It’s finally here, AN ADVENTUROUS LADY,
the next book in my library of sweet Regencies that I wrote many moons ago. The heroine has red hair, a fitting representation of her adventurous nature as she hunts for treasure on the reluctant Earl of Rotherstone’s estate!!!
I’ve always enjoyed alternating my sweet Regency settings, moving them from London, to one of the Regency ‘watering holes’, like Bath or Brighton, to creating an entirely made-up community in a single British county. With AN ADVENTUROUS LADY, I chose to take the story all the way east, to the county of Kent. In doing so, I took the time to build the environs, starting with made up estates, local geography, hamlets and other landmarks.
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AN ADVENTUROUS LADY emerged from knowing that Kent had associations with smugglers through the centuries. In this case, Lady Evelina discovers an ancient map in the attics of her newly inherited house. Naturally, the map indicates that the treasure is somewhere to be found on her neighbor’s property which belongs to the reclusive Lord Rotherstone, a man who soon intrigues her womanly heart.
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And here’s more about AN ADVENTUROUS LADY, as well as the first chapter!!!
The scourge of his neighbors, the reclusive Earl of Rotherstone bargains three requests of Lady Evelina in exchange for the right to hunt for treasure on his vast estate…
He had never known a woman like her before…
Disappointed in love, the Earl of Rotherstone had given up on ever finding a woman worthy of his title and fortune. But when the unusual Lady Evelina takes to visiting his estate in the dark hours of the night, his interest is caught. Discovering that she wants to hunt for treasure on his land, he sets her down as another interfering, untrustworthy woman. But holding her in his arms, he decides to find out what lies beneath her disapproving demeanor. But will his curiosity prove the undoing of his heart?
She wanted to believe he had more to give…
Lady Evelina Wesley, the daughter of an infamous gamester, cannot trust the Earl of Rotherstone whose reputation in London’s East End hells is worse than any man she knows. When her uncle leaves her a snug property in Kent, landing her next door to Rotherstone’s famous estate, her plans to ignore him fall apart when she discovers an ancient map and the possibility of a smuggler’s treasure hidden somewhere on his land. Her determination to find the treasure throws her not just into his path, but into his arms as well. Yet how can she love a gamester?
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And here’s the entire first chapter AN ADVENTUROUS LADY!
Kent, England 1817
Lady Evelina Wesley lifted her lantern high. She stood spellbound before the tall, unruly hedge that separated her property from the Earl of Rotherstone’s estate. The dense, overgrown foliage of blackthorn, hazel, dogwood, oak, and crab apple had almost completely obscured a heavy ancient gate. In mid-July a veritable tangle of creeping ivy clung like a veil to the farthest limbs of the oak and spilled like a waterfall in numerous places over the shrubs.
The gate, known as Devil’s Gate on the map tucked into the pocket of her cloak, had been precisely positioned at the end of the walnut grove on the eastern edge of her estate. With a little careful search through the ivy, she had uncovered first a rusted iron ring and then the attached wooden gate. She wondered if Lord Rotherstone, her neighbor to the east, had been in the habit of using the gate to visit her uncle before his death some eight months earlier. Had either of the men known of the profound significance of the gate?
Evelina’s chest felt crushed suddenly with the weight of her discovery. Earlier that day, she had been in the attics of her deceased uncle’s house, now her house, and had found what appeared to be a quite ancient map. The map depicted a treasure buried on Blacklands, Lord Rotherstone’s estate. There was even a gate giving access to his property.
As she looked at the map now, she understood quite well that all she had to do was give a hard tug, open the gate and step through. Yet she could not. She felt anxious in a manner she could not explain, and her feet felt as though they were strapped to the earth below.
She lowered the lantern to the ground, trying to understand herself and her sudden reticence. Of course, crossing onto Rotherstone’s lands without his permission was certainly an act of trespassing, but she knew in the deepest places of her heart that this was not why she had grown immobile in the last few minutes. No, something else, something unknown, was troubling her, and that so deeply that she could not bring the thoughts to the forefront of her mind.
She began to pace back and forth in front of the gate, the lantern the only thing separating her from the hedge. Back and forth, her long cloak sweeping at the dead leaves behind her, whispering to her as she marched.
How much her life had changed since her uncle’s death. A few months past she had been an impoverished daughter of an earl. Now she was independent, wealthy and able to care for her invalid mother, as well as several of her younger siblings. She had all that she had ever dreamt of possessing. She had no need, none at all, to open the gate before her. She could return the map still couched in her pocket to the attics and bury it once more beneath the rotten wood of the floor from whence it had emerged. She could leave the map, and all its secrets and promises, for those who would follow after her.
She stopped suddenly and turned sharply to the gate. She swept around the lantern and laid a hand on the ring. She would open the gate tonight. This was her gate to open, no one else’s. The map belonged to her as surely as Wildings Hall belonged to her. Whatever secrets the map held, whatever treasure might be discovered because of the map, these belonged to her. This was her time, hers alone.
Her gloved fingers slid about the ring. She took a deep breath, preparing to pull very hard, when the words of her eldest brother, the present Earl of Chelwood, returned to her suddenly as from a nightmare.
Your heart is a rusted gate! What man will ever want you?
She drew her hand back as though the ring had been on fire. Why had this particular memory chosen to haunt her now?
Of course, Robert had been in his cups at the time, and the argument had been as old as it was familiar. He had been begging her to restore the family fortunes through an alliance he had forged with a wealthy family of trade. She had not had an objection to marrying for such a reason, since marriages of convenience were common enough. Her family was suffering dreadfully. She knew her duty and would have gladly done it. However, the man presented to her had proved, upon acquaintance, to be addicted to gaming just like her brother. The fortune she was to have wed would have disappeared just as the Chelwood fortune had disappeared.
Robert had been angry at her refusal, particularly since he had acquired new gaming debts on the expectation of the alliance. However, Evelina had had no sympathy for him. He had continued as their father had begun, running into the ground what had once been a fine, majestic estate.
That her uncle, Lord Bramber, had been free to leave Wildings estate to whomever he desired, and that he had chosen her, a woman, had been the most surprising, stunning event of her eight and twenty years. The inheritance had set her free forever. She had no need of a husband, no need to pinch every tuppence. She could live life as she desired, she could open any gate before her.
Yet for all that, she stood before the hedge, the light from the lantern casting shadows into the ivy-laden oak above, and her only thought was whether or not her brother had been right. Was her heart like an old rusted gate, stuck shut for eternity?
She began her pacing anew. Back and forth, her mind raced with confusion.
She should wait. She should press on. She should return to the house and the safety of her bedchamber. She should open the gate and see what adventure awaited her. She should think of her family and not do anything to endanger their security or fortune by offending her neighbor, Rotherstone.
She paused. Through the walnut grove, she caught sight of the distant flickering lights of Wildings Hall and a strange calm descended over her. Wildings had been a new hope, a new beginning for her and her family. Ended were her devastating fears of being forced one day to wed where neither her character nor her heart could dwell happily. Present was every possibility, so why did she hesitate now? What harm could come from a little midnight rambling at the edges of Rotherstone’s property?
The decision arose from deep within her, from resources perhaps as yet untapped or unrealized, but she would open the gate tonight. First, however, she decided to consult her map again. She plucked it from the pocket of her cloak, and kneeling beside the lantern, studied the terrain just beyond the gate once more.
A sudden rustling behind her, from the direction of the walnut grove, sent a bolt of fear straight through her heart. She flipped around, landing on her bottom.
“Who’s there?” she said. The grove was heavy in shadow.
One of the family cats came trotting toward her. He was all black and barely visible against the mass of the walnut grove. He meowed and rubbed against her legs.
“You ridiculous creature,” she said. “How you frightened me. Have you been following me and watching me this entire time? Well, I suggest you remain at Wildings. Rotherstone will not like that I am on his land, but if he should dislike cats in general, I have no doubt he will eat you alive.”
The purring sounds that returned to her, and the soft eyes of Frisky, gave no evidence that her warnings had been understood.
Evelina returned to studying the map, and once satisfied that she understood where it was she needed to go, she gained her feet, picked up the lantern and approached the gate. Though she trembled, she would no longer permit her fears to deter her. With a single, hard, determined pull, she slowly opened the gate.
Creak, grate, groan. The poor old hinge had not seen oil in a very long time.
Passing through, Evelina sniffed. The air smelled very different but quite pleasant on Rotherstone’s land. She closed the gate behind her.
Suddenly, a new fear arose. What if Rotherstone discovered her on his land? He was, by nature and by action, a hard man, unkind to his neighbors, reclusive, unknowable, reputed to be a hardened gamester who lived much of his life in London. Upon inheriting Blacklands some five years past, he had turned out two of his tenant farmers, a circumstance that had shocked the neighborhood. She had never even seen him in the eight months since she had taken up residence in Wildings Hall, just north of the village of Maybridge. Regardless, she knew enough of him to comprehend he would not like her moving about on his estate without his knowledge or permission.
Again, she chose to ignore her fears. She traveled due east and was pleased that within thirty steps she came to a stream, for this, too, was on her map. Here the shrubbery grew surprisingly thin and a series of boulders tossed the water in a southerly direction with a cheerful bubbling sound. She realized this was the difference in the smell. The stream imparted freshness to the air.
She paused and looked about her, settling the lantern at her feet. The moon was high and the dark night sky full of brilliant stars. A lovely breeze soughed through the nearby beech trees, a sound so sweet and pleasant as to make her sigh.
Consulting her map again, she traced her path thus far with the tip of her finger. If she crossed the stream, there should be an old footpath not ten yards hence, one that would lead in a southeasterly direction toward an object described on the map as “ye olde well.” The distance from the stream to the well did not seem overly great, and she thought it likely that given so much moonlight, she could reach it within a scant few minutes.
She did not deliberate long, but folded up her map and restored it to her pocket. She picked up the lantern and, making use of the flattest boulders, quickly crossed the stream. She found the old footpath easily, just as she thought she would, then hurried down it about a hundred yards until she reached a point at which the path diverged. This was on the map as well. The area was somewhat sloped, and a fallen log, aged by the weather, blocked part of the upper path.
Exhilaration flooded her as she quickly took the lower path. Between this point and the avenue of Blacklands, the X marking the position of the treasure was firmly planted.
This trail was far less clear, and more than once she stopped, held the lantern close to the grass, trees and shrubbery, and peered all around her in order to reconnect with the path. She did this again and again, moving as swiftly as she could.
She came to a clearing and was a little startled to see a light, or rather several lights, visible from this new location. Her heart began to race. What was she seeing? Had someone espied her and was now marching in her direction? As she waited, however, she realized that the lights were stationary and that she must be looking at Blacklands, Lord Rotherstone’s house.
She breathed a sigh of relief.
At the same time, she knew she must be closer than she had thought to the front avenue, which meant, if she had read the map correctly, that she had missed “ye olde well.” A strong sense of disappointment overtook her. She realized she had been quite naively thinking that the process of locating each marker on the map would be accomplished in a trice. Where, she wondered, had she diverged from the proper route?
She lifted her lantern again, only this time she looked behind her at the path she had just traveled. There was nothing for it. She must retrace her steps and see if she had taken a wrong turn.
She returned slowly, investigating every line of the path with great care. She reached the place where the two paths converged, but so intense was her concentration that, until she heard the pronounced snapping of a dry branch, she had not the smallest notion that anyone had drawn near.
She whirled around, her heart once more in her throat, and lifted her lantern high. A veritable giant towered over her. She gasped, took three steps backward, then stopped. The giant jumped from the fallen log that partially blocked the upper path, and, though he had lost at least a foot of his height, he was uncommonly tall and quite broad shouldered.
“You do not look like the usual poacher,” he began, his dark eyes scrutinizing her face carefully. “For one thing, such a person generally does not carry a lamp with him . . . or her. You also do not appear to be armed. Game is not your object, then?”
Evelina could not speak. His voice had stunned her, for it was as though a strong bow had been drawn across the deeper strings of a violoncello. Something within her warmed immediately to the sound. Who was this tall stranger whose eyes were as dark as night? He was unutterably handsome, and there was something in the set of his countenance that made her think of ancient warriors. Was it possible this man was Rotherstone? In response to his question, she merely shook her head.
“Are you mute?” he inquired in his gentleman’s accents, his gaze never straying from her eyes.
“No,” she said at last. “Not by half. Are you . . . that is, are you Rotherstone?”
His eyes narrowed. “No, I am not. I am at present visiting his lordship.”
“I see,” she responded, relieved.
“And yourself? Are you his neighbor, perchance? Lady Evelina Wesley?”
She did not know what prompted her to deny herself, but so she did. “I am a cousin to her.”
“And your name?”
She paused and sought about for a simple appellation. “Arabella, er, Smith,” she responded.
He bowed. “Well met, Miss Er. . . Smith. But I must ask, do you always take to trespassing when you visit your relatives, and that so late at night?”
She did not know why she had begun telling whiskers, but for some reason she pressed on. “Always,” she responded with a challenging lift of her chin.
He watched her for a very long moment without saying anything. She had the strong impression that he was attempting in some manner to determine her disposition or perhaps her character.
He then closed the distance between them rather abruptly and took the lantern from her hand.
Though she was surprised, she found herself grateful, since the lamp had grown heavy. “How very thoughtful,” she said. He then set the lantern on the grassy sward several feet away. She had thought he meant to carry the lantern and escort her back in the direction she had come, so she did not understand what he was doing.
“What are you about? I believe I must return to Wildings. I will have need of the . . . lantern. Why do you look at me so strangely?”
“You seem to be a very determined lady,” he said. “I find the quality . . . intriguing.”
Somehow she had the strong impression he was mocking her.
He returned to her, and, before she understood what he intended, he slid his arms about her waist and pulled her tightly against him.
“Sir,” she said, aware suddenly that she did not even know his name. “Whatever are you doing? This . . . this is most shocking. I beg you will release me at once.”
Evelina could not have been more stunned. Her words, however, had little effect except to cause the gentleman to smile at her, but not a warm smile, rather the wicked expression of a man intent on devilment.
“I will not release you,” he responded with roguish simplicity.
Astounded, she simply stared at him, her mouth agape for a ridiculous length of time as she searched for the proper words with which to upbraid him for his quite horrid conduct.
His smile broadened. “Hardly a ladylike expression,” he murmured.
She clamped her lips shut, but this proved to be a terrible mistake, for in the next moment, he was kissing her. Never would she have expected her adventure to culminate in this, a kiss from a stranger.
Her mind cried out to her that she ought to do battle with this wretched cur to force him to cease his ridiculous assault on her, but she was too stunned to do more than settle her hands on his arms.
He drew back.
“Release me,” she whispered.
“Only if you tell me why you have trespassed on Rotherstone’s lands.”
“Very well,” she responded. “Because I believe there is treasure buried in this vicinity.”
“Treasure, indeed. Fascinating. So you paid a visit to Lady Evelina who in turn told you of the local legends, and somehow you determined to explore my friend’s lands and to see if you might get the treasure for yourself?”
“Well, not precisely. I do not know if I intended to actually keep the treasure.”
“How magnanimous of you,” he returned sarcastically. “You know, I believe I have changed my mind. I shan’t release you after all.”
“How very ungentlemanly of you,” she said. “I had heard that Rotherstone was not a man to be trusted. I see that his friends are cut from the same cloth.”
“I will not answer for all his friends, but I suppose you could say I certainly am.” Clearly, he was unmoved by her rebuke. If anything, his arms tightened about her waist.
This time, she struggled against him, twisting, pulling and kicking. But for all that, he held her firmly and laughed low in her ear.
“Unhand me, you brute,” she said.
“Gently, Miss Er-smith, I beg you,” he said in his mocking manner.
“And it is not Miss Er-smith, but Miss Smith, as you very well know,” she said, shoving at his arms and twisting a little more.
“Then, gently, Miss Smith,” he said, laughing again.
Finally, she grew weary. The hour was after all very late and she had been tramping about her property as well as Blacklands for over an hour. She stopped struggling.
“Much better,” he murmured.
“Have your kiss then,” she said defiantly.
“I shall, but what if I desire more than a kiss.”
She drew in a long, deep, sharp breath. “You would not dare,” she said.
“Why ever not? You are alone, unprotected, and you are trespassing. Although I might release you if you would at least pretend to enjoy my kisses.”
She was seething. What a fine thing to have happen to her, even if he was wretchedly handsome and even if his voice did tend to tug at her heartstrings. “Oh, very well, if it will end this nonsense.”
“There is nothing nonsensical about a proper kiss.”
“You are nonsensical,” she retorted.
He held her close and sighed. “I suppose I am.” He leaned toward her and kissed her again.
This time she relaxed and let him take what he should not have taken. Her mind wandered first to how she would never trespass on Rotherstone’s lands again. This led to why it was she had done so in the first place, and her mind became filled with thoughts of her map and Devil’s Gate. All her earlier trepidation now seemed justified because of the stranger’s embrace.
Yet fear was not what possessed her now at all, for suddenly his kisses, which had grown sweetly tender, were not nearly so reprehensible. It would seem that all her initial feelings of exhilaration at having trespassed Rotherstone’s woods were becoming entangled with the manner in which she was beginning to savor the stranger’s kisses. She leaned into him, and his arms once more embraced her tightly.
She should not be enjoying his kisses, she thought, but so she was. She drank from a forbidden well and found that never before had she felt so satisfied. She could not remember having experienced something so very sublime in her entire existence.
Without thinking, she slid her arms about his neck. The most passionate thought penetrated her mind that she wished she could remain in this stranger’s arms forever.
* * * * * * * * *
The Earl of Rotherstone held the red-haired beauty, unable to comprehend what had prompted him either to lie about his identity or to kiss the lovely Miss Smith. He had reason to doubt that she was who she said she was, primarily because she had stumbled over her name. She had appeared wonderfully guilty in presenting herself as Arabella, er, Smith, and he had enjoyed teasing her about it.
Earlier, he had seen the dancing light of her lantern from the window of his library, a chamber that happened to be on the first floor of Blacklands Hall and which commanded a significant view of both the western and southern reaches of his property. His first inclination had been to set several of his servants in pursuit of the trespasser, but after a moment’s pause he decided that giving chase himself might serve to relieve some of the boredom that had settled over his house during the past several weeks. Even the recent arrival of Sir Edgar Graffham, his good friend of many years, had not quite served to dispel a certain restlessness that had overtaken him.
Now, however, with such a damsel filling his arms so delightfully, these unhappy sentiments were wholly dispelled, and, as a faint moan slipped past her lips, he kissed her more deeply still. Was there anything so hopeful as a long, seductive kiss?
After a moment, he drew back slightly and gazed at her. The light of the lantern glanced off her red curls in a charming fashion but was insufficient to do more than cast her features in shadow. Nothing, however, could disguise the sparkle in her eyes. “You are quite beautiful, you know,” he murmured.
She did not speak for a long moment, but merely gazed at him wonderingly. “How did you do that?” she asked.
“Do what?” He could not help but smile.
“Make me desire what I had no intention of desiring?”
This was very forthright speaking, and he found himself surprised. “Is that what I did?”
“As you must very well know,” she returned archly.
“Well,” he drawled, “you were a trifle reluctant at the outset. I suppose I felt challenged to change your mind.”
She smiled and then laughed. “A trifle reluctant, sir?” she said.
“I am given to understatement.”
“So it would seem.”
He was still holding her fast, yet she did not appear to wish to be released and he was quite content to continue holding her. “Shall I kiss you again, Miss Ersmith?”
“As I have said before, my name is Miss Smith.”
He shook his head. “I am not convinced, for I distinctly heard you say Ersmith.”
“I believe you are making sport of me.”
He felt her shiver.
“Are you cold?”
“Not by half,” she whispered.
“Then why do you tremble?”
“Tis your voice, sir.” A sigh followed.
“Have you not been told as much before?” she asked.
He shook his head. His chest felt oddly tight, and he searched her eyes. Who was she really, he wondered? He had not yet become acquainted with Lady Evelina, though she had inherited Lord Bramber’s estate some eight months past. He was not on easy terms with any of his neighbors, but if such a female were residing beneath Lady Evelina Wesley’s roof, he thought it might serve him well to make himself known at Wildings Hall. “So, Miss Smith, shall I kiss you again?”
“Yes, if it pleases you.”
“More than I can say,” he responded.
He placed his lips over hers once more. How beautifully she kissed him in response. He felt her hands become laced about his neck again.
He was just about to draw back again and tease her a little more when a child’s voice suddenly called out, “Unhand my sister, you blackguard.” He released Miss Smith, but only in time to see a small blur race at him and strike him on the arm with what proved to be a wooden sword.
“William,” the lady cried. “Oh, do stop at once, my love. You are quite mistaken—the gentleman was not hurting me.”
By the time she had finished speaking, Rotherstone had caught the boy up in one arm, taken his toy sword out of his hand and was now wrestling with a wildly wiggling child.
“Enough, William,” Miss Smith said quite forcefully. “You must forgive him, sir. He is my brother and quite protective. Truly, Will, he did not hurt me, not in the least.”
He finally desisted. Rotherstone held him over his hip as the boy, resting parallel to the ground, looked up at his sister. “But I saw him,” he said. “He was holding you so tight you could not escape.”
The lady’s smile was both amused and yet painfully guilt stricken. “I know it may have appeared like that, my darling, but, indeed, the gentleman was, er, supporting me, for I had felt very faint of a sudden.”
Rotherstone restrained a chuckle and, righting the boy, set him on his feet.
Young William craned his neck to look up at him. “Is this so?” he asked.
“Yes,” Rotherstone returned gravely. “I came upon your sister and I could see at once that she had grown frightened, as lost as she was on Rotherstone’s lands, for her face was the color of chalk. She tottered as I drew near. There was nothing for it but to hold her upright. Tell me, is she generally so cowhearted?”
William glanced at his sister. “N-no,” he responded with an uneasy frown. “That is, I do not know. She has no fear of horses and will even take corners with her gig at a spanking pace. But I have never seen her lost at night. Perhaps she did lose heart.”
‘Miss Smith’ knelt beside the lad, who Rotherstone thought could not have been more than six or seven. Slipping her arm about her brother, she said, “Dearest, do tell me why you are here.Tis very late, and you ought to be in your bed.”
A smile, very much like the one he had seen on Miss Smith’s lips, brought dimples to the boy’s freckled complexion. “I saw you from my window when you crossed the lawn. I thought you might be having an adventure, and I wanted one, too.”
“Were you near when I discovered the gate? In the walnut grove?”
“Was Frisky with you?”
He nodded again.
The lady smiled so warmly that something in Rotherstone’s heart began to ache.
“I understand perfectly, but I do not think Nurse will be so forgiving, do you?”
“Of course not, for she is very old. But I left my bed stuffed with pillows, so she will not have known that I escaped.”
He watched Miss Smith struggle within herself, and several times a new smile threatened her countenance. She was valiant to the end, however, and upon rising nodded seriously. “That was quite well done, and I hope it will serve, for I do not like the notion at all that Nurse should give you a dressing-down, and all for a little night’s escapade.” She then turned to Rotherstone. “We shall bid you good-night.”
He retrieved the lantern and, handing it to her, addressed William. “Would you care to ride on my shoulder as far as the gate?”
William’s expression brightened, but he wisely glanced at his sister for permission. She nodded, and without hesitation Rotherstone swept him up and perched him on his shoulder. “You may put your hand across my head for balance if you like,” he suggested.
The boy did so, and after shifting his fingers away from his eyes, Rotherstone addressed Miss Smith. “Will you lead the way?”
* * * * * * * * *
Throughout the journey back to the stream, Evelina took great care to keep Will from exposing their true identities. She spoke on any number of inconsequential subjects, such as the pleasures to be found in London and the current state of the July weather, so that he was kept from revealing who she was. But only as she passed through Devil’s Gate did she realize she had not learned the gentleman’s name. By the time she turned to inquire, he was gone.
Later, after having seen William to his bedchamber and tucked between the streets, Evelina returned to her own room and slowly began dressing for bed. Her thoughts were full of Rotherstone’s secretive guest, who had found her trespassing on Blacklands, who had taken her in his arms and who had kissed her oh-so-thoroughly. With her skirts falling in a heap at her feet, she pressed her hands to suddenly hot cheeks. The knowledge that in the end she had permitted so passionate a kiss suddenly dawned on her. Good heavens. How could she have allowed a complete stranger to kiss her so . . . well, so wondrously? What must he think of her?
Worse, however, was her fervent hope that she might meet him again very soon if for no other reason than to assure him that she was not in the habit of permitting such liberties to any gentleman, much less a perfect stranger.
She sat down on the bed, pondering the unusual nature of the entire adventure. Was there, for instance, a special meaning to the fact that only when she had worked up sufficient courage to open the gate and pass onto Rotherstone’s estate, had such a wonderful kiss come to her?
But these thoughts were madness. There was no connection beyond the fact that in her wickedness at having trespassed onto Blacklands, Lord Rotherstone’s guest had felt no need whatsoever to treat her like a lady. Her own iniquity brought that kiss down on her head, and she would be a fool to think of it in any other manner.
Her thoughts turned from the stranger to her pursuit of the smuggler’s treasure. She wondered how it was she had not found the well that had been clearly marked on the map.
Picking up her gown and hanging it in her wardrobe, she moved to her cloak, which had been tossed across a chair near the door. Removing the map from the pocket, she unfolded it. She carefully avoided tearing the delicate and almost crumbling edges as she once more examined the crude drawing.
The well was clearly marked on the map, but she had seen nothing of it on Rotherstone’s property. The map was dated 1652, so it was possible that an old well could have been torn down decades ago. She wondered if there was someone living who would know of an old well.
One thing for certain: She did not feel she could continue her search on her own. She needed Rotherstone’s support, and because she was not acquainted with him, she would have to involve someone who was. Any of her neighbors would do. Besides, she wanted to include them. She had many friends among the local gentry, and she knew quite well, because of all the local legends about a smuggler’s buried treasure, that many of them would take great delight in participating in a hunt for the treasure.
As she scrutinized the map, she could see that all the local estates were very well delineated. The major ones were marked, those belonging to Sir Alfred Monceaux, Mr. Crookhorn, Mr. Rewell, Mr. Fuller and Colonel Carfax.
There was only one thing to be done: She must bring all her neighbors together and present them with her extraordinary find. She debated whether or not to tell them that she had made an initial exploration of Rotherstone’s property, but in the end thought she would only do so if she felt it necessary.
She would certainly not tell anyone of having kissed Rotherstone’s handsome and quite wicked guest. Only, who was he, she wondered, and how soon would she meet him again?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I hope you enjoyed reading the first chapter of AN ADVENTUROUS LADY!!! Let my sweet Regency world become a new journey for you!
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The scourge of his neighbors, the reclusive Earl of Rotherstone bargains three requests of Lady Evelina in exchange for the right to hunt for treasure on his vast estate…
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Valerie King has published over fifty Regency novels and novellas, primarily with Kensington Publishing Corp. and in 2005 Romantic Times honored her with a Career Achievement award in Regency Romance. Currently, she’s working on a Regency Historical, Sweet Regency novellas, and self-publishing her extensive backlist. She also writes paranormal and contemporary romance as Caris Roane.
Valerie is a full-time author, lives in Phoenix, Arizona, enjoys playing solitaire, and has two cats, Sebastien and Gizzy.
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