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The Spinster's Christmas - Chapter 21 #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 21

Harriet was several yards from the tree where Miranda hid. She would walk past her in a minute or two.

Then a voice drifted through the trees. “Miranda!”

Oh no. It was Gerard.

Harriet’s head swiveled around, and she searched the trees behind her.

How had Gerard found them? How had he known? She could not call to him, but she could not allow Harriet to shoot at him.

“Miranda!”

Miranda had not moved, had barely breathed, but a clump of snow from a branch above her dropped down. It collided with more snow-covered branches, and suddenly there was a cascade of snow that rained upon the ground, the only movement in the forest.

Harriet looked up. Saw Miranda hugging the tree limb. And fired the pistol.

Searing pain exploded in her shoulder. She saw stars. She felt her hands sliding over the tree bark, then forced herself to grip more tightly. But her limbs would not respond as they ought. She slid sideways on the branch and clutched at it with her legs, with her arms. Fire lanced up her shoulder.

But Harriet had fired the pistol. She could not shoot Gerard now.

Harriet gave a wordless cry of fury. Miranda risked a glance over her shoulder and had a tilted view of Harriet throwing the pistol to the ground, then rushing toward the tree. The branch began to sway beneath her hands as Harriet climbed.

“Gerard!” Miranda began to inch farther away from the trunk, from Harriet.

Running footsteps. Harriet’s two men were approaching. They would overpower Gerard.

But then she heard the sound of horses’ hooves pounding through the woods, thudding with her heartbeat. Not one horse, but at least two. Possibly three?

“Miranda!” But he was still too far away.

“Gerard!” Her cry turned into a shriek as the branch she clung to dipped violently. Her hands slipped an inch but she gripped more tightly with her legs.

“Fall, you miserable—” Harriet’s voice was horrible, like a pit of snakes and venom. She threw her body again at Miranda’s branch.

The branch of the old oak was large all around, but Miranda had moved away from the stable trunk. The branch creaked and pitched with Harriet’s weight, combined with Miranda’s. She yelped as it tilted downward for an agonizing moment, then flipped upward. Her legs slid against her skirts, loosening her grip on the branch.

Harriet began inching toward Miranda along its length.

The snorting of a horse. No, at least two horses emerging from between the trees. Men grunting, tussling along the ground.

And then the jingle of a bridle directly below her.

“Miranda, jump!” Gerard told her.

She couldn’t see him, but she remembered how far away the ground had been.

“I will catch you, I promise,” Gerard called.

He had said the same thing when they were playing Robin Hood in these woods. She had been trapped in the evil Prince John’s tower and he’d ridden up on his pony to rescue her.

As she recalled, instead of falling into his arms, she’d bounced off the rump of the pony and then tumbled to the ground. She’d also been only half as far from the ground then as she was now. But she trusted him.

She let go of the branch.

Her shriek tore from her throat as she fell, wind rushing past her ears. Her skirts caught in some twigs, making her twist in midair so that she saw Gerard’s wide eyes the moment before she collided with him. The breath was punched out of her lungs.

He swayed backward on his mount, but his arms closed tightly around her. “You’re safe. You’re with me.”

“Gerard, move!” shouted Michael.

The horse jolted forward under her, pushing her against Gerard and making him reel backward for a moment.

There was strangely no sound, then a horrible rending thud.

“Oh, God,” Mr. Drydale said.

Gerard twisted to look back, then pressed Miranda’s head against his shoulder. “Don’t look.”

“She tried to jump onto your horse,” Mr. Drydale said in a weak voice. “But she did not jump far enough …”

Miranda shuddered and buried her head against Gerard’s chest. She remembered how high she’d been off the ground. She remembered the protruding branches on the fallen tree trunk that had thrust out into the air.

“Ride back,” Michael said. “I’ll stay here with these two. Bring some rope.”

She looked toward him and saw Harriet’s two men motionless on the ground.

Gerard’s arms gathered her close as he turned the horse around. Miranda could feel his heartbeat next to her cheek, the rise and fall of each breath.

“It’s over.”

***

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