Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 4b #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 4b

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?”

There was an awkward pause. “I will not be visiting. After Twelfth Night, Felicity is sending me to help as their nursery-maid.”

Laura stopped walking and grasped Miranda’s elbow. “She cannot hire her own nursery-maid? Or beg the help of one of her relations?”

Miranda would not look at Laura. “She has difficulty retaining her staff.”

Laura knew why, although she was not certain if Miranda did, also. Laura had no wish to frighten her, but she could not allow her to walk into that house with warning. “You cannot go,” Laura croaked.

Miranda’s cheeks had become as grey as the sky. She hesitated, then whispered, “Are the rumors true?”

“Oh, my dear girl. I must tell Felicity—”

“She did not believe me.”

Of course Felicity would not, that wretched, selfish woman.

Laura had never known Miranda well because her father had not been one of Laura’s favourite cousins. Charles Belmoore had been a scowl on two legs, and his wife had had the perpetual expression of someone smelling fish gone bad.

But she could not allow Felicity to do this to Miranda. Laura had been forced to endure her horrific marriage to her late husband, but it had given her the means and independence to do what was right.

“If only I could take you home with me,” Laura said. “But I am promised to my aunt in Northumbria after Twelfth Night, and my townhouse in London is being renovated while I am away. Perhaps I may write to my aunt …”

“Lady Wynwood, Miranda,” said a strong male voice, “good morning to you both.”

Laura would normally welcome Gerard’s company, had Miranda’s plight not been so troubling. Because of Mr. Foremont’s close friendship with Laura’s cousin Edward, she had known Gerard since he was in leading strings. She was surprised to see the grave lines in his forehead as he looked at Miranda.

However, he turned to her with a smile. “It is good to see you, my lady. I had not time for more than a quick hello last evening.”

“You are looking remarkably well.” He was, for although he walked slowly and carefully with his cane on the wet, brittle grass, it was a marked improvement from only a month ago when she had seen him briefly in London. He had been in town with his parents to visit his doctor, and he had been using crutches rather than a cane.

“Thank you.” He glanced away briefly, and she thought she saw the same bitter frustration behind his eyes that she’d seen a month ago.

Perhaps he was not as improved as she had thought.

“My father and I have spoken to Cecil and Mr. Belmoore,” Gerard said. “It is decided that Ellie is to come home with us.”

“That’s wonderful,” Laura said.

“I must thank you again for your suggestion to my mother. The anticipation of having Ellie in her care has made her quite cheerful.” His eyes slid to Miranda, then he said to Laura, “I wish to beg another favour from you, my lady. Would you perhaps exert your influence over my mother to allow Miranda to accompany Ellie to Foremont Court for a few months?”

Laura gasped. “That is a very good idea.”

He blinked. “It is? Er … that is, just so.”

Miranda was looking at him with surprise. “Gerard, your mother …”

“We have nearly a fortnight to convince her,” he said, more to Miranda than to Laura. “I am certain that with Lady Wynwood’s help, we may do so.”

“Of course I will help you,” Laura said. She could think of no better way to prevent Miranda from being sent to the Beattys.

Color had returned to Miranda’s cheeks. “Would you, Cousin Laura?”

“My dear.” Laura stopped to take Miranda’s hands in hers. “Of course I will. And it will only be for a few weeks, perhaps a few months. After I help my aunt organize the repair of her cottage, I insist that you come to stay with me in my townhouse in London.”

“Do you need a companion?”

“Not particularly,” Laura said cheerfully, “and I suspect you would be a poor one. You do not scurry nervously. And I have seen your embroidery—it is atrocious, so you would not be able to untangle your employer’s silks.”

A smile tugged at Miranda’s lips.

“If you will be able to stay with the Foremonts until I come to retrieve you, then you will join me in London as my guest. You may stay as long as you like, or I can find a position for you if you desire it. I only regret I cannot have you with me immediately, but my aunt’s cottage has only one useable bedroom. In fact, I shall be sleeping on the sofa for part of the time, and there is no inn within a comfortable distance.”

Miranda squeezed Laura’s hands tightly, but the girl said nothing, her eyes large and luminous.

“You quite exhaust me with your exuberance,” Laura said.

“I am confident we shall prevail, Miranda,” Gerard said. “You will be happy at Foremont Court before long.”

It was just a flicker of a glance that Miranda sent to Gerard before she looked away, but the certainty struck Laura like a blow. Miranda was in love with Gerard. It might be a girlhood infatuation, but the feelings were there, waiting to mature into true, deep affection.

Laura was no matchmaker, but a part of her wished for happiness for Miranda and Gerard, each of whom was lonely in their own way. She must convince Mary Foremont to allow Miranda to travel back to their home with them and with Ellie, but would she only be encouraging a situation that would result in heartbreak for Miranda?

Or would two hearts somehow find each other across the gulf of Miranda’s protective shell and Gerard’s bitterness?

***

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