Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 10a #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 10a

December 26th

The day after the attack, Gerard awoke early in the morning to stabbing pain in his entire leg. His knee had swelled as large as the Christmas pudding, and the throbbing had kept him from falling asleep.

He had never been a docile patient, but injury had always made him feel like a baited bear, and inclined to roar just as loudly. Such was his peevish temper when his father’s valet, Maddox, entered his bedroom earlier than usual. Gerard should have been grateful he had come, but the agony in his knee had somehow traveled up his body into a headache raging against the backs of his eyeballs.

“What do you want?” he demanded.

“I have a poultice, sir, sent by Miss Miranda.”

“Well, you can take it away,” he said perversely. He ought to do something to alleviate the pain in his knee, yet at the same time he wanted to be left alone to suffer in silence.

“I believe she rose early this morning to make this for you, sir,” Maddox said, unimpressed by his master’s ill temper.

“Oh, very well.”

The valet folded back the sheets and gently rolled up his nightclothes to expose his knee. The cool air seemed to make the injured limb hiss. Then Maddox retrieved the cloth-wrapped bundle he’d brought into the room and laid it on Gerard’s bare skin.

“Maddox, that's an icicle!” he roared. “I thought poultices were warm.”

“It's what Miss Miranda gave to me, sir.”

It was uncomfortable, and it did nothing to improve his mood, although his knee felt slightly better after Maddox removed the poultice.

“Shall I fetch breakfast for you, sir?”

“No. I refuse to remain swaddled in bedclothes all day.”

The valet did not quite roll his eyes at him, but his expression clearly indicated his master’s son deserved a good spanking. “Very good, sir.”

However, when he attempted to walk from his bed to the dressing table, he only barely made it to the chair in front of the fireplace before collapsing, his knee throbbing and sweat running in rivulets down his face. The realization that his cane was no longer sufficient to support him made him want to fling it across the room, except for the fact that he didn't want to have to crawl to reclaim it in order to get back into bed.

“Perhaps if you would return to bed, sir?”

“Leave me alone, Maddox,” he barked.

However, at that moment came a gentle knock at the door behind him. He heard it open, and then Miranda’s voice said, “These are for your master, Maddox. I found them in the nursery attics.” The door had closed by the time Gerard twisted around to see what she’d brought.

Maddox held a pair of crutches. A more cowardly retainer would have acted with more caution, but Maddox bore the crutches aloft like a gift presented to the king.

Gerard was about to tell him where he could fling them, but bit his tongue. He exhaled long and low, then said, “Bring them here.” How had Miranda guessed the cane would no longer suffice?

The crutches were a trifle short, but they had been carved with wide stumps, no doubt to allow them to be used with ease out of doors. He ought to be grateful for Miranda's thoughtfulness, but they were a bitter reminder that he had cast crutches aside for his cane weeks ago, but must now take them up again.

Dressing was more of an ordeal than he anticipated, and he resentfully stumped out of his bedroom, determined not to remain cooped up despite his injury.

Miranda was in the hallway with Ellie. Waiting for him.

“Randa said you would not stay in bed,” Ellie said to him. “Let's play jack-straws.”

“I did not come out of my room to play jack-straws,” he replied grumpily.

“You came out of your room to test your new crutches,” Miranda said, calm and cheerful. “Let us walk with Gerard, Ellie.”

And of course he lasted no farther than the drawing room, where the women had gathered with embroidery and knitting while the men were out shooting. They erupted in cries of dismay and fluttered about as he sank onto a settee, cosseting him as if he were a babe.

“You shouldn’t be up and about,” Mrs. Hathaway scolded him.

“To think those men would attack you in the garden, of all places,” another woman said.

“They might have invaded the house and murdered us all in our beds.”

“They were more likely after the silver. Probably aided by an unscrupulous servant.”

“Well, Cecil has at least instructed the servants to be more vigilant in guarding the house.”

“Do sit here, Captain Foremont. Here is a cushion for your foot.” Miss Church-Pratton indicated the seat next to her.

“It’s his knee that’s bothering him, not his foot, you ninny,” said Lady Skinnerton acidly.

Miranda, the wretch, stood to one side and watched him, smiling faintly at his chagrin. It was as though she could read his mind—he'd rather have played jack-straws with Ellie. She had known he wouldn’t have the strength in his knee to make it to any other room in the house. Then she and Ellie left him to the tender ministrations of Miss Church-Pratton and Mrs. Hathaway.

***

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