Hugh: Book 1 Sons of Sagamore - Excerpt

Family secrets filled with intrigue, treachery, and a 30-year-old murder must be resolved or
he'll lose her forever.

Hugh Talbot is a self-made man who built his fortune one coin at a time. One of the wealthiest men in England, people vie to be his client. He is a loyal man who is instinctive and decisive by nature and bases his business on honesty and trust. An eligible bachelor sought after by every mother with a single daughter, he has no interest in a relationship, until he falls wholeheartedly in love with Charlotte.

Lady Charlotte Eden and her father recently from France have taken up residence at their long-neglected family estate in England. A methodical well-organized archery champion she is introduced to Hugh by a mutual friend. His support of her archery endears him to her, add his honesty and good humor and she is doomed. Theirs is not a budding romance. It is in full bloom.

When Hugh introduces Charlotte the daughter of Lord Miles Eden, the Earl of Sagamore to his family, a decades old scandal filled with intrigue, treachery, and murder comes to light. Hugh’s family is turned upside down when his father announces he is the true Earl of Sagamore who had denounced his title and legacy and that his uncle Lord Miles Eden, was killed in a duel three decades ago.

His world in shambles, Hugh’s loyalty to his family will be tested when he must decide if blood is thicker than water.

Hugh: Book 1 Sons of Sagamore - Excerpt

Chapter One

July 1288

Charlotte Eden, daughter of Lord Miles Eden, Earl of Sagamore, and Hugh Talbot, son of Gareth Talbot, Constable to Lord Wesley Reynolds, Duke of Northumberland, were at the end of their budding romance.

“The heat in here is unbearable.” Charlotte fanned herself and looked over Jane’s shoulder.

“Why don’t you and Hugh go for a turn in the garden? A cool breeze will do you both good.” Jane Parker, the hostess of the small dinner party, stared at the backgammon board.

“Did you win, again?” Jane accused her opponent John Huestis, Hugh’s close friend.

Charlotte leaned over Jane for a better view. “He certainly did.”

“I thought you were taking fresh air,” said her hostess, who glared at the gameboard and waved a dismissive gesture.

“What kind of apple is short-tempered?” Charlotte laughed.

“You and your silly riddles. You use them as a distraction.” Jane straightened her back and smoothed out her skirt.

“Hmmm. The Copstard? The Queene? No.” John’s face broke into a broad grin. “A sour apple.”

“No, you fool.” Jane turned an icy stare at Charlotte. “A crab apple. To think I supported you at the archery tournament. I cheered the loudest when you beat Hugh. I expect the same support from you. After all, I did hold your shoes while you competed.”

“Bare feet are my secret weapon,” said Charlotte.

“Your secret... talk about distraction. Distract your competitor with a view of your dainty toes is more like it.” The warm laughter in Jane’s voice melted her angry tone.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Grasping the ground with my toes helps me keep my balance.”

“I thought you were vain. That you didn’t want to get your shoes muddy. I did notice that Martha Falin had difficulty at the line. Like a child having a temper tantrum, stamping around. I suppose she also wanted to dig her feet into the ground. Too bad it didn’t help. I don’t know why I tolerate that pushy woman. Martha inserts herself everywhere.” Jane mopped her forehead with a piece of fine linen she took out of her sleeve.

Jane, competitive by nature, had to win all the time.

For Charlotte, her challenge was competing against herself. It proved to be a winning strategy. She succeeded in beating her opponents most of the time.

“Martha preferred to console Hugh when he lost.”

“Please, Jane. Don’t remind me. Charlotte wounded my manly pride,” Hugh said. He placed his hand over his heart. His melodramatics made everyone chuckle. “Martha wanted an invitation to the tournament at Glen Kirk Castle. The woman refuses to understand the decision is not mine. I directed her to the castle steward. I’m anxious for Charlotte to participate this year.”

“You want her to best you on your home ground?” Jane asked.

“Oh, no. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m not competing. I want to watch my brother’s face when Charlotte wins,” Hugh said.

That sent everyone laughing.

Hugh faced Charlotte. “How do you manage to beat everyone?”

“Grand-père taught me the lessons he learned serving in the Crusades. Concentration and focus. Some of my best memories of him are teaching me archery and listening to his stories about his friends in Demietta, Egypt. He brought art and statuary from the Holy Land. Each piece held a memory, but his legacy is much more than objects.

“Stories about distant places and people, his successes, and even his failures all held lessons.” Charlotte paused. His thick white mane of shoulder length hair, his sparkling dark eyes, and his rumbling, rich voice were clear in her mind. “I can’t leave out his riddles.”

“Ah, your riddles,” John said.

“You’re much better with your bow and arrows than with her grand-père’s puzzles,” Jane said

“With your help,” Hugh said. “At the Parker’s event, Charlotte’s last arrow struck the target at the edge of the mark and yet you called her the winner.”

“Where did your arrow land? Outside the target. Do not complain to me or my guest about how I judged the contest.”

“I picked up the bow to discourage Martha. I had no intention of shooting. If I had.” His words were left hanging.

Charlotte glanced at him, waiting for him to finish.

“You still would have won. I had no intention of taking off my shoes.”

Hugh stepped in front of her at the line, picked up a bow, nocked his arrow, and let it loose. Ready to shoot, his inconsiderate behavior astonished her. “Annoyed” was a better description.

Jane had introduced them months before. She thought him a bit arrogant and hadn’t seen him again until the competition. He handed her the bow without looking to see where his arrow landed.

No thank you. I have my own.” Charlotte stepped in front of him and took aim.

You’re in the wrong area. The women’s competition is further down the line.”

She knew where the women were placed on the line and had no intention to shoot in the shorter distance competitions. Charlotte drew her bow, then let her arrow loose.

She glanced at his face as he watched her arrow and smiled as his jaw gaped open when it hit the center of the target.

I’m in the correct area; it looks like you are the one in the wrong place.” She put her bow and quiver on her back, picked up her shoes, and left the line.

How long have you known Jane?”

About three years. Why do you ask?” Was Hugh interested in Jane? First he used her as a decoy against Martha, and now as a resource of information about Jane, who was her good friend? His interest in Jane would be wonderful, but disappointing.

I’ve known her a bit longer and never heard her mention you.” His casual attitude was unaffected, and the conversation flowed naturally.  

You and I met months ago. At Jane’s home.” His eyes and mouth were frozen open in a moment of stunned surprise.

I didn’t think you’d remember,” he said.

You remember?” She smiled at his attempt to redeem himself.

At the archery tournament I stumbled on your shoes. In the evening you wore a deep blue bliaut with a purple chemise. Pearls were sown along the neckline and hem. Shall I go on?”


Hugh took her hand and placed it on his arm and never said another word about their first encounter.

I thought we’d walk and discourage Martha Falin.” He nodded to Lord DeGraw, who stood with his wife.

She does have a way of attaching herself.” Charlotte followed his gaze, relieved that the DeGraws didn’t have a daughter.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.” Hugh maneuvered her past a group of mothers with withered looks.

You sound surprised.” She had to admit she enjoyed their time together as well.

I’ve been invited—”

Let me guess, a hostess with an eligible daughter.”

No. I’ve been invited to an archery exhibition. I thought you would enjoy attending it with me. If you like, we can ask Jane to come as well.”

That was six months ago. Leaving France had turned out better than she anticipated. She and Jane were close friends, and now there was Hugh.

“Jane, another round? You could use the practice.” John winked at Charlotte before stepping away on Hugh’s arm.

“Why don’t we play chess instead of this, this Backgammon? Chess is a game I can win.” Jane began to reset the game. Charlotte knew, as did the others, Jane had no intention of playing chess.

John shook his head, rolled one of the dice, and handed her the other.

“No? I thought not,” Jane said as the ivory cube tumbled onto the board. “I go first. And Charlotte, leave the door open. I would like some fresh air. It will help me think clearly so I can beat your friend.”

“I thought you liked me,” John smiled. “Roll the dice, please.”

Charlotte followed Hugh into the garden. The clear night and small gathering of close friends would make a comfortable evening, except she was anything but at ease.

Breathe deep. Yes, another breath. She glanced at Hugh. How did the man remain so calm? Without a care in the world.

Hugh’s earlier words echoed in her head. Her heart pounded like stampeding horses.

“Are you sure?” her words were a whisper.

Hugh took a step closer. “Yes. I am sure. I want to marry you.”

Charlotte felt heat race up her neck and spread across her cheeks. Surely, her heart would burst. His arms slid around her. Her body tingled from his touch.

“And I want to marry you,” she whispered against his cheek.

How could Jane call this a budding romance? Their relationship was in full bloom.

* * *

Hugh gathered her into his arms and breathed deeply, inhaling lavender and rose, her scent. The fragrance was as delicate as the beauty in his arms.

Over and over, Jane told them their strong fondness was a common situation, and that if left alone, it would run its course.

This tenderness for each other was not temporary, that was certain. It would last a lifetime.

Hugh met Charlotte six months ago at the Parker estate. For him, the evening event was a social one. However, Lord DeGraw insisted on speaking to him about a business venture. At times, his reputation as a successful investor who made his clients wealthy was a hardship. He had to develop ways to avoid talking about business without insulting his clients. The terms DeGraw wanted did not suit him. Rather than tell the man no, again – and to avoid Martha Falin, who was always underfoot – Hugh busied himself at the archery tournament.

He crossed the field by the butts and stumbled over a pair of woman’s shoes.

“Why so deep in thought?” Charlotte asked, bringing him back to the present.

“A riddle. What costs nothing but is worth everything, weighs nothing but lasts a lifetime, that one person can’t own but two can share?”

He gazed at her face and watched it change as she studied his question. Finally, a smile.

“Love.” She kissed his nose. “You won’t distract me with a riddle. What had you deep in thought?”

“If you must know, you. How fortunate I am to have you.”

Charlotte snuggled closer. “You’re not the only one who is lucky. I’m glad I decided to visit Jane six months ago.”

Hugh curved an arm around her waist, held her tight and kissed her long and deep. He savored her soft, tender lips. His body ached for her with a sudden, fierce fire. It was a heady feeling. Her soft, curved body melted into his hard plains.

“You make it difficult to leave you.” Hugh’s forehead rested on hers.

“You figured out my secret plan. Can’t you wait a bit longer? I’m sure my father will return soon. He usually doesn’t stay away this long.”

“No. I already stayed longer than I planned. As the oldest son, Father and I work closely together.”

“Does he train you to take his place at Glen Kirk?”

“I never thought about taking his place. Through the years he’s trained me to handle the obligations of the eldest son. Now that I have my own business, my brothers have taken over most of my responsibilities, but I return to Glen Kirk to fulfill those that are still mine. I’ll be with you in a few weeks when you come to the tournament. I’m looking forward to introducing you to my family.”

“Will you two come back in here?” Jane called from the salon. “I refuse to play another game with him.”

“’Tis not my fault you play poorly.” John laughed loudly.

* * *

Later that evening

“You enjoyed yourself. Did Jane win any games?” John accompanied Hugh on his walk home.

“Don’t change the subject. You’re mad if you don’t investigate Charlotte’s family. Granted, the girl is bright, witty, and lovely, but what do you know about her or the Edens?”

“You worry too much,” Hugh said, as they walked on.

“I’ve never seen you like this. You. Who investigates each person who approaches you to determine if you’ll do business with them and this, something that will impact your life forever, let me say that again, f-o-r-e-v-e-r, and you dismiss the idea.”

“You would investigate my own brothers.” Hugh slapped him on the back and continued on.

“I would if a defunct earldom became suddenly activated by a man who appeared out of nowhere after being absent thirty years. What better way for him to line his pockets than to marry off his only daughter to one of the wealthiest men in England?”

“John, you’re seeing conspiracies where none exist.”

“You are a man who makes money on his reputation and quick decisions. Humor me. Let me nose around. I hope I find nothing, and afterward I will know I did everything to protect you.”

“I gathered all the information about the earl that I need. After the tragic death of his older brother and his entire family, Miles succeeded to the earldom. He relocated to France to be with his wife’s family, the Cantrelles, and managed the Sagamore estate from afar. Five years later, Juliet, his wife, died – leaving him with Charlotte. Following the death of his wife’s parents, he and Charlotte returned to England. His finances enhanced by a modest inheritance from the Cantrelle estate appears to be healthy but limited. The majority of the estate was left to Charlotte.”

“Who provided you with that information? Charlotte?”

“No. Lord Falin came to my office before I returned to Glen Kirk and mentioned his daughter pouted about me spending time with Charlotte. He spoke of the Edens. Of course, he didn’t give me explicit financial information about the earl.”

“Falin is not the most reliable source,” John said. “Now there’s an odd man. With a daughter of marriageable age and access to one of the wealthiest single men in England. I can understand him not getting involved in encouraging a relationship between you and Martha, but his wife? I think Lady Falin would be a mother with a mission.”

“Please, not Martha. She’s a lovely woman, but I’m not interested in her as a companion.”

Martha wasn’t even a lovely woman. She irritated him showing up at odd places and being somewhat underfoot. He could only imagine what he’d have to contend with if she had her mother’s help.

He glanced at John. Could his friend be right, about looking into the Edens’ background?

“You have that smug expression.”  

“What smug expression?”

“The one that says you intend to investigate the Edens and Falin whether I ask you to or not.”

“I prefer not to keep it a secret from you. I’ll report back to you if I find anything about either one.”

They stood in front of Hugh’s home.

“Come in for a drink?”

“Not tonight. I did enjoy the evening. I do think Charlotte is lovely and wonderful, and I hope I find nothing.”

“You needn’t explain. I understand you’re looking out for my best interests. Just don’t get annoyed when I tell you I told you so.”

“I would never forgive myself if something happened to you because I didn’t follow my instincts. Speak to you tomorrow.” The deep lines on John’s face faded, replaced by a tired smile.

John’s relief startled him. They were boyhood friends, and while he had a knack for making money, John’s gift was finding information nobody wanted found.

Hugh entered the house and stood at the library window. He watched the retreating figure of his close friend disappear into the growing evening fog. John was right, of course. Too much was at stake. However, no matter what John found, nothing would stop him from marrying Charlotte.

 Hugh: Book 1 Sons of Sagamore:

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