Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 12a #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 12a

December 28th

The next morning, as Gerard lounged in bed wearing a banyan, Maddox asked in long-suffering accents, “Will you attend the skating party today, sir?”

He hesitated before answering. He had no wish to be cooped up, but he also had no wish to sit on the sidelines with the women, or worse, to be shoved about on the ice in a sled like an old man. It was also a jostling carriage ride to the particular lake that had frozen over enough for skating.

There was a knock at the door, and Maddox had no sooner opened it than Miranda's voice asked, “Is he giving you a bear garden jaw, Maddox? Or is he pouting and refusing to stir?”

“Neither, you heartless wench,” Gerard shouted to the open door.

“I have another poultice,” came the disembodied voice.

“I'll not have you freezing off my leg.”

“This one is warm.”

Gerard glowered at the doorway, then nodded to Maddox. The valet was not able to suppress a shudder as he took a cloth bag from Miranda. He bore it well ahead of himself, and Gerard understood why as he neared the bed. The cloth held a lump of steaming mash that smelled like boiled turnips and a mix of pungent herbs.

“That smells even worse than the ones before,” Gerard said.

The voice came from the doorway. “You would do well to be civil, Captain Foremont, lest Maddox accidentally spill that upon your person, allowing you to enjoy the aroma even longer.”

The corner of Maddox’s lips twitched, but his face remained impassive. “If you would, sir?”

Gerard pulled up his pantaloon leg and removed his stocking. However, as Maddox laid the mash on his knee, Gerard caught Miranda peeking into the bedroom. “Miranda!”

But she was extraordinarily unmoved by the sight of his bare limb. “Move it more over the leg muscle, Maddox,” she said. Somehow her undisturbed countenance soothed him. Perhaps it was simply the lack of fussing that he appreciated.

Suddenly there was movement at the doorway and Miranda’s head disappeared. He heard his mother’s voice, “Miranda, what are you—oh good gracious!” His mother halted in the open doorway, looking first at Gerard on his bed and Miranda just outside the room.

Gerard froze. Even with his valet here, this was highly irregular.

His mother saw the poultice, still steaming, then exhaled audibly. She swept into the room and promptly sat on the chair on the other side of Gerard's bed. “Pray continue, Maddox.”

Maddox finished wrapping the disgusting mash around Gerard’s knee. The strong scent burned his nose hairs, but he admitted the aches lessened considerably.

“Good Lord, that smells like a rat died on your leg,” his mother said.

“Thank you, madam,” he said.

“So, Gerard,” his mother said, for all the world as if a young unmarried woman were not standing outside his bedchamber, “will you join the skating party today?”

He had not intended to subject himself to the ordeal, but something in her expression made him wonder if he ought to do so. And he had a sudden idea as to how he might use the skating party to enact a plan that had been rattling about in his head for the past two days. “Had you intended to go?” he asked her.

“I shall not skate, but I will sit with you if you desire. You could also ride in a sled. Cecil will be bringing two of them, I believe.”

“Mrs. Foremont, you should ride in the sled with Mr. Foremont,” Miranda called from the doorway. Of course, being Miranda, she would not act as any other person and pretend that she could not hear every word.

His mother tried to ignore her. “I should be glad to sit with you, especially now that ...”

The heaviness settled on his chest. As an adult, he ought not to be a burden to his parents, to his mother in particular. Just as he had started gaining more independence, the attack had cast him back to the same situation of over a month ago.

“I’m certain Gerard will not lack for friends to sit with him. Miss Church-Pratton, perhaps?” Miranda peeked inside, and the look she gave him was completely unexceptionable, but he caught the devilish glint in those green eyes.

“Oh, this is ridiculous,” his mother said. “I refuse to converse with a doorway. Miranda, do come inside. Maddox, are you quite finished?”

“Indeed, madam.” His valet covered his leg discreetly with a towel as Miranda entered the bedroom. She was more hesitant than she had been last night with Ellie, but she sat quietly next to his mother. Maddox moved away and remained standing next to the open door.

“You should not curtail your amusement, Mrs. Foremont,” Miranda said. “As we know, Gerard becomes insufferable when his every whim is being fulfilled. We should not contribute to the dissolution of his moral character.”

He burst into laughter.

His mother blinked at him, then glanced uncertainly at Miranda.

“There you have it, Mother,” he said. “My immortal soul may be at risk.”

“Do not be irreverent, Gerard,” his mother scolded.

“I shall sit with him, ma’am,” Miranda said. “Surely you would rather spend time with your husband than your ill-tempered son. I am willing to sacrifice my head so no one else need do so.”

His mother hesitated, but then she suddenly smiled. She was more relaxed with him than she had been in a long time. “Gerard, I beg you not to bite Miranda's head off.”

“I will be on my best behaviour, I promise.”

Miranda rose. “Maddox, please wait a few minutes more before removing the poultice. Then you may convey your tyrannical master to the coach.”

“I am not a tyrant,” Gerard said.

“Gerard, don’t be ridiculous. Of course you are.”

He scowled at her.

She smiled, gave an elegant curtsey to him and his mother, and left the room.

His mother left soon afterwards. As Maddox helped him to dress, Gerard was forced to concede that his knee felt a great deal better. After giving the valet a message to send, Gerard made his way, on the crutches, to his parents’ coach, which would convey them to the lake. He was relieved to find his parents as his only companions, although it was because the cursed crutches were like another passenger inside.

***

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