Because The Baron Broods By Darcy Burke | Author Darcy Burke
Darcy Burke

Excerpt: Because the Baron Broods

Book 2: Rogue Rules

Chapter One

Weston, England, August 1815

Tamsin Penrose adjusted the curl that rested against her temple, wishing it was as springy as the one on the other side of her face. Ah well, she did the best she could and did not bemoan the fact that she didn’t have a maid. She didn’t really need one, and her illustrious friends, including a duchess and the daughter of a duke, never made her feel that she was any different from them.

Except she was, despite being cousin to a viscount. Her friends came from prominent families and had bright futures with Seasons and advantageous marriages, while Tamsin resided with her hermit father in Cornwall and was lucky enough to spend every August in Weston, where her grandmother lived and where she’d met her dear friends three years ago.

Still, the differences between them didn’t matter to Tamsin any more than they did to her friends. They were simply a group of young ladies who enjoyed each other’s company. In fact, today, they would all enjoy an alfresco luncheon hosted by their friend, Lady Minerva, daughter of the Duke of Henlow.

Tamsin adjusted the ribbon of her bonnet and plucked up her gloves before going downstairs. Her friend Persephone, who was now the Duchess of Wellesbourne after marrying last autumn, would be picking her up on the way to the Grove, one of many estates owned by the Duke of Henlow. She would also fetch Gwendolen Price, who hailed from Bristol, from the Weston Hotel, where she was staying with her mother.

Tamsin’s grandmother was awaiting her in the staircase hall. Her blue eyes swept over Tamsin as she smiled. “You look lovely, dear. That daffodil yellow is such a brilliant color for you.”

“Thank you, Grandmama.” Tamsin drew her gloves on. “I take it Somerton left some time ago?”

Tamsin’s cousin, the Viscount Somerton, was also visiting. His mother and Tamsin’s had been sisters—and Grandmama was their mother—but they hadn’t been close, particularly after Tamsin’s mother had wed her father and moved to St. Austell. Consequently, Tamsin hadn’t grown up knowing Somerton or his older sisters well at all. Indeed, until a few years ago, when her and Somerton’s trips to Weston had begun to overlap, she’d met him only a few times.

Generally regarded as a jovial gentleman with rakish tendencies, Somerton was close friends with Minerva’s brother, the Earl of Shefford. They, along with a few other gentlemen, also gathered in August, though not for the entire month. Eventually, they grew bored with the sleepy seaside village and moved on to wherever unwed rogues found entertainment.

“He did,” Grandmama replied. Petite, with dark blue eyes and light gray hair, she was a force of nature who didn’t look or act her seventy years. She held up an envelope. “A letter from your father just arrived.”

Tamsin blinked. “How odd. He doesn’t ever write to me while I’m here.”

“Well, you can read it when you get back.”

“Would you mind opening it?” Tamsin asked, since she’d already donned her gloves. “I’m afraid my curiosity is getting the best of me.”

Grandmama opened the missive and handed the letter to Tamsin. She scanned the short message, her heart beating faster with each line.

When she finished, she looked back at her grandmother. “He says he’s found a suitor for me and is in support of me marrying him.”

Moving to stand beside Tamsin so she could see the letter, Grandmama asked, “Who?”

“He doesn’t say.”

Grandmama’s brows pitched down. “That is ridiculous. Why would he leave that part out?”

“It is likely an oversight.” Tamsin sighed. He was always so focused on work. The fact that he’d written to her at all was a marvel, and leaving out pertinent information seemed, unfortunately, exactly something he would do.

Since her mother had left them when she was eight, Tamsin had felt the need to watch over her father. She made sure he didn’t forget things, such as eating dinner. He’d already been somewhat buried in his work by the time her mother had gone, but her departure had sent him further into seclusion. He spent his days in his study and even some of his nights. Tamsin did her best to bring him cheer as he was very often dour. He did seem brighter in her presence, so she believed she served him a great purpose.

“It’s terrible is what it is,” Grandmama said with a deep frown. “He’s taken almost no interest in your life, particularly with regard to potential courtships or marriage.”

That was true. Indeed, Tamsin had expected to end up a spinster and rather thought her father had no quarrel with that. “He doesn’t even allow me to attend the quarterly assembly.” He didn’t see the point in investing in the appropriate clothing. He’d also said on more than one occasion that marriage was not always the best path. But then Tamsin knew why he would say that: because his wife had left him.

 Had he changed his mind about her marrying? Had he realized that Tamsin might want to wed? Tamsin hadn’t allowed herself to think about it too closely. What was the point when she had no occasion to meet potential suitors? Perhaps that was all about to change. A curious excitement gathered in her chest. “Am I to have a Season?” She felt suddenly breathless at the notion.

“I shouldn’t think so,” Grandmama said. “Your father is far too selfish and shortsighted for that.” Grandmama’s description of him did not surprise Tamsin, as they did not get on well. “I do wish you’d decided to live with me when you came of marriageable age.”

Though she’d invited Tamsin to move in with her, for years now, Tamsin always declined. She ran her father’s household, and while the housekeeper, Mrs. Treen, could do the same, she wasn’t his daughter. He needed Tamsin, and in some ways, she needed him too. After her mother had left, they’d only had each other.

“You know why I didn’t,” Tamsin said in response to her grandmother’s suggestion.

“Because he needs you.” Grandmama pursed her lips. “He doesn’t really, my sweet. And I hope his callousness in this marriage matter will convince you otherwise. I can’t begin to imagine whom he wants you to wed.”

“He says the gentleman may arrive in Weston to convey me home to St. Austell toward the end of the month.” How would she know to expect him? This was all very strange.

Tamsin tried to think of who the mystery suitor could be, but everyone her father knew was, well, old. Or close to his age, anyway. There was a younger gentleman with whom he corresponded. He had sought Papa’s counsel on an academic matter, and Papa had spoken highly of the young man’s letters. Could he be the potential suitor? Though Tamsin knew almost nothing about him, she couldn’t deny a burst of excitement at the prospect of meeting someone who not only wanted to meet her but was ready to travel with her to St. Austell. That sounded promising, didn’t it?

If that was the gentleman. She didn’t know enough right now to make a judgment as to whether this was good or bad news. And since she never chose to dwell on negative things, she chose to believe this must be good news. It had to be. Even if it meant cutting her annual sojourn short, which, if she were honest with herself, was a little disappointing.

“I shall hope he is a splendid fellow, and we will make a brilliant match,” Tamsin said brightly, considering, for the first time, the idea of leaving her father’s household to have a family of her own.

“While your optimism is always wonderful to hear, I must say that your father did not think this through. At the very least, he should have offered the identity of this gentleman so you aren’t kept guessing,” Grandmama said firmly. “I’ll write to him while you are at your luncheon. I’m also not inclined to let you leave before the end of the month. I only have you with me for a short time as it is.”

“You are right. I would like to stay through August.” Tamsin so looked forward to this time with her beloved grandmother and with her friends—two things she didn’t have in St. Austell. “Thank you, Grandmama.” Tamsin hugged her.

“I will always ensure your happiness, my dear,” Grandmama said softly as they parted.

Tamsin heard a coach outside and turned toward the door.

“Have a good time, Tam,” Grandmama said. “Put your father’s nonsense out of your mind.”

After blowing her grandmother a kiss, Tamsin walked out into the bright summer day. Securing the door behind her, she saw the Duke of Wellesbourne climb down. He held the door for her. “Good afternoon, Miss Penrose.”

“Good afternoon, Your Grace.”

“You must call me Wellesbourne. Or Welles. Or Wellesy, I suppose.” He grinned, his dark eyes crinkling at the edges.

“Are you encouraging people to call you Wellesy?” His wife, Persephone, called from the interior.

“Why not?” he said with a shrug as he helped Tamsin into the coach.

She sat on the rear-facing seat next to Gwen. The newest member of their group, having “joined” with them last August, Gwen was a year younger than Tamsin’s twenty-two years. Her father was a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, and she had an older brother, a barrister who had recently accepted a position in the same department. Gwen had not yet had a Season, due to her needing more “polish.” She was sometimes clumsy and claimed to be an abysmal dancer. These were just two things she was working to improve upon before she had her debut on the Marriage Mart. Though Tamsin was certainly no expert, she found Gwen lovely precisely as she was. Surely, there existed a gentleman who would think so too.

“What a fetching bonnet,” Persephone said to Tamsin. At twenty-three, Persephone was the only one of their group who was married. It had been a remarkable turn of events last year when she’d suddenly wed the Duke of Wellesbourne. Her mother and his mother were old friends and had proposed the union. While Persephone had been against it at first—due to Wellesbourne’s close association with the abominable Bane, who’d ruined her sister Pandora last August here in Weston—she’d ultimately fallen in love.

Perhaps Tamsin would be that fortunate with whomever her father wanted her to wed. Tamsin hoped so. Indeed, the idea was quickly taking root.

“I’ve news to share now that we’re all here,” Gwen said, her dark eyes sparkling. “Except Min. I’ll tell her later, for I’m afraid I simply can’t keep it in a moment longer!”

They all looked to her, expectant, including Wellesbourne. Tamsin wondered again if she ought to share her news, except she wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as Gwen was. Indeed, she possessed a decided lack of enthusiasm.

“I’m to have a London Season!” Gwen said, her shoulders lifting with glee.

“How splendid!” Tamsin was so pleased for her friend. Tamsin hadn’t even been to Bath. London seemed so far away. She honestly wasn’t sure she ever expected to see it.

Persephone reached over and gave Gwen’s hand a pat. “I’m delighted for you. I will support you as much as I can, but I have news of my own to share.” She glanced toward her husband, her lips curving into a warm smile. “Acton and I are expecting a child. I will have a baby in my arms before spring.”

“Oh!” Tamsin and Gwen exclaimed in unison. They both leaned forward as if they would leap upon Persephone.

“I want to hug you!” Tamsin cried.

“I do too!” Gwen said.

“I will gladly accept your hugs when we arrive at the Grove,” Persephone said with a laugh, her blue eyes gleaming. She tucked a dark gold curl back from her face.

Gwen looked to Wellesbourne. “You must be thrilled.”

He chuckled. “I confess I’m still getting used to the idea.” He took Persephone’s hand and clasped it in her lap. It was such a sweet gesture, and Tamsin couldn’t help smiling. “My mother is ecstatic.”

“As are your sisters,” Persephone said. She looked across the coach at Tamsin and Gwen. “They’ve written with all manner of advice. They’re very sweet.”

Tamsin wondered what Persephone’s sister, Pandora, thought of this news. They’d become especially close when Pandora had come to stay with Tamsin in Cornwall after Persephone’s wedding. Seeking refuge from the scandal Bane had cause when he’d ruined her then fled to marry someone else, Pandora had spent the late autumn and entire winter with Tamsin in St. Austell.

From their months together, Tamsin knew Pandora envied her sister’s happiness—primarily because of the acceptance Persephone had received from her husband’s family. Pandora was of the mind that she would never wed after what happened with Bane. And since Tamsin hadn’t expected to wed either, they’d laughingly planned a spinsters’ future where they spent time in Weston and kept goats or cats or both.

Persephone looked to Gwen. “How exciting you are to have a Season. I suppose that means at least one more of us will be wed before next August.”

“If I receive any offers,” Gwen said with a self-deprecating laugh. Her Season had been postponed for so long that Tamsin understood why she might be nervous.

“Of course you will,” Persephone stated firmly. “You are clever and witty, and infinitely interesting to talk to. I daresay you will have multiple offers.”

“I hope they aren’t from rogues,” Gwen said, shooting Wellesbourne a nervous glance. “I mean no offense.”

“I don’t take any,” he said pleasantly. “I freely admit I was a rogue. I have known nothing but privilege and excess, and I readily took advantage of those things.” He brought Persephone’s gloved hand to his mouth and pressed a kiss to the base of her thumb. “Thankfully, my lovely wife saw past my transgressions and gave me the chance to be the man I want to be—a grateful, loyal, and thoroughly besotted husband.”

“And father,” Persephone murmured.

Watching them together gave Tamsin hope. Being in love certainly looked beautiful. She wondered how it felt. Like being filled with light and joy, she imagined. So full that you nearly burst with the quantity of it. She’d never even considered motherhood, but if she made a match with this mystery suitor, she could very well have a family of her own. A close, loving family that she’d never had. She began to imagine this man she might marry. Perhaps he was tall and handsome, with smiling eyes and a sparkling laugh that made her feel giddy. He would sweep her in his arms, and she would feel wholly loved and protected.

“Are you aware of our Rogue Rules?” Gwen asked, jarring Tamsin from her silly daydream. But was it silly?

Tamsin set her mind to what was being discussed—their Rogue Rules. They’d come about after Bane had ruined Pandora. Outraged, the friends had drafted the rules to keep them safe from rogues. Hopefully, this man she would marry would not be a rogue. She’d vowed to avoid them. How would a rogue make her feel loved and protected anyway? Unless he was like the duke. Persephone was so very lucky.

“I am indeed acquainted with your rules about rogues,” Wellesbourne said. “A stitched copy of them hangs in Persey’s sitting room.”

“I do wonder if the rules were made to be broken, however,” Tamsin said. “Looking at Persey and Wellesbourne, it seems a rogue can change.” Never trust a rogue to change was one of the rules. As was never show a rogue your heart. Clearly, Persephone had broken that rule as well.

“I tried very hard to follow them,” Persephone said. “Acton, however, was most persistent and demonstrated not only an ability to change, but a sincere desire to reform himself.”

“But what if not all men are even rogues to begin with?” Tamsin suggested.

“I do think that’s true,” Wellesbourne said. “I have several friends who are not roguish, at least what I understand that to be, based on what Persey has told me. In our own group, Droxford isn’t particularly roguish.”

“I’ve seen women in London hope to catch his interest,” Persephone said. “Though that seems to be due to his title and wealth. He is generally reserved, brooding even. I would not believe him to be roguish, but then, I don’t know him very well.”

“If anyone will be lucky enough to find a man who isn’t a rogue, it will be Tamsin,” Gwen said. “Provided she’s able to meet someone,” she added with a light laugh. They all knew that Tamsin had no occasion to encounter gentlemen or be courted.

Tamsin considered telling them about her father’s letter, but she was still getting used to the idea of marriage. She would tell them soon. Today, however, was for enjoying her time with them, which had suddenly become vital if she was to leave Weston early.

She hoped that would not be the case, but if true love came upon her, she feared she would not be able to resist.

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