An Improper Lady (The Powder and Patch Collection)

BOOK: An Improper Lady (The Powder and Patch Collection)
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An Improper Lady

by Jane Godman




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A Front Porch Romance Book

An Improper Lady


Copyright © December 2013

Edited by Debbie Rowe

Cover Design: Niina Cord

Formatting: D&D Publishing

First Copyright e-Publication December 2013




'To my daughter, Debbie, who loves Bella and Perry almost as much as I do.'




An Improper Lady

by Jane Godman


Chapter One


Sir Peregrine Pomeroy sighed. It was a tiny, barely perceptible sound, but it struck terror into the heart of his devoted valet, who paused in the all-consuming task of refreshing his master’s snuff box.

Is there aught amiss, Sire?” he asked, a note of trepidation in the words.

At first, it appeared that Sir Peregrine did not hear the question. His eyes were fixed on the mirror-like gloss of his new riding boots. These items had been delivered that very morning and had, in vulgar parlance, cost their proud owner an arm and a leg.

“Is it just me, Polyphant?” Sir Peregrine’s voice was preoccupied. “Or is there a hint – the veriest whisper, mayhap – of
about the ankle? Do not, I beg you, spare my feelings in this matter!”

To a lesser man, the question may have appeared frivolous. Polyphant, however, knew his role. His master’s reputation as
setter of London trends must be upheld at all times. Why, what Sir Peregrine wore today,
le beau monde
would emulate tomorrow! Even the most minor misjudgement had the potential to consign Sir Peregrine to the ranks of those who merely aspired to fashionable greatness. There was a constant queue of exquisites just waiting to topple him from his throne. Polyphant’s duty was clear. Beau Pomeroy – the man credited with single-handedly transforming the humble waistcoat into an item of heart-breaking beauty - must not be permitted to venture out in public wearing a boot with anything less than a perfect fit.

Slipping on cotton gloves, Polyphant knelt before Sir Peregrine and reverently lifted one booted foot. With infinite care, he studied every inch of its gleaming surface. This was not a job to be rushed, and it was some considerable time later when he finally sat back on his heels.

In the manner of a doctor pronouncing an unhappy diagnosis, he intoned, “I am very much afraid, sir, that you are correct in your judgement. ‘Tis an infinitesimal - but nevertheless unacceptable - error of judgement on the part of Mr. Burke. I will return the items forthwith.” His tone did not bode well for the errant boot maker.

Sir Peregrine’s unusually quiet mood continued as he changed his boots and completed his toilette. Polyphant cast sideways glances at him. Was it possible there might be more worrying him than a badly made boot? A half-read letter lay discarded on the dresser.

Polyphant, who, due to his close relationship with his master, could presume where other servants dared not, recognised the handwriting. He ventured to ask, “Lord St. Anton is well, I trust, Sire?”

Sir Peregrine roused himself from his reverie. “Indeed,” he replied, smoothing the beautifully embroidered silk flowers on his waistcoat. “He and his lady had, as you know, extended their honeymoon to take in the delights of Vienna. They are now returned to St. Anton to prepare for the festive season.”

Sir Peregrine had a wide circle of friends, the closest of whom, by far, was Jack Lindsey, the Earl of St. Anton. Until the recent ill-fated Jacobite rebellion, Lord St. Anton had been a close friend and supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie. On reflection, it did not seem to Polyphant that his lordship’s absence from London could be the reason for his master’s current distraction. He had never before shown any signs of going into a decline, despite Lord St. Anton’s frequent, lengthy sojourns on the continent.

Might I enquire as to your intended outfit for Lady Anstruther’s ball tonight, Sir?” Polyphant ventured.

I’ve a mind not to attend,” Sir Peregrine confessed, and Polyphant’s concern for his master’s welfare instantly deepened to something approaching panic. The ballroom was Sir Peregrine’s preferred milieu. Dancing, flirting and socialising were second nature to him. “Etienne du St. Germain is in town and has arranged a card party. I may look in at that instead.”

Startling himself with his own daring, Polyphant took a deep breath. “I hear that Lady Cavendish has, this very week, returned from Paris, and that she will be in attendance at her ladyship’s ball.” He cast a nervous glance at his employer, attempting to gauge his reaction.

Sir Peregrine did not immediately respond. Gathering up his tricorn hat and cane, he gave his reflection a last critical survey. Evidently satisfied with what he saw, he turned away.

The lilac satin with the silver lace will suffice for Lady Anstruther’s crush,” he paused with his gloved hand on the door handle. “And may God rot your meddling soul, Polyphant!”

A slight smile in his eyes took the sting out of the curse.




Lady Isabella Cavendish turned her head to regard the man who lay next to her. He was sprawled diagonally across the bed, his face half hidden by a pillow. Even so, it was obvious that he was young, and quite devastatingly handsome. She wished she knew his name. There was, she decided with a self-deprecating twitch of her well-defined lips, a certain ungainliness attached to asking it
a night of such earth shattering passion as they had just enjoyed!

With practised care, she slid from the four-poster bed and reached for the frothy lace wrapper that lay draped over a chair. It was early, and as yet, there was no sound of her servants commencing their daily activity.

Her clothes, and those of her anonymous companion, lay strewn about the elegant boudoir, and Bella busied herself by picking them up and folding them neatly. As she did so, memories of the previous night flashed through her mind. Her discarded silk stockings brought back an image of him kneeling beside her to remove them, before kissing his way along her instep and - looking up at her with a wicked grin - up one slender leg. The torn lace at the neck of her gown was a legacy of the moment he had pushed her hard up against the wall, forcing her head up with a hand under her chin, plundering her lips while tugging impatiently at her bodice. Her corset lay across the room, thrown there when he had unlaced it with impatient fingers, while she, with her back to him, held onto the bedpost. She had turned to look over her shoulder with a roguish look, and then… oh! She shivered deliciously.

Taking a seat at a pretty little armoire in the corner of the room, she drew paper and quill towards her. She had letters of thanks to write to her Parisian friends, and several items from her man of business required her attention. Her lifestyle was not an easy one to maintain. But the trappings of wealth had not always been hers, and Bella was careful never to take her good fortune for granted.

Isabella Braithwaite, the oldest child of an impoverished Yorkshire merchant, was just seventeen years old when she arrived in London. Her parents had recognised, at a very early age, the marriageable potential of their stunningly beautiful daughter. With the future in mind, they scraped together sufficient funds to have her educated at a strict ladies’ seminary in Harrogate.

The day she left the cold, unwelcoming school corridors behind her was also the day her father informed her he had arranged her marriage. The well-to-do gentleman in question was somewhat older than her parents. All Bella knew of him was that he wore the same gravy-stained waistcoat every day, and, when he came for dinner, he invariably fell asleep before the second course was served.

Without pausing to unpack her bags, she left her father’s study, grabbed up her cloak and set off on foot in what she hoped was a London-bound direction. Night was beginning to fall when she encountered the highwayman.

Flintlock Jim Carver not only provided Bella with an introduction to the delights of lovemaking, he also had the distinction of being the only man she had ever loved. For three short, wonderful months they travelled the country, making their way from inn to inn, living off the spoils of his night time activities and revelling in the joy and intensity of their mutual passion.

They were on the outskirts of Lincoln when the redcoats shot Flintlock Jim down, and left him to bleed to death on a public highway. Bella gathered up the remains of his not inconsiderable haul, and completed her journey to London.

A brief stint on the Drury Lane stage – where her face and figure attracted considerable interest, but very little money - was enough to convince Bella that her parents were right. What she needed was the protection of a rich man. Putting into practice the research skills she had acquired at the seminary, she set about planning her strategy with military precision.

Sir Arthur Cavendish, a widower in his late forties, had wealth enough to assure him entry into every house in the land, even though his humble background caused the highest sticklers to raise their brows. He was a creature of habit, whose orderly life followed an untrammelled path. Until, that is, the day he came to the rescue of the young lady who twisted her ankle right outside his front door. Sir Arthur had been departing - something he did like clockwork every day - for lunch at his club. He caught hold of Bella as she tripped daintily into his arms. Sir Arthur gazed down into eyes the colour of melting chocolate. Bending close to hear the shy words of thanks that trembled on her delectable lips, he was lost. They were married within the month.

If Bella was occasionally unfaithful to Sir Arthur, he never suspected it. She was an enchanting companion – pretty, witty and playfully loving towards the husband who could never quite believe his luck. When, after they had been married for five years, his health started to deteriorate, Bella nursed him with a devotion and skill that surprised them both. When he died some years later, she was genuinely sad.

Widowhood suited Bella. Still young, fabulously wealthy and with the well-deserved reputation of being the most beautiful woman in London, she had all the freedom she craved. And if the gossips and tattle-mongers did not like some of the ways in which she indulged her tastes… well, truth be told, notoriety added a certain spice to her adventures!

Bella never lied about her background. She simply didn’t discuss it. The polite world took her at face value. Her manners were impeccable, her sense of style and taste faultless. Lady Bella Cavendish, therefore, must be well-born. Such staggering double standards amused Bella. Her scandalous reputation was well-known; she might bed a different man every night and still gain admittance into the homes of Dukes and Earls. Yet, if a whisper of the truth about her background ever emerged – “Daughter of a merchant, highwayman’s mistress, actress, my dear, I vow and declare, I was never more shocked!” – Those doors would slam in her face.

Her overnight visitor was stirring, and Bella laid down her quill. He yawned, running a hand through his shoulder length, tousled hair and, as he did so, well-defined biceps bulged temptingly. Looking across at her with a grin, he drew back the bedclothes invitingly and ordered, “Come back here, now!”

Bella’s witchy smile flitted briefly across her lips. “Make me,” she purred, remaining in her seat. With an answering smile, he rose and, naked, advanced purposefully towards her. Her eyes wandered over his body with a thrill of anticipation. It seemed her instinct for knowing, at first sight, if a man would prove to be a good lover remained as uncannily strong as ever!

BOOK: An Improper Lady (The Powder and Patch Collection)
10.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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