A Gamble on Love
Miss Trevor did not curtsey, nor so much as nod in
greeting.
    “ And where have you been, miss?” Lord
Hubert demanded, even as he listed alarmingly toward the
desk.
    “ As I am certain Biddeford informed
you, Gussie and I went to London. I have decided to go into
half-mourning and needed to order new gowns.” Aurelia felt only a
slight quiver of conscience as she had, indeed, spent a goodly
portion of her time in town improving her wardrobe.
    “ Your aunt and I were most alarmed,
Aurelia. When will you understand you are no longer free to do as
you please?”
    “ Since I did not expect your visit,”
Miss Trevor returned in clipped tones, “it never occurred to me my
journey might alarm you.”
    “ Sit, sit,” Lord Hubert mumbled,
swaying rather alarmingly as he waved his niece to a chair in front
of the estate desk.
    It was hopeless, Aurelia thought as she
clasped her hands tightly in her lap and stared at her uncle. She
would be fortunate to get any sense out of him at all. Much of her
anger dissipated on a sigh of despair. “Uncle, you know Pevensey
Park is mine, to order as I please. Papa made that quite clear in
his will. My majority is nearly upon us. You may be trustee of my
money for another five years, but this is my estate. My inheritance. You have no right to
order the packing up of my papa’s books.”
    “ Can’t abide a mess,” Lord Hubert
returned, on what sounded suspiciously like a whine. “Nor can Lady
Hubert. Books everywhere, don’t you know? Books on tables and
chairs, on the floor—some of ‘em stacked as high as a man can
reach. Can’t live with that, child. Clutter, my lady wife calls it,
and rightly so. Too much to carry to the attics, so I am having it
packed off to the stables. Practically empty, they are. Plenty of
room for books.”
    “ The stables?” Relia echoed faintly.
“They’ll be ruined!”
    “ Take an army to get ‘em to the
attics,” Lord Hubert grumbled. “Can’t expect me to
auth—author—agree to such an expense. Wouldn’t be
right.”
    Though stunned by her uncle’s high-handed
behavior, Miss Trevor realized she was missing something. Something
possibly even more vital than the fate of her father’s books.
    “ Uncle?” she said as the silence grew
heavy. “I fail to see why papa’s books should concern you. You do
not live here.”
    Lord Hubert, looking sly and perhaps a trifle
uneasy, took a deep gulp of his brandy. “Did not Biddeford tell
you?” he inquired. “I was so concerned when I found you gone that I
sent for Lady Hubert and Twyford. We have decided we have been
remiss in our care of you. Obviously, a young woman of your tender
years and noble station cannot live alone. We have, therefore,
decided to make Pevensey our home until you are safely
married.”
    “ Your home? ”
Relia murmured, wishing, as she heard her feeble echo, that she had
managed to imbue her voice with some semblance of outraged
indignation instead of simple shock.
    For a moment her uncle’s blue eyes—tinged
with gray, as were her own—appeared to sharpen, his mind grasping
at sobriety. “It has occurred to me, Aurelia, that Ralph’s books
would make excellent tinder for the Guy Fawke’s bonfire.”
    Miss Trevor sat, perched on the edge of her
chair, eyes closed, while the safe haven of Pevensey Park crumpled
around her. There must be a proper response to all this, but her
mind was filled with a whirlwind that refused to disgorge a single
coherent thought.
    Escape. She had to escape.
    “ And, Relia,” her uncle added as she
rose to her feet, “you had best hurry your dressing for dinner.
Lady Hubert prefers to dine at six o’clock. That is when you will
be expected at table.”
    Miss Trevor glided out of the estate
room on a miasma of pain, but by the time she reached her
bedchamber, her sharp senses were recovering. She could, she would deal with this situation. Harry
Stanton, Lord Hanley, even Oswald Pitney, would be better
than this .
    Even a Cit was

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