’s Club as her father favoured but in all other attributes, Lord Godfrey fell short. He was a recluse from society and his estates weren’t, according to gossip, the wealthiest or well-run. Unpopular with the Ton, he was rarely invited to important functions and social occasions. Even if one such invitation was extended, he rarely accepted and never offered his company to those who were kind enough to approach him.
Although his offhand behaviour was widely considered rude, there were many who offered excuses. Some years ago, Lord Godfrey’s first wife died suddenly soon after their nuptials. The circumstances around her death were tragic and, according to speculation, he had witnessed her untimely and gruesome final moments when she was trampled by his horses. The traumatic nature of this loss and his intense grief was said to be the reason why he avoided company. It was also the circumstances why Anna had welcomed her father’s confidence that this would be a suitable arrangement.
“Do you have anything stronger than this tea?” his voice filtered out through the door.
“Yes, of course,” she heard her father walk to the drinks cabinet that was on the other side of the wall from where she was leaning, “My apology for my daughter, she is protective of her mother.”
She curled her fists at his. Her mother had recently had a stroke and was convalescing upstairs. Her face was altered, and her speech was slurred but that did not mean she deserved to be shunned by society. She was still the same woman.
“I can see why you are keen to marry her off,” her future husband said, “She is not particularly handsome, is she?”
“She is pretty enough,” her father sounded defensive, “She has had other suitors.”
“All of which dried up after your wife’s unfortunate ailment,” the swine stated like it was yesterday’s news, “And now you are offering her to me.”
This was news to her. She had been told her other suitors were found inadequate rather than them having withdrawn their interest. Whatever the reason, it was highly improper for him to point this out.
“I wouldn’t say that was true,” her father said with no conviction, “The doctors say that my wife’s illness is not hereditary. My daughter would make any man a good wife, produce him fine children and be an excellent mother. She is a good prospect.”
“A good prospect for me,” the man finished the sentence, “For a man who doesn’t care for gossip or the opinions of our society.”
“Her honour is intact,” the words were softly spoken, “She is untouched.”
“That is not what is said,” the man laughed, “If her virginity was in question, I would not be sitting here drinking stale tea, poor grade liquor and enduring this conversation.”
“Then you are amenable to the marriage?”
“I am curious as to what you are offering?”
“Offering?” her father spluttered, “I’m not sure I understand what you mean?”
“Her dowry,” the words came with a greedy inflexion attached, “Should I agree to this what lands will be accompanying my new wife?”
“Lands?” her father sounded as shocked as she was, “Her dowry is hefty, but the family land stays in the estate. It is not expected for her to be allocated land.”
“And yet that is what I require,” Lord Godfrey sounded calm, “To be precise I would like the wooded land that borders our two estates.”
“My hunting lands?” her father’s pitch was high, “That’s almost 200acres of useless land. It can’t be farmed.”
“I am aware of that,” his voice was low, “And given its lack of value to you, it shouldn’t be an issue to transfer ownership to me.”
“My hunting lands,” he repeated, “I can’t. She comes with a six-figure dowry, that is enough.”
“Clearly not,” he signed, “I want the land and the money.”
“But,” he sounded conflicted, “We’ve been over the ground. There is no gold or minerals in the hills. It wouldn’t make a good quarry. It’s only good for deer. I host hunting parties annually.”
“My purposes for the land are none of your concern,” the voice sounded disinterested, “These are my terms, if you are not willing to accommodate them then I will return to my carriage and leave.”
“I will need to consider,” the misery in her father’s tone was clear and painful, “Please stay the night, I am sure that Anna will be well again and be keen to show you the gardens. I will have my staff make up a room for you.”
“There is little point,” he exhaled, “If I leave now then I can be home before nightfall. Send a message to me when you are ready to agree to my terms but, for each day you take, the land area increases, so don’t be too indecisive.”
She pushed off the wall and tried to vacate the hall before the door opened.
“Miss Anna,” the voice in the open door caused her to pause mid-step, “I am pleased to see your indisposition has passed. I gather that your hearing was unaffected by the flush you experienced during your recital?”
“My hearing,” She held her head high as she ignored his smirk, “Is fine. I gather you are refusing our hospitality?”
“Anna,” her father looked horrified by both her bold reply and her spying.
“Yes,” he almost laughed as she demonstrated how much I had heard, “My apology for my abrupt departure but I do not make a good house guest. I prefer the sanctuary of my estate and my bed over that offered by others.”
“That is unfortunate,” she said with very little sadness, “I hope your return trip is safe. It was a pleasure meeting you.”
The fact she did not extend an invitation for a future meeting made it clear that she would not weep tears should they not meet again. This fact was not lost on him and his lip curled into a half-smile at her insult.
“For me too,” he replied, “I will look forward to our next meeting and I sincerely hope that you will blush as beautifully when we are reacquainted as you have today.”
“I didn’t,” she flushed with shock at his forwardness.
“Yes,” he laughed at her, “That is something to look forward to. Good day, Miss Anna.”
“Please Lord Godfrey,” her father shot her a look before he followed the man who was heading out to his waiting carriage, “Won’t you stay? My cook is very good and she is cooking your favourite dish.”
“My favourite dish?” the man turned so that his silhouette filled the entirety of the open doorway and his gaze landed on Anna, “I very much doubt that. My favourite meal isn’t something that you cook.”
He laughed loudly at the blush, which was burning on her cheeks, then he turned, and with long strides, he crossed our front garden and alighted the carriage. Then he was gone. My father was left standing watching him leave. Anna turned, eager to escape as fast as her supposed suitor had done.
“Anna,” her father’s voice was stern, and she knew that she had no choice but to obey, “My study, now.”
“Father,” she stood in his dark study surrounded by books and papers, “The man was horrible. You can’t expect me to marry him.”
“The man,” her father exhaled his anger, “Lord Godfrey, is gentry not horrible. His mannerisms are abrupt, and he lacks social refinement but that is part of his charms too.”
“Charms?” she laughed, “He has all the charms of a snake. You can’t be seriously considering this?”
“You are almost twenty-two years old,” his chest deflated, “This season you had no serious suitors, and your dance card was empty more than once. Unless I find you a husband you will be ruined, and you will never find a match.”
“It wasn’t that bad and next year will be better,” she looked away, “This year the gossip about mother was still fresh. Next year she will be better, and they will have nothing to laugh about.”
“Your mother is not going to get better,” he said with soft words, “We know this. Next year they will have something else to whisper about, but they will not forget our misfortune. And next year you will be a year older.”
“I don’t care,” she tried, “I’d rather be a spinster than marry him!”
“You may think that now,” he shrugged, “But he will give you children and they will make you happy.”
“His children?” she cringed, “I would have to share a bed with him to make that happen. I would have to spend the rest of my life as that man’s wife.”
“Think of your brother,” his tone was firm, “Think of our family. Your marriage to a Lord will restore our social status even if he isn’t a Lord who is admired by the Ton.”
“I can’t,” she shook her head, “Please father, not him. There must be other options.”
“I wish there was.”
“But he wants our land,” the desperation was clear in her voice, “You can’t agree to that. That land should stay in the family. It is for Freddy and his sons. You can’t give it away to a horrible man like that.”
“Do not presume to know what lengths I will go to for our family,” her father growled.
She stepped backwards. Her father was never impatient with her or spoke roughly. His tone shocked her. She couldn’t understand why his face was so angry.
“I am sorry,” he closed his eyes and his face relaxed, “I am under a lot of pressure, Anna. I know that you don’t understand but I need you to trust me. I am your father, and I must act in your best interest and the best interests of our family.”
“Yes,” she could feel the hope draining away, “but I won’t marry him.”
“Nothing is decided,” he said, “There is no need for you to make such bold proclamations. You have only met with him once, do not judge the man based on a single meeting. If we can agree on the dowry, then your courtship can be long, and you might see a different side of him.”
“And if I don’t,” she asked, “If he is nothing but the arrogant rude man I met today, what will you do then?”
“I honestly don’t know,” a flash of pain touched on his features and then was gone, “But I’m sure that you will see him for the honourable man that I know him as, in time.”