Keepsake (Distinguished Rogues series #5)
Keepsake (Distinguished Rogues series #5)
The Marquess of Taverham married young and fast with his eye firmly on his bride’s dowry as the means to repair the family fortunes. Too late he discovered his new wife wasn’t going to make achieving all of his dreams that easy. But what happens when the runaway bride finally comes back?
- Runaway Bride
- Secret Baby
- Marriage in Trouble
When the Marquess of Taverham married at eighteen, he was certain his life would be smooth and well ordered—right up till the moment his exuberant bride ran away on their wedding night, never to be seen again. Ten years later, when Kit is finally prepared to set his rash marriage aside by having his wife declared dead, she makes a shocking return, still beautiful but distrustful, and once more throws his life off-balance by refusing to live with him and resume their marriage.
Despite some lingering attraction, Miranda Reed has no love left for the heartless rogue she married. Older and wiser, she refuses to be a convenient wife for a man who expects everything to be his way with no care for her feelings. Keeping her husband at arm’s length is essential; her secrets will bring him to his knees. But in a battle of wills where hope and trust are both the prize and the casualty of war, the victor isn’t always the winner. Sometimes it takes an act of rebellion to recapture a fragile love.
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
When a man settles on a new course for his life, it’s necessary to relinquish the old and learn from his mistakes. When a marquess, disappointed, requires a replacement bride, it becomes absolutely certain that his next choice will live up to his expectations. Kit Reed, Marquess of Taverham, might not understand why his first wife had disappeared without so much as leaving a note, but that departure hadn’t been anything to do with him.
He focused on the stage of the Theatre Royal, but his mind was distracted by what he needed to do tomorrow. He had to convince those who mattered that his marriage should be set aside and soon.
He had last seen The Beggar’s Opera with Miranda, his first and fleeting bride, a few months before their marriage. He thought it fitting to see it one last time before he took the first steps on the path to have her declared legally dead after a ten-year absence.
He drew in a deep breath. There was no possibility she was coming back. He’d searched and hoped for so long after he could have had her declared legally dead that his friends were looking upon him with pity. He was done with the past.
He was done dancing to Miranda’s tune
He might not have loved her, but she was his wife and he owed her for the dowry she’d brought to him through their marriage. A fortune that had saved him and their home from the tumbledown ruin it had been on their wedding day.
She should have stayed to see the good their marriage had brought to those connected to the estate. Because of her, every situation had improved greatly over the years.
His gaze flickered across the theatre briefly to where his married friends sat in their own box. Lovers surely, their hands linked, their eyes meeting and soft smiles twisting their lips. He looked down at his clenched fist and forced himself to relax.
There was nothing Miranda had liked better than theatricals, even badly performed ones that made her laugh uproariously and earned her so many disapproving looks. Miranda had been so different in her manner than anyone he knew that he could only conclude he’d been so blinded by her zest for life that he’d proposed before he’d thought the matter through properly. He knew better now.
He turned to Lady Brighthurst to whisper, “How goes plans for this year’s hunt?”
A longtime friend and confidant, the recently widowed Emily knew only a portion of his reasons for attending this play. Emily wasn’t as enthusiastic about the opera as Miranda had once been, but since she’d come up to town for the season to discuss their arrangement and had no other engagements tonight, she’d humored him by accepting an invitation so he wouldn’t have to sit alone.
“It is well in hand, although”—she eased closer—“we have a great many more acceptances than usual this year. I cannot account for the increase in numbers.”
Kit smiled, noticing a few familiar faces watching them closely rather than the performance on stage. When he frowned, they quickly turned their attention elsewhere. To Emily he said, “They come this year for the pleasure of your company and because of your renown for designing the most elaborate feasts. Acton’s warm and gracious hospitality has always drawn the most avid hunters north, but you are the icing on the cake my dear.”
“Thank you.” Yet her brow creased into lines of deep concern. “I fear the number of guests this time around may be even too great for us to host.”
Kit patted her hand soothingly. “Nonsense, the more the merrier is Acton’s motto, and I’m sure with the continued help of staff and funds from Twilit Hill the event will be a merry one. Acton would sulk if I offered my estate as an alternative location for the hunt.”
Besides, Kit hadn’t hosted a gathering since his wedding day.
“Acton loves you as a brother,” Emily continued with considerable feeling. “He would give way should you ask and particularly if doing so made me happy, too.”
Kit shook his head. “But I will not ask. I will continue to support the event in my own quiet way. It’s worked this way since I inherited the title and there’s no need to change anything about our arrangement in the foreseeable future.”
Emily laughed softly. “If only you let others see your generous heart and home more often, they would know how truly worthy a gentleman and dear friend you are.”
“Thank you,” he murmured while thinking he’d been a failure as a husband. Miranda had not thought him worthy in the end.
“She’s seated in my place,” Miranda’s soft voice complained in his mind as if she’d the right to tell him what to do after all these years.
Kit closed his eyes and willed the voice of his wife to leave him in peace. Miranda’s place at his side had been empty for so long. He had at last reconciled to never seeing her or hearing her voice again. It’s too late now.
Emily jostled against his sleeve. “I beg your pardon?”
Kit opened his eyes quickly. Had he spoken out loud? He’d been a poor escort so far, burdened by a heavy heart in the face of his decision. “Forgive me, my dear,” he murmured to Emily. “My mind wandered and I spoke out of turn.”
Emily turned fully to look behind him. “Madam, you are in the wrong box.”
Oh. There was always someone blundering into a box in search of friends and vacant seats so he took no notice. He pinched the bridge of his nose and left Emily to shoo them away.
Emily had been a great comfort to him over the years. She alone out of all his friends had counseled patience when taking his next step to secure a wife and heir, especially since his first attempt had been thwarted by Miranda’s sudden and shocking disappearance.
She’d understood and accepted his hesitation in seeking to declare her dead. He could have taken these steps three years ago. No one had heard news of her, but with no body found there still seemed a chance she lived, so he’d continued to delay. The problem was Kit—he was having the devil of a time letting go of her memory. Miranda had made a lasting impression on him, despite their short time together.
Married a day. Not even the wedding night spent together.
It was the two dozen nights spent in her bed before the wedding that made Miranda impossible to forget.
“Unfortunately not.” A feminine sigh sounded behind him, one edged with irritation. “I’ll allow you to lay claim to the chair in Taverham’s box for the night, but the man you cling to so firmly is certainly taken.”
The hair on the back of Kit’s neck prickled with awareness, but he dared not turn around. It was only a waking dream of Miranda. He had chased after shadows for a very long time.
Emily’s fingers tightened over his sleeve in a startlingly strong grip. She gasped suddenly. “Why have you returned to haunt us?”
“Haunt you?” the voice taunted. “I’m not a shade of times past. I merely intend to make sure you understand that he cannot offer for you, even if he wished to.”
Kit’s heart raced as he stood. He recognized that voice, even after so long apart. Miranda’s voice had never failed to send shivers down his spine with just a few words.
The comedic actress on stage faltered and fell silent, her gaze turning to his box. She lifted one arm to point and then used the other to cover her mouth as if she were stunned. With the performance so suddenly halted, the audience followed the actress’ direction to stare at his box too. By his estimation, several thousand sets of eyes turned to discover the source of her distress. It was not a pleasant feeling by any stretch of the imagination to be the focus of such widespread scrutiny.
Lady Brighthurst stroked his arm. “I can assure you I am wanted here tonight.”
“Tonight perhaps, but come morning the whole of London shall know your efforts to win yourself a marquess will amount to exactly nothing,” Miranda’s voice said mockingly. “Enjoy the theater, my dear. The Beggar’s Opera was always my favorite. I am sorry the dowager marchioness has led your hopes on a fool’s errand. She was unbelievably blunt about the practicalities of marriage to her son before. I remember his guardians left me with no illusions of marital felicity thanks to your existence.”
Unable to ignore what he was hearing, Kit spun around. His breath ceased in his lungs and he took an involuntary step forward when he saw the woman standing behind him.
This could not be real. Not now. How could his wife come back to him when he’d just made the decision to end their marriage?
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Praise for Keepsake...
★★★★★ “Heather Boyd has done it again! She has once again written another fabulous historical romance story that kept me completely spellbound throughout the whole story. Keepsake is a fabulous story that kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what in the world could possibly happen next.” ~ Crystal @ Reviews by Crystal.
★★★★★ “Heather Boyd, you clever, clever woman. After finishing Keepsake, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s been a while since a book was able to lead me on such an emotional wild goose chase. What a fantastic tale of heartache and forgiveness – the twists and turns had me hooked. I absolutely couldn’t put it down.” ~ Janette @ 3 Chicks After Dark Book Reviews.