Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 11a #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 11a

December 27th

After Miranda had put the children to bed after dinner, she entered the drawing room and immediately saw Gerard in the far corner. It seemed she could always find him in a crowded room, which was why she had noticed that he had seemed preoccupied all day.

It was more than the seriousness of the situation, or frustration that the men who had attacked them had not yet been found. There was a deadness in his eyes, and an increased tension along his jaw, which made her concerned about him. It was as though he was in deep pain, but not from his body.

Tonight, he sat with his mother while a large number of the party played at Charades in front of the roaring fire. His mother watched the players and laughed at their wild antics, but Gerard barely looked at them. He was not stiff, but he was stern. His mother occasionally spoke to him, but it was obvious to Miranda that they were both irritated, although perhaps for different reasons.

Miranda had never seen Gerard like this, but she imagined this would be his expression as he stood on board his ship, the implacable captain.

She sailed across the room. “Mrs. Foremont, I know how much you enjoy music. Wouldn't you like to join the glee that is forming?” Several of the older members of the party were gathering around the pianoforte for singing. “I should be happy to sit with Gerard.”

“I do not need a nursery-maid,” he snapped.

“I fear I know not how else to behave since I am a nursery-maid,” Miranda said sweetly.

He glared at her, but with a touch less irritation than before.

His mother’s mouth had fallen open as she looked first at Miranda, then at Gerard. Her surprise only lasted a moment, however, before she said, “There is no need, Miranda. My son is my responsibility.”

Her cold words made him look away.

Mrs. Foremont had never before been unfriendly to Miranda, but perhaps it was her resistance to allowing Miranda to accompany Ellie that made her seem more aloof. Yet whatever the cause, and whatever the outcome, Miranda could not bear to allow Gerard to wallow in his foul temper. Just as she had felt compelled to interfere with him yesterday, she wished to see him smile today.

“Mrs. Foremont, do leave your curmudgeonly son to me,” Miranda urged. “Although he needs a good clout to the head to knock him out of his ill mood, I shall do my best with rousing conversation.”

“I should like to see you try,” he growled.

“The clout or the rousing conversation?”

He glowered at her.

Mrs. Foremont’s eyebrows rose as she regarded the two of them.

“Gerard, it is of no purpose for us to be at loggerheads, because I always win.” Miranda gave him a superior smile.

Gerard grunted and put his chin on his fist.

Strangely, his mother looked stricken, as if by a thought that surprised her. But there was also a touch of meekness as she nodded to Miranda. “I leave you to your fate, Miranda.” Then she added with a saucy gleam in her eye, “If only to keep from laughing in front of my son and putting him even more out of sorts.”

Yes, there was the Mrs. Foremont Miranda was used to. Gerard’s mother swept away and Miranda took her seat. “There, did that make you feel better?” she asked Gerard cheerfully.

“I am not a child.”

“No, you are not. But you were upsetting your mother.”

“It was not my behaviour that was upsetting my mother,” he said in a low voice.

“What do you mean?”

He shook his head, but she reached out to touch the back of his hand briefly, where it lay on the arm of the chair. “You look as though you have been abandoned,” she said.

“I am hardly abandoned. On the contrary, I am never left alone.”

“Not physically abandoned, but perhaps emotionally.”

He moved his hand from hers. “You are mistaken.”

But she knew she was not. She recognized that expression because she had felt it herself for so many years. “While my parents were alive, I knew I was very different from them, and they could not understand me. So they stopped trying. And I felt abandoned.”

A muscle in his neck spasmed once, then stilled.

“I know they loved me,” she said, “and yet they were apart from me.”

He was silent, and she said nothing. She had never confessed that to anyone, and yet she had just spoken as if spilling a glass of wine into his lap.

When he spoke, she could barely hear him over the glee singers at the pianoforte and the rowdy yelling of the Charades players.

“They think I may have done something unsavoury.”

She had hardly expected that. “Of course you did nothing of the sort.”

He looked at her, but she could not read his expression. “You believe me.”

“I always believe you.” She said it without thinking.

Then he smiled. She took a short breath, and then calmed herself.

“My mother asked what I had done to cause those men to attack me.”

“Oh, Gerard.”

“Lately, my mother and I are constantly at daggers drawn. But I had not expected her to know me so little that she would ask that.”

“You have been away from your family for many years. And then you were in their company for your convalescence. You are no longer their little boy. You have changed—you can hardly help having changed—and perhaps it frightens them because you are now a man, and they are uncertain of who you are.”

You did not change.”

“You are wrong. I am very different.” She was no longer that schoolgirl, and yet she felt her woman's heart reaching out to him again as she had done when she was twelve.

Their eyes met, and held. He seemed frozen, but not surprised. He reached out, and while he did not quite cup her cheek, his fingertips trailed from her cheekbone down to her jaw. He touched her as if she were a delicate flower, the centrepiece of an arrangement. Except that she was nothing of the sort. She was Miranda, who had just blurted to him that she felt abandoned.

She turned her head away, and his hand dropped.

She knew all the reasons he would not choose her. She was impoverished and his family would not wish him to marry a fortune-hunter. He would not consider the complication of a relationship with any woman while his leg had not yet healed.

She knew all the reasons she should not feel this way. Too many people in her life had failed her, and she was not willing to take the risk with someone like Gerard, who could have any woman he wanted as his wife. She could never believe he could ever love her. She had always thought that perhaps something was broken inside of her, which prevented people from caring about her.

Which prevented her from being able to open herself to anyone.

And yet she could not stop herself from wanting him as she had always wanted him. He had always been brave and kind, and he was all that still, but the experiences of his life had given him a depth and understanding that had not been there before.

And she was falling in love with him all over again. She could not stop herself.

***

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