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A Devilish Saint

A Devilish Saint

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A Devilish Saint

Länge:
332 Seiten
3 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Mar 6, 2013
ISBN:
9781301242702
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

England 1862 – Isabella St. Martin’s grandfather has painted the St. Lawrence family as scoundrels. But when she meets a devilishly handsome Dylan St. Lawrence, Viscount Waverly, he is not the ogre she expected him to be. Dylan is captivated by Isabella and is determined to court her. But firstly, he must discover why her grandfather hates his family. And an impish ghost will help his cause.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Mar 6, 2013
ISBN:
9781301242702
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

I hold a BA in Theatre from Seton Hill University and a MA in Theatre from the University of Denver. Years ago, when still single, I acted in and directed plays in the Philadelphia area but suffered the fate of many artists, struggling financially. So I entered a career in sales. But, my creative spirit needed to express itself and several years, ago, I started writing historical romances. I discovered that writing historical romances is my passion. I love weaving historical personalities into my plot, interacting with my fictional characters. Recently, I began writing historical mysteries/intrigue and again, love the aspect of interspersing historical fact and personalities into my story line.I am married to a loving and supportive man with a Greek heritage (which influenced a couple of my novels) and we live in southern New Jersey.


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Buchvorschau

A Devilish Saint - Patricia Catacalos

invention.

Chapter One

England 1862

She angled her head to the right, then back to the left, examining her reflection in the full-length mirror, grimacing as she did. Somehow the feather perched atop the turquoise-colored hat seemed out of place, stuck as an adornment merely for the sake of added accessorizing.

She bent forward at the waist, inching her face closer to the mirror. She scrunched her nose and narrowed her eyes into slits, scowling as if mocking the image reflected at her. Then impulsively, in unladylike fashion, she stuck out her tongue like a recalcitrant little girl defying her exasperated nanny.

A deep, throaty laugh startled her and she whirled around to find the source. Standing behind her, but in a position not reflected in the mirror, stood the most handsome man she had ever seen. She could feel her cheeks blush and her stomach sicken with acute embarrassment.

A tall, lean man, perhaps six feet in height, stood with booted feet widely apart and one gloved hand resting on his silver-handled walking stick with the fingers of that hand holding the brim of his beaver. His deep blue eyes sparkled as he laughed and one solitary golden blonde curl caressed his high forehead as he tried unsuccessfully to stifle his laughter, covering his mouth with his other gloved hand.

Dylan St. Lawrence, Viscount Waverly, had been watching the beautiful young woman’s antics, thoroughly enjoying her playfulness for several long minutes. She had been totally unaware of Dylan’s presence. She obviously believed herself to be alone in the little hat shop, save for her maid sitting near the front door, absorbed in watching the pedestrians as they passed by the bow window of the shop, and for the proprietress who was currently in the back room fetching more bonnets. But Dylan had been watching her, mesmerized both by her frolics and her exquisite beauty. And when she had stuck out her tongue, he could no longer suppress his now uncontrollable laughter.

I beg pardon, my Lady, but I could not help but laugh at your uninhibited behavior.

The women’s turquoise eyes flashed as she lifted her chin. I do not enjoy being mocked, my Lord!

Dylan smiled charmingly, bowing slightly to the disgruntled woman. I do not mock, my Lady. I merely enjoyed watching you seemingly obvious to your own captivating beauty in a hat which enhances your appearance, drawing out the color of your magnificent eyes. Which, by the by, are mesmerizing in their truly unique hue.

The Lady averted her eyes. Huffily, she chastised, I was not aware that I had an audience. You should have announced your presence, my Lord.

Dylan chuckled. Yes, perhaps I should have. But I was so captivated by your facial expressions and feigned self-mockery that I simply forgot myself. Please forgive me for my…intrusiveness.

The Lady lowered her eyes, sighing in feigned resignation. Very well, I shall forgive you this one time. Lifting her large, luminous eyes, she smiled impishly, But should you laugh at me again, my Lord, I shall be forced to call you out. She lifted her hands to untie the wide ribbon beneath her heart-shaped chin.

Dylan pressed his hand against his heart, seemingly aghast. Pistols at dawn…? No, not that, my Lady! I can tell by the steady hands untying that bow that you would make a formidable opponent.

She giggled as she pulled the bonnet off her head, revealing jet-black hair pulled back from her smooth forehand and styled in a chignon at the nape of her neck. The rich color of her hair accentuated her pale, alabaster skin and with her brilliant turquoise eyes tilted slightly at the outer corners, she possessed an exotic look. But there was no doubt, in Dylan’s mind, that she was a fair English maiden. Perhaps it was the present haughty tilt of her delicate chin which subtly betrayed her Anglo heritage.

Dylan thought he had never known a more exquisitely beautiful woman. And Dylan had known many a lovely woman, both socially and ‘biblically’. This woman thoroughly captivated him and he wanted to know her, most definitely, in the biblical sense. But she was obviously a Lady and not a person open to dalliance…much to Dylan’s chagrin.

He almost sighed with abject disappointment.

Assuming a casually playful air, Dylan queried, Why do you assume that I am a Lord? Perhaps I am a second son.

She tilted her head, scrutinizing the man standing with both gloved hands now leaning on the silver handle of his cane. You possess an air of entitlement. Therefore, I surmise that you are a Lord.

Dylan grimaced. No one had ever accused him of possessing an ‘air of entitlement’. He was oft described as irresistibly charming and charismatic. Her choice of wording and the way she pronounced ‘an air of entitlement’ suggested that he was arrogant. He did not like that. He did not like that description at all!

She giggled, her eyes twinkling mischievously.

Dylan’s frown metamorphosed into a brilliant smile, revealing perfect white teeth. You are teasing me, are you not?

I am.

His grin widened. Then if it is not the fictitious ‘air of entitlement’, why do you assume I am a Lord?

The Lady tilted her head again, blatantly examining the gentleman standing before her. It is your confident deportment which suggests that you are titled.

Dylan cocked his head in silent acceptance of her explanation.

Why did you suppose me to be a Lady? I could be… She paused momentarily, searching for an identity. I could be an actress and that is why I was making faces in the mirror, rehearsing a role. I could be practicing the foibles of a comic character to portray in a comedy.

Dylan laughed heartily, thoroughly delighting in this woman’s blithe manner. No, I do not think you to be an actress. You possess… Dylan paused, assuming a serious expression on his face. …a haughtiness.

The Lady frowned.

By her reaction, Dylan assumed that no one had ever accused her of being haughty.

Dylan chuckled. I was only teasing, my Lady. I offer a bit of tit-for-tat banter.

The Lady’s dark right eyebrow rose, quizzically.

Dylan blinked. The Lady possessed a quirk which he himself possessed. His right eyebrow often rose when questioning something. It is your grace and charm which betrays you as a Lady.

Her frown easily disappeared, replaced by a radiant smile.

Dylan was pleased that she seemed to be enjoying the repartee.

And what pray tell, my Lord, brings you here today to this milliner’s shop. Do you seek a stylish bonnet for your…Mistress? Perhaps to smooth over an indelicate statement…made in jest?

Dylan smiled. He liked this woman. She was both alluring and witty. Why would you assume that I have a Mistress?

She shrugged as she averted her eyes away from Dylan’s alluring smile. You have the look of a man comfortable in his rakish ways…accustomed to being around solicitous women.

Do I? Dylan inched closer to the young woman. Yes, I must admit that I do possess the reputation of a rake but alas, I have never kept a Mistress. He leaned in closer to her ear as if to share a long-held secret. Too much bother and often too much expense to keep a woman when there are so many accommodating widows to be had.

He knew he had spoken improperly to a perceived Innocent and probably shocked this naive maiden. But he could not help himself. He wanted to see her eyes flash again in self-conscious indignation. He felt bewitched by those eyes.

Instead, he was gifted with hearty laughter and the melodic sound of that mirth warmed him to the core. Her genuine laugh was music to his ears.

Her turquoise-hued eyes sparkled impishly as she tried to control her spontaneous laughter before probing. Then, why are you here in a milliner’s shop?

I have come to purchase a tawdry hat for my grandmother as a birthday gift.

You have come to purchase a ‘tawdry’ hat and not a ‘lovely’ hat? The Lady’s face looked perplexed.

No, nothing lovely or stylish will do for my grandmother. Dylan grinned mischievously. She abhors hats, always has. So, I thought to tease her by purchasing the ugliest hat in all of London. She turns seventy-five a week from this Sunday and I delight in making her laugh!

The Lady laughed herself, obviously enjoying Dylan’s sense of humor and mischievous behavior. Perhaps I can be of some assistance. I, too, am not overly fond of hats. She leaned in closer to where Dylan stood, whispering into his ear. Their brims often obscure my vision especially when I am surreptitiously observing a handsome man.

Dylan loved her humorous candor and delighted in her subtle perfumed scent teasing his senses. I should be most grateful for your assistance. But firstly, might I ask your name? One does not shop with a perfect stranger…too impersonal, I dare say.

The Lady dazzled Dylan with her luminous, effervescent smile. I am Lady Isabella St. Martin. She curtsied as if to emphasize the importance of her name.

Ah, then we are both ‘Saints’.

Isabella looked confused. Beg pardon?

We both have surnames beginning with ‘St.’.

Ah…but you, my Lord, do not have the look of a saint about you. Isabella tilted her head over her right shoulder, scrutinizing Dylan’s handsome face. Grinning mischievously, she added, Your mien is more devilish than saintly.

Dylan grinned wickedly, confirming Isabella’s observation. You may be correct for at this present moment my thoughts are far from pure. His deep blue eyes slowly and lasciviously examined her person from head to booted toe. He felt a slight stirring in his groin.

Isabella’s eyes widened, imagining what his impure thoughts might be and to what degree of impurity. She felt herself blush again and warmth bathed her lower, private region. No other man had ever affected her in this odd rather arousing manner.

"But you are most definitely beatific…worthy of being called a saint."

Isabella’s heart began to beat erratically. Had he found her comely? But then she instantly frowned as a painful thought crossed her mind. He had not yet witnessed her graceless gait.

I do not flatter easily, my Lord. I am not so foolish as to believe your obsequious words. I am a realist and see my flaws as plainly as I see the patrician nose upon your…appealing face.

Dylan was gratified that Isabella found him to be attractive but surely, she could see her own beauty. Was she truly so self-effacing? Where was the vanity he often abhorred in most women of his acquaintance? You jest, my Lady. I see no flaws…only exquisite beauty.

Isabella averted her eyes as a soft blush kissed her high cheekbones. Stammering, she changed the subject. Y-you did not introduce yourself, m-my Lord. What surname do you possess that begins with ‘St.’?

Oh, beg pardon. Where are my manners? Tilting his head in a subtle bow, he formally stated, I am Dylan St. Lawrence, Viscount Waverly.

Isabella’s eyes widened as she gasped. Her knees seemed to buckle and she stumbled backward, reaching blindly for something to break her fall.

Dylan quickly grasped her elbow, steadying her. Are you alright, my Lady?

Isabella pulled her arm free of his grasp as if she had been burned by his touch. Her heart felt as though it were constricting in her chest, robbing her of breath. Y-yes, yes, I am quite fine. I-I suddenly felt dizzy, that is all.

Dylan frowned. Perhaps you should sit down.

N-no, no…I must be leaving. She must get away from this man! Turning to where her maid sat, she called for her assistance. Matilda, please fetch my bonnet and parasol. The hour has grown late. We must be off.

Quickly, the plump companion retrieved the articles needed and summarily brought them to her Mistress. She scowled at Dylan, silently scolding him for a perceived impropriety which had obviously upset the Lady.

Isabella quickly placed the hat upon her head but neglected to tie the ribbon into a bow beneath her chin. She grabbed her parasol from the accommodating Matilda and without a backward glance she hastily crossed toward the exit.

But… Dylan was confused by Isabella’s sudden need to leave. He thought she had been enjoying his company until…he introduced himself. Then her entire demeanor changed. She almost seemed frightened of him.

Good day, my Lord, Isabella tossed over her shoulder as she hurriedly walked toward the front door. Her chest was slightly heaving, not from her sudden exertion but from…fear.

It was then that Dylan noticed Isabella’s almost imperceptible limp. She was leaning on her parasol in the same manner as one might lean on a cane for added support. The incomparable beauty limped her way out the door and out of Dylan’s presence.

Dylan stood stupefied. Why had the Lady left in such a hasty departure?

Chapter Two

Dylan was completely perplexed. What had he done to so unnerve the lovely lady?

He cocked his head as he continued to stare at the shop door, half expecting or rather half hoping that the Lady would return and explain her odd behavior. Or, at the very least to return so that she could enlighten Dylan as to how he had inadvertently offended her, causing her to exit so suddenly.

Dylan grimaced. It had been as if the young woman had magically transformed from a witty, confident woman into a timid, frightened child who ran from him…him! Why?

The sound of rustling skirts and a high-pitched female voice interrupted Dylan’s thoughts.

I think you will like these hats, Lady St. Martin. They are far less fussy. The rotund woman halted a few feet beyond the curtained doorway through which she had just entered, visually searching her small shop for the lady she addressed. Where is Lady St. Martin?

Gone…much to my chagrin, Dylan murmured as he continued to stare at the shop’s front door now closed.

Oh, dear me, I did so hope to get a sale today, the woman murmured, more to herself than to Dylan.

Dylan continued to stare at the closed portal as if something beyond the barrier mesmerized him. Are you the proprietress of this shop, Madam?

Yes, I am Mrs. Downs. May I be of some assistance, my Lord? Quickly she placed the two hats she had been holding in both hands onto the counter.

Dylan turned toward the solicitous woman, instantly deciding to turn on his infamous charm. He needed information and this woman would be his source. I am honored to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Downs. When I sought the recommendation for a reputable milliner shop, yours came highly recommended. He bowed slightly to the flattered shopkeeper.

Mrs. Downs tittered, waving her plump hand in front of her flushed face. I am at your service, my Lord.

Dylan fingered an overly adorned hat positioned on a nearby table as he spoke. I intend to buy a hat for my grandmother…a very expensive hat with excessive adornments…lots of feathers, flowers and birds.

Oh my, oh, my… Mrs. Downs muttered as her eyes darted about the small store, searching for just the right hat. Spying the perfect creation, she waddled to where the bonnet was perched on a low shelf. This bonnet would be perfect for your grandmother! She held up the chartreuse, wide-brimmed hat adorned with heavy netting, dyed ostrich feathers and stuffed birds perched in various positions on the crown, interspersed with glittery fruit.

Dylan had never seen an uglier hat. It was perfect! I agree, Madam. I shall purchase it for my grandmother.

Mrs. Downs sighed in relief. She had thought that she would never sell the monstrosity originally custom ordered by an elderly woman who died before retrieving the item. I shall find a hat box and wrap it prettily for you, my Lord.

Easing his way into the subject, Dylan casually asked, I could not help but notice Lady St. Martin’s rushed departure. Perhaps I inadvertently offended her. Does she often shop here for hats, Mrs. Downs?

Mrs. Downs paused momentarily. She did not wish to lose this sale over being too cagey. "Lady St. Martin is a lovely young woman but not overly fond of hats, much to my chagrin. But on occasion she does stop to purchase the very simplest of bonnets preferably designed without wide brims."

Dylan covered his mouth with his gloved hand, hiding his smile as he remembered Isabella’s comment about a wide brim obscuring her vision… ‘when surreptitiously observing a handsome man’. Do tell…

Mrs. Downs crossed to where Isabella had discarded the turquoise-colored hat. She thought the feathers on this particular bonnet too excessive for her taste. She carried the abandoned bonnet in one hand, while still holding the chartreuse hat in her other fleshy hand, to a nearby shelf where she carefully deposited it, positioning it in an appealing display designed to catch the next discerning customer’s eye.

Ah, but the color drew out the beauty of her eyes.

Mrs. Downs nodded. Precisely what I told her but she did not like the style of the hat. Mrs. Downs shrugged. I was looking for simpler styled hats in my storage room for her to try on but…

But she left abruptly.

Mrs. Downs sighed, looking at the closed portal. She is such a beautiful and charming young woman. It is such a pity…

What is such a pity? Dylan cavalierly asked, not wishing to show too much interest.

Mrs. Downs caught herself, realizing that she had said too much. Nothing, nothing at all…I only wished that she liked hats more than she does.

Dylan inched closer to the corpulent woman, smiling beguilingly. Were you perhaps referring to her slight limp?

Mrs. Downs toyed with one of the stuffed birds on the chartreuse hat, avoiding eye contact with the probing lord. Yes, it is such a pity but considering that she nearly died, her limp is but a small price to pay.

Dylan was growing more and more intrigued. Do tell, Madam.

Mrs. Downs visually searched her shop to ascertain that she and the inquisitive lord were indeed alone. Then she leaned into Dylan who also bent forward mirroring her lean as she whispered, She was injured as a small child in a horrific carriage accident in which both her parents died. The people who rescued her thought she would die as well, so extensive were her injuries. But miraculously she lived!

Dylan’s deep blue eyes widened as his throat constricted. She was orphaned and near death?

Mrs. Downs nodded. I remember the description in the broadsheets as if it were yesterday and not over seventeen years ago. Initially, the rescuers thought the five-year old child was dead but she was simply unconscious…covered in her parents’ blood. She awoke, screaming, several hours after the accident. Luckily, her angelic face was not scarred but her left leg had been badly mangled, leaving her with a limp. There were numerous other injuries as well.

And whose ward did she become? Dylan could barely speak what with the lump stuck in his throat.

She and her brother were raised by their paternal grandfather, Merrick St. Martin, the Earl of Baskerville. Mrs. Downs lowered her voice a decimal as if what she intended to impart was a long-held secret. I do not think his lordship is faring well financially. It often takes him months to pay for Lady St. Martin’s occasional purchase.

Ah…perhaps then it is not so much her distaste for hats as it is her financial inability to purchase large quantities.

Mrs. Downs straightened her posture, standing with her backbone rigid. I had not thought of that! Perhaps you are correct, my Lord. She may possess a fondness for hats but lacks the funds. She only feigns a dislike for the more expensive, stylishly adorned bonnets.

Dylan eyed the bonnet Isabella had been modeling earlier. Still, her preference may very well be for the simpler style. Do you have another bonnet in that turquoise color with less…feathers?

No, this is the only one I have in that particular shade of blue-green.

Dylan crossed to where Mrs. Downs had displayed the bonnet in question. Would it be possible to remove the feathers without ripping or marring the bonnet?

Mrs. Downs gasped, placing a plump hand over her heart. Remove the feathers…? Never! That bonnet was designed by one of the most renowned Parisian hat designers…Pierre Dumont! I could never alter his work! That would be sacrilegious!

Would it be sacrilegious were I to pay double the price for the altered creation?

Mrs. Downs’ eyes widened from the tempting offer. She did not skip a beat but hurriedly crossed to where she had placed the feathered bonnet. I shall only be a few minutes removing the feathers, my Lord.

No need to rush, Madam. I shall take the chartreuse bonnet with me but the altered bonnet is to be delivered.

Delivered to where, my Lord?

"I do not know, Mrs. Downs. I can tell you to whom I wish it to be delivered but you must tell me where."

Mrs. Downs looked momentarily perplexed before sudden realization dawned on her round face. You wish to have it sent to Lady St. Martin, is that not so, my Lord?

Very astute of you, Madam, and I should like to enclose a note, if I may.

Mrs. Downs nodded as she pointed to the writing table in the rear of the shop. You may write your missive, my Lord, while I box your grandmother’s hat.

Dylan sauntered to the table but halted before taking a seat to pen his message. He turned slowly as if a thought were germinating in his brain and smiled charmingly. On second thought, I believe that I shall have one of my servants deliver the hat with my regards. If you would be so kind as to remove the feathers and give me the Lady’s address, I would be most appreciative.

Mrs. Downs grimaced. She was not in the habit of giving out her customers’ addresses. But she could not afford to lose this hefty sale of not just one bonnet but two. If I were to give you her address, my Lord, I must insist that you not betray me by telling her by what means you came by it.

Dylan’s grin widened. You have my word as a gentleman, Madam.

Mrs. Downs returned Dylan’s smile with one of her own before nodding her agreement and disappearing through the curtained doorway to the rear storage room.

Dylan’s grin quickly faded. The image of an injured little girl covered in her parents’ blood clouded his vision. He closed his eyes tightly shut, trying to dispel the horrid scene his mind was now vividly painting.

Sharp, intense pain pierced Dylan’s heart like a poisoned arrow hitting its mark. The stinging venom spread throughout his body like splayed fingers touching every nerve in his nervous system.

Dylan had loving parents who had doted on him as a child and still showered him with love as an adult of two and thirty years. He could not conceive of…and indeed did not wish to imagine the excruciating pain of losing them.

And he was not a child of five years suffering such a devastating loss.

Nor did he suffer from a limp which reminded him daily of those who were taken, leaving the living bereft.

He too now felt a sense of…loss and utter confusion. Lady St. Martin had left abruptly and he did not know the why. But he knew that the question of ‘why’ would now plague him until he found the answer. And if truth be told, he knew that her beautiful face would now haunt him as well.

Mrs. Downs’ unconscious humming interrupted Dylan’s thoughts and he turned to the woman now re-entering the shop from her back room.

She waddled to the counter dominating the front of the shop, closest to the mullioned window displaying hats of varying styles and colors. "Here is your grandmother’s hat all nicely wrapped in a decorative hatbox. And here is Lady St. Martin’s hatbox containing the turquoise hat minus the adorning feathers, along with her address." Mrs. Downs emphasized the word minus as if she had been personally affronted in having been obliged to remove what she perceived to be necessary adornment. She placed both hatboxes, tied closed with wide red ribbons, onto the counter as she calculated the cost for each item. She was so pleased with the two sales that she was not even aware that she was humming a happy tune.

Dylan slowly ambled to the counter with a crooked smile on his handsome face. He assumed that the woman had just made a very hefty sale with his purchases. But the cost did not matter as Dylan could well afford the price of the hats.

His smile widened as

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