Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 15 #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 15

The bell to dress for dinner had already rung, but something drew Laura, Lady Wynwood, past her bedroom and up the stairs to an older section of the house. She followed a winding route she remembered well from her childhood, taking her from staircase to hallway to staircase, always climbing upward. At the top of the last narrow set of stairs, she wrestled with the door, but it eventually flung open to the pressure of her shoulder against it, and she was out on the rooftop of Wintrell Hall.

The brick cupola, slit with glass to let light fall into the great front hall far below, was flanked by two small turrets, one containing the door out of which she stepped. The wind whistled harder at this height, but she’d brought her fur-edged cloak, and the fresh bite of the cold air made her feel awake and alive.

A brick parapet ringed the cupola, and she passed through an opening to walk around and view the countryside. She could see the tracks in the snow on the front lawn where the children had had a snowball fight this morning, while beyond the trees glistened with the snow and ice dripping from their branches. Farther out, the pasturelands lay in squares and rectangles, broken by hedgerows and the dark line of the river. The setting sun was just starting to turn the sky rosy and golden.

Her thoughts wandered. The cold stung her cheeks but the view was too beautiful to leave it, the peace too delicious to want to stop soaking in it.

But then the sound of the door opening made her turn, and Miranda stepped out onto the roof.

Her eyes—oh, her eyes were like those of the dead.

She made as if to leave, but Laura held out her hand. “Come enjoy the view with me.”

Miranda hesitated for so long, Laura was not certain she would join her. But then she stepped through the opening in the parapet on slow feet and came to stand beside her.

“I did not mean to interrupt you,” Miranda said.

“You did not, my dear.”

“The first bell has rung.”

“Yes, I know, but …” Laura took a deep breath. “It is all your fault.”

“Mine?” Her green eyes were hazel in the rose-orange light.

“You are so restful, Miranda, and I … I am like Gerard, always wanting to do something. And so I am here, seeking peace, seeking the Lord.”

Miranda’s gaze flicked away.

“Is that why you are here?” Laura asked.

Miranda’s mouth opened, searching for the words to say. “I don’t know,” she finally said. Her jaw worked. It seemed to Laura that Miranda’s emotions were crawling under her skin and she was struggling to keep them in.

Laura would have asked, but something almost like a physical touch stayed her voice. So instead, she turned to drink in the view and remained silent.

Laura worried that Miranda would simply return inside, but she stood there beside her for several long minutes.

“Coming up here reminds me of how small I am,” Miranda said.

“Yes, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Hebrews.”

Miranda blinked. “That’s in the Bible?”

“Of course, my dear. Why does that surprise you?”

She frowned. Her gaze remained on the view, but Laura could tell that she didn’t see it. “I … I never thought God would be mindful of me.”

“Whyever not? He created you. He loves you more deeply than any parent ever could.”

Miranda’s jaw grew hard, and her eyes grew sad. “That would not be difficult. I never mattered to them.”

Laura had a sudden memory of a summer day here at Wintrell Hall, and Miranda’s mother complaining to her and Augusta about how, during the season in London, they had not been able to find a man to take Miranda off their hands.

“My dear.” Laura turned Miranda to face her. “If you believe nothing else I tell you, believe this. You matter to God, a great deal, and He loves you exactly the way He made you.”

She gave a little shake of the head. “Why would God see someone like me?”

“Come, I will tell you a story.” Laura threw her arm around Miranda and led her around the cupola. “There was a slave who was mistreated by her mistress, so she ran away. But God saw her in the wilderness and spoke to her.”

Miranda’s brow wrinkled, but she said nothing.

Laura continued, “People in those days liked naming things, so she gave God another name. She called him, Thou God seest me.”

By now, they had reached the other side of the cupola. In the dome, the rectangular panels of glass had circular designs within them, and the setting sun shone through a circle, looking a bit like an eye. Laura stopped. “She was only a slave, but He saw her, Miranda.”

Miranda looked at the orange light for a few seconds, but then turned her face away. Laura saw her expression and was haunted by it, because it was despair.

I see you, Miranda,” Laura said. “And I have to believe God will find a way for you out of these troubles.”

“Yes,” Miranda said, but absently. “I must go.” She headed toward the turret door, but then she suddenly turned and embraced Laura in a fierce hug.

She was gone in a moment, passing through the door and down the narrow staircase.

Laura stood there, her heart throbbing hard and slow. Miranda’s hug had almost seemed like good-bye.

***

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