But that is exactly what Emma Fairbourne intends to do when her father dies, leaving her the reins of this fabulous enterprise. Of course, she is not addlepated enough to do this openly and scare away her wealthy collectors. So she and her friend concoct a deception, hiring a handsome and charming front man who will do her bidding An earl, of course, has no interest in running an auction house—and Darius is certainly not interested in allowing Miss Fairbourne to run it either, her ludicrous scheme notwithstanding. But the headstrong Emma is like no other lady he has ever encountered, refusing to follow his dictates. Nightingale said.
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But that is exactly what Emma Fairbourne intends to do when her father dies, leaving her the reins of this fabulous enterprise. Of course, she is not addlepated enough to do this openly and scare away her wealthy collectors. So she and her friend concoct a deception, hiring a handsome and charming front man who will do her bidding An earl, of course, has no interest in running an auction house—and Darius is certainly not interested in allowing Miss Fairbourne to run it either, her ludicrous scheme notwithstanding.
But the headstrong Emma is like no other lady he has ever encountered, refusing to follow his dictates. Nightingale said. He stood before her in his impeccable frock coat and cravat. He always looked like this.
Tall, slender, dark, and perfect. Emma imagined the hours it must take him each day to put himself together with such precision. She had never liked him much. Nightingale was one of the many people who showed a false face to the world. Everything about him was calculated, and too smooth, too polished and too practiced. While imitating his betters, he had assumed their worst characteristics. They were in the large back chamber where items consigned for auction were stored for cataloging and study.
It held bins for paintings at one end, and shelves and large tables for other objects. There was also a desk where she now sat. Nightingale had positioned himself to her side, so she did not have the distance of the desktop between them, the way she would prefer. Emma of course agreed with his assessment that things were much changed. It was one of those statements that was so true as to need no articulation. She disliked when people spoke this way, explaining the obvious to her.
Men in particular had this habit, she had noticed. She merely nodded and waited for the rest. She wished he would hurry up with it too. These preliminaries were all beside the main point, which was that he was leaving, and some plain speaking would be welcomed. Worse, she was having difficulty even paying attention to him. Her mind was back in the exhibition hall, wondering what Southwaite was doing and whether he would still be there when she exited this room. Nightingale had always struck her as a walking fashion plate.
All surface and artifice. Not at all deep. My eye for art has been demonstrated time and again during the previews. But it is good enough. He had never used it on her before. She did not find it nearly as winning when directed her way as she did when he cajoled a society matron to consider a painting that had been overlooked.
He was a very handsome man, however. Almost unnaturally so. He knew it, of course. A man could not look like this and not know just how perfect his face appeared.
Too perfect, as if a portrait painter had taken a normally handsome face and prettied it up too much, to the point it lost human distinction and character. Your father. Our births and stations are not dissimilar.
I believe we would make a good match. I hope that you will look favorably on my proposal that we marry. This was not what she had expected. She found herself at a loss for how to respond. He took a deep breath, as if fortifying himself for an unpleasant task. Did you think I had not noticed your beauty these last years? Perhaps I have been too subtle in communicating my interest. Credit that to my respect for both you and your father.
You have quite stolen my heart, however, and I have dreamed for many months that one day you might be mine. Nightingale, please, let us discuss this honestly if we are to discuss it at all.
First, we both know that I am not beautiful. Second, you and I have held no secret sympathy. Indeed, we have rarely had informal conversation. Third, you have not been too subtle in communicating your feelings because you have entertained no such feelings to begin with. You almost choked on your words of love just now.
You began making a practical proposal, and perhaps you should continue on that tack and not try to convince me of your long-secret love. If honest and practical suite you better, so be it. Your father left you a business here. It can continue, but only if it is known to be owned and managed by a man. Unfortunately, I do not think we will be a good match at all. He refused to move. Nightingale no longer appeared charming as he gazed down at her.
Not at all. As for another match, one that you may consider better, I doubt such an offer will come now if it has not already. You are, by your own admission, not a great beauty. You are headstrong and at times shrewish. In short, you are on the shelf for a reason; several, in fact. I am willing to overlook all of that. Fate throws us together, for better or for worse, Miss Fairbourne, even if love does not.
She might admit to headstrong, but, really, shrewish was going too far. I daresay I should be grateful that you would be willing to take me on at all.
I fear, however, that your calculations are in error on one major point, and that your willingness to sacrifice yourself will be much compromised once I explain it, since it is the only point that you see in my favor. In fact I am not. My brother is, of course.
At least not for long. He drowned when his ship went down. He is most certainly dead. In such cases there is no need to wait any length of time to have a person declared dead. I will not do it. She glared back, while she quickly calculated how much trouble his removal would create. Potentially a good deal of trouble, she had to admit. Good day, Mr. Nightingale turned on his heel and marched out of the chamber. Emma rested her head in her hands.
Weariness wanted to overwhelm her. So did humiliation at the bold description Mr. Nightingale gave of her faults. He had spoken as if he had even worse ones on the list, and thought limiting it to these had been an example of discretion. You are on the shelf for a reason. That was certainly true. Yet she did. A tap on the door requested attention.
The Earl of Southwaite strode in with an invisible storm cloud hovering over his dark head. Exit one handsome, conceited man, and enter another. Southwaite had to know that she did not want to see him. It had been a tiring and trying day, and she was in no mood to match wits with him now. She suppressed the impulse to groan in his face. She rose and made a small curtsy.
The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne
Except that Society will never accept a woman running a such a prestigious business! But just as she begins putting her plan into motion, Darius, the Earl of Southwaite, appears declaring his half-share interest in the business and his resolute desire to see the entire auction house closed and sold. The daughter of a tradesman, Emma is a practical person with a preference for speaking very plainly and directly. As an Earl and respected member of society, Darius Alfreton is used to his commands being followed. He is used to people turning to him for answers and those same people believing that he can solve their issues. In true Madeline Hunter fashion, the love between Emma and Darius begins subtly and simmers for a while before the lovers give into their feelings. In fact, the attraction between Emma and Darius was such a slow build that when they did consummate their attraction, I doubled back a few pages to see if I had missed something!
The Surrender Of Miss Fairbourne (2012)
Fairbourne Quartet Series