More Than Passion (Book 1 Dashing Nobles Series)
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by JoMarie DeGioia
Description: Geoffrey Kane, Earl of Kanewood refuses to feel anything more than passion. Four years ago, his fiancée betrayed him and he has no desire to experience that again so when he meets the beautiful Rebecca Kingsley, it's passion at first sight. And only passion. Rebecca has led a very quiet life working for her father at a small country inn. When she meets Geoffrey she falls in love with him right away. But she's only the daughter of a baronet and men like Geoffrey never marry country girls like her. Do they? When Rebecca's father tries to marry her off to a wealthy old man, Geoffrey intervenes and marries her himself. He wants her very much but he couldn't possibly love her. Love is for fools. At least that's what he tells himself. But a sinister enemy soon threatens to destroy all that Geoffrey holds dear, forcing him to face the truth. His marriage depends on it . . . And maybe even Rebecca's very life.
eBook Publisher: Lachesis Publishing/Lachesis Publishing, 2001
eBookwise Release Date: May 2012
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [354 KB]
Reading time: 223-313 min.
Geoffrey Michael Kane, the seventh Earl of Kanewood, was hot, dusty, and tired. At twenty-eight he was still adjusting to the duties thrust upon him with the death of his father two years earlier, making frequent trips to London to meet with his solicitors. Returning from one such meeting, his carriage hit a dip in the road and skidded to a halt.
"Where are we?" Geoffrey called to his driver.
"Rutlandshire, my lord. Not far from Oakham."
Geoffrey climbed out of the leaning carriage. "Grab the wheel then, Fields. You and I are visiting Oakham today."
After securing Geoffrey's travel bag behind one of the saddles, they rode into Oakham. It was late June and the weather was hot and muggy. The ride was rough and with every new bump and stumble, Geoffrey swore under his breath. For the last hour, he dismounted and led his horse into town. He wore no hat, which was the norm for him, and the sun beat down on his head. He squinted and looked at his surroundings.
The town was quite small--a village, really--but picturesque. His sharp eyes noticed a dry goods establishment, a market, a pub, and even a doctor's office. The shingle on the side of a two-story brick building proclaimed the medical man's residence and place of business. Just past the outskirts of the town, Geoffrey spotted the only business he was interested in today. The wheelwright's shop. The wheelwright shared his space with the blacksmith, and both businesses appeared to do well. Geoffrey snorted. No surprise, given the rutted cobblestone road that led through town.
He brushed off his clothes. There was nothing for it. His tan breeches were stained with wheel grease and his white shirt was crumpled and smudged. He retrieved his brown jacket from behind the saddle and saw it was in a sorry shape, as well. "I don't much resemble the Earl of Kanewood, do I, Fields?"
Fields reddened before realizing no answer was expected. Geoffrey led his horse in front of the wheelwright's shop as Fields dismounted and rolled the offending wheel to him.
Geoffrey spied a beefy man standing in the large doorway. "Are you the proprietor?"
"Aye. William Bennett, wheelwright. What can I do for ya?"
Standing there, with an obviously-broken wheel at his feet, Geoffrey bit back a sarcastic reply. "I need a wheel fixed. This wheel."
Bennett fingered the splintered spokes. "Aye. It's broken."
Geoffrey kept his exasperation in check. "Can you fix it?" he asked deliberately.
"Aye. Nothin' to it. Fix it right as rain."
"Good." Geoffrey breathed.
"Goin' ta take a few days, though."
"A few days? Why?"
Bennett held up his right hand, wrapped in a cloth bandage. "Got me hand a bit crushed fixin' the doc's trap. He told me not to use it till he says it's okay."
Geoffrey stared at the man incredulously. "There is no one else who could fix this?"
"Nay," the man answered. "Not around here."
Geoffrey's irritation began to grow to anger, but with one look at the guileless face of the wheelwright, it swiftly faded. "Well, do you have someone to get my carriage out of the road? It's about a twenty-minute's ride back."
"Aye, me boy and I'll go get it. You be wantin' it brought here?"
"Yes, thank you. Is there a place to keep my horses?"
"Blacksmith's got a couple stalls. Wouldn't put these fine animals there, though. You be stayin' here till this be fixed?"
Geoffrey thought for a moment. Perhaps a few days away from London, as well as Kanewood, would help him ponder the disquieting news he'd received from his solicitors.
"Is there an inn close by?" he asked.
"Aye. Raven's Inn, just outside of town. Stables to let in back, fine dinin' room." The wheelwright scratched his chubby chin. "Can't attest to the rooms, but I can tell ya the ale is mighty fine."
"Thank you." Geoffrey motioned to his driver. "Let's head over to this Raven's Inn, Fields. It seems we may be here awhile."
They mounted and set off for the inn.
* * * *
The Raven's Inn was surprisingly elegant. The brick structure was trimmed with dark green, its long windows sparkling in the late afternoon sun. Rebecca Kingsley was straightening the beautifully-appointed parlor of the inn. Her father, Thomas, insisted that all the rooms look fine. His father had been a baronet, but all that was left of the family fortune, as it were, was the inn. As a younger man, he'd traveled in the social circles of the ton and claimed to know what the gentry and lesser folk alike looked for in food and lodging. Many travelers stopped at the inn, and they expected service and accommodations as fine as any in London, or so Rebecca's father insisted.
At twenty years old, Rebecca had been working at the inn all of her life. Her mother died when Rebecca was just two, leaving no real memories. Thomas refused to speak of her and Rebecca had long since given up asking. The only thing he'd say was that she took after her mother in looks. This he always said in a gruff, affectionate manner that never failed to surprise her. She supposed she inherited her fair skin from her mother, that and her thick raven-black hair. She could never see anything of herself in Thomas.
He never really gave her much notice. She worked as hard as the servants at the inn, keeping her own room as well as half of the rest abovestairs. Mary, the chambermaid, took care of the other rooms as well as seeing to the guests' personal needs. Rebecca served the morning and evening meals in the dining room, as well, along with Emmy. Emmy was funny and kind and a shameless flirt. She never hesitated to share her experiences with Rebecca, who couldn't help but blush. She listened, though. Closely.
Rebecca was usually free to go about her own business after finishing her chores abovestairs. But this afternoon, she polished the candlesticks and dusted the furniture in the parlor. As usual, she wore her hair plaited in one long braid coiled at the back of her head. Her simple muslin gown was a few seasons old and well-suited to her task. She paused to gaze longingly out the window toward the stables out back. Beyond them, she could see the gently rolling hills over which she so loved to ride. If she didn't have to see to the parlor today, she'd surely be out riding her black filly.
From her vantage point, Rebecca could see two figures walking out of the stable's wide doors. One man was slight of stature and fell in step behind the other. The man in the lead was tall with broad shoulders and dressed in a brown coat and tan breeches. He walked with a long, easy stride. Sun glinted off hair she fancied the color of honey. He had a strong profile, and Rebecca couldn't tear her gaze away from him. What color were his eyes?
"Fool," she chided herself. She turned back to her work, flicking her dusting cloth in frustration.
* * * *
After leaving the stables, Geoffrey located the innkeeper in an office off the foyer. Thomas Kingsley was a big man, well-dressed but thick through the middle. Gray hair curled over his wide forehead, nearly obscuring his brown eyes.
He smiled at Geoffrey as he greeted him, motioning him to sit. "Thomas Kingsley, proprietor of the Raven's Inn."
"Geoffrey Kane," Geoffrey returned, omitting his title. He didn't much feel like a peer at the moment.
"What can I do for you, Kane?"
"Well, sir, I need a room for a few days, and stables for my two horses. I've left them with your groom down at the stables. I hope I'm not being presumptuous."
Thomas shook his head. "Not at all. I trust you found them satisfactory?"
"Yes, quite. As fine as any stables I've seen."
Thomas's chest swelled at the praise. "I hope you won't find me immodest, but my two-legged patrons are treated to at least the same quality of lodgings."
Geoffrey nodded. "I'll take a room then, and my driver should have accomodations, as well."
When that business was concluded, Geoffrey took his satchel up the narrow staircase and located his room. The upstairs hallway was narrow, with rooms located on either side. At the top of the stairs, Geoffrey turned left and strode down the hall. He found his room elegantly furnished, with a large bed taking up one side. The other was fashioned into a sitting area of sorts, with a plumply upholstered armchair and padded footrest. A mirrored washstand stood across from the bed and a privacy screen stood folded nearby. A small wardrobe completed the furnishings, standing open to receive his clothes.
He hung up his few jackets and shirts, and placed his spare boots on the bottom. "Meager wardrobe, Kane. Good thing your valet is at Kanewood."
His stomach growled, reminding him he'd missed the nooning meal. He glanced at the clock on the bedstand, surprised to see it was nearly six o'clock. Thomas had told him that dinner service began at six, so he washed his face and carelessly ran a comb through his hair. He glanced in the mirror and saw that a light stubble darkened his cheeks and his blue eyes looked tired. "You just shaved this morning, fop," he told his reflection. "I'm hungry."
He changed his shirt for a clean one and shrugged back into his jacket. It was still a bit crumpled but would have to suffice. Who knew how long he'd be stranded here? Somewhat satisfied with his appearance, he took himself downstairs to the dining room.
Geoffrey entered, finding it furnished in the same simple elegance as was his room. The polished floor shone. The round tables were covered with fine white cloth. The place was nearly filled and two or three patrons sat at each occupied table. According to Thomas Kingsley, only half of the diners would be staying in the rooms abovestairs. It seemed the cook was famous in the nearby town and many an unattached man took his evening meal at the inn. Geoffrey located an empty table and sat.
The meal was simple, but it smelled glorious. Apparently, tonight he could look forward to a hearty meal of roast beef with potatoes. He could almost taste the thick gravy covering each helping.
A buxom serving girl bearing a loaded platter sashayed over to his table, her red ringlets bouncing with each step. She stopped in front of him, favoring him with a smile that showed a dimple in her cheek. "I'm Emmy."
Geoffrey let his gaze fall to her bosom, which was very nearly in his face. "Emmy."
She set the platter down and placed a hand on her hip, regarding him closely. "Will ya be wantin' anythin' else?"
He brought his gaze back up to her face, blinking at the invitation in her brown eyes. He smiled at her and shook his head. She turned away and he watched her bottom as she bent over a nearby table. Perhaps he'd try out the fine bed upstairs with the wench. He soon saw that she favored all of the male customers with the same familiarity. Laughing to himself, he picked up his fork to start on the appetizing meal before him. He nearly dropped it when he spotted the dark-haired girl coming from the kitchen.
She moved with an easy grace through the dining room, her glossy black hair catching the light given off by the candles. Curls framed the perfect oval of her face and teased the back of her neck. Her simple gown hugged her lush figure, the skirt swaying over her hips as she walked. She carried a pitcher of ale, and Geoffrey couldn't take his eyes off her as she moved from table to table.
A man's voice broke through his reverie. "Fetchin', ain't she?"
"What...?" He hadn't even noticed the gray-haired man who joined him at his table. "Yes."
"Peter Jenkins is the name," the slight man offered. "How do you do?"
Geoffrey shook the man's hand. "Kane. Geoffrey Kane," he answered. "Very well, thank you."
The older man gave a flick of his head in the girl's direction. "She's Kingsley's daughter."
Geoffrey raised an eyebrow at that. This beautiful creature was related to the florid-faced innkeeper? Impossible.
Just then, the girl approached the two men. Her mouth curved into a smile for the older man before she turned her attention to Geoffrey. Her rose-colored lips parted as she stared into his eyes for a long moment. "Blue."
Geoffrey blinked. "What?"
She shook her head. "N-nothing."
Geoffrey could only stare at the girl, dumbstruck. Her eyes were the color of emeralds, and sparkled as prettily. His gaze fell on her lips as she flicked her tongue over them. Desire shot through him, want like he'd never felt before. Once again, Peter's voice broke in.
"Rebecca, this is Geoffrey Kane. Kane, meet Rebecca Kingsley."
The girl, Rebecca, curtsied in greeting after a brief hesitation. She seemed as off-kilter as he felt, to his amazement. After a moment, Geoffrey stood and bowed slightly. "Miss Kingsley."
"I'm pleased to meet you," Rebecca said.
Her voice suited her. It was soft and a bit husky. And damn sensual.
"Will you be staying with us long?"
If I can help it. "A few days, actually," he said, smiling.
She gasped softly, the sound no more than a whisper. "Well, do enjoy your stay," she said, shyly returning his smile.
She stared up at him for a moment longer. Finally, she filled his tankard. With a nod of her dark head, she continued on through the dining room. Geoffrey sank back down into his seat, his gaze glued to her form.
"Rebecca," he breathed. "Becca."
Peter chuckled at Geoffrey's obvious befuddlement. Geoffrey ignored him and turned his attention back to his meal. But because he stopped every so often to stare after the enchanting girl, Becca, his meal was cold by the time he finished.