A Rogue's Secret - Stacy Reid Page 0,1

you a riddle to unravel.”

His butler seemed well pleased with Rupert’s recitation of the poem. Rupert sighed, reading it for the third time still stirred no clues to where he might find the fortune of buccaneer booty his uncle Frederick had been reputed to have hoarded away.

The late baron had not been a believer in banks. So little funds had been located by the family solicitor when he had dealt with the will and handed over the deeds to the estate and lands. The tenanted farms did bring in an income, but it would barely maintain the house and pay his bills. It would not provide sufficiently for a wife and offspring, nor would it do the improvements on his tenants’ homes that Rupert could see were much needed.

“Does it give you any ideas, Farrant?”

His butler’s forehead creased in an apologetic frown. “No, sorry my Lord, I am not much good at riddles, though you read it beautifully if I may say so, Sir.”

Rupert shrugged his shoulders in disappointment and stared through the mullioned window once more. The older man coughed and poured his lord another glass of brandy, which Rupert absent-mindedly took, taking a quick mouthful.

What were you thinking, Uncle Frederick? Why not just tell me outright where this treasure is?

Farrant who had been fond of the old man and fonder still of the young Rupert, had often told him the tale that he had been nicknamed ‘Rogue’ by Uncle Frederick from when Rupert was first breeched and proved to be an imp of mischief, that his father had sworn had been sent straight from the fires of hell. Uncle Frederick had laughed and encouraged his misbehaviour, and so had the servants at Ellesmere Manor. Rupert had adored his great-uncle and loved spending every summer away from school there.

If he could not find the treasure, he might be forced to marry Lady Euphenia Chisholm. The very idea sent darts of dread shooting through his entire body. Euphenia was a termagant and had a tongue like a wailing banshee, which did not go help with a face that might look well on a carthorse, but certainly not one with a good pedigree.

He must have muttered something aloud, for Farrant said, “No, my lord, I do not think Lady Euphenia would suit at all. A fine figure of a man like yourself would be wasted on the likes of her. If I might say, I think Lady Grenville has more bats in her head than the house has in the attic.”

Rupert smiled without humor at the apt description of his aunt. “Told her that myself, Farrant. Even the most hardened fortune hunter would blanch at the thought of marrying Euphenia Chisholm. She is an utter harpie… I say, who is that?” He leaned forward. “I saw a flash of red in the garden and thought it must be a bullfinch, but there is a female climbing the wall. Fine ankles, too! Farrant, who is that piece of perfection?”

The female now brushing down her clothes was indeed a beauty; she wore a red hooded redingcote which revealed strawberry blonde curls and a heart-shaped face with a very kissable cupid-bowed mouth. He could not see at the distance whether her eyes were blue or green, but he would guess they were a clear cerulean blue.

“Lady Verity Hansard, I did tell you that you shouldn’t have the walled garden locked. The locals do not like it, my Lord. The locals like to come and go as they please.”

Rupert waved a hand in dismissal. “It is because they are used to coming and going as they please that I locked the gate. It seems like every bucolic and his lass uses the garden for their trysts. I wouldn’t mind so much if they would make less noise about it, but they were going at it hammer and tongs, and it was hard to sleep. How did Uncle Frederick put up with it all these years?”

“He was a little deaf, but he liked young people to be, er happy in their pleasures.”

Curiosity stirred in Rupert, and he stood, moving even closer to the windows for a better view. “So, what is a young lady doing climbing the wall to my closed garden?”

“I would assume she is going to cut mistletoe, my Lord... she does so every year with the late Baron’s permission,” Farrant said stiffly.

Rupert followed the small figure in red with his eyes while he spoke, “I think I should introduce myself to this Lady