Historical Romance: Regency Romance: A Prize to Be Won (Sweet Regency Historical Romance Short Stories), страница 3
Peter and Rebecca were having breakfast when Alex interrupted them to inform them of Lord Northwall’s arrival. The entire room filled with unspoken tension at the news. Rebecca found it extremely hard to swallow the rest of her breakfast while Peter wiped his mouth, the food on his plate left unfinished. They shared a silent look across the table as if giving each other strength to face whatever fate had in store for them.
“Peter, just do as I told you. If everything goes according to our plan, we’ll at least be able to retain half the estate,” Rebecca said. She did her best to sound composed and relaxed despite being reduced to a bundle of nerves inside.
Peter nodded in agreement and left the room. Unable to swallow another morsel, Rebecca got up and followed. She stood just outside the study and strained her ears to hear what was going on inside. When Alex found her standing there, she put a finger to her lips, gesturing for him to remain silent.
“So good to see you again, Lord Peter. I hope you are having a good day,” a deep, rich masculine voice wafted through the door. Rebecca felt her heart begin to race. What a creep! He must know how Peter felt and yet he had the audacity to sound cheerful.
“Well, I was having a good day, indeed. Until I was informed of your arrival,” Peter replies sarcastically.
Rebecca heard Henry laugh out loud. “I would feel exactly the same if I were in your place, Peter. Uh…I hope you don’t mind my addressing you thus, Lord Peter.” Rebecca wished she could slap that moron! How dare he talk to her brother like that! He was still the Earl of Leicester, for Heavens’ sake! “Since you are fully aware of the purpose of my visit, let us get straight to the point….”
“I have something to confess, Lord Northwall. I know you think that I am the owner of this entire estate. In fact, you have no reason to think anything else since I proclaimed that myself. But the truth is that I own only half of it,” Peter tried to keep his voice as calm as possible.
“Please don’t even think of trying to fool me, Lord Thompson. I am much smarter than you think.” Rebecca could almost hear the smirk in his tone.
“I am not trying to fool anyone, Lord Northwall. Here, take a look at my father’s will. It expressly mentions that Lady Rebecca Thompson, my sister, is entitled to half of the estate. As you may be aware, I cannot lose anything in a wager that I do not rightfully own.”
Henry took the papers from Peter’s outstretched hand and studied them thoroughly. Sure enough, they proclaimed Lady Rebecca Thompson to be the owner of half the estate. Henry looked a little taken aback for a moment but quickly regained his composure.
“What about these papers then, Lord Peter?” he said, calmly producing the papers that Peter had handed over to him when he lost the wager. “If what you are saying is true, it means that you’ve cheated me and these papers are fraudulent. Do you have any idea how you may have to pay for your little lie? I can challenge you to a duel or report your cheating to appropriate authorities. Your family’s name would be ruined and…..”
“You will do no such thing, my lord!” Rebecca stormed into the study to see her brother’s face turned ashen with dread. She looked at Lord Henry Northwall with contempt shining clearly in her eyes. Rebecca knew that it had been too much to hope that her plan would work flawlessly but she’d still hoped that Lord Northwall would buy their lie and agree to forego half of the estate. But she should’ve known better. Going by the man’s reputation, he would probably leave no stone unturned to make their lives a living hell!
“I am guessing that you are Lady Rebecca Thompson,” said Henry, studying the interesting woman in front of him from head to toe. Rebecca cringed at his scrutiny and Henry gave her an amused grin.
“Yes, I am Lord Peter’s sister,” she said with an air of authority. “I did own half of the estate but, I relinquished my right to the estate to my brother a few months back. So that makes him the rightful owner now.”
Henry could sense that something was not right. First the brother showed him the late Earl’s will stating that his sister owned half of the estate, and now the sister informed him that she’d relinquished her right to him. What exactly was going on here?
“Can you please decide amongst yourselves who is lying and who is telling the truth?”
“I am telling the truth, my lord. This estate belongs to Peter. I think he lied to you because he probably wanted to retain at least half of it. After all, we’ve spent months trying to resurrect it. We’ve worked hard day and night to make it prosper,” Rebecca replied.
The fiery little thing in front of Henry impressed him. If they’d met under other circumstances, he’d probably think of a way to seduce her! She was most definitely something to look at with curves at all the right places.
“I can understand the hard work that goes into managing an estate of this size. I must say that I was impressed when I entered Leicester and noticed how well maintained everything was.”
Rebecca’s heart filled with pride at Henry’s words. She had actually worked very hard to achieve all of it. After their father’s death, Peter was often absent for days at a time, leaving her the task of taking care of the estate and its people.
“I must tell you, Lord Northwall, that my sister has toiled very hard for this estate. Don’t you think it is unfair that she should have to pay the price for my actions?” Peter looked at Henry as he spoke, a silent plea in his eyes.
“Peter, there is no need to…..”
“Let me say this out loud, Rebecca. I have been nothing but a burden to you ever since father died. You have managed this place so efficiently all on your own and what did I do in return? I lost all your hard work on one stupid bet!” Turning back toward Henry, Peter added, “Please, Lord Northwall, I am not asking anything for myself. I deserve to be publicly shamed after what I’ve done. But why should Rebecca have to suffer with me? I beg you to return her part of the estate…..”
“Peter! Why are you pleading for something that is basically ours? This gentleman may snatch our fortune from us, but he cannot take away the fact that we are the rightful owners of this place. Our family has been serving Leicester for generations and our people hold us in high esteem. What more can we ask for? He may take over our estate, but he will not take away the love and respect that our people have for us!”
“My Lady, you make me sound like some villain who has stolen your property behind your back. Let me make it very clear: I won your estate in a wager. If your brother had enough foresight, he wouldn’t have wagered the estate in the first place. But now that he’s lost it, I don’t see any point in creating all this fuss.”
Rebecca knew that he is right. There is no point trying to humiliate him any further. This mess isn’t his fault, was it? He won a bet and had come here to claim his prize.
The problem was that his prize was basically all she had!