Home > Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (Love By Numbers #2)(8)

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (Love By Numbers #2)(8)
Author: Sarah MacLean

Jane let out a low whistle.

“Did she tell you that?” Gwen asked.

“She did not have to.”

“Well,” Lara said, “obviously we cannot turn her out, then.”

Kate disagreed. “She’s no merchant’s daughter. No barkeep’s wife. Not even from landed gentry. She’s an aristocrat, for heaven’s sake. She could be two aristocrats! We should send the girl home to her aristocratic family.”

“An aristocratic family is not always the solution, Kate. I know that better than anyone.” Isabel thought of the deep, dark circles beneath the frail girl’s closed eyes, the hollow cheeks that spoke volumes of this small, mysterious woman.

This girl who was lost and alone.

It was enough for Isabel.

“I’ve never turned a girl away. I shan’t start now. She has a place here for as long as she needs one. We shall put her to work. James is in need of a new governess. I am certain that she will do quite well.”

Kate snorted. “Did you see her? I’d wager she’s never done a day’s work in her life.”

Isabel smiled then. “Neither had you when I took you in. And now you’re the finest stable master this side of London.”

Kate looked away, wiping one hand down her breeches. “Sister to a duke,” she whispered.

Isabel looked at the women crowded around her—to Jane, her butler, who ran a house with the ease of any male servant trained for years; to Gwen, a cook who could have been trained in the best kitchens in London for the pride she took in her work; to Kate, who had a way with horses that rivaled that of the jockeys at Ascot. Each of them had come to Townsend Park under similar circumstances to that of the sleeping girl, each of them had been given room, board, and a chance for a future.

And they had believed that Isabel could face any challenge.

Little did they know.

She was just as scared. Just as uncertain.

She took a deep, steadying breath, and when she spoke, she did her best to infuse her tone with confidence—prayed that the others would believe it. “She needs Minerva House. And Minerva House shall rise to this challenge.”

I hope.

Isabel opened her eyes and shot straight up in her chair.

Her cousin Lara was standing on the other side of the earl’s desk. “Good morning.”

Isabel squinted at the windows, where a brilliant blue sky announced that she had slept well into the morning. She looked back at Lara. “I fell asleep.”

“Yes. I see that. Why did you not attempt such a feat in your bed?”

Isabel tilted her head back, the muscles of her neck and shoulders screaming at the movement. “Too much to do.” She placed one hand to her cheek, removing a small slip of paper from where it had become stuck in the night.

Lara set a teacup down on the desk and seated herself across from Isabel. “What could you possibly have had to do that required you to forgo sleep?” She paused, distracted. “You have ink on your face.”

Isabel wiped her palm across her stained cheek, her gaze falling to the paper she had removed from the same location. She considered the list she had drafted the night before.

The immense list she had drafted the night before.

Her stomach flipped.

She brushed a stray auburn lock back from her face and returned it to its tight, practical home. Guilt washed over her as she was consumed with the myriad of things that she had meant to do the previous night—after taking a quick nap.

She should have come up with a plan to secure the girls’ safety. She should have drafted a letter to her father’s solicitor to confirm that there were no funds set aside for James’s education. She should have written to the real estate office in Dunscroft to begin the search for a new house. She should have begun reading the book on roof repair that was soon to be an emergency text.

She hadn’t done any of that, however. Instead, she’d slept.

“You need rest.”

“I’ve had plenty of rest.” Isabel started to organize the papers on the desk, taking note of a new pile of envelopes there. “Where did these come from?” She lifted the letters, revealing a ladies’ magazine that had come for the girls. She registered the headline: Inside! London’s Lords to Land! and rolled her eyes before returning the envelopes to their place.

“With the post this morning. Before you open them—”

Isabel lifted a letter opener and looked at Lara. “Yes?”

“We should talk about James.”

“What now? ”

“He has been hiding from his lessons.”

“I am not surprised. I shall talk to him. Has he even met the new governess?”

“Not exactly.”

The words were a signal. “How, exactly, Lara? ”

“Well, Kate found him watching her in her bath.”

Isabel leaned forward. “I don’t suppose you mean he was watching Kate in her bath? ”

Lara laughed. “Can you imagine how that would have gone? She would have skinned him.”

“I just might skin him myself! He’s an earl now! He shall have to behave as one! Watching the new girl in her bath? What on earth? What would possess him—”

“He may be an earl, Isabel, but he is a boy first. You think he is not curious? ”

“He grew up in a house full of women. No. I would think he would be entirely disinterested.”

“Well, he isn’t. In fact, I think there’s no question that James is interested. He needs someone with whom to discuss such interests.”

“He can speak to me!”

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