Leave a Widow Wanting More is book 1 in the Cavendish Family series, a spin-off of London Secrets.
Remember Ada Cavendish from A Secret Desire and Nora Cavendish from Sinning in Secret? Leave a Widow is about their father and the marriage of convenience that brings him home. For good or not is yet to be determined ...
You'll recognize a few familiar names and locations in this sneak peak that will bring you back to The Secret Seduction!
Leave a Widow Wanting More:
The Cavendish Family
Returned to London for two days and already besieged by flattering morons. Henry pulled his greatcoat more tightly around him.
Where was Hopkins? The damned man was always hiding.
“Excuse Me! Lord Eaden!” The tiny woman with jet-black hair who’d eyed him so courageously scurried after him.
Henry walked faster. “Hopkins!” he roared, looking for the bookshop owner’s head to bob out from behind a bookshelf. No luck. He swung around, and the woman bumped into him.
She startled. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” Her eyes widened.
Hm. He hadn’t seen a color that shade of blue since Muhammed had shown him that lapis lazuli bird from a young royal’s tomb. Remarkable. “You. Have you seen the shop owner?”
She smiled, her blushing cheeks blooming into roses. “Oh, yes, he’s around here somewhere. But, please, my lord—” She held out her hand. “It is quite the honor to meet you. My son has admired you since he was in a skeleton suit.
“How old is he now?”
“Sixteen and attending Harrow.”
Bloody hell, he shouldn’t have asked. Her son had been admiring the exploits of Lord Henry Eaden for at least ten years, likely. It was yet another reminder of his age. There were too many of those lately.
The lady in front of him wasn’t a green girl by any means, yet she seemed too young to have a son of that age. “Did you marry when you were thirteen?”
She startled again. Her cheeks transforming from roses to sunsets in fiery deserts.
Perhaps he had been too gruff, definitely impolite. He struggled to acclimate to different social expectations when back in England.
She pulled herself up to her full height, insignificant though it was. “I was seventeen. It’s none of your business, though.”
“No, it’s not.” He turned, stalked toward the front of the shop, bellowing, “Hopkins, come out now! I want that book!”
“Perhaps I can help you.”
Was she still there? Like a burr in his boot, she was. “I doubt that.”
“I work here. I’m sure I can help.”
He swung around again. She bumped into him again.
She straightened her gown, frowning up at him. “I’m not going to apologize this time as it’s entirely your fault I’m bumping into you.”
“You work here?”
Her frown slid into a tight-lipped look of defiance. “Yes.” Her teeth peeked out to tug on her lower lip and her eyes dropped to the floor. “For now.” She had a fine lower lip, full and pink. Henry took a step back and analyzed her the way he would a Greek statue or an Egyptian frieze.
“What?” she asked. “Is there something on my cheek? My gown?”
She was England personified, small and delicate, rosy, yet determined, a force to be reckoned with. Her cheeks heated under his perusal, but she shivered as well. Was she cold? Well, if so, that was England too. He began to unclasp his cloak, in order to wrap a bit of Egyptian warmth around her but stifled the impulse. She was a tempting morsel, but this was England and such an action entirely improper.
“What?” she demanded again.
He shook his head, returned his thoughts to business. “I’m looking for a particular copy of Gulliver’s Travels. Very rare. Swift’s notations are in the margins.”
The woman’s face scrunched together in thought. Zeus, he couldn’t keep thinking of her as the woman. “What’s your name?”
“Well, Mrs. Pennington, have you heard of such a book?”
“No, I’ve not. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have it. Just let me go find Mr. Hopkins.”
“You said you could help me.”
She glared, tight-lipped, one pretty eyebrow arched. Her son had probably seen that look a million times. It said, don’t get smart with me young man. He almost laughed. By Zeus, she had steel in that pretty little back of hers. Or at least, he assumed it was pretty. Everything about her seemed to be so.
“I’ll go check with Hopkins.” She turned, weaving her way toward the office at the back of the shop. He had been right. She did have a lovely back. Elegant shoulders tapered down to a slender waist and full hips. How long would her hair be, uncoiled and trailing down her spine? Stop that, old man. He’d learned the hard way English ladies weren’t fit for bed sport, or what came after. But… he watched her hips sway as she picked her way between bookshelves and piles. Acquiring the first edition Gulliver’s Travels was not his only goal this trip home. She said she could help him with the first goal, but she might also help him with his second.
No. Even if she wasn’t married, she was too small, too delicate. She wasn’t at all what he needed.
He flipped through the recently published editions of Gulliver’s Travels. Nice illustrations. A good-looking book, maybe even durable during travel. But not the one he wanted. Like those books, she wasn’t what he wanted either. He needed a tall woman, solid, strong, militaresque, even.
Mrs. Pennington returned, Hopkins dragging his feet behind her. She may as well have been pulling him by his ear. His hang-dog expression suggested he’d been on the losing end of a verbal battle.
Henry raised a hand in greeting. “Ho there, Hopkins. All well?”
Hopkins crossed his arms over his chest and glared. “What do you want?”
“Gulliver, my good friend.”
“We’re not friends, and I don’t have it.”
Henry considered the other man. He could be lying, but the set of his jaw indicated he was pouting instead. “Who does?”
Hopkins pressed his lips together. Henry remembered when his daughters were little. When they’d not wanted to talk, they’d twisted an imaginary lock in their lips and thrown it away. Hopkins might as well have done just that.
A spark of something lit in Henry’s heart at the thought of his daughters, as it always did. The small flame would turn smoky and wistful and blow through his entire body like a soothing incense if he let it, so he snuffed it out and focused on Hopkins.
“Who has Gulliver, Hopkins?”
Hopkins scoffed. “Why would I tell you. You know I want it. I know where it is, and you do not. I’m not about to reveal the secret.”
“You may know where it is, but you don’t have it. Do you also mean you don’t have the means of acquiring it?”
Henry snorted. “If you had the means, you’d tell me where it is.”
Hopkins snapped his mouth closed.
“You know if I find the book, whoever has it will hand it over. I have the money. I have the clout.”
Mrs. Pennington stepped forward, fists set on her sloping hips. “You bully of a man! You’re supposed to be a hero, but you’re badgering Mr. Hopkins. What has he ever done to you?”
Henry stroked his chin. “He pushed me down the River Cam in a boat with no paddle once.”
Hopkins chuckled. “That was memorable.”
“And he stole the pages inside my Latin books and replaced them with pornography another time.”
Hopkins cackled. “That was clever, wasn’t it?”
“What else? Let’s see … oh, yes, he tried to marry my wife.”
Hopkins shrugged. “What can I say? She was a beauty.”
“So, Mrs. Pennington, if I wish to bully my old mate Hopkins, I certainly will.”
Mrs. Pennington threw her arms in the air with a huff. Exasperation suited her, brought color to her cheeks. “Have at it, then, I suppose.”
“Hopkins laid a hand on her shoulder in conciliation. “I do appreciate the support, Sarah, considering everything.”
Henry looked between Hopkins and his pretty shop assistant. Was there something between them? Surely not a physical relationship. She shrugged Hopkins’ hand away quickly.
He had to get the name of the book’s owner from Hopkins, one way or another. He’d bet the person currently in possession of Gulliver was a mutual acquaintance. Rumor had the book in the hands of someone from his old Cambridge set. But which one? Garrett? Lovington? Both men collected books. But Hellwater liked rarity, and the Gulliver certainly fit that bill.
Henry arched a brow. “Garrett’s collection has grown, I hear.”
Hopkins snorted. “Hardly. And if it has, whatever he’s got is not worth seeing.”
Was it Garrett, then? Did Hopkins attempt to throw Henry of the trail? No, he wasn’t that clever. “Lovington recently came into his inheritance. Did you hear?”
“Everyone heard. You’ve been abroad, so I don’t know how you did.”
Henry pushed past the question like a battering ram. “I’ve heard he’s using the funds to build his library.”
Hopkins stroked his chin. “Lovington’s collection is good. Getting better, too.”
If Lovington had the Gulliver, Hopkins wasn’t going to give it away, damn him. Henry had one more ball to pitch, though. “I heard Hellwater has added new oddities to his Drury Lane menagerie. Perhaps one of his newest rare birds is made of ink and paper and Johnsonian marginalia?”
Hopkins flushed, looked away.
He’d found the Gulliver. Victory surged through him. He chuckled. “Hellwater always liked me better. That’s why you didn’t want me to know who had it. You know he’ll give it to me when I show interest.”
“Ha!” Hopkins barked. “Hellwater hates you. It’s why he’s promised me he won’t—” His mouth snapped shut.
Henry smiled and rocked back on his heels. “Well, that was easier than it should have been. You’re losing your touch in your old age, Hopkins.” He turned and stalked toward the door. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Pennington!” He stopped and swung around to face them one more time. “And don’t worry, Hopkins, I’ll bring Gulliverby the shop to give you a look tomorrow.”
As Henry waltzed out the door and down the street, he felt a spring in his step he hadn’t felt in ages. He felt almost young again. It was amazing what the prospect of a new book and lapis lazuli eyes in the face of a pretty woman could do to a man.
Thoughts of Mrs. Pennington prompted him to consider the second task he needed to accomplish while in England. He needed a mother for his daughters, and for that, he needed a wife, and he wouldn’t choose someone pretty and delicate—like his poor Emmeline, like Mrs. Pennington—this time. No matter how steely her courage, her tiny form belied her delicate constitution. His next wife would be the opposite of delicate, tiny, vulnerable. Henry had learned his lesson the hard way.