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The Rogue's Revenge

The Rogue's Revenge by Zahnle Lucy E.
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Robert Amberley (Rogue Robin, to his friends) returns to England after a decade of ignoble adventuring to clear his name and claim his legacy as the Duke of Lynkellyn. To claim the money, Robin must marry within a year of the duke's death and produce a child from the marriage within two.
Awe-Struck Publishing; February 2002
293 pages; ISBN 9781587491382
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Title: The Rogue's Revenge
Author: Zahnle Lucy E.
 
Excerpt
Miss Cothcourt came around a corner of the house, her boisterous flock in tow. While she scolded Philip for punching Terrence and bent to wipe a smudge from Honor's face, Amberley stared pensively at the scene. Making a sudden decision, he strode toward her.

Seeing his approach and disliking the fire in his eyes, Lucia hastily told Arabella to escort her younger siblings back to the schoolroom for tea. As the children disappeared into the house, he reached her side and nodded. "Miss Cothcourt."

"Your Grace." She curtsied stiffly, her eyes lowered.

Robin did not bandy words. "Miss Cothcourt, I want you to marry me."

The governess frowned, tucking an errant lock of hair under her cap. "Why must you amuse yourself at my expense, Your Grace?" she accused, her gaze flying up to meet his. She tried to push past him, but he grabbed her arm, halting her.

"'Tis no jest. I must marry by Saturday midnight or lose my grandfather's legacy. Saddewythe has not only denied me his daughter, but his house as well. You are my last hope."

"And what of the other young ladies in the area?"

"I'm not deemed worthy of them." Bitterness tinged his words.

"Ah, but as a lowly governess with no future, I should swoon with joy when you deign to offer me marriage. Very flattering, considering I rejected your last proposal."

Amberley grinned. "Still smarting from that, are you?"

"I have never accepted carte blanche, Your Grace, and never will. One needs at least a scrap of honor to salve one's soul when all else has been sacrificed to survival."

"A touching philosophy!" Robin sneered. "But I've no time for such abstractions just now. Give your notice to the Saddewythes. We shall wed this evening."

"No, Your Grace. I cannot marry you. My past is questionable. A union with me would bring you no honor. Besides, I do not love you."

Robin grabbed her shoulders, spinning her to face him. "One hundred thousand pounds a year is at stake here, ma douce. I know all about your past and love has absolutely nothing to do with this. You will be amply rewarded. A title, money, jewels, fine clothes, great estates, servants..."

Lucia paled. "You know all about my past! But how?"

"I had my solicitor look into your background to be sure you were suitable. My bride must come from aristocratic stock."

Cold, incredulous anger stole over her. "And is my blood properly blue? Am I noble enough for you?"

"I'd not be here, else. I've no time to waste on someone who is unsuitable. Wed me and you shall have all I've promised you, but we must produce a child from our union within a year. On our first anniversary, I will give you a separate maintenance and clear title to a fine country estate; Brackenwell Hall, if you like; but you must leave the child in my care. I will provide you a very generous lifetime annuity in return. What say you to my offer?"

Miss Cothcourt blushed. "I say you have run quite mad, Your Grace. I have made a home here and if you 'know all about my past', then you must know that I have forsaken it. I have no desire to sell myself back into plots and deception. Furthermore, if I should ever be blessed with a child, I certainly would not abandon my babe for money, as you are suggesting! The answer is 'no', Your Grace."

Amberley's hands tightened painfully on her shoulders and his stormy, steely grey eyes bored into hers. With a crack of laughter, he shoved her away. "You've made a home here? A home! That's rich! Slave quarters, belike!"

"I am content." Her chin lifted and her eyes challenged him.

"Oh, yes, I'm sure you are. A bird with clipped wings is always content in its cage, n'est-ce pas? Ah, here is my carriage..."

The vehicle rounded the corner and stopped. Amberley entered the coach, then leaned out the window, grinning wolfishly. "I bid you adieu, Miss Cothcourt. If you are ever feeling... 'lonely', my first offer still stands."

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ISBNs
1587491389
9781587491382
9781587492556