Secrets of an Accidental Duchess

Secrets of an Accidental Duchess by Jennifer Haymore

Book: Secrets of an Accidental Duchess by Jennifer Haymore Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jennifer Haymore
Tags: FIC027050
few weeks. Their houses were only a mile apart, and few people traveled between them besides the residents and servants.
    Less than half an hour after she’d left Stratford House, she was knocking on the door of Brockton Hall. No one answered at first, but she was persistent, and finally a man opened the door.
    It wasn’t the snobbish servant who’d answered when Lord Fenwicke had been in residence. The marquis must’ve brought that man with him. Instead, it was the older servant who’d been there on her previous visits to Brockton Hall.
    “Yes?” the old man said, and Jessica nearly smiled. Fenwicke’s man had made her uncomfortable, but this one… well, he was manageable. “May I help you, miss?”
    “I’m here to see Lady Fenwicke.”
    “I’m sorry, she’s not at home.”
    She narrowed her eyes. That was the same thing the pompous servant had said. She took a deep breath and plunged into her lie. “I’ve an important message for her, and I’ve been told I can only tell it to her in person.”
    She held up the reticule slung over her wrist. In truth, all that was inside the small purse was a good number of recipes Jonathan’s cook had written for Beatrice.
    The old man eyed her warily. “A message?”
    “Yes, indeed. A very important message.”
    “From whom?”
    “From… Lord Fenwicke. He stopped by Stratford House yesterday on his way back to London”—Lord, she hoped Olivia’s maid’s information had been correct—“and he told me to deliver the message first thing this morning.”
    The man scowled at her openly for a long moment, then said, “One moment, please, miss.” He turned around and shuffled out of sight.
    It seemed like forever before he returned.
    “My mistress will see you.”
    Thank goodness. Bestowing her biggest smile on the man, she went inside. He led her upstairs to a room she’d never been to before. It was dazzling—as were all the rooms at Brockton Hall, with a beautiful marble fireplace carved with cherubs, rich carpets and furnishings, and walls lined with portraits of important-looking men—probably the line of lordly gentlemen who had preceded Lord Fenwicke as owners of this lovely place.
    The room was empty, though. The man gestured her inside and instructed her to wait.
    Another several minutes passed before the door opened again. Jessica popped up from the chair she’d been fidgeting in. “Beatrice!”
    Beatrice paused at the door. “Good morning, Jessica. I’m told you’ve a message for me from my husband?”
    Jessica frowned. Beatrice wore a giant bonnet that shaded most of her face, and she was partially turned away from Jessica, obscuring her face even more. Her back was hunched, and she wore an old, plain woolen dress.
    Beatrice closed the door, her shoulders shaking. Jessica hurried to her friend. “Oh, dear Beatrice. What is it? What’s wrong?”
    “Do you have the message?” Beatrice’s voice was high and tinny.
    “No,” Jessica admitted quietly, taking one of her friend’s cold hands and chafing it in her own. “I just wanted to see you. And that was the only thing I could think of….”
    Beatrice stiffened. “You shouldn’t have done that,Jessica. You don’t—” She took a breath. “Please. I’m not feeling well. I’ll call on you next week.”
    “Beatrice. Look at me.”
    “No, I don’t think—”
    Jessica released her cold fingers, pressed one hand on each side of Beatrice’s head, and gently turned her so they were face to face.
    “Oh!” Jessica breathed.
Oh no.
Beatrice’s brown eyes were swollen and ringed with horrible colors: black, red, orange. Both of them. “What on earth happened?”
    “I… fell.”
    It was a lie. Jessica knew that as surely as she knew she took her next breath. Suddenly, a furious hatred surged through her, and tears sprang to her eyes. “He did that to you,” she choked. “Lord Fenwicke did it, didn’t he?”
    “Please go home,” Beatrice whispered, still refusing to meet her

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