Sir Samuel Moore shut his blue eyes against the brightness of the sun. It had been causing his head to pound even more brutally than it had been from the moment he had woken that morning.
Such was the consequence of another night out.
Putting a hand over his sensitive eyes, he hoped that this new darkness would have a stronger effect, but just then, the rickety cart hit another bump in the road, and it caused his hand to smack against his nose.
“Ah!” he exclaimed, sitting up and blinking against the light. He rubbed his nose with one hand and then his temples.
He could remember little of the evening before, but he knew enough to understand why he was feeling so ill.
That Scotch whisky was a devilish drink. And he loved every sip of it.
He checked for his wallet and nodded to himself upon realising that it was still there.
Samuel pulled it out to count how much he had lost during the card games. One by one, he counted.
There was about half what he had taken in with him. Perhaps a quarter of it had gone to buy drinks, but the other must have been what he lost. He really couldn’t be sure.
But he had used it to begin his night. Not his most intelligent decision.
“You finally awake back there?” Old Pete called in question.
Samuel looked up at the back of the man’s head as they hit another bump, and his stomach lurched. He managed to keep it down this time.
“Indeed, I am,” he replied in an accent far superior to that of Old Pete.
“It’s about time. I think you’ve been out for a good twenty minutes. What am I going to have to do if you fall asleep again? Drag you into your home? Up them stairs and all?” Old Pete asked.
Samuel rolled his eyes, knowing that the old man wouldn’t see him. He wasn’t in the mood for lectures.
“I think I shall be just fine getting myself inside,” Samuel insisted.
“Don’t know about that. If you can’t stay awake long enough to get yourself home, and if you can’t seem to walk without stumbling, what else am I meant to do?” he asked.
“I am perfectly sober, thank you,” Samuel defended himself.
He heard Old Pete mumble under his breath, “Weren’t twenty minutes ago …”
Samuel knew that he must be. If he were still drunk, the headache wouldn’t be so bad, nor his stomach so weak. In fact, it was not a bad reason to have another round, staying drunk in order to avoid this feeling.
“You know as well as I do that you’re one to talk,” Samuel said, accusingly.
“Talk about what?” Old Pete asked.
“You’re known for your alcohol consumption every bit as much as the next man,” Samuel charged.
“Mayhap it be, but I ain’t a landlord’s son like you,” Old Pete reminded him.
“What’s that got to do with anything? You’re a notorious drunk and I’m—what? A notorious landlord’s son? That means I’m not allowed to go out and enjoy myself?” he asked.
“It means that you are to be dealing with respectable people. It ain’t respectable to be out there as you is with the town folk at wee hours. Don’t you pretend that you don’t know this. Your father would have my head if he knew I was helping you,” Old Pete said.
“Helping me? You are clearly only contributing to my headache,” Samuel said. “I haven’t done anything wrong, and you cannot continue accusing me of anything. Who do you think you are? Like you said, I am a proper gentleman.”
“If you’d like, I can shove you right out of that there cart and onto the dirt. Then your head’d really be pounding. Not to mention that hair of yours would go from your pretty gold to dirt brown,” Old Pete said. “Then it wouldn’t matter how proper you pretend to be. You need to show that you can be better than them people you keep spending your time with.”
Samuel rolled his eyes all over again and then realised how sensitive they were. He was in no mood for all of this. He just wanted to get to the estate and roll into bed, resting and dreaming of the next night out.
“Not got nothing to say to me?” Old Pete asked at Samuel’s silence.
“Forgive me; I’m simply dreaming of this drive coming to an end,” Samuel said.
Old Pete tutted and continued as if he was not bothered by Samuel’s rudeness.
“Think your mum and dad will be pleased to see you returned to them like this?” he asked, unwilling to give Samuel even a moment of peace.
“It’s not as though they are going to be any more or less angry than normal, Pete. But you know as well as I do that they are hardly going to make a big issue of it all. They know me,” Samuel said, wishing very much that they did not.
His mother and father were far too important to engage with him save when he had embarrassed them, and that was something that happened frequently enough. Samuel didn’t think it would ever truly change a thing.
“Ah, there she is,” Old Pete said.
Samuel squinted and looked out at Belmore Manor, his ancestral home. The estate of Sir Zachary Moore and Lady Arabella Moore.
Old Pete finished the last leg of the drive and got down from his perch to help Samuel, who was indignant that he could handle himself.
He got out of the cart and tried to find his footing, but he proved himself a fool in the end by stumbling and landing right against the cart in such a way that he knew his hip would be bruised later.
But Samuel leaned against the structure and tried to get his bearings. He ignored the way the ground seemed to sway and convinced himself that it would not be difficult to continue onward.
“Gimme your arm,” Old Pete insisted, taking it without Samuel’s permission.
“Now, look here …”
“Just come with me. I’ll get you inside,” Old Pete insisted, grumbling something else under his breath.
Samuel did as he was told and went along with the man, secretly hoping that his mother and father would not be around to see him in all of his shame.
Old Pete led him up the steps and to the front door of the grand estate. In his common-folk fashion, Old Pete knocked on the wood, and Samuel simply eyed him as if he were mistaken somehow.
“What is it?” Old Pete asked, confused by the way Samuel was looking at him.
“You do know that I live here, do you not?” Samuel asked.
“Well, I don’t,” Old Pete said as if that was the end of it.
The door crept open to reveal Miss Ratchet, the housekeeper.
Her eyes grew wide at the sight, and Samuel was tempted to shock her further by making a comment about her figure in the little dress that she wore. Unfortunately, he realised, he was sober enough to know that such a thing would not be taken very well.
“S-Sir Samuel,” she said, as though frightened by his return.
“Miss Ratchet? Whatever can I do for you?” he asked.
She took in a deep, uncomfortable breath.
“Your mother and father are in the parlour. They are waiting for you. With a guest,” she said, her eyes darting to Old Pete as if begging for help.
“Ah, a guest. How lovely,” Samuel said, not comprehending the fact that he was in no state for visitors.
Once more, he tried to follow Miss Ratchet’s eyes as they pleaded with Old Pete.
“Don’t worry, luv. I’ll get him there,” he said. “Maybe not in one piece, but I’ll get him there.”
Samuel allowed himself to be led away by Old Pete, down the hall and towards the parlour. He tried not to laugh when he accidentally caused his helper to stumble into the wall, but it was difficult to control.
Still, his head pounded, but he was starting to think that maybe he was not yet sober after all …
“This it?” Old Pete asked, nodding towards a door on the left, just ahead of them.
“Mhmm, that’s the parlour,” Samuel confirmed.
“Right then,” Old Pete said.
Miss Ratchet was rushing up behind them, ready to do her duty of properly presenting the men. But it was too late.
Old Pete pushed through, and there they were.
Samuel looked at his mother and father. Their faces were astonished and horrified. They looked to Samuel, then to the young woman in the room, then back again.
Samuel tried to study the young woman.
She had long, blonde hair that was not entirely up in a bun as a proper young woman would have.
But she had large, doll-like blue eyes and a small, girlish chin. And in her arms was a baby, no more than six months old.
Once more, Samuel had to stop his lips from saying something shameful. But the young lady was quite beautiful, and the temptation nearly bore through him.
“S-Samuel?” his mother said, his name a question on her lips.
“Mother,” he greeted. “Father.”
With a nod to each, he was still uncertain if his actions appeared as steady and proper as he believed they did. Was he fooling them?
There was no way to tell.
Then there was the matter of the young woman in the room. She did look somewhat familiar, but he could not quite place her. Someone from town? From one of the pubs that he frequented?
“Samuel, please sit,” his father instructed, the hushed tone of his voice carrying a threat.
Samuel did as instructed, relieved by the feeling of the sturdy couch beneath him.
Old Pete came and stood beside him as if he was willing to help in case Samuel needed any further assistance.
“Do you know this young woman?” his father asked.
Samuel looked at her and squinted. He would have loved to say something shocking. No, but I would very much like to. And yet, he held his tongue, aware that such a statement would be his doom.
“I fear not,” he said.
The girl clicked her tongue, evidently offended.
Samuel looked between her and his parents, uncertain what all of this was about.
“This is a Miss Elizabeth Randall. You say you do not recognise her?” his father asked again.
“I do not,” he said, with more certainty.
“And this child? Do you recognise the child?” his mother asked.
To this, Samuel wanted to say something about how all babies looked entirely the same to him. Round faces, large eyes, no necks to be found. But he tried to look at the child.
“I do not,” he said again.
Samuel saw that his mother was angry, perhaps embarrassed by his lack of recognition. His father was equally dismayed as if he just might turn Samuel out of the estate altogether.
But he could not, for the life of him, figure out why.
“Samuel, Miss Randall has told us that this child is yours,” his mother said, the words coming out angry and harsh.
Samuel’s eyes widened, and he looked back at Miss Randall and the baby. He squinted, widened his eyes again, and then squinted again. Any sign of recognition. Any chance that he might see in them whether this was the truth.
But Samuel was saved by the most unlikely of people.
Old Pete let out a long chuckle, followed by a whistle.
“Well, if it ain’t just the cleverest trick I ever did hear of,” he said.
All in the room turned to Old Pete in wonder, urging him to explain.
“You all must forgive me, but Miss Elizabeth, that is quite some story you got there. A genius, you are. Sorry that I had to be here to ruin all your fun and all that, but here I am, and you ain’t going to get away with that, young lady,” he said.
Samuel pleaded with Old Pete, his eyes begging the man to explain.
“Whatever are you speaking of?” his father asked.
“Please …” the young woman said, a pleading of her own.
“Now, this young man may be quite the beast and a real charmer, but you and I both know that this isn’t even your own daughter,” he said.
Lady Arabella gasped, and she looked at the young woman with daggers in her eyes.
“You said that she was our granddaughter. That she is Samuel’s child,” she said.
“Yes, well …” the young woman began.
“That ain’t true at all, and you know it,” Old Pete said, not allowing her to finish her sentence.
“Miss Randall,” Sir Zachary said, that same overly calm tone of warning in his voice. “I believe that if this is the case, then you have no further business here, and you ought to leave.”
“Ought to leave?” Old Pete scoffed. “Ought to be ashamed is more like. Lying about the identity of her baby sister just to get Sir Samuel into trouble. What she wants is a bit of hush money, of that I’m certain.”
Sir and Lady Moore looked at one another, and Samuel understood that a message was passing between them. The sort of message that told him he would not be getting off so easily as this.
It did not matter that it all turned out to be a hoax and a lie. What mattered was how believable it was.
“Thank you, Mr Pete. That will be enough. I trust that you may see yourself out,” Sir Zachary said.
“Certainly, I can. Would you like me to take Liz back to town with me?” he asked.
“If she is willing to go with you, that would be appreciated,” he replied.
Samuel watched and could see easily that Miss Randall was entirely too angry with Old Pete to go with him. Nevertheless, she was stuck and had to leave, and he was her only real option.
With that in mind, Miss Randall, with the baby in her arms, followed Old Pete out of the parlour, leaving Samuel and his mother and father alone, staring at one another.
“Well, that is quite a relief.” Samuel laughed.
His mother and father did not appear to find it a humorous situation in the slightest, and it made him uncomfortable.
“Samuel, it is good that this did not turn out as Miss Randall claimed, but this does not end here,” his father said.
“What do you mean?” Samuel asked.
His father and mother looked at each other again before turning back to him.
“We need to speak about your behaviour.”
Destiny Turner sat in her room among the books that she had been flipping through. They were now scattered around her, and she could not for the life of her remember where she had placed that Shakespeare.
Her long, dark hair fell about her shoulders, and she wished that she had bothered to have it pinned up that morning, but figured she would handle it herself in a moment. Once she had found what she was looking for.
Three months since they had arrived in London. Three months and still she was not settled.
Her skin itched to be back in America at times. But mostly, it itched to be out among society. Making friends. Meeting wealthy, aristocratic gentlemen, fulfilling the promise that she had made to herself and to her friends back home.
Betsy Jane would be falling all over herself to be in London. Such a rich and exciting place.
But Destiny had gone from an initial dread of the move to a calculated plan for turning it to her benefit. And now that she had this in mind, nothing was going to stop her.
She stacked the books one on top of the other, knowing that if she put everything into neat piles, she would eventually find her Shakespeare. In the meantime, her large bottom lip stuck out in a pout.
So far, London was terribly boring. It was nothing so grand as she had been hoping for.
Her mother had called her a snob, saying that she ought to have been grateful for the opportunity to live here, but Destiny was used to being called a snob. In America, she had considered herself better than the others because her father was English and had lived in a castle.
So if she was a snob in America for having an English father and a snob in England for being an American, then she would simply have to settle for it. She was a snob.
They had gone out shopping a few times, and Destiny hated how they were looked at whenever she spoke. As if her accent made her an immediate pariah. As if she had something to apologise for just because nobody knew quite how to handle a woman who was not from around there.
Were the English really so incapable of accepting a woman who was bred from another nation?
Yes, she could handle being a snob. Because she could not handle the thought of being lesser than those who judged her.
Destiny couldn’t wait for something to happen. Anything. Her father had decided to bring their family back to England now that he had grown rich through cotton. But when he had brought them, she assumed it would mean living in ancestral castles, meeting handsome gentlemen, dancing at all of the wonderful balls.
Well, the last one could wait. She still hadn’t mastered all of the strange, English dances, and that had to happen so she wouldn’t embarrass herself in front of the men at the balls.
But she would do her best in all things and prove her worth. She would try to change her accent if she had to, to bring about a bit of the sharp ts that her father used in words like ‘water’. She could say it the way he did.
She would forget the American wadder that she had always said in the past.
Destiny practiced it as she stacked the books.
“Woa-ta. Woa-ta. Li-tel. Li-tel. Oi would loike some tea and crumpets, if you please,” she said, realising that the accent was overdone with her words.
She had a long way to go before she would be content with how it all sounded, but that did not mean that she couldn’t manage to make it work. Eventually, she would be able to say everything the correct way, the way that the British said it.
“Ah, there you are,” she said, finally finding the Shakespeare.
She stood and placed the volume on the shelf where it would be the first in her collection of books. An English master. Someone whose words she would have to know if she intended to be romanced by British royalty.
Betsy Jane had teased her about what it would be like for her in England. How she would have to deal with all of the judgement for not being from there. And Suzanna Kingston had been rather harsh with her, saying that proper British men wanted proper British women, and they would not settle for an American like her.
But Destiny knew better. She had never been courted before, but she understood that gentlemen wanted something that no other man had. And if she could make herself known as a foreigner, but an acceptable one of British descent, what reason was there to be denied?
Why would they not all fight for the chance to court a woman who was nothing at all like those they interacted with on a daily basis?
It was these things that Destiny kept in her thoughts as she tried to fill her boredom with something, anything.
Wishing that they could go into town again and do more shopping for London styles, Destiny considered going down to her mother, Patty Turner, and asking her if they might be able to enjoy themselves once more.
But she knew what her mother would say.
Carl, might we go and indulge a bit?
And her father, of course, would reply as he always did.
Have you not indulged enough already for one week?
Destiny understood. This was the land that he was from. He knew the places, the culture. He even knew many of the people. But he did not seem to have a care to the fact that his wife and daughter had none of those things.
She made her way to the dresser where she looked in the mirror and saw her reflection. The cat-like, ice blue eyes. Those oversized lips. The long, dark hair.
She pinned it up and got it off her neck and out of the way, glad that it was no longer going to be a bother. She hated when her hair fell about any way it wished and was grateful that she always had to have it pinned up in public anyway.
With the boredom reaching its peak, Destiny decided she had little choice other than to descend the stairs and try, at the very least, to speak with her mother and engage her in some sort of discussion just for the sake of something to do.
She left her room with the books spread across the floor and made her way down the stairs of the grand house that her father had just moved them into.
Destiny knew where her mother would be.
In the parlour, as always. It was the proper British place to be, and that was the only spot her mother frequented.
Destiny opened the door and found her mother seated on the velvety red couch. Her mother was working on some kind of stitching, but it was clear that she did not enjoy it. Nor was she very good at it.
“What is that?” Destiny asked.
Her mother looked up at her with a pained expression.
“I have no idea how these British ladies do it,” she confessed.
Destiny laughed, and her mother could not help joining her before throwing the mangled fabric on the table and lying back in an unladylike fashion against the couch.
It was all Destiny could do not to burst into laughter all over again.
Her mother was quite a proper, respectable woman. But there were times in which Patty Turner could still have fun, and these days in England had been of the sort that mother and daughter could bond over their shared foreignness.
Destiny had wished that it had been even more so, but her mother had made herself quite busy in trying to make a name for herself in society. She was always going around interacting with anyone she could in order to make her father proud.
“Oh well, my dear. We are not of this country, but we must learn the way of things,” her mother said.
“Or we could make ourselves truly special by setting ourselves apart, don’t you think?” Destiny asked.
Her mother shook her head. There was defeat written in her face that Destiny hated to see, one of resignation that things could not be as simple as she might have wished them to be.
Resignation that life had moved on without her.
“That is the thinking of young ladies. I, however, am not young anymore. When I was young, the dangerous and wild thing to do was to find a handsome, charming Englishman. Now that I’ve accomplished that, there’s nothing for me but trying to figure out this insufferable stitch,” she replied.
Destiny laughed again.
“Yes, well you have achieved something that I have not yet managed, Mother. You have already married your English royalty. When am I to finally have a chance to meet such a man, myself?” she asked.
Her mother scoffed, shaking her head at Destiny’s goal.
“My dear that should not be the thing you set your heart upon. You must find a man that you love. Regardless of his station and country,” she said.
“You chose father for love?” Destiny asked.
Her mother grinned sheepishly.
“Perhaps. Or perhaps it was the accent,” she said with a giggle.
Destiny loved these moments when her mother indulged her. It was so much better than when she was proper and insisted that Destiny be proper as well. Those times when they were meeting with society ladies and old friends of her father’s. Oh, how dull those moments were!
“Now, what is it that you have come down and graced me with your presence for?” her mother asked, using proper, society English despite her American accent.
“I am terribly bored. I had hoped that we might go into town,” Destiny suggested.
“Oh, dear. I am sorry, did I not tell you? We’re to have a visitor later on today,” her mother said.
“A visitor?” Destiny asked. “One of father’s drab friends who hopefully has a handsome son?”
Her mother gave her a scolding look, although she said nothing.
“Hardly. It is a fine lady of society. One of the women who are likely to host a ball this season. I had hoped to procure you an invitation,” she said.
“What sort of lady is she?” Destiny asked.
“Lady Chedwiggen is apparently one of those fancy ladies that would make quite a reputation for you. She can ensure that you are accepted by society. Or the latter. So you had best be on good behaviour when she comes. I’ve heard that she is quite a difficult woman to please,” her mother said.
Destiny sighed. She was always on her very best behaviour when it came to situations like this, but she was not overly fond of having to try and please a random lady that she had never met.
It wasn’t half as fun as trying to shock someone.
But she wanted to make her mother and father proud, and Destiny had always been the sort with enough pride to keep herself clean from any stain against her name. She was not about to ruin her chances now that she had finally arrived in London.
Oftentimes, her mother had told her that she had quite the little dual soul. In private, Destiny could be mischievous and playful. But in public, she was proud, proper, and altogether a pain.
“When is she planning to arrive?” Destiny asked.
“I believe sometime near four o’clock,” her mother replied.
“Ah, the lovely tea time,” Destiny said in her best attempt at an English accent.
Her mother’s eyes grew wide in mock horror.
“You cannot go using an English accent around her or she is going to have you sent right back to America,” her mother warned.
Destiny continued in her false accent.
“But would she not prefer it if Oi spoke loike this?” she asked, still recognising that her sounds were far too harsh and not nearly fluid enough.
“My dear, you shall be the death of us all if you do not hold your tongue and be the proper young woman that your father and I promised to bring to this society,” she said with a laugh.
Destiny sighed, sitting on the couch and picking up the wretched bit of stitching that her mother had attempted.
Yes, everything about their lives had drastically changed. And no matter how much she had hoped that she would immediately reach London and find a husband, it had not yet happened.
But the season was coming up quickly, and Destiny was confident that she would find a man then. She would find just the sort of proper gentleman that her mother had found.
She wanted someone like her father. A man who was hard working, diligent, able to find a bit of cotton and turn it into a business that exported all the way to England from America.
She wanted a proper gentleman, one with dignity and values. A man she could be proud of, one that made her name sound better because his was so well respected.
Destiny could find that easily in England, couldn’t she? There were men all over the place. Men seeking women that would bring them the same sort of favour in public that she was looking for.
And then, they could go back to America. She would take him back and show him off. Destiny could display to all of her friends that she had managed to convince a handsome Englishman to marry her, and then their children could grow as she had. Knowing that they were stronger, better, more cultured than the others.
She could find a man who had lived in a castle, a member of the royal family. Someone special, who saw her as special in return.
It was all possible. Possible and exciting.
Destiny continued to allow herself to dream and hope that it would all finally come together.
She would meet this Lady Chegwidden. She would charm her, prove herself. And the woman would invite her to a grand ball in which all of those gentlemen would be present. They would simply be standing there, and she could take her pick as they fawned all over her.
Or so she hoped. In truth, Destiny knew that it would not be as simple as that. But she did think that it would not be too hard, either. After all, why would these Englishmen not wish to run away with a beautiful American?
Was there something she did not yet know? Was England a harder place to find a husband than she had been told?
“Capturing a Nobleman’s Heart” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Destiny Turner has just moved to England from America with her mother and British father. Determined that she will find a husband of noble birth and outstanding character, she is met with surprises when it turns out that the culture around her is not what she expected at all… Will she manage to capture the heart of the man who stole hers? Or will the criticizing ton make sure she never calls England home?
Sir Samuel Moore is a man who loves worldly fun and has no desire to settle himself. But when his father has had enough of the games, Samuel finds himself with a demanding deadline to make a match. When his time is running out, a young lady with American origins will appear out of nowhere into his life and will turn his world upside down. But will he succeed in going against all odds, winning her interest and, eventually, her love?
As the gossip and pride of society collide, Destiny and Samuel find themselves wondering how they could possibly find happiness. Will they find a way to lean on one another when they need it the most? Will their love overcome the unexpected hurdles on their way?
“Capturing a Nobleman’s Heart” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.