Prince of ravenscar, p.1
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Prince of Ravenscar, p.1

         Part #11 of Sherbrooke Brides series by Catherine Coulter
slower 1  faster
Prince of Ravenscar


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2 - THE PRINCE RETURNS

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Chapter 69

  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71

  Chapter 72

  Chapter 73

  Chapter 74

  EPILOGUE

  REGENCY NOVELS BY CATHERINE COULTER

  REGENCY NOVELS BY CATHERINE COULTER

  The Sherbrooke Bride

  The Hellion Bride

  The Heiress Bride

  Mad Jack

  The Courtship

  The Scottish Bride

  Pendragon

  The Sherbrooke Twins

  Lyon’s Gate

  Wizard’s Daughter

  PUTNAM

  G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS

  Publishers Since 1838

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA •

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,

  Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,

  Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell

  Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group

  Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,

  New Delhi–110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin Books

  (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Copyright © 2011 by Catherine Coulter

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  Published simultaneously in Canada

  ISBN : 978-1-101-54807-3

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  To my beloved Kaitlyn.

  You will help many people throughout your life with your skill, your kindness, and your caring.

  And that is a good thing.

  Catherine

  1

  Near Saint Osyth

  On the Southern Coast of England

  MARCH 1831

  The night was as black as the Devil’s dreams, not even a ghost of a moon, not a single star to pierce through the thick rain clouds.

  It was a perfect night.

  Julian tethered his sixteen-hand bay gelding, Cannon, to a skinny branch of a lone bent oak tree and made his way carefully down the steep narrow winding path to the hidden cove, a trek he’d made countless times in the years before he’d left England. It was good to be back. He slapped his arms against the cold, the wind off the channel slamming against his thick coat, wheedling in to cozy up to his bones. Down, down he went. When he finally reached the shadowed overhang in the cliff, he lit the lamp and held it up, flashed it three times, a signal he himself had established many years before.

  Three answering flashes of light came five minutes later, some fifty yards offshore. Two boats were moving closer now with every passing second. Soon they’d be close enough for him to hear the oars dipping rhythmically through the water. Julian felt his blood pump faster, as it always did with the ever-present threat of excisemen suddenly appearing over the edge of the high cliff, waving guns and yelling. He could only hope the bribes his man Harlan had put into place held, though to his knowledge no one even knew about this small hidden cove.

  No matter how you dressed it up, smuggling—free trading always sounded high-flying and righteous—was still against the law. And smuggling would continue until those idiots in the government finally did away with the high import duties. Would they ever see reason? Julian hoped it would take the old curmudgeons a while, since he’d enjoyed the midnight hide-and-seek since he was sixteen, when Sergeant Lambert had introduced him to the adventures of smuggling. Teas, brandy, tobacco, China rice, gin—it didn’t matter, he did it all. Every time Julian walked down to this beach, he thought of Lambert, who’d died the way he’d lived, all flash and excitement, charging forward, his bayonet fixed, a yell coming from his mouth when a howitzer shot had exploded at his feet. Julian remembered falling to his knees, tears flooding down his face as the mayhem continued around him, searching, tearing at the bloody ground, but there’d been nothing left of Lambert. Julian knew someone had dragged him away from where Lambert had died, because he remembered Wellington buffeting his shoulder, telling him to carry a message to his left flank. It was demmed important, move! And Julian had run faster than he ever had before.

  He still wondered how he’d managed to survive Waterloo with only one sword gash, in his left shoulder. Blessedly, his memory of those long hours that became days blurred with the battle blood and screams and death, and with Wellington’s voice, yelling orders, always encouraging, even at the end of the day, when exhaustion sapped everyone’s will.

  His mothe
r had asked him once about Waterloo, but evidently the look on his face had stopped her in her tracks. She simply pulled him against her and said nothing more about it. But she’d been very proud when the Duke of Wellington himself had sent a commendation to the sixteen-year-old Julian.

  Until Julian had left England three years ago, every June seventeenth he’d visited Sergeant Lambert’s empty grave at his farmhouse near Saint Osyth. Julian was certain Lambert’s spirit knew he was using his favorite smuggling cave, and perhaps he occasionally slipped through from the other side to watch Julian bring in his boats. Is there smuggling in Heaven, Lambert? Why, he’d asked Lambert on the eve of Waterloo, couldn’t men ever be content? Because greed and envy and jealousy were sewn into the very fabric of a man’s body, Lambert had said, and spat.

  So quickly the future became the present, and the present became a collection of memories, some bringing a smile, others still with the power to smash you with despair. Would he die in the next war, blown apart, as Lambert had died at Waterloo? Witness what was happening in Europe, revolution everywhere, and death and destruction, and always there was hope that something good would come of the violence. He wondered if this was ever true.

  “All’s well, Captain!”

  He smiled and walked down to greet Cockeral, a madman, some whispered—but only out of his hearing.

  He stilled. He’d heard something, he knew it. Excisemen? He held up his hand for quiet, and Cockeral and his men fell flat beside the boats.

  Someone was there, watching, waiting, Julian knew it. But what? Who?

  Time passed. They unloaded the cargo, mostly brandy and tea this time, and stored it in the hidden cave. Julian listened but heard only the wind.

  When he fell exhausted into bed an hour before dawn, he knew in his gut his prized hidden caves were no longer a secret.

  2

  THE PRINCE RETURNS

  Ravenscar

  Near Saint Austell, Southern Cornwall

  APRIL 1831

  Corinne threw her arms around him, hugged him close, and breathed him in. He smelled of a wild wind and a storm-tossed sea. His face was darkly tanned from months spent striding the deck of his ship, and his eyes were alight with pleasure. He looked fit and healthy and splendidly male. Her son. She’d thought of him every single day he’d been gone, savored his letters, most arriving each and every week, and she’d worried, but he hadn’t wanted her to come to Genoa, where he’d lived. Too dangerous, he’d written.

  She stepped back, her hands still clutching his arms. “At last you’re home, dearest. Ah, three years, Julian, three whole years—but now you’re here safe and sound. Come and sit down, and I will serve you tea, just as you like it, a tiny squirt of lemon, nothing more. Oh, dear, you haven’t changed, have you?”

  “Not about how I like my tea, no, I haven’t.” Julian lightly laid his palm on his mother’s soft cheek. She looked not a day older than she had when he’d left her on that miserable stormy Tuesday, only two days after Lily’s funeral. Her eyes and hair were nearly as dark as his, but unlike him, her complexion was fair. “You’re still as beautiful as when I left you three years ago.”

  “That is very kind of you to remark upon, dearest.” She studied his beloved face for a moment, so very beautiful he was, and she could see some of herself in him, the way his eyes shined when he was pleased, how he threw back his head when he laughed. Did he look at all like his father? She didn’t know, she’d never seen a portrait of her husband as a young man. She supposed there was a portrait hanging at his ancestral home, Mount Burney. She’d sometimes wondered if the father had resembled the son when he’d been young, if he’d had Julian’s habit of tilting his head when he listened, if he’d usually thought before he spoke, if he’d been as beautiful as his son. Such a pity Julian’s father had been old, white-haired, but never stooped, no, the old duke had stood straight as a sapling until his death, and he’d had most of his own teeth when he’d breathed his last breath.

  “Three years, Julian,” she said again. “I hope you have—” Recovered from your grief hung in the air, unspoken. “That is, how are you feeling, dearest?”

  He grinned down at her. “I am fine, Mother. Three years is a long time, too long, truth be told. I am very glad to be home. No, I do not still mourn Lily, but I miss her. I suppose I always will.”

  Corinne looked up when the drawing-room door opened. “Pouffer! There you are, tea and some black cake for my returned prodigal.”

  “Yes, your grace,” Pouffer said, his old eyes on Julian, but he bowed grandly in both their general directions. He gave another wide grin to Julian, so happy he was to see him at last.

  “Ah, Prince, I was remarking to Mrs. Trebah that you look as grand a gentleman as even the sternest critic could demand. She agrees, though she only saw the veriest glimpse of you.”

  “Thank you, Pouffer.” Julian’s earliest memory of the Ravenscar butler was from his third year of life—he’d rolled a ball against Baron Purley’s feet, and Pouffer had bowed to the baron as grandly then as now, scooped Julian up, rubbed his head, stuck him under his arm, and carried him out, Julian yelling for his ball. Pouffer had little hair now, only a white tonsure circling his head. As for Mrs. Trebah, the Ravenscar housekeeper, she’d been here even longer than Pouffer, come when the old duke had been a mere seventy, five years before he’d married Julian’s mother.

  “Come and sit down, Julian.”

  Julian hugged his mother once more and gladly accepted her fussing over him. She gently slipped a thick blue satin pillow behind his back, positioned the hassock directly in front of his wing chair, and even lifted his booted feet. He was laughing. “Enough, ma’am, I am not used to being so spoilt.”

  “I am your mother, I will spoil you as much as I like. Now, while we wait for Pouffer to bring in sustenance, I will tell you we must leave for London very soon.”

  He looked at her blankly. “London? But I just came from London.”

  “You went to London? Already?”

  “Well, yes, I had business with Harlan.”

  “Ah, well, Mr. Whittaker and business, that is very different. No, dearest, I mean London, as in the Season. You did turn thirty-two last month—although you were not here to celebrate your birthday—and in my disappointment, I downed an entire bottle of champagne. I drank so many toasts to your beautiful self I was flat in my bed all the next day. It is past time you were wed again.”

  The words burst out of her in a torrent. Julian raised a black brow at her as he pulled his watch out of his waistcoat pocket. “I have been home exactly ten minutes, Mother. Perhaps we can wait to leave for London? Perhaps in a day or two?” Past time for him to wed again? What was this?

  He found himself looking around the vast drawing room, giving his mother time to marshal her arguments, always entertaining, always worth waiting for. “I like what you have done with this room, Mother, the blues and cream shades suit it nicely, and the Aubusson carpet is magnificent.”

  “I am glad you admire the carpet, since you paid a substantial number of groats for it.”

  “As for London, you’re right, Mother, I was there only a few days. As you said, I spent most of my time with Harlan, reviewing all Ravenscar expenditures, tenant profits, repairs to be done, crops to be adjusted. You’ve done an excellent job, Mother.”

  “Well, none of the stones are crumbling away, all our tenants are content—well, several of them would complain even if God himself were to take tea with them. Actually, since you wrote detailed instructions to me every single week, it required little thought on my part.” She paused for a moment, gave him a fat smile. “Did you not notice the score of palm trees—so very tropical they look, and so very distinctive—and the silver maple and oak trees I had planted along the drive? And now all the bare ground is covered with heath and daffodils. They have softened the landscape, which is what I wanted. I always thought Ravenscar looked so brutally stark.”

  Actually, Julian had always liked the bar
ren promontory that sloped down until the land fell away gently into the channel. “I must admit the new trees add interest. I suppose since there are no more enemies to invade our shores, Ravenscar has no more need to intimidate anyone, so the clumps of daffodils waving in the breeze add a nice romantic touch.” He paused, thought of Elena, and smiled.

  “Ah, Pouffer, here you are at last. Bring on the black cakes for my beautiful son. He is fair to dwindling away before my eyes.”

  When Pouffer grandly lifted the silver dome to uncover Mrs. Coltrak’s black cakes, Julian’s stomach growled.

  He was drinking his second cup of tea when his mother said, “Lily died three years ago, and you left England, not, of course, to avoid scandal, since there wasn’t any, but to leave the Langworths and their terrible grief, and their blame. It is behind you now, Julian.”

  The gentleness dropped from her voice. She became brisk. “You are not getting any younger, dearest. I will remind you yet again that you are turned thirty-two years old. You really must have an heir.”

  This was an interesting approach. “An heir? Why? Mother, I’m a duke’s son, true, but I am only a second son, not a duke’s heir. Why is it so important that I produce a male child?”

  His very smart mother realized her logic wasn’t sound and retrenched in an instant. “Well, what I really meant is that I have the fondest wish to be a grandmother.”

  Now, that was a lie that didn’t bear scrutiny. He lifted a dark eyebrow. “Shall you be called Grandmama, or perhaps Nana Corinne?”

  She shuddered.

  “Mama, I have no desire to return to London. Indeed, I have an overdue ship from Constantinople, the Blue Star. I must travel to Portsmouth.”

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll