Not a Fine Gentleman (Rogue Hearts #6) - Donna Hatch

Chapter 1

London, 1820

Margaret had no one to blame for her current misery but herself. She’d been so blinded by the opportunity for an advantageous match, and so proud she’d garnered the attention of a handsome, charming marquis, that she’d failed to notice his legion character flaws until too late. Now, sixteen years into her marriage, she had few options but to keep a brave face and pretend her heart hadn’t been broken a hundred times over.

As she climbed out of the carriage, Margaret stopped her line of thought. No need to become maudlin. She marched up the front steps of the Hennessy London House and passed the neoclassical columns flanking the entrance. Lights blazed in the windows and spilled out through the fanlight over the front door, even though neither Margaret nor her erstwhile husband had been at home this eve.

Gibbs met her at the door and looked down his nose at her. “Good evening, Lady Hennessy.” The butler’s first loyalty clearly lay with his lord; he served Margaret with a subtle but unmistakable resentment.

In a mockingly sweet voice, she said, “Good evening, dear Gibbs.” She handed him her cloak and gloves, and contemplated stabbing him with her hatpin just to see if he’d bleed.

Inside, she crossed the great hall to the dark-paneled library where a fire awaited her, along with a good stiff drink. Margaret poured herself a glass and took a seat, sipping her drink and toying with the bracelet Rachel had given to her. At least her sister loved her—all her family did, in fact, whether or not she deserved their devotion.

The front door opened, and singing echoed through the house. She groaned. Hennessy had come home.

“Splendid, Gibbs, splendid!” Lord Hennessy slurred. “Ish my bride at home? Exshellent!”

Bride. Bah! He’d ceased to treat her as his bride years ago.

Footsteps clunked toward the library. Margaret braced herself. Fate, who’d been so kind to the Amesbury brothers, had robbed the Amesbury sisters of wedded bliss. Bliss being the keyword. All her brothers were now happily wedded—even her most cynical sibling, Grant, whom no one thought capable of falling in love, much less finding a lady who could tolerate him. That Grant’s wife clearly adored him boggled the mind. Apparently, Margaret was the only truly unlovable member of the family.

“Ah, my dulcet dahling!” Hennessy sang out.

His hair mussed, his cravat awry, Lord Hennessy lurched into Margaret’s sanctuary. Classically handsome and with more charm than a body had a right to be, he’d won her sixteen-year-old heart with a mere smile and pretty words. How young she’d been then. How blind. How foolish.

Margaret glared at the intruder known as her husband, clenched her fists, and ground out, “I’m not your darling, Hennessy, as we both know.” Nor had she ever been, apparently, since he viewed marital fidelity and common decency unnecessary. She leveled a stare at him. “Kindly go to bed and leave me be.”

He leered. “Not unlessh you come wif me.”

“Haven’t you slaked your lust with your mistress or one of your lovers this eve?”

His face, which she’d once found so attractive, lit up with mirth. “Hmmm. Yesh, she’s always diverting.”

How causally he tossed out yet another reminder that he never cared for her, never cared about his vows, and never cared about their reputations enough to exercise even a modicum of discretion—not even to shield his wife.

She hushed the small cry in her heart that still, stupidly, ached for his love. Instead, she donned her shield of cynicism and snarled, “How fortunate for you.”

The library had grown far too crowded. Margaret needed to find refuge somewhere else. She gulped the contents of her glass, winced at the burn, and headed for the door.

As she brushed past him, Hennessy grabbed her arm. “Ah, come now, dahlin’, we can shtill make magic.” His alcohol-laden breath stung her eyes.

Did a small, secret part of him care? Or was it empty lust? More likely, he toyed with her, just as he’d probably done from the beginning.

“We never made magic.” She wrenched her arm out of his grasp and shoved him out of her way.

He staggered to her favorite armchair and collapsed, snickering. As her miserable excuse for a husband sat, still laughing, Margaret fisted her hands. If only she were a man and could challenge him to fisticuffs. Or a duel. Still chuckling, he opened his palm, revealing a new snuffbox. He seemed to pick up new snuffboxes as often as he picked up new women. Odd, but it made a tiny tinkling sound