Lord Jonathan Grenford, younger son of Her Grace the Duchess of Haverford, was doing his best to lounge with nonchalant ease, in imitation of his more sophisticated brother. But his interview with his progenitor had left him fizzing with frustration and anger.
Impossible to discharge such energies in the presence of the duke, who was the absolute ruler of his household. His Grace would respond to any perceived disrespect with a retribution whose ripples would touch everyone Gren cared for, from his mother and brother to the most insignificant tweeny and the merest acquaintances.
Impossible also in the dainty sitting room that was his mother’s retreat. He and Aldridge had long ago agreed that Mama had suffered enough from the insults, neglect and disrespect heaped on her by His Grace. Both would rather die than unleash their own helping of the Haverford temper in her presence.
But if he had to keep his tone calm and dispassionate, his body must express the energy of his wrath. As soon as the servant with the tea trolley exited the room and he was free to tell Mama his troubles, he leapt to his feet to pace and prowl, his arms shaping the emotions he was careful to keep from his voice.
She knew, none better, the attempts he had made at freedom, the counter measures taken by his family’s despot, the arguments he had presented in this last distressing interview. But he repeated them all, concluding: “He will never let me go, Mama. I shall be kept here in England, bored out of my mind, kept on a short leash with nothing worthwhile to occupy me until I am as old, as fat, and as dissolute as Prinny.”
The duchess, whose part so far had been to murmur occasional platitudes, lifted an elegant brow at that. “Not fat, my dear one, surely?” She smiled slightly at his reluctant huff of laughter, then turned serious again. “I will speak to him again, Jonathan. But I cannot promise anything. He may not listen.”
“He will not listen. He never listens.” He sat beside her, and kissed her cheek, taking her tea cup from her hands and enclosing them in his own. “Do not make trouble for yourself, Mama. Leave it alone.”
As always, sharing his troubles with the duchess had soothed them, and his natural optimism had surged once more to the fore. There must be a way to achieve his freedom; one that could not reflect on Mama or Aldridge. All he had to do was find it.
Lord Jonathan Grenford, known to his friends as Gren, is a supporting character in Revealed in Mist, which stars his illegitimate half brother David Wakefield. Haverford’s heir, the Marquis of Aldridge, also has a supporting role in the book. More information and buy links if you click on the title.
Excerpt from Revealed in Mist
His next appointment arrived late, apologising as he approached the table, hand extended to shake. David ignored the open and guileless smile and focused on the eyes. Careful, considering, watching to see if the charm was having the desired effect.
“Lord Jonathan.” His own face would give the young man no clues about what David was thinking and feeling. He returned a firm press of the hand, and waved Lord Jonathan to a seat.
“Please. Call me Gren. Or Jon, if you prefer, as Aldridge does. After all, you’re my brother too.” Another friendly grin, of no more depth than the first.
A surprise attack might prompt a reaction David could use. “Is there a reason I shouldn’t tell Aldridge about your plan to get yourself exiled?”
Bare shock for a moment, quickly turning to calculation.
“Mrs. Worth is your informer. Of course. I thought her of too fine a quality to be a whore’s housekeeper.”
The boy was quick; David had to give him that.
The smile turned self-deprecating. “I’d rather you didn’t tell Aldridge. With luck, things have gone too far for him to fix, but I wouldn’t want to count on it. The magic ducal wand.”
“Aldridge wants to protect Her Grace,” David said. And he did, too, come to that.
“Aldridge wants to protect everyone. It’s been bred into him. Yes, and beaten into him, too.” Lord Jonathan—Gren—waved a casual hand, “His Grace is not a gentle father.”
He leaned forward, confidingly, the grin gone and his face suddenly open and sincere. “Aldridge doesn’t understand. I can’t live this life—this meaningless, idiotic life. He has work. I am allowed none. He has purpose. Mine is to simply exist until he marries and has children. After that, I’m redundant. Aldridge thinks I should be happy to drink and gamble and swive myself silly, then get up the next day and do it again. He can’t believe I’m not. But he wouldn’t like having nothing useful to do nearly as much as he thinks.”
Lord Jonathan shook his head thoughtfully. “Do you know how many younger sons die in pointless, stupid accidents, doing something crazy because they’re bored? Now, that would certainly upset Mama!”
David wasn’t sympathetic. “Then do something productive. Join the army. Take up employment.”
“I tried to join the army. His Grace refused his permission. So I joined under a false name. His Grace had me hunted down, bought me out, and confined me until I gave my word not to do it again.
“I went to work for an architect. His Grace had the man beaten. I changed my name again, and found work as a factory clerk. He threatened to ruin the man if I wasn’t fired. He told me that if I tried it again, he’d throw my old nanny out of the cottage she has retired to.”
Despite himself, David could feel for the lad.
“He wants me dependent. Which is partly your fault, by the way.”
The reproach was unexpected. “How do you draw that conclusion?”
Lord Jonathan shrugged. “You’ve made your own way. Refused all help, or so I’ve heard. His Grace doesn’t control you. With everyone else, he says jump, and they ask for instructions on how high and far, and for permission to come down. You just ignore him.”
“Not exactly,” David said. “I stay out of his way, that’s all.”