» The Governess and the Guardian

The Governess and the Guardian cover

Blurb

Description: Governess Catherine Brawley delivers her recently orphaned charges to their uncle, the Earl of Firthley, and discovers the earl, who was seriously wounded in the Charge of the Light Brigade, has buried himself in his country home, having withdrawn from life except for the company of some of his wounded companions from the Crimean War.

Catherine has planned to quit her job and pursue a life of her own, but first she vows to make the earl accept and love his niece and nephew. By pushing her way into his darkened sanctuary she forces him to become aware of the children's need for family, and their need makes him aware of his own. But a man needs a woman to build a proper family and the feisty, red-haired governess soon seems a likely candidate. Will secrets from Catherine's past keep them from building that family?
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Excerpt

He heard an uncharacteristically loud clicking of shoe heels in the hallway, and then Hackles' voice called, "He hasn't sent for you yet, Miss."

"I'm tired of waiting for his lordship." The last two words dripped with disdain.

The door flew open and the woman stalked into his sitting room. In the light of the late afternoon sun, she looked younger than Basil had thought her to be last night. Maybe her mid-twenties. Without her voluminous cloak, her generous bosom, heaving in obvious ill-temper, was evident.

"My God, woman, has no one ever taught you to knock before barging into a man's chamber?"

For a second she looked unsure of herself, but then rock hard determination stiffened her spine. "I've been waiting all day for your summons; I can wait no longer. I'll be leaving in the morning, and I'd appreciate a coach ride into the village."

"Leaving?"

"Yes, I must return to London immediately."

Hope surged through Basil. "Are you taking the children with you?"

"They are no longer my responsibility."

Damn.

"I thought you had soft feelings for them."

"I'm a woman alone who must support herself. I had to spend from my own savings to bring the children here, and I didn't receive my last quarter's wages from Mr. Woodall. I have no choice but to seek employment immediately."

"Why can't you work here?"

She looked at him as if he were one of her duller pupils. "I've not been offered employment here."

Basil had the distinct impression this Amazon was maneuvering him, but he couldn't let her abandon those children to his care. "What was my brother paying you a quarter?"

"Ten pounds."

"I'll pay what he owed you and the traveling expenses, and henceforth, fifteen pounds per quarter. Will you stay?"

She didn't smile, but the furrows cleared from her forehead, and she nodded, causing a sprig of wiry, copper-colored hair to burst from her severely upswept hairdo. Then, without an invitation to do so, she sat in a chair across from him.

Not wanting to appear easily manipulated, Basil hurried on. "I have conditions. You will keep the children and yourself out of the east wing. You can have the entire west wing, but I do not want to be disturbed."

"The furnishings in the rooms we had last night are not appropriate for children. The beds are too high."

"Children's furniture is in the old nursery upstairs. Hackles can see to getting it moved." Then he jabbed with his forefinger for emphasis, "But only at times that do not disturb my rest."

"The rooms we're using need a thorough cleaning. I can't do all that and care for the children too."

Will the woman never be satisfied?

"Hackles will assign some of the men to help with that."

"I prefer maids, since I'll occasionally need someone to watch the children for me. Why can't I use some of the women who work in the back of the house?"

"Those women are not allowed outside the servant's quarters." He pounded his fist on the arm of his chair and felt the beginnings of a new headache.

"As long as they are only in the west wing, how will they bother you?"

"Women talk in high-pitched voices that carry."

"Did you hear me speaking to the children today?"

He frowned and refused to answer her stupid question.

Her mouth thinned, and her hands drew into fists. He reached for his cane just in case he needed to defend himself.

"I cannot watch two children twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And I do not think it proper to place a five-year-old girl in the care of a footman."

By now Basil was willing to agree to anything to get rid of her. "All right, you can use some of the female servants, but they are not to go anywhere but the west wing. And I better not hear one giggle-or-or I'll move the lot of you out to the stables."

Once again she nodded her satisfaction. "I see no reason why this arrangement won't work. How often do you want to meet with me?"

"Why on earth would I want to meet with you?"

"To discuss the children's progress and their needs. As a matter of fact, Robert needs new shoes now. Children's feet grow quickly, you know."

He didn't know or care how children's feet grew. "Put any requests in writing and send it to me through one of the servants-the male servants. Do I make myself clear?"

She nodded and stood. Thank goodness she was finally leaving. After taking several steps toward the door, she paused and looked back at him. "Does your injured limb cause you a great deal of pain?"

He huffed. "Why is my limb any concern of yours?"

"I just wondered if pain causes your ill-temper."

Using his cane, he pointed at the door. "This interview is over. Make sure I don't see you again unless you've been sent for."

He thought he saw a tiny smirk twist her lips as she dropped him a half-hearted curtsey. Then she hurried out the door, and he sighed in relief.

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