The Infidelity Curse
Perilous Secrets Book 3
by Barbara Monajem
Genre: Historical Romance
The death of her cruel husband means freedom at last for Lucretia Tifton—until she learns that the guardian he chose for her longed-for baby is the latest in a line of earls known for separating their children from unfaithful wives. The elusive new earl is certain to hear the gossip about Lucretia. Will he believe it and prove to be as heartless as his ancestors?
Giles, the Earl of Netherbroke, wants nothing more than to work in his London shop, building furniture with beautiful marquetry finishes. If unexpectedly inheriting the earldom isn’t bad enough, now he’s saddled with an unwanted guardianship. What’s worse, the baby’s mother is the loveliest woman he’s ever seen.
Giles is almost certain Lucretia is an adulteress—and the more he learns about her, the more he understands why she might have betrayed her husband. Nevertheless, he is determined not to succumb, like his ancestors, to the Infidelity Curse.
But then Lucretia is suddenly in danger, and the only way to protect her is to make her his.
Setup: At the reading of Sir Matthew Tifton’s will, all is going well, except for the unpleasant presence of Sir Matthew’s nephew, Mr. Welton, who has already disrupted the proceedings twice. And then…
“There remains the question of guardianship, which is somewhat unusual,” Mr. Briggs, the solicitor, said.
Oh, God. Lucretia hadn’t thought of that.
“Sir Matthew appointed the Earl of Netherbroke as guardian of his child.” He paused. “Also as trustee, jointly with myself.”
“What the devil? I am meant to be the guardian!” Mr. Welton sprang up. “And the sole trustee, damn you!”
“Mr. Welton, if you cannot restrain yourself,” Mr. Briggs said, “Lady Tifton will be obliged to ask her footman to remove you.”
“Pah! She wouldn’t dare,” Welton said, “not with what I know about her.” He jabbed an accusing finger at Lucretia.
She shrank away. What could he possibly know? She’d never done anything wrong, except . . .
Welton couldn’t know about Johnny Magee. He lived in London and was nowhere near Sussex when the baby was conceived.
“Who,” Noelle demanded, “is the Earl of Netherbroke?”
“He is an elderly peer who lives in Gloucestershire,” Lucretia said. “Sir Matthew and the Earl of Netherbroke were enthusiastic medal collectors. They met once at an auction and corresponded for a short while well over a year ago. Sir Matthew’s passion for marquetry was due to the Earl’s influence. I suppose my husband decided, judging by a brief acquaintance and some expensive furniture from the shop the Earl recommended, that the Earl would make a suitable guardian.” Fury swelled within her, but she strove to keep it from her voice. Surely a doddering earl was better than horrid Mr. Welton.
Mr. Briggs nodded. “Most likely due to his position in society.”
“Society be damned. My uncle feared for his life and the safety of his child.” Welton’s spittle flew. “He knew his precious wife had cuckolded him over and over, and then she tried to poison him with her noxious brews. What sort of mother would she be?”
Aghast, Lucretia clapped a hand to her breast. “No, no! I made him tisanes of healing herbs.” Her voice trembled. “He was ill. I tried to cure him!”
“Hah! You would claim that, wouldn’t you—but you don’t deny that you cuckolded him.”
Before Lucretia could gain control of her voice, he turned to Jellicoe, the valet. “You know all about this, don’t you? Sir Matthew valued you. He confided in you, didn’t he?”
“Yes, sir, he did,” Jellicoe said. “He believed Lady Tifton was trying to kill him. He feared the consequences to the child’s immortal soul if it was left to its mother’s care.”
Welton shook his fist at Lucretia. “You killed him because he was going to change his will. No. More likely he had already changed it, using the services of a more competent solicitor than this fellow. And then you burned it so no one would ever know.”
Lucretia quailed, shaking her head. “No, that’s not true.”
“You’re a whore and a murderess,” he shouted. “You may try to cozen the Earl of Whatshisname, but you won’t succeed. I’ll do whatever it takes to see that he takes the child away from you. You’ll be lucky if you don’t hang!”
A dark cloud swept over Lucretia. She opened her mouth to protest, but no words came, and she fainted dead away.
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Barbara Monajem grew up in western Canada. She wrote her first story in third grade about apple tree gnomes. After dabbling in neighborhood musicals and teen melodrama, she published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. Now her kids are adults, and she writes historical and paranormal romance and mystery for grownups. She lives in Georgia, USA , with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and mostly feline strays.