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The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 5b #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 Christian Regency romantic suspense

Spinster Miranda Belmoore has become a poor relation in her cousin’s house. She determines to escape a life of drudgery and disdain from her own family members, who are embarrassed by her straightforward speech and unconventional behavior that does not match with proper society. She is beginning to believe what they tell her—that she doesn’t matter to anyone, not even to God.

Former naval captain Gerard Foremont is having difficulty adjusting to life back on land, bitter that his career has been cut short by his severely injured knee. A Christmastide houseparty with the Belmoores reunites him with his childhood friend, Miranda, but he is appalled at the verbal abuse she endures and wants to help her.

The festivities are disrupted when a cloaked intruder attacks Gerard, with Miranda as the only witness. Now the two of them must uncover who wants to harm him and why, before Twelfth Night ends in murder …

All the posted parts are listed here.

***

Chapter 5b

Pain exploded throughout her skull. She didn’t remember falling to the ground, but she became aware of dead leaves under her cheek, the overpowering scent of mildew and dirt. Her limbs felt chained to the ground.

Something blocked the dim light, and she saw the edge of a dark cloak dragging in the wet leaves. Hands ran over her body as though searching for something. She tried to roll over, but the attacker was leaning hard against her back.

Then she felt, through the ground, the heavier tread of boots, the lighter touch of a cane. No. She had to warn Gerard. He had Ellie with him.

The steps stopped. “Miranda!” he shouted.

The hands touching her froze.

He hastened toward her at the same time her attacker moved away. Miranda rolled over.

There was a blur, a swirl of skirts, and then a heavy branch swung though the air at Gerard’s head. He ducked, but the action made him stagger against his cane.

“Gerard!” she gasped. Miranda was behind the attacker and saw nothing but a dark cloak.

Then she saw Ellie standing a few feet away from Gerard. The girl had frozen, her face aghast. Fir boughs slowly rained down upon the ground.

Gerard’s expression looked more shocked than injured. But then the woman swung the branch again and hit his hip. He grimaced and fell to his knee, losing his cane.

But this time, the branch clipped Ellie on the head, and the little girl crumpled.

“Ellie!” Strength surged through her, and Miranda scrabbled through the leaves and bushes on her hands and knees.

The woman aimed a third blow at Gerard’s head, but he was able to grab the branch in both hands. The two of them struggled.

It seemed an age before Miranda reached Ellie’s form on the ground. The little girl was screaming. She gathered her into her arms and tried to drag her away from Gerard and the woman, turning her back to them to protect Ellie.

Grunting, frantic movements in the undergrowth. Then the woman cried out, her voice sounding as if she were being flung away.

Miranda turned her head to look and saw a heap of wool fabric several feet away from Gerard. He had taken the heavy branch the woman had used. He tried to rise to his feet, but his knee buckled and he fell again.

The woman scrambled up and darted away into the trees.

“Stop!” he shouted. Miranda heard the razor edge of frustration in his voice as he rose unsteadily, leaning for support on the branch that he still held.

Miranda used her scarf to dab at Ellie’s forehead, which was smeared with blood. The branch had cut her, but it did not appear to be deep, and Ellie’s cries were wrenching sobs of terror rather than pain.

Gerard retrieved his cane and hobbled toward them. “Who was that?”

“I don’t know,” Miranda said.

“Did you see her face?”

“No.”

“Are you injured? Is Ellie hurt?”

At that moment, Cousin Laura ran toward them. “What happened? Good gracious, is that blood?”

Aunt Augusta followed close behind with some of the other children. “What happened?”

“A woman attacked Miranda,” Gerard said. “When I came upon her, she appeared to be looking for valuables in Miranda’s cloak. When I tried to stop her, the woman accidentally hit Ellie.”

“Poor dear.” Cousin Laura drew near, but Ellie buried her face deeper into Miranda’s shoulder, her crying muffled.

“Let us take the children back to the house,” Laura said. “We should have enough greenery by now. Who would attack you?”

“Was it a gypsy?” Aunt Augusta asked. “I hadn’t heard of any gypsies in the area.”

“I don’t know.” Miranda started to shake her head, but the movement made pain cloud her vision.

“Miranda, you’re injured,” Gerard said.

“I am well. We must take Ellie away from here.”

They all turned back toward the house. Cousin Laura and Miranda’s aunts counted children and went to collect any stragglers while Miranda carried Ellie tightly against her.

Gerard was walking more slowly, leaning more heavily on his cane. She watched him, and had a drowning feeling in her lungs. Suddenly her plan to somehow erase her feelings for him no longer seemed so simple.

When the woman attacked him, and she’d seen Gerard go down, she’d known deep in her heart that she couldn’t bear to lose him.

***

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