The Wishful Governess
False Rumors #2
How many wishes must one make for a dream to come true?
A lady who dreamt of the impossible. A gentleman tempted by fate’s calling. Would destiny show this couple the love they hold for one another?
Grace Penrose fled to Scotland to avoid the vicious rumors circulating about her in London. Though they were false, they forced her to accept a position with an insufferable Scottish lord. When he wasn’t questioning Grace about her governess skills, he filled her thoughts with fanciful dreams of him, declaring his unrequited love. She thought he didn’t share her feelings until one rainy night under the Scottish moonlight. Did one kiss change her luck?
Calum Lockhart spent his days attempting to keep his siblings out of trouble. With the grand idea of a governess to keep them in line, his mother foiled his attempt by hiring a lady embroiled in her own set of conflicts. Instead of enjoying peaceful days on his estate, he spent them in one disagreement after another with the stubborn miss. Calum was unsure when the governess consumed his every thought. Soon he spent his days waiting for her smile. Could he convince Grace their love prevailed against all rumors?
One foolish incident led Grace and Calum toward a ripple effect of scandal. With his protection, Calum offered Grace security against their harmful enemies. Was their destiny within their grasp? Or was a wish just a wish?
The Wishful Governess is the second book in Laura A. Barnes’s False Rumors series. If you love governess romances, then you’ll love how Calum falls for Grace’s charms.
Treat yourself to The Wishful Governess
Grace Penrose sat in a procession of chairs placed outside of Lord Lockhart’s study with her back straight and her hands folded in her lap. She focused her gaze on the painting across the hallway to keep herself from erupting into another round of laughter. She struggled to keep her amusement at bay while she waited for her employer to deliver her a lecture about her recent conduct regarding his younger siblings who were under her care.
It didn’t help that her charges were snickering alongside her. However, she didn’t dare glance their way or else she would lose the last of her control to keep a chastened composure. One she must present to Lord Lockhart if she hoped to keep her position.
Lord Lockhart’s mother pleaded her case behind the closed doors. Grace overheard the bellows and the lady’s muffled attempts to settle Lord Lockhart’s temperament. However, the silence hovering inside the enclosed room worried Grace. Had she taken her participation in the children’s latest hijinks a bit too far?
When Finlay and Hugh, the lord’s younger brothers, suggested a stroll through the gardens and a picnic by the pond, Grace hadn’t thought to question their sudden interest in a friendly outing with their younger siblings.
After all, the young gentlemen were home on a break from school, and their younger siblings had missed them greatly. So as a reward to them for completing their lessons on time, Grace had agreed to read to them by the pond while they enjoyed the crisp fall day.
Her actions would leave Lord Lockhart with no room for complaint, a task he found reason for every day, much to Grace’s disadvantage. The lord needed to adjust his expectations for his younger siblings. The children would have plenty of opportunities in their lives for such strict demands. For now, they should enjoy their youth, especially with the advantage they were born into.
The outing had started off with everyone portraying impeccable behavior. The older lads had paid her respect by following her directions and even held their younger sisters’ hands across the unsettled trail. Once they reached the pond, she had allowed them time to play while she settled against the tree, watching them in their delight.
They reminded Grace of her own siblings. She came from a close-knit family with loving parents who always encouraged them to live with unbridled joy. While she missed them, she enjoyed her time with the Lockhart family.
With the slight exception of Lord Lockhart.
But that was not the entire truth. The lord held a few admirable qualities to stand by. It was just his superior attitude she could do without. It rankled her to no end and one she would have to face soon. Grace only prayed his mother helped to calm the full force of his wrath. If not, she might find herself reunited with her family sooner than she thought.
In truth, she had pushed his leniency more than accepted for her position, especially with the whisper of scandal Grace and her friends had endured. Though the rumors were false, they still carried a stigma of curious impropriety. Instead of dismissing her when the rumors surfaced, Lockhart had protected her innocence. He’d even protected her friend Flora, since her employer had yet to make his presence known.
Never once during his protection had he asked the reason for her dismissal from her previous employer. He stood on blind faith in her innocence because her friend Vivian’s husband vouched for Grace and her friends.
Her behavior today was as rash as the evening all those months ago in London when she and her friends humiliated Lord Baldridge at a ball. In their defense, they’d done so because he had attempted to assault their friend Sara. However, the result had been their dismissal and a false rumor about how they had never been governesses but the mistresses of the lord who employed them. Utter lies that destroyed their reputations. Which had led them to flee London to secure employment in Scotland.
While Grace demonstrated resistance against his strict demands with the children’s lesson plans and his authoritative structure for their behavior, Lord Lockhart never took her to task for her obstinance. However, after today’s incident, she would not walk away unscathed from his lecture.
As for Lockhart’s other sterling qualities, Grace found it difficult with each passing day not to admire him in an unprofessional manner. However, she could not allow her thoughts to dwell on how very admirable Lord Lockhart truly was. Those thoughts would only land her in more trouble. Also, it was silly of her to fantasize about a gentleman far above her reach. No matter how vexing and admirable he may be.
Her friend Vivian’s recent marriage to Lord Courtland only made Grace’s wishes more hopeful. Their marriage allowed Grace to hold faith that love and happiness were possible, no matter the rank in society. However, Grace’s rank differed from Vivian’s, even if she used to be a governess too.
Vivian was born into the aristocracy. Her father held the title of viscount. Lord Courtland had thrown Vivian over earlier in the year, but their love had proven strong enough for forgiveness. Vivian had found redemption when she married Lord Courtland, even though her family had fallen from grace and false rumors had tarnished Vivian’s reputation for a brief time. Vivian might have acquired a position as a governess to help her family through the difficulties of her father’s scandal, but she only did so to protect her sister from hardship, not because it was her only option for survival.
Unlike Vivian, Grace had no other option available. Grace was born into a working-class family that hovered on the edge of poverty. Her parents were hardworking souls who provided for their family to the best of their capabilities. Her father worked in the factories, while her mother was a seamstress taking on extra work when available. They always wanted a better opportunity for their children and made sacrifices to ensure Grace’s and her siblings’ education. With Grace as the oldest, it was her responsibility to set a precedence of success for their family. And returning home after being dismissed from her current position would only bring forth another wave of shame for her family.
Her parents depended on her behavior to be exemplary for her siblings to gain like-minded positions. However, she had already found herself dismissed from one position, causing a ripple of slanderous rumors to run amok across the ton’s gossip vine that filtered down to the lower ranks of society. She had caused her family enough shame, and she couldn’t afford to lose this position too.
If she could somehow convince Lord Lockhart that she had made a horrible mistake this afternoon, then perhaps she could save her parents' pride. Also, she must forget any fanatical dreams of Lord Lockhart professing his hidden fascination with her person. She would only find herself escorted off his property with those thoughts. As wishful as they may be, they were the desires of an unfortunate miss who dreamed above her station.
Disastrous thoughts for a wishful governess.
Lord Lockhart inhaled a few deep breaths to rein in his temper while he poured himself a healthy shot of whiskey. After he downed it, he poured more to the rim of the crystal glass. However, it wasn’t enough to calm his frustration at the predicament he must deal with. Or more to the point, how he must bring order to his house by dismissing the governess his mother had hired.
A governess who had been a vexing thorn since she stepped foot in his household a few months ago. She was always one to argue her viewpoints about every direction he expected her to follow. And to make matters worse, his own mother agreed with the governess over him.
He refused to dwell on her other vexing qualities. Even though they invaded his thoughts, calming his frustration. He suppressed his need to remember her smile of mischief before he had raged his fury at Grace and his siblings. Her smile fading away had been a punch to his gut but one needed at the time to bring order to the chaos.
“Calum, perhaps you should not imbibe under the current circumstances,” his mother suggested.
Lord Lockhart turned and arched an eyebrow at his mother as he indulged in the only act that soothed his frustration. At her frown, he continued until he emptied the glass. With a shake of her head and disappointment in her gaze, he set the glass down and moved to sit behind his desk. What he desired was the drag of a cigar, but even he understood when not to push his mother’s patience. He might hold the title of head of their family, but his mother still set the precedence of authority.
He held out his hand. “Plead their case.”
Lady Lockhart sat down gracefully across from her son and arranged her skirts around her. It was not as if she were stalling for any particular reason, only that her excuses sounded false to her own ears. However, the state of her son’s patience was nonexistent, and she could not delay any longer. She would attempt to lessen the children’s punishment and, with luck, derail Calum’s ire with Miss Penrose. She was an innocent miss in this debacle. But since the children had been in Grace’s care this afternoon, her son only saw the governess as the one to blame for the unfortunate incident.
Lockhart growled. “You have stalled long enough, Mother.”
Lady Lockhart sighed. “They are terribly regretful of their actions. It was all a slight misunderstanding.”
Lockhart harrumphed. “A slight misunderstanding is an act done out of confusion. What happened this afternoon was a colossal catastrophe of pushing the limits of acceptable behavior. Their actions were of a deliberate nature.”
Lady Lockhart winced at Calum’s raised voice. The children behaved poorly, and no amount of coaxing would change their punishment. She only hoped she could save Grace from suffering through a lecture that could end with Calum sending her away. She must convince her son how lucky they were to obtain her services. Grace handled the children with a skill no other governess had been able to. For the most part, Grace kept them in line.
Since her return home from the London season, Lady Lockhart had noticed how the children conducted themselves toward the servants. In her shame, the children had acted spoiled beyond acceptable reason. But lately, she had heard them regard the servants with politeness, and their behavior when she ventured with them through the city was exemplary. And for that, they owed Grace their gratitude. Now to convince her son of Grace’s finer attributes. Unfortunately, she must forsake her children to save the governess, an act she was positive they would applaud. Sometimes a mother must sacrifice those she loved for the greater benefit of the family.
Lady Lockhart lifted her chin and gave a slight nod. “I agree. They took their hijinks to a new level with their behavior today. I will concede to the decision you make for their discipline. They must learn a lesson about how we shall not tolerate such behavior in the future.”
Lockhart narrowed his gaze. “You concede with my decision without even hearing how I plan to discipline their misbehavior?”
Lady Lockhart nodded.
Lockhart leaned back in the chair, keeping his shrewd gaze fixed on his mother. “Does your generosity extend to my disciplinary actions for Miss Penrose? Or do you wish to come to her defense and plead her case?”
She folded her hands in her lap and smiled serenely at her son. “I would hope you would consider her naivety in handling Finlay and Hugh. She had yet to experience their troublemaking ways during her employment with our family. You must admit how her charming nature has settled the younger children into behaving to your expectations. You cannot fault her for trusting the lads when they have only shown her respect since they have been home from school.”
Lockhart scoffed under his breath. “Charming nature? She is as charming as a wily fox set out to disrupt my state of mind.”
Lady Lockhart gasped. “Calum! You disrespect Miss Penrose with such comments.”
Lockhart sighed, swiping a hand down his face. He meant no disrespect toward Miss Penrose. His comment reflected how out of sorts the governess made him feel while dealing with her. He was well aware of her charming nature and how much it disrupted his sanity. At first, she had been an impediment miss who questioned his every rule. However, over time, she had become an obsession who haunted his dreams.
Today’s incident gave him probable grounds for her dismissal. After he declared his sibling’s discipline, he could dismiss the charming governess and his life could return to normal. Then instead of allowing his mother to hire a governess, he would take it upon himself to employ an older, mature woman who possessed more experience. A strict individual who his siblings could not sway with their false innocence. Also, one who would not argue with him and carry on with her own agenda.
Nor would she possess golden locks and the bluest of eyes that matched the sky on a warm summer day. No. Their next governess would wear a drab dress and her hair in a bun. Not flowing around her shoulders in waves while chasing the children around in the garden, distracting him with the sound of her laughter echoing wherever she was. One whose smile didn’t leave him breathless. Nor one who didn’t leave him wondering what hidden delights lay beneath her clothing.
He raised his head, still lost in his thoughts. “Mmm?”
“You will apologize to Miss Penrose for your comment,” his mother demanded.
“Of course, Mother.” He had no intention of the sort.
She brushed her hands along her skirts. “How do you plan to punish the children for their behavior?”
Did his mother believe if she distracted him with the children’s punishment he would forget Miss Penrose’s involvement? It also made him question her agenda by not defending her children but making it possible for Miss Penrose to walk away unscathed. What was his mother’s hidden agenda?
“Are you not more curious about how I will handle Miss Penrose’s lack of judgment and her inability to refrain from the children’s mischief? I question her holding any capable skills to manage the children going forward. Especially since Finlay and Hugh now require their education taught at home.”
Lady Lockhart sat forward in the chair. “You cannot blame Miss Penrose for the children’s actions today.”
Lockhart cocked his head. “Oh, but I do. If you had hired a more experienced governess, then today’s fiasco would never have happened.”
“Was it so tragic? Are they not allowed to enjoy themselves as children?” Lady Lockhart pleaded.
“Not at the expense of others,” Lockhart bellowed, slamming his hand on the desk.
Lady Lockhart winced. “In which I am sure they regret their actions.”
“They will of that, I promise you. As for Miss Penrose, this will be a teachable moment for her future placement as a governess in another household.”
His mother clasped her hands against her chest. “You cannot dismiss her. Where is your compassion?”
“Compassion?” Lockhart pushed away from the desk and stalked across the study. “I have shown nothing but compassion for Miss Penrose. Did I not protect her and her friends from the scandalous rumors circulating amongst the ton and defaming her character?”
Lady Lockhart strode to her son’s side, placing her hand on his arm. “Yes. You acted with kindness and compassion by offering your protection. I could not be prouder of the gentleman you have become. I only plead for you to give her another chance. We cannot turn our backs on her now. She is still in a vulnerable position.”
Lockhart tipped his head back, closed his eyes, and sighed. He gave his mother a brief nod of acceptance.
She patted his arm before moving toward the door. “Shall I send in the children?”
Lockhart waited for his mother to open the door before responding. “No. The children can retire to their chambers for the remainder of the day.” He paused, noticing how eerily quiet it was in the hallway. “Send in Miss Penrose now.”
It was the moment of reckoning.