THE SCANDALOUS LADY MERCY - Baxendale Sister Series Book Five. Can be read as a standalone. #1 Regency and Suspense Amazon.Bestseller.
Enjoy an excerpt: AT TWO O’CLOCK the next day, Grant was admitted to the Baxendale’s house in Portman Square. During the night, he’d considered his options. Of course, he knew he must do the right thing, although he was confident that Lord Baxendale would refuse his offer. Grant had no estate or property to recommend him, his only income came from his grandmother who bequeathed him money. His father topped it up now and again if he overspent, but he believed young men needed to manage money and respect it. Too many fell afoul of the gambling hells.
Grant hoped they might come up with some other way to banish the rumors already doing the rounds, judging by the slaps on his back and the chuckles of his friends when he’d eaten at his favorite pub. He’d refused to discuss it, but that hadn’t tamped down speculation. With Lady Fountain spilling fantastical stories, God only knew what would be said in drawing rooms and balls this evening.
The butler showed him into Lord Baxendale’s library where Mercy’s father greeted him with a sober expression. He shook Grant’s hand and indicated a chair with the sweep of his hand. “I’m aware of what took place, Northcliffe. Mercy explained how you came to her aid, for which I express my heartfelt thanks. I am indebted to you. It was foolish of her to wander off alone and, but for you, I hate to think what might have happened to her. An unfortunate business.”
“I feel responsible, my lord, because I had undertaken to squire the ladies for the evening. I should never have left them unattended.”
“Mercy’s mother regrets her role in this…”
“I want to make amends.” Grant sat forward in the tan leather armchair. “I wish to ask for Lady Mercy’s hand. But I must be honest, sir, as things stand right now I have little to offer.”
Lord Baxendale bowed his head and thoughtfully steepled his fingers.
“And it will be some years, God willing, before I am able to,” Grant added, keen to make his position clear.
“Yes, I understand, Northcliffe, however…”
Grant’s shoulders tightened. He sat forward on his chair. “Sir?”
“I don’t see it as a barrier. You have excellent prospects. And my daughter will have a handsome dowry.”
Grant held his breath as his future unraveled before him.
“I don’t see why an engagement cannot be announced immediately,” Baxendale continued with a smile. “Unless, you have some objection?”
Grant cleared his throat. “No, my lord. I consider myself most fortunate.”
“Good, good.” Mercy’s father pulled the bell rope. When a footman appeared, he gave an order for Mercy to come to the library. “A whiskey to celebrate? Or should we wait for champagne at dinner.” Baxendale turned from the drink’s table on which decanters and glasses stood. “I hope you will dine with us?”
“I’d be delighted, thank you. Whiskey will do nicely.” He’d be glad of it. His throat was as tight as a drum. How had this happened? He felt as if he’d hurtled over Gaping Gill Falls in a tub. How could he continue his covert investigation while squiring Lady Mercy to every ball, soirée, theatre party, and dance in town? Not to mention that the parson’s mousetrap was looming, and with a lady not of his choosing, who’d exhibited a tendency to behave in a reckless, thoughtless fashion. He had little enough wish to tie the knot with any lady. And even though he had to admit Mercy was one of the loveliest debutantes out this Season, he did not want to be shackled to a silly girl barely out of the schoolroom with foolish ideas about running some kind of business. It was beyond the pale! Not only would he have to give up his freedom, he suspected she would make his life hell.
And what did Mercy feel about it? he mused. She’d expressed little gratitude for his assistance at Vauxhall. He allowed the smoky liquor Baxendale gave him to slide down his throat, with the hope it would revive him enough to inject some enthusiasm for his situation.
“You wished to see me, Father?”
Lady Mercy slipped into the room and her startled deep blue eyes gazed into Grant’s. Her pale gold hair was pulled neatly into a knot and the morning gown she wore of a pink flowered material with an embroidered white muslin collar at the neck, failed to disguise a pleasing figure and soft curves he’d taken note of the first night they’d met. Creases formed on her smooth brow and she licked her full bottom lip.
Grant quickly crossed his legs, attempting to ignore a flash of lust, annoyed by the turn his thoughts had taken. The lady was clearly not happy to see him.
“How is your ankle today, Lady Mercy?” He hoped she’d forgive him for not rising to greet her.
She gazed at him askance. “Very much better thank you, sir. And thank you for coming to my aid last night. It was kind of you to call. But not necessary. I have written to thank you.”
“Sit down, my dear,” Lord Baxendale said. “I have very good news. Lord Northcliffe has asked for your hand.”
“Oh no!” Looking stricken, Mercy sank onto the cream-and-bronze striped sofa.
Her father scowled. “That is not a graceful reply. I would expect better manners from you, daughter.”
“But Lord Northcliffe cannot mean it,” Mercy said, her voice choked.
Grant felt something from him was required. There was no going back on it now. “But I do mean it, Lady Mercy. I would be greatly honored if you agree to become my wife.”
Mercy merely raised her eyebrows and shook her head.
“Excellent.” Lord Baxendale stood. “I shall leave you two together for a few minutes to settle things between you.” He strode to the door with surprising confidence. It closed behind him with a final click.
A moment’s silence followed.
Grant sat on the sofa beside Mercy. He took her hands in his and cleared his throat. “Lady Mercy, will you do me the honor…”
She pulled her hands away and jumped up. “You are honor bound to do this because I was compromised. It’s too silly. You do not wish to marry me. I shan’t agree.”
Grant glanced up at her suddenly annoyed. Did she find him such a poor prospect? “At this moment, I have less to offer you when compared to your other suitors, but…”
She planted her hands on her hips and scowled fiercely. “You think I am mercenary?”
“We really don’t know each other that well as yet, do we?” he observed raising a single eyebrow. “But given time I trust we will. I’m afraid your father has decided we will marry. The die is cast.”
“Fear not, Lord Northcliffe, I shall find a way out of it.”
“Well, until you do, let us proceed with some civility,” Grant said stiffly, rising to gaze down at her. “Will you accept my proposal?” A quick marriage would be ideal after which she could live with his grandfather and he continue with his investigation.
She pressed her hands together. “Yes. I suppose we must then, for now.”
Hardly an encouraging or flattering reply. Grant forgot for a moment that he had been unfairly ensnared as he gazed down at her. He took her by the shoulders. “I am overcome with joy,” he said impassively and brought his mouth down on hers