On A Cold Christmas Eve (Tales From Seldon Park Book 1)
About the Book:
Lady Lucy Cavendish is in a bit of a quandary. Her uncle, the current Earl of Wellsford has abandoned her at a coaching inn outside of London with no money and no way to contact her contracted fiancée, Archibald St. Vincent, the younger brother of the Duke of Enwright. Except that Lucy quickly learns that not only is Archibald not coming to claim her, but that a far worse fate than abandonment awaits. She is to be sold to a house in Covent Garden to work as a prostitute rather than marry anyone. Desperate and alone, Lucy strikes out on her own, hoping to make her way to Fairhaven, the spring residence of the duke, and throw herself on his mercy. Or the mercy of his staff, at least, for as it’s nearly Christmas, it’s doubtful that the duke would be anywhere near a home he only uses a few weeks out of the year.
Adam St. Vincent, the Duke of Enwright, is furious. His brother has concocted yet another nefarious scheme, and this time, he doesn’t think he can buy his brother’s way out of trouble. Things become even more complicated when the lady in question arrives at Fairhaven where Adam is waiting for his brother. Cold and wet, it’s clear the lady is ill and needs medical attention, so Adam whisks her off to his home at Overlook Hill to recuperate. He might be called the Devil Duke, but he’s certainly no monster! Not to mention that it’s the only proper and decent thing to do. Only things are never quite as uncomplicated as they appear and soon, it becomes clear to Adam that he must marry Lucy in order to keep her safe and out of Archibald’s hands.
Can Lucy, a woman of so-called “tainted blood,” due to her partially Indian heritage, ever come to love a man like the Devil Duke? And will Adam ever allow anyone in to see past his icy facade and to the warm and caring man beneath? When family members on both sides return in an attempt to ruin the fledgling romance, more than a little Christmas magic is required for Lucy and Adam’s happily ever after.
Note: This novella takes place before the first “Tales From Seldon Park” novel, “To Catch A Duke.”
This 31,300-word short novel is written in the modern, adult romance style for a slightly hotter read. It may not be appropriate for younger audiences.
As Adam closed the door to Lucy’s room when he departed, he felt a familiar presence come up behind him. “How long have you been there, Amelia?” Amelia St. Vincent, now Amelia Frost, also known as Lady Houghton, had been listening in on Adam’s private conversations for as long as he could remember. Since they were twins, that was a very long time, indeed.
She shrugged and adjusted her skirts, which bore a few stains that were near the bottom, leaving Adam to suspect she’d just come from the nursery where her two young sons were currently ensconced. “Long enough.” If there was one woman on the planet that Adam could not bring to heel with merely a look, it was his sister. He no longer even tried and probably would not have done so were he even able. “So Archibald has done it again. You knew he would.” There was a clear note of censure in her voice.
“I had hoped he wouldn’t,” Adam replied with a sigh, knowing his sister was correct, as she frequently was. “The other chit was lucky. Archibald only bedded her. He didn’t wed her, much as I wanted to force the issue.”
Waving her hand, Amelia dismissed the excuse with a sniff of disgust. “Yes, yes. And you were able to buy her a wealthy husband, one who didn’t care about her deflowered state, and all was well.” She snorted then, much like Lucy had, which made him smile despite himself. There was a strength to Lucy that he found refreshing.
“You cannot keep cleaning up his messes and buying husbands as if they grew on trees. I can assure you, they do not!” At one and thirty, Amelia had only married two years pervious, and only then after a lengthy pursuit by Fitzherbert Frost, the current Earl of Houghton. So husband hunting was something of a touchy subject for her.
“That time,” Adam reminded her gently, “there was no contract or special license. Not to mention that Archibald promised he would never do such a thing again.” He sighed and leaned back against the wall. This was not how he had planned to spend the holiday season “Bloody bastard lied to me. Again.”
“He always lies to you,” Amelia informed him tartly without a hint of sympathy in her tone. “This is not news to anyone but you. You are the only person on earth foolish enough to fall for his lies, and he knows it.” She considered for a moment and then looked at him intently. “Though perhaps Lady Lucy’s uncle is just as stupid.” Then she shook her head, clearly dismissing the thought she’d just had. “No, he knew about the contract with Mac and Covent Garden. There is no way he could not.”
Nodding in agreement, Adam closed his eyes for a moment. Archibald would have to be dealt with, but not tonight. “I agree. However, at the moment, there is a more pressing issue. I have no idea what to do with Miss Cavendish. Somehow, I don’t think I can buy another husband.” He also didn’t even want to contemplate where he might find a suitable candidate, one who would treat Lucy with the respect she deserved. No, she needed a very special man for a husband, and that ruled out a good many of his friends, if not all of them.
“You could marry her.”
Amelia’s words were so soft that Adam wasn’t certain he’d heard her correctly. “Me? Marry Lady Lucy? Are you insane? Did childbirth addle your brains, woman?” He scoffed, trying to ignore the soft ping in his heart and the stirring in that same dark place that his softness towards her sprang from. “I am not ready. You know that.”
Though, he was, really, and had actually been considering seeking out a wife during the upcoming Season, though he saw no reason to inform his sister of his plans. In fact, he had only just decided at the end of the Little Season that it was time for him to start filling his nursery and getting on with the business of protecting the dukedom. He hadn’t even told his man of business or Harry, who would have to vet the woman before Adam would even consider seriously courting her.
“I’ll not take offense to that remark about childbirth,” Amelia snapped before softening her tone a bit, taking in her brother’s nearly panicked state. “And yes, Adam, you are ready. I think you know it as well. It is past time you began filling a nursery, and you well know it. You have already admitted on several occasions that it’s unlikely you will ever make a love match, especially with a town full of chits who are terrified of you and whom you despise in return.” She glanced at the closed door. “Lady Lucy, on the other hand, has seen the rougher side of life, I suspect, even though she is a lady. There is a look in her eyes that I see reflected in yours, Adam. You are alike in so many ways that I do believe you would suit.”
“She knows nothing of me or of men,” he replied, remembering the way Lucy had stiffened at his touch. He also tried not to think about how soft her hand had felt in his or how good she smelled. He hadn’t been that close to a woman who wasn’t scrambling to be away from him or find a quick way to his fortune in a good long time.
Amelia huffed in annoyance, clearly thinking that her brother was a fool. “She can be taught. All woman can.” Then she regarded him thoughtfully, as if remembering something she’d seem. The damn busy body. “Though I do not think she fears men, nor, in particular, does she fear you. That is an excuse, one you conveniently thought up just now.”
Reaching out, she laid a hand on his arm. “Adam, Lucy met your eyes when she spoke. There was no fear in her, no simpering or quaking as if you meant her harm or wanted to devour her whole. No other woman has ever managed that.” She took one of his hands in hers and clasped it firmly, a sure sign that she wanted him to listen. “You do not frighten her as you do the others.”
Pushing away from the wall and his sister, Adam began to walk away before turning back, his agitation obvious. “And that is all you think that I need for a happy marriage? For my wife not to fear me?”
Shrugging again, Amelia leveled him with a gaze that had terrified the men of the ton for years. The duke wasn’t the only St. Vincent to strike fear into the heart of society London. “It is a start, Devil Duke, and better than you could hope for otherwise, quite frankly. You are not the most kind looking of men on a good day, my darling brother, and you well know it. Not to mention that your reputation has run off any other woman who might have had you.”
“But marriage…” he tried again unable to form the words. Marriage to Lucy? He didn’t want to think of it. Or at least him mind didn’t. There was, however, another part of him that didn’t think it would mind quite so much
He was clearly weakening a bit, and it must have shown on his face, allowing Amelia to use that to her advantage. “What happens if Archibald comes back and claims her, Adam? If he marries her, even at Gretna, the other contract will be valid as well. She will be sold into the life of a whore, and you will be unable to stop it, at least not before she is horribly defiled. An earl’s daughter, Adam! Is that what you want for her?” When he started to protest, she slashed at the air in front of her with her hand, her own tempter rising quickly. “Archibald needs to pay for his crime. I think we all agree on that. But life has already been far from kind to Lucy. She does not need to pay for yet another crime she had no part of.”
Amelia stalked towards Adam and poked in him the chest, the infamous St. Vincent temper coming out in full force. “And she will pay, and pay dearly, for a sin she did not commit. Is that what you would sentence her to? That kind of life where, if she is lucky, she will not die of the pox, or worse, within a year?”
“I can’t.” It was the only defense Adam had. Because really, the idea of wedding and then bedding Lucy wasn’t as awful as it should have been, as it had been with so many women before her. She might not have been considered classically beautiful or a diamond of the first water, but she was pretty in her own way and had a body that was far too appealing for him not to notice.
“You can!” Amelia shot back in full temper now, her chest heaving with anger. “And you will. You can get a special license, and be married on the ‘morrow should you so choose. You are the bloody Duke of Enwright, and she is your responsibility. In fact, I actually think that Lucy is too good for you, but I shall let that pass as you are my brother, and she needs protection.” Amelia made an attempt to reign in her temper. “You helped to create this mess when you let Archibald free all those years ago. Do not make that woman pay for what this family has done.”
Adam was silent for a moment, attempting to process everything his sister had just said. He didn’t like the conclusions he was reaching. The decisions he was about to make would force him to feel, and feeling was something the Devil Duke never did. Not any more. However, he might no longer have a choice. “And you would have me pay for our brother’s crime?” He was at a loss for words for the first time in his life.
With one final shrug, Amelia glared at him and Adam knew he anger was only contained, not cooled. “Had you not let him get away with it the first time, there would not have been a second.” With that, she flounced off down the hall, leaving Adam to stare after her, more conflicted than he’d been when the conversation had started.
About the Author:
Making her home in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, Bethany Sefchick is a former Emmy-award winning television producer. She lives with her husband, Ed, and a plethora of Betta fish that she’s constantly finding new ways to entertain. In addition to writing, Bethany owns a jewelry company, Easily Distracted Designs. When not penning romance novels or creating sparkly treasures, she enjoys cooking, scrapbooking, and lavishing attention on any stray cats who happen to be hanging around.
Connect with Bethany:
En Pointe Author Services