A Wicked Viscount’s Hunt for Love (Preview)

“Pumpkin, will you do me a favour?” Erasmus Caldwell asked.

“Of course, Papa. Anything!” Abigail said, eager to do anything to help.

“Will you go and get your mother some of those lovely wildflowers she loves so much? I am sure they would brighten her room up immensely and help to get her better much sooner!”

“Oh, yes. I will do that. It will be the best bouquet of spring wildflowers there ever was!” Abigail said. 

“I am confident you will provide, my darling.”

Nine-year-old Abigail hurried to change into clothes suitable for her important task ahead and then skipped outside. Her father’s estate in London was beautiful, and the grounds were vast. Abigail loved the springtime and adored picking wildflowers, and when she brought them home to her mother, she always lit up and reacted as though they were the most beautiful things she had ever seen. 

Of late though, Abigail’s dear mother had been very sick and none of the adults would tell her what was wrong with her. Only that she need not worry that her mother would be better very soon. But she could see on their faces that this was no small and simple cold that would come and go, and she could not help but worry about her mother. Having a task to do to keep her mind focused on, and away from the heaviness of the house was welcome. 

The sun was shining brightly and everything outside seemed to sing of happy summer days ahead. As Abigail was busy selecting the best flowers for this bouquet, she was so intent on completing her job that she did not even hear the footsteps approaching behind her. 

“Hello, Abigail. What are you doing?” Alex called out. Abigail was startled and dropped all the flowers she had gathered, ‌but when she turned to see who it was, her alarm turned to delight.

“Oh, hello Alex. I am picking flowers for my Mamma. Would you like to help me? I want to make it the very best bouquet ever.”

“I would love to. How is your mother? Is she finally doing better?” Alex replied. 

“Well, no…not quite. But I am sure she will be very soon.” 

“I am certain she will be as well. And she will love the flowers. Come on, I know a really great secret spot where there are lots of incredible ones we can pick for her!” 

“How come you have never shown me this place before?” Abigail asked. 

“Hey, I cannot tell you all of my best spots all at once!”

“Hmmm. All right, let us go then,” Abigail said with excitement. 

The two children ran off to this secret place. They had been friends their entire lives and played together almost daily. Their mothers were best friends from their childhood. Because of this, Abigail and Alex were practically siblings. In fact, they fought and argued very much as brothers and sisters did and made up just as quickly as they disagreed. They both were very stubborn, but they also shared a desire to have peace and harmony, so they never stayed at odds for longer than a few hours. After going a long way, Alex finally stopped and said they were just about there. They were just outside of a large forest that Abigail had never been to before, most likely because it was farther from home than her parents liked for her to go on her own, but this was important and she needed the flowers to be perfect so she thought it would be all right. Besides, everyone was so busy with doctors and nurses barking orders that Abigail knew no one would notice that she was not nearby. 

As they ventured into the forest, it soon opened up by a small creek that allowed the sunlight to shine down through the branches and all over the forest floor, where dozens of different types of flowers were in full bloom all around. It took Abigail’s breath away and gave her little heart a trill of joy. 

“Oh, Alex. You were right, this is the best place. I see why you keep this spot a secret. It is almost like we have stepped into another world like one in a fairy tale. What do you call it?” Abigail exclaimed.

“Well, I think the forest is called the Highgate Forest, but I have not ever thought to name this part of it myself. What should we call it?” 

“Hmm, let me see. It cannot be just any old name. It must be as special as this place. How about Guinevere’s Hollow?”

“I like it. I like it a lot, actually. I think that is the best name we could have decided on,” Alex agreed with a large smile across his face. 

The two of them loved to play the game of King Arthur and Camelot, so this was a clear choice for them. With the name of their secret place decided, Abigail and Alex went about picking the flowers and debating which the very best blossoms to pick were. After a couple of hours they had, at last, decided the collection was more than sufficient and set them in a slow part of the creek to keep fresh while they splashed around in the cool path and began looking for interesting rocks in its clear beds. 

“Hey, we should take some of these larger rocks and make a stone bridge so we can cross to the other side and not have to take our shoes off,” Alex suggested. 

“That is a great idea. And maybe on another day when we have more time, we can build a fort over there by those shrubs as our castle is here.” 

“Oh, yes. How about tomorrow we meet here and start working on it?” 

“I do not see why not. This is going to be a wonderful place!” Abigail stated merrily. 

After a few more hours, the afternoon sun began to hang lower in the sky. Abigail realised she had been gone from home almost all day. 

“It is starting to get late. We should probably stop today and begin our work again tomorrow,” Abigail advised. 

“You are right. Here I will gather the flowers and help you carry them home.”

“Thank you, Alex. It is quite heavy now and my arms are tired from toting all those large stones for our bridge.”

“Well, you are a girl, so that is to be expected,” Alex said cockily. 

“Hey, I am perfectly strong and can do everything you can do, Alex Bradford!” 

“I did not mean to be rude. I am sorry Abigail.”

“All right, come on we should head back,” Abigail said, letting go of her annoyance. 

They walked quietly for most of the way home and as they arrived back at Abigail’s home, Alex handed Abigail the flowers. 

“I am sure your mother will love them, and I will see you tomorrow morning, Abigail.” 

“Thank you, Alex, bye!” Abigail hopped along, thinking how her mother was going to love the flowers. She could not wait for her mother to get better so that she could talk to her about these strange feelings that she had towards Alex. He had always been a great friend, but something about being with him today stirred something in her heart that caused her to feel this huge swell of affection for him in a way she had never before experienced.

Abigail waved to Alex and walked happily in the front door. The moment she stepped into the door, she could tell that something was very wrong. Abigail’s heart was filled with dread, but she bravely and quietly made her way into her mother’s chambers. When she entered, she immediately dropped the blooms, crashing to the wooden floors. 

 

***

 

“Mamma, I wanted to ask you something,” Alex said shyly. 

“What is it, my dear? You know you can always ask me anything.” 

“Well, you know how Gracie, the barn cat in the stables, had a litter of kittens… Could I give Abigail one of the kittens?” Alex asked. 

His mother smiled warmly down at her young son and replied, “Oh, Alex, I think that is a wonderful and very sweet idea.”

“I just thought that a kitten could help comfort her right now. Can I go take her one now?”

“Yes, darling, that is perfectly fine.”

Alex went to the stables and took the little fluffy orange kitten from their little wooden box. He then wrapped the kitten in a blanket inside a basket and made his way over to the Caldwell estate. Once he got there, the butler allowed him to enter and soon Abigail came down, all dressed in black. She looked very depressed and not at all her usual happy self. They walked outside and when they reached the lake and sat down there, Alex finally spoke. 

“I got this for you, Abigail. I hope you like him,” Alex said, unwrapping the kitten. 

When Abigail laid eyes on the small fluffy creature, she smiled for the first time since they saw each other. 

“Alex, thank you. He is adorable. I love him!” Abigail said sweetly as she took the kitten into her arms. 

“I just thought he would be a good friend for you at this time…”

Abigail’s light blue eyes brimmed with tears and smiled a silent thanks. They sat for a long while longer quietly and laughed at times at something amusing the kitten would do in front of them.  

“Well, I should probably go back inside. Thank you again, Alex. His name will be Toby. And I think the three of us will be great friends. Do you want to go to Guinevere’s Hollow in a few days and finally begin our work on our castle?” 

“I would love to. How about Saturday?”

“That sounds wonderful!”

 

Chapter One

Abigail awoke to the gentle nudges of her fluffy orange cat, Toby, as he was trying to tell her it was time to wake up and start a new day with him… And most importantly that she needed to pet him and scratch the underside of his chin. This was his favourite place for anyone to pet him, although in actuality he really did not like anyone aside from his Abigail. Abigail opened her eyes slowly, and as she gave Toby the requested chin scratches, she listened to the birds as they sang their happy little tunes, welcoming in the new day. Abigail picked up Toby, walked over to her windows, and pulled aside the heavy curtains. The sunlight came flooding into her chambers and filled Abigail with a thrill. She sat Toby back down on her bed, pulled her light frilly robe onto her body, walked out onto the balcony just outside her chambers, and breathed in the beautiful day and fresh air. 

There was nothing as delectable as the sweet warm country air. Abigail had been at her father’s country estate with her father and aunt for the past two weeks and it had been glorious. Not only had Abigail always loved the country so much better than busy and stuffy London but in the last ten years the country was a place of refuge from the heavy memories of her mother’s final days when she had passed away at their estate in London from a raging fever that was more than her frail body had the strength to overcome. 

Here in the country though, this estate and area were not marred with unhappy memories of those days. Abigail had always loved the times she and her family had spent there in the country. Everything was peaceful and easy-going, even Abigail’s father seemed slightly less angry and bitter here. Before her mother died, her father, The Duke of Bellshire, was a wonderful man and father. Her mother and father had been very happy together. They were one of the lucky couples in the ton who had married for love and they continued to adore each other for the rest of her days. When the late duchess passed away, the Duke’s heart shattered and what was left in its place was a million slivers that constantly cut at his soul. The result ended with him swearing to never marry again and that he would not allow his daughter and only child to suffer the same fate. He made it clear that an arranged marriage was in her future when the time came. 

Abigail had just celebrated her nineteenth birthday and in the last two Seasons she had received many offers of marriage, but she had turned them all down, her father had grown weary of her resistance and had told her he would not tolerate this kind of defiance again. Realistically there had been nothing wrong with the many suitors that had proposed to her, but Abigail secretly wished more than anything else in this world to marry for love. This was not only challenging because of her father’s insistence that she not do this, but also because her heart had been claimed long ago. She feared she would never again see this man much less have the chance to marry him. No other man could compare to him, so Abigail had formed no attachment to another man. 

Abigail heard her chamber door open and looked back to see who it was. She saw that it was Rose, Abigail’s handmaiden, and she was beginning to open the rest of the curtains and strip the bedclothes from the feather down bed. 

“Good morning, Mistress. Did you rest well?” Rose asked cheerily.

“Yes, Rose, I did thank you. How has your morning been thus far?”

“Oh, it is a perfect morning. I love summer days like this one. With the warm air and all the colours so bright and lively, it is just beautiful!”

“I agree, spring is wonderful but summer has always been my favourite time of the year,” Abigail agreed. 

“Well, what do you think of wearing the blue dress today, Mistress? Blue always looks so lovely on you with your beautiful baby blue eyes.”

“You are very kind Rose. I love your hazel eyes! Yes, the blue dress will do nicely today,” Abigail answered.

The mention of her eyes made Abigail think of her mother. She looked very much like her sweet late mother. Abigail had a full figure; unlike many of the girls her age that were slender from head to toe, Abigail had ample curves. Her bosom was full and her hips and bum were luscious, and her waist was small, giving her a very catching hourglass figure. Her hair was long and full-bodied with tresses of jet black waves that gracefully framed her heart-shaped face and porcelain, white skin. At times it pained Abigail how much she resembled her mother because when her father looked at her his face often distorted in the stinging reminder of his lovely wife. Her father did his best to hide this from her but Abigail still noticed it. 

Once Abigail was dressed, she quickly headed down to breakfast because she was growing quite hungry and was eager to go out and enjoy the perfect weather outside. When she arrived at the table, her father and Aunt Louisa were already there and awaiting her to sit down so that they could begin. Abigail apologised for her late arrival and her aunt smiled at her and said not to mention it, but her father said nothing but just picked up his knife and began cutting his toast in half. 

The Duke said nothing until the meal was almost complete when he informed Abigail of the plans he had made: “I have been speaking with The Duke of Sandingdale and he and his eldest son, Lord Lionel, will be arriving from London today and attending the party at our estate tomorrow night. I would like you to be sure to take the time to get to know the future Duke.”

“I will of course make him feel welcome. But Father, why do you wish me to get to know him?”

“I simply think he would be a suitor worth your attention. Now please pass the butter and we will not speak further of this matter,” Erasmus retorted sternly. 

Abigail did not want to drop the subject because she felt certain that her father did not mention this to her so she could get to know a young gentleman but rather the next suitor that he was most likely going to thrust upon her. There was no point in arguing with him right now as he was obviously in one of his very bad moods. Once again Abigail longed for the bygone days of the father she had not had for nine years when her mother had died. He was always smiling, laughing, and showering Abigail and her mother with small presents such as little bouquets of flowers from the garden, sweets from their favourite shop in town, or silly notes to make them laugh. Now he spent much of his time locked up in his study going over the ledgers, or really anything that he could do to keep himself away from everyone.

In an attempt to ease the tension and change the subject, Aunt Louisa happily mentioned, “Oh, speaking of the house party tomorrow night, I invited Viscount Bradford and the Dowager Viscountess. He has recently returned from France and I thought it proper.”

However, this bit of information had the opposite effect of Aunt Louisa’s intention. For when Erasmus heard this, he put down his morning paper with a start: “I cannot believe you would do that without seeking my approval first!”

At the moment that Abigail heard her aunt mention the name ‘Bradford,’ it took all the strength within her to not jerk her head up and burst out the million questions that she had in her head. She had no idea that they had returned to England, or that they were ever going to for that matter so to hear that they were coming to the party so casually mentioned was more than her tender heart could bare. To think of it, Alex was but a mere three miles from here. Oh, it was almost too wonderful to believe!

“I do not see why I would more than any of the other guests I invited. I never have done so. Furthermore, I am your sister, not your wife Erasmus!”

“I only meant that I am unsure we should be associated with their family is all.”

“They have been cleared entirely and are some of our oldest friends. I feel that it is important that we show support for the Viscount’s return to England and the ton,” Aunt Louisa answered combatively. Abigail’s father looked as though he realised that he had lost this battle so he picked his paper back up and hid behind it for the duration of the meal. 

Aunt Louisa gave Abigail a clandestine wink and Abigail had to quickly pick up her napkin and fain a cough to hide her laughter and subsequently quietly excused herself from the table and made her way outside in search of a place where she could be free of anyone’s criticism.

 

***

 

Alexander Bradford—or Alex as his family and friends had always called him—walked around the rooms in his family’s estate. He and his mother had only been back home a few days from France and there was a mountain of tasks that needed to be taken care of before this estate or their one in London would be back to their previous grandeur and esteem. Every time Alex saw the evidence of his brother’s complete dishonour and deceit towards himself and his family, it caused fury to burn within his soul.  

Alex’s brother, Rufus, was his younger brother by seven years. When their father passed away, he set it down in his will that, as tradition and society dictated, Alexander would inherit everything in his estate and the title of the next Viscount of Rochester. Rufus, however, had contested the will by spreading lies and rumours that Alexander was not the true son of their father and that he was the only legitimate heir of the entire estate and title. His evidence was paper-thin; all that he had to go on was the wide age gap between the two of them and that he was the spitting image of their late father. While Alex, on the other hand did not resemble their father in the slightest. Rufus had never been close to their mother and resented her for her attempts to correct his wild ways. Rufus was a raging alcoholic, a compulsive gambler, and a liar. As a child Rufus had constantly been ill and almost died in his youth due to a weak constitution a few times, and as such Alex’s parents babied and spoiled him profusely. By the time he reached the age of a young man and his parents realised the disservice they had done by spoiling him so it was too late and it appeared that there was no hope in correcting his bad habits and poor character. 

Alex knew that if Rufus had only had his lack of resemblance to their father, Rufus would not have been able to steal the title from him, but Rufus was also an incredibly gifted politician. He could weave the most convincing lies and say them with such charisma and conviction that whomever his audience was could not help but believe every word of the tales he spun and this had won him the title of Viscount eventually until he died.

When Alex was alone at night, he spent long hours going over the ledgers and trying to make sense of it all and find a solution to the debts that weighed on his shoulders. The only answer that had come to his mind was to marry a woman of wealth and use her funds to put his household back in order. But the mere idea of this not only wounded his pride but also left a foul taste in his mouth, making him want to puke. He had always thought that any man that would do such things was vile, and furthermore he wished deep down to have a marriage and life like his father and mother had shared. One full of happiness and love, although he would never spoil his children the way they had his brother Rufus. He would ensure his sons and daughters were good, kind and responsible children who would grow into the same kind of adults.

Finally, Alex could not take any more of it and thought to himself that he must go out for a ride to clear his head, so he called for his mare to be saddled and went to change into clothes suitable for riding. Once Alex was out on his horse and under the clear blue sky, he immediately began to feel his heart lighten. He decided that he was not going to think about the issues at home but just enjoy his ride. As he rode around the country, Alex thought of his many fond memories of this area and his lovely summer adventures there. Eventually, he just allowed his mare to go wherever she wished and lost himself in thoughts of his happy days as a young boy. Only when his mare stopped at the water’s edge by the small lake did Alex take note of where they had ended up. It was the lake near the estate of the Duke of Bellshire, Erasmus Caldwell. 

Seeing the pond made Alex think of the times he and his friends had gone swimming there on exceedingly hot days, even though his mother would object if ever she heard of it, for she was always afraid one of them would trip on one of the many roots around the water’s edge and fall into the water and drown. He also thought of his childhood friend, Lady Abigail Caldwell. She was the only child of the Duke and his wife, because the Duchess died when Abigail was just nine years old. Abigail was only four years younger than he was so, they had been very close and played often as children. Alex always loved the times they played together, (which back then was almost every day because their summer estates were so close together) because Abigail was not like most of the other little girls of the ton. Abigail loved the outdoors, she was always up for an adventure, playing pirates, building forts, or riding on their young horses around the country. I wonder if she has gotten married by now. Most likely she has married some man of high standing in the ton. I hope that she is happy. Thinking of marriage reminded him of his current problems so he quickly looked for a way to erase the topic from his mind. So, Alex slid off of his horse’s back and bent over the water cupping it in his hands and pouring it over the top of his head so that he could cool down and feel refreshed. As the cool clear water ran through his ash blonde hair, he was slightly startled to hear someone calling out his name from across the lake.


“A Wicked Viscount’s Hunt for Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Within the depths of Abigail’s captivating gaze lies a world brimming with smouldering passion, eager to be unleashed. It is a world shaken by an unexpected reunion that forever alters the course of her existence, offering a tantalising escape from the suffocating weight of her family’s plans for her future. As fate would have it, the threads of destiny entwined her path with Alexander, the alluring son of a neighbouring viscount. Their childhood connection, now reignited, reigns full of vivid memories of laughter and stolen glances…

Will Abigail manage to break free from the shackles of expectations and embrace a love full of promise?

Burdened by scandal and the weight of his newfound viscountcy, Alexander returns to England, haunted by a past he can never outrun. Destiny has a way of weaving intricate patterns though, reuniting him with the mesmerising Abigail. Time has transformed her into a breathtaking beauty, leaving him awestruck by her radiance and grace. As their acquaintance blossoms into a passionate affair, they navigate treacherous waters, defying stifling conventions in pursuit of a love that burns with undeniable intensity…

Can Alexander find solace in Abigail’s arms, or will the spectres of his past consume him entirely?

Caught up in a clandestine dance of stolen glances and hidden caresses, Abigail and Alexander find themselves ensnared by a forbidden romance that threatens to consume them both. Yet in the midst of opulent balls, watchful eyes gaze upon them with disapproval, whispering caution and casting doubts. Will Abigail surrender to the intoxicating allure of love or will they be condemned to a life of longing and regret, forever haunted by the tantalising taste of what could have been?

“A Wicked Viscount’s Hunt for Love” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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