Bought for Revenge

By: 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?’

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