The Elusive Wife

Chapter One

February 1812

London, engLand

“Bloody hell!” Jason Cavendish, the new Earl of Coventry, rubbed the back of his neck as he sat on the edge of the bed and read the missive in his hands. He’d grabbed it on the way out of his house that morning, and had just now remembered it. “Bloody, bloody hell!” Although he’d expected it, his jaw muscles tightened as he read it once more:

In keeping with the terms set forth in the Will of the late John Martin Cavendish, Earl of Coventry, you are required to present yourself at Coventry Manor at ten o’clock in the morning, on the twenty-second day of February in the year of Our Lord eighteen hundred, twelve, to exchange marriage vows with one, Lady Jane Grant, who has now this day arrived from Rome, Italy.

According to the terms of said Will, if you are not present on that date and time, you will forfeit all un-entailed properties, income, and capital previously held in the name of the late John Martin Cavendish, Earl of Coventry.”

He banged his fist on his leg as he read the final, “Yours Most Respectfully, Meyer, Johns, and Meyer, Solicitors.”

“Bad news, darling?” Lady Sheridan stretched her lithe, nude body like a feline relishing its time in the sun. Rolling over, she walked her fingers up his arm, and gently raked her nails back down.

Too angry to sit, he left the bed still filled with the scent of their recent lovemaking, and strode across the room to pour a brandy.

Jason downed the liquid, relishing its burning as it landed in his stomach. He glanced at Selena as he poured a second drink.

Growing tired of his mistress despite her beauty and allure, he’d been wrong in assuming her appeal would last a while. Like the two paramours before her, he’d begun to lose interest in her sultry body only a few months after he first bedded her.

Am I getting old? Nothing seems to hold my interest for long anymore.

Flinging his naked body into a softly padded chair, he closed his eyes and rubbed his temple with a thumb and forefinger. “The old Earl is still controlling me from the grave. I’m to be married.”

His sire had never left things to chance. He’d wanted Jason to produce an heir, had badgered him about it for years. Since his son hadn’t settled down and set up his nursery before the old Earl had turned up his toes, he’d made sure he had left his only offspring no choice.

Selena sauntered over, and standing behind the chair, placed her delicate hands on his shoulders and rubbed his flesh.

“What a bother. When’s the wedding to take place?”

“Two days. Two bloody days.” Unable to contain his anger, he leapt up again to pace.

“I have been ordered to present myself at Coventry Manor in two days, to marry some woman the old Earl chose. If I don’t fall in with his plans, I am cut off. I’ll get the title and the Manor house, since they are entailed, but nothing else. No money to support the place, or myself.”

“Well, darling, you have to do what is necessary and marry the girl. Marriage doesn’t have to make a whit of difference in your life. Heaven knows mine never did. Just marry the chit, get her with child and leave her in the country.” She returned to the bed, and posing sensually on the silk sheets, reached out her slim arms.

“Now come back to bed. We have a couple more hours before Sheridan returns from his club.”

Jason rolled his shoulders to relieve the tension, then moved to the bed