Thursday, August 25, 2011

Love's Savage Whiplash Chapter Fourteen - Divulging The Duke's Deception

In which our Newly wed pair, returning to Netherloin in triumphant bliss, find Themselves caught in a Web of deception that won't End well.


Julia placed the last of her garments in her reticule and fastened it, gazing about the room with a bit of sadness. She could not hold back the sigh that escaped her lips.

Her darling husband (husband! She had a husband!) looked up at her sad exhalation. "What is it, my duckling?"

She waved a delicate hand about, indicating the room. "It is just that I am sad to say goodbye to our little love nest," she said. "I shall miss being tucked away from the world, just the two of us. Colin and Julia."

He grimaced.

"Er, Julia and...Westley." She still did not quite understand his insistence on being called a different name. He had a perfectly good name of his own, after all.
But it was important that a wife do what she could to keep her husband happy. (Husband! She had a husband!)

"Thank you, my dearest." He took her hand and kissed the knuckles, sending a frisson of desire through her. "I shall miss our personal space as well."

She smiled. At least he'd stopped calling her that other woman's name. And, heaven forbid, the name of his ferret. She still wasn’t sure what exactly a ferret was, but she was quite sure she would not be pleased with the comparison once she did figure it out. Honoring her husband's (HUSBAND'S!) quirks was one thing; giving over her own right to keep her Christian name was another thing altogether.

She was willing to be as docile and subservient as he wanted, but that was a line she'd never cross.

"But it is time for us to return to the real world," he continued, tucking her hand into the crook of his elbow and turning toward the door. "We have duties. I think. Do we not?"

She looked at him curiously. "But of course, milord," she said. "You have your responsibilities as the Duke, which you have been training for since childhood."

"Quite right," he mumbled, inspecting the doorframe with an air of indifference.

"And I have quite neglected Ward," she added.

"Oh, no, my pigeon!" Colin-Westley stopped dead in the middle of the room. "You are no longer responsible for anything related to the nursery. You are a duchess, after all!"

Julia blinked. She supposed he was right. No longer a governess - with their marriage, she'd traded in all those responsibilities for the life of a duchess.

What were her new responsibilities, anyway? She frowned. Likely hiring a new governess would be one of them.

Poor Ward. He would miss her terribly.

"Come, my dear," Westley-Colin said, steering her toward the door again. "We must return to Netherloin and share the delightful news of our nuptials."

Oh, yes. Netherloin. The idea of telling Willoughby and Lady Chastity that they'd eloped filled Julia with dread. But with her husband (yes, HUSBAND) by her side, she could face anything.

****

Westley, pretender to the, well, not really throne, was it? The seat? Yes, that would do - the seat of Netherloin, would have been happy to wait another day or two.

His time with Julia at the quaint little country inn had been truly delightful, in more ways than one. Mostly under the bedcovers. But duty called, and he was ready to respond.

Also, he was a little hungry.

And the kitchens at Netherloin were one of his favourite things about being a duke.

The carriage turned onto the long, winding road to the estate, bumping and shuddering over the rough terrain. First order of business, Westley decided, was to have the road repaired.

Or perhaps just add new springs to the carriage. That might be less dear.

Suddenly, the carriage pulled to a precipitous halt, causing his duchess (he had a duchess!) to tumble off her seat. Landing with a most unladylike “Oof!”, she glared up at him as if her current position was his fault.

Which, as far as he could tell, it was decidedly not.

Murmuring gentle words to her, much as he would have calmed Brigid in a similar state (and he certainly needed to locate his darling ferret as soon as he returned to Netherloin. Why, she must be quite as hungry as he was!), he reached down a hand and tugged her off the floor. Returning her to the cushion next to him, he said, “Allow me to determine what has interfered with our progress, dear,” and opened the carriage door to look out.

It was a most confusing scene that greeted his gaze. His driver was in a heated argument with a young boy who looked rather familiar.

“But I must speak with his Grace,” the child protested loudly. “’Tis a matter of life and death.”

Westley frowned. That certainly did not sound promising.

“Ward?” Julia poked her head out of the carriage directly below Westley’s arm and stared at the lad. “Whatever are you doing here?”

“Trying to save –" Whatever he was about to say was cut off by the sound of thundering hooves as some of Willoughby’s men rode up the drive. As far as Westley could tell, Ward heaved a sigh at their appearance, which made no sense at all, for what boy didn’t love a man in uniform upon a fancy steed?

The lead horseman drew to a halt in front of the carriage and sketched a bow. “Your presence is requested at Netherloin,” he said haughtily.

“Yes, yes, of course,” Westley replied. “That’s where we were headed, after all. Lead the way, my good man.”

He ducked back into the carriage, bringing Julia with him, and after a pause Ward leapt in after them. Once they were all settled (he and Julia on one cushion, Ward on the one opposite) Westley tapped the roof of the carriage and the driver set them in motion once again.

***

“How exciting! An escort back to Netherloin.” Julia reached across the carriage and patted Ward on the knee. “And you coming to greet us as well. Thoughtful of you, my dear.”

“It wasn’t thoughtful, it was –“

“But how did you all know we were returning today?” Julia looked at Westley-Colin with an exasperated smile. “Did you set all this up, my duke-ling? A welcome home to remember?”

“No, my dearest, it was not my idea. Though I wish it had been, now that I see the delight on your face.” He winked at her. “Delight I have not seen since last night, when we tried that one thing with the feather and the –“

Julia coughed loudly. “Not in front of the children, husband!” She nodded sharply at Ward, even while her inner voice crowed once again about how excellent it was to have a husband.

“You are married?”

She looked over at Ward, who did not seem nearly as enthusiastic about their nuptials as she might have expected.

Oh, well. Perhaps he was just saddened at the loss of his governess. Poor soul.

“Please do not be inconsolable, dear Ward,” she said, patting his knee again. “Do not fret. I will still visit you in the nursery when I can. And I am sure your new governess will be almost as nice as I am.”

“That’s not what I –“

“Of course, I shall be far better dressed by then,” she added brightly. “For the wife of a duke must be clothed in the first stare of fashion.”

“And so you shall,” her darling husband interjected. “As long as we have the money for it. Which I am not quite sure we do.”

“Oh. That does present a difficulty.” Julia pondered on it for a moment. “Well, you are quite clever, my husband. I am sure you shall come up with something.”

He squinted thoughtfully. “Perhaps I could return to my former profession,” he mused. “Just for a short while, until we are comfortably settled.”

“You see!” Julia clapped her hands and bounced on the carriage cushion. “I knew you would come up with a plan.” She frowned. “Wait, what profession?”

“That’s the problem,” Ward said, a note of desperation in his voice. “They know about—“

“Err…” Westley-Colin snapped his mouth shut and gestured out the window of the carriage. “Look, our very own welcoming committee!”

“Oh, my goodness,” Julia said, leaning past him to gawk at the gathered crowd. “How excited they must be, to welcome back their duke and new duchess!”

“You have no idea,” Ward muttered, slumping back in his seat. “If only you had let me talk, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Julia patted him fondly on the head. “Oh, what silly ideas you have, Ward! Don’t you know that children should be seen and not heard? We can see you, quite well indeed, and have no need to hear you.”

“I give up,” Ward said, tossing up his hands in defeat.

Julia nodded approvingly. “That’s better, dear.”

The carriage drew to a halt in the center of the courtyard, where indeed a crowd had gathered. Julia was surprised and not a little touched that even Lady Chastity had turned out to greet them. How unchristian of her to think the lady would be still angry at the turn of events that had taken her husband away and given him to Julia, she mused. Clearly, she had set aside her disappointment to do the neighborly thing.

Their driver alighted and opened the carriage door, and Colin-Westley gestured at Ward. “Would you like to disembark first, young man?”

“Oh, no,” Ward muttered, sinking back into the corner of the carriage. “You go right ahead.”

“Very well.” Westley leapt down from the carriage, cutting quite a dashing figure as he turned and swept a bow towards the crowd. “Good day, my fine people! I have a surprise for you that I daresay you will be thrilled about. May I present to you Her Grace, the Duchess of Earl?”

Julia blushed as she put her hand in his and stepped down from the carriage. “I know some of you may be shocked at the news,” she began. “But true love does conquer all.”

“There he is!” Willoughby’s voice rang out over the courtyard. Julia stared up at him, atop the stairs to the entryway.

Really, that was quite rude, to interrupt her Speech of Triumphant Return in such a gauche manner. Didn’t everyone already know Westley-Colin was standing right in front of all of them? Honestly.

“Guards! Seize him!”

Julia’s mouth dropped open as she was rudely elbowed aside by a rather large man in uniform, who grabbed one of her husband’s arms. The other was held firmly by another large man.

“I say, chaps,” the Duke said, tugging ineffectually at his captors. “This is a passing strange way to greet your lord and master.”

“You are no lord and master,” Lady Chastity called out over the murmurs of the crowd. Her face was a twisted mask of bitterness and glee. “You are an imposter!”

“What?” Julia turned to her husband in astonishment . “My dear, refute her immediately!”

He opened his mouth, but no sound came out. Which was also passing strange, as he did so love to talk. And talk. And talk.

“He cannot,” the uncle said with a sneer. “Because it is the truth, isn’t it, Westley?”

The Duke clamped his mouth shut again.

Julia leaned in, her eyes wide with shock. “How does he know your pet name,” she whispered fiercely.

“He is no Duke,” Lady Chastity continued in a shrill voice. “He is just a man who looks like our dear departed Duke. He has taken poor Colin’s place in the hopes of inheriting what belongs to another man.”

“What are you saying?” Julia stepped closer to her husband, or as close as she could get, what with him being surrounded by the uncle’s men. “My beloved Westley – I mean Colin –is no imposter!”

“Aha!” Lady Chastity pointed an accusing finger at Julia. “She knows!”

“Knows what?”

“His true name!”

Julia glanced up at her husband helplessly. Why was he not denying these baseless accusations?

He would not meet her eyes, instead scuffing his toe in the dirt and whistling. Whistling! At a time like this!

The uncle took a step towards them. “This pretender, this vile usurper, has taken advantage of his cunning likeness to the true duke and stepped into his place in Colin’s absence. He is no duke, but a highwayman – the dread Highwayman Roberts!”

“What?” Julia pressed one hand to her trembling mouth. It could not be true!

On the other hand, it would explain so many things…

“And what has become of the missing duke, hmmm?” Lady Chastity stomped delicately across the courtyard and stood in front of Westley – Colin – whatever his name was, hands on her hips. “What have you done with my loving fiancé, you horrible fiend?”

“I didn’t do anything to him. I’ve never met the man!” Westley-Colin clamped his mouth shut as awareness of what he’d just said descended. “I mean…”

The crack of a hand across his face echoed loudly around the courtyard, stunning everyone into silence.

Well, most everyone.

“I say, that was quite uncalled for,” the maybe-fake-duke protested. “What did I ever do to you?”

She snarled at him, “My name is Lady Chastity. You killed my fiancé. Prepare to die!”

“Pardon?”

The uncle, now descended from the stairs, stood in the center of the courtyard and raised his hands. “It is my contention that this man disposed of the true duke in order to deceive us all and take his place. Therefore, he shall be placed under arrest until such a time that he can be sentenced to hang for murder. Guards, take him away!”

All Julia could do was watch in horror as her husband, the man she loved, was summarily marched into Netherloin, likely to be placed in the dungeon. But who was that man? Was he Colin, the duke she’d loved from afar for so long? Or was he truly an imposter?

The crowd began to disperse as the excitement faded, Lady Chastity sweeping into Netherloin on the arm of Uncle Willoughby. Finally Julia was alone.

Or almost. For once the crowds had disappeared, Ward crept out of the carriage, slipping to his governess’s side.

“Oh, Ward,” she said with a sob, resting one hand on his shoulder. “What an absolute disaster! How am I to bear it? If only…”

“What?” He looked at her askance.

“Nothing.” She shook her head. “I just wish we could have had some warning that this was going to happen.”

Ward made a strangled sort of sound, causing Julia to narrow her eyes at him.
Really, he needed to stop grimacing like that or his face was going to freeze that way.

To be continued...*****


A Word to you, Our Dear and Gentle Readers: If you enjoyed this small offering, please do us the honor of returning to grace our humble blog with your presence one week hence, when we shall be delighted to bring to you the next installment of our little saga, which is to be entitled, Siblings Reunited, The Forces of Phisicks O'erturned.

And please partake of our Love’s Savage Contest. Leave a comment here or go to our Facebook page (link in the column on the right) and quote your favorite line from this week’s episode to be entered in a monthly drawing for a giftcard at the bookstore of your choice and a grand finale drawing for a signed e-reader cover.

Cordially,
The Naughty Nine

To read from the beginning: Love's Savage Whiplash Prologue

To read Chapter Thirteen

6 comments:

Ivelisse said...

I did not want this installment to end! Can't wait to see how the story progresses from here :)
Fave line:

She snarled at him, “My name is Lady Chastity. You killed my fiancé. Prepare to die!”

lmao

Sherry said...

I like these lines because I know I heard it when I was younger.

Ward made a strangled sort of sound, causing Julia to narrow her eyes at him.
Really, he needed to stop grimacing like that or his face was going to freeze that way.

Jean P said...

A very exciting chapter, can't wait to find out what happens next.
Favorite line this time "Oh, no, my pigeon!" Colin-Westley stopped dead in the middle of the room.....

Maria said...

Another good chapter! Can't wait to see what happens to Westley next!

my favorite line "Oh, what silly ideas you have, Ward! Don’t you know that children should be seen and not heard? We can see you, quite well indeed, and have no need to hear you.”

elaing8 said...

Awesome chapter,I can't wait until next week..I want to know what happens now :)

favorite line..hmmm..its a combination..when Ward is trying to tell them what's going on and they keep cutting him off and he says
“You have no idea,” Ward muttered, slumping back in his seat. “If only you had let me talk, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
then tosses his hands in the air in defeat.

Karin said...

This was fantastic! My favorite line is actually the few lines elaing8 already posted, so I'm going to post my second favorite. lol

As far as Westley could tell, Ward heaved a sigh at their appearance, which made no sense at all, for what boy didn’t love a man in uniform upon a fancy steed?