Friday, April 17, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 14b #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 14b

“I …” She squeezed her eyes shut as if trying to block out a horrible memory. “I know who wants to kill me.”

“Who?”

She pressed her fist to her mouth, and he saw she was trembling. He reached for her, no matter that Michael stood by the fire with an interested expression on his face, and held her hand in his own,

The eyes she raised to his were tortured. “Gerard, it is all my fault.”

“Miranda—”

“Do you remember what I told you about my parents? They hired a new nursery-maid when I was six years old, but they were unconcerned with the goings on in the nursery. Harriet …” She swallowed. “Harriet was cruel and told my parents that I was clumsy.” She absently ran her hand over her forearm. “And so my parents never questioned the bruises.”

He had to concentrate to keep from crushing her hand. A rage built up in his chest, tightening every muscle in his body. He focused on the delicate bones of her fingers, so fragile next to his. He could protect her now. He would protect her now from anyone who would harm her, because he loved her.

“It went on for two years,” Miranda said. “Then one day I found my mother’s diamond bracelet under a bush in the garden. She had put the house in an uproar because she’d lost the bracelet two or three nights before at a dinner party she’d given. The bracelet must have slipped off when she went walking in the gardens after dinner. But instead of returning it, I hid the bracelet in Harriet’s dresser. On Harriet’s day off, one of the under-maids watched me, so I casually mentioned a pretty bracelet I’d seen Harriet wearing. It took very little encouragement to get the maid to look through Harriet’s things and find my mother’s bracelet. Harriet was sacked immediately and the maid promoted to an upper-maid.”

“It’s Harriet doing this?” Michael asked. Gerard had nearly forgotten he was there. “After all these years?”

“No one else in the neighborhood would hire her,” Miranda said. “She was forced to go to London to find work, but fell on hard times. I heard that she had died, in a … brothel.”

Gerard saw the guilt in her expression. “You were only eight years old.”

“I was old enough to know it would be hard for her to find another situation once she’d been accused of theft,” Miranda said. “And later I understood what had happened to her in London. But at the time, all I felt was relief that she was gone.” Her fingers clenched hard in his palm.

“You never saw the woman in the woods,” Gerard said. “You can’t know it’s Harriet.”

“Jean, one of the maids, alluded to how I could have her sacked,” Miranda said. “She couldn’t know unless Harriet had told her. No one else knew that I had hidden that bracelet among Harriet’s things in order to get her sacked. She must have used Jean to open the garden gate so those two men could attack us.”

“No, she couldn’t have known the two of you would walk outside that night,” Michael said.

“Perhaps they would have entered the house and waited for you,” Gerard said grimly.

“It seems incredible that Harriet happened to find you,” Michael said. “And those two men—she must have hired them. There is something about this that seems odd.”

“I considered leaving,” Miranda said in a low voice.

Gerard’s heart twisted once, hard. “There is nowhere you could go. You would be like Harriet.”

“It would draw her away from all of you.”

“This is not some penance you must pay,” he said fiercely.

“We can use this to our advantage,” Michael said. “Set a trap. We nearly had them at the skating party.”

“I won’t put Miranda in danger,” Gerard told his cousin.

“She wouldn’t be. I will need to think on this.”

“We will both think on this. In the meantime, Miranda, remain close to the house and do not go anywhere alone. Since Michael is now one of the servants, he can keep an eye on you.”

Michael gave him a smug smile. “I told you it would be useful for me to be here.”

Gerard gave him a dark look. “You are useful only if you are not caught out.”

***

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