Friday, February 28, 2020

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

“Look at Mrs. Drew, glaring daggers at me,” Lady Wynwood said. “She and my mother are mortal enemies, did you know?”

“If your mother is anything like yourself, I find it hard to believe anyone could dislike her,” Gerard said.

“Oh, you rogue.” Lady Wynwood squeezed his arm. “A year or two ago, at a rout, she and my mother had such a row that Mrs. Drew began waving her cane about, and she popped a poor young man between the legs.”

Miss Church-Pratton made a strangled sound. Her face had turned a dark puce color that clashed with her pink dress. She plied her fan frenetically and her gaze darted about the ballroom with desperation.

The country dance ended, and a young man approached, one of the squire’s sons. He was a stout lad, full of his own consequence and certain he was the catch of the county. “Miss Church-Pratton, are you free for the next dance?”

“Yes.” She nearly dragged him out to form one of the sets.

“Good gracious,” Lady Wynwood said. “I thought I would need to start reciting the contents of my linen closet before she would leave.”

Gerard turned his guffaw into a cough. “She probably would have remained if you had spoken of something so tame as your linen closet.”

“Young people these days are so starched up. We were much more scandalous in my time, I assure you. That was quite entertaining. I am so glad Miranda sent me to you.”

Miranda had known exactly how to rescue him. Gerard was grateful to her, and yet also a bit ashamed because he had not been able to help her in her acute time of need.

“I have spoken to your mother, Gerard,” Lady Wynwood said. “I believe she may be more concerned about Miranda’s status as a single young woman living under your roof.”

The ballroom grew suddenly stifling. “I offered to move to Foremont Lacy.”

“It is too near.” Lady Wynwood regarded him shrewdly. He feared for a moment that she would bring up his marital plans, but she apparently changed her mind. “I shall speak to her again. We must not give up hope. Now, help me to the sofa in the drawing room. Miss Barnes’s chair is terribly uncomfortable.”

“You could have ordered Miss Church-Pratton to relinquish her seat rather than Miss Barnes,” he said with a smile.

“I chose Miss Barnes because it was easier to send her away,” Lady Wynwood said as Gerard took her arm and helped her to her feet. “Miss Church-Pratton is remarkably stubborn. Just like her mother. One day I shall tell you all about it.”

He gave her his arm, and she entertained him with disreputable stories about herself and others, which he was not entirely certain were truthful, until they walked between the open double doors to the drawing room and he deposited her upon a sofa. “May I fetch anything for you, my lady?”

“No. I shall send one of my young cousins to procure me a cup of wassail and add a splash more sherry to it. One of them is sure to know where Cecil keeps his secret cache.”

Gerard obliged her by signaling to one of Mrs. Hathaway’s sons to attend to her before he returned to the ballroom. As he did, he noticed Felicity returning to the room, her face the mask of the gracious hostess, but without Miranda. He waited, but she did not appear behind Felicity.

The dance was nearing its end, and he did not wish to be trapped again by Miss Church-Pratton, so he quickly exited the room to search for Miranda. He had not looked forward to the ball, although he was obliged to attend, and he had not predicted the company of Miss Church-Pratton, whom he had assumed would dance with all the young men. He would rather speak to Miranda. And then perhaps he would retire rather than watching the rest of the dancing.

He looked down the hallway outside the ballroom, but at first he saw no one. Then he peered into the shadows at the end of the hallway, and saw a figure leaning against the wall. He headed toward her.

It was only when he drew near that he realized something was wrong. Her hand over her stomach trembled. Her face was whiter than the painted walls.

“Miranda.”

She saw him, and something in her eyes made him think of the faces of men who were drowning.

He strode forward, his cane dropping to the ground, and he folded her in his arms.

***

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