Lady Penelope Chadwicke

The spoiled—and beautiful—daughter of the Earl of Brightmore, she’s rumored to have the biggest dowry in England. Her lady’s companion is Artemis Greaves.

Appears in Scandalous DesiresThief of Shadows, Lord of Darkness, and Duke of Midnight.

* * *

“Goodness! What a dismal place!” A girlish voice exclaimed. 

Isabel turned to see Lady Penelope Chadwicke blow into the room. Lady Penelope hardly ever simply entered a room—she was much too melodramatic for that. With glossy black hair, rosebud lips and pansy-purple eyes, she’d been declared a beauty the moment she’d come out, nearly three years ago. She wore a velvet cloak lined with swan’s down which she immediately doffed and threw to the much plainer woman following her. Underneath the cloak, her close-fitting jacket was champagne brocade over-embroidered in pale rose and gold thread. Her skirts were pulled back to reveal a petticoat embroidered to match the jacket. The entire ensemble probably costing several hundred guineas.

But then Lady Phoebe was the daughter of the Earl of Brightmore, one of the richest men in England and she was rumored to have a dowry worth a king’s ransom.

“Is there tea?” Lady Penelope looked about the room as if a tea tray might be hiding in the corner, then pouted prettily. “Tea and cakes would be so nice. The carriage ride here was simply devastating. I think my coachman was actually aiming for the holes in the cobblestones. And St. Giles!”

For a moment Lady Penelope’s gorgeous eyes widened as if struck speechless by the horror of it all. Then she turned with a snap and addressed the lady following her, who was still struggling with the velvet cloak. “Artemis, you must go see about tea. I’m sure you’re just as weary by all of this as I. We need reviving!”

“Yes, Penelope,” Artemis murmured and retreated out the door.

“And cakes!” Lady Penelope called after her. “I do so long for some darling little cakes.”

“Yes, Penelope,” the other woman answered from the hall.

Isabel noted rather wryly that Lady Penelope might include her lady’s companion in her “weariness” but that didn’t stop her from sending the woman off on a servant’s errand. Amelia used the time to introduce the other ladies to Lady Penelope.

“Oh, Lady Hero, I’m not at all certain it is wise for the Ladies’ Syndicate to meet in this area,” Lady Penelope said, after the introductions were made. She gingerly lowered herself into one of the rickety chairs. “Is it quite safe?”

“I believe as long as we meet in daylight and bring along footmen as guards, we shall be perfectly safe,” Lady Hero said. “It wouldn’t do to visit St. Giles after dark, of course.”

Lady Penelope shivered dramatically. “I hear that there is a masked man dressed as a harlequin who roams these parts, stealing pretty women away to his lair where he ravishes them.”

“The Ghost of St. Giles is mostly a myth,” came a deep, male voice from the doorway.

Lady Penelope gave a little shriek and Isabel turned to see a tall man standing just inside the room. He was entirely in black, save for his white shirt, with no ornamentation of any kind on his clothes. He held a round-brimmed hat in his hand and his unpowdered brown hair was clubbed back very simply. He’d frowned a bit at Lady Penelope’s shriek and the expression made him seem rather dour. As he glanced about the room, Isabel had the distinct impression that this man didn’t approve of any of the ladies.

Isabel smiled widely, with just a hint of wicked flirtation that she had the feeling would irritate him enormously. “Mostly?”

He glanced at her, his eyes flicking over her form so swiftly that for a moment she thought she’d imagined the look. She was suddenly conscious of the low, rounded neckline of her dark emerald gown. Then he met her eyes, his face perfectly expressionless. “A man dressed as a theatrical harlequin does roam the streets hereabouts, ma’am, but he is harmless.”

The information didn’t reassure Lady Penelope. She shrieked again and made to slump in her chair as if in a faint, but then seemed to remember the fragility of the chair and thought better of the idea.

“Ah, let me introduce you all to Mr. Winter Makepeace, the manager of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children,” Lady Hero said hastily. She introduced the ladies in turn and Mr. Makepeace bowed shortly to each. When he came to Isabel, she rather thought his bow was more a nod of the head.

“Mr. Makepeace,” she drawled. “How…interesting to meet you. I vow you look rather young for such responsibility.” Despite his grave air he couldn’t yet be thirty. Certainly he was younger than she.

“I’ve run the home since my father’s death two years ago,” he replied calmly. “And before that I was my father’s right hand man for many years. I do assure you my years are quite sufficient to run this home.”

“Indeed.” She hid a smile. He was so woefully serious! The man had probably never smiled in his life.

Lady Penelope’s little companion returned at that moment with several girls bearing trays of tea. She was a bit out of breath, for she was carrying a tray of dainty cakes herself, and seemed almost startled as Lady Hero took the time to introduce her to everyone present as Miss Artemis Greaves. 

Mr. Makepeace’s expression softened—although he still didn’t smile—as he was introduced to Miss Greaves. “May I take that?”

Without waiting for her assent he took the tray of cakes and placed it on the sole table in the room.

Miss Greaves smiled rather shyly. “Thank you, Mr. Makepeace.”

“My pleasure, Miss Greaves,” he replied, his voice a pleasing rumble.

So he did know how to comport himself in the presence of a lady—when he chose.

“Will you give us a report on the home, Mr. Makepeace?” Amelia asked as she poured the tea.

He nodded and proceeded to give a very dry account of the expenses of the home and how the children were situated. By the end of his little speech even Lady Hero was nodding.

“Er, thank you, Mr. Makepeace,” she said when there was a little silence indicating he was finished. “Have you any suggestions as to how the Ladies’ Syndicate may benefit the home at the present?”

“We need money, ma’am,” he said without a hint of humor. “Everything else is extraneous.”

“Oh, but couldn’t we have little jackets made for the children? At least the boys?” Lady Penelope cried.

Mr. Makepeace looked at her. “Jackets, ma’am?”

Lady Penelope waved a vague hand. “Oh, yes! Scarlet ones–they’d look like little soldiers. Or perhaps lemon? Lemon is such an elegant color, I find.”

She smiled brilliantly at the home’s manager.

Mr. Makepeace cleared his throat. “Yellow also becomes dirty very easily. In my experience, children, especially boys, tend to run about and make a mess of themselves.”

“Oh, pooh!” Lady Penelope pouted. “Can’t you just keep them inside?”

Everyone looked at Lady Penelope. It was hard to credit, but she seemed quite serious.

–from Scandalous Desires