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The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 13a #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 13a

December 29th

She was wearing his scarf.

Gerard made his way out through the portico on the south side of the house, placing the crutches carefully on the icy stones. It had snowed last night, a few inches, and the children were having a rousing snowball fight on the south lawn. Miranda sat on a bench at the edge of the flagstone terrace, and his red and black scarf around her neck was a splash of color on the white landscape beyond her.

She turned and saw him as he exited the house. Her face was pale, and for a moment she looked apprehensive. Then she gave a small smile that commanded the wind and waves of his anxiety to be still. The air sliced through his nose and lungs, but despite the cold, he reveled in the clean scent of freshly fallen snow, of firs and woodsmoke.

She rose and walked towards him. “You should be resting.”

“It is the case of the pot and kettle brangling with each other,” he said.

“I do not brangle.” Her eyes crinkled. “And I was not injured.”

“You were attacked, the same as I.” His voice was too forceful, and he took a breath before continuing. “It frightened me.”

A whisper of emotion passed over her face. It reminded him of a child pressing her nose to the glass of a candy shop. Then it was gone, and she was the same calm, dependable Miranda.

“Come sit.” She pointed to the bench. “I have swept the snow from it.”

She walked beside him as he made his way to the edge of the flagstones. “Miranda,” he said in a low voice, “you should not be sitting alone. It is not safe—those men were focused upon you.”

She said nothing. She dipped her head so he could not see her face beyond the edge of her bonnet.

“Miranda, you cannot avoid this discussion.”

Still she said nothing.

He sighed. “I will bring up the other topic of conversation you wish to avoid if you do not speak.”

“Oh for goodness' sake.” She looked at him then, her cheeks pink.

It made him want to kiss her again.

However, he missed his chance, because she looked away again, hiding behind the edge of her bonnet. “Everyone is gossiping about the attack. I have been circumspect in what I have said about it, although I am not certain whether that is the wisest course.”

Gerard remembered the tense conversation with Cecil, Mr. Belmoore, and his father. “It is. No one knows that the men specifically wanted you except for myself and, er …”

“That man who helped me? Who was he?”

“It was my cousin, Michael. Did you never meet him?”

“Perhaps when we were children, but not in the past several years. You said that you had sent for someone to help us—it was Michael?”

“Yes. I had gone to the skating party in hopes that the men would attack me. Michael was lying in wait to ambush them.”

“Ah.” She nodded. “That was a good plan.”

“It was? It didn’t work.”

“It was still a good plan.”

In the midst of the distant snowball fight, Ellie caught sight of her and Gerard and waved.

Miranda waved back. “I cannot avoid the children, but I did not wish to be near them, in case …”

They had nearly reached the bench, but he stepped on a patch of ice and his foot slid out sideways, catching her ankle. The sudden pressure on the opposite crutch sent it skidding in the other direction. He had a view of wildly spinning sky, and then the hard smack of the stones beneath his back, the clatter of his falling crutches. Miranda also gave a little squeak and fell with him, her cloak and skirts tangled around his foot.

“Miranda, are you—”

She burst into laughter.

In the sound of her laugh, his crutches, the symbol of his weakness and the root of his bitterness, lost some of their evil. In the sound of her laugh, he was not a cripple, but a man lying tangled in the skirts of a beautiful woman on a beautiful winter day.

Hang her relations, who might see them from the windows of the house behind them. He wanted to cup her face and kiss her senseless.

He had fallen in love with her.

He might have fallen in love with her the moment she stepped into his family's coach. He remembered the rush when he'd seen her, the notion that she was linked to him. He had known her for most of his life, but he had fallen in love with her this past week as he had seen how she fit with him, like a key in a lock.

Her laughter had died to gasping breaths. “Come, Gerard, the ground is too cold.”

Her words were too mundane for what he was feeling. And yet what could he say? Confess his love? Propose to her? He’d sound like a madman.

He was so much less than he had been. He was still uncomfortable with the thought of offering himself to any woman, but especially Miranda. He knew that she would accept him, she would willingly shoulder the burden of his care.

He did not wish to do that to her, to be yet another person who needed something from her.

They sat on the bench, and despite the pain in his leg, his body felt so much more alive than it had in months. Miranda had done this to him. Love had done this to him.

“Miranda—”

“Miranda!” The governess hurried toward her. “Paul is quite upset because Sally is wearing his mittens rather than her own. Would you fetch hers from the nursery and put Paul’s mittens away?” She gave Miranda a set of blue mittens.

“Of course. If you’ll excuse me, Gerard?” And then Miranda was gone, leaving only a whiff of lavender and lemon behind her.

Gerard sat there feeling nonplussed. What had he been about to say to her? What could he say? He was being a complete lackwit.

Well, that was nothing unusual.

***

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