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Truce: The Historic Neighbor from Hell anfh-4, Page 1

R. L. Mathewson




  Truce: The Historic Neighbor from Hell

  ( A Neighbor from Hell - 4 )

  R. L. Mathewson

  Elizabeth knows what’s expected of her, perfection. She’s the daughter of an Earl and expected to marry well, say and do the right things with a smile on her face when inside she’s dying for a chance to escape. Thanks to an inheritance her godmother left her years ago, her chance will come with her next birthday. Her hopes of escape abruptly end when Robert, her childhood nemesis that she hasn’t seen in over fourteen years, comes back into her life and does everything he can to drive her out of her mind even as he steals her heart.

  He hated her.

  At least, he tried to hate her, but it was so damn difficult to hate someone that he couldn’t live without. He tried to ignore her, tried to focus on anything but her, but nothing worked. Somehow she made her way into his heart and started to make him want things that he never though possible, made him smile and laugh even while she drove him out of his mind and started a legacy by turning him into…..

  A Bradford.

  Truce: The Historic Neighbor from Hell

  A Neighbor from Hell - 4

  by

  R.L. Mathewson

  Dedication

  Special Thank You to……

  My cake ladies:

  Latreseand Lauren Kinney whom I tried to kidnap in Florida only to find out that the Cake Lady was closed

  The next day they hung out with us at Book Bash, brought us cake and kept us all very entertained.

  Good luck in college, Lauren!

  To L.D. Davis, Lisa Harley, Gitte Doherty, Ricki Fieldberg Wieselthler, Rick and Nicki LaCuesta and many others that I stalk for my own entertainment, thank you for making my adventures on Facebook more interesting.

  And last, but not least, to Kayley and Shane, my little buddies, the bullies who beat me and steal my chocolate, I love you both and I hope like hell that you never read any of my books.

  About this book…..

  Dear Reader,

  Thank you for buying Truce. I hope that you enjoy this book as much I have.

  Before you start this book I wanted to explain a few things. The first thing, this is a historical novel, but I have written the book in a way that I’m hoping will allow someone that doesn’t normally enjoy historicals to enjoy this book. With that being said, I would also like to add that I also did my best to show this genre the respect that it deserves and did my best to make sure that readers who normally enjoy historicals won’t feel slighted by this book.

  Although this is a historical, I would consider it a light historical. It is not Julia Quinn level historical. I tried to make this an enjoyable, easy read that will take the reader back to the nineteenth century and watch as the Bradford men developed.

  A lot of readers have written to me over the years with questions about the Bradford men, wondering about their diets, personalities, family ties, etc. It made me wonder how it could have all started and my mind snagged on the idea of a historical. This book is meant to show you just how it all started for the Bradford men.

  A word of warning though, if you are expecting a fully developed Bradford right off the bat, you won’t get that with this book. This book is mean to show you how everything started, including how the first real Bradford male got his start. The usual Bradford antics will be part of this book, but it will take a little time, patience and a woman driving Robert, the original Bradford, out of his mind.

  With that in mind, I’ll let you get to the book. If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me at [email protected]

  Yours truly,

  R.L. Mathewson

  Truce Glossary

  Orangery: Building where orange trees are housed and kept warm.

  Ton : Fashionable people, the nobles, etc.

  Special license: A license bought in order to forgo the requirement of reading the banns before marriage. It allowed the buyer to get married quickly.

  Governess: Home teacher.

  Footman: Liveried servant.

  Coach: Horse drawn carriage.

  Season: A traditional part of the year when noble families came to London for balls, activities, etc. with the hopes of marriage, catching up on the latest gossip and spending time with friends.

  Betrothed: Promised, engaged.

  Pudding: A sweet dessert.

  Suitor: A male with the intentions of marriage.

  Alms: Charitable contribution.

  “Heir and the spare”: Term used to describe the heir and the second male child who will inherit and continue the line if the first born male fails to do his duty or dies.

  Bedchamber: Bedroom.

  “Break fast”: Breaking their fast, fast meaning since the night before. First meal.

  Fortune hunter: A man or woman seeking marriage with the sole purpose of obtaining a fortune.

  Stone (as in weight): It’s a unit of weight.

  Carriage: Horse drawn vehicle.

  Society: Group of nobles, their rules, expectations, customs, etc.

  Sheath: Condom.

  Minx: Can be an insulting term, but in this book it’s a term of endearment for a woman turning her nose up at propriety.

  Parchment: Paper.

  Spinster: An unmarried woman past her prime.

  “Cut Direct”: Ignored, pushed out of social circle, the ultimate snub.

  Parlor: Sitting room.

  Magistrate: Local law enforcement.

  Chamber pot: Container used as a toilet.

  Mistress: A woman given comforts, money, gifts as part of an agreement to be available for the attentions of a man as part of a business agreement. No emotions, no promises, just intimacy.

  Bedlam: Psychiatric hospital.

  Reticule: A woman’s purse.

  Prologue

  Present day Massachusetts

  “You’re not doing it right.”

  He was going to strangle the son of a bitch with his bare hands, Jason decided as he ignored the bastard hovering over him. The party was in two hours and he wasn’t close to finishing Haley’s present. Four months of working on this damn thing first thing in the morning and last thing at night and it still wasn’t done.

  Thank God his father had started bugging the shit out of him six months ago to get this done. At first he’d shrugged it off, deciding that it could wait until the last minute, but then his father, uncles and a few of his cousins started to share their horror stories with him until he decided that perhaps it would be better to just get it over with.

  Four stitches, one citation for trespassing, two second degree burns, ten migraines, one wrecked pair of jeans, two-thousand miles on his car, more than a dozen sleepless nights later and he was cursing his great-great-great-great-great grandfather to hell and back for starting this bullshit tradition in the first place. Would it really have killed the inconsiderate bastard to go out and buy his wife a necklace for their fifth anniversary instead of making one and dooming all his descendants to this bullshit tradition? He really didn’t think so, especially since the man had supposedly been the brother of a very wealthy earl.

  “What the hell is that supposed to be?” Trevor asked, taking a big bite out of-

  “Those are my brownies, you bastard!” Jason snapped, snatching the half-eaten brownie out of his cousin’s hand.

  With a roll of his eyes and a small, annoyed sigh, Trevor reached over and plucked the brownie out of Jason hand and shoved it into his mouth before Jason could steal his precious brownie back. Mangled necklace momentarily forgotten, he stood up and shoved his cousin out of the way so that he could make sure that the rest of his precious b
abies were okay. He felt his heart break as he neared the kitchen counter and saw what was left of the platter of brownies Haley had made him for his mid-morning snack.

  “How could you?” Jason asked hollowly, picking up the empty plate and praying that his cousin had missed a delicious morsel or two, but there was no hope.

  The bastard had most likely licked the plate clean.

  “I was bored,” Trevor said with a shrug as he sat down at the kitchen table and leaned over to get a better look at the mangled necklace that Jason was desperately trying to finish in time for the party.

  “If you’re bored, then help me,” Jason said, shooting a nervous glace up at the clock and trying not to wince at the amount of time he’d lost bitching over the loss of his precious treats.

  “Can’t,” Trevor said with a shrug.

  “Why the hell not?” Jason demanded, sitting down next to Trevor and picking up the small white stone bead that he’d made out of one of the rocks he’d managed to steal from the pool area of Haley’s old house.

  He really wished that they hadn’t sold the house to that crabby old bastard. He’d taken great joy out of refusing to give Jason a few rocks from the pool area so that he could make Haley a necklace for their fifth anniversary. Actually, he really wished that he’d brought a steak with him later that night when he’d been forced to jump the fence so that he could grab a couple of rocks. Then again, the steak probably wouldn’t have saved him from the psychotic little dog with the pink bow that had taken his job as guard dog a little too seriously.

  “Because you have to make the necklace by yourself from start to finish,” Trevor pointed out, unnecessarily since all the Bradford boys knew the rules for this tradition by the time they were ten years old.

  “The party is in less than two hours,” Jason pointed out, hoping that his cousin ignored tradition and helped him. He didn’t want to disappoint his wife and he sure as hell didn’t want to break a tradition that the men in his family held sacred.

  “Then I suggest that you stop bitching and get threading,” Trevor said with a smug smile as he gestured for Jason to get working.

  “Your fifth anniversary is coming up soon, asshole, so I wouldn’t get so damn cocky if I were you. You’re going to need help,” Jason said pointedly as he gestured to the thin silver chain.

  “In three years,” Trevor said in that same smug tone that was starting to piss him off.

  “You’ll need help then,” Jason bit out tightly as he arranged the tiny plastic bags in order, or at least, what he hoped was the correct order.

  “Unlike you, I didn’t wait until the last minute. As soon as I realized that Zoe couldn’t live without me, I started to work on her necklace,” Trevor explained as he leaned back, making a show of relaxing.

  “Didn’t you have to beg her to marry you?” Jason pointed out, simply to piss him off.

  “I just let everyone think that.”

  “Uh huh,” Jason said, switching the bag holding a small gray stone bead with the bag holding the small dark, almost black, stone bead. He’d made it from the stone he’d picked up from the bar’s parking lot where he’d carried Haley that fateful night when she’d released her adorable fists of fury for the first time.

  “You’re still not done?” Jarred, his father, snorted in disgust as he walked past them on his way to the kitchen counter.

  “Almost,” he said, hoping that it wasn’t a lie.

  “Where the hell are my brownies?” his father demanded.

  “Jason ate them,” Trevor said quickly, making sure to sound properly appalled as the rat bastard did his best to screw him over.

  “You selfish bastard!” his father hissed in outrage, making him wish that he didn’t have to finish this necklace so that he could kick his cousin’s lying ass.

  “Haley brought ten platters to the party,” Jason pointed out, hoping that his father and cousin would take the bait and get the hell out of here so that he could focus on the task at hand.

  “Goddammit!” his father snapped, yanking a chair away from the table and sitting down in agitation. “There won’t be anything left by the time we get there,” his father bit out with a pout. With a muttered curse, Jason rolled his eyes at his father’s whining even as he frantically rearranged the order of the small bags.

  “Party’s not for two hours,” Jason pointed out, not bothering to look up as he placed the handmade stone beads in what he prayed was the correct order. “If you leave now, Haley will probably let you have an entire platter to yourself to hold you over until the party starts,” he murmured absently.

  “Can’t leave yet,” his father grumbled.

  “Why the hell not?” Jason demanded, chancing a look up at the clock and wincing when he realized that another ten minutes had gone by.

  Shit!

  “Tradition,” his father and cousin said in unison, making him frown in confusion.

  “What the hell are you talking about?” Jason asked, shooting the clock on the microwave one last anxious glance before looking back down at the bags of rock beads.

  “As your father, it’s my job to tell you the story behind this tradition,” his father started to say, only to shoot Trevor a wink, “it will be my job to tell you the tale as well.”

  “I’ve already heard the story,” Jason said, sighing heavily as he stared down at two gray stone beads that he couldn’t for the life of him remember which one was which.

  “Well, you’re going to hear it again, so stop your bitching!” his father snapped before he grumbled, “I’m starving,” and making Jason chuckle.

  “Besides,” his father continued in a calmer tone, “your Uncle Ethan is telling Haley the story even as we speak.”

  “Tradition?” he asked with a smile as he looked up to find his father throwing the empty brownie platter a wistful look, no doubt hoping that another batch of brownies would suddenly appear.

  “Haley, left a small platter of finger rolls in the fridge in case I got hungry,” he said, taking pity on his father.

  “Sit your ass back down!” his father snapped at Trevor when the greedy bastard shoved away from the table and took a step in the direction of the refrigerator.

  “I’m starving!” Trevor bitched, but he did sit down.

  “Too goddamn bad! I need sustenance if I’m going to tell this story,” his father said, sounding irritated as he stormed over to the refrigerator, grabbed the platter of sandwich rolls, leftover cherry pie and the gallon of chocolate milk.

  “That’s the kids’ milk,” Jason pointed out, returning his attention back to making the necklace.

  He heard his father grumble something as he shut the refrigerator door. When he looked up a few seconds later, he wasn’t surprised to see that his father had returned the milk and grabbed the gallon of ice tea instead. The man might be obsessed with food, but he would never willingly take food away from his grandchildren. No Bradford male would. Their children and wives came first and they made damn sure that they were well provided for.

  “Those look good,” Trevor said, gesturing to the platter of sandwich rolls. “Can I have one of the-“

  “No!” his father bit out, glaring as he shifted the large platter away from Trevor.

  “I’m starving!” Trevor whined.

  “Then starve!”

  “You selfish bastard!”

  “Can we get on with it?” Jason said, cutting off his father, who looked seconds away from taking Trevor to the ground in a chokehold.

  “Fine,” his father said, throwing Trevor one last glare before he picked up a tuna salad roll and returned his attention to Jason. Clearing his throat, his father shifted in his seat before he started.

  “Once upon a time…”

  “Are you fucking kidding me?” Jason asked, shaking his head in disgust.

  “What?” Jarred demanded, taking a bite from his sandwich roll.

  “You’re really going to start it like that?” Jason demanded, sharing a look of disgust with Trevor
, who was inching his hand toward the platter of sandwich rolls.

  His father narrowed his eyes on him. “If I want to start this story off with ‘Once upon a time,’ then that’s how I’m going to damn well tell the story!”

  Jason rubbed his hands down his face. He really didn’t have time for this shit. “Fine, tell your damn story,” he said, focusing his attention back on the necklace.

  “I will,” his father said with a sniff followed by the sound of a hand being slapped.

  “Ow!”

  “Those are my sandwich rolls!”

  “Dad,” Jason said, not bothering to look up as he prompted his father to get on with it.

  “Oh, right,” his father said, pointedly clearing his throat. “Once upon a time…….”

  Chapter 1

  1809

  London, England

  Hyde Park….a little after 4 pm.

  There he was, her prince, Elizabeth mused, sighing happily as she watched the man that she was going to marry. She smiled wistfully and moved around to the other side of the tree to get a better look at James, her James, before her governess could find her and drag her away.

  Even though his family’s London townhouse was close to theirs, she hadn’t seen him since they’d arrived a week ago. Their townhouses weren’t as close as their country estates were, but James rarely ever visited his family there. The only time she had the chance to see him anymore was when they came to London for the season and even then she hardly ever got the chance to see him as much as she would have liked. He was a very busy man about town after all. Knowing that it would probably be some time before she saw him again, she had to take another look at James and make it last.

  Could any man be more perfect? No, she didn’t think so. Only James, only her James was absolutely perfect. She bit her lip and watched as he bowed over her mother’s hand. He pressed a gentle kiss to the back of her hand before releasing it. Elizabeth sighed happily when he stood back up, mostly because it granted her a better opportunity to stare at him. He wore a stunning black suit with a crisp white shirt. His brown hair was cut short today, but she could still make out the small curls that she loved.