The Dangerous Lord Darrington

By: Sarah Mallory
Chapter One

The news that Dangerous Lord Darrington was staying with Edwin Davies at his Yorkshire hunting lodge had spread, but it posed something of a dilemma for those fond mamas with unmarried daughters. Guy Wylder, the Earl of Darrington, was a bachelor and it was generally agreed that it was time he settled down and produced an heir. There had been a serious scandal in his younger days, but most parents were prepared to overlook that in view of his wealth and his title. However, the earl resisted all attempts to lure him into matrimony; any young lady who forced herself too openly upon his attention was likely to suffer, for the earl would embark upon a furiously intense flirtation, setting tongues wagging and leading the young lady in question to suppose that he had quite lost his heart. Then, just when she was in daily expectation of receiving an offer of marriage, the wicked earl’s ardour would cool and he would have difficulty remembering her name when they next met.

Such behaviour had caused more than one young lady to go into a decline and, despite Lord Darrington’s wealth and wickedly handsome appearance, all sensible parents now went out of their way to warn their daughters against encouraging the earl’s attentions. Unfortunately, in Guy’s opinion, there were not enough sensible parents.

On this occasion, however, precautions proved unnecessary. Mr Davies’s shooting party at Highridge comprised only gentlemen; apart from an occasional sighting at the White Hart, the sporting company kept very much to Mr Davies’s extensive acres or rode over the largely uninhabited hills and moors that stretched eastwards to the coast.

‘I shall be given the cut direct when I go into the town,’ was Mr Davies’s laughing complaint. ‘To have had a peer of the realm staying with me and not paraded him at one assembly. My neighbours will be ready to pluck any number of crows with me!’

‘Davey, you know I came here only because you promised me a couple of weeks’ sport in the company of friends,’ replied Guy.

‘And that’s what you have had, but I cannot see what harm there would have been in attending a dance or two in the town.’

One side of the earl’s mobile mouth lifted a fraction.

‘Ah, but that is sport of a different kind, Davey, and we would be the quarry.’

They had been roaming the hills for some time, climbing to ride along the ridge that looked over the lush green farmland to the west and the hills and moors of north Yorkshire to the east. Guy stopped for a moment, taking in the view.

‘That is always a danger, of course,’ remarked Davey, bringing his horse to a stand beside him, ‘but surely the cautionary tales about your cavalier behaviour towards the fairer sex give the ladies pause.’

Guy shook his head.

‘Some, perhaps, but not all.’ He added bitterly, ‘I might be a veritable Bluebeard and some parents would still be offering their daughters to me. It seems my title and my fortune outweigh every other consideration!’

‘Your fortune and title certainly mean you are constantly mentioned in the society papers. Those damned scoundrels who write the Intelligencer are happy to print any amount of gossip about you.’

‘That scandal-sheet!’ Guy’s lip curled. ‘Ignore it, I do. What they cannot find out they make up, and as long as it is only about my amorous adventures it does not bother me at all. Besides, if the scandals are bad enough, perhaps those ambitious mamas will finally give up the chase.’

‘I know the gossip doesn’t bother you, but it does anger your friends. Take the latest on dit about the Ansell chit, for example.’

‘By heaven, I dance twice with a girl and immediately I am thought to be in love!’

‘Well, her mother thought so, at all events. Told everyone you had invited them to Wylderbeck.’

‘They invited themselves. Ansell started telling me how his daughter was interested in architecture and that she had heard such wonderful things of Wylderbeck. I told ’em they were welcome to take a look at the old house.’ Guy shot his friend a quick glance, his grey eyes glinting. ‘I hope they enjoyed it. I had a letter from my steward last week saying they had come hotfoot to Yorkshire, only to be told I was not at home! My housekeeper showed ’em around the house and suggested they could put up at the Darrington Arms.’

Davey laughed, but shook his head at him.

‘A devilish trick to play, Guy.’

‘One becomes weary of being constantly pursued. Scandal goes some way to reduce the problem.’

‘I sometimes think you are happy for people to think you betrayed your country,’ muttered Davey, frowning.

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