Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 12c #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.

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Chapter 12c

As the morning wore on, others from the party came to sit with him. At one point, Miss Church-Pratton chatted incessantly with him for half an hour. Miranda was speaking to Mrs. Peterson, the rector’s wife, but Gerard finally managed to catch her eye. She smiled at him, and within a few minutes, Lady Wynwood joined him again. This time, Miss Church-Pratton remained only a minute before leaving.

“You are fortunate,” Lady Wynwood said. “Sir Horace has become a rival for Miss Church-Pratton’s hand.”

“I am certain I can withstand the disappointment. Who is the gentleman?”

She nodded to an elderly man who had joined Mr. Sol Drydale near one of the fires next to the lake. “He is a relative of Mrs. Barnes, and indecently wealthy. However, I assure you that you are much more handsome.”

“The curse of a pretty face. Shall I have Mr. Drydale plant me a facer to break my nose?”

I can do that for you.” She grinned at him. “I am out of sorts with Sol. He mentioned to me that Sir Horace is a fine judge of horseflesh, so when I was introduced to him, I asked him about his stable. Did you know that he has fifty-nine horses?”

“That is a great many.”

“Yes, especially when Sir Horace proceeded to recite the lineage of each and every one of them.”

He laughed.

Lady Wynwood turned toward the lake before them. “What a lovely view you have here. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork, indeed.”

“I would not have expected the woman who speaks of muslin enhancements at a ball to be so well-versed in Scripture.”

“Fashion foibles and a vulgar sense of humor do not preclude a sense of the spiritual. I do not find muslin enhancements unholy.”

“Yes, ma’am, I see that.”

“Do you? We are none of us saints, Gerard.” Her light brown eyes had turned golden in the sunlight. She absently touched the narrow streak of silver at her temple, barely visible against the blond hair mostly hidden by her bonnet. It appeared she did not notice she was doing it. “We would do well to always remember that, lest we become self-righteous and hypocritical. But by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are forgiven our sins, such as they are.”

He felt suddenly as though he were on holy ground. Her words touched something in his soul that he did not quite understand. “None of us like to dwell on our sins, I think.”

“Of course not, but I have come to appreciate a good confessional prayer. It is like giving my heart a good scrubbing. When I am here at Wintrell Hall, I pray in the chapel nearly every midday.”

“I did not know that. Did you always do so?”

Her gaze became distant and burdened. “No. Only in the past ten years or so.”

Down by the shore, Mrs. Hathaway waved frantically to them.

“Oh, there’s Augusta waving to us to return. Gerard, I nearly forgot to mention that your mother had a message for you. She and your father left earlier and I am to take you back to the house in my carriage. Shall I assist you?”

His knee would pain him when he stood, and he had no wish to be helped anywhere. “No, I shall follow in a moment.”

“Very well. Don’t dawdle.” But before she moved away, she said, “I am still speaking to your mother about Miranda. I believe she may be having a change of heart, although I am not yet certain.”

He bowed as she left. The children had been called in from the ice and the party were all heading back to the house. Automatically, as he used to do when they were children, he began to count the heads of the young ones. Twenty-seven. Hadn’t there been twenty-eight in total? How many children had arrived at the lake? Perhaps one of them had remained at the house, or returned earlier.

Gerard grasped his crutches and heaved himself up. Because he had been sitting for so long, his knee immediately responded with the pain of a thousand knife blades stabbing into it. He gritted his teeth and bowed his head, waiting for the wave to pass.

He caught Miranda’s eye and signalled to her. As she approached, he asked, “How many children came to the lake?”

“Twenty-eight.”

“A moment ago, I counted only twenty-seven.”

She immediately frowned and stared down at the children, her lips moving silently. “You are correct. It is easier to count from this vantage point.”

“Who is missing?”

“I do not see Paul, do you?”

He scanned the heads. Paul had been wearing a bright maroon cap. “No, I do not see him.”

“I think I know where he is. He and the others made a snow fort in the woods earlier this morning.” She gestured behind him, toward the tree line.

Alarm shot through him. “I will come with you.”

She glanced at him suspiciously, but only said, “Come along, then.” She tramped into the woods.

Although he had to hurry to catch up to her, he found it a relief that she did not try to argue with him or treat him differently because of his injury. But this was Miranda, and she never responded in the way one might expect.

Then, when they were deep enough into the woods to have lost sight of the lake, they were attacked.

The men came from a different direction than the one he had been anticipating. Miranda was only two feet in front of him when one of the same men from the garden suddenly rushed at her, throwing a sack over her head. She shrieked but her voice was muffled by fabric caught in her mouth. The man tossed her over his shoulder.

***

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