|A Penny's Worth Of Affection
Author: rosesarered27 PM
Penelope Inglewood discovers her brother is in love with the betrothed of the most ruthless man in England, The Duke Of Newbridge. She must find a way to save her family from ruin and turn her brother's affections elsewhere. When the Duke Of Newbridge decides to confront his rival in love, he finds himself completely intrigued by the small but determined woman.Rated: Fiction K - English - Romance/Drama - Chapters: 30 - Words: 83,229 - Reviews: 52 - Favs: 46 - Follows: 22 - Updated: 12-12-12 - Published: 08-21-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3052192
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The room fell dead silent as the occupants reeled from the duke's announcement. Penny's heart slammed in her chest as she stared at Phillip in shock.
"You cannot possibly be serious!" Henry's incredulous voice broke the stiff silence. He glared at Phillip who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. "Are you joking?"
"I assure you I am deadly serious." Phillip leveled a cold look at his friend. "I never make light of issues regarding my honour, which this mere boy has turned into a joke. Surely you do not expect me to smile and pretend?"
Penny felt her jaw slip open. So this had been his plan all along, even though he had given her his word not to harm Edward. "You promised me you would not hurt him." she accused, pain and betrayal evident in her tone. "You gave me your word."
Those ice blue eyes settled on her filled with disdain and something she could not quite identify. "I changed my mind the minute I discovered your deception Miss Inglewood, I do not make promises to untrustworthy people."
"I am untrustworthy?" She exploded, unconsciously taking a step towards him. She glared up at him, her hands balled into fists at her side, fighting the urge to soundly box his ears. "Do not lie and say this was a spur of the moment decision Phillip, you have been planning this all along...you hinted as much several times."
Phillip shrugged. "Perhaps, perhaps not."
Edward finally found his voice. "Leave him be Penny, I will gladly fight him." Beside him, Jane cried out in dismay and grasped his arm.
"Edward! No please no.." she pleaded, eyes wide in fright. "You cannot do this."
He turned to his wife and took her hands in his, giving her a tender smile. "My love,I will not have you in constant fear of him. If I fight him and win, then our union will be free of his menacing shadow."
Jane drew herself up and cast a defiant glance at Phillip. "I am not afraid of him."
Phillip sneered in derision. "How quaint. It appears marriage has finally given you some courage. Or perhaps, you somehow foolishly harbor the notion that your husband will serve as protector?"
Extricating her hand from Edward's grasp, Jane took a step towards Phillip, her eyes flashing in anger. "The only reason I have not stood up to you beforehand is because of papa. I feared what you will do to him should I choose to break our engagement. It has been obvious right from the start that you have no affection for me whatsoever, so why do you seek revenge? I have freed you from a distasteful union. As distasteful to you as it has been to me. Surely you can admit this much?"
For the first time since meeting Jane Rosebury, Penny was filled with admiration for the girl. She knew it had required a great deal of courage to face down a man such as Phillip and she silently prayed those words would sway Phillip from his dreadful challenge. She glanced about the room, gauging the varying reactions of each occupant. Edward gazed at his bride in wonder and pride while Lord Henry was grinning from ear to ear in approval. Her father had a confused frown upon his brow as he watched the proceedings currently unfolding.
Slowly, Phillip brought his hands together in mocking applause, his lips twisted in a mocking smile. "Splendid performance, Mrs. Inglewood," he drawled. "I am suitably impressed at your new found bravery. Marriage certainly agrees with you."
"Come off it Phillip." Henry admonished, "There is no need for a challenge. They are already married and there is precious little that can be done to rectify that situation. You were wronged, I admit, but for that you must blame your own stubborn nature, if you had broken off the engagement earlier, it would not have led to this."
"Please Phillip, don't do this, I beg you." Jane's eyes turned pleading. "I am to blame for breaking our contract and I will gladly assume all repercussions. Just please, do not challenge my husband, I plead with you."
Phillip stared at her thoughtfully for a moment, then his gaze shifted to Penny who stood quietly. "Well Miss Inglewood?" he asked dryly, "Have you nothing to say?"
What more could he possibly want her to say? She wondered. Did he want her to plead for his mercy the way Jane was doing? Then he was dreaming for she would not so much as utter a plea to him in this matter. He had broken his promise to her and she had nothing further to say to him.
Keeping her voice cold and distant, she replied him. "No, I have nothing to say."
He frowned at her words, and she felt a stab of satisfaction that she had discomfited him at least. "How odd then, for in the last few days, you have always had something to say...an opinion or chastisement."
"You broke your word." she retorted, green eyes shooting daggers at him. "If you must have my opinion, that makes you less the man I thought you were."
An eyebrow rose in surprise at her vehemence. "Indeed? And what makes you say that, Miss Inglewood?"
"You dare ask me such a question? You lied to me Lord Farnsworth, do you recall that moment in your house when you promised you would not do any harm to my brother? Why then, pray tell, do you challenge him knowing fully well that some measure of harm will come to him if you two should fight?"
His jaw tightened in anger. "You dare accuse me of breaking my word? You have deceived me with your acts of innocence when in truth you are nothing but a seductress..."
The sound of flesh striking flesh reverberated throughout the room. The imprint of Penny's hand burned bright red where it had struck Phillip on the cheek. She took a step back, her palm hurting from the impact, but that ache was nothing compared to the pain in her heart.
"How dare you call me names when I have done nothing but try to protect someone dear to me?" Despite her fury, her voice was quiet though it carried quite well in the shocked silence that followed. The bright red imprint of her fingers stood out against his cheek and she felt a measure of satisfaction knowing she had caused him some pain.
"I will have you know that I would rather submit to the most excruciating agony than ever agree to marry you." She continued, her tone cold with barely controlled anger. "Each moment I have spent in your company has been nothing but the deepest agony and I am glad my torment has finally been put to an end. You sicken me Lord Farnsworth, and I want nothing to do with you. But know this my dear lord duke, I will not stand idly by and watch you kill my brother, for though I am but a woman, I will make your life miserable if you do anything to cause him harm."
Out of breath but triumphant, she spun on her heels and stalked from the room. Let him mull over that, she thought to herself in satisfaction.
Phillip watched her exit the room, the urge to go after her strong within him but he resisted and instead idly reached up to feel the spot she had struck him before soundly denouncing him. Oddly enough, rather than feel anger towards her, he felt something quite different, something he had no wish to put to real thought. For the first time that morning, he felt his resentment and anger dissipate into nothingness and he cursed himself for allowing her opinion to hold sway over him.
"Well." Henry chuckled merrily, filled with admiration for the slight woman who had just soundly put the duke in his rightful place. "If I wasn't madly in love with her sister, I would have proposed right this moment. What an admirable woman!"
Edward shook his head slowly, still staring at the door his sister had just exited. "I have never seen or heard her behave like this." he murmured, a grin spreading across his lips. "Wonderful!"
"She is just as strong willed as her mother," Sir Inglewood said gruffly, his chest puffed with pride for his eldest daughter. He turned to Phillip, "You sir, are nothing but a mere scoundrel and I was gravely mistaken in assuming you a man with any honor. You have called my daughter names and threatened harm upon my son. Granted, my son wrongfully went about wooing your betrothed, but to seek to rob him of his life is an action that is as abominable as it is cowardly."
Edward laid a hand on his father's shoulder. "No Father, Lord Farnsworth is not to blame. I would seek some form of revenge if I were in his shoes." He looked to Phillip, his expression contrite. "I have wronged you gravely Your grace, I accept full responsibility for any action you wish to take against me. Even if it is a duel you desire, I accept your challenge."
"No Edward!" Jane gasped in horror, "He will surely kill you."
"I forbid it!" Turning to face his son, Sir Inglewood grasped Edward by the shoulders and shook him. "I will not have you lose your life to him."
"No Father, I will not change my mind! Lord Farnsworth, name the day and the place. I will honor it."
Lord Henry cleared his throat to gain attention. "Newbridge, this is all quite unnecessary. The lad has admitted to being in the wrong, please accept his apology and be done with it?"
"The lad has also accepted my challenge." Phillip replied, his stance unshaken. He nodded at Edward in agreement. "Very well Inglewood, shall we say three days from today? That will be ample time to return to England and get your affairs in order. I will alert you as to the venue as soon as I arrive in London."
"You bastard!" Jane burst out in fury, "You utterly despicable bastard!"
He smiled at her outburst, "Of course I am."
Penny leaned against the tree for support and shut her eyes, taking in deep breaths of air in an effort to calm herself. After leaving the room, she had found herself walking past the now busy courtyard and out into the countryside, the fresh breeze and still atmosphere calming her down.. Damn Phillip for his arrogance and pig headed logic. He had no right to challenge Edward...dear God, what on earth could she do to stop him? A wave of helpless fury washed over her. For she realized that despite her brave threats, there was precious little she could do to stop him should he insist on fighting Edward.
There was a flurry of movement behind her and she opened her eyes. A tiny bird had landed on a branch right above her head and was regarding her curiously as though trying to decide if she was harmless or not.
"Appearances can be deceiving little bird." she muttered to the bird, wincing when it spread its wings and took to the air once more. As she watched it fly away, her gaze landed on a lone figure coming towards her, his great coat billowing out behind him in the breeze.
She groaned and shut her eyes again. What did Phillip want now and how had he known where to find her? She wondered wearily. She had grown tired of his constant insults and no doubt he had come to lash out at her for slapping him. She could hear the crunch of boots approaching and tensed up, ready to do battle once more.
"Excuse me, but are you all right Miss?" Her eyes shot open in surprise and she found herself staring at the tall stranger standing only a few feet away. He was tall, even much taller than Phillip and well-built with a full head of red hair and the most intense gray eyes she had ever seen.
"Miss?" he repeated, taking a step closer, his face furrowed in concern. Penny realized she was staring and blushed deeply.
"Yes..yes, I am all right. I was just getting some air, thank you."
He relaxed and smiled in return. "Good, I noticed you leaving in a hurry at the inn and I wondered if you were all right, you seemed upset"
"No, I am quite fine sir." A particularly cold breeze washed over her and she shivered, realizing she was not quite dressed for the outdoors. "I should be getting back though."
He noticed her shiver and nodded in agreement. "Aye, it is quite cold this morn. May I have the pleasure of seeing you safely back?"
A stab of apprehension filled her. Even though her reputation may be soundly ruined, she had no desire to compound matters by being alone in the company of a strange gentleman regardless of his good intentions. "Thank you, but I am certain I can find my way back easily."
"Of course." he bowed courteously, "Forgive my forwardness."
She smiled briefly and stepped around him, hurrying back the way she had come. Occasionally, she would steal a glance behind to see him still standing by the tree, watching her.
The minute she entered the inn, Jane accosted her, no doubt the girl had been waiting for her return. Jane grasped her arm, her face white with fear. "You have to stop him! Edward had agreed to duel with Lord Farnsworth. You must stop him before he gets himself killed. Please!"
Penny stared at Jane in astonishment. "Edward agreed to the duel? What on earth was he thinking?" She did not wait for a reply but hurried towards the room, her sister-in-law right on her heels. "Where is he now?"
"He is with your father. Sir Inglewood is trying to persuade him to rescind the agreement but Edward is being horribly stubborn. He says he has to do this but what happens if he is hurt? Phillip will surely kill him then. You have to do something!"
Edward had agreed to duel with Phillip? Penny thought in dismay, instinctively quickening her steps as horror threatened to overwhelm her. She had not considered that Edward would actually agree to the duel. "Where is Lord Farnsworth?"
"He left as soon as the agreement was concluded. Lord Henry went after him, I do not know where he has gone, but he can go to the devil for all I care."
The vehemence in her tone made Penny pause and she cast a thoughtful look at the young woman who stared back at her defiantly. She could hear raised voices coming from behind the closed door of the palour and lifting her skirts, she hurried inside.
"Edward, how could you?" she berated him angrily. "You have endangered your life unnecessarily. Have you no thought for your family? Your new wife?"
Edward's chin jutted in defiance. "I am defending my family by doing this. Lord Farnsworth will not cease to torment us if I do not stand up to him now."
"I forbid you to fight." Their father exploded, his face flushed in anger, "This madness must be stopped at once, you will rescind your agreement."
"I have already given my word. I will not go back on it."
"Edward, the duke is not a man to be trifled with." Her leg had begun to ache once more and she sank down onto a chair, massaging the sides of her head, "I have heard unpleasant stories about his dealings with people who have crossed him. This is a mistake."
"Please don't do this my love." Jane pleaded with her husband. "I do not want you to come to harm."
His expression softened and he drew her close and pressed a kiss on her forehead. "I have to protect you somehow."
"Not like this, you will only cause me pain if you go through with this."
For the first time, Penny could see uncertainty take hold of Edward and she leaned forward eagerly. "If you die, think of how much grief your death would bring to Jane, and the rest of us, surely you don't want that?"
"There must be some way we can get the duke to change his mind." Jane looked to Penny for help, There must be something we can do."
Penny shut her eyes and thought for a moment. What could possibly make Phillip change his mind?