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The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 20 #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 20

It was purely his foul mood that led Gerard to the library. Soon the bell would sound to dress for the New Year’s Eve dinner party, but he only wanted a glass or two of Cecil’s mediocre brandy.

He had never before proposed to a woman. It was just his luck that he would receive such a resounding refusal on his first attempt.

And then he’d kissed her like a desperate schoolboy.

And then she’d kissed him.

And then …

He knew logically she had been deliberately trying to push him away, but the word had been like a blow to his stomach.

She knows how to hurt you, old chap. T’would be best not to get close to anyone at all.

No. Miranda might live her life by that sentiment, but he would show her that to live without love was worse.

Her kiss had simply reinforced the fact that Miranda anchored him. Home, for him, was wherever she was.

His thoughts drew him to the library windows, which was why he immediately saw Michael running across the south lawn, carrying a child.

Ellie.

Gerard hobbled out of the library and nearly broke his neck racing down the stairs.

“Captain Foremont!” Mr. Drydale sounded from the landing above him but Gerard did not stop until he met Michael in the large circular entry hall. Ellie was crying, partly from the jostling of Michael’s running and partly from fear of the stranger holding her. She reached for Gerard as soon as she saw him, and he had to drop a crutch in order to take her in his arms.

“Miranda,” Michael panted. “Coach. Harriet.”

Ice water dashed down his spine. “Where?”

Michael shook his head. “Carriage.”

Yes, they could overtake a coach with Cecil’s lightest carriage. But Ellie …

“I’ll drive.” Mr. Drydale suddenly appeared at his elbow. “Lieutenant, run ahead to the stables to tell the grooms. Captain, give Ellie to Laura.”

Laura? Gerard looked around and saw Lady Wynwood hurrying down the stairs. “What is it?”

“I’ll explain later.” Gerard handed over Ellie, who went willingly to Lady Wynwood.

Michael had already disappeared. Mr. Drydale handed Gerard his dropped crutch and the two of them headed to the stables. Once there, they discovered the horses just being harnessed to Cecil’s carriage, but the grooms were reluctant to saddle a horse for Michael until Mr. Drydale shouted at them.

While they waited, Michael explained, “I happened to see Miranda and a maid walking toward the forest. It looked suspicious because Miranda knows she’s in danger and she wouldn’t leave with only a maid. I followed and saw a strange woman with a travelling coach stopped on the south track. Ellie was already there in the coach. They traded Miranda for Ellie, as well as a bag of coins for the maid.”

“That’s how they got Miranda out of the house,” Gerard said. “The woman was Harriet?”

“Yes. I waylaid the maid and Ellie when they headed back to the house,” Michael said. “I let the maid go in order to get Ellie back here quickly. The coach is going to London.”

They could still stop them. Michael had found them quickly because by the grace of God Gerard had been at those library windows and Mr. Drydale had seen Gerard rushing down the staircase.

Mr. Drydale was the better driver and took the reins, driving expertly along the road at a frantic pace. Gerard explained about Harriet and Miranda.

“There is only one road they can take to London until they reach the turnpike road,” Mr. Drydale said. “We will be able to overtake them before then.”

Seated beside him, Gerard felt useless, helpless. When he was able to do something, to occupy his hands, he could focus. Now, his thoughts crowded in his mind like cackling demons. He pushed them aside with difficulty.

God help me, I can’t fail her now.

And then he heard a voice that was not a voice. She is in My hands. Be at peace.

The demons ceased. His mind cleared.

He would find her. He knew because even though his injury had sent him back to England, it was here that he had found Miranda. The tightness in his chest eased, like the sting of a burn slowly fading.

Then they rounded a bend and saw a coach stopped along the side of the road. Michael, riding ahead of them, had already pulled up and dismounted.

“Whoa!” Mr. Drydale reined in the horses.

The coach was empty, the door open. The horses hitched to it were placid hacks who seemed only too glad for a rest and barely twitched an ear at the newcomers.

Gerard jumped down from the carriage, landing hard on his good leg and just barely preventing himself from falling by sticking out one of his crutches.

“You fool,” Mr. Drydale shouted to him.

Gerard ignored him, because a flash of red and black had caught his eye.

It lay on the ground toward the edge of the woods. He knew it before he had reached it and picked it up. His scarf, the one he had given to Miranda. He looked out into the woods, but saw nothing but trees and snow and shadow.

“She escaped.” Gerard couldn’t help the smile that pulled at his mouth.

“They went after her into the woods,” Michael said.

“Unhitch one of the gig horses. I must go after them.”

“Your leg—”

“Hang my leg!”

He hadn’t ridden a horse for months even before his accident, and he did not have the leg strength to guide it with his knees. But he could not make his way through the woods with his blasted crutches and he would not be left behind.

The horses were unhitched, and Gerard did not even feel a frisson of irritation that he needed Michael’s help to slide on bareback. He hissed as the position stretched and pulled painfully at the tendons in his joint, but pointed the horse quickly toward the woods.

He rode as fast as he dared, Mr. Drydale several yards to his left and Michael on his right. Low-hanging branches nearly took his head off a few times, so he crouched down over the horse’s neck. Pain pounded up his knee with each step the horse took, but he gritted his teeth and rode on. Even if he could not walk after he slid down from this horse, he would not go back until he found her.

“Miranda!” His voice sounded strangely muffled, surrounded as they were by the trees and snow. He strained it to call more loudly, “Miranda!”

Then suddenly came the sound of a single gunshot.

***

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