Friday, January 24, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 4a #Christianfiction #Regency #romance

I’m posting my Regency romance, The Spinster's Christmas, so all my blog readers get a chance to read it! It’s the Prequel novel to my Lady Wynwood’s Spies series.

A Regency romantic mystery

Miranda Belmoore has never felt attuned to the rest of society. Her family has never understood her blunt speech and unwillingness to bow to conventional strictures, and so they have always made her feel that there is something wrong with her. Now as a poor relation in her cousin’s house, she makes plans to escape a life of drudgery and disdain from her own family members.

Naval Captain Gerard Foremont is having difficulty adjusting to life back on land, frustrated that his career has been cut short by his severely injured knee. Guilt haunts him as he sees the strain his long convalescence has had upon his parents. As they spend Christmastide with the Belmoores, he wants to help fulfill his mother’s wish to have her orphaned niece come to stay with them.

However, an enemy has infiltrated the family party, bent on revenge and determined that Twelfth Night will end in someone’s death …

All the posted parts are listed here.

***

Chapter 4a

December 24th

The morning had dawned crisp and cold, but clear enough for the annual Christmas greens collecting. Laura, Lady Wynwood, finished tying the scarf about Sally’s neck. The little girl had grown so much since Laura had seen her last Christmas here at Wintrell Hall. “There, now you are ready to gather mistletoe.”

“William says mistletoe is for grown-ups.”

“And who is William?”

“He is the rector’s son. Back at home in Sussex.”

Laura smiled and smoothed the brown curls peeking out from beneath the girl’s hood. “Mistletoe is for the kissing bough, so I suppose he’s right, after a fashion.”

Sally made a face. “Why do grown-ups like kissing so much? William said that sometimes when grown-ups kiss, they make babies.”

Laura choked back a laugh. “No, they most certainly do not make babies simply from kissing. But grown-ups do enjoy it.”

Sally gave her a suspicious look. “Do you enjoy kissing?”

“I enjoy kissing you.” Laura grabbed her in a hug and rained kisses upon her round cheeks.

Sally squealed and giggled. “Now you must kiss Paul,” she told Laura.

Sally’s cousin, who had been pulling on his mittens nearby, scowled and backed up a few steps. “I’m too old for kissing. Kissing is for babies.”

“I’m not a baby.”

“You’re the baby cousin. There isn’t anyone younger than you.”

Sally turned to Laura. “Cousin Laura, you should have babies so that I will no longer be the youngest.”

It surprised Laura that the innocent remark caused such a sharp pang in her heart, even after all these years. She imagined she could feel an answering pain in her stomach. She gave Sally a bright smile. “Babies require a papa, and I have no husband.”

“You should marry Mr. Drydale.”

“No, Mr. Drydale and I are friends. Like you and William, the rector’s son. Now off with you.” She gave Sally a little push out the front door as the other cousins also filed outside.

No, Sol deserved better than someone like her. She was not being self-pitying, but practical. He needed a woman who could bear him an heir, and she would not put herself under the control of a man. Never again.

Laura secured her own hood and followed the troupe of children. They all headed across the lawn in front of the house toward the edge of the forest. A pale winter sun squinted through the hazy clouds, turning the grass a sage-green color. Her breath blew around her head, and when she inhaled, she smelled woodsmoke.

She was watching Paul chase Sally in circles around the lawn when she became aware of someone who had come to walk beside her. “Good morning, Miranda.”

“Good morning, Cousin Laura.”

“Where is Ellie?” It had been obvious that Ellie clung to Miranda like a barnacle on a ship, and no wonder—the child had lost her mother less than a year ago, and then been thrust into Cecil’s cold household. And Miranda was the sort of person you could cling to, who wouldn’t mind you doing it.

“Ellie is there.” Miranda pointed to a small figure walking with Augusta’s youngest daughter, who was fifteen. “Liliana has promised to make snow angels with her if they find a patch of snow.”

“Snow? Not yet, I fear.”

“Ellie is still hopeful.” Miranda smiled, and it transformed her face from plain to pixie-like. But the smile was fleeting, and as it faded, lines appeared on the sides of her mouth. “Cousin Laura, I have a favour to ask. But I should like it if you did not tell Cecil about it.”

Laura raised her eyebrows. “Cecil?”

Miranda’s cheeks turned rosy, but Laura did not believe it was from the biting winter wind. “I have already spoken briefly with Aunt Augusta, and she was quite distressed at my request. I should not wish to upset Cecil.”

“Of course. I will not speak to him about our private conversation.”

“Thank you.” Miranda’s exhaled breath hung like a cloud about her head. “Cousin Laura, you have a great many friends and relations. Do you know of any ladies who might need a paid companion?”

Laura was not surprised by the question. While she knew very little about Miranda’s situation, she had noticed that Felicity treated Miranda with less respect than her relationship as Cecil’s cousin deserved. However, it was not uncommon for poor relations to be treated like servants—she had seen it in other households, with women even more arrogant than Felicity Belmoore.

And yet Miranda’s face never betrayed any discomfort. She had always kept her feelings to herself.

“Of course. I shall write to my friends directly,” Laura said.

“Thank you. If you do hear of a position, please write to me at the home of Felicity’s cousin, Polly Beatty, outside of Weymouth.”

A chill raced up Laura’s spine, and it was not from the winter wind. But perhaps she was mistaken. “I did not know you were close to Felicity’s cousin,” she said lightly. “How long will you be visiting?”

***

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