A Story in the Making – Sneak Peek




Kate’s Story

The as yet untitled, unfinished and unedited 3rd book of the Dunaway’s Daughters Series

Chapter One

Devonshire, August, 1821


Mr. Gideon Remington wasn’t the sort of man to lose his way.

At the age of ten-and-four he had determined his life’s course and, aside from the occasional detour to carouse with school chums and discreetly dally with respectable widows, he had remained on the straight and narrow path for two decades.

He did not drink to excess, wager more than he could afford to lose or partake of the dubious attractions of actresses or opera singers. He did not dither over decisions, reverse resolutions once arrived upon or retreat from a challenge. He did not display more emotion than any given situation warranted, lose his composure over those things beyond his control or cede said control unless absolutely necessary.

While he wasn’t incapable of admitting to mistakes or errors in judgement, he rarely, if ever, admitted defeat. He had an uncomfortable, though not entirely unexpected, feeling that this misbegotten journey would prove to be one of those rare times.

It was the height of foolishness to think that after more than twenty years he would find Rosemont without benefit of a map. He could count on one hand the number of times he’d visited the estate as a boy, and the few memories he had of those rare visits were murky at best. A sharp curve in the road, an open expanse of manicured lawn behind a low stone wall and two tall pillars flanking the long drive that led to the gray-stone manor house.

Unbidden, other memories he’d thought long dead crowded his mind, a collage of blurry images and jumbled sensations. Voices raised in frustration, anger and finally fury, sobs and shouts and shattering crystal. Cold rain lashing his face, wind tearing at his clothing, lightning shattering the darkness and exposing the lonely gray vista of the moors. The fragile strength of Annamarie’s fingers clinging to his as they ran away from the petty skirmishes and full-blown battles that had made up the war that was his parents’ marriage.

Gideon shook off the unwanted reminders of a time he refused to dwell upon and concentrated on the view outside his carriage window. The curve in the road had come and gone but instead of acres of sprawling, well-kept lawn and an unfettered view to the house beyond, there was a high wall of overgrown hedge nearly overtaken by wild roses and honeysuckle.

Up ahead he spied a rusty wrought-iron gate, one side thrown open, the other almost hidden amid the riotous hedge and trailing vines. A weathered sign hung from a stout wooden post beside the road, and as his carriage approached Gideon read the faded blue letters painted across the cracked surface.

Prix de la Folie.

Gideon’s French was as rusty as the gates, but if he wasn’t mistaken the estate was named Cost of Foolishness. Or perhaps Prize of Madness. Either way, the sentiment mirrored his feelings precisely. He was on a mad quest and success would be costly, indeed.

As the carriage passed the open gate he caught a glimpse of a narrow, dirt lane shaded on both sides by trees whose branches hung down nearly to the ground. Through a break in the trees he could just make out a white-washed wooden building, perhaps a barn or stable, surrounded by a rough-hewn fence.

The carriage journeyed another four or five miles down the road until the river came into view in the distance, at which time Gideon had no choice but to admit that he was lost. Tapping on the roof with his walking stick, he called out to his driver to turn back. Again they passed the dilapidated gates and the curve in the road and continued on toward the nearby village.

Bartlesborough might have passed for a typical country village, what with its ancient stone church perched at one end of a tidy little square boxed in by narrow shops, and the squat, thatched-roof cottages fanning out along the perimeter. There was nothing typical about the freshly laid roads and newly built structures surrounding the village proper on all four sides.

As his carriage trundled over an exceedingly smooth, newly cobbled street, Gideon spied what appeared to be a three story inn and livery stable still under construction, a mercantile and an apothecary shop so new the whitewash sparkled and gleamed in the sunlight. When his conveyance turned the corner, he saw a wheelwright and blacksmith side by side, offices for a solicitor and a physician, a bank and a brewery, and finally a haberdashery with ready-made waistcoats and trousers displayed in the window. And in the distance, on a hill just west of the village, was evidence of further construction: a partially built structure the size of a small manor flanked by what would likely be row houses of middling size.

Unless Gideon was very much mistaken, Bartlesborough – a village with no factories, working mines or other source of employment nearby – had tripled in size, and quite recently. If the rapid expansion weren’t odd enough, the number of men loitering in the park certainly qualified as queer. Nearly a dozen men were engaged in a rowdy cricket match, others were tossing horseshoes and still more lounging around a long table set down beneath a gnarled oak tree.

When his carriage rolled to a stop before the old church, Gideon waited for the footman to release the step, climbed down and preceded directly to the group of men intelligent enough to seek out the shade on so hot a day.

“Check mate,” a big blond fellow said.

“Neat trick that,” the equally fair-haired man across the table replied with a laugh. “And with a bishop, no less.”

“It’ll be you and me, then, Manning,” another man hollered from the other end of the table where he sat nursing a pint. “To the victor go the spoils.”

“Or the vicar, as the case may be,” Manning replied, lifting his own mug with a grin.

Ah, they were engaged in a chess tournament, then.

“Good day, gentlemen,” Gideon greeted them en masse when he came to a stop at Manning’s shoulder.

Eight heads turned in his direction. Eight pairs of eyes alighted upon him. To a man, they were young, not a one over the age of five and twenty surely. They ran the gamut from dark-haired to fair-haired, tall to short, lean to stocky, smooth-cheeked to bristly-bearded in the case of one particularly burly fellow. Garbed in well-tailored waistcoats, shirtsleeves and trousers, jackets tossed over the backs of their chairs, they appeared to be London lads of the middling class enjoying a rustic holiday.

“Good afternoon, sir.” Apparently Manning was the leader of the group, as evidenced when he came to his feet and offered Gideon a bow and a quick perusal of his person, followed by a fleeting glance at his equipage and horseflesh. “Fine matched set you’ve got there.”

 “Grand carriage,” added the bearded behemoth to Manning’s right. “Your left rear wheel is a bit loose. You might have felt the gig wobbling a bit on the turns.”

Gideon had felt the slight wobbling now that he thought about it.

“It’s likely only a loose bolt so it ought to hold another ten or twelve miles,” the man continued cheerfully, “but you might want to bring your carriage around to my shop if you’ve a longer journey ahead of you.”

“You’re a wheelwright?” Gideon asked.

“Joseph Carter, at your service, sir,” he replied with a bow. “You might have seen my new shop on your way into town.”

“I did see it, and I’ll be sure to seek out your services before I return to London,” Gideon replied. “For now, my journey is a short one, though I’ll admit to a bit of difficulty finding my way.”

“Lost, are you?” Manning asked, grinning in a good-natured fashion.

“Turned around, at the very least,” Gideon agreed. “I’m looking for Rosemont.”

 “I don’t know as I’ve ever heard of Rosemont,” Manning said. “Of course I’m new to the area, only been here since this past spring. You’ve been here nearly a year, Carter. Do you know the way to Rosemont?”

“Rosemont?” Carter asked, scratching at his beard. “I’m afraid I don’t.”

“There’s a village a ways north by the name of Rosedale,” one of the other men offered up. “I passed through it on my way from Manchester last month.”

“And Crestmont to the south,” added another. “Though it’s barely a village, more of a crossroads with a few cottages and a pub.”

“Rosemont Manor,” Gideon replied by way of clarification. “An estate just to the west, between the village and the river.”

“The Folly is the only estate I know of between here and the river,” Carter said before turning to the cricketeers and hollering, “Any of you blokes know where the gent here might find Rosemont?”

His question was met with mostly blank stares and another suggestion of Rosedale to the north.

Gideon was beginning to wonder if his driver had taken a wrong turn and landed them in a different village, perhaps one populated solely with comely men well below the age of thirty. But apparently he had retained more memories of those infrequent childhood visits, for he distinctly recalled attending services at the church and picking posies with Annamarie in this very park. And there, across the square was the King George Pub where he’d had his first pint of ale, and his second and third, before spending the return trip to Rosemont with his head hanging out the carriage window while his father snored on the bench beside him.

“Are you quite certain this Rosemont is in Dartmoor?” Manning peered at Gideon as if he suspected he might, once again, be suffering the effects of one too many pints.

“Or even in Devonshire?” Carter added.

“Maybe it’s in Dorsetshire,” one of the cricketeers called out.

“Or Derbyshire,” another added.

“Denbighshire,” Manning suggested.

“You’ll want to get that loose bolt seen to now,” Carter said, “if you mean to travel as far as Wales.”

At which point it dawned on Gideon that they were local fellows, the sons of merchants, tradesmen or landed gentry perhaps. They’d marked him as a London swell the moment his carriage turned onto the square, and decided to have a bit of fun at his expense.

Gideon tipped his hat in acknowledgment of the jest. “Well done, gentlemen. If you will excuse me, I’ve a long journey to Wales ahead of me.”

So saying, he turned on his heel and started back the way he’d come in hopes he could locate the vicar and get a sensible answer to a simple question.

A small boy and a woman wearing a straw bonnet were just stepping out of the church.

“Good day,” Gideon called out as he crossed the street.

“Hullo!” The boy ran through the church yard ahead of the woman, meeting Gideon on the walkway, a gap-toothed smile spreading across his freckled face.

“Perhaps you might assist me,” Gideon said.

“I’ll sure try, sir,” the boy replied.

“I’m looking for Rosemont.”

“Rose who?”

“Rosemont,” Gideon repeated, wondering if the entire town was in on the joke. “An estate to the east, a gray stone house set a ways from the road and circled by an old stone wall.”

“Never heard of it,” the boy replied before turning to the woman as she caught up with him. “He’s looking for someplace called Rose Want.”

“Rosemont,” Gideon corrected.

“Mercy me,” the woman said, smiling up at Gideon from beneath the brim of her bonnet. She was older than she’d first appeared, perhaps fifty, with graying brown hair, a pretty round face and pale green eyes. “I haven’t heard that name in near on twenty years.”

“Where’s Rosemont, Gram?” the boy asked.

“Heaven’s above, you’re Lady Madge’s boy all grown up,” she said with a soft laugh.

It took Gideon a moment to realize she meant his mother. He’d never heard anyone refer to Margaret Remington as Madge, Lady or otherwise, and could hardly credit his mother allowing such familiarity.

“Gideon Remington,” he supplied with a bow.

 “I’m Mrs. Cross, my family’s run the mill for years,” she said.

“A pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he replied.

“Like wise,” she replied. “How is your mother?”


An awkward little pause followed, one Gideon knew he’d created with his succinct answer.

“They don’t call it Rosemont any longer,” Mrs. Cross said with an apologetic smile and Gideon got the impression she’d only just remembered the history of the property.

“I see.” He’d been addressing his letters to Captain Robert Price, Rosemont, Bartlesborough, Devonshire. How Captain Price must have laughed to receive those letters.

“What’s he looking for, Gram?” the boy asked.

“Mr. Remington is looking for the Folly,” Mrs. Cross replied.

“Price of Folly,” Gideon murmured. “Of course. I passed it. Twice, in fact.”

“Have you come all the way from London to call on Miss Kate?” The boy’s gaze raked Gideon from his top hat and starched cravat, to the dark green silk brocade coat he wore over a pewter-gray waistcoat, before falling to his black trousers and polished hessian boots, now dusty from two days of travel. Finally, he eyed the silver-tipped walking stick with what appeared to suspicion.

“Mind your manners, James,” Mrs. Cross admonished.

“He looks just like the last chap that come calling,” the boy told his grandmother. “He’ll not have any more luck ‘an that one.”

“I’ve come to call upon Captain Price.” Gideon said.

“We won’t keep you, then,” Mrs. Cross said as she gave her grandson a gentle push to get him moving to cross the street. “Good day, Mr. Remington.”

“Back the way we came, Thomas,” Gideon instructed his driver before climbing back inside the marginally cooler interior.

He fell onto the plush, padded seat, his hat in his hands. He turned it over and over as he thought about this latest setback. Captain Price had changed the name of the estate that had been in Gideon’s family for nearly two hundred years.

Price of Folly.

Christ, what an apt name.

Some twenty minutes later, the conveyance turned through the open gate onto the dirt lane of Captain Robert Price’s ill-gotten estate. Branches from the low-hanging trees slapped against the carriage roof and sides, leaving Gideon to wonder how Captain Prices managed to get to and from the house. His poor horses were likely feeling the lash of all those branches.

It was slow going but eventually they cleared the trees and Gideon saw nothing but golden fields of grain to the left and to the right the white-washed structure he’d spied from the road. It was a barn, quite the largest he’d ever seen, two stories tall with a roof that sloped on one side. It was surrounded by a wooden fence inside of which two dozen wooly sheep stood around in clusters grazing on clumps of grass.

Two burly men sat upon the fence watching a boy, perhaps nine or ten years of age, fumble with a set of large gleaming shears, holding them out before him with both hands and snapping the blades through the air. A few feet away, a wiry young man was leading a shockingly fat, clearly reluctant wooly ewe toward a post. The man wrestled the beast into submission, threw one leg over the sheep’s back, squeezed the animal’s rump between his thighs and looped the end of the rope over a hook at the top of the post. The ewe subsided with a final shake of her wooly head and an indignant bleep, causing the men on the fence to roar with laughter.

Just then the young man in the pen looked up and stilled. A wide brimmed, dusty brown hat shaded his face and hid his eyes. But his mouth curved into a grin, teeth gleaming white in a lean, dusty face. The boy standing beside him looked up and gave a careless wave in Gideon’s direction. Both men sitting on the fence turned and watched as his carriage passed, one of them offering a jaunty salute, as a sailor might to a ship’s captain.

The carriage lurched over a deep rut in the lane, jarring Gideon’s attention away from the odd welcoming committee in the sheep’s pen. The manor house came into view as the carriage passed the barn and all thoughts of the strange group disappeared.

Built by the first Earl of Cleveland for his much younger bride in what could only have been a monumentally misguided and ridiculously romantic gesture, the house resembled a medieval castle, complete with crenellated towers at both corners of the front facade. Arched windows ran the length of the structure on all three stories. The door was a heavy affair of dark wood and iron, recessed so deeply into the house it lay in perpetual shadow.

The manicured lawns and neat geometric hedges of Gideon’s memories were gone and in their place was a riot of wildflowers and fountains adorned with dolphins and mermaids. Large, flat stones lay side by side, creating paths that wove through the garden to and fro with no clear destination. A covered terrace had been built on the west side of the house. Furniture was strewn across the stone surface in a disorderly fashion, as if a party of some sort had been interrupted in mid-frolic and the servants hadn’t bothered to set things to rights.

Behind the house, a small estuary of the River Dart meandered through the countryside, its banks lined with trees creating canopies above the sun dappled water. The ruins of a small summer pavilion sat beside a short pier, a rowboat bobbing on the water beside it. Beyond the narrow waterway spread a patchwork of green hills speckled with bluebells, groves of trees and fields of yet more grain, half a dozen tenant cottages dotting the landscape at irregular intervals.

And everywhere Gideon looked there were sheep, hundreds, likely thousands of the wooly beasts grazing on the hills, wandering through the dales and resting in the shade of ancient oaks and younger birch and sycamore trees that had clearly been left to grow where they sprouted with no regard for aesthetics.

Gideon rapped a brass door knocker in the shape of a ship’ prow complete with a naked nymph for a figurehead. He knocked twice more before accepting that no one was going to open the door for him.

Turning away, he looked back toward the barn. There was nothing for it.

“Wait here, Thomas,” he told his driver before heading back on foot.

The air was hot and humid. Insects buzzed all around him. Before he’d traversed half the distance between the manor and the barn, sweat was beading on his forehead and upper lip. Two minutes later, a trickle of moisture rolled down his spine, tempting him to remove his coat though it went against every tenant of gentlemanly protocol with which he lived his life to appear in public in his shirtsleeves.

Nearing the sturdy wooden fence enclosing the pen and barn, he watched through the rails as the boy squatted beside the now docile ewe, the shears in his small gloved hands snipping through the matted fleece, cutting it away in frothy strips.

“Angle the shears away from her shoulder.” The young man stood in front of the sheep, holding its head and offering the boy instructions, his voice low and laced with a strangely musical lilt. “You don’t want to prick her and send her squealing and struggling.”

Gideon came to a stop beside the fence as the boy did as he was told, pointing the shears away from the ewe toward the sky.  

“Hold steady now,” the young man said. “Try to get the fleece in one long strip.”

The shears snapped together, cutting clean through the dangling scion of thick wool.

“Ah, damn,” the boy grumbled, lifting his eyes to the man beside him.

“Jeb,” the young man called out, releasing his grip on the ewe’s head.

One of the men sprang down from the fence, landing nimbly on thick legs ensconced in coarse brown wool trousers tucked into battered black boots laced to the knee. His dingy white shirt billowed out around him, the cuffs turned back to the elbows, exposing muscular forearms.

All of the men in the pen and the boy were dressed in similar apparel, their arms, necks and faces almost uniformly bronzed from hours, weeks and months in the sun.

Gideon felt distinctly out of place in his tailored coat, crisp cravat and polished boots. He’d intentionally chosen the ensemble in an effort to impress Captain Price with his status as a gentleman, as the grandson of an earl and the rightful owner of Rosemont. But it was glaringly apparent that Rosemont was no longer a purely ornamental estate built on an aristocrat’s whim and barely supporting its upkeep with tenant rents. Captain Price had transformed it into a working estate, a sprawling sheep farm, and if the rolling fields of grain covering nearly half the land were any indication, a successful agricultural endeavor as well.

Turning away from what he supposed was wheat, or perhaps barley or oats, Gideon saw the man named Jeb sidling up beside the man at the ewe’s shoulder. The younger man circled around the animal and held out one gloved hand for the shears. The boy handed them over without hesitation and stepped back a pace, allowing the man to take a position on his knees, his buttocks resting on his heels.

“Watch and learn, son,” Jeb told the boy.

“Until you’ve built up the strength in your thighs and calves, kneel like so, Toby,” the young man instructed. “Otherwise you’ll lose your balance in the turn every time.”

“All right,” Toby agreed.                                          

The young man bounced up onto the balls of his feet, legs bent and slightly spread for balance, and leaned over the sheep. The shears disappeared into the fleece at the nape of the ewe’s neck. And then they began to snip quickly and expertly down the animal’s back in a precise, zigzag pattern, leaving a long strip of wool dangling to the ground and a six inch span of mottled pink and white hide in their wake.

When the shears reached the sheep’s rump the young man effortlessly twisted at the hips and continued up the ewe’s back once more, never once breaking stride, the rope of wool falling to the ground and coiling at his feet.

Gideon watched until the shearing was completed, the young man shifting and turning his torso, swiveling his hips this way and that while his feet remained firmly planted on the ground until the ewe was bare but for half an inch of white fleece. With a swat on the ewe’s rump, he handed the shears to the boy, rose to standing and stretched, arching his back and running one hand down the back of his right thigh as if to soothe aching muscles.

“You make it look so easy,” Toby grumbled as Jeb released the freshly sheared ewe.

“You should have seen me on my first attempt,” the young man replied with a huff of laughter. “I must have tumbled onto my arse a dozen times.”

“Lud, we never thought you’d get the hang of it,” Jeb replied.

“Did you learn on a fat old ewe like this here Molly?” Toby asked.

“It’s the best way to learn,” the young man replied before turning to face Gideon where he stood on the opposite side of the fence. “Welcome to Price of Folly!” As he called out the greeting, he pulled thick leather gloves from his hands and stepped forward. Grasping both gloves in one hand he smacked them against his thigh, sending up a cloud of dust.

Gideon stepped back, away from the brown haze billowing around the young man, and nearly missed seeing him reach up with his free hand, the movement pulling his shirt taut against…Yes, there was no mistaking the rather extraordinarily luscious pair of breasts beneath the garment.

While Gideon was still processing the startling revelation, she removed her hat. A thick braid of golden hair tumbled down, sliding along a slim, grimy neck and hanging over a narrow shoulder to rest against a lean hip covered by well-worn brown trousers that hugged her thighs like a second skin.

Damn, he was a she. A slender girl of perhaps ten and seven with bright blue eyes set in a dirt streaked face comprised of sharp cheekbones, a square chin and a wide grinning mouth.

Gideon realized he was staring slack jawed and snapped his jaw closed.

“We expected you some weeks ago,” the girl said as she squeezed between the fence rails to stand beside him.

“You were expecting me?” Gideon couldn’t imagine why, seeing as he’d only made the decision to embark upon the journey three days previously.

“We’d about given up hope,” she answered, tucking her gloves into the crown of her hat and tossing it to the brawny man on the other side of the fence.

“Is this the fellow, then?” Jeb asked, nimbly catching her discarded outerwear.

 “You are Gideon Remington, aren’t you?”  She looked up at him, one sun-bleached brow raised.

“I am Mr. Remington,” he replied cautiously.

“I thought as much.” Her gaze traveled over his hat, coat, trousers and boots, lingering for a moment on his walking stick, just as the boy in the village had done.

Toby ducked between the fence rails and came up at her side.

“Run ahead and find Meg and Cav,” she told the boy. “I think they’re sorting casks and kegs in the cellar.”

The boy took off like a shot.

“Come on up to the house,” she invited Gideon with a wave toward the manor. “I’m sure you could do with bit of tea, and I know I could.”

Without waiting for a reply, she turned and marched across the lawn, her long legs gliding through the tall grass, her braid swaying from side to side, bumping her bottom with each step.

“I beg your pardon,” Gideon called as he hurried his steps to catch up with her.

“Whatever for?” she asked over her shoulder.

“We haven’t been properly introduced,” he explained as he came abreast of her.

“I’m Mary Katherine Price,” she replied, looking up at him from the corner of her eye. “Captain Price’s granddaughter.”

Gideon hadn’t been aware that Captain Price had any family. But then, he knew nothing about the man beyond the fact that he had been a ship’s captain, a privateer, even a pirate if the rumors were true. And he was either exceedingly lucky or a first-class cardsharp.

“Your grandfather renamed the estate,” Gideon said, unaccountably irritated by what was, in truth, the least of his concerns.

“Does it bother you?” she asked.

“Bother me?” he repeated.

“Family pride and all that,” Miss Price explained with a negligent wave of her hand. “Captain Price and I were discussing that very thing two nights past. How gentlemen put such stock in family honor and whatnot. We were trying to decide if you were so dead set upon reclaiming the Folly in the name of family honor or for more sentimental reasons. After all, your mother spent much of her childhood here, to hear the villagers tell it.”

“It was Mother’s dowry,” Gideon confirmed after a small pause. He really didn’t see what business it was of this strange girl.

“Fancy that,” she replied with a laugh.

Gideon remained silent, quickly calculating the price he’d likely need to offer now that he’d seen the estate once more. He knew enough about sheep farming to speculate that Captain Price made a nice profit from the wool, not to mention the wheat and whatever else he grew. The cost to buy the place back would hardly bankrupt Gideon, but it would deplete a good portion of his ready capital. He supposed he could hire a land agent and keep the sheep operation going until he had the mine up and running.

His mother would be beside herself at the thought Rosemont turned over to the running of sheep. She’d nearly fainted when he’d shown her the geological survey he’d found amongst his father’s papers the previous winter. As far as Margaret Remington was concerned, it was Gideon’s duty to provide her a life of luxury and ease. Unfortunately she turned a deaf ear to any and all explanations as to how her son went about it. She didn’t want to know about the investments he’d made over the years, the wins and losses he’d withstood on the Exchange, the commercial enterprises he’d bought and sold.

As they reached the massive front door it swung upon to reveal a giant of a man dressed all in black, shirt unbuttoned to mid chest, sans coat and cravat.  His head was entirely bald and sat atop massive shoulders with no neck to speak of between. Silver eyes peered down a long hooked nose above a thick white mustache, the ends artfully curled into two precise circles.

The butler, if he was the butler, did not speak.

“Would you like a tour of the house, Mr. Remington?” Miss Price asked as they stepped inside the significantly cooler environs of the house.

“No, thank you,” Gideon replied.

“Is Captain Price in his study?” Miss Price posed the question to the giant.

The man grunted and turned away with a wave of one big ham-like hand.

Hastening to keep up with Miss Price’s long strides, Gideon took in the changes to what he vaguely remembered had been an elegant, spacious foyer with plastered walls painted robin’s egg blue and gleaming oak parquet floors. Both features had been stripped away, the former replaced with dark wood paneling, the latter returned to was what likely the original gray stone. A long plank table took up a portion of one side of the room. Surrounding the table were a dozen mismatched heavy wood chairs with high backs, the seats upholstered in blue and white striped silk, scarlet velvet and green and gold plaid tartan. A huge painting of the estate in winter hung above the hearth where a fire was laid in preparation to be lit when the sun when down and the night turned cold.

The other side of the room held a hodge-podge of musical equipment, from a grand piano that had clearly seen better days to a harp missing a few stings. A long ornate wood settee with a burgundy velvet cushion and two matching wing-back chairs formed a seating area around a low round table. Looking back over his shoulder, Gideon saw a rough-hewn wooden bench running from the front door to the wall. Shoes and boots, pall-mall mallets, tennis rackets, bowling pins and balls of various sizes lay about haphazardly beneath the bench. Rifles, bows and quills stuffed with brightly feathered arrows, and a jumble of fishing rods sat propped atop the bench, leaning against the wall.

The change was startling but not altogether unpleasant. Captain Price had created a comfortable, catch-all space, a great hall that was more in keeping with the architectural design of the old stone house. He imagined Captain Price and his granddaughter spent much of their time here, eating at the rough table and lounging on the long settee, perhaps pounding out bawdy sailor tunes on the piano on cold winter nights.

He followed Miss Price across the length of the room, his boot heels tapping against the floor and echoing off the walls. At the back of the hall they turned the corner and continued down a wide, arched passage where they came upon a maid in a pink muslin dress carrying a pile of linen. She bobbed a clumsy curtsy and smiled up at Gideon, her brown eyes sweeping him from head to toe.

“Tea, if you please, Meg,” Miss Price called out as she breezed by the servant.

With a last lingering glance at Gideon, the maid hurried on her way.

Miss Price pushed open a set of double doors and Gideon followed her into what had once been a formal parlor.

Robert Price had turned the room into his study.

The pale green walls once adorned with gilt framed portraits had been replaced by floor to ceiling shelves filled with books, decorative chests and broken bits of pottery, globes and carved ivory pipes, sea shells and brass sextants, and a number of other strange knick-knacks.

A big desk sat between two windows bare of curtains. The floor was covered by a rich Turkish carpet in shades of deep blue and crimson. Again, the makings of a fire were laid in the hearth but not yet lighted. Two leather chairs flanked a table upon which sat another globe, a decanter of what looked like brandy and two glasses.

Seated behind the desk was a man with a head of wiry gray hair sticking up in every direction and large blue eyes behind thick lensed spectacles. His face was creased like a map and deeply tanned, his nose bulbous, his cheeks round and rosy and his mouth lifted in a grin that showed even white teeth.

“Ahoy, you must be Mr. Remington!” His voice boomed across the room, cheerful and welcoming.

Seafaring salutation aside, Captain Price bore no resemblance to the man Gideon had imagined over the last twenty years. He’d expected to find a pirate straight out a novel: a long limbed, wiry man with a full beard and a beak of a nose, flamboyantly attired in velvet and lace, with a gold hoop dangling from one ear and a sword swinging at his hip.

“Good afternoon, Captain Price,” Gideon greeted the man with slight bow.

Mr. Price pushed back from the desk and circled around its bulk in a wheeled chair, deftly rolling himself across the room to grip Gideon’s hand and pump hardily.

“I appreciate you seeing me, sir,” Gideon said.

“Mary Katherine!” Captain Price bellowed. “Mr. Remington has finally arrived!”

Miss Price laughed and Gideon turned to find her leaning against the door frame, booted feet crossed at the ankles, thumbs tucked into the waistband of her trousers and the remnants of her amusement pulling at the corners of her mouth.

“I know, Robby,” she replied softly.

“Well?” Captain Price asked.

“Not what I expected,” his granddaughter replied.

“And?” the old man prompted.

“We’ll see.”

Gideon wondered if they were discussing him. Surely they wouldn’t be so rude as to speak of him as if he weren’t standing in the room between them.

 “About time, Cavendish,” Captain Price shouted as the massive butler crossed the threshold with a tray in his hands, giving Miss Price a gentle nudge out of his way that had her straightening and stepping into the room. “A bottle of my finest brandy, my good fellow.”

Cavendish nodded to the decanter on the table.

“Right you are,” Captain Price replied with a chuckle. “Damned fine butler, what say you?”

Unsure whether the question was aimed at him or Miss Price, Gideon nodded.

“Sit, man, sit!” Captain Price ordered.

Gideon sat.

Captain Price wheeled himself into position across from Gideon and poured them each a glass of brandy, while Miss Price took the tray from the butler and placed it on the desk. Hopping up to perch on the edge, legs dangling over the side, she lifted a tall glass of tea, iced no less, and drank half of it in three gulps.

Had the girl no idea of propriety at all?

“To fat women and lazy sheep,” Captain Price proclaimed, lifting his glass. “Or is it lazy women and fat sheep?”

Gideon sipped his brandy without replying.

“So, what do you think of Price of Folly?”

Gideon gritted his teeth, silently vowing that the first thing he would do when he took possession of the estate was change the name back to Rosemont.

“Rechristened the place when I took possession,” Captain Price said with a wink. “The only Rose I ever knew was a harlot in the West Indies and I couldn’t very well raise my granddaughter in a house named for a harlot.”

“I believe the estate was named in honor of the Tudor rose,” Gideon replied.

“You don’t say,” Captain Price answered, unimpressed.

“Tudor roses grew in the garden,” Gideon continued, a vague memory of running through those roses with Annamarie at his heels flashing through his mind. “Neat rows of carefully clipped bushes. The house always smelled of roses.”

“Mary Katherine doesn’t much care for the scent of roses,” Captain Price replied. “Ripped every last bush from the garden, we did. ‘Course, that’s the least of the improvements we’ve made to the estate. There’s time enough before sundown to ride out and see for yourself, and no one better than Mary Katherine to show you.”

Gideon looked at the girl to find her boldly watching him over the rim of her glass.

“What say you?” Captain Price went on, barely pausing to draw breath. “Shall I have two horses saddled?”

“That won’t be necessary,” Gideon replied, not the least interested in traipsing around the countryside in the company of the ill-mannered girl.

 “Mary Katherine knows every hill and dale on the Folly,” Captain Price said. “She’s the light of my life, Mary Katherine is, and the reason I let that scoundrel toss down the deed to a country estate when he’d run out of coin.”

“You might have simply accepted his marker.” It would have been vastly simpler to purchase the estate from the perpetually impoverished aristocrat who’d originally won it from his father.

“His markers were strewn about Town like horse dung, Remington.” Captain Price ran a hand over his head and let out a soft grunt that might have been a weary sigh.  “Son, I know it was a bitter potion to swallow, losing your family legacy.”

“The Folly was his mother’s dowry,” Miss Price interjected.

“Huh, fancy that,” Captain Price murmured, his gaze upon his granddaughter. She looked back at him, her eyes alight with some emotion Gideon couldn’t decipher, though he suspected it might be mischief. The old man and his granddaughter shared a moment of quiet communication, ignoring Gideon completely.

“Might we discuss my offer to buy the property back from you?” Gideon asked into the silence.

“Now, sir, I’ve made my feelings on that clear,” Captain Price replied.

“I have managed to free up additional funds since last we corresponded.”

“It’s not a matter of money.”

“Everything is a matter of money,” Gideon contradicted before naming a sum that was almost double his last offer.

“Remington, I appreciate that the estate holds some sentimental value for you, being your mother’s dowry,” Captain Price began.

Gideon waved his hand, dismissing the notion that his desire to reclaim Rosemont was rooted in sentiment. He had no desire to attempt to muddle his way through a mawkish discussion that would not only be wholly contrived but also cast him in a foolish light. “This estate was in my family for two hundred years. My grandfather, the Earl of Cleveland, settled it upon my father at his marriage to my mother with the understanding that it would remain in our family. That my father lost it on a single hand of cards was an insult my grandfather took to his grave. It is my duty to see it returned to my family.”

“This estate is not for sale, Remington.” Mr. Price looked hard at Gideon, as if searching for something beyond his carefully bland countenance. Gideon met the older man’s steady gaze, holding himself still with what he hoped was a pleasant expression upon his face. There was a reason Price had continued to correspond with him for months after making the very same declaration, and he thought they must soon get to the heart of the matter. And so they did. “Price of Folly is to be Mary Katherine’s dowry.”

It took Gideon a moment to process the man’s softly spoken words and when their meaning became clear he felt as if he’d been hit square in the gut. Captain Price couldn’t actually think he would marry his granddaughter to reclaim Rosemont.

He looked at the girl in question from the corner of his eye to find her watching him with a smile that he might have described as winsome were it not flashing across a face as brown as that of a sailor, and streaked with dirt and sweat.

With a barely restrained shudder, he returned his attention to Captain Price. “Might we speak privately?”

Miss Price’s laughter was low and sultry and faintly mocking.

“I don’t see any reason Mary Katherine shouldn’t be here,” Price replied. “It’s her future we’re discussing.”

Damn. Captain Price truly expected Gideon to marry the girl.

Could he do it?

For more than half his life he’d tailored his every thought, his every deed toward regaining the honor, social position and wealth his father had squandered in pursuit of his own pleasure. Marrying a pirate-cum-sheep farmer’s granddaughter would destroy all of his goals just when he was on the precipice of achieving them.

“Surely Miss Price has no wish to marry me,” he began carefully.

Captain Price looked to his granddaughter and Gideon followed suit.

“You’ll do as well as the next man,” she replied with an unladylike shrug of one shoulder.

“I’ll do as well as the next man?” Gideon repeated slowly.

“We thought to make the offer to you first,” Price hurried to explain, shooting his granddaughter a sharp look.

“First right of refusal,” Miss Price added with a cheeky grin, and it occurred to Gideon that she expected him to refuse her, was only playing along to appease her grandfather.

When she hopped down from the desk, Gideon instantly rose to his feet, inadvertently putting them in closer proximity than he might have wished, all things considered. Before he could step back out of harm’s way, she met his gaze and held it.

Her eyes were extraordinary, vivid turquoise and surrounded by a thick fringe of gold-tipped lashes. Sparkling with laughter, glowing with an odd sort of clarity, the girl’s eyes teased his senses with a kaleidoscope of images that felt like fragments of memories but must have been snippets of dreams: an endless expanse of cloudless sky, long lazy days wandering aimlessly through tall grass riffled by gentle breezes, reclining on the banks of a stream, water gurgling softly nearby and sunlight shifting between the waving leaves of a tree to play lightly over his face. A careless man might fall into those eyes, fall into the promise of carefree warmth shining from them, and never find his ways out again. The fanciful thought had barely formed in Gideon’s mind before an inelegant snort of laughter erupted from her lips, shattering the queer moment and recalling him to his purpose.

With the echo of her amusement trailing in her wake, she walked past Gideon to her grandfather. She leaned down to whisper something in the old man’s ear, her bottom lifted in the air in a provocative manner Gideon made every attempt to ignore.

 Clearly the girl knew no shame.

Miss Price straightened and turned to face him, amusement still gleaming in her eyes. “It was lovely to make your acquaintance, Mr. Remington.”

Gideon nodded stiffly, unaccountably irritated.

“Have a pleasant journey back to Town,” she called out as she strolled from the room, all lose limbs and swaying hips.

“She cleans up real pretty,” Captain Price said as the light tap of her footfalls faded away.

Gideon very much doubted the old man’s assertion. His granddaughter might be somewhat presentable after a thorough scrubbing, and perhaps a de-lousing for good measure, but she would still be sun bronzed and graceless, uncouth and sorely lacking in the most basic of manners.

“The estate will go to her husband upon her marriage?” Gideon asked as he resumed his seat. “No stipulations?”

“Oh, I’ve plenty of stipulations,” Captain Price replied with a sly grin. “It’s taken my solicitor near three years to wrap it up tight, all legal like.”

“This should be good,” Gideon muttered, prompting the older man to chuckle.

“First off, the estate has been put into a trust, and the trustee I’ve chosen would never sell it without Mary Katherine’s consent, and she’ll never agree to let The Folly go.”

“That would not pose a problem as I’ve no intention of selling the estate.” Gideon told himself he was only continuing the conversation out of curiosity. He had no intention of tying himself to the unkempt, graceless creature. “And the other terms of the trust?”

“Mary Katherine’s firstborn child, male or female, is to inherit.”

“Male or female?” he asked in surprise.

“And if she has no children, the estate passes to my sister’s boy, John, upon Mary Katherine’s husband’s death.”

“I beg your pardon?” Gideon exclaimed. “You surely don’t expect me, or any other man, to agree to that.”

“If he’s a smart man, he’ll forgo mistresses and nights out at his club to insure she’s breeding lickity-split,” Price replied with a wink.  “And I’ll not put my girl in danger from some a fortune hunter who thinks a mighty shove down a flight of stairs will do away with an unwanted wife.”

When Gideon only stared at Captain Price in horror, the older man said, “Don’t look so shocked, son. It happens all the time.”

“You cannot…” Gideon began.

“I can bloody well do whatever I want!” Price bellowed, his eyes bulging behind his spectacles and his face darkening. “When I won this piece of land it was nothing but a useless idyll for lazy aristocrats. How it was kept afloat with only the meager rents from the tenants is a goddamn mystery. I turned it around!  Me and Mary Katherine!  Price o’ Folly sees profits more than ten times what your precious Rosemont cost to maintain per annum! If I want to keep it in my family, I will. The Folly will go to my blood! Mine!”

“Now see here Captain Price.”  Gideon stood up and glowered down at the man and instantly felt like ten kinds of fool.

He wasn’t seriously considering marrying the girl, so what did he care what ridiculous conditions went with the estate?

As he retook his seat the image of Lady Abigail Culpeper’s pretty brown eyes and soft smile sprang into his mind. She was all that he could desire in a wife, sweet and gentle, soft-spoken and graceful, accomplished and well-educated, proper in all things. As the daughter of an earl, she’d been bred to be a gentleman’s wife, raised to run his household, to grace his arm and his table with elegance and style, to take her place among London’s matrons and raise her family higher. The alliance would finally return his family to their rightful place in society.

Gideon had been cultivating an attachment with Lady Abigail since the beginning of the season. He fully intended to offer for her when this last bit of business with the estate was completed.

“The truth of the matter is Mary Katherine needs to marry.”  Price’s words drew Gideon from his thoughts. The man appeared to have gotten over his temper. His voice was quiet, almost confidential.

“She needs to marry?” Could this ludicrous situation get any worse?

“My heart’s not what it used to be.” Captain Price rubbed a hand across his chest and let out a sigh. “Old ticker’s winding down.”

“Ah, I see,” Gideon replied. “I can certainly understand your desire to see her well-settled.”                                           

“But more than that, Mary Katherine’ wants to marry. She wants children, a family. She’s a sensible girl, soft-hearted but not flighty and emotional like some.”

“May I ask Miss Price’s age?”

“Two and twenty come December,” Captain Price replied, surprising Gideon anew when he would have sworn there couldn’t possibly be any more surprises in store for him during this misbegotten journey. “Young enough to give a man a nursery full of children, but old enough to know love is a rare thing, and not always what it’s cracked up to be. She’ll be happy with a man who respects her, one who will treat her and any children she has kindly, one who will have a care for the land and all those who depend upon it. She’s not looking for more than that.”

Unsure how to respond to that bit of nonsense, Gideon remained silent.

“Mary Katherine might not be the sort of lady you had in mind to marry,” Price went on, “but she’d make you a fine wife. And hell, if you don’t prefer country life, she won’t be put out if you spend your time in Town, after you’ve given her a babe or two.”

A babe or two. That could take years. Years of living on a sheep farm and bedding a shepherdess. Perhaps she’d be happy with only one child. Could he take that dirty, and no doubt malodorous, woman to bed night after night until she conceived a child?

And then what? Leave the child in her care, to raise in her image?

“Has she had any formal education?” Gideon asked doubtfully.

“She had a governess or three over the years, same as any gently bred girl. I even sent her off to a fancy school in London for a spell,” Price growled. “It didn’t agree with her so she came home where she belongs.”

Gideon could just imagine how little a finishing school would agree with the hoyden.

“Might I have some time to think about your offer?” Gideon asked.

“That’s a fine idea,” Captain Price replied with a jovial smile. “We’ll have a chamber made ready for you. Stay as long as you need. Though, I don’t imagine it’ll take more than a day or two for you to decide Mary Katherine is just the sort of wife you need.”

“I’ve obligations in London just now,” Gideon protested as politely as he could manage considering the woman was the exact opposite of the sort of wife he needed. “Perhaps I could return in a few weeks?”

Captain Price’s eyes narrowed behind his spectacles as he studied Gideon a moment before nodding in agreement. “Mind you, Mary Katherine is not without suitors. She’s an heiress, and the daughter of an earl, even if she was born on the wrong side of the blanket.”

An aristocrat’s by-blow. Why, yes, this patently absurd situation could, in fact, get worse.

“Mary Katherine has yet to encourage any of the fellows who’ve come courting,” Price continued, “but she will soon enough. She’s a head-strong girl. When she makes up her mind to something, she’s sees it done. You leave the Folly without offering for her, might be you won’t have another opportunity.”

Gideon very much doubted a few weeks would see the woman married, while he could put the time to good use devising an alternate means of securing the estate. One that most assuredly did not include marrying Miss Mary Katherine Price.
If you enjoyed this excerpt but haven’t yet read the first two books in the Dunaway’s Daughters Series, beginning with Taming Beauty or Courting Chaos.