Marriage Made in Money

By: Sophia James

Chapter One

London—June 1810

Amethyst Amelia Cameron’s father loved all horses, but he especially loved his matching pair of greys.

‘I doubt you will ever see others as fine, Papa, if you do indeed intend to sell them.’ Amethyst tried to keep the worry from her voice as the carriage drew to a halt in the narrow lane outside number ten, Grosvenor Place. Things were changing without reason and she didn’t like it.

‘Well, there’s the problem, my dear,’ Robert Cameron replied. ‘I had the best and now I want for nothing more. Take your mother, for instance. Never found another like her. Would not even have tried to.’

Amethyst smiled. Her parents’ marriage had been a love match until the day her mother had died of some undefined and quick illness, seven hours short of her thirty-second birthday. Amethyst had been all of eight and she remembered the day distinctly, the low whispers and the tears; storm clouds sweeping across the Thames.

‘I do not think you should part with the pair, Papa. You can easily afford to keep them. You could afford ten times as many; every stallion and mare here in the Tattersall’s sales for the next month, should you want.’ Looking across the road at the generous roofs of the auction house, she wished her father might order the carriage homewards, where they could talk the matter over at their leisure.

It was not like him to decide on a course of action so quickly and she hoped he might have second thoughts and withdraw his favoured greys before the Monday sales the following week.

Yet as her father hoisted himself from the carriage his breathlessness was obvious, even such a small movement causing him difficulty. The unease Amethyst had felt over the past weeks heightened, though the sight of a man alighting from a conveyance ahead caught her attention.

After the dreadful débâcle of her marriage Amethyst had seldom noticed the opposite sex, shame and guilt having the effect of greying out passion. But this man was tall and big with it, the muscles beneath his superfine coat pointing to something other than the more normal indolence the ton seemed to excel at. He looked dangerous and untamed.

His dress marked him as an aristocrat, but his wild black hair was longer than most other men wore theirs, falling almost to his collar, the darkness highlighted by white linen. An alarming and savage beauty. She saw others turn as he walked past and wondered what it must be like to be so very visible, so awfully obvious.

‘Have Elliott send the carriage back for me around two, my dear, for I am certain that will give me enough time.’ Her father’s words pulled her from her musing and, dragging her eyes from the stranger, she hoped Robert had not noticed her interest. ‘But make sure that you have a restful time of it, too, for you have been looking tired of late.’

Shutting the door, he encouraged the conveyance on before placing his hat on his head. His new coat was not quite fitting across his shoulders where a month ago it had been snug.

Amethyst caught her reflection in the glass as the carriage began to move. She looked older than her twenty-six years and beaten somehow. By life and by concern. Her father’s actions had made her tense; after visiting his physician in London a week ago he had taken his horses straight to Tattersall’s, claiming that he did not have the time for livestock he once had enjoyed.

A shock of alarm crawled up her arms and into her chest as she saw her father in conversation with the same man she had been watching. Did her father know him? What could they be speaking of? Craning her neck to see more of their engagement, she was about to turn away when the stranger looked up, his glance locking with hers across the distance.

Green. His eyes were pale green and tinged with arrogance. In shock she broke the contact, wondering about the fact that her heart was beating at twice its normal rate.

‘Ridiculous,’ she muttered and made certain not to look his way again. Tapping her hand hard against the roof, she was also glad when the carriage slowed to its usual speed of just above walking pace.

* * *

Lord Daniel Wylde, the sixth Earl of Montcliffe, came to Tattersall’s quite regularly just to see what was on offer. Today with the sales about to begin the place was crowded.

‘Ye’d be a man who knows his horseflesh, no doubt?’ An older man spoke to him as they mounted the steps, no mind for introduction or proper discourse. ‘My greys are up and I’d want them to go to someone who would care for their well-being.’

His accent marked him as an East-Ender, the music of the river in his words. A man made rich by the trade of goods and services, perhaps, for his coat was of fine cloth and his boots well fashioned. The well-appointed carriage he had alighted from was beginning to move away, a young woman staring back at them with concern upon her face, but Daniel’s interest was snared by the mention of the greys. The superb pair he had seen yesterday belonged to this unlikely fellow? They were the entire reason he was here this morning after all, just to see who might be lucky enough to procure them.

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