The Earl's Outrageous Lover
Elizabeth Lennox - The Earl's Outrageous Lover
The Earl's Outrageous Lover
Prologue – One Year Earlier
Jessica Mallory stared at the man, stunned by what he’d just told her. “Please, tell me you’re kidding.” She wiped the tears from her eyes so she could focus more clearly on the tall, thin man sitting behind her father’s desk.
The man straightened his yellow tie nervously. “I’m afraid it is no joke, Ms. Mallory.”
She let out the air in her lungs and slumped back against the chair in stunned horror. “Fine. Just sell it all off. His assets don’t mean much to me anyway. Let someone else run the factories.”
Her father’s irritating lawyer again shook his head. “I’m sorry, but that’s not allowed.”
Jessica couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It had been a horrible week that started with her parents dying in a car accident. There had been so many details to figure out and all she wanted to do was curl into a ball and cry out her grief. But every time she resolved one issue, someone came to her with yet another. Their death had occurred on Monday. The exhausting funeral had been Thursday morning and today, Friday, she was sitting with her father’s lawyer discussing her parents’ will and trying to figure out why her father had done something so insane.
“What century did my father live in?” she whispered, shaking her head as she tried to absorb the terms of her father’s wishes.
The man blinked. “Excuse me?”
Jessica looked up, not realizing that she’d spoken out loud. “I was just wondering what century my father lived in,” she said more clearly. “This will would be more appropriate for someone who lived in the eighteenth century. The terms of this will are so outrageous. It’s like the plot to a really cheap novel!”
The man smiled briefly because he agreed with the exquisite women. But he was only the messenger and it wasn’t his job to offer his opinion. The will had been drawn up by one of his colleagues six years earlier. “I agree that the terms are….unusual,” he stated as he looked down at the document, his mind whirling with the bizarre provisions. “But unfortunately, they are legal and binding.”
Jessica thought through her options but she didn’t really appear to have any but one. “Okay, so let me get this straight. If I’m not married by the time I’m twenty-five years old, the three factories in Scotland, the one in Manchester and all the other entities my father accumulated over his lifetime will be shut down, the equipment inside each factory will be dismantled and sold for parts, the actual buildings in which these factories are house in will be blown up and over one thousand families will be out of a job.”
The lawyer hesitated, but in the end, Ms. Mallory’s summation was complete. He pulled a piece of paper out of the filing folder and handed it to her. “Here’s a list of the contractors that have been retained to accomplish all of what you’ve just mentioned. So yes, your father was quite serious. He wanted you married and this was his way of accomplishing that.”
Jessica couldn’t believe that her father…a memory came to mind, the day her father had picked her up from boarding school so he could tell her that he’d gotten her into one of the finest finishing schools in Great Britain, a school which would set her up perfectly for a well placed marriage.
It was also the first time she’d ever defied her father. She’d sat in the back of the car next to him and told him that she wouldn’t be attending the finishing school of his choice. She’d calmly explained that she’d already applied to the University of London and would be attending that institution in the fall instead. She’d challenged him to disown her back then but he hadn’t. He’d waited. And now he was getting his revenge for her defiance.
Why couldn’t he just be proud of her? She’d finished at the top of her class, had interned at some of the finest hospitals under great psychologists and psychiatrists. Didn’t he even care that she was following her heart? That she could help people and heal people?
Apparently not, she thought as she looked out the large picture window, noticing the last of the catering trucks pulling out of the driveway of her father’s London home. A home which she now owned, or at least was allowed to live in until she married, at which time, ownership