Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 8a #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 8a

Gerard had been helpless. Too helpless to do anything for her.

He had wanted to shout at them all to stop laughing at her, or perhaps go to her, take her hand, and pull her from the dining room. But anything of the sort would only embarrass her further.

He saw the pain in her eyes, and he saw the mask of calm settle over her face. He had never fully realized it was a mask until that moment.

There was a great deal about her that he didn’t know. That he hadn’t cared to know.

He wanted to know all those things now.

Perhaps not at this exact moment. First he had to walk again, properly, without this cursed cane. He wanted to be whole again, and independent, and regain some measure of self-respect.

Also at this exact moment, he had to somehow escape the two chattering women on either side of him before his ears bled.

He sat at the edge of the ballroom as couples swirled to the strains of a country dance. Garlands of greenery draped the walls in graceful arcs, lending the scent of the woodlands to the room, while servants moved about with cups of wassail or punch or wine. Everyone in the county who had been invited had come for the Belmoores’ annual Christmas ball.

However, the two women sitting next to him affected to have no interest in dancing. Miss Church-Pratton was charming, but he noticed that the conversation invariably circled round to herself or something related to herself. Miss Barnes was not so self-centred—she asked him question upon question about his life and interests and thought everything he did was wonderful.

Gerard felt trapped in more ways than one. He used to love dancing. He hadn’t been terribly good at it, but he had enjoyed it. He enjoyed watching it much, much less.

His knee ached as if to remind him, You’re landlocked, my boy.

“Such a crush,” Miss Church-Pratton said. “I am sure Felicity is thrilled at the attendance, but I prefer a smaller, more select party, myself.”

“Did you attend any balls, Captain Foremont?” Miss Barnes asked. “I am sure you must have been quite popular.”

He thought of his men, shirtless, dancing a jig on the upper deck. “Quite a few balls, I daresay.”

He looked up suddenly and saw Miranda across the room. She was not looking at him, but appeared to be searching the ballroom for someone. When she saw him, she smiled slightly, then her gaze slid to the two ladies with him.

And he knew in that instant that he would not be feeling this way if Miranda were sitting next to him instead.

Then someone walked into his line of sight and he could see her no longer.

“I much prefer sitting here with you, Captain Foremont,” Miss Church-Pratton said. “The young country folk whom Felicity was forced to invite are so exuberant when they dance. The men quite crush one’s dress.”

“I am sure you would never do so, Captain,” Miss Barnes said.

He thought of excusing himself on the grounds that he saw his mother signaling to him, but for the small problem that his mother was not in the ballroom and the fear that the two women would insist upon accompanying him to her.

Rescue came in the unlikely person of Lady Wynwood.

“Miss Barnes,” Lady Wynwood said, “your mother may need your assistance in the drawing room. She is partnered with Mrs. Seager at Whist and is so frustrated that she looks as though she might wring her neck.”

“Oh, goodness.” Miss Barnes hurried off to prevent her parent from committing murder.

Lady Wynwood settled into her vacated seat. “Miss Church-Pratton, Captain Foremont, lovely ball is it not? It puts me in mind of one I attended during my come-out in London. I was thrilled to be asked to dance by the most handsome boy in the room—Lord Kellerton, before he lost all his lovely golden hair and contracted the pox from his mistress.”

Gerard choked, and Miss Church-Pratton looked scandalized. Lady Wynwood was up to some sort of trick.

“I had enhanced my décolletage with some, er, strategically tucked muslin. We were engaged in a lively country dance, when a piece of muslin became untucked. You can imagine my consternation, Miss Church-Pratton. How to explain the unevenness of one’s bosom?”

Lady Wynwood stopped and looked expectantly at Miss Church-Pratton, obviously waiting for a response. The young lady actually gulped and said weakly, “Indeed.”

Gerard was forced to look away, his face flaming, unsure if he would perish from embarrassment or break a rib from holding in his laughter. He saw Miranda again. She was still looking for someone, her gloved hand fingering the paste stones at her throat that made her eyes glow like real emeralds. Compared to the more richly dressed women, she looked fresh and unspoiled, and more lovely.

But then Felicity appeared, her mouth pinched. She gripped Miranda by the elbow and dragged her out of the ballroom.

Gerard tensed, and realized he had been about to rise to go after her, rudely leaving Lady Wynwood and Miss Church-Pratton. Something about Miranda made him want to throw off all the conventions of polite society.

***

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