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A Penny‘s Worth of Affection

A Penny‘s Worth of Affection




“Ah, Penelope, my sweet one” Phillip muttered, his mouth so close to her ears, sending involuntary shivers running down her spine. His mouth captured her earlobe, sucking it into its hot depths. “So sweet…” he murmured again, moving lower to gently kiss the base of her throat. Penelope Inglewood discovers her brother is in love with the betrothed of the most ruthless man in England, the Duke of Newbridge. She must find a way to save her family from ruin and turn her brother’s affections elsewhere. When the Duke of Newbridge decides to confront his rival in love, he faces his rival’s sister instead and finds himself completely intrigued by the small but determined woman. Will Penelope be able to keep her heart and her head in the presence of this dangerous yet intoxicating villain who seeks to punish her brother?

England, 1825

Mrs. Kate Barstow regarded her friend in concern. "I apologize for intruding like this Penelope, but I simply felt I had to let you know. It will be a disaster indeed if I had chosen to say nothing."

Penelope Inglewood took a deep breath and nodded, fighting to remain calm despite the emotions that swirled within her.

"No, no, it is quite all right, Kate. Thank you for telling me. I must confess I had no idea of this." In truth, she was shocked and not a little horrified at the news, but she was loath to tell Kate so. "I will have a word with Edward immediately. This must be put to a stop at once."

"Oh, yes, of course. But I will advise the strictest caution, for you know how it is with young people these days. They seem to derive pleasure from doing quite the opposite of what is expected of them. In truth, it was most improper of him to be seen with Miss Rosebury in such a…compromising situation. The lady is engaged to be married, after all, and if the wrong persons were to come upon them, the scandal would be immeasurable."

"Not to worry, I shall be careful when I speak to him."

Mrs. Barstow rose, her wide green skirts rustling as she moved. "I am not worried, dearest. I know you are more than capable of handling things discreetly. I must take my leave now, or I shall be late for the parish meeting. And I give you my word: none of this will pass from my lips."

Penelope stood as well, brushing down her black gown to smooth out the creases, her green eyes filled with worry.

"Thank you for keeping this in the strictest confidence." At least she hoped Kate would keep mute, as she hardly knew Mrs. Barstow, having just moved to Millcote less than five months ago and still getting acquainted with her neighbours and attending a few tea parties thrown by the gentry occasionally to ease the tedium of the countryside.

Mrs. Barstow patted Penelope's shoulders comfortingly. Although the two women were of the same height, Mrs. Barstow's stocky build and wide shoulders made it seem like she towered over Penelope. She smiled kindly. "You are a good sister. I have no doubt you will do the right thing by him…Although, I must once again stress how delicate this situation is."

Mrs. Barstow paused at the door to the small drawing room, casting her gaze over the tidy room with its elegant but worn furniture before returning her gaze to the slim, intense—looking young lady who ruled over the household. "You must not be harsh with Edward, or he will rebel. I only caught a glimpse of them together, but it appears they have formed quite the attachment for each other. That is most disastrous indeed. If His Grace finds out his intended has developed a tender for your brother, he could call your brother out to a duel."

Penelope shivered involuntarily. The Duke of Newbridge had a reputation for being ruthless to those who crossed his path. Tales of his wicked actions had been whispered in polite society, each tale gorier than the last, and though in all the time she had been in London, she had not so much as set eyes on him, she knew him quite well enough to know that Mrs. Barstow was right. One did not step on the toes of a man as powerful as Newbridge and get away with it. He would not stop until he had destroyed Edward.

"I will speak to him at once," she replied, feeling another chill run down her spine. "May I see you out?"

"That will not be necessary. My carriage is right outside, and you must not stress your leg. Be sure to give my love to Edward and Lucy." Mrs. Barstow patted Penelope's shoulder once more and walked out of the morning room.

Penelope crossed to the window to watch the woman climb into her carriage, her thoughts in turmoil. Edward and Miss Jane Rosebury? How had this happened when as far as she was concerned, they both moved in different social circles, and her brother had not said a word about meeting her at all, although he always told her everything. She crossed her arms across her bosom to ward off the morning chill, casting a glance back at the empty fireplace, wondering if there would be enough wood to build a fire.

A rustle of skirts at the door drew her attention, and a smile crossed her pale features when she saw Lucy standing there, a worried frown on the young girl's pretty face.

"What did Mrs. Barstow want, Penny?" Lucy asked softly, moving further into the room to sink on a worn chaise. "She has never paid you a visit before, so I assume it is something important."

Penelope turned back to resume her stare out the window, her thoughts returning to the problem at hand. "Mrs. Barstow was here to pay a visit. That's all."

Lucy bit her lip and twirled a strand of pale gold hair around one delicate finger, a habit she had picked up as a child.

"She's a busy body, that one. Always going about poking her nose where she is not wanted."

Penny turned from the window to pin a reprehending look at her younger sibling. "Lucille Inglewood! That is no way to talk. How many times must I teach you to be polite in company and alone?"

Lucy rolled her eyes—which are emerald green just like Penny's—and snorted in derision. "Bah! I know she was here to gossip about Eddie. I certainly heard enough to know what she was after."

Penny groaned and rubbed her forehead to ease the headache that was rapidly forming. Lucy had a disconcerting habit of eavesdropping on her private conversations, a habit that irked her to no end. Not for the first time, she wished Papa were here to handle the fiery eighteen—year—old, but as usual, Sir Inglewood was somewhere across the Atlantic, nose deep in excavations, leaving her to practically raise two precocious siblings of the ages six and twenty.