Friday, March 27, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 12b #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.

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Chapter 12b

The coach jostled over the rough road, but the ride was not long and when they emerged, the sun had also emerged from the clouds to shine brightly upon the ice of the lake. Thick forest surrounded them on all sides, making the lake seem more isolated.

Servants had gone before them, bringing skates and the two sleds that could be pushed about on the ice. They had also created fires near which people might warm themselves, and were heating cider and chocolate.

He was surprised to find Miranda not yet at the lake, especially because many of the children had come in the first coaches and were now darting about on the ice. He did not see Ellie, either.

Gerard managed to maneuver carefully on the icy ground to one of the stone benches that had been built on the upward slope on the north end. He scanned the forest beyond, but saw no movement. Well, it would hardly do to have the trap he’d set be obvious, would it?

He had just dropped to the bench, his leg trembling, when another coach arrived and Ellie shot out of it, heading directly for the skaters.

“Ellie!” Miranda had emerged, but then she saw Lady Wynwood take Ellie in hand, helping her tie on her skates, and she relaxed. More children tumbled from the coach behind her, and she helped them with their skates.

In a few minutes, she had climbed up the small rise to sit beside him. “Isn’t it a lovely day? How does your knee feel?”

“Better.” He paused, then added, “I have not yet thanked you for the poultices. And the crutches.”

“Am I forgiven, then?”

“For what?”

“For not ignoring the extent of your injury.”

His brow knit, then smoothed. “Is that what I have been doing?”

“It is not an unusual failing. I often refuse to acknowledge to myself how ill I actually am.” She looked out at the skaters on the lake. “I am sure there are many people who would prefer that you be here, injured, than at the bottom of the ocean.”

“Yes.” His doctor in London had warned Gerard of the possibility that he would never walk without a cane. But even though he knew he should be grateful, he only felt …

“I know you feel shackled,” she said.

His throat tightened, and he couldn’t speak.

“I understand the feeling of being trapped,” she added. “But I have to believe that it will not last forever.”

“Do you feel trapped in Cecil’s house?”

She sighed. “Not trapped. I am grateful that he took me in, but …”

“Yes. But.” He understood that feeling.

“I feel sometimes as though I am aboard a ship,” she said.

“Do you?”

“We are all together in the nursery wing. I do not have days off, so I must take advantage of any time I can spend by myself.”

“Miranda, even servants have days off.”

“I am a servant who is not a servant.”

He reflected on that. On board, it had been difficult to find time to him self, but they had not been on duty all the time. “Things will be better when you come to stay with us,” he said.

But as soon as he said it, he realized he could not say with certainty that he could convince his mother. He knew Lady Wynwood had also been attempting to sway her, but after the attack in the garden, his mother had intimated that since Miranda had been there for both attacks, she could not allow her to accompany Ellie. He understood her concern, but was no closer to uncovering the truth. Had the two attacks been connected?

“Would someone wish to harm you?” he asked her.

She blinked several times before adjusting to the sudden change in topic. “I … I can’t think of anyone who would wish to do so. And I have been here with Cecil’s family for almost two years, but no one has attempted to hurt me before. There have been no mysterious accidents, such as those in gothic novels.”

He had to smile at her comparison. “No evil uncle attempting to force you into marriage?”

She laughed, and the sound rang out in the stillness of the woods behind them, mingling with the laughter from the group on the pond. Ellie, skating with Paul, turned at the sound, saw her, and waved.

Miranda waved back, then pulled her cloak more tightly around her. “I am glad the weather turned cold enough for the skating party. Ellie was quite looking forward to today.”

It was then that he noticed her neck was bare. “Where is your scarf?” He remembered the grey one she’d worn during the greenery hunting party, which she’d used to staunch the blood on Ellie’s forehead.

“It was too stained.”

“Have you no other? Here.” He unwound the red and black scarf from his neck and draped it around hers.

“I cannot take your scarf.”

“Maddox, like a mother hen, gave me two.” He pulled back the edge of his cloak to show the other scarf wound underneath. He then proceeded to tie it under her chin.

She had become still, as if she had stopped breathing, although she did not look at him. He was close enough to her to smell lavender and a hint of lemon. He might have taken longer than necessary to fasten the scarf, but he was reluctant to draw away from her.

He felt both rested and vibrantly alive when he touched her, even with the bulky scarf between them. It reminded him of the night of the Christmas ball, and the kiss they’d shared.

He wanted to kiss her again.

Last night, when she’d asked him if he loved her, for one glorious moment, he had considered saying yes. It had been completely mad but completely wonderful.

But then reason had intruded. Of course he could not have come to love Miranda in only a few days. He had known her since they were children, and he was fond of her, that was the extent of it. His emotions—frustration, anger, bitterness, restlessness, sadness, and a hundred others he couldn’t define—felt like the tangled silks in his mother’s workbag. He had no room for romantic love.

“There,” he said finally, and sat back.

“Thank you, Gerard.”

He reminded himself of the reason he had attended the skating party, the reason he had positioned himself here at the most remote end of the lake.

As bait.

“Oh, goodness,” she said. Paul had gotten into a squabble with Sally down on the lake. “I beg your pardon, Gerard, but I must separate them. They already had a frightful row earlier this morning.” She hurried away, and he suddenly felt a little colder.

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