Happily Ever After

BOND OF HONOUR was published in 1980 by Dell Candlelight. In it Lady Juliane Perrill is determined to escape France in 1793, to bring her orphaned niece and nephew to safety in England. When she awakes in a farmhouse after nearly freezing to death in a snow storm after a coaching accident she finds an unconscious Lord Adrian Tarrant, Earl of Tretain, abed with her. Mistaken for his wife, she continues the charade after the children are attacked.

As Adrian recovers he begins to fall in love with Juliane. In the hope of winning her he continues the pretence of family and takes her to his estate. With the arrival of his mother, Adrian’s hand is forced.

Andre and Leora are Juliane’s niece and nephew. Louis Comte Cavilon, is a friend of Adrian and fellow spy

Juliane allowed him to lead her out, but gave Comte de Cavilón an uneasy glance. The dance did nothing to alleviate her sudden apprehension. With every chance she looked to the comte. He watched her closely--speculatively, she thought. Everything had been so perfect up to that unexpected question--that “Are you happy?”

Had not André’s tears put the first pall on the night? The situation was far from perfect. She must be careful not to lose herself in a dream world.
Nothing was guaranteed for the children, least of all their safety. She was foolishly in love with this cool, stark man she knew little about and who passed her off as his wife as if it were a usual experience. Where had her reason gone?

* * *
It seemed an eternity for the guests to exclaim upon the success of the ball, their enjoyment at meeting her, and finally take their leave after two in the morning. All the while Juliane smiled and murmured the expected pleasantries while her mind worked furiously. Had she been led into a false aura of safety? Was she deceiving herself by trusting Adrian? The present situation could not go on indefinitely. The more she thought, the stronger became her conviction that it must end--and tonight.

Lady Juliane would have been amazed to learn that Lord Adrian’s thoughts and plans coincided with hers. He had some days earlier reached the same conclusion. Circumstances could not be tolerated as they were. He was far too involved. Adrian had reached what he considered a feasible solution, but his indomitable male ego kept him from appraising Juliane of his decision.

Lady Juliane looked about the ballroom. It seemed everyone had magically disappeared. There was no sign of Lady Tretain who had hovered near all evening. Only Lord Adrian remained and he had a most peculiar look. If she could think it possible, she would have supposed the look to be one of trepidation. Occupied with her own problems, Juliane did naught but note it.

“I . . .” Lord Adrian hesitated. “Would you be so obliging as to walk with me? There is something I wish to show you. More importantly, some news I must impart.” Taking her arm, Lord Adrian guided Juliane slowly through the house. Reaching the door that led to the used portion, he stopped and searched her face. Then he kissed Juliane, held her tight, crushed her to his lean, hard body as his lips demanded satisfaction.

“My lord,” she breathed questioningly when he loosened his hold. He claimed her lips once more and Juliane’s heart overrode her mind once more as she answered his passion.

Reluctantly, Lord Adrian drew back. “This decision is correct,” he stated breathlessly. To Juliane he added, “You see, my dear, I always keep my word. Come, they await us.”

Still swirling in the rapture of his embrace, Juliane could make no sense of his words. “Who is waiting?”

“You shall see. This part of the house is not used these days. At the end of this corridor is what once was the family chapel. I doubt it was used even during my father’s time. I have had a surprise prepared which I hope will please you.” Adrian smiled, entreated her approval.

Lady Juliane stopped him. “Adrian . . . what is it you have in mind?” she asked, suddenly wary.

“Will you not be surprised?” he answered.

“It is best not to be.” She refused to move. “Now tell me.”

Adrian shifted his weight nervously as she waited. “It is the most sensible solution, you know,” he managed, fear of rejection hobbling his usual glibness.

“Sensible solution--to what?” she asked faintly.

“You could not escape from this unscathed--not unless there was no need to escape . . .”

His look beseeched her understanding. “This loss of words is most inopportune. Perhaps on the morrow you will feel more talkative.” She turned but he locked her hand in his.

“You cannot go. This must be done. You cannot object. It is your honour that will be maintained. The House of Tretain is old and highly regarded.” Adrian paused to gaze deeply into her eyes. You do not find me totally repulsive.”

Understanding his words and yet not, Juliane sought only to escape. Joy would have been boundless had he given the one reason she sought, but he had not. In truth, it seemed expediency was what he wished.

“I will be willing to adopt the children if it is possible,” he urged her. “They will never want for anything.”

She looked searchingly at him but his face had become impassive. It chilled her. Her fingers grew numb in the clench of his hand.

“Why the tears, Juliane?” Adrian asked more softly. “This is not my sensible one.” He gently wiped them away. “You are no young miss. There is no way out of this and it is more my fault than yours. Come, follow my lead. The special license arrived this afternoon.” Taking her hand, he led her to the doors at the far end and knocked.
There was a pause.

Then the doors slowly opened to reveal a small chapel dimly lit with candles. Large bouquets of white hothouse flowers of all kinds filled the side aisles and altar. A cleric in flowing robes, holding an open prayer book, awaited them.

Someone put a large bouquet of white roses mixed with baby’s breath in Lady Juliane’s hands. She stared in disbelief. Forms to the side began taking shape as they walked down the short aisle. Lady Tretain, Sir Percival, and Comte de Cavilón were all there.

Juliane heard words solemnly intoned, questions asked. The answers she spoke seemed to come from far away, not from her own lips at all. A numbing coldness pervaded her. Then it was over and they were surrounded, congratulated, kissed.

“So beautifully done, my son,” said Lady Tretain. “So happy.” She dabbed at her eyes.

“Best wishes to you both,” offered Comte de Cavilón.

As the comte left the chapel, Lady Tretain detained Lady Juliane. “You must forgive me, Juliane, for . . . for all my doubts concerning you. Adrian has told me how hurriedly you had to be married--the loss of your sister. Your niece and nephew shall always be treated as my own grandchildren. “When he said you both wished for a simple renewal of your vows in our own family chapel--well, I was so relieved. You do forgive me?”

She spoke with such earnestness that Juliane laid a hand on her arm in reassurance. “You are not the one needing forgiveness.”

Lady Tretain shook her head. Taking Adrian’s and Juliane’s hands, she placed them together. “A long life and many blessings--the best of which is sharing.” She blinked back tears of remembrance. “Good night, my dears.”

Once more they stood alone. Neither spoke. Finally Lord Adrian coughed. “We cannot spend the night here.”

Lady Juliane flung him a look which spoke “why not?”

“You must be very tired. Let us go to our rooms,” he urged.

The long walk from the chapel seemed magically and frighteningly brief. Before she could forestall it, they were in the corridor outside their rooms. Seeing the guards at the children’s door, Lady Juliane stalled for time. “We must check on the children.”

Lord Adrian quickly agreed, in truth not as dauntless as he pretended to be.

Quietly they entered. Lady Juliane tiptoed to the large cradle. Lord Adrian walked softly to the bed. Each slowly picked up the coverlets so as not to awaken the child beneath. Startled look flew to startled look as the coverlets were dropped--only pillows were beneath them. The children were gone.
* * *
Adrian is badly wounded and almost dies rescuing the children. When he is recovered Juliane goes to have one last conversation--

Juliane became conscious of Adrian’s grip on her hand, of the warmth his touch brought her. Searching for words, she thrust back those she wished to speak and said instead, “The children--I must find Uncle Thedford for them. He named André his heir.”

“I have had word about him,” Adrian said slowly and released her hand.

“You knew I meant to go to him?” she asked in disbelief.

“Not exactly, but it seemed the most likely thing. You mentioned an uncle on your first night here.

“I fear your plans are hopeless,” Adrian continued. “There is no estate. The reason your family never had anything to do with him was that he was more than slightly daft and had lost everything shortly after André was born. An old family retainer kept him until he died a few years ago.”

Juliane studied the quilting on the coverlet. What would she do? Where would they go if . . .?

“I have said I would adopt the children--do you object?” Adrian’s voice throbbed with emotion.

Her eyes flew to his, her heart pounding.

“My lord, my lord,” Mallatt scampered in excitedly. “You won’t believe it--it can hardly be credited. Look,” he held out one of André’s toy soldiers for them to see.

“I was straightening it and it broke. See what fell out!” With a shake of the toy several green stones tumbled onto the bed.

“The emeralds,” breathed Juliane.

“The other soldiers are full of them,” he continued, then, noticing that the two before him had eyes only for each other, added, “We will see to this later, my lord.
Of course, my lord.” He bowed and hurriedly withdrew.

“How could I have doubted you?” Juliane breathed.

“I could have explained I was an agent for the ministry.”

She brushed her fingers across his to silence him. “There is no need to tell me now.”

Adrian caught her hand once more. “Do you love me? Can you love me? Every moment since I regained my senses I have feared you would leave--that is why I dared not send for you. I love you so.”

“Oh, Adrian, I have longed to hear--”

He claimed Juliane’s lips--claimed her heart as well. “My angel,” he breathed, “my own.” Drinking in the love glowing in her eyes, his happiness brimmed complete. “On the dressing chest . . . “

Juliane gave a puzzled glance toward it. The rings he had given her lay upon a tray.

“Will you not wear them? Always?” His ardour caused his voice to tremble.

She rose and retrieved them. Sitting beside the earl, she asked saucily. “Will you not replace them . . . my lord?”

He slipped the rings on her finger, saying sternly, “You know I shall have to break you of this formality in address.”

“I know . . . my lord,” Juliane teased again and happily surrendered to his fervent embrace.

Bond of Honour is available as an ebook at Regency Reads
under Joan Vincent on the left.


Reese Mobley said...

Awwww. Does my heart good. Wonderful as always, Joan.

Joan Vincent said...

Thanks, Reese. This was the first regency I wrote. Adrian and the Comte Cavilon are still my Bond is the British agent in my Honour series.

Joan Vincent said...

I'm not sure what happened to the center of my last comment. Let me try again. Adrian and Comte Cavilion (The Curious Rogue) are still my favorite heroes. Julianne's nephew is the reocurring British agent in my Honour series.

Pat Davids said...

A wonderful and much deserved HEA, Joan. Thank you for sharing it with us. Regency Romance was the genre I gobbled up in the 1980s. I loved it.

Joan Vincent said...

Thank you, Pat!

Nina Sipes said...

Joan, Thanks for sharing. I'd read some of your work--and saved it, long before I met you in WARA. Nice as always.

Joan Vincent said...

Nina, How kind of you! I love your writing. The summary for Elaine was priceless.

Starla Kaye said...

"my angel..my own" I love stuff like that. Thanks for sharing the scene with us.

Penny Rader said...

Great push/pull in this excerpt, Joan. Smoldering kiss, then 'sensible solution.' Locks her hands in his, why the tears and then he tells her she's no young miss. Such a man. LOL

My heart stopped when the children were disappeared. Great synopsis at the beginning of your post. Made me want to read the story