Catherwood Burning

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Is Reade’s discipline enough to keep Jenny safe?

The cruel Marquess of Catherwood is finally dead, and Reade has inherited both the title and the vast estate, but all is not well. His angry half-brothers are lashing out, putting both Reade and Jenny in danger.



Jenny has lots of plans—learn to ride her horse, drive on the ‘wrong side’, and best of all, plan a wedding, but Reade insists on first guaranteeing her safety. Jenny hates being told no, so he has his work cut out for him.



How can he rid his beloved Catherwood of his father’s decadent legacy, including his two half-brothers who shared their father’s depravity?



This is book three in the Catherwood series but can be enjoyed independently.



Publisher’s Note: This contemporary romance contains elements of mystery, suspense, power exchange, and adult themes. If any of these offend you, please do not purchase.

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Published 17 March 2020
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EAN13 9781645632375
Language English

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CATHERWOOD BURNING
Catherwood - Book Three
LAURA HARTPublished by Blushing Books
An Imprint of
ABCD Graphics and Design, Inc.
A Virginia Corporation
977 Seminole Trail #233
Charlottesville, VA 22901
©2020
All rights reserved.
No part of the book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publisher. The trademark Blushing Books is pending in the US
Patent and Trademark Office.
Laura Hart
Catherwood Burning
EBook ISBN: 978-1-64563-237-5
v2
Cover Art by ABCD Graphics & Design
This book contains fantasy themes appropriate for mature readers only. Nothing in this book should be
interpreted as Blushing Books' or the author's advocating any non-consensual sexual activity.C o n t e n t s
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Laura Hart
Blushing Books
Blushing Books NewsletterChapter 1
enny Hanson and Mandy Stuart were best friends in Houston, but then Mandy
fell in love with Quinn Douglas, a visiting Scotsman who turned out to be a
viscount from an old aristocratic family. Mandy moved to Scotland where sheJ
married Quinn in a pageant-filled wedding that included Jenny as a bridesmaid
and that turned unassuming Mandy from Houston into Lady Amanda, a viscountess.
Three years later Jenny flew to Scotland again to visit her good friend, and while
there she quite by accident met Reade Ramsay, known to most as the Earl of Cranford
and the future Marquess of Catherwood, a troubled but enormously wealthy estate.
Reade was fascinated by the spunky and outspoken young Texan and followed her
back to Houston, where they fell in love.
Jenny returned to Scotland with Reade, who needed to deal with the demands of his
aging and increasingly senile father, the Marquess of Catherwood, a man whose cruelty
and perversion had not faded with age. The situation was complicated by Reade’s two
much older half-brothers, sons of his father’s mistress of sixty years. While the Burton
brothers had no legal standing, the marquess had always given them free rein of the
estate to indulge their unsavory appetites, and as the marquess’ final days approached,
the brothers’ resentment of thirty-seven-year-old Reade, the legal heir, became more
apparent.
When the marquess finally died, Reade inherited not only the title of Marquess of
Catherwood but also the difficult task of ridding the vast estate of the brothers’ sordid
activities. He was determined to make Catherwood once again a place to be proud of—a
place where he and Jenny could marry and raise a family.
Reade gave his full attention to what the lead solicitor was saying.
“We’ve examined your father’s records in great detail, my lord, and I’m happy to say
we’ve found no illegal activity under the laws of primogeniture. No entailed property has
been given away or sold. However, as you already know, large sums of money were
passed to the Burtons in your father’s final months, and over the years he also signed
over a number of entailed properties to the Burton brothers using long-term leases. While
those leases can of course be broken, it will take some time.”
Reade frowned slightly as he listened. “How many properties are we talking about?”“Aside from the three properties used as residences by Mrs. Burton and her two sons,
there are nine houses we’ve identified, my lord.”
“Nine!” Reade’s eyebrows went up in surprise.
“Yes, my lord. Each is fairly close to the estate’s perimeter and has its own gate, but
that may be just a coincidence.”
“Do the leases mention what the properties are being used for?”
“No, my lord.”
“Can you collect that information for me please, Byers?”
“Of course, my lord, although the accuracy of our information will depend in large part
on the Burtons being forthcoming with us.”
Reade made a small sound of distaste. “That’s not their strong suit. Perhaps we
should hire some investigators to see what they can uncover.”
“If you wish, my lord.”
“Yes, please do so, and don’t worry about the cost. At this point, I need to have as
accurate information as possible.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“In the meanwhile, please have your office begin drawing up the papers necessary for
eviction on the nine non-residential properties.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“And one other thing, Byers. Please prepare papers for my signature barring the
Burtons from use of the old dungeon. Give them a few days’ notice in case they have
personal belongings they want to remove, but I’d like to have the letter prepared this
week.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Adair and Harold Burton, in their mid-fifties, had been using the centuries-old dungeon
in the huge manor house for a personal S & M playground, a situation Reade intended to
put an end to as soon as possible.
Because the two Burton men were acknowledged sons of Reade’s father, he felt they
were entitled to some consideration, meaning he wasn’t sure he wanted to completely cut
them off from the enormous Catherwood estate. If they were going to continue to be
there, though, it would be simply as residents, and their other assorted activities would
have to cease. Once Byers had collected information on the nine houses they were using,
he’d have to decide how to handle the situation.
“I’ll look forward to your further report,” said Reade as he rose and took his leave.
“Did you have a nice day?” Reade asked several hours later as Jenny entered the living
room of his apartment in Drummond Court, the huge Catherwood manor house. He’d been
back from the solicitor’s for several hours now, but Jenny had gone to spend the day at
Morleton, the estate where her friend Mandy lived.
“It was great!” she replied, her face glowing.
“Poor Quinn! What kind of mischief did you three ladies get up to today?”
“It was only Mandy and me. Maisie couldn’t come.”Maisie was Quinn’s much younger sister and a very close friend of both Mandy and
Jenny. Her marriage to her childhood sweetheart hadn’t dampened even slightly her high
spirits and ability to find mischief wherever she went.
Reade picked up a house phone and asked the kitchen to send some tea and then
patted the cushion next to him. “Come sit over here and tell me about your day.”
Jenny came over and sat down on his lap instead and then wrapped her arms around
him.
“I missed you,” Reade said as he kissed her.
“Oh, you were probably too busy with your lawyers to think about me.”
“I can do both.”
Jenny readjusted herself on his lap and then announced, “There’s something I need.”
Reade’s eyes twinkled. “I totally agree, but we may not be thinking of the same thing.
What is it you think you need?”
“Dancing lessons.”
Reade looked surprised. Of everything he’d expected to hear, dancing lessons wasn’t
even a possibility.
“Dancing lessons?” he repeated. “Where did that come from? I thought you knew how
to dance.”
“Well sure, in Houston, but this is different over here. Mandy was talking about the
Morleton Ball today. It’s almost time for it again, and she was telling me that the dancing
here is really different from what we did in the States.”
“It’s probably more formal,” he conceded. “Is that what she meant?”
“Yes. She said it’s like something in a Disney movie or an old opera ball in Vienna.
You know, waltzes and all that.”
Reade looked amused. “Are you telling me you can’t waltz?”
“Well, I kind of learned back in junior high, but she said this isn’t at all the same thing.
It’s Disney-movie dancing, and I don’t know that. She had lessons before the first ball she
went to, and she says I should have some too.”
Just then a young woman entered and set down a tray with tea and a selection of
afternoon snacks. Jenny’s eyes lit up, and she slid off Reade’s lap, took a tiny cookie and
popped it into her mouth.
“Hungry?” asked Reade, amused as so often by Jenny’s lack of protocol. Her
easygoing manner was the complete opposite of his own strict upbringing and had been one of
the major reasons he’d been so fascinated by her from their very first encounter.
“It looked good,” she replied with a guilty little smile.
Reade leaned forward and fixed a cup of tea for Jenny and then one for himself. Then
he passed Jenny the delicate porcelain plate with the treats and watched as she put
several more little delicacies on her saucer.
“Now that your energy is being refreshed, why don’t you tell me more about the
dancing lessons you want,” he said. “Is it something I can teach you?”
“I don’t know. Are you a dancing instructor?”
“No, but I plan to be your dancing partner, so that counts for something.”
Jenny frowned slightly. “Actually, Mandy said that we won’t get to dance together most
of the time. Other men will keep cutting in and also asking for dances in advance. She
doesn’t like that part of it, but Quinn said it’s normal here.”
Reade nodded. “It is. I fully expect to have a hard time dancing with my own fiancée.”“Not if I don’t get some dancing lessons. No one will want to dance with someone who
keeps tripping over their feet.”
Reade chuckled. “Well, there’s the solution. We won’t get you any lessons and then I
can have you all to myself that evening. By the way, when is the ball this year?”
“It’s still two months away, but we’ll be in the States for some of that time, so I need to
start now. I also need a ball gown. Mandy said they’re not the same as what I’d find in
Houston.”
“You want lessons and a gown?” asked Reade with faux outrage. “What kind of
woman have I got myself entangled with?”
Jenny giggled and helped herself to a second round of goodies.
“Perhaps we should look for a gown with an elastic waist,” joked Reade. He enjoyed
Jenny’s relish for life, which included an open appreciation for most food.
“So when can I start lessons?”
“We need to get the name of an instructor first.”
“I have the name of the person who taught Mandy.”
Reade nodded. “Did he come to the house or did she go to him?”
“She went into town to his studio, but Morleton is a lot closer to Edinburgh than we
are.”
“Let me have the number and I’ll set something up. Maybe you can use the ballroom
here.”
Jenny’s face lit up. “That would be so cool. Do you think you’ll ever give a ball here?”
“If it’s something you’d like, of course we can, but the ballroom would need to be
redone, just like most of the formal areas would.”
“Do you have the money to fix it all up?”
“I’ll manage,” replied Reade with a small smile.
Catherwood was enormously wealthy, but some of the public areas of the manor
house hadn’t been completely kept up during his father’s long rule as marquess. In
addition to his permanent mistress, he’d been married twice, once for six years to a
woman who had given him two daughters and then for fifteen years to Reade’s mother,
but they’d divorced almost twenty-five years ago, and after that, there’d been no
marchioness to give balls or host gala soirees. Instead, the sordid activities of the Burton
brothers had been the source of many rumors, and Catherwood’s reputation had suffered.
Now Reade hoped to return Catherwood to its former place of prestige among the
grand estates of Scotland, but he would follow Jenny’s wishes. He had no desire to force
her into a life she didn’t want, but he’d been surprised to discover that balls and ball gowns
held interest for his normally casual Texas fiancée. He’d seen the stars in her eyes as
she’d described Mandy’s first ball at Morleton and shown him pictures of her friend in her
gown and tiara.
Once Reade and Jenny were married, ‘his’ Jenny could preside over her own ball as
the Marchioness of Catherwood. Imagining her with a tiara atop her sun-streaked blonde
hair always brought a smile to his face. She was going to be a marchioness like none
before her!
“Would you try to set something up as soon as possible?” asked Jenny, still nibbling
on her little treats. “Mandy said it wasn’t so easy learning to dance like a princess,
especially knowing the earl would be watching her all evening.”
Quinn’s father, the stern Earl of Morleton, had only very grudgingly agreed to themarriage of his son to a ‘commoner’ from the United States, and it had taken Mandy some
time to win him over. Her flawless comportment and then the birth of an heir had finally
gained his approval, but it had been a long road.
Reade laughed. “Fortunately, you only have to learn to dance like a future
marchioness, and there will be no one standing in judgment.”
“Oh, I expect I’ll be noticed. You know the name Catherwood still raises a lot of
eyebrows, at least according to Maisie.”
“Ah, Maisie and her opinions. Whatever would we do without them?”
“But you know she’s right.”
Reade sighed. “Yes, in this case I do, and my goal as marquess is to change that. I
hope to erase all the damage the Burtons have done to Catherwood.”
“Your father’s own behavior didn’t help any.”
“I know.”
“So on that topic, how did your visit go with the solicitor?”
“We’re not done yet, but I did find out that my father leased Adair and Harold nine
houses besides their own homes.”
“Nine!” Jenny rolled her eyes. “I’ll bet they’re running a full-menu sex operation here.”
“Operation?”
“I don’t mean medical operation. I’m talking about activities. You’re lucky you’re not in
the States or someone would bust this whole estate.”
“Let’s wait and see what the solicitor finds out.”
“What are you going to do about the dungeon?”
“I’m having papers drawn up to bar them entry.”
“They’re not going to be very happy.”
“I’m not here to make them happy.”
The last was said in what Jenny had dubbed early on as his ‘earl voice’. Of course,
that was when he was an earl—the Earl of Cranford, a title his father had given him when
he was only six. Now, although he still had that title, the title of marquess outranked it, and
so he was no longer referred to as an earl.
Jenny had finally stopped nibbling, so she got up and returned to Reade’s lap, one of
her favorite places.
“Are you a good dancer?” she asked, resuming their earlier topic of conversation.
“I can do my duty.”
“That’s not what I asked. Are you good?”
“You’ll have to tell me after you’ve tried me out. I’ve never had any complaints.”
Jenny giggled. “Well, according to Maisie, this area is full of women who would have
danced in mud if it would have gotten your attention.”
Reade frowned slightly. “She’s a bit prone to exaggeration.”
“Not so much. It just bothers you because she calls a spade a spade.”
When Reade didn’t answer, Jenny continued. “You should always remember that we
only met because of Maisie.”
Reade tickled her ribs slightly before pulling her tightly against him. “That and the fact
that you got yourself lost in my woods.”
Jenny giggled again. “But I was only in your woods because of Maisie. However you
cut it, it comes back to Maisie, so I think you should appreciate her more.”
“Right now I’d rather appreciate you.”“So do it.”
He moved her off his lap, stood up, and then turned and scooped her into his arms.
“What are you doing?” she demanded, resisting slightly.
“Taking you to the bedroom so I can fully appreciate you.”Chapter 2
e met with resistance in our questioning about the property use, my
lord,” said Angus Byers as he sat across from Reade in the latter’s
office a few days later. “We have little more information now than we did“W
before.”
Reade nodded slightly. “I’m not surprised. Where do we stand with putting
investigators on it?”
“I wanted to check with you before implementing anything too drastic, my lord. In light
of the current situation, I would suggest putting undercover people into the woods to
observe the happenings at each property, but that would of course require your
permission for them to be on Catherwood.”
“You have it, but I suspect their presence will be quickly discovered.”
Byers shook his head ever so slightly. “I have in mind some highly trained operatives,
my lord, agents who should have no trouble remaining undetected given the coverage the
woods afford.”
Reade nodded again but said, “I’m not sure I’ve mentioned that there seem to be
people moving through the woods, mostly at night. I have no idea what they’re doing, but I
mention this because these roaming people could present a problem for your agents.”
“I’ll alert them to the fact, my lord, but as I mentioned, they’re highly trained. Why don’t
I put them into the woods for several days and see what comes to light?”
“That’s fine. I’ll let the main gate know your men should have access.”
“If you will, my lord, a secondary source of entry might be better.”
“Of course. There’s a house called Troop House that has its own private entry and
which is not near any of the houses in question. Why don’t I turn that property over to you
for your use in this operation? It will provide a central place for the men and also an
outof-the-way entrance.”
“Thank you, my lord. That sounds good.”
Troop House was an eighteenth-century stone residence that Reade and Jenny had
lived in for a short while after their arrival in Scotland, so Reade was sure that it was both
removed from and had nothing to do with the Burton activities.
“One last question, my lord. Do we have your permission to use surveillance
equipment that would compromise the privacy of those inside the buildings?”
Reade hesitated. “What about the leases? Do they imply privacy?”
“In this case I think not. In any case, my lord, I don’t believe it’s a point to cause us
trouble. The Burtons’ reluctance to share information about their activities would indicate
they’re not of a nature the Burtons would like to see publicized.”Reade made a small sound of derision. “I think you’re right. You have my permission to
use whatever means you choose.”
“Thank you, my lord. I’ll be back to you in a few days with an update.”
“So how did your first lesson go?” asked Reade a few hours later as Jenny came into the
living room, her eyes sparkling.
“It was lots of fun,” she replied with enthusiasm. “It really is like that stuff you see in
Disney movies. It’s kind of hard, but I like it.”
“Why is it hard?” Reade asked, genuinely curious.
“I don’t know, maybe just because it’s so different. It’s very precise, and it moves
fast.”
Reade gave a small chuckle. “I thought a lot of dancing moved fast.”
“Well yes, but in this kind of waltzing the steps are large, so it’s like having to be
correct at sixty miles an hour rather than thirty.”
“I guess that’s one way of explaining it.”
“You don’t really get to snuggle with your date dancing like that,” Jenny continued, a
small frown on her face.
“That’s what getting some air on the terrace is for.”
Jenny giggled. “And exactly how many women have you gotten air with?”
“Probably the same general number that you have.”
Jenny burst out laughing. “I can’t say that I’ve ever gone out to get air with a woman.”
Reade grabbed her and kissed her. “You’re a little smart mouth, aren’t you? When’s
your next lesson?”
“Friday.”
“What do you want to do about finding a ball gown? Did Mandy tell you where to
shop?”
“Yes.”
“How about if we go into town on Friday and stay over for Saturday shopping? You
need to get your dress ordered before we leave for the States.”
“Okay.”
Jenny had come back to Scotland with Reade so quickly that her mother, who had
been in Japan visiting her brother at the time, hadn’t even met Reade yet. They’d Skyped,
but it wasn’t the same. In addition, Jenny’s father, who was remarried and living in
Montana, also hadn’t met Reade, so they were planning a quick trip to the States so
everyone could meet each other.
Jenny sat down Indian style on the big leather chair across from Reade. “Are you sure
you know how to dance like I’m learning?” she asked, looking at him like maybe he was
trying to fool her.
“Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I?”
“Well, it seems like the kind of super-formal dancing where the men wear red sashes
and monocles, and I can’t quite picture you like that.”
Reade looked amused. He always forgot what his world looked like to a completeoutsider like Jenny.
“We almost never wear red sashes in Scotland,” he replied, his eyes twinkling, “and
I’m not in need of a monocle.”
“How come you don’t wear those kind of sashes here?”
“We prefer to focus on our tartans. Once in a while you’ll see someone with a large
medallion around his neck, but it’s not the norm.”
“I kind of like those sashes. It’s pure Disney.”
“You seem to have a fascination with Disney.”
“Probably because it’s our only view of the grand life in Europe.”
Reade frowned. “We’re only marginally European.”
“I know, I know. You’ve said that before, but for us in the States, you’re all European.”
“Well, on a happier note, my mother’s husband will probably wear some kind of sash to
our wedding.”
Jenny’s face lit up, but before she could answer Reade added, “I don’t believe he
owns a monocle, though.”
Reade’s mother had been married to a French marquis for over twenty years, and they
lived in the south of France.
Jenny giggled. “If you really know how to dance like I’m learning, maybe we could do it
together for some practice.”
Reade gave a brief nod. “I’ll have to tell someone to have the ballroom put into order
and also hook up a sound system with appropriate music.”
“We can bring our own music. Just make sure the room’s okay.”
“This is the third time we’ve stayed in this same suite,” commented Jenny as she watched
the bellman put down their bags. “Do they keep it on hold for you?”
They were at the Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh and had arrived in plenty of time
before Jenny’s lesson.
“No, we’ve been lucky.”
Jenny gave him a ‘look’. “I know your kind of luck,” she replied. “It usually involves
waving your title around.”
Reade frowned at her. “That’s not really true, and you should know it. I rarely ask for
favors.”
He sat down on the leather sofa and patted the seat next to him. “Why don’t you come
over and join me?”
Jenny tucked herself under his arm and then asked, “What are you going to do while I
have my lesson?”
“I thought I’d stay and watch.”
“Really?”
“Unless it bothers you.”
She shrugged. “No, it’s fine, but I don’t want Mr. Kinrick to get all bothered by your
glorious presence.”
Reade frowned slightly. Sometimes he found her irreverent commentary about rankamusing, but other times, like today, he found it slightly annoying. After all, she was soon
going to be part of the system that she constantly made jokes about.
“I think he’ll be fine. He’s obviously used to working with peers.”
“But Maisie said you’re very high in the system.”
“And what would we do without Maisie’s opinion?” he replied dryly.
“That’s fact, not opinion. She said a marquess is only two steps lower than a king.”
“That may be, but they’re two very significant steps. It’s not a gap that will ever be
closed.”
“And thank God for that. I don’t think I could stand any more sucking up.”
Reade frowned again. “Comments like that make me very uncomfortable. Do you truly
understand what it’s going to mean to be a marchioness?”
Jenny shrugged slightly. “I guess.”
“That’s not good enough, Jenny. You need to be sure you fully understand what
marrying me will mean.”
“Are you looking for an out?”
“You know better than that, little one. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,
and that’s why it’s so important to me that you fully understand what our life will be like. I
want you to be happy with your life here, and I want us to be happy together. I want us to
have a great life with children and friends, but it will always be within the peer world here,
and I don’t think you’re completely comfortable with that.”
“I’ll be okay as long as we’re together. You said I could be the naughtiest marchioness
ever.”
Reade shook his head. “I don’t believe I said ‘could’. I was making a prediction, not
giving permission.”
“In my mind they’re the same thing.”
Reade looked across at his beautiful Jenny… his outspoken and mischievous Jenny.
He would give up his life for her without hesitation, but he sometimes had qualms about
their future—not about their love for each other, but about Jenny’s attitudes. He wanted
her to be accepted by the people she’d know, but she had a tendency to make jokes
about a lifestyle that most took very seriously. She was still young though, only a month
from turning thirty, and he hoped that a few more years would soften the bluntness.
“What a pleasant surprise, Lord Catherwood. I didn’t expect to see you this afternoon.”
“I hope it won’t disturb the lesson if I stay, Kinrick. Miss Hanson and I are overnighting
in the city.”
“Of course not, my lord. You’re most welcome.”
James Kinrick hurriedly found a comfortable chair to offer Reade before turning his
attention to Jenny, and for the next hour Reade watched as Mr. Kinrick showed her
several steps and then practiced them with her. Reade was impressed at how quickly
Jenny seemed to catch on, and he found himself surprised at how gracefully she moved. It
reminded him of her fascination with ball gowns. It seemed somehow out of keeping with
her spunky personality, but as he watched her move around the dance floor he couldeasily imagine her in a beautiful gown and even with a marchioness’ tiara on her head.
“Would you care to accompany Miss Hanson yourself for a few turns around the floor,
my lord?”
Reade smiled and stood up. “Yes, I would. Thank you.”
He moved onto the dance floor and took Jenny in his arms—at least as much in his
arms as a formal waltz allowed—and as the music started again, he happily led his
irreverent little Texan in a surprisingly smooth waltz.
“You’ve learned really quickly,” he complemented her as they twirled around the floor.
Jenny’s face was beaming. “I can’t believe we’re doing this!” she exclaimed.
“And I don’t even have my monocle on,” he replied, his eyes twinkling.
She giggled without losing a beat.
As the music came to a stop, Reade gave the hint of a bow and said, “Thank you for
the dance, fair lady.”
“Any time,” she replied, almost singing. It had been a fantastic afternoon.
“I think she’ll be fine at the ball, my lord,” said Mr. Kinrick as they moved towards him.
“I’ve never had a beginner learn so quickly. Miss Hanson is remarkably light on her feet.”
“I’ve had a lot of dance lessons,” Jenny replied, “but never this type.”
“Do you wish to spend time on other dances like the tango, cha-cha, Polonaise, or
anything else?” he asked her.
“Do they do all those at a ball?” she asked.
“It depends,” Mr. Kinrick answered. “Perhaps Lord Catherwood can better answer for
the particular ball you’ll be attending.”
Jenny looked at Reade expectantly. “Well?”
“The Morleton Ball is fairly formal,” he replied. “I haven’t gone for several years, but I
seem to remember some of the younger people doing more contemporary dancing as the
evening wore on. I can’t say I remember anyone doing the tango, though.”
Jenny laughed. “Quinn’s father would have a heart attack if they did.”
They arranged for Jenny to have a couple more lessons to go over other dance styles
and then took their leave.
“You were really quite good in there,” Reade told her as they walked back to the car.
“You don’t need to sound so surprised.”
“I was surprised, but mostly because you told me it was hard for you.”
“It was at first. Where did you learn to dance so well?”
“It’s part of the life.”
“I find it hard to imagine your creepy old father signing you up for dancing lessons.”
Reade didn’t want to get sidetracked on a discussion about his late father, so he
changed the subject to one of her favorite topics.
“What do you want to do for dinner?”
Jenny’s face lit up, dancing forgotten as she imagined the possibilities.Chapter 3
well-dressed middle-aged woman hurried forward at the tinkle of the
over-thedoor bell. “Good morning. What may I help you with today?”
“Good morning,” answered Reade in return as he handed her one of hisA
cards. “Miss Hanson would like a gown for the Morleton Ball.”
“Of course.” The woman’s eyes widened as she read the card she was holding. So
this was the new young lord at Catherwood. He was certainly handsome, and the young
woman with him was striking in an unusual way. She didn’t carry herself aloof as so many
peers did but rather almost gave off an air of fun. She was also wearing a diamond ring,
which put an interesting spin on things.
“I’ll be ever so pleased to assist you, Lord Catherwood. Do you have any idea of the
type of gown you’d like to see?”
A look of amusement flitted across Reade’s face. “I believe Miss Hanson can answer
that better than can I.”
Jenny giggled, causing the saleswoman to look at her in surprise.
“Oh, come on, Reade. Maybe we can get matching dresses.”
Reade’s jaws tightened almost imperceptibly. A few lessons in public comportment
wouldn’t go amiss with Jenny he thought, understanding once again why the Earl of
Morleton had insisted on Mandy being given an extensive course of instruction.
The saleslady covered her surprise with a pleasant smile as she turned to this Miss
Hanson, whose accent made it clear she was either from the United States or Canada.
“My name is Mrs. Hunt, and I’m sure we can find something to your liking. Do you have
a style or color preference?”
“Well, the color shouldn’t clash too much with the Ramsay tartan, and as for style, I’d
love to have an off-the-shoulder dress.”
Mrs. Hunt studied Jenny’s coloring and body shape for a minute and then said, “Very
well, let’s see what we can find, shall we? Why don’t you have a seat for a moment and
let me select a few possibilities.” She motioned with her hand to a comfortable loveseat
and then rang a small bell, and almost immediately a young woman appeared.
“Maryam, could you please bring some tea for Lord Catherwood and Miss Hanson?”
“Yes, Miss,” the young woman answered, but her gaze was on their visitors. Lord
Catherwood? All the young women in the area knew the name and that he was a bachelor.
He was gorgeous, but he also had a woman with him, and she was wearing a diamond
ring. Maryam couldn’t remember ever having read an announcement, though, which was
strange.
“Now, Maryam,” Mrs. Hunt reminded her, and the young woman blushed and scurried