The Proud Viscount

Free The Proud Viscount by Laura Matthews

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Authors: Laura Matthews
Tags: Regency Romance
country gentleman? There would be no one here to recollect her London reputation, no one to deny her account of her being the genteel widow of a war hero. Except himself. And his calling on her today might have set that fear to rest. That, or the knowledge that he wouldn’t be around for long.
    Ascot danced restlessly as Rossmere mounted. The viscount allowed him his head again on their way back to Willow End. Even in the exhilaration of the ride, though, something nagged at his mind. Something about Madeline. Well, there was no sense in trying to grasp a wispy thought like that. It would come to him in time.
    At the stables he dismounted and handed Ascot over to the wary groom. On the way to the house he passed no one and slipped through a rear door that took him to the entry hall by the least public corridor. Though he was anxious for some word from Longborough Park, he was in no mood to encounter any of the family just at present.
    He found the post on the silver tray Winters always left on the mantel. There was, finally, a letter from Jim Wardy, the local man who had agreed to manage the estate in Rossmere’s absence. Rossmere broke the seal and read the brief letter where he stood. Wardy was a man of few words: he needed Rossmere to send fifty pounds for unanticipated expenditures; otherwise all was fine on the estate and with the tenant farmers. It would have pleased Rossmere to hear of the progress of the crops, or the local gossip, but he had to content himself with what he’d received. And find a way to broach the subject of another loan pretty quickly to his godmother.
    “Ah, there you are,” Mabel said as she appeared suddenly across the hall from him. “Could I have a word with you?”
    “I’ve just been riding Ascot and I fear I reek of the stables. I was on my way to change.”
    Mabel’s nose twitched slightly. “Yes, indeed. Perhaps you’d have a moment before dinner. It’s a matter of some importance.”
    Rossmere slipped the letter into his pocket with an inaudible sigh. “Of course. I could meet you in the north drawing room in half an hour.”
    “Excellent.” Mabel dabbed unconsciously at her nose with a tiny lace handkerchief. “Such a nice day for a ride,” she murmured as she turned away.
    When he joined her later, she was frowning at a copy of the Ladies’ Magazine. “I’m not at all certain it’s a good thing that we’re able to travel on the Continent again,” she remarked. “So many astonishing things happen there.”
    “I daresay they think the same about us.” He took a chair opposite her and arranged one long pantalooned leg over the other.
    Mabel set the magazine aside and clasped her hands firmly in her lap. “I’ve noticed that you’re spending some time with my niece, and I appreciate it. She’s a delightful girl, isn’t she?”
    Rossmere would not have called her a girl, and he thought it was unwise of Mabel to do so, since it drew attention to just what an ungirlish age her niece had attained. “She’s quite charming,” he agreed.
    “I knew the two of you would get along. From the very first, when the idea came to me, I felt you were absolutely destined for each other."
    “My dear Lady Mabel, I’m afraid you’re way ahead of us. Your niece and I have had several enjoyable exchanges, but we’re hardly beyond the stage of new acquaintances. And I very much fear that there is a temperamental difference between us that could not be bridged.”
    “A temperamental difference?” Mabel was clearly disappointed. “What could that possibly be?”
    Rossmere had no idea why he’d used that particular term. It had simply appeared on his tongue when the need for some excuse arose. There was no telling what harm could be done if Mabel were allowed to believe that things were progressing smoothly between him and Lady Jane. Faced with the necessity of explaining his words, he fell back on obscurity.
    “Sometimes one is aware in getting to know another that there is

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