Hi, Everyone! MY LORD HIGHWAYMAN has arrived! The story was such a fun premise to explore: under what circumstances would a lord, a Peer of the Realm, ever take to robbing the rich, especially if he wasn’t poor himself!?! Well, when he has a bone to pick with his nipcheese neighbors, of course!
I hope you enjoy this warmhearted story of a viscount and the governess he’s determined not to love!!! ENJOY!!!
When Abigail Chailey arrives to take up her post as a governess in the wilds of Devonshire, a dashing highwayman stops her coach and demands more than just her jewels…
Viscount Treyford never thought twice about playing the bandit against the local aristocracy because of their mean-spirited refusal to help build a much-needed orphanage at Three Rivers Cross. He takes from them in the tradition of Robin Hood, quite happily, until Abigail Chailey arrives in the neighborhood. She charms him with her beauty, wit, and willingness to stand up to the nipcheese elements in the Devonshire town, which ignites feelings he thought long since dead. But will his double-life forge a barrier that love cannot conquer?
She needed more than her former beaus could give…
Abigail Chailey faces up to life, including her new duties as a governess to a headstrong young woman. But when a masked highwayman pulls her from her coach and kisses her soundly, new, unexpected thoughts emerge about what her life could become, if only she has the courage to embrace a different kind of existence. But as she comes to know one of the local aristocrats, her heart is soon torn between a highwayman and a handsome viscount. Will she be able to choose between them, or will neither fulfill the deepest longings of her heart?
TO PURCHASE MY LORD HIGHWAYMAN:
And here’s the first chapter of MY LORD HIGHWAYMAN!
To be in love in Devonshire, that would be something new indeed.
Abigail Chailey understood her thoughts to be ridiculous, but how else was she to endure the hard truth that she had left love behind her yet again, only this time in London instead of in one of the island’s furthermost counties.
With a sigh, she turned to stare out the window of her coach. The moors passed by slowly with each plod of the tired horses’ hooves. The hour was past midnight, but a full, lustrous moon flooded the landscape so that the land appeared as though cloaked in snow even though the month was July and summer sat warmly upon the western lands of England.
Behind her, a trail of broken hearts littered the major highways of Albion like autumn leaves on a country lane. Frederick Pomeroy had stolen her affections in Lincolnshire. Laurence Carter in Yorkshire. And Geoffrey Ferrers—dear Geoffrey.—in the metropolis itself. She had chosen a post in a westerly county in hopes that her three most recent beaus would be unable to follow her to such a desolate place as Three Rivers Cross, a place inconspicuous by design, for it was crammed against the moors like a fox cornered by a pack of hounds.
The coach jerked awkwardly, displacing her thoughts. She heard the horses whinnying and the coachman calling to his team as he drew the conveyance to a halt. She sat bolt upright. The descent to the market town had not yet begun, and to her experienced traveling ear she knew something was amiss.
She could hear the coachman speaking and strained to listen to what was going forward, though in the end she was a little shocked to hear a string of invectives burst from that good man’s lips. The coach began to rock in a familiar manner as the driver descended from his perch.
“Hold their heads, senor.” came sharply through the air, the words turned warmly by a Spanish accent. “Let your groom remain behind, where I can see him.”
A highwayman? How was that possible? Why ever would a highwayman ply his trade in Devonshire, of all places?
Still . . . there was something quite wonderful, perhaps even portentous, about meeting a highwayman before even arriving in Three Rivers Cross. Her throat grew dry with mounting excitement. Cupid had used many ploys to tempt her heart in recent years—Laurence had been a promising poet, Frederick a passionate radical, and Geoffrey a charming gamester—but never had anything so romantic as a highwayman crossed her path. A highwayman.
A familiar sensation assailed her, of weakness and secret longing. Would this be her fate, then, to fall in love with a highwayman?
“Senor Christopher is not within? Do you mean to gammon me, my good man?”
“Nay, I wouldna do so.” the coachman said. “I’ve ought but a young lady on her way to the Mermaid Inn at Three Rivers Cross.”
“I must see this lady for myself. Keep the horses steady or my servant’s pistol will blossom.”
So, he was not alone. How beautifully the English language rippled over his foreign threats.
She heard his booted feet. Her nerves flittered with anticipation. His frame drew before the window and blocked the moon. He was entirely cast in shadow.
How unfortunate, for she could see nothing of his face, not even his chin. All that she was able to determine was that he was a tall man, his shoulders were shrouded in a cape, and he wore an unusual, ostensibly Spanish hat angled over his head. Yet, there was something about his costume, coupled with his voice that set her heart to thumping.
The door opened. His words flowed over her in a rich, dark melody. “A young lady traveling alone across the moors. Do I perceive an adventurer like myself?” He extended his hand to her. “Come to me, senorita.”
She stared at the hand protected by a leather glove and, after a moment, placed her hand within his.
He did not immediately draw her from the coach but, rather, commanded her. “Look at me.”
She lifted her gaze to him, and he shifted sideways so that the moon, which now appeared gloriously above his right shoulder, might suffuse her features.
She heard him draw in a long, appreciative breath. “You are very beautiful, senorita, but you should not be traveling alone, not on a night such as this, for the moon will make me do wicked things for which I cannot be accountable.”
His accent, so exotic and deep and rolling over his words as they were, took the strength from her knees.
“I am a daughter of Artemis,” she responded in kind. “So, you see, I cannot fear the moon or its effects upon you.”
“I was right,” he said, smiling. “I have found an adventuress within this travel-stained coach.” Only then did he tug gently on her hand and help her from the coach.
He did not lower the steps but caught her easily about the waist and lowered her slowly, and with such strength, to the ground below. Nor did he release her once her feet touched the earth.
“A daughter of Artemis, the huntress?”
“My mother’s name,” she responded, breathless.
“And your padre’s name?”
“Alas, he was a mere mortal. Harold was his name.”
“Muy ingles, no?”
“Yes, very English.” She could not help but giggle. “However, I apprehend you were not expecting me.”
“No, I was not,” he responded, drawing her closer to him. “But I do not, how you say, repine?”
“You have been in England for a long time, then?”
“Si,” he responded. “I come to your island often.”
She stared up at him, her heart unsteady, her knees still abysmally but so pleasantly weak. “What is it you demand of me, senor?”
“You spoke to me in my own lingua. How happy you make me. But what do I demand of one so beautiful, so radiant in the moonlight, except perhaps to gaze upon you for an eternity?”
There was poetry in him, she mused, her heart slipping from its moorings yet a little bit more. “I will tell you what I demand of you,” she returned, emboldened by some unknown force.
His lips parted in surprise. “Tell me, my pretty one. I vow, I would grant you any desire.”
“That when you have finished with this night’s work, you compose a sonnet in honor of the goddess Artemis, else I fear she will be very angry with you for having disturbed one of her daughters. Look, even now she glares at you from the heavens.”
She gestured to the moon with an upward tilt of her chin.
He laughed. “You are an adventuress, and one who knows her duty to those who control our destinies. Very well, you shall have a sonnet in your goddess’s honor. But I fear that another carriage approaches, so I must now take what is my due.”
He tilted his head and before he could do more, she swiftly placed her lips over his. He surrounded her with his arms, deepening the kiss until she moaned softly against his mouth.
“My adventuress is also full of passion,” he murmured, kissing her more deeply still.
Abigail could no longer feel her knees at all and knew that only the strength of his arm, which was formidable, was supporting her.
“Senor.” his servant called to him in a growling voice. “A carriage approaches.”
The highwayman released her at last, casting one last brilliant Iberian smile upon her. She turned and watched him as he strode quickly to his waiting mount. She had a final view of lean, booted legs as he swung into the saddle, turned his horse in a southerly direction, and with his servant, galloped into the night.
Abigail stood staring after the highwayman’s shadow even past his disappearance from the road. She could not seem to move, nor to dispel the ethereal quality of the sensations that surrounded her. Her lips still tingled from his kisses, and it seemed as though his arms were yet wrapped tightly about her.
She discovered the ability to move only when the strange coach drew abreast.
“Is all well?” a gentleman called to her. “Have you lost a wheel or broken a pole?”
She turned to face the newcomers. “No. I believe the carriage to be perfectly sound. Is that right, coachman?”
“Aye, miss,” was the return answer.
A woman poked her head out the window, and her brows rose instantly. “The highwayman has been here.” she said. “I can see it in your face.”
“He has,” Abigail admitted readily. “But how did you know?”
“My poor child.” the lady called out, afterward ordering her spouse to open the door and let down the steps.
The next moment, Abigail found herself embraced warmly in the arms of a woman smelling of lavender. “You are trembling.” she said. “Come. You must return to your coach. You there, groom. Go to the horses’ heads that the coachman might regain his box. I shall be traveling with your young charge. To Three Rivers Cross, on the instant.”
The groom, recognizing the voice of command, left his perch at the back of the carriage and hurried to the horses’ heads as ordered. The lady then commanded her husband to let down the steps and assist ‘the poor young woman’ into her coach.
Abigail, still caught in the lethargy of the highwayman’s assault, watched rather absently as the tall, graying gentleman moved swiftly to obey his wife. She sensed a general irritability in the lady’s manner as she supervised her spouse in the task of letting down the steps, opening the door, and assisting Abigail.
“Do take her arm, Sir Christopher. Be careful what you are about, she is a lady, not an ox. Whatever are you doing? You have stepped on her pelisse. Good heavens. Take your hand off my arm, I can climb the steps by myself. Oh, for heaven’s sake, do shut the door. It may be July, but the night air is quite chilled.”
She settled herself beside Abigail. “What are you waiting for, husband. Return to your coach.” She turned to smile upon Abigail. Her expression was pleasant and quite visible in the flood of moonlight that still lit the coach. “Does your journey end at Three Rivers Cross?”
“Yes,” Abigail said, the sound of Sir Christopher’s quick footsteps fading as he hurried to his coach, “for I am to spend the night at the Mermaid Inn.”
“You will find the town charming indeed. Our community is lovely, with some of the finest thatching in all of England covering the homes of our farmers and gentry. I could only wish that you had arrived a year ago, before this ridiculous highwayman began plaguing us, for he has kept the countryside in an uproar. Prior to that, I assure you, we were as snug as peas in a pod. However, I wish to assure you that we shall not have that blackguard with us much longer, for Sir Christopher has sent for a Bow Street Runner. Yes, well you may stare. A quite experienced man in all sorts of criminal matters that he might ferret out this terrible Spanish man and send him to Newgate.”
“To Newgate?” Abigail queried, shocked.
“I have overset you.” The horses jumped in their harness, causing the coach to jerk several times before settling into a steady rhythm as the gentle descent to Three Rivers Cross commenced. “Well, let us not dwell overly much on the highwayman. Only tell me, do you hope to make your residence in our vale?”
“Yes, but only for a brief time,” she said, grateful for the turn of subject. “On the morrow, I will be taking up my post at Oak Hill.”
“I knew it.” she said, her eyes glittering. “I knew you were dear Sarah Lavant’s new governess. Though I have been given to understand that you will serve only until shortly after you have prepared her properly for society.”
“That much is true. I have been hired specifically to help prepare her for her come-out ball.”
“You wished for such a post?” she inquired, clearly bemused.
“Yes, for it suits me perfectly of the moment. I have been recently in London, and the short duration seemed just what I needed after serving in a large household in the metropolis.”
“How very interesting,” she mused, her gaze searching Abigail’s face as though trying to make her out. “But how pretty you are. I have so much to tell you by way of giving you a hint or two on just how you are to go on in our neighborhood. Permit me to introduce myself. I am Lady Waldron.”
“How do you do? I am Abigail Chailey.”
Lady Waldron smiled contentedly, then continued, “I feel it entirely provident that we happened upon you as we did, for there is something I must tell you about our poor neighborhood. Only, I must ask you, when you were in London, did you ever hear of or chance to meet the Duchess of Chandos?”
“No, the name, and therefore the lady, is entirely unfamiliar to me.”
“Well, the Duchess of Chandos is my sister, and the story I am about to tell you involves her. She had been married quite young, though splendidly, to an exemplary man, but she was inexperienced in the ways of the world. She was seduced, and I know I do not shock you in saying this, for I can see that you are not in the first blush of youth. At any rate, she was seduced . . .”
Abigail listened intently to the long history of Lady Chandos and a stripling by the name of Lord Treyford, who had been nineteen when he seduced Lady Waldron’s sister. Apparently, he had been intent on her for a considerable period of time, intent on ruining her dear sister’s fine reputation. The duke had been away in London when he learned that his wife was no longer faithful. He returned in a towering rage and called Treyford out. The duel with pistols that ensued nearly cost Chandos his life, while Treyford escaped with barely a scratch.
“So you can see how terrible a man Lord Treyford is, a libertine no doubt since his youth, and for that reason, once I wed Sir Christopher, I simply could not countenance being in society with a man who nearly made my sister a widow. Treyford’s principal seat is but a few miles from Three Rivers Cross. I do not say Treyford has not changed these twenty years, for he is much admired by many of the local farmers and tradesmen, but I believe in setting an example for our young people, of which we have so many. Therefore, he is not received generally. Your employer, Sylvester Lavant, is a friend to him, a circumstance I cannot condone, though I believe it reflects a large-mindedness in Mr. Lavant that cannot be thought an entirely unhappy trait.
“However, there is a certain mischievousness to Mr. Lavant that has caused a deal of discomfiture in those who happen to be the brunt of his little jokes. I daresay that is why Sarah is as strong-willed as she is. But you will learn all of this soon enough. Ah, here we are. Is not this a lovely town? I have always thought myself, from the day my own carriage brought me to Three Rivers Cross as a governess, the luckiest creature in the world to have settled here. Yes, it is true. I was a governess at one time, just like yourself.”
If Abigail was a little surprised by all that Lady Waldron so readily revealed to her, she was soon distracted by the beauty of the town as a string of country shops came into view. The architecture was quite ancient and charmingly draped in the prettiest thatching imaginable.
Lady Waldron suddenly said, “You must come to my soiree. Miss Lavant, of course, will be attending even though she is not yet officially ‘come-out,’ so I hope you will accept of my invitation.”
“Of course I shall.” Abigail found herself grateful to Lady Waldron. Governesses were not always treated so kindly in society nor invited everywhere as a general rule. “I look forward to your soiree exceedingly.”
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Only after he had put two miles between himself and the beautiful young lady he had just kissed did Lord Treyford slow his departure. He brought his horse to a walk, much to the relief of his servant, who had just confessed he was far too old to be galloping about the moors at midnight and playing at Robin Hood of old.
Still sustaining his Spanish inflection, Treyford said, “But with such a moon, Pilton. How can you speak such things?”
“My lord,” Pilton returned, “I can bear anything except the sound of your voice in that odious disguise.”
“What of your own tonight?” he asked, laughing. “You sounded like a bear. No, no. Pray, none of your reproaches. Even your ill humors will not disturb me tonight. Did you see her face? By God, there has not been such a beauty in Devonshire in many a year.”
At that, he heard Pilton sigh. “She is a beauty, a diamond of the first water, unquestionably.”
Lord Treyford could not have agreed more, besides which she kissed with great experience, which made him hopeful in a way that caused his horse to break into a canter. “Whoa, Daedalus.”
“But if I might be bold, m’lord, I am confused on one point.”
“And what might that be?”
“Well, I could not help but observe that you have never before kissed a lady in quite that manner. Ordinarily, you reserve the hand or wrist for your salutes. Why did you alter your conduct?”
Treyford laughed, for this much was true even though he knew quite well that several of the neighborhood damsels had insisted he had kissed them quite thoroughly. He had, for that reason, earned the appellation Don Juan, however undeserved.
“In truth,” he responded, “I do not know what possessed me to kiss her as I did. She spoke of being a daughter of the moon, and from that moment on I was lost.”
Pilton merely grunted his disapproval.
“My dear Pilton, you have begun to make sounds like an old man. Are you having a recurrence of your gout?”
“It was not the gout, m’lord,” he returned severely. “I have told you often and often. I rammed my foot against the bedpost.”
“Of course,” Treyford stated in an entirely provoking manner, which caused Pilton to glare at him. He laughed. “Whatever you do, do not injure it again, since you are to be married.”
This abrupt and happy turn of subject finally brought a smile to Pilton’s face. He was secretly betrothed to Lady Waldron’s abigail, and it was from this fine lady’s maid that Treyford had learned the hour at which Sir Christopher and his wife would be traveling across the moors that evening.
Whatever Pilton’s concerns, however, Treyford could not be overset by having surrendered to his desire to kiss the prettiest, most willing female he had encountered in a decade. He could only wonder, however, who she was, what her age might be, and how it came about that she was traveling alone on the moors at so late an hour. Her voice was perfectly genteel, so why had she not been traveling with a companion or at the very least her maid? Was she perchance a relative of one of the numerous families residing about Three Rivers Cross?
He frowned suddenly. He hoped most sincerely she was not related to Lady Waldron, else he would never see her again.
Twenty years earlier, he had fallen deeply and desperately in love with the wrong woman, fought a duel that had nearly cost him his own life, not to mention the life of his opponent, and because the young woman’s sister had been Henrietta Young, now Lady Waldron, he had paid for succumbing to Cupid’s seductions nearly as long as he could remember.
His thoughts settled into the rhythm of his horse’s steady trot.
Lady Waldron had been relentless in her determination to make him suffer for the scandal he had brought to her beautiful sister, the Duchess of Chandos. He would never have thought it possible that one person could sustain an animosity over a period of two decades, but so the lady had.
As it happened, he had been awaiting Henrietta’s carriage, when the daughter of Artemis chanced along. His lips settled into a grim line. Lady Waldron’s hatred of him had infected her husband equally, and he did not know which of them had become a more serious or determined adversary: Sir Christopher Waldron or his wife. His personal mission, to see an orphanage built at Three Rivers Cross, had been stymied at every turn by one or the other, but primarily through Sir Christopher’s opposition. He had ventured onto the moors this night intending to relieve the arrogant baronet of perhaps another hundred pounds both by means of punishment as well as to further the completion of the building itself.
A year before, he had entered enthusiastically into Mr. Clark’s plan to fund through local donations a much-needed orphanage. Mr. Clark was the vicar of Oakmont and well-connected to the families of Three Rivers Cross. However, when it became known that Treyford was a primary support of the project, Sir Christopher mounted a campaign to make certain the orphanage came to naught.
More than one neighborhood family had commended his efforts but had hinted at the impossibility of aligning themselves with a duelist and near murderer. Yes, he had been forced into a duel, though entirely against his will. But to have been charged with the intention of murder when he had deloped twice, only to have Lord Chandos reload and fire his pistol twice more, was going beyond the pale. Perhaps it was his stubbornness that prevented him from defending himself to Sir Christopher and the others, or perhaps his disinterest in belonging to a set of people who had judged him so harshly from the time he was nineteen, he could not say. Whatever the case, he had given up a long time ago attempting to ingratiate himself into the good opinion of a group of people set so firmly against him.
Instead, he had gone about his affairs, tending to his estates, enjoying his Seasons in London and in Parliament, caring for his infirm sister in Plymouth, and spoiling his niece as often as possible. He had excellent friends and a wider society than the one that had cast him out so long before.
Only, where would the daughter of the moon fit into Three Rivers Cross society, and would he ever see her again?
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TO PURCHASE MY LORD HIGHWAYMAN!!!
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I hope you enjoyed this journey into my sweet Regency world!
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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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