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The Earl's Outrageous Lover
Author: Elizabeth Lennox

Elizabeth Lennox - The Earl's Outrageous Lover

The Earl's Outrageous Lover
Elizabeth Lennox

romance/billionaire

 

Prologue – One Year Earlier

Jessica Mallory stared at the man, stunned by what he’d just told her. “Please, tell me you’re kidding.” She wiped the tears from her eyes so she could focus more clearly on the tall, thin man sitting behind her father’s desk.

The man straightened his yellow tie nervously. “I’m afraid it is no joke, Ms. Mallory.”

She let out the air in her lungs and slumped back against the chair in stunned horror. “Fine. Just sell it all off. His assets don’t mean much to me anyway. Let someone else run the factories.”

Her father’s irritating lawyer again shook his head. “I’m sorry, but that’s not allowed.”

Jessica couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It had been a horrible week that started with her parents dying in a car accident. There had been so many details to figure out and all she wanted to do was curl into a ball and cry out her grief. But every time she resolved one issue, someone came to her with yet another. Their death had occurred on Monday. The exhausting funeral had been Thursday morning and today, Friday, she was sitting with her father’s lawyer discussing her parents’ will and trying to figure out why her father had done something so insane.

“What century did my father live in?” she whispered, shaking her head as she tried to absorb the terms of her father’s wishes.

The man blinked. “Excuse me?”

Jessica looked up, not realizing that she’d spoken out loud. “I was just wondering what century my father lived in,” she said more clearly. “This will would be more appropriate for someone who lived in the eighteenth century. The terms of this will are so outrageous. It’s like the plot to a really cheap novel!”

The man smiled briefly because he agreed with the exquisite women. But he was only the messenger and it wasn’t his job to offer his opinion. The will had been drawn up by one of his colleagues six years earlier. “I agree that the terms are….unusual,” he stated as he looked down at the document, his mind whirling with the bizarre provisions. “But unfortunately, they are legal and binding.”

Jessica thought through her options but she didn’t really appear to have any but one. “Okay, so let me get this straight. If I’m not married by the time I’m twenty-five years old, the three factories in Scotland, the one in Manchester and all the other entities my father accumulated over his lifetime will be shut down, the equipment inside each factory will be dismantled and sold for parts, the actual buildings in which these factories are house in will be blown up and over one thousand families will be out of a job.”

The lawyer hesitated, but in the end, Ms. Mallory’s summation was complete. He pulled a piece of paper out of the filing folder and handed it to her. “Here’s a list of the contractors that have been retained to accomplish all of what you’ve just mentioned. So yes, your father was quite serious. He wanted you married and this was his way of accomplishing that.”

Jessica couldn’t believe that her father…a memory came to mind, the day her father had picked her up from boarding school so he could tell her that he’d gotten her into one of the finest finishing schools in Great Britain, a school which would set her up perfectly for a well placed marriage.

It was also the first time she’d ever defied her father. She’d sat in the back of the car next to him and told him that she wouldn’t be attending the finishing school of his choice. She’d calmly explained that she’d already applied to the University of London and would be attending that institution in the fall instead. She’d challenged him to disown her back then but he hadn’t. He’d waited. And now he was getting his revenge for her defiance.

Why couldn’t he just be proud of her? She’d finished at the top of her class, had interned at some of the finest hospitals under great psychologists and psychiatrists. Didn’t he even care that she was following her heart? That she could help people and heal people?

Apparently not, she thought as she looked out the large picture window, noticing the last of the catering trucks pulling out of the driveway of her father’s London home. A home which she now owned, or at least was allowed to live in until she married, at which time, ownership would then be transferred to her husband.

What a mess, she thought. “I supposed I have some thinking to do, don’t I?” she finally replied to the lawyer who was calmly sitting at her father’s massive desk, looking painfully awkward.

With those words of dismissal, he gathered up his papers and shoved them quickly into his leather briefcase. “Let me know if I can assist you in any way,” he said, taking her hand and bowing slightly before departing the house.

Jessica didn’t stay in that room, disliking the dusty, musty smell. Her father had smoked cigars in that office with his cronies and the smell was still there so she wandered into the living room. Where her father’s office was bleak and dingy with dark wood paneled walls and heavy leather chairs, the living room was where her mother had held court. It was the opposite in every way. The walls were a soft cream color and the sofas were all done in a robin’s egg blue shade as were the curtains. There was a large fireplace where her mother used to curl up in front of on cold winter days or where she served tea to the various wives of her father’s business interests.

She curled up on that sofa, pulling the cashmere throw down over her as the night descended. She still had no idea how to get herself out of this problem. But her mind refused to function. She was too hurt over everything she’d learned today. Her parents were gone now so she couldn’t even ask for an explanation. She had lots of friends, but no one she could really turn to for help with this kind of a predicament. There had been the name of the executor of her father’s will, but she didn’t think she’d ever met the man. At least she didn’t recognize the man’s name, but there were many people in and out of her father’s life so it could have been any one of his good friends.

She fell asleep that night curled up on her mother’s sofa, the blue throw blanket wrapped around her. She didn’t sleep well though. Instead of a sound sleep after the exhausting events of the past week, she was plagued with dreams of wedding dresses floating around her head, taunting her and laughing because she couldn’t wear any of them. Nor could she reach the alter because a chain was wrapped around her ankle, keeping her from succeeding.

The following morning, she showered and pulled on a pair of jeans and an old sweatshirt, trying to shrug off the disturbing dreams. One thing was clear, despite her groggy state of mind, she had to make a decision about what she was going to do about her father’s will and she couldn’t make that decision without facts. She had the directions to her father’s factories in one hand and an overnight bag in another. She was on a mission!

It took her three hours but she finally found the first factory. Sitting outside in the parking lot, she smiled as she watched several of the workers wander out during their break. They sat on one of the low walls and sipped coffee or soda while punching each other on the shoulder as they joked about something. At the other end, there was a delivery door with suppliers coming and going, the whole operation looking very industrious.

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