Upon a midnight dream, p.1
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       Upon A Midnight Dream, p.1

         Part #1 of London Fairy Tales series by Rachel Van Dyken
 
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Upon A Midnight Dream


  Upon a Midnight Dream

  London Fairy Tales, Book 1

  by Rachel Van Dyken

  Blue Tulip Publishing

  Copyright © 2014 RACHEL VAN DYKEN

  This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.

  UPON A MIDNIGHT DREAM

  Copyright © 2014 RACHEL VAN DYKEN

  ISBN: 978-0-9905793-6-6

  Cover Art by P.S. Cover Design

  To my prince, my love, and my daily inspiration… my husband.

  PROLOGUE

  That, if then I had waked after a long sleep, will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming, the clouds me thought would open and show riches ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked I cried to dream again.

  ~ William Shakespeare ~

  London, England

  He made the grave mistake of looking into her chocolate brown eyes and cursed himself all over again for having such fanciful feelings. She wasn't his to fawn over, but someone else's entirely. Despite the obvious, he was in love or at least it had felt that way ever since he first set eyes on the girl the year before. But what good was his love when her heart fully belonged to someone else?

  She was betrothed to his brother, and Stefan hated himself for it, because it meant that for the rest of his eternity he had to watch them laugh and smile together. And all the while, a part of him would die each time her eyes gazed at his little brother instead of him.

  There were three of them. Three brothers in all, and their father, The King, as they always referred to him, spoiled them greatly.

  His youngest brother had set eyes on Elaina at a dinner party and fallen madly in love. Just as the rest of the family had. With long golden hair and deep brown eyes, she was every man's dream. And the youngest son — the one without the title, the one who was to be a vicar — had won the ultimate prize. The one thing that money and a title could not buy — love.

  Stefan looked away. How much pain could a heart take before it was ripped in two? Could unrequited love kill a person's soul with one breath?

  His body tensed when she breathed; his breath hitched when she spoke, and his passion ignited when she laughed.

  Curse her, and curse his brother Fitz.

  It was in moments like this he wished he were more like the second son, James Gregory, without a care in the world. But no, Stefan was too blasted serious for that. He was the heir — the Marquess, living in his own version of Purgatory.

  "I will be touring India," Stefan suddenly announced knowing it was poor timing but needing it to be said, nonetheless. His father had made arrangements after seeing Stefan mope around for the last year. It was easily decided upon that a tour of India was just the thing — though at times, Stefan wondered if his father hoped to be rid of him if only to push away the heartache at seeing his eldest son so depressed.

  The room went dead silent; his father turned a knowing eye to him. Always perceptive, his brother Fitz gave a brief nod. "Is that what you think is best considering your position, Stefan?"

  "I do." Short, clipped tones fell out of his mouth.

  Elaina tilted her head and smiled. "What are you about Stefan? You aren't the type to go around seeking adventure. Wouldn't you be much happier here? Where it is safe? And you can live a quiet happy life?"

  If he hadn't already made up his mind, her insulting assessment of his character would have done it for him. "I've made arrangements."

  His brother Fitz squinted through his looking glass. "Stefan, this isn't like you. By Jove," he laughed, "you're afraid of your own shadow!"

  The room erupted into laughter. All save, his brother James, who with a gleam in his eye said, "I hope you find what you're looking for, brother. And do try to make it back in one piece. You wouldn't want the title passed down to someone such as I."

  Stefan Hudson, Marquess of Whitmore and future Duke of Montmouth left that following week and never looked back.

  Rosalind Hartwell felt like she was up for auction to the highest bidder. One minute she was engaged to the most ridiculous dandy she had ever laid eyes on and the next thing she knew, a man with darkened skin and sandy blonde hair announced he was the rightful Marquess of Whitmore. Her head was spinning as she grabbed for champagne and winced when she saw the display of male beauty standing before her.

  Whoever this stranger was, he made every other male specimen in the room appear gaunt and sick. His skin was dark, his teeth fairly glowing against the set of his square jaw. How had her life come to this?

  She looked from side to side; surely someone would step forward and help her? The ton, it seemed, had lost their tongues at a very inappropriate time for Rosalind. The only help came from the infamous Lord Rawlings who only moments before had nearly punched the younger brother — James, her former fiancé — square in the face.

  Abby, her dearest friend and now Lady Rawlings, looked in her direction. Rosalind shook her head. No, she would stay put. Let the man get his bearings before he realizes he's betrothed. Saints alive! He just came back from the dead. The last thing any shipwrecked man would appreciate had to be the thought of being chained to a woman not of his choosing. Heavens! He probably hadn't a clue as to his bleak future!

  Rosalind adjusted her gloves and waited. The man laughed; the music started. And she continued to wait. That is until the Dowager Duchess of Barlowe looked in her direction, even though Rosalind could have sworn the plant had hidden her.

  The bronze man walked towards her. She gulped, and for the life of her, was not able to put anything close to a smile on her face, so stunned was she.

  "Lady Rosalind?" He reached for her hand and planted a kiss on her knuckles. Shivers ran down her spine. Fear. That was it. She was afraid. Surely she wasn't attracted to this barbarian!

  His next words — though there was no way for her to know it — sealed her fate, her eternity, with that man. "I release you."

  Stunned, she closed her eyes to gather herself. "Pardon? Am I some sort of wild creature that begs to be released?"

  Something flashed in his eyes before he regained his composure and answered, "Surely, you don't wish to be betrothed to a man you hardly know?"

  Rosalind scoffed. "And surely you haven't been away so long as to forget the way that betrothals work. I would shame my family if I broke off our engagement. But your words tell me you are doing this for me, is that right?"

  "Yes," he said.

  Rosalind clenched her fist, for her arms suddenly felt heavy, as did her eyes and her legs. Oh no. It was happening again. It could not be happening in the middle of the ballroom! Her tongue became heavy inside her mouth, and swaying on her feet, she managed only to ground out, "As you wi—" before she fell into his arms.

  Stefan was at a total loss. A complete and utter state of awe. For never had a women ever fallen asleep while he was talking.

  Ever.

  And that included the ninety-seven year old Indian woman who smoked that devil's herb all hours of the night.

  She managed to stay awake.

  His fiancée, however, could not.

  "Lady Rosalind?" he asked quietly, though he wasn't sure why. Not only had he caused the greatest scandal known to the ton by showing up alive and breathing at the Season's end, but then his fiancée had promptly fainted in his arms.

  "Good hea
vens! Is she dead?" The Dowager Barlowe fanned herself vigorously as she motioned for help. Several people began whispering behind their fans as they watched the scandal worsen. Lady Rosalind moaned in his arms. The girl looked slightly foxed, though he knew she was nothing of the sort. Merely sleeping.

  Just what he needed. More attention. By all means, gather 'round! Seems I've single-handedly killed the woman I'm supposed to marry. Please, feast your eyes.

  "Have you a place I can bring her?" Without waiting for the affirmative he scooped the tall girl into his arms and strode through the crush to the nearest room he could find. Not wanting to ruin her reputation, but unable to think of any other option, he pushed into the first room the dowager pointed to and promptly dropped the girl onto the leather settee.

  "Well, we cannot just leave her in here alone. It isn't to be done!" The dowager continued her incessant fanning, just as the object of their discussion let out a very unladylike snore.

  "Is she…" He looked down at the beautiful face. Impossible. He didn't trust his own ears. And then her bow shaped mouth opened, just slightly, and let out a puff of air. "Snoring?" he finished, completely astonished.

  Stefan felt around him for a chair, because he dare not take his eyes off the sleeping beauty before him. He finally managed to grab at something and sat.

  Directly onto his grandmother.

  "Do you mind?" the dowager hissed.

  "Apologies," he said, leaping away from his grandmother's' lap. He raked his hands through his long unfashionable hair.

  Make that three impossibilities in one night — the last and final blow to his pride being that he was so focused on Lady Rosalind, and consequently unable to think straight, that he landed in his grandmother's lap. Something that hadn't happened to him since he was a lad of eight.

  "Well, I'm off then, have a brilliant time, Stefan. It is so good to see you back. I'll be expecting you in the morning, and sorry about all that hoopla out there. After all, I had to play my part. Couldn't let on that I knew you were back before everyone else. Think of what your father would say!"

  "You did admirably."

  The dowager smiled. "Yes, well, I once tried for the theatre, many years ago, but did you know they don't take to women with opinions?"

  "I'm sure they don't."

  "It is of no consequence. I shall leave you with—" She pointed, but words ceased. Instead, she shook her head and tsked out loud before closing the door behind her.

  Stefan's eyes were glued to the door his grandmother had exited, waiting for the inevitable.

  The door jerked open once more. "Oh my heavens! I nearly forgot myself. You cannot be alone with her!"

  Wonder of all wonders, he's gone for six years and his grandmother, bless her soul, is ever so much the same as before. Why, even birds flying about drove her to distraction.

  And he loved her to a fault. "Well, Grandmother, I can promise you that I'll be the perfect gentleman. Now, why don't you scurry off and have some sherry, hmm?"

  "Yes, yes, only if you think it best, Stefan. After all, you are betrothed." What she didn't know wouldn't kill her. With a satisfied huff, she patted his head — quite a feat considering the little woman had to nearly jump up to reach it — and closed the door for a second time.

  Alone, completely alone with a woman.

  Not that she was a relative stranger, but then again he had managed to shock her into sleep. How exactly he had managed to accomplish such a feat was beyond his comprehension.

  Without much to do other than watch her, he took a seat on the sofa across from her and waited.

  Time passed so slowly when there was nothing to do but wait. Looking away from her peaceful face, he did the only thing he could think of doing.

  First he hummed.

  Then he tired of his own voice, so he began counting.

  But he was never one for mathematics.

  So he braved another glance at the beauty before him.

  And cursed.

  How was it possible that he was betrothed? And to such a woman as this? Rosalind Hartwell! Was his father daft?

  Stefan was unable to comprehend the turn of events since his so-called death. It pained him to think that his family hadn't even tried to search for him! They simply took a sailor's word for it that the ship their son was on had wrecked, taking the cargo and all its passengers, save one measly sailor and himself, to the bottom of the cold blue sea.

  And to return months later only to see that his brother had gone quite mad, and his father had lost complete control of the family. The only semblance of control it seemed he had was to pawn off the Marquess to the Hartwell family in hopes of an alliance.

  The Hartwells and Hudsons went back over a hundred years. It was said that an heir must always marry into the Hartwell family, or some dreadful sort of curse would befall them.

  Stefan hadn't been a good listener when his father spouted off about the odd family traditions.

  After all, he had been too busy falling in love with his brother's wife.

  He cursed again and shook his head. Maybe he should have stayed on the little island he shipwrecked on. Surely that would have been a more welcome environment. He had food, if one could call fish every day food. He had clothing, at least a ripped shirt and useless cravat. Oh, and he had companionship — that of a tiny squirrel who often fought with him over nuts and wild berries.

  Woodland creatures. Yes, that's what he had when he was shipwrecked. Could it be that he was actually jealous of the woodland creatures and their easy life now that he was stuck in that blasted room with Rosalind Hartwell?

  And why in the blazes did he continue to use her full name in his mind?

  "Rosalind Hartwell," he tried it on his lips. Well dash it if it didn't feel good. But of course it would.

  One more tiny glance, his brain told him. After all, for some cursed reason, she was still sleeping.

  He obliged himself.

  Soft red hair crowned her head. Pale milky skin and a body that would make Isis green with envy. One thing was for certain, Rosalind Hartwell was a sight. And as much as it irked him, even when she snored, her lips looked beautiful, untouched, and begging to be bitten.

  Bitten?

  Perhaps he had malaria. Yes, that was it. He was ill. This was why he was thinking about biting, nay, attacking a sleeping woman.

  Or maybe it was just because he hadn't been with a woman in…

  Well, as previously noted, mathematics were not his strong suit.

  "Mmmm." The beauty stirred. As did his blood.

  Exactly what he needed at that point. Another reason to follow his more primal instincts.

  "Mmmm," she moaned again, but her eyes were still closed, though now he noted that they seemed to move back and forth rapidly as if she was trying to blink, but her eye lids were too heavy to put forth the effort.

  "Mmmm!" Louder this time.

  Clenching his teeth, he managed not to choke, or swear, or think too many ungodly thoughts when the wench stretched her arms high above her head and yawned. Beautiful curves strained against the confines of her dress until the devil in him hoped they would pour over the dress, giving him adequate reason to be lusting after her as much as he already was.

  "Where…" her deep voice spoke, eyes still closed.

  He waited.

  "Where am I?" She blinked several times, then looked directly at him and let out a scream so blood-curdling loud that he was sure his ears were bleeding with agony.

  "Shhhh!" he put his hand over her mouth, which in hindsight probably wasn't the best of ideas considering she had just met him.

  But her fear moved her. With a deft motion the chit sunk her teeth into his vulnerable hand. When he drew back in alarm, she elbowed him in the ribs and made an effort to elude him. He caught her around the waist and heaved her back into his lap in one smooth motion, holding her tight until she finally stopped struggling against him.

  "Hello," he said, knowing it was the worst possible way to
wake a well-bred lady — stare at her while she slept, scare her senseless, haul her into his lap, and offer an awkward greeting.

  Savages, shipwrecks, and squirrels were looking better by the minute.

  "Release me, you beast!"

  "Promise not to bite, elbow, or scream? I'm not sure my ears can take another one of your screams. Perhaps we can come up with some sort of signal next time you feel the need to open your mouth?"

  She began to squirm anew, making things all the more difficult for him, given his current state of… fascination with her body.

  "My lady, cease your movements before I give you a true reason to scream." Stefan tightened his grip on her waist and slowly, effortlessly, bestowed a kiss on the exposed side of her neck. He told himself it was to scare her, and it was. Sort of.

  The instant his lips touched her neck, she froze. He relinquished his hold and ever so deliberately planted her next to him on the sofa.

  "I must say," Stefan adjusted his cravat. "That was a first for me. I imagine it isn't common for a woman to swoon into your arms so willingly."

  Rosalind snorted and turned her brilliant green eyes onto him. "Surely you don't think it was your presence that caused my swooning? I was merely hot." She fanned her face with her hand as if needing to show him how sweltering it had been.

  "Right," he said smugly. "And that explains how your body went completely rigid when you fell?" Did she think him an idiot?

  Turning away she shrugged. "Are we going to discuss my swooning all night, or did you have other business with me?"

  "Business?" He laughed. "I was in the middle of releasing you from the betrothal contract. So, yes. Let us call it business."

  "And I believe I said, 'As you wish'."

  "No, actually you said, 'As you wi—' and then promptly fell, quite wantonly into my arms. Since I am a gentleman, I've decided not to hold it against you."

  Rosalind scooted away. "Are we finished here?"

  Trying to mask the concern he felt, he replied, "Only if you assure me that you are in perfect health."

  "Of course. I can't say I've ever swooned before. But I assure you I'm in perfect health! Good night, my lord." With a huff she pushed from the sofa, took two steps and began to fall once more.

 
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