Thirteen: Tall Tales and Icy Glares


Previously on Mistaken Identity: Jes discovered Lord Ian, the man she had admired for years is attending the same house party. But as she gets to know him, he is different than her imaginings. Conrad Pinkerton, Lord Kendal, is attending the house party in his brother’s stead and using his brothers name, just until Ian can arrive.  Join in the fun of the house party with this next imstallment of Mistaken Identity.


 

Conrad left his rooms, feeling restless. Everyone believed him to be Ian, including the louts Ian called friends.

Miss Standish was the only one continually giving him questioning looks. It was as if she knew Ian well, yet Conrad had never heard of the chit until yesterday. A feeling of agitation squeezed his brows together. It was not as if he cared for her opinion, either good or bad. The feeling intensified as he realized that was not entirely true. For some unearthly reason, he did desire her good opinion.

A loud voice accompanied by a flurry of hushed murmurs reached his ear. Conrad followed the sound, finding a group standing in the Marble Saloon, everyone’s necks craned to look at the ceiling. Miss Greystock was describing every detail. Conrad spotted Miss Standish, slightly apart from the rest of the group, her head cocked back as she listened. He sidled up next to her, tilting his head back as well. “Good morning, Miss Standish. And where is Lady Rachel this morning? Did she not wish to take the tour with you?”

Miss Standish, without dropping her head to glance in his direction, whispered, “She was not feeling well this morning and decided to keep to her room in hopes of feeling well enough to attend the musicale tonight.”

Everyone turned their heads, looking now at the fireplace. He nodded in understanding. “Being acquainted with the family, she must be familiar with the house.” Looking in the same direction as the others, he watched her from the side.

She shook her head, finally looking at him. “Actually, this is the first time she has been to this estate. My mother was acquainted with the family in London.”

The group wandered into the next room. Conrad leaned his head toward her. “This room is called the Hounds-coat room. It gets its name because of that portrait hanging over the mantle.” He motioned his head in the direction of the painting. “The portrait was painted by van Dyck. It is of the Second Earl’s favorite pointer.” Conrad was suddenly grateful for Ian’s ramblings over the years. “If you wanted a tour, I am convinced I could give you a much more informative one than this.”

Miss Standish tilted her head toward him while her attention was still tuned into Miss Greystock’s speech, seemingly trying to pay attention to both conversations. Without shifting her gaze, she whispered. “You know this house well, then?”

“Well enough. Let’s just say I know the more interesting aspects of this house. The ones not on the tour.”

Miss Winters turned, shushing them with a glare. “Some of us came on this tour with the intent to learn about this grand home. Please do be quiet so we can hear.” She turned back toward Miss Greystock, her attention fully engaged on the young lady.

Conrad raised his brows, a laugh twitching at his lips. Miss Standish’s lips puckered, whether to laugh or in displeasure, he was not sure. Dipping his head, he tried to school his features into contrition. “Beg pardon, Miss Winters.”

Miss Greystock shared some less than fascinating facts about the coffered ceiling and intricate details of the fireplace.

“And what, exactly are these interesting details Miss Greystock is leaving out?”

Conrad moved in closer, his breath moving the small hairs at the base of her neck. His eyes were drawn to the slope created where neck met shoulder, causing him to stumble on his words. “I, um, I…I could not help but notice Miss Greystock has not mentioned the ghost that haunts these halls.”

Miss Standish’s brow puckered in confusion, then a single brow raised in what? Disbelief? Irritation? Conrad had no idea.

“Are you expecting me to believe this home is haunted?”

Conrad shrugged a shoulder. “It is the truth, whether you choose to believe it or not.”

A quiet laugh escaped her lips, earning her another glare from Miss Winters. Leaning a little closer into Conrad, which for some ludicrous reason caused his heart rate to increase, she whispered. “And what would this specter look like, Lord Ian? Is he a kind ghost or more the vengeful sort- bent on revenge for past wrongs?”

Looking to the ceiling, Conrad considered the question trying to recall all the details Ian had told him over the years. “I have seen it myself.” He cringed slightly at the lie. But then, was it a lie if he were speaking as Ian, for his brother had claimed to have seen it on several occasions. “It is a young boy who roams the nursery and upper floors on the darkest nights- those with only the slightest hints of a moon.”

A quiet chortle puffed from her lips, pushing them out slightly. His breath caught, his gaze transfixed on them.

“I find myself hard pressed to believe such a tale, Lord Ian. Were it true, such a story would be one of the first told.”

“The Countess finds the tales vulgar. She would never allow them to be told in a public setting.” He placed his hand to the side of his mouth, as if sharing a secret with her. “Although, I do believe she secretly finds them piquant.”

“Piquant? Interesting choice of words.”

“It means…” She cut him off with a wave of her hand.

“I know what it means, my lord. Pray, it is not a word oft spoken.” She fixed him with a stare, her brow furrowed in study.

“Exactly, but it should be. Do you not agree? Perhaps if we use it more over the next few weeks, it will become all the rage.”

“Perhaps.” Miss Standish’s eyes narrowed as she studied him. “The moon is in its waning stage, perhaps a ghost hunt is in order. What say you, Lord Ian? Shall your specter make an appearance and save your reputation or be absent and expose you as a fraud?”

Conrad raised his brows, hoping to hide his sudden discomfort. “Do I detect a challenge, Miss Standish?”

Miss Winters turned again, fire burning in her gaze. “Lord Ian, if you please!”

Conrad held up his hands in surrender. Once the ice princess turned her back to him, his shoulders began to shake.

###

The group moved into the next room. It was yellow, almost to the point of being gaudy. Jes turned curious eyes to him. “And what vast knowledge do you have of this room, my lord?” she whispered.

His lips pursed as he glanced around the room. “This is the…um… Yellow Room.”

Her lips quirked. “Seems suitable, for a room painted solely in that color. But that is hardly a little known bit of information.”

Lord Ian smirked. “I was just making sure you knew the correct name.” He placed his hand under his chin, his finger tapping his chin softly. “This is the room where Edward the First planned his second invasion into Scotland.”

Before she could stop it, she snorted out a laugh so loud Miss Greystock stopped speaking and every head turned in their direction. Jes felt the heat all the way to the tips of her ears. “Beg pardon, Miss Greystock. I seem to have developed a tickle in my throat. Please, carry on.” She waved a hand, encompassing the room. “Tell us more about the Yellow Room.”

Miss Greystock looked confused. “This is not the yellow room. There is no yellow room in the entirety of this house, that I am aware.” Looking around, she nodded her head. “Although I can understand why you would think such a thing.” She cast a scowl at Conrad. “Lord Ian must have been talking when I mentioned this was the Painted Drawing Room.” Jes looked at Lord Ian from the corner of her eyes. He appeared to be appropriately repentant until Miss Greystock continued with her tour duties. Then he turned his gaze on her, laughter sparking in his eyes. A slight smile, came unbidden to her lips. But her brow furrowed as she looked at him. He was so different than she had imagined. While he was similar to the man she had danced with the one time, she had spent hours watching him over the rims of glasses or from behind her fan. He had always been light hearted and charming, but in an entirely different way. A way she could not quite define.

 He shook his head, tsking quietly. “Beg pardon, but I am quite certain this has always been the yellow room.” He shrugged. “Perhaps they realized how silly it sounded and decided to change it since last I was here.”

Her smile increased. “I am sure you are correct, for that does seem to be the most likely scenario.” While she was still baffled by him, Jes could not help but like this Lord Ian. She bit her lower lip in thought. “I was under the impression this house had only been built within the last two hundred years.” Conrad nodded. “Then you can understand my confusion at Edward I’s role in its history.”

“Yes, it is a complicated history.” He moved to the window and she followed behind. Looking out at the Temple Folly, she spotted Miss Easton, followed by Lord Courtenay and her gaggle of brothers, practically running across the lawn. Jes glanced over to Lord Ian, who shrugged. His gaze shifted to the sandstone structure. “It is not widely known, but Ethelred of Wessex planned his attack on the Danes, right there on that plot of ground. The Folly was erected in honor of the great conquest.”

She bit her lip as a puff of breath pushed out of her nose, barely stifling a laugh. “I am beginning to think it is not just this house you know nothing about, but our entire history. The battles against the Danes happened in Berkshire, my lord.”

Looking at her as if she were daft, he guffawed. “Everyone knows that, Miss Standish. As I said, the little known fact is the planning was done here in Yorkshire. Please keep up.” His tone was condescending, mocking even.

She narrowed her eyes at him and thought a look of uncertainty might have crossed his face. His smile faltered. A protective feeling reared up inside her. She knew that same feeling.

“I believe you are mistaken, for everyone knows that particular folly was constructed there because it is the exact place Hercules defeated the Cyclopes army threatening to overrun the Britons.”

Lord Ian broke into a grin. Nodding he added, “Ah, I do believe you are correct. It is the site of the Rockingham Obelisk where Ethelred made his plans. Thank you, Miss Standish for correcting me.” Her heart stuttered at the look of complete joy on his face. She had always thought Lord Ian handsome, but right now she could not think of a single man- gentle or noble, able to rival him.

They both broke out laughing, stopping suddenly when they realized they were alone. She looked about the empty room. How had they not noticed everyone leaving? Walking quickly to the doorway, they peered into the hallway, straining to hear Miss Greystock’s voice. Her voice carried down the corridor, allowing them to follow it until they found the correct room.

 Lord Ian peered inside. “If we walk in now, everyone in attendance will take notice. It will, no doubt, cause quite a scene. While I care nothing about the opinions of others, you may not have such a luxury.”

She bit her lower lip again, wishing she held such a position. “Is there no other way into the room?”

“Perhaps if we listen, we can wait for a time when their backs will be turned and sneak in then.”

She tilted her head to the side. “There is another option.”

His brows rose.

“We could abandon the house in favor of the gardens. From what I have been told, they are rich in ancient history.” Her lips twitched and her brows rose.

He shrugged. “There are many parts of the grounds I have yet to tell you about.” Just then he heard Miss Greystock mention the next room. Grabbing her, Lord Ian tugged her into the alcove of a nearby doorway. Peeking around the corner, he watched until the last person exited the room. Pulling her behind him, they quietly took up the rear of the group. “Perhaps we can save the grounds for another day. Pray, there is much I have not told you about the house.”

She could barely contain the excitement she felt. What stories would he make up next?

 

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mindyburbidgestrunkauthor

Mindy loves all things history and love, which makes reading and writing regency romance right up her alley. When she isn’t living in her alternate realities, she is married to her real life Mr. Darcy and trying to raise five proper boys. They live happily in the beautiful mountains of Utah. You can follow her on her blog at http://mindyburbidgestrunkauthor.blogspot.com/ and on Facebook at @mindyburbidgestrunk.

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