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Work in progress.
"Twin Masquerade", tentative title to a classic gay Regency romance.
Blurb: When his reluctant twin is informed of her betrothal to the world-traveled Earl of Darhaven, Evander wishes he might take her place. When a twist of fate forces him into impersonating his sister after she runs away, he begins to regret his agreement with his father's diabolic plan for the Earl is no easily gulled dandy, but a shrewd eyed Corinthian who never misses a trick!"
Description: Evander is the younger twin of Evangeline, and it has been long-lamented by their father Baron Singley that he didn't inherit her bold, brash and headstrong personality. As they come of age and their sire has unfortunately depleted their family's fortune when an old acquaintance requests the marriage arrangement between Evangeline and his lone surviving son be fulfilled, it looks to be the salvation of the baron and his children.
Taking this announcement none too well, Evangeline elopes with a secret lover yet the Baron is desperate to have the marriage take place in order to regain his place in society. Sending a man to retrieve his wayward daughter, he enlists Evander in a diabolic plan to fool the enroute earl just long enough to get the gel back. Promised money to make his own way to the continent, Evander agrees but doesn't plan on falling in love with Maximillian Ganthe, the future Earl of Darhaven...nor the peerless peer falling in love with him. When the impersonation is revealed.. what is Evander to do?
Evander Singley, the second child of Baron Rothbury of Watsmore, massaged the smarting flesh of his shoulder with sensitive long fingers before peeling off a rather tattered shirt to examine the darkening bruise spreading across his pale skin. He frowned at it, then himself in the old mirror making a sound of annoyance. Although he was well acquainted with his sister’s temper, he had been taken by surprise when, shrieking, she'd lobbed a heavy though inexpensive statuette in his direction after being informed by their father, in the family’s nearly shelf empty library, that she was to be wed before the month was out. What was not surprising was that she’d taken her irritation out on him.
They were twins, Evander and Evangeline, the latter being older by several minutes, and since they’d first toddled, the more dominant of the two. Brash, manipulative, intelligent, and all too often spiteful and peevish when things didn’t go her way, Evander had quickly learned to stay out of her way, and say and do as little as possible to attract her attention. And now life was definitely not going her way. Following the announcement, and her initial response, Lord Alfred Singley had taken refuge behind his chair seeking to deflect his daughter’s wrath, while Evander took himself to the farthest corner of the room though he wished he might have escaped completely yet Evangeline had blocked the door.
Their father’s reasoning and explanations fell on deaf ears, and finally, turning to Evander, their sire asked for help to calm his female offspring, but Evander had wisely kept his mouth shut, maintaining his distance. Only after much entreaty, threats and promises had Evangeline consented to take a seat at all and listen to more of what their father had to say.
Apparently, the marriage between their children had been arranged many years ago, but the parent of the other party, Lord Ganthe, the Earl of Darhaven, hadn’t mentioned it because the son in question had been away in the Far East, only having recently returned because of his father’s failing health. The fact that the proposed groom was an Earl had mollified Evangeline somewhat, but though she had sullenly listened to the rest of her father’s words as if mulling a decision, when he had finished, she announced baldly, that she would not marry Lord Ganthe for any reason, for she was in love with someone else. One Mr. Thomas Thornby of Green Swallow to be exact, and that she would have none other.
For the first time when not completely inebriated or having lost at cards, Lord Singley’s face had mottled scarily red as his own temper reached the boiling point. In no uncertain terms he declared his daughter would marry young Lord Ganthe, and rung for one of his personal men to escort his daughter to her room and held there until further notice. Lay hands on her if needed, he’d told the narrowed eyed man who showed no hesitation on that score, and alternatively weeping and yelling, Evangeline had been dragged to her room.
Evander had still stood in his corner, eyes wide, when Lord Singley noticed him again. We need the money, the contact, Lord Singley had confided in him finally, which he had long known about the abysmal state of their financial affairs. And elder Lord Ganthe was willing pay an extremely handsome bride price for his daughter’s hand and unusual event to be sure but based on their acquaintance of old, and Lord Singley meant to have it, for creditors were often at their door, besides which having a higher peer as an in-law might make them go away for a time. Evander had accepted his father’s words with only one comment: “I still don’t believe she’ll go through with it.” So he had been sent off brusquely as well, but with less fanfare.
Evander winced, testing the extent of injury again, before pulling his shirt back on. Now, he thought ruefully, he knew why his father had requested his presence. Lord Singley had needed someone to share the tantrum sure to erupt when the daughter received news of her impending nuptials. If Lord Singley had inquired of him prior to the meeting, Evander could have told him about his sister’s secret lover and their plans, yet he had not been asked, and had not volunteered the information for fear of the very exact revenge she could unleash upon him.
It was ironic that Evangeline was given this duty, when he himself, unattached, and unloved, would have welcomed the opportunity to travel to distant Cornwall, to a family not strapped for cash as it seemed his had always been. He had been denied the schooling of most of the peers, had had to content himself with the careless knowledge flung at him by an indifferent tutor shared with his sister, and the images received from books, many of which had now been sacrificed to help pay his father’s gambling debts.
If only he had been female, he would have offered himself in his sister’s stead, then he never need see the shabby, dusty halls of his family’s estate again unless he wished it. His heart and soul longed for distance places, new experiences, tastes and sounds to savour. His dream was one day to leave the shores of England for some exotic clime and never return. But perhaps now, if Evangeline would consent somehow and the price was paid, just perhaps, his father might consent to give him the blunt he needed to begin his journey in life.
"And what will happen to you?" he asked himself aloud, looking at his reflection. Of average height, and slender as his sister, as twins, they shared the features and colouring of their mother, now dead some seven years, which was unfortunately a ruddy type of blonde with the unwelcome dusting of golden freckles and common blue eyes . He would clearly never be a force in the world of the ton, he and his sister had scarcely been introduced when their father’s gambling shame had driven them back home. And he had no inclination or desire to excel at sport or anything else besides his love of knowledge, and especially the fascination with nature and its creatures. Even if he had skill at some discipline or another, working in trade was anathema, and would not be allowed.
Sighing, Evander collected a favourite book from his bedside table drawer, deciding to lose himself in its pages. Moments later, he slipped out one of the side doors on his way to his favourite hiding place, a hidden thicket off the back meadows, to make use of the afternoon sunshine before evening rain fell.
Far south of Watsmore, miles away in stormy Cornwall, a similar scene was being played out at Darhaven. Maximillian Ganthe stood at his father's bedside, an expression of incredulous surprise and rising anger on his handsome face. Having arrived barely two days prior to this announcement, returning from the Far East as quickly as the winds and currents dictated, his haste prompted by a letter advising him of his father's failing health, Max could scarcely believe what he'd just heard. As a matter of fact, this was the last thing he’d expected when summoned.
"For your own good I made this arrangements some years ago," explained Weyford Ganthe, the current Earl, his voice filled with the pain which had forced him to his bed some months before, the cancerous growth in his once strong body taking its toll. "After the unfortunate occurrence with Ariana Tredarron, you showed no inclination towards matrimony, so I arranged for you a marriage with my old friend Singley's daughter. Since she was yet young, I thought it best to tell you later and let you grow with the idea, but you left for the East so suddenly, I hadn't the chance to tell you. And afterward, I hadn't the heart," he finished heavily, his prematurely white-haired head falling forward to rest upon his chest, gathering strength to go on.
"Please reconsider," he continued at last. "You are without issue, and the line is sorely diminished now after your brothers’ deaths. I ask this of you as a father to his only son." Here his eyes rose to fasten upon Maximillian’s with particular intensity. “Meet with the girl, perhaps you will find her fair and to your liking. I have made a solemn promise. Forgive me for not consulting you, but I thought it was best at the time."
Max turned his back to his father, to further conceal his expression of distaste though he was reasonably sure his father couldn’t see him clearly in the dimness of the darkly appointed bedroom. For some moments he struggled internally with his emotions, his memories, arms folded tight across his chest. From the advisement of his father’s physician, a few months only, if not weeks remained to the old man. It was his dying wish to see his only surviving son wed, with at least a glimmer of hope for an heir before he passed on. Ten years before, Max had left abruptly for the East, leaving behind little explanation. During the interim, except for terse messages sent annually, he’d had little contact with his parent. He let out a long breath slowly, perhaps he did owe his father at least this.
“I will go, father. Yet--I cannot promise to wed her though the vow to Baron Rothby might be broken, but if not I will--endeavour to find someone else suitable.”
The tentative smile on the aged face, the hopeful gleam in the faded eyes made Maximillian look away with no little shame. He’d lived the last ten years indulgent of his own needs and compulsions. Selfish, in a word. He took the hand held out, pressing it with gentle reassurance.
“Rest now, father. I’ll see your man about the details.”
Lord Weyford Ganthe drifted into slumber as Max looked down upon him. They’d seen eye to eye on few matters, often at odds during his child and young adulthood. His elder brother, now deceased, had always maintained it was because they were too similar, two of a kind, and he hadn’t contradicted Adam though he’d known in his heart it was something else. A secret they carried between them, a secret which had driven Weyford to make these arrangements over a decade ago to ensure his second, and sole remaining, son carried on their ancient bloodline.
Max quietly let himself out of the room, nodding to the elderly servant waiting at the door who bowed and went to sit with his equally aged lord. He made his way to the study, searched out a glass, and a bottle he knew he would find in one of the cupboards, sat down carefully in one of the leather chairs facing the huge, handsomely carved desk. Behind the chair opposite stretched the great window he’d looked out as a boy as his father lectured him on some matter or another. The day drew close to evening, the light over a choppy sea reddening in the western sky.
Marriage brought with it the dying of the life of freedom, young manhood. With a woman he had no hopes for love or domestic bliss, no belief that such could truly be attained with one of the gentler sex. He took a sip of the well-aged brandy savoring the mellow burn. Marriage was for the passing of titles and legitimacy when producing children. Marriage, he’d seen too often, was an empty affair. Between men and women, the love of equals was impossible. His life had taught him so thus far, and only after he had been freed from the cutting reins of British morality had he truly found himself truly in love—with another man.
His heart then longed for the sounds, the faces of the Far East, the gentle strength of its people, the pride in every line and motion, the gracefulness. Maximillian let himself remember the lover who was now lost to the inevitably of change and circumstance. Pouring himself another drink, Max thought ruefully, just as his present freedom soon would be.
Between the two of them, he would soon be full of bruises. Curse them both, Evander muttered, breaking free from his father’s grasp after being rudely awakened.
“You must know where she is,” Lord Singley demanded. “You have to know where she’s gone. She’d tell you.”
“What are you talking about?” Evander mumbled in exasperation. “Who has gone?”
“You’re thrice damned sister, that’s who,” his father replied, stalking over to the window showing minimal dawn beyond its streaked pane.
That got his attention. Pushing his shoulder length hair away from his face, Evander sat up in bed.
“Did she leave a note or anything?” he asked, barely suppressing a yawn.
“No,” his father snapped. “But it’s obvious what she’s done. Run off with that bacon smelling young man no doubt. And Lord Ganthe will be here any day!”
“Well, you’ll just have to tell him what happened,” Evander said reasonably. “There’s nothing you can do about it at this time of the morning anyway.” He settled back down, preparing to sleep again, but was unceremoniously dragged, stumbling out of bed.
“You’ll not lie abed when our whole future is at stake,” Lord Singley declared, firmly taking his arm in a vise-like grip. “You have to help me find her.”
Our future? Evander thought. The money is all you’re thinking about. You’ve never cared about either of us unless we caused you problems! He might have said so ordinarily, but in this state, and speaking of funds, no doubt his father would have slapped him soundly.
Without his robe or slippers, Evander was dragged down to the library where his father’s man stood against one wall, the same one who had been assigned to watch Evangeline.
“Why is he still here?” Evander inquired, gesturing. The man managed to bristle and look sheepish at the same time. “Shouldn’t he be out looking?”
“We have to keep this quiet,” his father said. “Lord Ganthe will be here soon, and if someone is off asking across the countryside, he’ll no doubt find out why.”
Evander made a wry face thinking he would find out just as easily by asking or being told that Evangeline, a baron’s daughter, had already been out with a certain common young man more times than she should. She was compromised anyway, in fact, or in supposition. Yet Evander only sighed, rolling his eyes, tiredly sinking down into a chair.
“What do you know?” demanded his father, putting a knee up on the edge of a table.
“Why should I know anything? I’ve told you already. I am surprised as you!”
“She tells you things, always has. You knew about this boy, didn’t you?”
Evander looked away shaking his head, but his father shoved his bearded face close to his, unfreshened breath harsh.
“Evangeline is always going off on her own. You know and I know it,” Evander said noncommittally.
“This could cost us hundreds of pounds, boy, thousands!” his father yelled in his face. “Tell me!”
Evander still resisted, giving his father his shoulder. He cried out a moment later when his hair was pulled.
What did he owe his sister anyway, in his place, she would have ratted him out in an instance. “She says she often goes to the old mill house near the hill stream. That’s all I know,” he gasped, feeling as if the roots of his hair would be ripped out any second, but his father released him.
“That’s a start anyway. Smithers, you know what to do.” Evander heard the man go out, shutting the door firmly.
“But what for now, my boy. Ganthe will be here within a day or so, or at least his letter says so.” Lord Singley walked back around the other side of his desk to read through the missive again. “We’ll get your bitch sister back, but someone has to meet him first.”
“I don’t think I’d do since he’s coming looking for a bride,” Evander muttered, settling sleepily back in the chair.
A sudden exclamation snapped him out of his near drowse, and he looked up into Lord Singley’s calculating eyes shining with near maniacal fervor. Clearly the man had gone mad for he began to laugh loudly with great glee.
“We just might do this yet,” his father wheezed cryptically.
“What do you mean?” Evander straightening in the creaking chair, eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“You look near enough like your sister,” his father said. “Got up in some of her clothes, you could meet Lord Ganthe.”
Evander exploded out of his seat. “You’ve lost your mind, sir! He’d know on the instant!”
“Not true,” Lord Singley tried to calm him. “Not true. Even when I’ve seen your sister in trousers riding about I’ve mistaken her for you.”
“But that’s in trousers and on a horse! Not in a drawing room with me in drapery! Please father don't make me do this!”
Lord Singley cannily switched tactics.
“Smithers will bring her back. He’ll get her back some way,” he assured his son, who angrily strode back and forth across the room. “Just meet with Lord Ganthe and give us some breathing room of a few days.” Evander pierced his father with an outraged glance. “And I’ll make it worth your while. Just meet the lord, get him to agree to the marriage for which he'll then go off to prepare, and we’ll have her back before it’s time to walk the aisle. And once it’s settled, I’ll give you enough to start a life somewhere else.” Evander stopped his pacing, eyeing his father warily. “Yes, I know about your wanting to get to the continent, away from England and muck about with foreigners. I’ll give you enough to get you there when it's settled.”
“I just have to meet him," Evander asked doubtfully, knowing he couldn't pass up this good a chance. "And in writing, you’ll promise to give me a portion?”
Lord Singley looked daggers at him, but a grudging admiration was in his eyes as well.
“In writing. But you’ll have to do enough to keep him interested, to agree to the marriage.”
Evander let out a noisy breath, refusing to think about what that might entail.
“I’ll do it, but I want the money. I want enough to get to the continent!”
“Smithers will get her back. You just play your part with Lord Ganthe,” his father said, rubbing his hands together. “Day after tomorrow should be the earliest he’ll arrive. We have to be ready. You’ll have to be ready.” Evander didn’t like the smile his father gave him, a sinking feeling in his stomach made his empty belly contract painfully.
Oh what have I gotten myself into? But he wanted away from Watsmore so desperately, away from this wretched empty existence, and this seemed the most viable way. He must convince the Lord to keep true to his father’s vow, just for a few days, and then he could be free.
(Yes, it needs cleaning up, some clarification of pov and a change in rank in a couple of places but I hope you've received a positive impression of my story.)
Back to main page, The Journey of Red Haircrow
My other book excerpt pages:
"Lieutenant's Love", a gay historical fantasy available from Dreamspinner Press, an e-book.
"Convenience Store Romance", modern gay romantic tale from STARBooks Press, part of the Boys Getting Ahead anthology. In print and Kindle format.
"The Berlin Shift", the sequel to Night Shift!
"The Agony of Joy", a modern romantic drama. London, Berlin, Moscow and beyond!
"The Children of Driy", a series of fantasy tales of an androgynous race. (Coming Soon)