Friday, May 08, 2020

The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 18 #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 18

Gerard made his way blindly down the corridors. He knew Miranda could not have meant the callous words she had flung at him. She was not indifferent to him. She had given herself away with that kiss.

She would have refused him in order to keep him safe. The thought warmed through the cold that had seeped into his limbs. So she must have lied to him.

If she had lied, she was uncomfortably good at it. She had looked him in the eye to tell him she did not love him.

Why would she refuse him? He could offer her everything she did not have. He could protect her.

Unless, he realized bitterly, she truly did doubt his broken body’s ability to protect her from anything.

No, he knew she had lied to him about that, too.

He knew where he wanted to go. He made his way deeper into the bowels of the house, searching out the older section. The carpets were older, smelling of long winters, and wall-hangings flanked the corridors like medieval squires.

At last he stood before the wooden door to the family chapel. It was strangely shorter and narrower than he remembered, but the wood was still deeply grained, darkened with age and woodsmoke, studded with iron.

He pushed open the door, which gave a mighty creak. Colored light from the narrow stained-glass window over the altar dazzled his eyes, and it took him a moment to adjust to the darkness of the interior. Four pillars stood at attention, spreading outward at the top into the delicately vaulted ceiling. The wooden pews seemed almost crushed into the rest of the floor space since it was not a pretentiously grand chapel, being small and only modestly airy.

And near the front, Lady Wynwood turned to look at him. As soon as he saw her, he knew he needed her, even though he had not been able to articulate it to himself. He had come here to find her.

She rose and came to him, taking his hands in hers. “My dear boy, come and sit.”

He sat with her in the front pew, resting his crutches against it. But now that he was here, he could not speak. The quiet of the chapel seeped into his bones, but instead of calming him, it only made him feel more helpless and vulnerable.

Lady Wynwood let him sit for several minutes before she spoke. “Won’t you unburden yourself to me?”

“There is too much. It has shown me that I am less of a man because of it.”

“Surely not, Gerard.”

“What purpose has this served?” He gripped his knee, and pain shot down his leg. “Was I too proud? Was I in need of humbling? Did I do something that required judgement?”

“The Lord does not punish in that way.”

“But He allowed this to happen.” And therein lay the root of his problems. Because of his injury, he had not been able to protect Miranda as he would have had he been whole. He squeezed harder, sending pain spiking up his thigh.

Lady Wynwood gave him a frank look. “We think that there is a reason for everything. But the truth is that there are many reasons for everything.” She laid her hand over his, smoothing the taut knuckles. “Your knee has brought you home to your parents, to a new chapter in your life.”

Miranda had said much the same. “But this is not the chapter I wanted. Not so soon. I want to know why God has done this to me.”

Her face had become drawn, and there was a hollowness and a horror behind her eyes that he had never seen before. “That is a trail that doubles back upon itself, and then doubles again.”

He shot to his feet and limped to the altar. Dust coated the brocade cloth covering it.

“For me,” she said from behind him, “anger is not a fire. It has been like drowning, a constant thrashing about, a constant questioning, ‘Why me?’ until it utterly exhausts me.”

Perhaps she was right. He had lived with this bitterness for so many months that now he didn't know how to live without it, how to release this tightness in his soul.

“What would you suggest I do?” His voice was harsh. “Pray? Give alms to the poor?”

“Be still,” she said simply.

He turned to look at her. She had a calmness of expression that reminded him of Miranda, but the weight of her gaze spoke of past pain, of hard lessons learned.

He swung back to the altar, his fingers wrinkling the cloth. “Since coming ashore, I have not been able to be still. I had more rest when I was on board ship, in the midst of a war.”

“War has not followed you home, Gerard. There are different ways to fight the battles on land.”

“What use is God when He takes away a man’s career and leaves his body broken? What use is God if He cannot save the poor and the helpless? No one else sees her. No one else cares for her except …”

The echo of his words shouted in the small chapel rang through the silence between them. It was blasphemous of him to say such things, but they came clawing up from the bitter gall in his heart.

A rustle of cloth, then Lady Wynwood was beside him, her hand on his again. “God sees her.”

He shook his head wordlessly. How could he know that?

“God sees you,” she said. “I do not know why you were injured, but I do know He can heal you.”

The idea seeped into his mind like water into the bilges of a ship. He could be restored. “How would He do that?”

“I do not know. Perhaps in ways we cannot understand. But I have felt that healing. Miranda’s calmness—the way that she calms you—that is like the peace of God that can heal you.”

But without Miranda, he was not calm. He was still angry, and frustrated, and bitter, his own unholy trinity. How could he possibly be healed?

But if God was all powerful, then would He not see Gerard? Would He not reach him?

Lady Wynwood grasped his shoulders to turn him to face her. “Do you want to battle this for years on end?”

“No,” he said, with more certainty than he had thought he possessed.

“Dear Gerard.” She touched his cheek. “Even if you do not trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, I do. I know that one day, with His peace, you will once again be happy.”

He had no reply for her. He did not feel much different from when he had entered the chapel. Perhaps he had expected too much. His talk with her had not changed today, and today was what pained him.

Lady Wynwood walked back down the aisle and left the chapel. Gerard remained, hands still gripping the altar, still without answers, still without an idea of what he could do.

***

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