Everything and the Moon
Seven years ago she broke his heart...
When Robert Kemble stumbles across Victoria Lyndon in hedgerow maze, he can't believe his eyes. The girl who'd torn him in two, who let him plan on elopement and then left him standing by the side of the road, was suddenly within arm's reach, and even though his fury still knew no bounds, she was impossible to resist...
Seven years ago he left her all but ruined...
Victoria's father had told her an earl would never marry a vicar's daughter, and he was right. Robert had promised her marriage, then danced off to London while she suffered the shame of a foiled elopement. But even though Victoria doesn't particularly enjoy her new life as a governess, when Robert offers her a job of a different sort—his mistress—she refuses, unable to sacrifice her honor, even for him.
But Robert won't take no for an answer, and he vows to make her his, through any means possible. Can these star-crossed lovers learn to trust again? And is love really sweeter the second time around?
Inside the Story
Did you all catch the mention of Alex, Duke of Ashbourne (Splendid's hero) on p. 357? Even though MOON was written after Splendid, it takes place at the same time, so when Mrs. Brightbill says that the duke is "dangling after some American," she is referring to Emma Dunster, Splendid's heroine.
Robert has made appearances in a few of my later books. You can find him running from debutantes in The Duke and I (which is set earlier than MOON), and then again in Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (which is set in 1824, so he's well and married by then.)
Robert, who is a bit of a science geek, recites the Linnaean system of classification when he is trying not to think of Victoria taking a bath. My first instinct was to have him recite the periodic table. But the earliest version of the periodic table was not presented to the scientific community until 1869 (by Dmitri Mendeelev, a Russian chemist). I am a bit of a science geek myself, and if you haven't heard Tom Lehrer singing "The Elements Song," I highly recommend it.
Everything and the Moon received a facelift in 2003. But while the cover may have changed, the words have not. The story is exactly the same as when it was originally released in 1997.
Start Reading This Book
Robert Kemble, Earl of Macclesfield, had never been given to flights of fancy, but when he saw the girl by the lake, he fell instantly in love.
It wasn't her beauty. With her black hair and pert nose she was certainly attractive, but he'd seen women far more beautiful in the ballrooms of London.
It wasn't her intelligence. He had no reason to believe that she was stupid, but as he hadn't shared two words with her, he couldn't vouch for her intellect either.
It certainly wasn't her grace. His first glimpse of the girl was of her flailing her arms as she slipped off of a wet rock. She landed on another rock with a loud thump, followed by an equally loud, "Oh, bother," as she stood and rubbed her sore backside.
He couldn't put his finger on it. All he knew was that she was perfect.
He moved forward, keeping himself hidden in the trees. She was in the process of stepping from one stone to another, and any fool could see that she was going to slip, because the stone she was stepping onto was slick with moss, and --
"Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear!"
Robert couldn't help but grin as she ignominiously hauled herself to the shore. The hem of her dress was soaked, and her slippers must be ruined.
He leaned forward, noticing that her slippers were sitting in the sun, presumably where she'd left them before hopping from stone to stone. Smart girl, he thought approvingly.
She sat down on the grassy bank and began to wring out her dress, offering Robert a delicious view of her bare calves. Where had she stashed her stockings, he wondered.
And then, as if guided by that sixth sense only females seemed to possess, she jerked her head up sharply and looked about. "Robert?" she called out. "Robert! I know you're there."
Robert froze, certain that he'd never met her before, certain they'd never been introduced, and even more certain that even if they had, she'd not be calling him by his given name.
"Robert," she said, fairly yelling at him now. "I insist you show yourself."
He stepped forward. "As you wish, my lady." He said this with a courtly bow.
Her mouth fell open. She blinked. Then she scrambled to her feet. Then she realized that she was still holding the hem of her dress in her hands, baring her knees for all the world to see. She dropped the dress. "Who the devil are you?"
He offered her a lopsided smile. "Robert."
"You are not Robert," she spluttered.
"I beg to differ with you," he said, not even trying to contain his amusement.
"Well, you're not my Robert."
An unexpected surge of jealousy raced through him. "And who is your Robert?"
"He's ... he's ... I fail to see how that is your concern."
Robert cocked his head, pretending to give the matter ample thought. "One might be able to broach the argument that since this is my land and your skirts are soaked with water from my pond, then it is indeed my concern."
The color drained from her face. "Oh, dear Lord, you're not his lordship."
He grinned. "I'm his lordship."
"But-but his lordship is supposed to be old!" She looked most perplexed and rather distraught.
"Ah. I see our problem. I'm his lordship's son. The other his lordship. And you are?"
"In big trouble," she blurted out.
He took her hand, which she had not held out to him, and bowed over it. "I am extremely honored to make your acquaintance, Miss Trouble."
She giggled. "My name is Miss Big Trouble, if you please."
If Robert had had any doubts about the perfection of the woman standing before him, they melted away under the force of her smile and obvious sense of humor. "Very well," he said. "Miss Big Trouble. I shouldn't want to deprive you of your full name." He tugged on her hand and led her back to the bank. "Come, let's sit awhile."
She appeared hesitant. "My mother, bless her soul, passed on five years ago, but I have a feeling she would have told me that this is a most inadvisable idea. You look as if you might be something of a rake."
This caught his attention. "And have you met many rakes?"
"No, of course not. But if I were to meet one, I should think he would look rather like you."
"And why is that?"
She quirked her lips in a rather knowing expression. "Come now, are you looking for compliments, my lord?"
"Absolutely." He smiled over at her, sat down, and patted the ground next to him. "My reputation is not so very black. More of a charcoal gray."
She giggled again, causing Robert to feel as if he must be King of the Universe.
"My name is actually Miss Lyndon," she said, sitting beside him.
He leaned back, resting upon his elbows. "Miss Big Trouble Lyndon, I presume?"
"My father certainly thinks so," she replied pertly. Then her face fell. "I really should go. If he caught me here with you."
"Nonsense," Robert said, suddenly desperate to keep her there beside him. "There is no one about."
She sat back, her manner still somewhat hesitant. After a long pause, she finally said, "Is your name truly Robert?"
"I imagine the son of a marquess would have a long list of names."
"I'm afraid so."
She sighed dramatically. "Poor me. I have but two."
"And they are?"
She looked sideways at him, the expression in her eyes most definitely flirtatious. Robert's heart soared.
"You may. Robert Phillip Arthur Kemble."
"You forgot your title," she reminded him.
He leaned toward her and whispered, "I didn't want to scare you."
"Oh, I'm not that easily frightened."
"Very well. Earl of Macclesfield, but it's only a courtesy title."
"Ah, yes," Victoria said. "You don't get a real title until your father dies. Aristocrats are an odd lot."
He raised his brows. "Such sentiments could probably still get one arrested in some parts of the country."
"Oh, but not here," she said with a sly smile. "Not on your land, by your lake."
"No," he said, staring into her blue eyes and finding heaven. "Certainly not here."
Victoria appeared not to know how to react to the pure hunger in his gaze, and she looked away. There was a full minute of silence before Robert spoke again.
"Lyndon. Hmmm." He cocked his head in thought. "Why is that name so familiar?"
"Papa is the new vicar of Bellfield," Victoria replied. "Perhaps your father mentioned him."
Robert's father, the Marquess of Castleford, was obsessed with his title and his lands and frequently lectured his son on the importance of both. Robert had no doubt that the new vicar's arrival had been mentioned as a part of one of his daily sermons. He also had no doubt that he hadn't been listening.
He leaned toward Victoria interestedly. "And do you enjoy life here in Bellfield?"
"Oh, yes. We were in Leeds before this. It's much lovelier in the country."
He paused. "Tell me, who is your mysterious Robert?"
She cocked her head. "Are you truly interested?"
"Truly." He covered her small hand with his. "I should like to know his name, since it appears I may have to do him bodily harm if he ever again attempts to meet you alone in the woods."
"Oh, stop," she laughed. "Don't be silly."
Robert lifted her hand to his lips and placed a fervent kiss on the inside of her wrist. "I'm deadly serious."
Victoria made a feeble attempt to pull her hand back, but her heart wasn't into it. There was something about the way this young lord was staring at her, his eyes flashing with an intensity that scared and excited her. "It was Robert Beechcombe, my lord."
"And does he have designs on you?" he murmured.
Robert suddenly laughed. "I am beyond relieved, Miss Lyndon. I detest jealousy. It's a most unpleasant emotion."
"I-I can't imagine what it is you would feel jealous about," Victoria stammered. "You have made no promises to me."
"But I intend to."
"And I have made none to you," she said, her tone finally growing firm.
"A situation I will have to rectify," he said with a sigh. He lifted her hand again, this time kissing her knuckles. "For example, I should very much like your promise that you will never again even so much as look at another man."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Victoria said, utterly bewildered.
"I shouldn't like to share you."
"My lord! We have only just met!"
Robert turned to her, the levity leaving his eyes with astounding swiftness. "I know. I know in my brain that I only just laid eyes on you ten minutes ago, but my heart has known you all my life. And my soul even longer."
"I-I don't know what to say."
"Don't say anything. Just sit here with me and enjoy the day."
And so they sat on the grassy bank, staring at the clouds and the water and each other. They were silent for several minutes until Robert's eyes focused on something in the distance, and he suddenly jumped to his feet.
"Don't move," he ordered, a lopsided grin stealing the sternness from his voice. "Don't move an inch."
"Not an inch!" he called over his shoulder, dashing across the clearing.
"Robert!" Victoria protested, completely forgetting that she should be calling him "my lord."
"I'm almost done!"
Victoria craned her neck, trying to make out what he was doing. He'd run off to a spot behind the trees, and all she could see was that he was bending down. She looked at her wrist, almost surprised to see that it wasn't burning red where he had kissed her.
She had felt that kiss throughout her body.
"Here we are." Robert emerged from the forest and swept into a courtly bow, a small bouquet of violets in his right hand. "For my lady."
He released all but one of the violets into her hand. "This is the real reason I picked them," he murmured, tucking the last flower behind her ear. "There. Now you are perfect."
Victoria stared at the bouquet in her hand. "I've never seen anything so lovely."
Robert stared at Victoria. "Neither have I."
"They smell heavenly." She leaned down and took another sniff. "I adore the smell of flowers. There is honeysuckle growing just outside my window at home."
"Is there?" he said absently, reaching out to touch her face but catching himself just in time. She was an innocent, and he didn't want to scare her.
"Thank you," Victoria said, suddenly looking up.
Robert jumped to his feet. "Don't move! Not an inch."
"Again?" she burst out, her face erupting into the widest of smiles. "Where are you going?"
He grinned. "To find a portrait artist."
"I want this moment captured for eternity."
"Oh, my lord," Victoria said, her body shaking with laughter as she rose to her feet.
"Robert," he corrected.
"Robert." She was being dreadfully informal, but his given name fell so naturally from her lips. "You are so amusing. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so much."
"Oh, dear," Victoria said, glancing up at the sky. "It's grown so late. Papa might come looking for me, and if he found me here with you --"
"All they could do is force us to marry," Robert interrupted with a lazy grin.
She stared at him. "And that isn't enough to send you scurrying off to the next county?"
He leaned forward and brushed the softest of kisses against her lips. "Shhhh. I've already decided that I'm going to marry you."
Her mouth fell open. "Are you mad?"
He drew back, regarding her with an expression that hovered somewhere between amusement and amazement. "Actually, Victoria, I don't think I have ever been saner than I am at this very moment."
Victoria Lyndon pushed open the door to the cottage she shared with her father and younger sister. "Papa!" she called out. "I'm sorry I'm late. I was out exploring. There is still so much of the area I have not seen."
She poked her head into his study. Her father was seated behind his desk, hard at work on his next sermon. He waved in the air, presumably signaling to her that all was well and he did not wish to be disturbed. She tiptoed from the room.
Victoria made her way to the kitchen to prepare dinner. She and her sister Eleanor took turns making supper, and Victoria was on duty that night. She tasted the beef stew she had put on the stove earlier that day, added a bit of salt, and then sank down into a chair.
He wanted to marry her.
Surely she had been dreaming. Robert was an earl. An earl! And he would eventually become a marquess. Men of such lofty titles didn't marry vicar's daughters.
Still, he had kissed her. Victoria touched her lips, not at all surprised to see that her hands were trembling. She couldn't imagine that the kiss had been as meaningful to him as it had been to her --
Her fingers traced circles and hearts on the wooden tabletop as her mind dreamily recounted the afternoon. Robert. Robert. She mouthed his name, then wrote it on the table with her finger. Robert Phillip Arthur Kemble. She traced all his names out.
He was terribly handsome. His dark hair had been wavy and just a touch too long for fashion. And his eyes -- one would have expected such a dark-haired man to have dark eyes, but his had been clear and blue. Pale blue, they should have looked icy, but his personality had kept them warm.
"What are you doing, Victoria?"
Victoria looked up to see her sister in the doorway. "Oh, hello, Ellie."
Eleanor, younger than Victoria by exactly two years, crossed the room and picked Victoria's hand up off the table. "You're going to give yourself splinters." She dropped Victoria's hand and sat down across from her.
Victoria looked at her sister's face but saw only Robert. Finely molded lips, always ready with a smile, the vague hint of whiskers on his chin. She wondered if he had to be shaved twice a day.
Victoria looked up blankly. "Did you say something?"
"I was asking you -- for the second time -- if you wanted to come with me tomorrow to bring food to Mrs. Gordon. Papa is sharing our tithe with her family while she is ill."
Victoria nodded. As vicar, her father received a tithe of one-tenth of the area's farm produce. Much of this was sold to care for the village church, but there was always more than enough food for the Lyndon family. "Yes, yes," she said absently. "Of course I'll go."
Robert. She sighed. He had such a lovely laugh.
"I was saying," Eleanor said with a decided lack of patience, "that I tasted the stew earlier today. It needs salt. Would you like me to put more in?"
"No, no. I added a bit a few minutes ago."
"Whatever is wrong with you, Victoria?"
"What do you mean?"
Eleanor exhaled in an exasperated gesture. "You haven't heard two words of what I've said. I try to tell you something, and all you do is gaze out the window and sigh."
Victoria leaned forward. "Can you keep a secret?"
Eleanor leaned forward. "You know I can."
"I think I'm in love."
"I don't believe that for one second."
Victoria's mouth fell open in consternation. "I just told you that I have just undergone the most life-altering transformation in a woman's life, and you don't believe me?"
Eleanor scoffed. "Who in Bellfield could you possibly fall in love with?"
"Can you keep a secret?"
"I already said I could."
"The marquess's son?" Eleanor fairly yelled. "Victoria, he's an earl."
"Keep your voice down!" Victoria looked over her shoulder to see if they had caught their father's attention. "And I am well aware that he is an earl."
"You don't even know him. He was in London when the marquess had us up to Castleford."
"And you think you're in love? Victoria, only fools and poets fall in love at first sight."
"Then I suppose I'm a fool," Victoria said loftily, "because Lord knows I am no poet."
"You are mad, sister. Utterly mad."
Victoria lifted her chin and looked down her nose at her sister. "Actually, Eleanor, I don't think I've ever been saner than I am at this very moment."
It took Victoria hours to fall asleep that night, and when she did, she dreamed of Robert. He was kissing her. Gently on the lips and then traveling along the planes of her cheek. He was whispering her name.
She came suddenly awake.
Was she still dreaming?
She scrambled out from under her covers and peered out the window that hung over her bed. He was there.
He grinned and kissed her nose. "The very one. I cannot tell you how glad I am that your cottage is only one story tall."
"Robert, what are you doing here?"
"Falling madly in love?"
"Robert!" She tried to keep herself from laughing, but his good spirits were infectious. "Really, my lord. What are you doing here?"
He swept his body into a gallant bow. "I've come to court you, Miss Lyndon."
"In the middle of the night?"
"I cannot think of a better time."
"Robert, what if you had gone to the wrong room? My reputation would be in tatters."
He leaned on the windowsill. "You mentioned honeysuckle. I sniffed about until I found your room."
He nodded. "That, or perhaps merely in love."
"Robert, you cannot love me." But even as she said the words, Victoria heard her heart begging him to contradict her.
"Can't I?" He reached through the window and took her hand. "Come with me, Torie."
"N-no one calls me Torie," she said, trying to change the subject.
"I'd like to," he whispered. He moved his hand to her chin and drew her toward him. "I'm going to kiss you now."
Victoria nodded tremulously, unable to deny herself the pleasure she'd been dreaming about all evening.
His lips brushed hers in a feather-light caress. Victoria shivered against the tingles that shot down her spine.
"Are you cold?" he whispered, his words a kiss against her lips.
Wordlessly, she shook her head.
He drew his head back, cradling her face in his hands. "You're so beautiful." He pinched a lock of her hair between his fingers and examined its silkiness. Then he movea lock of her hair between his fingers and examined its silkiness. Then he moved his lips back to hers, brushing them back and forth, allowing her to accustom herself to his nearness before he moved in closer. He could feel her trembling, but she made no move.
Robert moved his hand to the back of her head, sinking his fingers into her thick hair as he darted his tongue out to trace the outline of her lips. She tasted like mint and lemons and it was all he could do not to pull her through the window and make love to her right there on the soft grass. Never in his twenty-four years had he felt this particular brand of need. It was desire, yes, but with a stunningly powerful rush of tenderness.
Reluctantly, he drew away, aware that he wanted far more than he could ask her for that evening. "Come with me," he whispered.
Her hand flew to her lips.
He took her hand again and pulled her toward the open window.
"Robert, it's the middle of the night."
"The best time to be alone."
"But I'm- I'm in my nightdress!" She looked down at herself as if only then realizing how indecently attired she was. She grabbed her blankets and tried to wrap them around her body.
Robert did his best not to laugh. "Put on your cloak," he gently ordered. "And hurry. We've much to see this evening."
Victoria wavered for but a second. Going with him was the height of nonsense, but she knew that if she closed her window now she would wonder for the rest of her life what might have happened this full-mooned night.
She rushed off her bed and pulled a long cloak from her closet. It was far too heavy for the warm weather, but she couldn't very well traipse around the countryside in her nightdress. She buttoned the cloak, climbed back onto her bed, and with Robert's help, crawled through the window.
The night air was crisp and laden with the scent of honeysuckle, but Victoria only had time to take in one deep breath before Robert yanked on her hand and took off at a run. Victoria laughed silently as they raced across the lawn and into the forest. She wanted to shout her glee to the treetops but was mindful of her father's open bedroom window.
In a few minutes they emerged into a small clearing. Robert stopped short, causing Victoria to stumble into him. He held her firmly, the length of his body indecently pressed against hers.
"Torie," he murmured. "Oh, Torie."
And he kissed her again, kissed her as if she were the last woman left on the earth, the only woman ever born.
Eventually she pulled away, her dark blue eyes flustered. "This is all so very fast. I'm not sure I understand it."
"I don't understand it, either," Robert said with a happy sigh. "But I don't want to question it." He sat down on the ground, pulling her along with him. Then he laid down on his back.
Victoria was still crouching, looking at him with a trace of hesitance.
He patted the ground next to him. "Lie down and look at the sky. It's spectacular."
Victoria looked at his face, alight with happiness, and lowered herself onto the ground. The sky seemed enormous from her vantage point.
"Are the stars not the most amazing thing you've ever seen?" Robert asked.
Victoria nodded and moved closer to him, finding the heat of his body oddly compelling.
"They're there for you, you know. I'm convinced that God put them in the sky just so you could watch them this very evening."
"Robert, you're so fanciful."
He rolled to his side and propped himself up on his elbow, using his free hand to brush a lock of hair from her face. "I was never fanciful before this day," he said, his voice serious. "I never wanted to be. But now" He paused, as if searching for that impossible mix of words that would precisely convey what was in his heart. "I can't explain it. It's as if I can tell you anything."
She smiled. "Of course you can."
"No, it's more than that. Nothing I say sounds odd. Even with my closest friends one cannot be completely forthcoming. For example --" He suddenly jumped to his feet. "Don't you find it astounding that humans can balance on their feet?"
Victoria tried to sit up but her laughter forced her back down.
"Think about it," he said, rocking from heel to toe. "Look your feet. They're very small compared to the rest of you." This time she was able to sit up, and she looked down at her feet. "I suppose you're right. It is rather amazing."
"I've never said that to anyone else," he said. "I've thought it all my life, but I never told anyone until now. I suppose I thought people would think it was stupid."
"I don't think it's stupid."
"No." He crouched next to her and touched her cheek. "No, I knew you wouldn't."
"I think you're brilliant for having even considered the idea," she said loyally.
"Torie. Torie. I don't know how to say this, and I certainly don't understand it, but I think I love you."
Her head whipped around to face him.
"I know I love you," he said with greater force. "Nothing like this has ever happened to me, and I'll be damned if I let myself be ruled by caution."
"Robert," she whispered. "I think I love you, too."
He felt the breath leave his body, felt himself overtaken by such powerful happiness that he couldn't keep still. He pulled her to her feet. "Tell me again," he said.
"I love you." She was grinning now, caught up in the magic of the moment.
"I love you!" The words were mixed with laughter.
"Oh, Torie, Torie. I'll make you so happy. I promise. I want to give you everything."
"I want the moon!" she shouted, suddenly believing that such fancies were actually possible.
"I'll give you everything and the moon," he said fiercely.