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An Escapade and an Engagement

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«An Escapade and an Engagement» - Энни Берроуз

A SEASON OF SCANDAL Richard, Lord Ledbury, has had his fair share of adventure on warring battlefields, but even this seasoned soldier isn’t prepared for the outrageous escapades going on in London’s ballrooms! Lady Jayne Chilcott is under orders to find a husband, and Lord Ledbury has caught her eye.But nothing is simple when courting under the glittering spotlight of the ton. Richard has always risen to any challenge, but Lady Jayne might just be the first to get the better of him… Let the games begin!
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About the Author

‘Lady Jayne, I have given my word I will not say anything about tonight. And I would never go back on my word. But you must see that I cannot just let the matter rest. You have said yourself you are not behaving as you ought.’

She looked mutinous as she said, ‘And just what do you mean to do about it?’

He only wished he knew. For now, the best thing would be to make a strategic withdrawal so that he could regroup.

‘I shall call upon you this afternoon, to take you for a drive in Hyde Park. That is when I shall tell you what action I plan to take.’ Once he’d decided what it would be.

‘I shall be ready,’ she said, lifting her chin in a fashion that told him she was preparing to fight him every inch of the way. ‘This is it,’ she said, waving her hand at the frontage of an imposing mansion.

Having shown him where she lived, she ducked down a passage that led to the mews at the back. Then she turned round and stood quite still, staring up at him for a minute, with her head on one side as though trying to work him out.

‘You have surprised me,’ she said at last. ‘I would never have imagined you could be so … decent.’


The Earl of Caxton has two granddaughters.

You may have read about Miss Aimée Peters in CAPTAIN CORCORAN’S HOYDEN BRIDE. Having grown up in exile, Aimée was desperate to find security and put down roots. To that end, she travelled to Yorkshire to become a governess—only to find that her employer was not what she’d expected …

In AN ESCAPADE AND AN ENGAGEMENT you will meet her cousin, Lady Jayne Chilcott. People think she is her grandfather’s pampered darling. But she feels suffocated by the propriety of her lifestyle and longs for the kind of adventure she is sure Aimée must have had. The product of a bitterly unhappy arranged marriage, Lady Jayne vows she will only marry for love. But where is she ever going to find a man who will inspire anything more than mild contempt when her grandfather guards her so zealously she never meets anyone new, let alone exciting?

That is until she clashes with the grim-faced Lord Ledbury, an ex-soldier who has come to London to find a suitable woman to become his bride. Lady Jayne has the right pedigree. But does he really want to get tangled up with a girl who is never happier than when up to her neck in mischief?

About the Author

ANNIE BURROWS has been making up stories for her own amusement since she first went to school. As soon as she got the hang of using a pencil she began to write them down. Her love of books meant she had to do a degree in English literature. And her love of writing meant she could never take on a job where she didn’t have time to jot down notes when inspiration for a new plot struck her. She still wants the heroines of her stories to wear beautiful floaty dresses and triumph over all that life can throw at them. But when she got married she discovered that finding a hero is an essential ingredient to arriving at ‘happy ever after’.

Previous novels by Annie Burrows:







Also available in eBook format in Mills & Boon® Historical Undone:


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An Escapade and

an Engagement

Annie Burrows

To Carol Townend,

author of the ‘Wessex Weddings’—

whose hospitality is legendary, and whose

insightful and experienced advice has been of

enormous help to me in the completion of this book.

Chapter One

Lord Ledbury glared up at the ruched silk canopy of the bed he’d inherited from his brother, wide awake now, when not an hour since he’d felt so drained he was sure he could have slept for a week.

He hated this bed. He hated its soft feather mattress and the mounds of bedding that felt as though they were suffocating him. He hated the valet whom … no, that was going too far. He could not hate Jenkins for doing a job to the best of his limited ability. It was just that he was not Fred.

He could have talked to Fred as he’d undressed and prepared to go to bed. Probably managed to laugh off the more ludicrous aspects of the evening’s sortie behind what felt like enemy lines—as they’d done time without number during the preceding six years of active service. No matter what deprivations they’d had to endure because of the damn fool orders some pompous ass higher up the chain of command had issued.

But he’d been obliged to leave Fred behind when he’d taken up residence in Lavenham House.

And though he’d never experienced such luxury, never had so many servants in his life since coming to live here, he’d never felt so alone or so ill at ease. A spy must feel like this, he reflected bitterly, kicking off his covers and turning onto his side to glare at the fire glowing smugly in its ornate marble fireplace. Without benefit of his uniform to vouch for his identity. Cut off from his regiment, his comrades. Entrusted with orders that he alone could carry out.

Dammit, he was more likely to get some sleep outside on a park bench wrapped up in his old army greatcoat than he was in here, suffocated by all the trappings deemed necessary to coddle a lord. When he thought of all the times he’d slept out of doors, with conditions so harsh he would wake in the morning with his blanket frozen to the ground …

He sat bolt upright. At the end of this street there was a small park, with benches dotted about in it. And in spite of Jenkins’ ill-concealed disgust, his army greatcoat still hung in the armoire….

He just had to get out of Mortimer’s house for a while, and away from Mortimer’s servants, even if there was no escaping the obligations Mortimer’s sudden and unexpected death had foisted upon him.

Muttering imprecations under his breath, he got out of bed and pulled on a random selection of clothing by guesswork in the flickering shadows cast by the fire, making sure only of his army greatcoat. He sighed as he shrugged himself into it, feeling as though he was being taken into the arms of a friend. As though there was a part of him that was still Major Cathcart, even though everyone was suddenly calling him Lord Ledbury now.

He rubbed his hand briskly over the crown of his head to tidy his bed-rumpled light brown hair in the way that had become second nature to him on campaign as he left the bedroom, wishing it was as easy to smooth down his ragged temper.

His mouth flattened into a grim line as he limped down the stairs. He had not quite recovered from the interview with the Earl of Lavenham, that was half the trouble. He’d been braced to hear something unpleasant. Nothing less than a dire emergency would have induced his grandfather to summon him to Courtlands. And what he’d learned about his younger brother during that interview had certainly been a shock. But what still left him with a nasty taste in his mouth had been the confirmation that if only Charlie had been the sort who could have concealed his preference for men he might have returned to his regiment, been killed or maimed, and nobody would have given a damn.

The night porter leaped to his feet as he saw his master approach. He opened his mouth, as though about to say something, but one look was all it took to have the man hand him his cane, open the door for him and scuttle back to his chair without uttering whatever objection he had been about to raise.

Lord Ledbury heaved a sigh of relief as he stepped outside. He’d done all his grandfather had asked of him. Made all the sacrifices demanded. He’d resigned his commission, moved out of his lodgings and into Lavenham House. Bought the clothes, and begun to play the part, but …

He breathed in deeply as he made for the square. The night air was redolent of … soot, actually. And damp. With a hint of something indefinably green about it that could not be mistaken for anything other than the smell of springtime in England. It took him less time than he would have thought before he was pushing open the gate, considering the state of his leg. For which small mercy he was truly thankful. He might be able to find a measure of peace if he could only stretch out on one of the benches and look up at the night sky through a tracery of leaves.

Thanks to Mortimer’s ignominious demise, he’d become a lord. And, as the last hope of the Cathcarts, he was going to have to find a bride. A bride worthy of becoming the next Countess of Lavenham. To that end, tonight he’d attended his first ball since he’d become Lord Ledbury.

He gave an involuntary shudder as his mind flashed back to the glittering ballroom, the eager faces of the matchmaking mamas who’d clustered round him, the horrible feeling of being under siege …

And, goddammit—but wouldn’t you know it with the way his evening had been going—when he finally reached the bench on which he’d set his heart he found it already occupied.

By a strapping redcoat and a somewhat-reluctant female, to judge by the way she was beating at his broad shoulders with her clenched fists while he carried on kissing her.

He acted without thinking.

‘Take your hands off her!’ His voice, honed through years of bellowing orders across parade grounds, made them both jump.

The soldier turned to scowl at Lord Ledbury over his shoulder.

‘This is none of your business,’ he snarled.

‘I am making it my business,’ he retorted. ‘This sort of behaviour is completely unacc—’

He broke off, stunned to silence when he caught sight of the female who was still struggling to disentangle herself from the redcoat’s determined grasp. It was Lady Jayne Chilcott. He’d seen her earlier, at the ball he’d attended, and immediately asked his host who she was. For she was, without a doubt, the prettiest creature he’d ever clapped eyes on.

Berry, the former schoolfriend whose sister’s come-out ball it was, had pulled a face.

‘That,’ he’d said scathingly, ‘is Lady Jayne Chilcott—otherwise known as Chilblain Jayne.

Lucy is in raptures to have her attend tonight, since she normally only goes to the most select gatherings. Her grandfather is the Earl of Caxton. Pretty high in the instep himself—and you will only have to observe her behaviour for half an hour to see why she’s earned the soubriquet.’

He’d promptly changed his mind about asking for an introduction, taken a seat and Berry’s advice. He’d watched her. It had not taken quite half an hour to agree that she did look as though she was regretting coming to a place that was frequented by people so far beneath her in station.

At least that was what he had assumed then. But now, as he studied the insignia that proclaimed the lowly rank of the soldier who’d been kissing her so passionately, he revised his opinion. He had thought, from her refusal to dance with any of the men who’d been falling over themselves to break through her icy reserve, that she was as cold and proud as Berry had warned him she was.

But she did not look proud now. She looked like a rather young girl torn between fright and embarrassment at the compromising nature of the situation he’d just interrupted.

It was in stark contrast to the anger blazing from her would-be seducer’s eyes.

‘I repeat,’ said Lord Ledbury firmly, ‘take your hands off Lady Jayne this instant.’

It was more than just his innate sense of chivalry that made him so determined to rescue Lady Jayne. In spite of what Berry had said, and the derisive way he’d said it, he hadn’t been able to prevent that initial interest steadily growing into a sense of something resembling comradeship as the awful evening had dragged on.

As she had doggedly rebuffed all overtures with chilling finality, he’d found some comfort in knowing he wasn’t the only person there battling under siege conditions. After a while he’d even begun to derive a perverse sort of amusement from the way her courtiers grovelled at her feet on one side of the dance floor, while he sat in state on the other, repelling all invaders with equal determination. Though at least the men who flocked around her had some excuse. He knew the matchmaking mamas who clamoured round him were interested only in his newly acquired wealth and title.

‘The state of your face won’t matter,’ his grandfather had predicted, running his eyes over the furrow on his forehad that a stray bullet had ploughed across when he’d been only a lieutenant. ‘Not now that you are such a catch. Wealthy in your own right and heir to an earldom. All you will have to do is turn up and sit on the sidelines and they will come to you. You mark my words.’

The mere thought of having to fend off flocks of avaricious harpies had made entering that ballroom one of the hardest things he’d ever done. Particularly with his grandfather’s words still ringing in his ears. Knowing that none of them would have given him a second glance before Mortimer had died and catapulted him into the peerage tied him up into knots inside. Yes, he’d gone there to start looking for a wife. But did they have to make it so obvious they all wanted his rank, his position?

And not him?

But Lady Jayne would have attracted as many suitors were she a penniless nobody as she was so stunningly beautiful. He could not remember ever having seen a more perfect face. She had a flawless complexion, a little rosebud of a mouth and a profusion of golden ringlets that tumbled round her gently rounded shoulders. He had not been able to discern what colour her eyes were, but in a perfect world they would be cornflower-blue.

She’d shot him one cool, assessing look when he’d first come in and sat down. Later, when they’d both been surrounded by a crowd of toadeaters, their eyes had actually met, and for one instant he’d felt sure she was telling him she hated the attention, the flattery, the insincerity of it all, just as much as he did.

Not long after that, she’d risen to her feet and stalked from the room.

Once she’d gone, and he’d been the only prize catch left in the ballroom, he’d felt as though he had a target painted in the middle of his chest. Whilst she, too, had been repulsing unwelcome advances, he’d felt—no matter how erroneously—as if he had at least one ally in the place.

Once she’d gone, all the reasons why he didn’t want to be there had become so overwhelming he had no longer been able to bear it. The heat of that stuffy room had made his head feel muzzy. The tension that hadn’t left him since he’d taken the decision to do his duty by his family had become too great for a body so weakened by prolonged illness. He’d ached all over. He’d scarce known how to keep a civil tongue in his head. He’d had to leave, to get out of there and head home.

Only it hadn’t been his home he had gone back to. It was still Mortimer’s house. Another jarring reminder that he wasn’t living his own life any more.

It would do him good, he suddenly realized, to knock somebody down. He had been spoiling for a fight ever since he’d walked away from his grandfather, bristling with the determination to prove once and for all that he was a better man than Mortimer and Charlie put together.

‘Get up,’ he snarled, advancing on the redcoat, who still had his arms round Lady Jayne. Mortimer and Charlie were both beyond his reach, one being dead and the other in Paris. And a man could not come to blows with his own grandfather, no matter what the provocation.

But this redcoat was just about his own height. And though he was younger, and probably fitter, the lad had not been tempered into fighting steel in the heat of battle.

The man got to his feet. Slowly.

‘You are a disgrace to your uniform,’ he said, angered still further by his slovenly posture when anyone under his command would have known to snap to full attention when he’d used that particular tone of voice. ‘I would derive great personal satisfaction in seeing you brought up on a charge for this night’s work. No officer should force his attentions upon an unwilling female. If you were under my command you would be lucky to escape with a flogging.’

But before he had a chance to add that he would give the man a chance to settle the matter between them with their fists, Lady Jayne leaped to her feet and interposed her own body between him and the soldier, crying out, ‘Oh, no! You could not be so cruel!’

‘Cruel?’ He was stunned by her reaction. ‘You think it is cruel to rescue you from a situation that is plainly causing you distress?’

He steadfastly ignored the little voice that reminded him that he had been spoiling for a fight for ages. That this redcoat was just in the way when he happened to be in need of someone upon whom to vent his frustration. That if he had come across a young officer in the throes of a passionate clinch with a female as pretty as this one in Portugal he would have winked at the man, wished him luck and been on his way.

Ah, but this was no sloe-eyed señorita, nor the willing wife of a local grandee, he argued back. This was a young English lady, and she had not appeared willing. On the contrary, she’d been struggling with the lout. She’d looked frightened.

‘I admit, I was a little taken aback by Harry’s ardour,’ said Lady Jayne. ‘For he has never really kissed me like that before. But mostly I was afraid somebody might come by and discover us.’

‘Do you really expect me to believe you were only trying to fight him off because you feared discovery?’

Though now he came to think of it she must have come here of her own free will, even if she had taken fright at the last minute.

‘Yes!’ she cried, lifting her chin to glare at him defiantly. ‘Not that I expect a man like you to understand,’ she said with contempt. ‘But since my grandfather has forbidden Harry to approach me we can only meet in secret.’

He had not thought he could get any angrier. But her words were so inflammatory. What did she mean, a man like you? Why could she not just express her gratitude that he was here to rescue her? And, most of all, why wouldn’t she get out of the way so he could just lay into this sneaking, slovenly excuse for a soldier?

‘Did it never occur to you that your grandfather might have your best interests at heart? That it would be better to stay away from him?’

Lady Jayne was a great heiress. Her grandfather, so Berry had informed him, had no direct male heir, and it was common knowledge that he intended to bequeath to her the bulk of his fortune. Some penniless nobody was obviously not a suitable partner for a girl who would inherit so much. All this Harry had to recommend him, by the looks of it, was a handsome face, a pair of broad shoulders—and a ruthless streak.

‘So you mean to betray us?’ she said frostily.

Harry moved to stand beside her. He took her hand in his and raised it to his chest, where he pressed it to his heart.

‘This is not the end. I shall not let it be. I swore that I would not let anything part us and I meant it. I still mean it.’

‘Oh, Harry,’ she said, turning to him with a woebegone face. ‘I shall never forgive myself if he has you flogged.’ She shot a glance of loathing in Lord Ledbury’s direction. ‘I knew I should never have agreed to this meeting.’

And as they stood there, gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes, Lord Ledbury felt his irrational spurt of anger drain away.

If she was in love with this man, no matter what his own opinion of him was, no wonder she had behaved the way she had done in that ballroom earlier. Lord, he knew just how she must have felt. Had not his own grandfather ripped him from all that he knew, all that he loved, and set his feet on another path—one that he would never willingly have trod?

‘Oh, for heaven’s sake!’ he snapped, annoyed that he was now obliged to continue in the role of upholder of propriety or he was going to look a complete fool. Even though half of him wished he could walk away and leave them to it. ‘Stop acting like some heroine out of a bad melodrama and call your maid over. It is time you went home.’

She made no such move—only hung her head, looking shamefaced.

‘Oh, Lord. Never say you came out without her?’

She could not even raise her eyes to meet his when she nodded.

This was getting worse and worse. He could not in all conscience leave her alone with a man who had no scruples about enticing a trusting young woman to meet him in secret, at dawn, without even the benefit of a maid to keep things within spitting distance of propriety.

‘I suppose I shall be obliged to escort you home, then,’ he snapped. ‘And we’ll have to hope nobody catches the pair of us—else we shall be the ones embroiled in scandal.’ Which would completely ruin his plans.

He’d decided that since marrying was his inescapable destiny he would jolly well find a wife who would be such a superlative countess that generations to come would speak of her in awe. He wasn’t necessarily going to find her in Almack’s. He’d made a point of launching his campaign in the house of a man of little wealth, but sterling character, to demonstrate that attaching a woman of high rank was not his primary objective. He wanted the woman he married to have a certain … something that everyone would recognise.

Even him, when he came across it.

There was no way he was going to live down to his family’s low expectations by tumbling into a match with a girl he scarcely knew in a way that reeked of suppressed scandal.

‘Well, what are you waiting for, man?’ He turned the full force of his frustration on the hapless young soldier. ‘Get back to your barracks before I think better of covering for the pair of you. And pray that your absence has not been discovered.’

They both turned to him, faces alight with hope.

‘You mean you have changed your mind?’

‘I can still change it back if you don’t remove yourself from the vicinity, double-quick,’ he growled at the soldier. ‘But first your name and rank.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ he said. ‘Lieutenant Kendell, sir.’ Then, pausing only to press one last kiss upon Lady Jayne’s hand, Harry made a run for it.


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