Never a Proper Lady
Daughters of Desire (Scandalous Ladies) Series, #5
He only hired her because he lost a bet…
• Forced proximity
• Fake engagement
• Forbidden romance
• Class difference
• Second chance
• Enemies to lovers
• Opposites attract
She was exactly what he needed…and everything he could never have…
Lord Constantine Kellinggrave’s scientific pursuits mean more to him than romance and High Society ever could. So, his nearly reclusive lifestyle is precisely how he wants it. Then a bet gone wrong brings an exasperatingly beautiful scrivener into his tidy world and she promptly ruins everything…
Faith Roth has never been a proper lady and that doesn’t bother her one little bit. All she’s ever wanted was to be a scrivener. So, if her austere—and frustratingly attractive—employer thinks he can make her quit her dream job, he’d better think again…
It’s not long before Faith and Constantine’s unique relationship attracts unwanted attention, and they’re forced into a fake betrothal to protect their reputations. But when their mutual hostility and annoyance transforms into something infinitely more complicated, will this pair of opposites find their way to happily ever after or heartbreak?
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See What Readers Are Saying!
InD’Tale Magazine Crown of Excellence Recipient.
“I loved the fun and hilarious moments and also, the emotional, heart wrenching discussions and confession they made” ★★★★★ ~ Lana
“I loved these two as individuals. I loved them as a couple. With the secondary characters in full swing and making their ways through the story, this was a magnificent read.” ★★★★★ ~ Kristi Hudecek-Ashwill
“Once you pick it up, it doesn’t get put down easily and in fact, becomes very easy and immensely digestible reading!” ★★★★★ ~ Joanie
“Collette has a way of taking ordinary people and making them into such a character you want to root for and help along. The details of what is happening pull you in and give the reader the joys and follies as if they are right there gracing the tearoom, salons, or ballrooms of the time. Enriching us with a world only in our imagination.” ★★★★★ ~ Tina Ullrich
“The characters are written with depth and I felt I was watching their lives unfold before me.” ★★★★★ ~ Linda J
“In all, a sweet lovely romance with two people who try to deny too much the sentiments now overwhelming their heart.” ★★★★★ ~ Elodie’s Reading Corner
“Never a Proper Lady is written so well. The story is packed with comedy and romance. If you’re looking for giggles and smiles this book is for you!” ★★★★★ ~ Cindy W
“Collette Cameron excels at adding enough levity to what is going on, making it fun and enjoyable to read any of her works. And some of her descriptions had me LOL, such as Con’s dog Gilly, with the tattered ear and “a doggy smile that made him appear as if he’d indulged in too much ale.” I could picture that dog in my mind when I read that.” ★★★★★ ~ Diana A
“I found it a most enjoyable read; witty at times and very heartwarming!” ★★★★★ ~ Catherine Burhans
“The story is filled with humor, great banter between the characters, mystery, and romance.” ★★★★★ ~ Terrie
“Colette’s given us another winner in this series which has yet to disappoint. If you enjoy well written, strong heroines in the Regency setting meeting their match in equally interesting, independent peers, you have to pick this up and enjoy a good read.” ★★★★★ ~ kaisquared
“This author has a definite style that works every single time and I have yet to be disappointed with one of her romances. Once you pick it up, it doesn’t get put down easily and in fact, becomes immensely digestible reading!” ★★★★★ ~ VA Joanie
Chapter One Excerpt
Naturally, I shall attend Lottie’s wedding, but I cannot promise to remain for the house party’s duration. You know how much I detest the boorish things, Edie. Particularly as I know our odious Kellinggrave cousins will be present.
Besides, my research won’t permit me to fritter away an entire week on frivolous activities. Toward that end, my amanuensis, my valet, and perhaps even my research assistant shall accompany me to Dovetonwick Court.
~Lord Constantine Kellinggrave, in response to his sister,
Lady Edyth Kellinggrave’s reminder of their sister’s upcoming nuptials
29 August 1818
Bedford Square, London, England
A few minutes past seven in the morning
Shirtsleeves rolled to his elbows and sans jacket and waistcoat, Constantine—Con to his closest friends and family—stood before his scuffed and scarred double-sided walnut partner desk. Eyes narrowed, he cocked his head, listening.
Yes, the brisk footsteps he’d come to recognize these past few days announced his amanuensis had arrived for work. Early again, as she had been every day since he’d grudgingly retained her services.
Regrettably, he couldn’t fault her for her promptness.
Time to don his armor, gird his loins, gather his shield and sword, and prepare for battle.
He swept a gaze around the room, which had become less research sanctuary and more combat zone in recent days.
Soft rays of sunshine filtered through the open navy-blue draperies festooning the three arched windows opposite the long room. The streams of sunlight caressed the equally scuffed and scarred oak floor and the single taupe, crimson, and cerulean-blue Aubusson carpet sprawled haphazardly in the center of the rectangular room.
Dust motes floated in the luminous beams, performing a taunting dance before they drifted to rest on the myriad of surfaces cluttered with specimens, journals, documents, and all manner of curiosities. And dust. A fine layer coated almost everything.
Gilly, the once emaciated mongrel of undeterminable pedigree Constantine had rescued from the streets two years ago, lay prone upon the floor, soaking in those same rays. As if sensing his master’s focus, Gilly thumped his wiry, multi-colored tail once without deigning to open his copper-brown eyes.
A wry grin pulled Constantine’s mouth upward on one side.
Gilly had taken to a life of luxury and ease as readily as a nobly born duke.
The feminine stride grew closer and, if possible, even sharper, as if the deceptively decorous Miss Faith Roth announced with her dainty feet what she didn’t dare say with her pink Cupid’s bow mouth.
Not that he initially noticed her pretty mouth.
It’s just that she so often pursed those plump lips, pulled them into a disapproving ribbon, or bit the lower pillow—no doubt to prevent telling him to bugger himself—that he couldn’t help but notice how nicely shaped they were.
Never mind Miss Roth’s lips.
Another day of subtle verbal sparring and intellectual dueling was about to commence.
You enjoy matching wits with her.
Constantine snorted, and Gilly cracked open a sleepy eye.
Determining naught was amiss, the dog relaxed and resumed his nap with a shuddery sigh.
Not by half, Constantine didn’t enjoy the daily scuffles with his scribe. No more than he’d relish a carbuncle on his bum or appreciate a monstrous stye in his eye.
Refusing to look toward the entrance, yet acutely aware of each clipped step drawing Miss Faith Roth nearer, he drew his eyebrows together as he considered the scientific journals he held in either hand.
Would he have time to read either or both while traveling to Dovetonwick Court for his sister’s wedding? Likely. With a nonchalant shrug, he added the books to the stack of papers, books, and documents he’d already placed inside his satchel.
Naturally, not attending the nuptials wasn’t an option—Mother would never forgive Constantine—and he wanted to see Lottie exchange her vows.
Regardless, this was a deuced inconvenient time to leave his research.
In truth, there was never a good time for a man who preferred scientific studies to socializing with vain, self-important denizens. Many of whom looked down their aristocratic noses at his hobby. But as the third son of Harland Kellinggrave, Duke of Landrith, they daren’t overtly disdain Constantine or the work he took seriously.
Moreover, a fortnight ago, his faithful and reliable research assistant, Harvey Camberg-Trainer, had fallen in love with the pretty clerk at the new French patisserie and boulangerie. Now Harvey was distracted more often than not and had actually confused a Holly Blue butterfly with a common blue just yesterday.
Harvey’s doleful countenance and soul-rending sighs every few minutes as he rested his chin upon his fist and gazed forlornly out the window were enough to cause Constantine to clench his teeth and swear beneath his breath.
Must love render men bacon-brained sots?
Constantine had never suffered from the affliction—praise the saints—but two of his closest chums had. Half the time, he scarcely recognized the perpetually grinning dolts anymore.
If Harvey brought another bag of pastries or loaf of bread to work, Mrs. Mettlebank might well give her notice. The cook didn’t appreciate another outshining her culinary talents. Even Constantine had to admit the French baked goods were superior to anything Mrs. Mettlebank had ever served.
He’d bite his tongue off before admitting that fact, however.
Mrs. Mettlebank accepted his idiosyncrasies, including that he rarely dined on any type of schedule. And she didn’t grumble about him wandering into the kitchen at all hours for a snack. More often than not, she left a plate of something or other for him to sample.
More irksome than Harvey’s infatuation, however, was Faith Roth, the scrivener Constantine had recently hired. And who, any second now, would march into the laboratory-office and, with a single astute glance from those chocolatey doe eyes behind her wire-rimmed spectacles, under sardonically arched strawberry blonde eyebrows, would prick his temper.
As surely and as deliberately as if she’d poked him with a needle.
Had a more exasperating woman ever walked the earth?
She seemed particularly fond of sending verbal darts in his direction, always with a benign expression and perfectly respectable tone.
Miss Faith Roth didn’t fool him for a second.
Beneath her cool and calm exterior bubbled molten lava. Unless he missed his guess—and he was positive he did not—she’d erupt someday, and anyone nearby would get scorched.
Despite her outward poise and decorum, Miss Roth had become a proverbial thorn in Constantine’s side. He’d yet to see her lose her temper, but her expressive eyes rung him a peal at least half a dozen times daily.
He couldn’t terminate her either because not only was she efficient, organized, and an excellent scribe—which Constantine admitted he badly needed—he’d only hired her because he’d lost a bet.
A silly, thoughtless wager he never ought to have placed and wouldn’t have done so if he hadn’t had one brandy too many, and if Lord Ronan Brockman and Aston Terramier hadn’t accused him of being archaic in his beliefs and resistant to social progress—specifically when it came to women.
Those two disgustingly in love chaps thought it hysterical that Constantine had hired Faith Roth, who just happened to be—God save him—bosom friends with their sweethearts.
Fate had an irregular sense of humor.
By Jove, Lord Constantine Peyton Harland Kellinggrave was not antiquated in his thinking.
Despite ridicule and condescension, wasn’t he going beyond the bounds and researching the effects of butterflies and moths on pollination?
Pollination was crucial for crops, orchards, and even kitchen gardens. Bees generally received all of the attention, but moths and butterflies traveled greater distances and contributed mightily to pollination as well.
He tapped his chin with his forefinger.
Hmm. Were nectar-feeding bats also pollinators?
That might be interesting to study as well, but first things first.
Miss Faith Roth.
The perpetual pebble in his shoe. The burr on his bum. The itch he couldn’t reach.
If Constantine gave his scrivener her congé before six months passed, he’d have to admit defeat and pay the wager. It wasn’t losing the funds that made him reluctant. It was that he’d have to admit there might be a measure of truth—surely, only the merest amount—in his friends’ accusation.
Why was a young woman of excellent character so set on proving herself in a traditionally male occupation? Not that females couldn’t perform the task just as well, but the women he knew focused their energies on marriage and having children.
The gentlemanliness bred into Constantine’s very core as an aristocrat also objected to the dishonor of hiring her purely to win a wager. That had been the craven act of a cad, and he felt no small amount of shame for his role in the fiasco.
That Miss Roth had overheard him arguing with Harvey about why he’d hired her only added to Constantine’s guilt. Now, every time Miss Roth glanced in his direction, he felt miniature accusatory daggers pricking him.
Grunting, he plunked his hands on his hips and perused his disorderly research laboratory and office once more. Which was, in fact, the entire ground floor of his house except for the kitchen.
How hard would it be to convince Miss Roth to accompany him to Dovetonwick Court? He had mentioned possible travel as part of her duties during the farcical interview, hoping the duty would dissuade her from accepting the post. It hadn’t.
If Constantine dictated to her during the journey, that would make up for the time lost participating in obligatory family activities.
He wished to depart for Dovetonwick Court on Tuesday—three days away.
“Good morning, my lord.”
Formal, cool, civil.
Constantine painted a pleasant expression on his face and summoned a welcoming smile.
“Good morning, Miss Roth. I trust you slept well.”
He barely constrained the grin tipping his lips upward at her swift, suspicious glance. He’d never bothered to inquire about her sleep or any other personal details, for that matter, before.
Except for the perfunctory questions he’d asked during their initial meeting, he knew nothing about her. Beyond her name, age—three and twenty—education, that she was an orphan, and that her letters of reference were exceptional.
Of course, the latter could’ve been forged, but he believed them genuine.
Of the three women who’d answered his advert, Miss Roth was the candidate he’d erroneously believed would quit within a week.
More fool him.
Everything he’d done to encourage Miss Roth’s departure had only caused her to dig her heels and claws in and thwart his efforts all the more. Always within the bounds of respectfulness and deference.
Gilly leaped to his feet and trotted over to Miss Roth, wagging his tail with such exuberance that his entire back end wiggled.
“Good morning to you too, handsome boy,” Miss Roth crooned, bending to give the dog a pat and kiss, and presenting her delightfully rounded derriere for leisurely inspection in the process.
By Zeus. Constantine was not jealous of a dog, and by no stretch of the imagination was Gilly a handsome boy. Not with that tattered ear that dropped over his forehead, nor his doggy smile that rather made him appear as if he’d indulged in too much ale.
Swiveling away, Constantine raked a hand through his hair, messing the already untidy strands further. He hadn’t bothered with brushing it into one of the fashionable styles the young bucks of the ton favored.
Embly had long since given up on Constantine’s unruly, overly long hair. Keeping him reasonably shaven and presentable in unrumpled attire strained the bounds of the valet’s best intentions.
At least Embly hadn’t threatened to give his notice this week.
That was an improvement.
Constantine slid the bane of his existence a side-eyed glance.
Miss Roth would smite him to cinders if she caught him gawping at her backside.
He did not ogle or dally with his female employees. Given Mrs. Mettlebank was five and sixty if she was a day and weighed three stone more than he did, and as Miss Roth scarcely contained her disdain of him, there wasn’t any desire to ogle to begin with.
He added another scientific article to the satchel upon his desk.
As Miss Roth removed her bonnet, her gaze, which never missed a detail, landed on the bulging satchel.
“Are you going somewhere, my lord?”
Folding his arms, Constantine rested his hips against the edge of the desk.
“As a matter of fact, we are.”
“We?” She paused in drawing off her plain straw bonnet. Her dark brown eyes rounded, and her attention shifted to the bag and then back to him. “I beg your pardon. I thought you said we.”
He grinned, delighting in flummoxing her for once.
“I did indeed, Miss Roth.” He nodded and crossed his ankles. “We. You, me, Embly, Mr. Camberg-Trainer, and Gilly depart for Dovetonwick Court at first light on Tuesday.”
He hadn’t informed Harvey yet, and his friend might refuse, given his current infatuation. Embly would suffice as a chaperon, he supposed.
Had you hired a male amanuensis, you would not need a chaperone.
Water under the bridge.
Constantine had hired a female, so he must deal with the consequences.
“I…” Miss Roth swallowed as she slowly lifted the hat from her head, revealing the mass of glorious fair curls threaded with bronze, gold, and fire ribbons. Her hair betrayed her, revealing the spitfire’s temperament before she opened her mouth. “This Tuesday?”
“I did mention when I hired you that the position involved the possibility of travel.”
He’d hoped that particular detail would put her off. Traveling unescorted with a male and all that. Any sensible miss would’ve gone pale and promptly bid him good day.
Miss Roth had not.
Constantine quirked an eyebrow, anticipating her response.
“Yes, you did, my lord.”
Remarkably composed, she hung her bonnet on the coat rack, removed her gloves, and then her deep green spencer. Today, she wore a yellow calico gown sprinkled with pastel flowers.
She appeared young and pretty and feminine.
It was the first time he could recall that she hadn’t worn a severe, drab-colored frock or masculine waistcoat and skirt. He presumed she preferred severe styles and unassuming colors. The modest but tasteful gown she wore today revealed again how little he knew or understood about Miss Roth.
Folding her hands before her, she tilted her head to the side. “This is a business trip?”
“Business and pleasure.” Constantine scratched his chin, the stubble beneath his fingers reminding him he ought to shave. It had been three—no, four—days.
“My eldest sister is getting married.”
At one and thirty, three years Constantine’s senior, Charlotte had waited for true love.
“I see.” A spark of defiance glinted in Miss Roth’s eyes, and she set her shoulders at a recalcitrant angle. “And if I decline to accompany you?”
Clasping his hands behind him, he twisted his mouth into a wry smile.
“Sadly, Miss Roth, I would deem it grounds for termination.”
“Sadly? I’ll just bet,” she murmured so softly that Constantine barely heard her.
Was this the excuse he had been looking for?
His way to rid himself of the delightfully irritating Miss Roth?
Why wasn’t he thrilled at the notion then?
Because who would transcribe for him? Take precise, excellent dictation in a neat script? Organize his sloppily written notes? Straighten and organize the debacle that was his office and laboratory?
“I see,” she said again, a trifle louder. Inhaling a deep breath—likely to keep from telling Constantine precisely what she thought of him—she angled toward her tidy desk. “What time should I be here?”
“No need.” Straightening, Constantine waved his hand. “I’ll collect you at six. Leave your direction with my coachman.” He studied her from beneath half-closed eyelids. The air fairly crackled with her disapproval.
He didn’t know what devil on his shoulder prompted him, but he drove the point home. “It’s a three-day journey. Each way.”
Miss Roth sank gracefully onto her chair and began arranging her instruments. She picked up the notes he’d left for her and, forehead puckered, perused them.
“Three days in a coach. Bloody marvelous,” she muttered beneath her breath, her lips scarcely moving. “Six if you count both ways.”
Her one imperfection.
Miss Roth talked to herself.
More often than naught, she murmured something unflattering about his character.
“Did you say something, Miss Roth?”
Constantine couldn’t quite check his satisfied grin.
She glanced up and fashioned an insincere smile. No hint of warmth shone in the frosty stare she leveled him.
Weren’t brown eyes the color of treacle supposed to be warm?
Constantine was positive she wished him to the lowest level of Hades.
“Nothing of import, my lord.”
Unable to restrain his humor any longer, he chuckled, and she skewered him with those big pansy eyes.
Picking up the quill, she held it suspended. “She who laughs last laughs longest.”
Quoting Shakespeare, is she?
She was full of surprises today.
Miss Faith Roth was a perplexing enigma.
“Is that a challenge, Miss Roth?”
“Heavens, no, my lord.” She bent her bright head to her task. “Consider it more of a prophecy.”