An enchanting novel by Meg Cabot, originally writing under the name Patricia Cabot—released as an e-book for the first time!
She was ruled by her head...
Only one thing stood between Edward, Lord Rawlings, and a life of rakish debauchery: a spinster. Even worse, a liberal, educated vicar's daughter, guardian to ten-year-old Jeremy, the true heir to the title Edward did not want. If Jeremy would not assume dukedom, Edward must, a fate of dire responsibility and utter boredom.
But this time, her heart was taking the reins.
Since there had never been a female his lordship couldn't charm, Edward was sure he would win over the old girl. But Pegeen MacDougal was neither old, nor a girl-she was all woman, with a prickly tongue, infernal green eyes and a buried sensuality that drove him mad. Unfortunately, she loathed him and his class for their fripperies and complete disregard for the less fortunate. But for the sake of the boy, she agreed to accompany him back to his estate.
The rise was quickly apparent. For Pegeen knew she could resist Edward's money, his power, his position...his entire world. It was his kiss, however, that promised to be her undoing...
Where Roses Grow Wild.
About the Author
PATRICIA CABOT is a pen name of MEG CABOT, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of books for both adults and tweens/teens, including the Princess Diaries series. She was raised in Bloomington, Indiana, and has also lived in Grenoble, France; Carmel, California; and New York City. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Indiana University. She currently lives in Key West, Florida with her husband and various cats.
PATRICIA CABOT is a pen name of MEG CABOT, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of books for both adults and tweens/teens, including the Princess Diaries series. She was raised in Bloomington, Indiana, and has also lived in Grenoble, France; Carmel, California; and New York City. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Indiana University. She currently lives in Key West, Florida with her husband and various cats.
Meg Cabot is the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of the beloved and critically acclaimed Princess Diaries series, which were made into wildly popular Disney movies of the same name. There have been over 25 million copies of Meg’s books for both adults and teens/tweens sold in 38 countries. Her last name rhymes with habit, as in “her books can be habit-forming.” She currently lives in Key West, Florida, with her husband and various cats.
Hometown:New York, New York
Place of Birth:Bloomington, Indiana
Education:B.A. in fine arts, Indiana University, 1991
Read an Excerpt
Where Roses Grow Wild
By Meg Cabot
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1998 Patricia Cabot
All rights reserved.
Lord Edward Rawlings, second and only surviving son of the late duke of Rawlings, was unhappy.
It wasn't just that Yorkshire wasn't the most pleasant place to spend the winter, though there were entire weeks when it seemed as if the sun never shone. It wasn't just that Lady Arabella Ashbury, whose husband owned the estate neighboring Rawlings Manor, was currently too self-absorbed to turn her prodigious attentions to him.
No, Edward was unhappy for reasons he couldn't have put into words had he wanted to, and he didn't want to, because the only person at hand was the viscountess of Ashbury. While the viscountess was well-known throughout England for many of her fine attributes, including her fair coloring and slim, elegant ankles, a sympathetic ear was not one of them.
"I'll have Mrs. Praehurst order enough foie gras for fifty people," Lady Ashbury said, scratching away at the list of assorted last minute items she wanted Edward to bring to the attention of his housekeeper before their friends from London arrived in Yorkshire for a weekend hunt. "I've found that in the country, not everyone cares for foie gras. The Herbert girls wouldn't know a foie gras from a hole in the ground."
Edward, stretched out on a chaise longue in front of the fire in the Gold Drawing Room, let out a yawn. He tried not to, but it escaped, just the same. Fortunately, Lady Ashbury, not used to men yawning in her presence, wasn't paying attention.
"I don't see why you have to invite the Herbert girls at all," Lady Ashbury went on. Her tone wasn't petulant, but it wasn't playful either. "Their father may be your estate agent, but I can't say that I feel he's done you any good, Edward."
Edward leaned forward on the chaise longue to pour himself another snifter of brandy from the decanter he'd placed within arm's reach on the side table. He was quite drunk already, and intended to get even drunker before the afternoon slipped into evening. One of the viscountess of Ashbury's finest attributes was that this sort of behavior did not bother her. Or at least if it did, she never mentioned it.
"After all, Edward," Lady Ashbury continued, "if it weren't for Sir Arthur Herbert's so-called tireless efforts on the behalf of the Rawlings estate, you'd be duke now, and not that brat of your brother's."
Edward leaned back, sipped his brandy, and stared heavenward. The Gold Drawing Room's ceiling was painted a muted yellow to match the heavy velvet drapery over the windows. He cleared his throat noisily and said in his deepest voice, the one that frightened the Rawlings Manor stable boys, "Everyone seems to forget that John's son is the legal heir to the title and to the estate."
Lady Ashbury affected not to notice his warning tone. "But no one even knew the whereabouts of the boy until Sir Arthur started his vile nosing about—"
"At my request, remember, Arabella?"
"Oh, Edward, don't patronize me." Lady Ashbury threw down her pen and rose from the ivory-topped secretary, the skirt of her pale blue satin gown rustling noisily. She strode towards the chaise longue, her pale skin and white-blonde ringlets making quite a pretty picture against the tawny drapery in the background. That, of course, was the reason why the viscountess always demanded that they be seated there, rather than in the more comfortable, but less complexion-flattering, Blue Morning Room.
Arabella declared, "It would have been the easiest thing in the world for you to simply tell the duke that John's son was dead too, like his mother and father, and then assume the title yourself."
Edward raised a mocking eyebrow in her direction. "The easiest thing in the world, Arabella? To lie to my father on his deathbed? He spent the past ten years cursing John for marrying a Scottish vicar's daughter, wouldn't allow their orphaned brat to be brought to Rawlings even though he was, in fact, the proper heir to the title. And then, when the duke relented at the eleventh hour ... Faith, Arabella! It would have been damned dishonorable of me not to at least attempt to grant the old man's dying wish."
"Oh, hang honor," Lady Ashbury exclaimed. "You've never even met the boy!"
"No," Edward agreed. He'd finished his fourth brandy and poured himself a fifth. "But I will when Herbert returns with him tomorrow." Smiling to himself, Edward mused, "What you can't seem to get through that lovely head of yours, Arabella, is that I don't want to be a duke. Unlike yourself, and, I'm certain, your mamma, who made it her life's ambition to snag you a husband with a title, I would be perfectly content to be merely a mister."
Lady Ashbury let out an exasperated snort. "And how, pray, could you afford the kind of horseflesh you keep in your stables on the salary of a mere mister, Lord Edward? Or the house on Park Lane in London? Not to mention this drafty monstrosity you call a manor. The only mister I know who can afford all that you have is Mr. Alistair Cartwright, and as you well know, his wealth is every bit as inherited as yours. No, Edward, you are a duke's son, and, accordingly, you have the tastes of a duke's son. Your only misfortune was that you were not born before your miserable brother John."
Edward glanced over at her, one eyebrow raised sardonically. "Damn, Arabella. Do you honestly think I'd enjoy being duke? Brooding over estate business all day long? Forever being hounded after by men like Herbert, who'd want to take up all my time with account-keeping? Having to muck about with the tenant farmers, seeing that their roofs are freshly thatched each year, their children educated, their wives happy?" He heaved his wide shoulders in a shudder of distaste. "That kind of life made an old man out of my father, killed him before his time. I won't allow it to happen to me. Let my dear departed brother's brat have the damned title. Herbert will see that Rawlings doesn't burn to the ground in the meantime, and, in ten years, when the boy's left Oxford, he can return here and assume his rightful place in the hallowed halls."
"And what do you intend to do with yourself, Edward?" Arabella inquired, her asperity ill-disguised. "You can only hunt from November to March, and London's beastly in the summer. What you need, my darling, is an occupation."
"What do you think I am, an American?" Edward laughed, not very nicely, and drained his glass. "I adore it when you condescend to advise me, Arabella. It always puts me in mind of the difference in our ages. Tell me, does it bother your husband that you're always sprinting off across the moors to visit a man half his age and a decade younger than yourself?"
"Must you drink so much?" snapped the viscountess of Ashbury, and Edward, with a resigned sigh, mentally subtracted one of her attributes. "It's quite revolting to see someone so comparatively young getting so bloated and paunchy."
Edward looked past his white, expertly tied cravat at his powerfully built chest and lean, waistcoated torso. "Paunchy?" he echoed in disbelief. "Where?"
"You've got bags under your eyes." Arabella stepped forward and snatched the brandy snifter from his hand. "And it's plain to see that you're starting to get jowls, just like your father."
Edward cursed and leapt up from the couch, the brandy making him a little unsteady on his feet. Standing several inches over six feet tall, Edward was always an imposing figure, but in the Gold Drawing Room of Rawlings Manor, he seemed doubly so. His large frame dwarfed the delicate gilt and green velvet furniture, and his feet, in well-shined black riding boots, trod heavily upon the carefully combed Persian carpets.
Striding to a beveled mirror that hung on one wall, Edward examined his reflection for paunchiness.
"Faith, Arabella," he said, looking from his own reflection to that of the viscountess. "I don't know what you're talking about. What jowls?"
He was certain that it wasn't vanity that kept him from seeing any signs of dissipation. Surely if they were there he'd notice. Edward wasn't that interested in how he looked, though he knew from having been told by so many women that the way he looked was pleasing. Of course, he was quite conscious that despite the fine cut of his clothing, he looked out of place in any drawing room, gold or not. He had the dark, saturnine complexion of a pirate or brigand, and longish jet-black hair that had a tendency to curl raffishly against his coat collar. In sharp contrast to the Lady Ashbury, who was as fair as a lamb, only Edward's eyes were light-colored, a grey that seemed to echo the mists that were forever pouring off the moor on the edge of which Rawlings Manor was situated.
"I didn't exactly mean that you had jowls now," the viscountess of Ashbury said, suddenly quite busy with something over at the ivory-topped desk. "What I meant was, if you're not careful—"
"That's not what you said."
Edward wasn't sure what dismayed him more; the fact that she'd startled him into rising from the couch or the fact that now that he was up, he might as well as go upstairs. He could be unhappy more easily in the comfort of his library, or even the billiard room, where he could smoke and drink at his leisure without any harping females to warn him about paunches.
But before he had a chance to formulate an excuse that would mollify the easily offendable viscountess, with whom he'd already shared a few pleasant hours of titillation in a third-floor guest room earlier in the day, Evers stepped into the room and cleared his throat noisily.
"Sir Arthur Herbert to see you, my lord." The butler, who had served Edward's father for fifty years and would undoubtedly serve the new duke of Rawlings for another twenty, did not raise an eyebrow at his employer's obvious intoxication so early in the afternoon.
"Herbert?" Edward echoed, in disbelief. "What's he doing back so soon? I wasn't expecting him 'til tomorrow at the earliest. Is the brat—er, His Grace, the duke, with Sir Arthur, Evers?"
Evers' gaze never left a spot somewhere above the green marble mantel. "Sir Arthur is alone, my lord, and, I might add, in a state of considerable agitation."
"Damn!" Edward reached up to rub his chin, which, even though it was only just past midday, was already rough with dark stubble. If Herbert was alone, it could only mean that the report they'd had from Aberdeen had been a false one, like all the others. And Herbert had sworn the source was reliable! Now Edward was going to have to expend more effort—and money—in the search for the heir to the Rawlings dukedom. How was it that a ten-year-old boy could virtually disappear off the face of the earth?
"Damn," Edward said irritably. "Show him in then, Evers. Show him in."
The viscountess heaved an exaggerated sigh the minute the butler was out of earshot.
"Oh, Edward, really. Must you entertain that loathsome man in here? Couldn't you have had him wait for you in your library? It's not as if I particularly enjoy listening to you two drivel on about that wretched child—"
"Yes, wretched!" Sir Arthur, portly and gregarious as ever, hurried into the room, hardly waiting until Evers had fully opened the doors before bustling past the butler and his stiffly raised eyebrows. "Oh, a most wretched child indeed, Lady Ashbury! Truer words were never spoken!"
Sir Arthur was so distraught that he had not even allowed the footman to remove his cloak and hat, and now snow spilled from the middle-aged man's sloping shoulders. Evers hovered close by, his face a pained mask as wet spots grew on the carpet beneath the solicitor's galoshes.
"Good God, man," Edward blurted, startled by his estate agent's unkempt appearance. "Have you just come from Scotland, sir, or from hell?"
"The latter, my lord, the latter, I assure you."
Before Evers could stop him, Sir Arthur sank into the very green velvet chaise longue that Edward had only just abandoned. Snow fell to the deep cushions and began to melt immediately in the warmth cast by the generous fire. "Never, in all these months of searching for your father's heir, have I encountered anything quite so disagreeable, Lord Edward."
The viscountess, having watched the proceedings with faintly curled lips and delicately arched brows, glanced at the butler. "Evers, I believe Sir Arthur is in need of a brandy."
"No, no," Sir Arthur cried, holding up a fat hand. "No, thank you, my lady. I never touch spirits before noon. Lady Herbert would not approve, not at all."
"But, Sir Arthur," Arabella's smile was decidedly mocking, "it's past one, after all."
"Ah. In that case—" But Evers was already at the solicitor's elbow with a full snifter. "Oh, thank you, Evers, my good man. Ah, quite hits the spot, that ... And there's no reason Virginia need ever know, now is there?"
Edward, who almost always felt like smashing something breakable whenever he was in the presence of his late father's most trusted advisor, asked through gritted teeth, "Am I to take it from your complete lack of composure that we have been duped yet again?"
Sir Arthur looked up from his brandy, his plump, bland face almost comically surprised. "What? Duped? Oh, no, my lord. Not at all. No, this is the lad. Oh, yes, we've got the right lad at last." He heaved a shuddering sigh that was as dramatic as it was noisy. "More's the pity."
As Sir Arthur reached out a trembling hand to pour himself another brandy from the decanter on the gilt end table, both Evers and Edward stepped forward to stop him, the butler out of an outraged sense of duty, Edward out of sheer frustration. Edward wasn't so drunk that he couldn't outmaneuver a fifty-year-old father of five and a seventy- year-old butler. Falling to one knee alongside the couch, his fingers closed around the neck of the brandy decanter. He was so tall that only kneeling could he look the seated Sir Arthur in the eye, and he did so now, unaware that his own grey eyes were glittering dangerously with suppressed anger.
"What ..." Edward said, enunciating carefully, "happened ... in ... Scotland?"
Sir Arthur stopped looking mournfully down into the bottom of his snifter, his gaze arrested by Edward's menacing glare. "Well, I, er," stammered the solicitor. "Well, you see, my lord, it's him. The duke, my lord. Young Jeremy of Rawlings—"
"You found him?" Edward's relief was palpable. "Thank God." But his relief soon turned to impatience. "But if you found him, why in the hell didn't you bring him back with you to Rawlings?"
"Wouldn't come," Sir Arthur shrugged simply.
Edward wasn't certain that he'd heard the solicitor correctly. "I'm sorry, Sir Arthur. Could you repeat that?"
"He wouldn't come," Sir Arthur said again. "Was quite adamant about it too, my lord. Wouldn't budge from the spot without—"
"Wouldn't come?" Edward bellowed. He sprang to his feet, his fingers balled into fists at his sides. He noticed that Arabella was staring at him with some alarm, but he couldn't control his sudden compulsion to pace the room like a caged animal.
"Wouldn't come? The boy was told he is the heir to a fortune, the owner of an estate that is the jewel of Yorkshire, that he is, in fact, a duke, and he wouldn't come?
"Is the child an idiot?" Edward roared, startling Evers, who'd been endeavoring to clear away the now empty brandy decanter. It would have been just like John to produce an idiot heir, Edward thought furiously to himself.
"Oh, no, my lord," Sir Arthur winced. "Quite the contrary. Healthy as a pony, ten years old, full of the devil. Hammered the back of my head with an egg the moment I descended from my carriage."
Edward fought for patience. "Then why wouldn't he come with you?"
"Well, it wasn't so much the boy, my lord, as his aunt."
"Aunt?" Arabella looked up from a close examination of her cuticles. "The boy has an aunt?"
"Yes, my lady. He's an orphan, don't you know, what with Lord John's untimely demise ten years ago. I believe his mother, Lord John's unfortunate wife, passed on shortly after that. The duke has been raised by his mother's sister and his maternal grandfather, who also passed away about a year ago now, I think. Dreadful thing, I understand. Dropped dead in the pulpit. A vicar, you know."
Excerpted from Where Roses Grow Wild by Meg Cabot. Copyright © 1998 Patricia Cabot. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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