Friday, February 07, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 6a #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.

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Chapter 6a

Gerard pulled his mouth wide in what he hoped looked like a smile and passed Miss Church-Pratton a fir branch.

“Oh, Captain Foremont, are you certain your leg is not paining you?” She gave him a soulful look that brought out the blue of her eyes.

“I am perfectly well, Miss Church-Pratton.” Gerard ignored the ache in his knee.

“I do appreciate your help but I would not wish to cause you further injury.”

He tried to stretch his leg without drawing attention to the action. He seemed to be mostly recovered from the events of this morning in the woods. He moved a little more slowly and he could not climb the ladder to decorate the chandelier, but he was perfectly able to collect greenery and deliver it to the women who arranged it around the house. Unfortunately, Miss Church-Pratton seemed to call upon him quite incessantly for more greens.

“For I must tell you, Captain Foremont,” Miss Church-Pratton said as she wrapped ribbon around a fir bough and strand of ivy, “I was alarmed when I saw you limping so dreadfully as you came into the house.”

He would rather not be reminded of that riotous scene, complete with schoolboys chasing each other around the entrance hall, yelling at the tops of their lungs, and Mrs. Augusta Hathaway shrieking about gypsies attacking children in the woods. Ellie’s cries had turned to sniffles by the time they arrived at the house, but the noise had caused her to start crying again. Gerard had tried to speak to Miranda but hadn’t been able to get close to her.

“It must have been terrible for you.”

Miss Church-Pratton’s fussing over Gerard annoyed him, but he tried to tell himself that she was simply concerned.

“Now, if I had known you would be going greenery hunting rather than with the men hauling in the Yule log, I would have gone with all of you,” Miss Church-Pratton said.

Gerard had been secretly relieved that she had not joined the greenery party this morning. He had suspected that she had no wish to be in the company of all the children.

“Perhaps I could have protected you from that madwoman.” She smiled, dimpling up at him.

Considering the horrible violence that Ellie had been forced to witness, Gerard found Miss Church-Pratton’s comment inappropriate. He looked down at her coldly. “You no longer appear to need assistance, Miss Church-Pratton. I shall help my mother.” He gave her the tiniest of bows, then crossed the room to where his mother was directing a servant on a ladder in hanging the kissing bough directly over the open doorway into the drawing room.

His mother eyed the expression on his face with wariness and a splash of irritation. “I do wish you would stop focusing on your injury quite so much, Gerard. You may not be aware of it, but it casts a pall over the company, which is not very considerate of you.”

He did not feel he deserved his mother’s censure, but she had seen him through the blackest of moods over the past several months, and he knew it had put a strain on her temper. And the truth was that he did indeed feel frustrated with himself, not a novel emotion by any means. He had not been able to chase the lone woman because he had been unable to rise quickly to his feet, and he would not have been able to hobble after her in any event.

Added to his frustration was a strong dose of guilt. He had been horrified that Ellie had been injured simply because she had been standing too close when the woman had swung the branch at him.

“No, to the right,” his mother said to the servant, who obediently moved the kissing bough to his right. “No, the other right.” She indicated her own right side. “Miranda, is it centred?”

Miranda had been tying greens into a long garland to drape over the bannister, but she rose to stand in front of the open doorway, her head tilted to the side. “Perhaps a little to the right …”

Miranda appeared to be her usual calm self, although paler. A half hour after returning to the house, Gerard had climbed the stairs to see Ellie in the nursery, and Miranda had been there after finally coaxing the little girl to sleep. Miranda had not looked as though her nerves were frayed or that she were likely to take to her bed, which was what Gerard’s mother had done for an hour after he returned. Miranda had insisted that the blow to her head had merely caused her a slight headache.

She had changed her dress, as had they all, for dinner. Her dark blue gown made her skin even whiter, her hair glossy like a raven’s feathers. When he first saw her, she looked so lovely that he hadn’t been able to speak for a moment. Luckily, she hadn’t been looking at him, and then all the guests had begun the task of decorating the house with the greenery.

“Are you well?” he asked her.

“A slight headache.”

He could see the pain in the lines across her forehead, alongside her mouth and eyes. He would have wanted to look at the base of her neck, hidden by the folds of her shawl, if it had not been so improper for him to do so. “Has the doctor seen you?”

“No, but one of the maids has seen to my injury.”

“One of the maids? Cecil did not call for Dr. Morgan for you or for Ellie?”

“Betty, the maid, is very skilled in healing,” she said in a calm voice that alleviated his outrage. “Her mother is the local midwife, and the tenants call upon her when they cannot summon Dr. Morgan. I admit that I would trust Betty more than Dr. Morgan, since he often comes to the house smelling of wine.”

He determined not to summon Dr. Morgan if his knee grew worse, and to do all he could to prevent the man from coming near Miranda or Ellie. “How is Ellie?”

***

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