Chapter 3

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When Kilner returned to serve The Dowager Countess of Hampton, Jane Braeden, the earl instructed him to ready the private coach for the day's outing. A whole day! I should carry a bottle of brandy.

The countess was tenacious, headstrong and thought she was the head of Hampton , everybody let her, including Braeden. He loved his grandmother and she knew it well and took advantage of the fact. When his patience allowed, he allowed her to treat him like he was still only twelve summers old. She was sixty years into her dish and still strong as an ox. She had become both mother and father to Braeden when his loving parents died in a fatal carriage accident.

His grandmère taught him everything he knew. How to be a gentlemen. How to lavish a gentle lady with care as if she was a rosebud, though he did not always follow that advice strictly. She had even give him the talk at age fourteen. She had hired prestigious gentlemen of the ton to take him through the ropes at Whites, Almack's and game hunting. By the time Braeden was eighteen summers old, he was a strapping, well build, sought after gentleman in every mother's invitation list. It had not stopped to this day when he was currently eight and twenty.

It was an open secret to every staff member that Jane Braeden loved her grandson, but she never openly displayed it. She was proud too of Braeden's prosperity in his own right. Braeden was wealthy. He rented horses, carriages, chaises, many of his property and made lucrative income for his estate through various streams of income.

Braeden would inherit a staggering amount of wealth and countless more properties from Jane Braeden when he took to wife. An earl with lavish tastes as him, could not have too much wealth. And it was proper for a titled gentleman of the beau monde to take a wife and produce heirs for the continuity and success of the earldom. Yet it rankled him to no end to have his grandmother harp on it time and time again. He will choose a countess for himself when he was good and ready not when she dictated and he was not ready now! So why was the image of a sultry blond with the most fine blue eyes burning up inside him? Furious even with himself he shoved his chair back in the most ungentlemanly manner.

'I hope Braeden when make calls today, you will finally select a wife,' Jane warned. She rattled off a list of names, too many to mention. The thought of seeing some of those maidens left a foul taste in his mouth. 'They are well bred and come with impressive dowries.'

Braeden glared at his grandmother in what he hoped was his most fearsome scowl. 'We are not buying horseflesh grandmère. I will not be rushed.'

'I am at the end of my tether with you lad!' You made the same excuses last year and the year before. I should just give away your inheritance,' she threatened.

Braeden stood up angrily. 'Hand my parents wealth and my inheritance back to the crown, if you must,' he responded indifferently. You will not force my hand.'

Yet silently Braeden knew he would defer to her command. He would never want to see disappointment in his dear grandmère's eyes. He had not seen it once in his eight and twenty years. He was a responsible earl. He knew his God given duty. He never shirked his duty.

'I will be waiting for you in the coach,' he stormed out.

Lady Fulham was escorting both her daughters to the modiste on High Street when Emma decided to engage her subdued younger sister in conversation.

'So did anybody take your fancy last night? Emma enquired of Fallon.

Fallon tried to banish the dark brooding eyes and the almost successful lips from her mind but it seemed to be a hard task, but she was determined to wipe him off her slate.

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