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

“Miranda?”

She had been drowning in her thoughts for too long. She forced a smile. “When will you return to Foremont Lacy?”

“It has been let because I was away at sea when I inherited it from my grandmother.”

“You used to talk about what you would do when you inherited it, the improvements to the house and farm.”

“Those were the boastings of a foolish boy.” He gave a half-smile. “I know now that I know nothing of farm management.”

“You can learn from your father. Isn't it like ordering your men aboard ship?”

“I suppose, but I would need to know the orders to give, else I would make the men completely bewildered.” His gaze drifted to his knee. “I had thought I would do all this when I was older.”

“Perhaps it is better to learn while you are young, and your father is young.” She hesitated, then said, “I know you are unhappy on shore, but I think you could come to enjoy it.”

“I shall have to, or life will be intolerable.” His voice was sad and only slightly tinged with bitterness.

“You have always risen to challenges. This will be as great a challenge as any you have faced on board your ship. Are you averse to running the farm at Foremont Lacy?”

“Not at all. I always expected to do so, and eventually take over my father's farm, too.” His gaze fell on his knee again. “Perhaps you are right. I will be able to ride a horse soon and can follow my father and his steward.”

She hadn't realized how tense her shoulders had become until they relaxed. She’d had no illusions that she would cheer him up immediately, but she’d hoped that the thought of Foremont Lacy as a place for him to escape would comfort him, especially now when he was hurting from the suspicions of his parents. “Or perhaps you will bowl along in a dogcart like Squire Bigsby used to do.”

“Good old Squire Bigsby. I would need a dog as mangy as his.”

“There is a litter in the stables. If you ask him, I am certain Cecil will give you the runt.”

“I would expect no less from Cecil.”

A roar of laughter from the Charades players filled the room. However, when the noise had died, Gerard turned to her with an uncomfortable set to his shoulders. “Miranda, I know you did not wish to speak of this, but we must.”

She knew what he wanted to speak about, and the flash of remembrance of his arms around her, his lips pressed to hers, involuntarily sent a tremble of joy through her. She did not expect to be kissed again in her lifetime, and Gerard's kiss would be her brightest memory. “We must forget it happened.”

“We cannot hide in the closet like we used to do and let the world pass by outside,” he said. “My actions have bound me to you. I will do the honourable thing.”

It was her escape from Cecil and from the Beattys, and yet she wanted to be honourable as well. It would be wrong to trap him into marriage, a man who did not love her, who would resent her. A marriage of convenience would be all her convenience and none of his. He had no need of a wife, no desire for one.

And even aside from that, she didn't want the honourable thing from him. She wanted passion and a friendship deeper than any other. And yet perversely, she could not take that step to open herself up to anyone. She had simply been alone for too long. “Gerard, do you love me?”

She thought she knew what she would see in his eyes, and had steeled herself for it. But she hadn't expected the warmth of his surprise. He was speechless, and so she rushed forward. “Of course you do not. I will not shackle you to a woman you do not love. It is not what I wish.”

“Miranda—”

“And Gerard, if you married me, your family would call me a fortune-hunter. Your mother would be so distressed.”

“Miranda—”

“So I have refused your proposal. You are free.”

He gave her a dry look. “I did not actually propose.”

“Oh. Well, I have saved you the trouble.”

“If you would allow me to put in a word edgewise, I would say—”

Some of the Charades players suddenly called his name, and Miss Church-Pratton crossed the room to tug playfully at his arm. “Come join us, Captain, do, for we believe the next clue has something to do with water.”

Miss Church-Pratton, of course, did not acknowledge Miranda's presence, and Gerard rose from his chair in response to her entreaties and those of the other family members. However, he surprised Miranda by leaning close to tell her, “We have not finished discussing this, Miranda.”

He collected his crutches and made his way to the Charades players. Miranda rose to leave the room, but he glanced at her as she paused in the doorway. It was as though he had reached out to touch her across that distance. Her heart pulsed faster.

She took a deep breath and then exited the room, almost running up the stairs. 

Why couldn't her girlhood infatuation have simply withered away? Why must he be so noble, and she so fearful?

Because yes, she was afraid of him. She was afraid of opening herself up to him. She was afraid that Gerard's fondness for her would dry up into a brittle embrace like that of her parents.

She would be grateful to him and the Foremonts if they would allow her to stay with them, but she could not stay for long. Once Ellie was comfortable, once Lady Wynwood was able to take her, she would go. She would find a position far away. She would never see him again, until he was old and married.

She stifled the sob that caught painfully in her throat, and hurried up to the nursery.

***

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