Goodwill for the Gentleman
Goodwill for the Gentleman
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- Enemies to Lovers
- Unrequited Love
Emma Caldwell doesn’t hate anyone—except for Hugh Warrilow, the man who jilted her older sister and left like a coward to join the army. Men are clearly not to be trusted, and Emma is determined not to give her heart to one. No, a marriage of convenience is the very thing to suit her.Hugh Warrilow has been secretly in love with Emma Caldwell for years, so when the time comes to live up to both families’ expectations and marry her sister, he can’t find it in himself to do it. Disgraced and misunderstood, he joins to fight Napoleon on the Continent, hoping he will forget Emma and be forgotten by everyone he has disappointed.An injury brings Hugh home—just in time for Christmas and the snowstorm that leaves him trapped under the same roof as Emma. How will he explain that his unforgivable act was motivated by how desperately he loved her? Her icy reception doesn’t leave him the chance, nor does it offer much hope for the season’s expectation of peace on earth and goodwill to men.
Intro to Chapter 1
Intro to Chapter 1
Lieutenant Hugh Warrilow put an anxious hand to the strings holding up his eagle mask. The mask was large enough to conceal his face, but the strings seemed flimsy, not nearly secure enough to ensure his anonymity.
The mask was the one thing which had persuaded him to venture out in public, and he was already regretting his decision.
He looked at the hordes of people in the ballroom of Lord Trenton’s London townhouse: hooded, masked, and glittering. There was a sense of safety in numbers—it was comforting to be lost amidst a crowd. Besides, no one knew he was back in England. No one would expect to see him there—or even expect him to be alive, perhaps.
But he couldn’t help feeling that it was reckless to attend such an event. What if his mask were to somehow come undone? He had no desire to face the whispers and rumors.
“I thought you said it was a private gathering,” he said to Captain Gillingham, a touch of annoyance in his voice.
“And so it is,” Gillingham responded cheerfully through his turtle mask, admiring the woman passing by in a shimmering gown meant to resemble fish scales. “Hardly a soul here! Everyone’s left town already for the holidays.”
Hugh scoffed. “You could have fooled me. It bears a strong resemblance to the last masquerade I attended at Vauxhall Gardens three years ago—and that was hardly exclusive.”
“Bah! Vauxhall would have ten times this many people. I’ll tell you what—you’ve become too accustomed to solitude.” Gillingham clapped Hugh on the back of his black domino. “Come, Warrilow.”
Hugh grabbed his friend’s arm. “Don’t use my name, for heaven’s sake,” he said through a tight jaw, glancing around to see if anyone was listening.
Gillingham shot him a troubled look. “If you’re heading for home, Warrilow, it’s only a matter of time before it’s out that you’ve returned.”
“Yes,” said Hugh, “but I would much rather that the news come out when I am not here to witness its effect.”
Gillingham clucked his tongue. “This won’t do at all! Let down your hair. Live a little. It’s high time you enjoyed yourself for a change. One doesn’t take a leave of absence to go hide in a cave, man!”
“If one has my reputation, one just might,” Hugh said dryly.
It was foolish to have let Gillingham persuade him into coming. The only thing standing between him and appalled glances was his mask. He should have made his way home from Spain directly to the family estate at Norfield—as he had planned to do—rather than agreeing to break his journey in London for a few days. Or he might have even gone to Grindleham, the Warrilows’ small estate in Derbyshire, for a chance to adjust to life in England before seeing his family. And yet, here he was.
Gillingham had always had a way of cajoling Hugh into agreeing to his plans.
“Your reputation?” Gillingham spat out. “That was years ago. You know as well as I that society has a memory for scandal shorter than Prinny’s breath.”
Hugh wished he could believe that. He wished his own memory was as fickle as Gillingham seemed to think the ton’s memory was. But surely one never forgot the looks and whispers which had followed Hugh so doggedly, until he had decided to accept his uncle’s offer to buy a commission. In many ways, the battlefield had been a welcome reprieve.
He rubbed at his shoulder and winced. Of course, not all of it had been a reprieve. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Gillingham shook his head, his eyes wide with wonder behind his black domino as he admired the scene. “I had forgotten how much I missed England. No offense to las señoritas españolas, of course,” he added quickly, “but I am tolerably certain that nothing can compare to an accomplished English lady.”
Hugh was silent, but he found himself in agreement with his friend. He had been close enough to swearing off his home country forever, to staying in Spain where he had a fresh start, a clean slate. But there was something extraordinary about England and her people.
Hugh was glad to be back.
Of course, for all his family knew, he was still in Spain. Just as likely, they thought him dead.
It had been months and months since he had written to them, after all.
He worried his lip, thinking about the reception he was likely to receive from them. Whatever their reactions might be, he could hardly blame them after he had neglected to inform them of his injury and his intent to return.
He had his reasons, though. At first, the ball in his shoulder had prevented it. Then it was the subsequent illness and the all-encompassing grief at losing Robert Seymour.
He shook his head. He didn’t want to think on that right now. There would be more than enough time for it once he was back at Norfield.
Regardless, holding a quill to paper had been the last thing on his mind after his injury. And then it had been easy to continue putting it off for one reason or another. Before he knew it, he had begun to wonder if perhaps his family wasn’t better off without him—better off believing him dead or disappeared like the coward so many believed him to be.
But in the end, he realized he couldn’t stay away from England, from his mother—from his past. Everyone else might come to forget him in his absence, forget the shame he bore, but he wouldn’t have forgotten, no matter how long he stayed away.
Gillingham grabbed his arm with an intake of breath. “Come. I must dance with that young woman over there.” He indicated a young lady wearing a gold domino and cat ears, standing—quite strangely—alone.
“Do you know her?”
“No,” Gillingham reasoned, “but how is she to know that? After all, a masquerade is the only ball where I can conceivably approach a stranger and ask her to dance.” He grinned, and Hugh shook his head with a chuckle, following alongside him.
He would accompany Gillingham without complaint, but it was a waste of time for Hugh to set his own sights on any of the women in attendance. At least he assumed so. Who would wish to dance with a man reputed to be a jilt? Of course, his mask kept them from knowing such a thing, but it felt wrong to take advantage of their ignorance.
“My lady,” Gillingham said in his most alluring voice as they came upon the young woman.
She turned, and Hugh noted her almond-shaped eyes of blue-flecked gray, which peered at him through her cat mask. He felt his heart rate pick up slightly and shook away the thought of two women he knew with just such pairs of eyes.
“Might I persuade you,” Gillingham continued, “to stand up with me for the next set?” He extended a hand toward her, dipping into an overly-formal bow.
A woman in a tiger mask and an orange- and black-striped, hooded domino approached them, coming shoulder-to-shoulder with the woman in the cat mask as she glanced at Gillingham’s extended hand.
“Lucy,” she said, shooting a watchful glance at Hugh and Gillingham. “I thought you were with Mr. Pritchard or I shouldn't have left you.”
Hugh stilled, glancing back and forth between the two women, his wide eyes lingering on the hooded one: her confident posture, her direct gaze, the color of her caramel brown hair that peeked out from her hood. He would recognize her anywhere, domino or no.
It was Emma Caldwell, the woman he had loved—the woman he hoped fervently that he didn’t still love—and beside her Lucy Caldwell, the woman he had jilted.