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Bought for Revenge

By:Sarah Mallory

Bought for Revenge
Sarah Mallory

       Chapter One


'The terms are very favourable, Mr Havenham. Messrs Powell & Son say  their client is willing to pay the full asking price for Morwood and is  ready to settle immediately.'

Annabelle looked hopefully towards her father to see how he would take this news.

'And what is this client's name, Mr Telford?' she asked. 'Do we know him?'

The lawyer adjusted his spectacles and studied the paper in his hand. 'A Mr Monserrat. Not a local man, I think.'

Mr Havenham sighed, the gold tassel on his cap dancing merrily as he shook his head.

'No one in Stanton has any money to spare. What with the war, and then last year's poor crops, it is a bad time for everyone.'

'Waterloo was more than a year ago, Papa,' said Annabelle. 'And I know  last summer was particularly bad, but the worst of the winter weather is  over now and that always makes me feel hopeful. With a little economy,  and the new mortgage Mr Telford raised for us on Oakenroyd, we shall  come about.'

'Exactly,' agreed the lawyer. 'And the money from the sale of Morwood will pay off most of your creditors.'

'But not the gambling debts,' said Samuel. 'I should never have gone to  Harrogate.' The regret in her father's voice made her heart ache, but  Annabelle said nothing. Her father had gone to the spa town to take the  waters, leaving her to run Oakenroyd, and he had returned with his  health no better and his purse several thousand pounds lighter after  being persuaded to enter the card room of the Dragon Hotel for several  nights running.

Mr Telford shifted uncomfortably and sifted through the papers in his hand.

'No, not those. But I have had some correspondence with your, er,  creditor at Harrogate. He is willing for you to pay off that loan in  instalments.'

'But that is very good,' declared Annabelle. 'Once Burnt Acres-I mean  Morwood-is sold and we have settled the other debts then we shall be  able to pay him off, too. It will mean careful management for a few  years, but nothing we cannot cope with.'

'I agree, Miss Havenham.' The lawyer nodded. 'That is the reason I think  you should consider this offer very seriously, sir. If we act now then  the sale of Morwood can go through before Lady Day.'

'But to sell Burnt Acres,' sighed Samuel. 'After all this time.'

Annabelle turned to him, taking his hands.

'Papa,' she said gently, 'We both love Morwood, with its trees and the  ruins of the old Manor, but you know we have never made use of it as we  should. Indeed, it is because it is so wild and neglected that I love  it, but Morwood is the least profitable of your lands, and we must sell  something.'

'We were very fortunate to find a buyer so quickly,' added the lawyer. 'And one who is willing to pay the full price.'

'Then I suppose it must be.'

'Indeed it must, Papa,' said Annabelle. 'We have no choice if we are to  continue living here at Oakenroyd in the style we have come to enjoy.'

Mr Havenham straightened his shoulders.

'Very well, Mr Telford. Draw up the contracts. We will sell Morwood.'

The tree began to fall and Lucas stepped back, listening to the  satisfying crack as the remaining section of trunk broke away. There was  the swish of the branches sweeping down to the ground, the flutter of  startled birds, then silence as everything settled once more. He lowered  his long-handled axe and was contemplating his handiwork when the thud  of hooves made him look round.

A rider was cantering towards him through the trees, a woman in a  nut-brown riding habit mounted on a powerful grey horse that sidled and  snorted as she drew rein. He guessed who she was, of course. No one else  would be riding in this place save the daughter of its owner. The man  he had vowed to ruin. Lucas had removed his jacket and waistcoat while  he worked and he glanced at them now, knowing it was impolite for any  gentleman to greet a lady in just his shirt. But she was the daughter of  his enemy and he would not show her any courtesy. He watched her  approach, acknowledging with reluctant appreciation the expert way she  brought the powerful animal to a stand just feet from him.

'What are you doing?'

Her voice was low and musical, the tone not unfriendly, but Lucas was not minded to reply in kind.

'I should have thought that was obvious.'

Her brows went up. She said with a touch of hauteur, 'Have you asked permission to cut down trees on this land?'

He regarded her in silence, knowing his cool stare was an insult. She  frowned and it was with no little satisfaction he noted the spark of  anger in her grey eyes. 'Well?'                       
       
           



       

He rested the axe against the newly felled tree trunk. 'As a matter of fact I haven't spoken to anyone about it.'

'Then I think you should cease work here until you have done so.'

He allowed himself a smile and took a step closer. 'Oh? And are you going to make me stop?'

'I shall report you to the steward.'

'I don't think so.' He reached out and caught the reins. The grey's ears came forwards and the animal snorted nervously.

'How dare you. Let go immediately.'

She kicked her heel against the grey's flank, but Lucas kept a tight grip on the reins and the animal merely sidled.

'You will learn I don't take orders from anyone,' he growled.

'Release my horse. You cannot keep me here.'

'I think you will find I can do whatever I want.'

Alarm flashed across her face, but it was quickly masked. She said haughtily, 'Release the reins. I will not ask you again.'

He bared his teeth, his next words a deliberate, taunting challenge. 'Perhaps you should try begging me.'

Those grey eyes positively flamed now and she raised her riding crop.  She brought her arm swinging down, but he was ready for her. He reached  up with his free hand and caught her wrist. The horse, unsettled, reared  and plunged, unseating the rider. Instantly Lucas released the reins  and caught the lady as she fell.

He had braced himself for her weight and was surprised at how light she  was in his arms. Her face was only inches from his own and he could see  the tiny flecks of green in her eyes. For a few moments she was still,  shocked, then she began to struggle, pushing against him.

'Let me go, you brute.'

'Brute, is it?' With a laugh he put her down, but kept hold of her arms,  for although she no longer had her riding crop she tried to beat him  with her fists. His hands slid to her wrists and he forced them behind  her, pinning her to him. 'Now, madam, do you still call me a brute?'

He could feel her pressing against him as her breast heaved with  indignation. The top of her head only came up to his chin. She was so  delicate he thought he might crush her with one hand. she threw back her  head and glared at him with an angry, fearless gaze.

'Monster,' she threw at him. 'Beast …  . Certainly not a gentleman!'

He hardly heard her. His eyes were fixed upon her lips. They were red  and full and without thinking he lowered his head and kissed her. She  froze. Then, surprisingly, she yielded, becoming soft and pliant in his  arms. But only for a moment. The next she was struggling to free  herself. He raised his head, shaken by his actions. He had intended to  antagonise her, but had been unable to resist the invitation of that  extremely kissable mouth. Desire had leapt up immediately, fuelled by  that one brief instant when she had leaned into him. He had sensed then a  kindred spirit, a passionate nature to match his own. But even as his  body hardened and the heated blood pounded through his veins he had  known an overwhelming impulse to protect, to cherish the delicate  creature imprisoned in his arms.

It would not do, he had no use for sentiment and must remember that she  might well be a weapon he could use against his enemy. Better to  befriend her, if he could.

'Ooh, that is, is infamous,' she declared, struggling to free herself.  'To steal a kiss when I am quite helpless to resist you. I shall add  thief to the epithets I heap upon your head. Let me go this instant!'

He laughed, but self-preservation made him hold on to her.

'Very well. Only stop spitting like a wildcat and I will release you. Stop it, I say.'

She ceased her struggles and stared up at him, her eyes wary. He released her and stepped back.

'There. You are free to go, Miss Havenham.'

'You know my name?'

'Of course. Perhaps I should introduce myself.'

She tossed her head and turned away from him, saying over her shoulder, 'Pray do not. I have no wish to know you.'

She began to walk to where the big grey was quietly cropping the grass.

'Oh, but I think you should, since we are to be neighbours.'

That stopped her in her tracks. He felt a grim sense of satisfaction as she turned slowly back to face him.

'You are the new owner? Mr Monser … '

'Monserrat. Yes.'

'I did not think the contract was agreed yet.'

'I signed the papers yesterday. I have builders coming here next week,  but in the meantime I thought I might remove a few of the trees that  have sprung up on the drive.'

She went to collect her horse. Once she had picked up the reins she looked past him to the blackened shell of the old house.

'The house burned down over twenty years ago. No one has been here since then.'                       

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