My Enchanting Hoyden Excerpt

Book 3 > Once Upon A Rogue Series

The Year of Our Lord 1820
New York, United States of America

Miss Jemma Adair could count the number of things she regretted on one hand. Of course, if she counted the things she knew she ought to regret but simply did not, she’d likely have to use two hands, but before today, she’d managed to stick to just the one. Yet now, as she leaned against the counter—upon which sat the containers she was supposed to be filling with her mother’s freshly baked lemon tarts—her stomach roiled, filling her with unease. Giving her innocence to Will three nights prior may have been the thing to make her list of regrets overflow from one hand to two.

She stared at the large wooden door that led from the street into their family bakery and imagined Will breezing through the threshold with his rich-chocolate hair and coffee-colored eyes, as he’d done for the seven years he’d worked here. He’d taken a better job several years ago so he could afford to attend law school, but from his very first day at the bakery, he had always stopped at the counter, set down his delivery sack—empty after transporting orders—and popped a tart into his mouth as he winked and complimented first her sister, Anne, and then her.

Any boy kind enough to pay Anne such positive notice—she’d been born with a lame leg and was usually teased rather mercilessly—was a boy worthy of Jemma’s admiration. At the age of eleven, she’d given that admiration to him without pause. Then, at the age of twelve, when he’d knocked out Stephen Smith’s tooth after he’d criticized Anne, Jemma had given her heart to him, as well.

She poked a finger into one of the lemon tarts and sucked off the bitter jam as she wished for the jingle of the bell to announce Will. Even though he’d not worked here in a while, he’d not failed to come by every day before the bakery opened. Her stomach clenched. Except he had not come by in the last three days, not since—

The bell clanged, causing her to jerk and bump one of the tart-filled trays with her elbow. She grabbed it when it began to slide and set it to rights as her heart raced ahead in hope, even as her mind registered the fact that the door hadn’t moved the smallest iota. Understanding and disappointment filled her as she turned and glared, first at the bell above the door that led from the kitchen into the main bakery, and then again at her mother when she glided through the doorway.

Her brown hair had escaped her loose bun and a smear of flour covered her right cheek. She huffed as she balanced a tray filled with a combination of berry and lemon tarts. Jemma’s stomach growled, and she scrambled toward the door to help her mother with the heavy-laden tray. When she reached her mother, Anne struggled through the same doorway holding a tray fairly bursting with trifles. She tripped with a gasp, and the tray dipped sharply to the left. Jemma lunged forward and caught the tray just as two chocolate trifles slid to the ground and plopped onto her only pair of decent slippers. She frowned down at the dark lump on her pale shoes, the mess very fitting for her mood.

Without a word, she took the tray from her sister, who was grimacing and tilting to the right, favoring her good leg. “Did you hurt yourself?” Jemma asked.

Anne shook her head, her lovely blond curls swinging as she did. Jemma eyed those curls, wondering, as she often did, how they could be twins when they looked absolutely nothing alike. Jemma had flaming-red hair with too-tight curls and eyes neither green nor blue but oddly both. Anne, however, was a classic beauty with lovely blond hair and clear blue eyes.

Their mother slammed her tray on the counter, making Jemma jump. “Honestly, Jemma. You’ve been moping around the bakery for three solid days, not even doing your job. Don’t think I haven’t noticed your sister covering for you. But it stops now. Anne cannot carry these heavy trays, and you know it as well as I do.”

Anne huffed and opened her mouth to protest, but Mother’s quelling look silenced whatever she had been about to say. Jemma tensed when her mother’s gaze locked on her. “I could not help but notice that William hasn’t been around to the bakery in those three days. Did you two have an argument?”

“No,” Jemma said slowly, a mental picture of Will’s naked body filling her mind and heating her cheeks with embarrassment. Not shame. Never that. Despite the fact that she hadn’t meant to give Will her innocence… Frankly, when her heart had quit pounding, her ears had stopped roaring, and her body had cooled off, she could scarcely believe what she had done. But it was done. Besides, she loved Will, and she was sure he loved her in return. He had told her that he would be very busy with his studies for the next few days, after all. She was being silly. Selfish, really. They were going to be married just as soon as he had enough money saved to move out of the room he rented and purchase a home for the two of them.

She squared her shoulders and shoved back the doubt that had been plaguing her since she’d succumbed to her desire. “Will has exams and is studying.”

Mother pressed her pale lips together for a moment, and Jemma prayed that would be the end of it. She knew how her mother felt about Will—all men really. Jemma did not need yet another reminder. Her mother turned as if to begin putting the tarts in the case, and Jemma exhaled with relief, but that relief was short-lived.

Mother swiveled back around and eyed her askance. “William always managed to come by during his exams before.”

Leave it to her mother to point out the painfully obvious without blinking an eye. Fresh doubt battered Jemma’s heart, but she refused to show it. “This is his last year, you know that. These exams are the hardest and the most important.”

Her mother snorted. “That’s not a good excuse. If you ask me—”

“I didn’t,” Jemma reminded her.

Her mother shot her a glare. “Don’t be disrespectful. You don’t know everything at eighteen. And you know I understand a great deal about gentlemen.” Her mother said the word with exaggerated derisiveness, as usual.

“Mother,” Anne said in a tiny, hesitant voice. Jemma gave her twin a grateful look, but one quick reproachful glare from Mother and Anne fell to silence once again, dashing Jemma’s hope of being rescued. Really, she couldn’t believe they were twins. Yes, they were born on the same day—two minutes apart with Jemma coming first—but they may as well have been born in different time periods for what they shared in personality, as well as looks. Anne was obedient and sweet, and Jemma… Well, she did try to be obedient, but it was very, very hard when she felt she was in the right.

“I warned you,” Mother continued, as if Anne hadn’t interrupted her, as if she hadn’t said these exact same words hundreds of times before. “I warned you that men are deceitful, self-serving rakes. You’re better off possessing a bakery as I do than trying to possess a man’s heart.”

Jemma felt as if there were a tight band inside her, stretching and stretching. She curled her hands into fists and fought against speaking her mind. It wouldn’t do. It really wouldn’t. But that band stretched further and snapped, and really, she simply could not help herself. She had to defend Will.

“Will is not Father. He will not abandon me as Father did you. Will does not want me for my money.” She slashed a hand through the air. “We have none! We barely get by! Will wants me for me.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Jemma saw Anne frantically shaking her head for Jemma to stop talking, but Jemma’s blood roared in her ears. She’d endured her mother’s tirades about men for years. Now, when she needed a kind word, she had to tolerate more hatred. A voice in her head reminded her that her mother didn’t know Jemma needed comfort and reassurance, and some of her mounting anger slipped away.

“Mother,” she started, prepared to simply apologize so they wouldn’t argue.

“He may not want you for money as your father wanted me and abandon you when you’re with child and he realizes no money is coming, but mark my words—” Mother huffed “—he will break your heart in his own special way. All men do.”

“Will is not like Father,” Jemma said, finding a calm, firm voice, though a tempest swirled inside her. “He will never abandon me.”

“I hope not,” her mother said so quietly and in such a small voice that Jemma knew she’d hurt her mother’s feelings.

Shame washed over her in unbearable waves. “Mother, I’m sorry.”

Her mother shook her head. “Just don’t go losing your senses until you’re good and properly married.”

Jemma’s stomach knotted, uncoiled, and plummeted to the ground. It was too late for that warning. She’d lost every ounce of sense she’d possessed when in Will’s arms three nights ago. Staring at her mother, she longed to confide her fears, but Mother’s heart was so hardened to men that Jemma feared she’d immediately march to Will’s lodgings and demand a marriage take place posthaste. That wouldn’t do. Will was going to marry her, but she certainly preferred to know it was his choice and not something he did by guilt or force. Besides that, as Jemma stared at her mother she noticed dark smudges under her eyes and that Mother’s skin looked almost sallow.

“Mother, do you feel all right?”

Her mother nodded, even as her hand strayed to her chest and rubbed it. “Just an ache here. But that’s nothing new,” she said in a hard voice.

The bell at the front door jingled and all three of them jumped at once. It wasn’t quite time for the bakery to be open, so that had to mean…

“Will!” Jemma exclaimed, rushing past her mother and Anne, and stopping just short of flinging herself into his arms. He had on tan breeches, a dark coat, and a crisp white shirt with a light-blue cravat he’d recently taken to wearing. She eyed the cravat, still feeling as if he’d not been truthful about his parents purchasing it for him, but she shooed the doubt away, knowing it was surely her own insecurity making her feel thusly.

“Where have you been?” she blurted, then bit down on her traitorous tongue. Hadn’t she told herself repeatedly that when he finally came around she would act wholly unbothered by the fact that he’d not come by in three days.

So much for that plan.

When he didn’t answer, she stepped toward him and gazed into his eyes. “Were exams that difficult?”

He opened and shut his mouth, while his face turned a deep-crimson color. Pity filled her and determination to make him feel better drove her forward to grasp his arm. “Oh, Will, don’t worry. We’ll think of something. Could you take the exams again?”

He shook his head, still not speaking.

Jemma squeezed his arm. “That’s all right.”

“I passed with top honors,” he blurted, a bead of sweat dripping down his face.

Jemma wrinkled her brow. He seemed very nervous for someone who’d passed with honors. “Then what is it? I don’t understand.”

Will’s gaze darted from her, to her mother, to Anne, and back to Jemma. “Might I speak with you in private?”

The bell chimed again, and Jemma glanced at the longcase clock, then stifled the curse on the tip of her tongue. Eight o’clock. The bakery was open and the first customers had arrived, and by the looks of them, they would not be patient. Wealthy people so rarely were. Jemma would bet her left arm that this young lady and her companion—no, actually, likely her father by the similar eyes and mouth—were grossly rich. The girl was beautiful with her china doll skin and large blue eyes, but she was made even more so dressed as she was in an exquisite emerald-green gown. Her father had peppered hair, covered partially by a shiny top hat, and he wore an overcoat made in a deep, rich burgundy with large, gleaming stones set into the sleeves.

They strolled through the door, and Jemma pasted on a smile as her mother and Anne, both a heated mess from baking in the kitchen, scurried away to tidy themselves. She turned to greet the customers when Will jerked her back around to face him. “Jemma, I must tell you—”

“William,” the girl said in a sweetly chiding voice that made Jemma’s stomach flop. “You said five minutes. Father timed it, and we’ve been waiting five minutes and twenty seconds. Haven’t we, Father?”

The man gave a curt nod. “The ship is waiting,” he said, flicking a dull gaze over Jemma. His eyes widened for a moment before he locked his gaze on Will. “The ship leaves for London within the hour. We must depart now.”

“Two minutes,” Will said firmly.

Jemma’s mind froze on the word we. We. As in Will, or as in the two strangers? She rubbed her suddenly sweaty palms against her cotton skirts and swallowed. “Will?” She cringed at the shaky sound of her own voice.

“Really, William,” the woman snapped. “Tell your cousin good-bye. We must leave.”

Will nodded. Jemma blinked, but her eyelids felt heavy as stones. Cousin? The word rippled across her mind, slow and languid, like the undulation of the water when she swirled her toes in it. Cousin.

She snapped her eyebrows together. “I’m not—”

“Two minutes,” Will repeated, interrupting her and stepping in front of her so her view of the strangers was blocked.

“No more than that,” the woman replied. “We don’t want to miss boarding.” With that statement, she swiveled away, and within seconds the bell chimed once more, leaving only silence and Jemma’s screeching mind. She eyed the door to the kitchens, certain any minute her mother would burst through it.

Her mind whirred, uncertain what to ask and afraid to ask anything at the same time. Yet she had to say something. Ask something. “Who was that?”

Will shuffled his feet. “Lady Jane.”

Who is Lady Jane?”

Will tugged on his cravat, and something clicked in her mind. It was a dreadful something that made her skin prickle. “Did Lady Jane give you that cravat you’ve been wearing?”

He let out a long, rattling sigh and then nodded. The prickling sensation spread over her entire body and became more pronounced, like tiny beestings. She licked her lips and tried to order her thoughts, but they spun and spun until she felt slightly dizzy. “How do you—”

Will grabbed Jemma’s arm. She would have jerked away, but she thought she might just topple right over if he released her.

“I never meant to hurt you,” she thought he said, but his voice sounded as if it came from down a long tunnel.

“Hurt me?”

“She has a cousin from America in school with me, and well, I’ve known Lady Jane for quite some time, but I never thought—She’s an heiress to a shipping empire. She lives in London and only visits twice a year. I never imagined she’d want me, not even a lawyer yet.”

Jemma spoke, though her tongue didn’t want to form the words. “Want you?” Of course, she’d want him. He was intelligent, handsome, and wanted to change the world for the better. And he was a liar. From somewhere within, Jemma managed to yank her arm out of his hold and remain standing. The victory was small and pathetic, but she clung to it. “Who is she to you?” Jemma demanded, her voice now coming out loud and strong.

He blew out a breath, his cheeks puffing and then deflating. Her heart deflated right along with them. “She’s going to be my wife. We’re to be married. That is—What I’m trying to tell you is—”

“I know what you’re trying to tell me!” she bit out, the sting of her nails as they curled into her palms making her wince. “I’m not an imbecile, just a blind fool.”

He moved as if to touch her, and she jerked back, her skin rippling with revulsion. “I gave you my love,” she whispered, feeling broken. “I gave you my innocence.” As she said it, a horrified thought struck her. Marriage was lost to her forever; no man would want a wife who wasn’t innocent. She clenched her teeth. She didn’t care. She never wanted to be in love again, so there was absolutely no point in marrying. Dear God! Mother had warned her repeatedly never to give a man her trust, yet she’d not listened. “How long have you known you would be marrying her?” The bitter words stung as they left her mouth.

He shifted from foot to foot again, and though she didn’t think it was possible to feel worse, with each dart of his gaze, her humiliation deepened until her body was burning with regret.

“Two weeks,” he finally said.

“Two weeks?” She could hardly believe her ears. Anger and mortification warred within, anger winning the battle. She shook her fists in his face. “You are a disgusting pig,” she snapped. “We were together three nights ago.” Her heart hammered so that her chest ached with the force.

“I came to tell you everything and say good-bye.”

Everything? There’s more? What more could there be?”

He jerked his hands through his hair. “She’s with child, Jemma.”

Jemma’s mind flashed back to the night they’d been together and he’d used what he’d called protective measures. Dear heaven! Had he used them with this Lady Jane and she’d gotten with child?

“Did you—” She gulped, not believing she needed to ask this. “Did you use—”

“No,” he interrupted, shaking his head. “I didn’t know of the measures one could use then.”

“Well”—her voice cracked and she willed herself to be strong—“I suppose you’ve learned more than the law in school,” she said dryly.

Will’s shoulders slumped forward. “Jemma, I’m sorry.”

“You are that,” she agreed, feeling nauseated.

“I did love you. I still—”

By all that was holy, she couldn’t take anymore. “Get out!” she demanded. “Get on the ship for England, and good riddance to you.”

“Jemma, please forgive me.”

“Forgive you?” Blood pumped through her veins like a raging river. Forgive him? She looked wildly around the room and picked up the only thing near her that she could use to harm him. Waving the half-empty tray of lemon tarts at him, she screamed, “Go now! Go or I’ll bash you over the head with this tray and you can leave for the ship with a split head and covered in jam filling.”

When he stood there gawking at her, she snapped. She hurled the tray at his head, and he deflected it with his arm. Tarts flew through the air as the tray went crashing to the ground with a loud rattle. Dual bells jingled, at once announcing someone entering the shop and either her mother or Anne coming out from the kitchens. Jemma expected to see Lady Jane appear in the door, but two men dressed in dark suits stepped into the bakery. A gasp came from behind her, and she whirled around to see her mother, white-faced, staring with huge eyes at the men. What little blood was in her mother’s face drained away, leaving even her lips blanched.

Jemma shoved at Will’s back. “Go, you cad,” she whispered fiercely.

Will stepped around the men and departed out the door, and Jemma didn’t even have time to spare a thought for her broken heart. The taller of the two men handed her mother a piece of paper. “Payment for the loan wasn’t received, so I believe you know what that means.”

Jemma could see the paper her mother now held, trembling in her hands. Her mother licked her colorless lips and nodded. “Yes. Please go.”

The man gave a curt nod. “You’ve two months to either pay the loan in full or leave the premises. The bank will repossess the property in exactly sixty days.”

“I understand,” Mother said in a shaky tone.

Jemma’s mind whirled with disbelief as the men departed. She stared at her mother, who was rubbing her arm and then her chest, clearly unsure what to say. Jemma swallowed and voiced one of her suddenly numerous fears. “Will we lose the bakery? Our home?”

Her mother forced a smile. “Don’t be silly. I’ll simply swallow my pride and write to my father. He owes me. After all these years, it’s time he paid the debt of driving your father away from me.” Her mother shuffled over to the tray Jemma had thrown at Will’s head, and as she bent down to grasp it, she let out a muffled cry and crumpled to the ground. Jemma raced to her mother’s side and turned her over.

A short gasp came from her as she clawed at her neck. “Can’t breathe,” she choked out.

Jemma’s skin tingled and her muscles tensed as she yelled out for Anne while pulling her mother’s head into her lap. She glanced wildly around the room. “Anne!” she shrieked again as Mother’s eyes rolled back in her head and her mouth fell open.

Anne came through the door singing a song. She stopped mid-tune and screamed before staggering over to Jemma and Mother. “What’s happened?”

“I don’t know! One moment she was standing and the next—Never mind! Take her head while I run to fetch the physician.” Anne nodded as Jemma slid herself out from under her mother, whose eyes had shut. Anne took Mother’s head in her lap and started speaking to her immediately. The last thing Jemma saw as she raced out the door was her mother’s hand lying unmoving against the ground.

Jemma raced down the block to the physician’s office and found him with a patient. It took what surely must have been only a second, but seemed forever, for him to gather his bag, and the two of them set off running back down the block to the bakery.

She burst through the door with the physician on her heels and dropped to her knees. She took her mother’s slack hand in hers and patted Anne, who was crying incoherently. The physician barked an order for them both to move, and Jemma had to physically drag Anne away. They hovered above him as he worked for a few minutes. All sound around Jemma faded, save the physician’s sighs and muttering.

The smell of lemon tarts swirled around her and made her stomach roil. Sweat dampened her brow, her hands, and under her arms, and the cotton of her gown clung to her, making her horridly hot. Then, suddenly, she shivered with cold.

The physician sat up and turned to look at them. His eyes held Jemma’s for a moment as he shook his head. “She’s gone.”

Sound crashed in, the loudest tick of the longcase clock. Her thoughts scrambled in her head as her mind raced to latch on to one. With a sharp intake of breath, she repeated what the physician had said. “She’s gone?”

He nodded as he stood, walked to the door, turned the lock, and then moved to the windows to pull the curtains closed. Anne’s sobs once again invaded Jemma’s awareness. For one brief, selfish second Jemma wanted to scream for Anne to stop it. Instead, she inhaled a deep breath and wrapped her arms around her sister. In shock, she clung to her, hardly able to believe Mother was gone. Memories of her mother flashed before her eyes and the pain twisted through her. She wanted to shut it all out, but she couldn’t. The bakery and their home would be gone, too, if Jemma didn’t take immediate action in her mother’s stead. Someone had to take care of them. Someone had to shelve her grief until the dark hours of the night. Jemma glanced at her sister. Mother had always taken special care of fragile Anne, and now it was up to Jemma.

She moved through the rest of the day in a numb haze, alternately soothing Anne and making burial arrangements. Very late that night, as Anne slept fitfully, whimpering in her bed, Jemma, with bleary eyes and a pounding head, forced her shaking hand to foolscap and wrote her first letter ever to her grandfather, the cold Duke of Rowan. Would he even read it? She worried her lip. Had the years softened his heart and made him regret disowning Mother after she had disobeyed him and married Father? She cried silent tears as she told her grandfather of Mother’s sudden death and the impending foreclosure on the bakery that was also their home, and finally asked him if he would send enough money to pay off the loan for the bakery. She knew, from Mother’s talk of his wealth, that it wouldn’t even nick his vast fortune to send that amount.

Jemma’s eyes burned and blurred as she sealed the letter. When she was finished, she laid her head on her mother’s desk and sobbed as quietly as possible so as not to wake Anne. She wanted her mother back. She wanted to apologize for acting as if Mother knew nothing. She wanted to take back every snide comment she’d ever made. Jemma rocked back and forth in her chair. Mother was gone. Gone.

She wanted more than anything to tell her she was sorry and that Mother had been perfectly correct. Now she would never get the chance. She would gladly sit for hours listening to her mother rant about how men were not to be trusted, how they were callous and careless with the hearts they captured, how they would bruise, batter, and destroy the delicate organs, if only she could have her mother back. At this moment, it hurt far greater that her mother was gone than the fact that her mother had been right about men all along.

She wanted to apologize for scoffing at her mother, for arguing with her, and for making her life more worrisome. Perhaps it was the worry from the bank loan that had made Mother sick, or perhaps it was Jemma’s constant squabbling with her that had made her unwell. Jemma’s heart twisted as hot tears coursed down her cheeks and wet her hands. Before she fell asleep, she said another prayer to God that he would instill forgiveness and generosity into her grandfather’s heart. He was all they had now.

~ ~ ~

Time had a way of flying by in a blur when one worked ceaselessly to run a bakery. One night, just as Jemma was heading to the door to lock it, the bell jingled and the door swung open. In marched a serious-faced gentleman with tan breeches, shining black boots, and a long overcoat of a dark, superfine material. He wore a cravat of rich red, tied expertly and touching his chin, and a hat that appeared to be lined with some sort of luxurious brown fur capped a full head of silver hair. The man was tall but not lanky. He was solidly built and carried himself with the pretentious air of a duke. She knew at once it was her grandfather, even before her gaze locked with his.

The shape and color of his eyes matched her mother’s. A pang of sadness reverberated through Jemma, and she swallowed. Before she could properly introduce herself, a line of two men and a lady entered the bakery, filing in behind her grandfather in mute silence.

As she stared at them, it belatedly occurred to her that Grandfather had traveled across the ocean to meet them. Surely he was bringing good tidings and the money she needed to save the bakery! The burden of the last couple of months seemed to lift a little, and hope filled her. If he’d traveled all this way, he must care for them. She felt her cheeks pull into a smile.

“Are you the Duke of Rowan?” she asked, though she was fairly certain the answer was yes.

He nodded. Relief, weariness, and joy overcame her at once. She’d not held much hope he’d respond to her letter, let alone appear here as a caring grandfather would.

She rushed to him and hugged him, so very glad, for once in her life, to be wrong. “I’m your eldest granddaughter, Jemma.”

She felt him stiffen underneath her touch as he extracted himself from her arms, stepped back, and patted her awkwardly on the shoulder. “I’m very sorry about your mother. I’m not sure what she told you about me…”

Jemma couldn’t stop herself from wincing, and his eyes immediately narrowed. “I see. I’m not surprised.” He flicked a dismissive hand behind him. “This is my valet, footman, and your new tutor, Mrs. Young.” His voice did not hold the warmth of a loving grandfather but the formalness of the man her mother had always described.

Jemma bit her lip as Mrs. Young curtsied, and Jemma simply gawked while everything her grandfather had just announced bounced around in her head.

“You must curtsy,” the woman chided.

Jemma stared the woman down until the tutor blinked, then snorted in contempt. Mrs. Young clicked her tongue and moved to Jemma’s grandfather’s side. “This will take at least six months if the young ladies don’t even know how to curtsy.” The woman’s voice was snide and her look condescending. Jemma knew very well how to curtsy, but something warned her to keep the information to herself for now.

Jemma’s grandfather gave a brief nod of acknowledgment to the tutor before assessing Jemma. “You look healthy, Granddaughter.”

Was that a compliment? It had the slightly warmer tone of one but was a rather pathetic attempt to start a conversation with a granddaughter he’d never met. “Thank you,” she managed. “I don’t understand why you brought a tutor, however. I don’t need a tutor—only money.”

Grandfather raised his silver eyebrows. “You are mistaken,” he snapped. “If you are to secure a proper husband, you most definitely need a tutor.”

“Marry? I don’t want to marry!” She never wanted to give her heart to another man to destroy again. Never mind that she was no longer innocent.

“Don’t be silly,” he replied. “You are eighteen. You cannot possibly know what you want. You and your sister will return to England with me.”

She clenched her teeth until her temples throbbed. When she released her jaw, she had to move it back and forth before speaking. “I don’t wish to return to England with you, and I’m sure my sister, Anne, will not, either.”

When her grandfather stared past her, Jemma knew Anne surely must have been standing there. She turned to confirm it. Anne was in the doorway, white-faced and with eyes open wide.

“Tell him, Anne,” Jemma insisted. “Tell him you don’t wish to go back to England any more than I do.”

Anne’s lips parted, and her forehead creased with a deep frown. She said nothing, but the silence was louder than a piercing scream. Anne wanted to go. She didn’t trust that Jemma could take care of them. Jemma deflated. “Oh, Anne.”

“I’m sorry!” she blurted.

Grandfather simply nodded. “At least one of you is sensible.” He pointed at Jemma. “You need to come to your senses, as well. Whether you want to go to England or not, it’s the only help I’m offering you. Without it, you’ll be homeless. Is that what you want for your sister or yourself?”

The years clearly had not made Grandfather any less cold or controlling than Mother had described him. But what choice did Jemma have? She bit the inside of her cheek as she thought. She needed time, which was something she had none of currently. If she went to England, she could buy herself some time and formulate a plan for how to afford to buy another bakery and take care of herself and Anne, if Anne wished it.

“What will be required of me if I return to England with you?” Jemma was not quite ready to admit defeat to this man.

“That’s simple. You shall do as I say or I vow you’ll meet the same fate your mother did.”

Jemma inhaled sharply. He was threatening to disown her if she disobeyed him as Mother had dared to do. Whatever hope she had briefly held of his loving them disappeared. She despised him, and she’d just met him. “Do you care to give me some insight as to what requirements you might have of Anne and me?” she asked through clenched teeth.

“I’m pleased to do so,” he replied, motioning to Mrs. Young. “You will follow all Mrs. Young’s instructions, as will your sister. Mrs. Young will ensure you’re both proper ladies in six months’ time.” He paused and looked sideways at the tutor who nodded. “At the end of the six months, as the eldest, you will marry. I took the liberty of setting up a suitor for you.”

You’ve done what? she wanted to shout. She clenched her teeth once again, until she felt she could speak without screaming. “How very kind of you.” Now was not the moment to defy him with nothing to her name. That would come when she had saved enough money to go off on her own. But how did one save money when one didn’t earn any?

“Think nothing of it,” he said and actually smiled. “Lord Glenmore is my neighbor’s son and heir. He will be a fine match for you.”

She felt her nostrils flare. It was just as Mother had said. Grandfather had cared more about a man having wealth and a title than Mother having love, and now he was trying to do the same thing to Jemma. Would he disown her if she told him now that she wasn’t an innocent so his plans to marry her off were futile? Her head throbbed with uncertainty. She couldn’t chance how he might react when she had no one else to turn to and nowhere else to go.

“All you have to do is learn to be a proper English lady, and I feel positive Lord Glenmore will be pleased to take you as his wife. He’s already agreed to court you. Six months should be plenty of time to learn the rules of etiquette so you’ll not do anything to drive Lord Glenmore away.”

Drive Lord Glenmore away! The words reverberated through her head, and a plan was born.

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