An old favorite with a bright new look.
The fifth Earl of Torgreave, Rupert Manningford, has determined to reform his rakish ways. Ten years of dissolute living have brought him no pleasure, and offer no future. He returns to sobriety and eschews gambling and debauchery in his effort to reform. It has even crossed his mind to find and marry a virtuous lady-- if one will accept him--and get himself an heir.
His plans are disrupted by the arrival of a beautiful young Scottish woman. Miss Cordelia Tyninghame of Edinburgh. Her appearance reveals a remarkable mystery, a puzzle that defies understanding. Their search for comprehension takes them from the ice of the Frost Fair to the beginning of the London season. Propinquity conducts them to love, but love will lead only to anguish until the mystery is resolved. And that will alter Delia's past, Rupert's future, and the lives of everyone around them, perhaps even allow love to heal their hearts and transform their lives.
"And you entertain myriad admirers?" he said. He stared into the fire, his face set in grim lines.
"Yes," she responded. She thought wistfully of fresh-faced Geordie McKenna, William Scott, Neil Rosslyn and others: mere lads, open and carefree. They held no attraction for her anymore.
He frowned, deepening the carved lines about his mouth. "But you are yet unmarried. Can you mean to follow in the footsteps of Lady Barbara?"
Delia had regaled the earl during their journey with tales of her aunt's prodigious learning, sociable nature and successful salons.
"I think not; I don't know. Why do you ask me? What business is it of yours to pry so?"
The single word, the heaviness of his tone, frightened her. She sought to lighten their conversation. "Perhaps it is merely that Morag frightens my suitors away."
Rupert seemed to pull himself from his dark mood with a palpable effort. "The redoubtable Mrs. Lochmaddy. She is an odd mix of maid and companion surely?"
"My aunt Barbara, while no republican, has long treated her servants with an awareness of our parity." Delia eagerly seized the opportunity to divert the conversation. "Morag has served in my aunt's household in a variety of capacities. The tragedy of her husband's death brought us together. One morning when I found her weeping over the bedlinen in my chamber, we discovered an empathy. I was in need of an abigail. We became friends, as unlikely as that may seem. She has an invisible boundary for our relationship, which I cannot see. She will not cross it." Delia smiled thinking of it.
"And she was happily wed and yet has no use for my sex?" the earl queried. He straightened in his chair, as Bowland carried in refreshment.
"She merely believes that you are in fact the weaker sex," Delia responded. She could not agree with Morag. Torgreave's strength belied any thought of weakness.
Bowland ventured a disapproving snort on his way out of the room.
"Bowland disagrees. Now we shall have the two of them arguing." He seemed to find the thought amusing.
Delia was only happy that his mood had lightened. She poured out the tea. "What next shall we do to find some clue to our relationship?" she asked. Her own mood had darkened.
Rupert accepted a porcelain cup brimming with tea from her. "As we found nothing in my father's papers at Manningford, I believe we must question those who knew him. If we continue in our investigations so slowly though, it may be sometime before you see Edinburgh and the admirers again. Conversely, I foresee that a journey to that city may soon become necessary, if we persistently have so little success." He returned to harshness, his face cold-set.
Delia wondered what she could say that might alleviate his anxieties, return him to ease.
"You had best adjudge yourself at home here, and occupy yourself with your needlework. I shall put some inquiries afoot over the next few days, and see what fruit they bring."
"I am accustomed to order my own existence," she snapped, her desire for his comfort destroyed. "I am not some idle, fashionable doll."
"Are you not? I thought you just indicated that you were."
"I did not mean it so," she said. He had deliberately misunderstood her words. "I have my charities, I work for them. And I study the pianoforte, and Greek, and…and things."
"I meant no insult." His ravaged face lightened in intensity. "But you must see that there is little of benefit that you can do at this moment. And I merely spoke of something I thought you enjoyed to do. You have undoubted skill with your needle."
"You would be an uncomfortable sibling," she said. She had said it also a few days previously, and meant it most sincerely. Her head was spinning with contradictions.
"I hope at least to prove that I am not your brother," he ground out. He rose. "I will not be in to supper."
"Ever the rake?" she queried sweetly acid.
He paused, half way to the door, and looked back. "Always," he said. "Take care, your tongue is become as sharp as mine."