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A Lady Never Surrenders

A Lady Never Surrenders

Book 1: Sisterhood of Scandal

Coming September 2022

Shhh. Blue Stocking Miss Tiffany Deveraux has a secret. The poor orphan is not so poor.  But she does not want that information to become common knowledge. Being a plain Jane, any hint of money would just bring fortune hunters to her door. No. In society’s eyes she will remain the poor orphaned ward of the Earl of Marlowe. Only then will she ensure the man who professes his love for her is genuine.

Lord Slade Ware, the Marquess of Wolfarth also has a secret. He’s a renowned investment guru with everything he touches turning to gold. Or is he? Society may think so, but mostly his investments have been blind luck, and he’s pretty sure his luck is about to run out. Help comes in the form of his best friend’s ward. He’s learned Miss Tiffany Deveraux’s secret. She’s an investment guru who has accumulated a considerable sum. Marriage would seem a sensible option with so many dependents relying on him. Tiffany is the sort of wife a man like Wolf needs.

Tiffany cannot believe the handsome and wealthy Marquess of Wolfarth is actually courting her. Her! Not any of this year ton’s diamonds. As an investment fanatic he is her perfect match. She cannot resist his seduction and is falling hopelessly in love. That is until she learns his real reason for pursuing her. But revenge will be sweet…she’ll give him share advice all right, and ensures he loses more than his heart—he’ll lose his much vaunted pride. She is going to make him the laughing stock of the investment world.

READ AN EXCERPT

Chapter One

London, 1816

Tiffany alighted from the hackney, pulling her widow weeds down over her face. She furtively glanced up and down the crowded street praying her disguise was so good no one would recognize her. If she were recognized… Well, to be seen without an escort would ruin her. She’d become even more of a social outcast. At that thought she had to stop herself from laughing out loud. Society’s likely reaction to a Miss Tiffany Deveraux being seen unescorted at the London Stock Exchange, would be—who? A scandal would be the only way she’d be noticed at all. She’d often wondered if that was reason enough to throw caution to the wind and let her secret out.

Normally she never visited Mr. Sprat, her stockjobber, in person. Women were not encouraged to invest, it was currently scandalous to do so since the South Sea’s debacle, and not many stockjobbers would take a woman as a client. Her age was also against her. At only twenty-one years of age no stockjobber took her seriously. Sprat had been her father’s stockjobber and hence had agreed to help her.

Usually they communicated by missives, or she would arrange to meet Mr. Sprat in the park with her lady’s maid in tow. All very respectable. There was less chance of scandal, or of her guardian, Fane Deveraux, the Earl of Marlowe, finding out about her investments. Fane would be so hurt to think the orphaned cousin he so generously provided for, scraped and saved her pin money to invest behind his back, when he’d gladly have given her anything she wanted. She loved her cousin and would hate to disappoint him with her scandalous behavior. Especially as he’d been nothing but kind and generous to her. Fane did not understand her passion, and need, to take charge of her destiny. To rely on the charity of others rankled.

So here she was at Capel Court for the first time. The London Stock Exchange, the center of her world. The name tickled her stomach. She stood on the cobblestone’s undecided, knowing she had to enter and speak with Sprat. Where were her latest investment statements? Tiffany could not tell if she was shaking from the excitement at entering the institution, or from nerves at the risk of being caught.

Who on earth would recognize her in this disguise?

She adjusted her veil and walked forward. For some reason her last missive to Mr. Sprat went unanswered, and her quarterly return statements were late. She had a lot of money invested with Sprat, her plan for financial freedom at stake should something go wrong. While she loved Fane, by the end of this year she was determined to never again have to rely on Fane’s charity, or anyone else’s for that matter. Financial security is what she craved, determined never be in a position where she had to marry, like most of her fellow debutantes.

Besides she wanted to make her father proud. Her father had recognized her ability with numbers early, and because he never had a son, he’d taken the time to nourish her skills and helped her learn the intricacies of an investment portfolio. Always spread the risk.

Her father must be turning in his grave at the risk she’d taken by having her money with only one stockjobber. But needs must. Besides, she trusted Sprat. When her father’s investments had turned belly up, he’d given her parent’s a thousand pounds out of the goodness of his heart. It wasn’t Sprat’s fault the money had been stolen and her parents killed shortly thereafter.

On a deep breath she entered the building and some of the noisy chatter near the entrance dimmed as they noticed her. Before she lost her nerve she asked the first man she saw where she could find Mr. Sprat.

He pointed to a row of offices along the far wall and with a nod of her head she moved on. When she reached the offices a door to the third office flew open.

“Mr. Sprat,” she called to him.

He nodded before glancing at everyone staring at them. “Would you care to step into my office?”

She preceded him in but he left the door open. “How can I help you, Madam?”

She lifted her veil and she noted a quick flash of panic before he smoothly sat down behind his desk. “Miss Deveraux. What a lovely surprise.”

“I doubt that. I’m sorry to call on you unannounced but I’m worried. Over the past month you have not respond to several of my missives, and my latest statements are late.”

She watched his mouth firm slightly. “One of my clerks is sick, and I am running slightly behind in drafting the statements.”

“Well, you could have let me know you were running late. I was most concerned.”

 “I thought I had left instructions to do just that. I hope my other clients have not been treated thusly.” He rose from his chair. “If you’ll excuse me for one moment, I shall inquire if your statements are ready now.”

“Thank you. I would greatly appreciate that.”

The noise from the trading floor was just too much. Curiosity killed the cat, but she wasn’t a cat. She rose and walked to the door and watched the action going on around her. How different her life might have been if she’d been born a man.

She was drawn forward by the noise and the tension evident in the air. Her body hummed as she watched the men on the floor calling out the sales. Oh, how she wished she could come here every day and witness commerce in action. She forgot about remaining incognito, her vail still up, until an all too familiar voice went off like a cannon ball in her ear.

“Miss Deveraux, what on earth are you doing here? Tell me you are not alone?”

His demand made her heart sink to her feet when it usually jumped in excitement upon hearing Wolf’s voice. Fane’s best friend, Slade Ware, Marquess of Wolfarth, stood towering over her in all his majestic male beauty. She imagined his darkened gaze was very much like the wolf before he blew the house down.

 It was too late to pull down her veil and pretend he’d made a mistake. Her traitorous body went weak kneed, her skin tingled, and her mouth dried. If you asked any women to look over the men in this establishment and pick out the one most like a Wolf…none would select any other. Wolf’s hair, dark as a starless sky, showcased the light hypnotic wolf-green of his eyes. His lips could seduce with a hint of a smile, or make you shake in your shoes with a twisted snarl. Tall, board shouldered, he wore his clothes with effortless ease, yet the coiled strength hidden beneath was clearly evident. The picture of a man in excellent condition. The leader of the pack. It was just ironic how his name and title so perfectly fitted the man’s nature.

As much as she appreciated, and was tempted by the man and his wolf like nature, she had chosen not to become one of his willing pack of females who followed him around and hung on his every word. She had her future to consider, a life to build. Even so, she tried to ignore the fact his mere presence made her heart dance a jig in her chest.

Bravely she faced him. “If you must know I’m here for my quarterly statements. My stockjobber is behind in sending them out.”

Before Wolf could respond, Mr. Sprat arrived. He looked at Lord Wolfarth. “My Lord, I was just fetching papers for Miss Deveraux.”

Wolf looked between the two before taking her by the elbow and saying. “If you’d please give Miss Deveraux her statements I shall escort her home as I promised her guardian I would.”

Liar. Wolf had not even known she was here.

They had drawn quite a crowd. Wolf in his overbearing manner was trying to save her reputation, although if he had simply ignored her no one would have noticed. With a tight grip on her elbow he said, through gritted teeth, “Shall we? And pull down your veil.”

Instead of leaving, he drew her further into the building and into a plush office near the main trading floor. The outer office contained over a dozen clerks. Whoever this office belonged to, he was obviously a very successful stockjobber. They moved through the clerks to a large office at the back. Wolf did not even knock. He simply entered.

“Jacob, please excuse me, but our meeting will have to be quick. I have a lady with me today. She was curious to see the exchange.”

Oh, her heart was really hammering in her chest now, and not because Wolf had been touching her. This was the office of Mr. Jacob Lane, the biggest and most successful stockjobber in England. She’d longed to meet him and discuss his investment strategies. She’d studied him for years.

Wolf indicated the chair at the back of the room, and his eyes begged her to lower her veil. Both unspoken commands she ignored, taking the chair next to his across from Mr. Lane’s mahogany desk.

“Refreshments for the lady?”

“I don’t think that is necessary, we won’t be staying long,” Wolf replied. “You said you had a new investment I should consider. We can go over the rest of my portfolio tomorrow at our regular meeting.”

Mr. Lane took his seat and lifted a file. “Park Mills, in Leeds, is looking for more capital to expand. As you can see Mr. Park has very little competition and his profits continue to climb each year.”

“Then why does he need outside capital?”

“He wants to more than triple his processing capacity, but still leave a sound cash flow to ensure they can meet the larger wage and coal bills caused by the expansion.”

 “Do you recommend a loan, or should I buy shares?”

Tiffany waited for Lane’s reply, her breath lodged in her throat.

“I would suggest shares.”

No. Absolutely not. Tiffany’s mind roared. She cleared her throat.

The men ignored her, with Mr. Lane continuing to suggest shares would be the viable option because of the capital gains and tax position.

Finally she could take it no more. “If you’ll pardon the interruption, gentlemen, I believe a loan secured against the machinery would be the wisest move—”

“—The estate’s tax position is worrying. Have you any background on Park Mills that I may take with me to read.”

Wolf’s reaction to ignore her was to be expected she supposed, given the reputation of Mr. Lane. It was enough to keep her silent.

He really should listen to her. She’d already done her research on Park Mills. Yes, they currently had very little competition and it would seem his expansion was well advised. But more mills were planned for the area and in particular a small expansion of Armley Mill should be of concern.

Her opinion of Mr. Lane diminished the more the men talked.

Wolf did not address a single word to her as he said his goodbyes to Mr. Lane, and with his hand firmly on her elbow, and with her veil dutifully lowered he escorted her from the exchange.

No. He said not a word until the door to the carriage closed behind him and he banged the roof. “A slight diversion, Jones. A detour to Lord Marlowe’s if you please to deliver Miss Deveraux back where she belongs.”

The silence lengthened and now she was getting cross. He was being boorishly rude. He was not her guardian. Why had she let him bundle her out of the exchange as if she were a criminal?

“I would prefer if you did not mention my activities to Fane.”

She watched him curse under his breath at her request. “I’m sure you would. Marlowe will not be pleased. He is responsible for you.”

“I’m a grown woman quite capable of surviving a trip to Capel Court.”

“Does Marlowe know you are investing?”

She bit her lip. Delicacy is required she told herself. “Not exactly, and I’d like it to stay that way until I have a chance to inform him myself. I don’t want him to think I’m ungrateful for the charity he bestows on me.”

“Charity? It’s not charity. You are his family.”

She swallowed a retort. Wolf would never understand what it was like to be reliant on someone in order to live. His family was as rich as colossus. They owned half of the southern counties.  He saw it as his responsibility to provide for his extended family. She hated being anyone’s responsibility.

He turned to look out of the window and in profile he looked like a statue of a Greek God. The planes of his face sharp edged, his nose regal and she could not help the naughty thoughts racing through her head about his lips. What would it feel like to kiss a man such as Wolf? As if sensing her scrutiny he turned and asked, “How is it that you come to be investing? Have you been doing it long?”

“Since I came to live with the Marlowe’s. Mr. Sprat was my father’s stockjobber and he kindly invests for me. I save some of my pin money and use that. I made over a 10% return for the last three years.”

She watched the surprise sweep across Wolf’s handsome face.

“So Mr. Sprat tells you what to invest in?”

She scoffed. “Hardly. I study the market and the economy. I make my own investments. If anything Sprat uses my research for his clients.”

Like most men, he looked at her in disbelief.

She could not help herself. “Take that investment you are going to make in Park Mills. You shouldn’t, there is only one way for Park Mill’s revenue to go and that is down.”

His beautiful mouth firmed before he said, “Mr. Lane does not seem to think so.”

“It’s obvious that Mr. Lane has not investigated thoroughly.”

He almost laughed in her face, his lips twitching. “What do you know that Mr. Lane, the most successful stockjobber in England does not?”

Smugness they name is Wolf. “Park Mills has had very little competition. There are two new mills being built that will be ready to produce in eight months. But it’s Armley Mill that should interest you. It’s small and been operating for about three years. They are very forward thinking and they are the only mill to begin processing Merino. Some of their textile designs are so in demand there is a twelve-month waiting list for their product. Armley Mill is seeking investors so as to expand. With their design skills and foresight on textiles, I’ve calculated their profit will outstrip Park Mills within eighteen months. With the other mills also opening in the area, Park Mill will struggle to sell their extra capacity.”

She almost laughed out loud at the look on Wolf’s face. He sat in stunned silence as if she were from another world. As the silence lengthened she snapped her fingers in front of his face, proud at having the courage.

 Finally, his eyes focused back on her and heat seeped along her skin. It was as if he was seeing her for the first time. His eyes moved over her face and then travelled down, stopping at her breasts. If she didn’t know that she wore a respectable mourning gown, with not an inch of skin showing, she’d swear he saw her naked.

“What’s stopping Park Mill from copying Armley Mill’s strategy?”

“Mr. Park. It’s a family business and he won’t modernize?”

“How on earth do you know that?”

Her face flushed. She would be in real trouble now. “I went to the London meeting of textile businesses and listened to him talk.”

“Christ. I bet Marlowe knows nothing of this—you running around London unescorted. Do you know what could have happened to you if—”

“—I dress as a widow. No one pays me any attention.” In a small voice she uttered to herself. “I’m mostly invisible.”

Wolf’s head snapped round to her as if he heard her words. “Well, Marlowe has to know. If it became common knowledge that you—that you—behave in this manner, your chances of finding a decent husband will diminish and Marlowe would blame himself.”

Stay calm. Don’t get angry He’s a man who does not know any better. “I don’t need a husband. I will soon have enough money to be financially secure, and if I eventually marry, it will be to a man who accepts me as I am.” The fact that no man had ever even looked at her in a romantic way was her embarrassing secret. What lord wanted a bluestocking, plain Jane, orphan with a small dowry as a wife?

He looked at her as if he finally understood her problem—she was mad. His eyes narrowed. “And this investment in Armley Mills is going to fund this ridiculousness?”

“I shall double my profit and have an annual income of close to five-thousand-pounds if Armley meets my projections.” A sudden thought slammed into her head. “I wager that my investment in Armley Mills will out earn your investment in Park Mills over the next month, and if it does you will say nothing to Marlowe about my investing or my odd unaccompanied excursions. This little excursion will remain our secret.”

Wolf stretched his legs out and rested his polished Hessians on the squab next to her as if he meant to intimidate. He sat studying her until her nerves stretched and she squirmed on the squab. “You are an interesting young lady.”

Interesting. Not beautiful. Not lovely, he’d called her interesting. Her heart hurt. Tiffany understood that she’d never be a great beauty, she was an orphan, not a diamond of the first water, but it still hurt to not have the admiration of the man in front of her. So she said nothing. She certainly didn’t voice her thoughts about how she found him—devastatingly handsome, desirable, clever, pompous, arrogant, but still the only man who made her heart skip in her chest.

Then he smiled in a manner that reminded her of why he was called Wolf. He rested his hands behind his head and stared her in the eye. His gaze was so intense it felt as if he was seeing into her soul. She shivered because she saw the moment his lips curled slightly at the corner and the hungry challenge filled his eyes. She’d made a dreadful mistake. One did not provoke a wolf.

“I accept your challenge.”

Only the moving carriage stopped her from jumping out. She raised her chin. “So, you will keep my investing secret from Fane until we see who wins?”

“Yes.” His fingers tapped his muscled thigh and for one moment she began to doubt herself. That feeling grew when he uttered, “What shall I ask for when I win this wager?” 

She held her breath not daring to move an inch. He could ask for practically anything and he knew it. She’d revealed her hand because Wolf knew how much she loved Fane and her cousin Claire, Fane’s sister.

He leaned across the carriage and his finger tapped her nose. She wanted to swat it away like an annoying bee but she was frozen where she sat. “I’ll keep your secret if you win, but if I win… Let’s see. What do I desire?”

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