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The Lady and the Vixen

The Lady and the Vixen


The Lady and the Vixen

ratings:
3.5/5 (2 ratings)
Length:
259 pages
3 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 7, 2019
ISBN:
9780463171141
Format:
Book

Description

After eight years, Lucy Endcott has finally returned to London to visit her dying father, a cold disciplinarian who never approved of his eldest daughter. Lucy is a respected widow, residing in the countryside away from the wicked excess the city has to offer and her unscrupulous ex-lover, the Marchioness Irena de Macey.

When Lucy finds out her youngest brother has gambled away his inheritance at the Pythos Club, she enters the den of iniquity in order to save him. Inside the club she meets the owner’s alluring daughter, Tisha McGrath, who is more than willing to help her brother...for a price.

Tisha longs to introduce Lucy to those secret passions she’s kept hidden away for so long. But dark secrets and transgressions from the past connect their families in shocking ways. Both women will work together to resolve this scandal before it unravels further but Irena is waiting for the right moment to strike, and Lucy may have no other choice but to give into Irena’s demands in order to save the ones she loves from utter ruin.

*Re-edit and revised 2013 title*

Publisher:
Released:
Jul 7, 2019
ISBN:
9780463171141
Format:
Book

About the author

KT Grant is a self-proclaimed eccentric redhead who not only loves to read a wide variety of romances, but also loves writing it. Under her alter-ego, Katiebabs, she’s a former book blogger and entertainment columnist who still doesn’t shy away from voicing her opinion.A proud native of New Jersey, KT is multi-published and writes Gay, Lesbian and Straight romance. KT has also been a top ten best-selling author at Amazon.KT loves to hear from readers. You can drop KT an email at ktgrnt@gmail.com.


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The Lady and the Vixen - KT Grant

CHAPTER ONE

London, England, 1851

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions." It was a saying Mrs. Lucy Endcott had heard many times before, and it intruded in her thoughts as the top of her head hit the carriage ceiling from a rut in the road. Whoever had come up with the insightful idiosyncrasy must never have traveled on such a bumpy path as the one she and her Aunt Sera drove on as they headed to Lucy’s childhood home in Kensington. The last time she’d been in London was three years ago when she attended her sister Rue’s wedding. Now she returned for a much more somber occasion—her father’s impending death.

The wheel hit another dent, startling Aunt Sera, seated across from her, from her nap. This has to be the worst carriage ride ever !

She nodded in agreement. Better to humor her aunt, who had a tendency to overreact over the smallest things. Aunt Sera had a good point, though. Her posterior attested to that. But their ride would soon come to an end. They turned a familiar bend, with the shops and houses she had passed many times before she left London to live in Dorset, with Aunt Sera and Uncle Hal.

We should be there shortly. She stared out the window, momentarily blinded by the sun. The beginning of October had been most pleasant. Even now, she didn’t have to wear her shawl, although she always had one close by. Her high-necked, buttoned gray wool dress might be constricting and restrictive, her wardrobe consisting of such simple gowns, as was expected during her year of mourning for her deceased husband. But dark colors suited her complexion, or so Aunt Sera had told her often. She couldn’t remember the last time she wore pastels or some bright color.

A loud sneeze and sniffling drew her attention to the older woman with the sore nose. Aunt Sera had just recovered from a chest cold, and even though Lucy had debated the wisdom of her companionship for her visit, Aunt Sera would not be deterred.

Her aunt blew her nose and winced. Now, don’t give me that look. A little cold wasn’t going to stop me. I wanted to come during your time of need, and that of your brothers and sister. If Dinah was alive, she’d have insisted.

She blinked at the mention of her mother’s name. Aunt Sera looked much like her sister, with the same pointed nose and broad chin, something she had inherited as well. Whereas her aunt and mother had full lips and graceful cheekbones, her features appeared pinched, with a small mouth that did nothing to benefit her countenance. She felt lacking in other areas as well, with a posterior far too round and an ample bosom that led to men rudely ogling her.

She cracked her knuckles. When Aunt Sera arched an eyebrow, she stopped her fidgeting, a nervous reaction known among her family.

All will be well, you’ll see. Aunt Sera nodded, and tilted up her chin. Her auburn curls bounced on her shoulders. Geoff will be awake in no time, blustering and ordering everyone to leave him be.

She smiled briefly. Her father’s blustering was cutting and snappish those times she’d borne the brunt of his criticism.

The carriage came to a halt, and she inhaled a calming breath. She tugged on the collar of her dress and then on the cuffs. Finally, she flattened stray wisps of hair escaping from her bun.

Ready? Aunt Sera stepped down from the carriage when the coachman opened the door.

She followed her aunt outside. While Aunt Sera walked up the front steps to the townhouse, Lucy stared at the three-story brick house across the street. Memories rushed over her of the hours she’d spent with her former friend Irena in her sitting room or gossiping on those nights she slept over with Irena in her bed after a party or ball. Late at night, they fell asleep next to one another, most times with their arms and legs entwined, exhausted from their late-night talks or shared intimacies they’d kept a secret between them all these years.

The door opened, and she held her breath. An older woman came out with a small white dog on a leash. Lucy rested her palm on her chest, her heart pounding fast. Irena’s parents had moved away years ago, settling for a much quieter and simpler life near Stamford after their daughter married her marquess. Irena still lived in London, in the affluent Richmond area.

Lucy, are you coming?

She turned toward Sera, who waited on the top step. She pushed aside those memories of a much happier time when she was young and trusting and naive. Now she returned a much older and more cautious woman whose heart would never be torn in two again.

* * *

Good afternoon, Mrs. Endcott and Mrs. Toulson. I hope your journey was a pleasant one. Walter, her family’s butler of thirty years, greeted both women at the door.

Lucy smiled at the dignified older man. His eyes were welcoming and warm.

It’s lovely to see you again, Walter, even under the circumstances. She handed him her shawl.

Yes, ma’am. The entire staff is saddened by Mr. Daugherty’s illness.

Every employee of her father’s was dedicated to him, Walter most of all.

Before she did something untoward like hug him, her younger sister Rue emerged from the drawing room with her husband, Freddy.

Rue, look at you! Disregarding proper etiquette, she embraced her younger sister. She could barely wrap her arms around Rue, who was at the end of her eighth month. The last time she had seen her sister was more than a year ago when Rue and Freddy had visited her in Dorset.

It’s so good to see you. Rue kissed her cheek.

Her cheeks heated. I must look a mess. Aunt Sera and I were enclosed in a stuffy carriage for hours, riding on the bumpiest roads. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

You? A mess? Never! I’m the one who’s the size of a carriage. I don’t know how Freddy can bear to be seen with me. Rue sighed.

Her husband wrapped his arm around her waist. You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. You grow more beautiful every day.

Her chest pinched to see the love shared between the couple. Their courtship had been a most interesting one, since it had been arranged by her father, Geoff Daugherty Surprisingly, it hadn’t backfired. Freddy had become smitten with Rue, and she with him.

Come here, child. Let me get a good look at you. Aunt Sera embraced Rue while Freddy greeted Lucy in the same manner.

We’re so glad you’ve come. The past few days have been difficult. He squeezed the back of his neck. I was worried about Rue’s emotional state. When she first heard about Geoff’s attack, she took it hard.

Rue’s always been my father’s favorite. They get along well. It’s understandable she would be upset, she murmured.

Freddy frowned. Your father loves you just as much. Why would you think otherwise?

As much as she cared for him and thought he was an incredible husband to Rue and a wonderful brother-in-law, she wasn’t comfortable explaining the years of discord between her and Father. Now was not the time to get into such details, especially with Father sick.

I tend to think the worst of things. You’re probably correct. She patted his arm. You must be thrilled to be an expecting father. Have you set up the nursery yet?

Yes, we were in the midst of doing so when Geoff had his attack. He shook his head. It’s not looking good.

The doctor thinks Papa could get better. Rue joined her husband and rubbed his back. He nodded and tucked her under his arm.

I’m not sure what exactly has happened. In the letter you sent, you said Father lay unconscious in his study? Lucy asked.

Rue twisted her hands together. One of the maids found him barely breathing on the floor behind his desk. They couldn’t rouse him, and the doctor was called for. Doctor Hirst believes Papa had a stroke, perhaps brought on by stress. Papa has been working longer hours, and he and Colby have been at odds, more so than usual.

Speaking of which, where are Colby and Chase? she inquired about her twin brothers who lived together in a townhouse, owned by Father. The last time she’d received a letter from Colby, he and Father weren’t on speaking terms because of Colby’s spending habits, unlike Chase, who scrimped and saved.

That boy has been nothing but trouble from the moment he took his first breath. Aunt Sera’s mouth puckered as if she tasted something rotten.

Lucy flinched, and Rue paled. Freddy glowered. She wanted to admonish Aunt Sera for her harsh opinion about the baby of the family, but how could she when everyone, even Father, believed Colby was the reason their mother died in childbirth? Colby had never been given a chance, unlike Chase, who was lucky enough to have been delivered first.

The front door opened, and Chase entered. He handed his top hat to Walter. His eyes lit up, and he rushed to the group, first kissing Aunt Sera then engulfing Lucy in a hug.

I’m so happy to see you. Colby will be also. He needs your guidance now, more than ever.

What has he done now? Lucy asked.

His cheery brown eyes dimmed. Colby is the reason Father had his stroke. They had a terrible row, and Father threatened to disown him. From what I understand, he wished Father dead and ran out of the house. Soon after, Father was found unresponsive.

She covered her mouth. Oh no, how horrible.

Yes, it is. Worry floated in his eyes.

Lucy, why don’t I take you to Father? He wakes up at intervals but can’t speak or move, Rue recommended, and Lucy nodded.

While you’re both upstairs, I’ll have tea brought to the sitting room, Freddy said.

Tea would be lovely. Also, some finger sandwiches and pastries would be welcomed as well. Aunt Sera marched toward the sitting room.

Chase’s lips tilted up, and a dimple appeared near his left cheek. I could do with a spot of tea and some food. Unless you would like me to join you and Rue? he asked Lucy.

She squeezed her brother’s arm. If you don’t mind, I’d like some time with Rue and Father. Then we can talk about Colby and the best way to deal with him.

He nodded and, to her astonishment, drew her in for another hug. With you here, it will all turn out for the best. I have a strong feeling you can get through to Colby and help Father get well.

She gave her brother an awkward pat. If anyone could fix things, it would either be Rue or Chase. She and Colby had always been the dark clouds in the family, or so Father had said many times. But given everyone seemed to be relying on her in this case, she would do her best and hope it was enough.

Of course. You can count on me. She smiled bravely and, with Rue by her side, walked up the stairs to the man she admired but in whose presence she’d always felt inadequate.

CHAPTER TWO

The last time Lucy cried was when Giles died. Most believed she was heartbroken over the loss of the husband she had been dedicated to. She was upset about his death, but for another reason. She cared for him but didn’t love him in the way expected in her role as his wife. The shame and guilt of how he died had brought her to tears.

Now she wanted to shed tears of a different kind. She felt a deep sense of loss while standing next to the feeble and emaciated man who had sheltered and fed her, who’d given her everything she could ever want except his compassion and approval. She wanted to weep, not because Father might die, but from the sudden outpouring of emotion from Rue. Her kind and loving sister sat near Father and cried. The nurse whispered encouraging words, but she continued weeping.

Lucy left the room, hugging her waist as her stomach bubbled. Good thing she hadn’t eaten anything earlier. She would have cast up her accounts on the green-and-white needlepoint rug lining the hallway. Inhaling deeply through her nose, she walked down the stairs to the foyer.

Memories of her mother dying after the intense labor bringing Chase and Colby into the world haunted her. Seeing Father now, the stench of sickness permeating the room much like when her mother succumbed to death over twenty years ago, made her want to run home and hide in her bed, secluded from the rest of the world. But that wouldn’t happen. She wouldn’t allow it. She would be strong and face Father’s possible death head-on. Her family expected it of her, and she expected no less of herself.

Clutching the banister, she took a few steady breaths. Wiping away the wrinkles on her bodice, she pressed down each button, all eight of them, before she joined the others in the sitting room. She entered, swallowing back bile when the smell of the tea and roasted chicken assaulted her.

Freddy and Chase set their plates with half-eaten sandwiches on the table in front of them and rose. She sent them a tepid smile and joined Aunt Sera on the sofa.

How is he? Aunt Sera asked.

He’s sleeping. Rue is with him. Would you like to go upstairs and see him? She hoped her aunt would agree so she could talk freely with the men.

Aunt Sera finished her tea and stood. My voice might rouse Geoff. If I chatter on, he might wake up to tell me to bugger off.

Aunt! Chase’s jaw dropped, and a flag of red covered his cheeks.

With a chuckle and a swoosh of her skirts, she left the room.

I think she misses Uncle Hal. You should hear their discussions when I have them over to dinner. Lucy swallowed a giggle.

Now I know where Rue gets her…opinionated nature. Freddy smiled and poured Lucy a cup of tea.

Opinionated? Our Rue? You must see a side to her we don’t. She sipped her tea. The only one not afraid to speak his mind was Colby, who, on many occasions, had done so, mainly with Father.

Perhaps I do. Freddy stared at the foyer, as if Rue would appear. His face grew softer and his smile more pronounced.

Her stomach flipped again, but in a more agreeable manner. She wished she had a marriage like Rue’s, free of falsehood and deceit.

Silence filled the room as she drank her tea and the men ate the remainder of their meal. She cleared her throat, ready to broach the delicate topic of Father and Colby. If Father doesn’t get better, will he be sent to a hospital or an institution for medical treatment?

Chase set his plate down and brushed the crumbs from his fingers. There’s a possibility he may have to be sent somewhere for better treatment than he’s receiving now. If he doesn’t recover, he may worsen. He can’t speak or sit up and opens his eyes for only a few minutes at a time. He’s wasting away, and Colby is, too— He jumped up from his seat and stared out the window overlooking the street. His hand shook as he rubbed the back of his head.

He isn’t the sole reason for Father’s attack. She approached her brother, who turned around with a stricken look. Her heart broke for him. Chase and Colby had been extremely close until recently.

You haven’t been around, so you don’t understand what Colby has been doing these past few years. He shook his head. He’s gambling and drinking heavily, running around with women of questionable reputations, and has made friends who are bad influences. He’s racked up debt and gone through most of his inheritance from Mother. Father wants to cut him off without a penny, and, if it happens, Colby will be all alone with no one to support him. He’s made quite the mess of things.

How can this be? she asked her brother-in-law, who leaned forward and folded his hands on his knees.

I’m afraid so. Geoff has discussed with me, on more than one occasion cutting Colby off to teach him a lesson.

How can a father do that to his younger son? Colby has always been spirited. She shook her head, baffled she’d been kept in the dark for so long.

He became wild after you left us and married, Chase announced, his voice turning cold.

She trembled with indignation. One too many times she had allowed Father to talk to her in such a way. She refused to let her brother do the same.

How dare you speak to me this way? You have no right to do so. She pointed a finger in Chase’s face. He tried to touch her. She drew her arm away, ready to march out of the room, when Freddy stood.

Throwing accusations around won’t solve anything. The best thing is for both of you to keep a level head.

She slowed her breathing, and when Chase apologized, she accepted. He gave her a quick hug and lowered his head in supplication. She combed her fingers through his hair like she used to do when he was a boy. He smiled. She smiled in return, and they both sat down.

Freddy settled back in his chair, looking pleased. Lucy, you must speak with Colby. He’ll listen to you.

Fine, let’s go get him now. Maybe I can talk some sense into him.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Chase crossed one leg over the other. The lines on his forehead became more evident.

Do you know where he is? Trepidation for her younger brother ran down her spine.

Yes. He’s at his favorite place in all of London, the Pythos Club.

Pythos Club? The probability it was a den of inequity with licentious activities and unscrupulous people fed into her fears that Colby had succumbed to the darker side of London.

Is this Pythos Club is located in Whitechapel, or near the docks where most of these clubs of ill repute are? She shuddered, glad she lived in a village where no such corruptible place tempted young, impressionable men like her brother.

Chase chuckled. Pythos is one of the most popular gaming establishments in all of London, located on St. James Street. There are card games, dicing, and drinking, of course. A few times a month, there’s a singing and dancing show. The corner of his mouth tilted up. Genteel women may also attend and take part of the festivities there.

Excuse me? You can’t be serious. Shock ran through her, not at the location of the club, but that any decent woman would dare enter such an environment.

I’m very serious, Chase said. I’ve been there many times, usually with Colby. The Pythos Club is run by an Irish businessman named Teague McGrath. He has a daughter who acts as hostess, and a stepson, Aidan, who is his right-hand man. Aidan and Colby have become good friends. He slouched back in

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