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Duke Buys Widow

This morning the Teatime Tattler received reports that the Duke of Ravensmere—in an unusual gesture—outbid a salacious rogue for the lunch basket of Lady Samantha Winston, a merry widow, who has captured his interest and his pocketbook for the outrageous sum of one thousand pounds. One gathers it was all for a good cause, but one has to wonder what other plans the noble duke has for this lady? Follow this column for more information tomorrow. Tonight they attend the fancy dress ball where under our reporter will reveal all that transpires under his curious eyes. Is it possible the duke is smitten with the beautiful green-eyed copper-haired lady?

A Later Update:

DukeYour reporter fears that Lady Samantha Winston gazed over the Duke of Ravensmere’s shoulder and caught sight of said reporter leaning against a tree scribbling on my small pad of parchment. She was heard to whisper to a friend,  “Who was he and was he a friend or enemy? If a foe, what evil intent did he have? And who was the victim?”  Forced to move away, I gave up. What indeed happened at the so-called charitable auction? And what will be the outcome?

An excerpt from ONE NIGHT WITH A DUKE

Her attention returned to the Reverend Carlson who stepped to the podium and announced the auction of ladies lunch baskets would begin for the Winston School Foundation’s charitable event. The Reverend read the individual menus and managed to make each sound like a gastronomical feast. One hundred pounds would not be an uncommon sum to be offered and accepted. When it came to Lady Samantha’s turn, she twirled a curl around her finger perhaps to calm her uneasiness.

The Reverend pounded his gavel again and asked for the first bid. Sir Roger Dudley, a well-known libertine, offered one hundred pounds. A silence thundered through the crowd. To the Raven, the Duke of Ravensmere, it appeared a moment of uncertainty crossed Samantha’s sweet face. Their conversation about rakes and disreputable men came to his mind. Her worst fears were now at her doorstep. He gazed upon hands that clutched the handle of her basket with whitened knuckles. Raven took note of this and perceived Samantha as vulnerable. An impossible urge to protect her came over him. She’d placed herself in this position. Damnation.

Anyone who looked as she did in that dress should expect men to offer for her and the picnic lunch. Beautiful and seductive, mere words would be insufficient to compliment her….

Samantha’s wide eyes seemingly implored Raven to help. How could he not come to her rescue?

He raised his walking stick and caught the attention of the minister. He spoke out with deep clarity, “And five pounds, Reverend.”

Lord Dudley peered at the bidder, nodded, and raised his sum to two hundred pounds.

Raven lifted his walking stick. “And five pounds, Reverend.”

Lord Dudley appeared amused and raised the bid to three hundred pounds.

Raven raised his walking stick. “And five pounds, Reverend.” The guests stopped their conversations to watch how the challenge would end.

Lord Dudley raised the bid to five hundred pounds.

The audience gasped at the extravagant sum.

Raven nodded. He stole a glance at Samantha, enjoying the experience. He raised his hand, and silence befell the group.

The Reverend asked, “And five pounds, Your Grace?” with a chuckle.

“No, good Reverend,” answered Raven. He engaged Samantha’s eyes. Her expression was one of blatant terror as her hand lay at her throat. He bestowed a knowing smile to calm her.

The auction appeared over and dreaded silence followed. The Reverend set about to announce the winner until Raven spoke in a resonant tone with the utmost alacrity, “I bid one thousand pounds.”

The hushed assembly looked almost in unison to Lord Dudley, who laughed. “Enough of this

amusement. No damn lunch is worth that kind of money,” he grumbled and walked toward the duke. “I capitulate, Your Grace. Good sport, don’t you think?”

Raven rose from the chair, handed the appropriate bank voucher to the Reverend, and stepped lively to Samantha and her picnic basket. “Shall we?” He extended his arm. Samantha clung to his left arm, and he became cognizant of her quaking. He took her expensive picnic basket in his right hand. “Stay calm. I’m here and you are under my protection. No harm will befall you.” Raven escorted her to a secluded table, which he had prearranged, and his name appeared on a place marker. It adhered to propriety while offering privacy.

“You did want me to offer, didn’t you?” Raven shook his head and grinned since he now admitted he had every intention of offering for her costly basket. He much wanted to be with the enchantress. Samantha enriched his life in ways he dared not imagine. He couldn’t remember a day he enjoyed more and looked forward to the evening.

Samantha flushed and said in a cool utterance,

“Thank you, Your Grace. You’ve saved me from a horrible fate and I am grateful.”

She lifted the lid of the basket, but he grasped her gloved hand with superb gentleness.

“Allow me. I can’t remember when I have enjoyed the outlay of so much money before. Of a

certain, there are no dull moments when you’re around. I do believe you are a sorceress. I couldn’t allow Lord Dudley to attempt to compromise you in any way.” To protect her at all costs became a necessity to him.

“As you have stated, it’s for a cherished cause, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Your Grace. Congratulations. However, I would remind you, I cannot be purchased with such ease.”

“Perish the thought. I’m well aware of the fact. I bid for a few hours of your time. Don’t read anything into my actions and let it discomfit you. If lunch with me is so distasteful, I am prepared to leave you alone.” He realized he was a bit curt, but it appeared with her, the conversation always held a challenge. Raven rose from the chair…

The gentle hand that restrained him relieved Raven. Samantha removed her gloves and placed them in her reticule. “I fear you might have misunderstood me,” she said with a sly smile. “I’m happy to be with such a handsome man at this event. Because of you, its success has exceeded any expectations. There will be sufficient funds for the school. I owe you a debt of gratitude.”

He made sure to use a soft tone of voice. “For a few hours, can we cease the verbal barbs and enjoy this repast?”

“Is it your intent to call a truce, Raven? We will be the talk of the ton. Harbinger tongues will wag and link our names together. I hope that doesn’t distress you.” She paused and gifted him a smile. “I want to enjoy this special moment with you and gaze into your amazing dark gray eyes. Yes, I would like a truce.” Her reached out to his.

About the Book: ONE NIGHT WITH A DUKE

dukeWhen a spirited woman disrupts the world of a duke who follows the rules, sparks fly, passions ignite and planets collide.

   Reclusive, cold as ice, the politically powerful Raven, Duke of Ravensmere, denies love after the tragic deaths of his duchess and baby. He is bound by his vow never to allow love to enter his heart again. Samantha Winston permits him to seek refuge in her carriage in a time of need, and what started as a kiss in the name of safety, becomes something more pleasurable and not so safe after all. In spite of every caution, his interest escalates into unexpected desire.

   Samantha, a young widow with a secret, irreverent and high-spirited, has constructed impenetrable walls against all men. When she and Raven meet again, strong wills clash. Political intrigues and a dreaded nemesis place his life at risk, and Samantha finds herself in a dire predicament. All the while, passion soars.

   Can Samantha’s barriers fall with more kisses?

   Can Raven be released from his deathbed vow?

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Wild Rose Press  and order direct any of the five books.

About the Author, SANDRA MASTERS

From a humble beginning in Newark, NJ, a short stay at a convent in Morristown, NJ, to the boardrooms of NYC, and a fantastic career for a broadcasting company in Carlsbad, California, to the rural foothills of the Sierras of Yosemite National Park, I have always traveled with pen and notebook. It’s been the journey of ten thousand miles with a few steps left to go. I’ve traded boardrooms for ballrooms, left my corporate world behind and never looked back. It was nothing I expected, but everything I dreamed. My current occupation is Living The Dream.

I am a storyteller. Gather round me, sip some chocolate cocoa, and allow me to transport you to where you never been. I have more yesterdays than tomorrows. I am a woman who has known many things content to look through a lens of make-believe to bring you romance.

WEBSITE

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

 

Does her husband know?

Edmond Worthington, 9th Duke of Hartford, set down the morning paper with a scowl. He had read the same paragraph more than a half dozen times. Unfortunately, the print did not change. He had sent for his sister Gwendolyn to join him. How like her to keep him waiting. They had not been on friendly terms since he had told her he must honor their father’s dictate that she wed.

He heard his butler opening the front door admitting his sister. “Good morning, my lady,” he said. “His Grace is waiting for you in the blue dining room.”

“Thank you, Giles,” Gwendolyn replied making her way into the room. She looked lovely this morning in a light pink frock printed with a tiny rosebud pattern. Taking off her bonnet, she placed it upon the table to look upon him. “Will this take long?” she asked with a raised brow. “I have an appointment will my dressmaker.”

He slid the paper in her direction. “Take a look… fifth page. You cannot miss it.”

“Really, Hartford… what is all the fuss about?”

He only nodded to the paper and peered at her over the rim of his teacup. Gwendolyn opened the paper to scan the contents. Her eyes widened in shock as she read.

This just in Gentle Readers…

The Teatime Tattler has found out from a most reliable source (aka the “D” sisters) that a certain married woman (Lady S) has been seen in the company of a man who is not her husband (Lord D). They may have started out walking side by side in Hyde Park, but the sisters insisted they saw Lord D kissing Lady S. This juicy tidbit for this correspondent could not go unpublished. Such an affair only makes us wonder if the lady’s husband is in the know…

“Good heavens!” she exclaimed, all but falling into a nearby chair.

Edmond stood before heading to the sideboard to pour his sister a cup of tea. “You really need to be more careful, Gwen, when you plan such a liaison. What if Sandhurst finds out?”

The cup rattled upon the saucer when she took a sip. “I did not plan this, Hartford. And how did Prudence and Abigail Danvers see us?”

“They are Society’s busybodies and have been known to let that rag, the Teatime Tattler, in on our family’s business. Anything they say should not come as a surprise.”

“What am I to do? Sandhurst will not be pleased…” she whispered.

“I am unsure if I should berate you for your foolishness or help see you out of this situation. I hope our brother Brandon was not involved with any of this.” Her downcast eyes told him all he needed to know. He cursed.

“Do not take this out on Brandon. He was only trying to help,” she pleaded.

“I suggest you cancel your appointment and head straight home. If you are lucky, Sandhurst will not see this scandal sheet… that is, if you can destroy the paper before he gets to it.”

Gwendolyn retrieved her bonnet, practically running towards the door. He called for his butler. “Send a message up to my brother’s room and inform him I wish to see him,” Edmond demanded.

Brandon had a fair amount of explaining to do. Edmond took another sip of his tea wondering what he would need to do next in order to keep their family reputation intact.


You can learn more about Gwendolyn’s story by reading Nothing But Time: A Family Worth, Book One. But Gwendolyn’s story is only the beginning. Look for Edmond’s journey to finding love in One Moment In Time: A Family of Worth, Book Two coming soon!

Nothing But Time: A Family of Worth,
Book One

Blurb:

They will risk everything for their forbidden love…

When Lady Gwendolyn Marie Worthington is forced to marry a man old enough to be her father, she concludes love will never enter her life. Her husband is a cruel man who blames her for his own failings. Then she meets her brother’s attractive business associate and all those longings she had thought gone forever suddenly reappear.

A long-term romance holds no appeal for Neville Quinn, Earl of Drayton until an unexpected encounter with the sister of the Duke of Hartford. Still, he resists giving his heart to another woman, especially one who belongs to another man.

Chance encounters lead to intimate dinners, until Neville and Gwendolyn flee to Berwyck Castle at Scotland’s border hoping beyond reason their fragile love will survive the vindictive reach of Gwendolyn’s possessive husband. Before their journey is over, Gwendolyn will risk losing the only love she has ever known.

Excerpt:

Gwendolyn peeked through lowered lashes at the man who had held her attention. She had not meant to be caught staring at him but she could in no way pull her gaze from his. With a single glance, her heart fell, silently crying at the injustice of it all. No man should be so handsome, nor should she experience a connection with a complete stranger clear on the other side of the room. She gazed into the depths of her tea wondering if perhaps it was laced with something that caused her infatuation with a stranger.

 She had watched his companion leave their table and Gwendolyn needed to stifle a satisfied smile the moment he was left alone. His clothes suggested he was wealthy, for they were immaculate. His hair was a deep rich auburn and she could see where the light of the dining room reflected the hints of red within the depths of his locks. His eye color could not be determined from this distance but that did not matter in the least. He was the first man who had ever made her heart flip end over end. Such an emotion certainly never happened with her husband and she knew it ever would.

Buy Links:

Amazon US   |Amazon AU  |  Amazon BR  |  Amazon CA  |  Amazon DE  |  Amazon ES  |  Amazon FR  |  Amazon IN  |  Amazon IT  |  Amazon JP  |  Amazon MX  |  Amazon NL  |  Amazon UK

NOTE:  Nothing But Time is currently enrolled in Kindle Unlimited but will soon be wide to all eRetailers.

Bio:

Sherry Ewing is proud to be a member of the Bluestocking Belles. She picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical & time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. Always wanting to write a novel but busy raising her children, she finally took the plunge in 2008 and wrote her first Regency. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Beau Monde & the Bluestocking Belles. Sherry is currently working on her next novel and when not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist.

You can learn more about Sherry and her published work on these social media outlets:

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The Family Feud

The family feud between the Earl of Chadbourn’s nephew, the Duke of Murnane, and his cousin, Randolph Wheatly, has caused considerable talk recently. We believe our readers will find two missives that have come into the Tattler’s possession to be of interest. Some would say the conflict is old news. Others might suggest its influence on current events makes for as juicy a story today as it did seven years ago.

 S. Clemens

familyPrivate Pratt,
Y’ asked why mister Rand hates that duke his cousin. No one at the servants table answered cause they all love the duke. I learned as how to rite at the dame school at home so I thot I would rite the answer down. The earls vall-et told me how to spell Private but I dint tell him why I wanted to know.

The duke married the girl Mr. Rand corted and that’s a fact. Both wanted ‘er an one got ‘er. When Mr. Rand found out she was far gone with child already at the wedding, he said as how the duke had his way with her even while she still walked out with Mr. Rand. Bad business that.

No man wants a girl to lift her skirt to some ‘un other. Mr. Rand he got so mad he high tailed it to Canada where you met him. Stayed away seven years. Now th’earl told them to work together and everyone’s walking around like a storm’s brewing.

But no person here wants to beleev the duke would do his cozin such a turn neither. I heared Missus Alberts the cook say quiet like once that she dint think the boy were the duke’s son neither but you codnt tell that from how he dotes on the lad. Hes a good father, is the duke.

I know you admire Mr. Rand and I thot you’d want to know.

Elsie Jones, tweeny


Family

Sketch by Ernest Blaikley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Miss Jones,
Thank you for your kind note. Any soldier knows it is safest to know the lay of the land, and it has been hard enough for me living in a posh household like this one without the folks hiding things from me. Mr. Rand is one of the best men I know, and he has been careful to protect Meggy Blair and her children, folks as are important to me. I cannot think ill of him. He came all the way to London to make sure they are safe, and he won’t back down.

I can’t say I know the duke, but he seems like a solid fellow as well, and he plans to help us so I can’t think ill of him either. He even plans to go after the general’s crooked activity. No, I have to respect him, especially since he helped me sort out the matter of desertion from the army and all.

Whatever the truth of it, they are honorable men. I hope they come to peace because there will be enough fighting if they try to take on the ugly gang of button fakers and thieves as they talked about. Bad doings there, and they will need to watch their backs.

Your words helped me Miss. Maybe when this settles down I’ll be free to ask you to walk out of a Sunday.

Yrs
John Pratt

__________________________________

FamilyAbout the Book, The Renegade Wife: Book 1, Children of Empire

Betrayed by his cousin and the woman he loved, Rand Wheatly fled England, his dreams of a loving family shattered. He clings to his solitude in an isolated cabin in Upper Canada. Returning from a business trip to find a widow and two children squatting in his house, he flies into a rage. He wants her gone, but her children are sick and injured, and his heart is not as hard as he likes to pretend.

Meggy Blair harbors a secret, and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her children safe. She’d hopes to hide with her Ojibwa grandmother, if she can find the woman and her people. She doesn’t expect to find shelter with a quiet, solitary man, a man who lowers his defensive walls enough to let Meggy and her children in.

Their idyllic interlude is shattered when Meggy’s brutal husband appears to claim his children. She isn’t a widow, but a wife, a woman who betrayed the man she was supposed to love, just as Rand’s sweetheart betrayed him. He soon discovers why Meggy is on the run, however, and time is running out. To save them all, Rand must return to England and face his family demons.

~Excerpt~

“I manage. I have no idea about Julia,” Charles said through tight lips.

Rand raised his eyebrows. “What do you mean?”

“I haven’t seen Julia in two years. She hasn’t seen Jonny in longer. I have no idea how she ‘manages.’” He leaned toward Rand. “Don’t look at me like that, Randolph Wheatly. We separated less than a year after we married. It happens. If you had stayed, you might have delighted in my misfortune.”

Charles glared at Rand, who could think of nothing to say. When the silence became painful, Charles sank back in his chair. “Don’t worry. Though it seems unlikely Jonny will ever be duke, know that he is loved. I love him as if he were my own.” His voice rose when he continued, and an emotion Rand couldn’t identify gave force to his words. “He is my own. Don’t try to say otherwise.”

“What are you implying, Charles? Of course he’s your son. You were eager enough to bed his mother.”

“I didn’t touch Julia until our wedding night. Jonny came into this world six months later. What do you think I’m implying?”

Something uncurled in Rand’s chest. His cousin was many things, some unpleasant, but he wasn’t a liar.

***FREE***with Kindle Unlimited or buy a copy here

About the Series, Children of Empire

Three cousins, who grew up together in the English countryside, have been driven apart by deceit and lies. (You may guess a woman was involved!) They all make their way home, finding love and the support of women of character and backbone along their journeys. They are:

  • Rand who has become a recluse, and lives in isolation in frontier Canada intent on becoming a timber baron, until a desperate woman invades his peace.
  • Fred, an officer in the Bengal army, who enjoys his comfortable life on the fringes until his mistress dies and he’s forced to choose between honor and the army.
  • Charles, Duke of Murnane, who, tied to a miserable marriage, throws himself into government work to escape bad memories. He accepts a commission from the Queen that takes him to Canton and Macau.

Who are their ladies?

  • Meggy Campeau, the daughter of a French trapper and Ojibwe mother who has made mistakes, but is fierce in protecting her children.
  • Clare Armbruster, fiercely independent woman of means, who is determined to make her own way in life, but can’t resist helping a foolish major sort out his responsibilities.
  • Zambak Hayden, eldest child of the Duke of Sudbury, who knows she’d make a better heir than her feckless younger brother, but can’t help protecting the boy to the point of following him to China. She may just try to sort out the Empire’s entangled tea trade–and its ugly underpinning, opium while she’s there.

You can find more here or here

About the Author

Carol Roddy – Author

Caroline Warfield is a Bluestocking Belle and lover of family, history, travel and faith, all of which inform her work. She firmly believes that love is worth the risk to the human heart.

She grew up in a peripatetic army family and had a varied career (largely around libraries and technology) before retiring. Now retired to the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania, she divides her time between writing and seeking adventures with her grandbuddy and the prince among men she married.

She has works published by Soul Mate Publishing and also independently published works. In addition she has participated in five group anthologies, one not yet published. You can find her here:

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History Imagined

The Marquess’s Misalliance

Marquess WeddingExtract from the diary of Lady Caroline Chantry, sister to Giles, Marquess of Huntercombe. November 1803

Dear Diary,

What a dreadful day! I write in absolute outrage. I have had no time to write the past two days, but after dear Letty and I had gone to so much trouble to furnish Giles with a list of perfectly eligible brides, our fool of a brother has married, actually married that dreadful creature who called herself Lady Emma Lacy. Well, it appears poor Lord Peter Lacy did make an honest woman of her, but no one can possibly have forgotten that she jilted Sir Augustus Bolt at the very steps of the altar eleven years ago, having refused to say her vows and walked out of the church. And she was seen not moments later embracing Lord Peter on the very steps of St George’s and leaving with him! One would hope the son of a duke would have known better than to become entangled with such a mi. Of course her family cast her off and poor Lord Peter had to drop out of society completely. No doubt he regretted making such a fool of himself before he died!

But unfortunately he did die, and this is the woman my poor brother has been hoodwinked into marrying. Worse, he has made an enemy of the wretched woman’s erstwhile father-in-law, the Duke of Keswick, by refusing to cede guardianship of the duke’s grandson and heir. We are given to understand that Emma had previously refused to hand the child over at Keswick’s very reasonable request and she had the gall to apply to my poor brother for help. She seems to believe that she has some right as a mother to be responsible for her own child. Fancy! A mere woman setting herself up above a duke! I think it very likely that she has been reading treasonous rubbish such as that dreadful Wollstonecraft woman’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and so I shall warn Giles at the first opportunity!

Marquess WeddingMy poor, dear sister, Letty, and I attended the wedding at Huntercombe House only this morning. How I shall ever hold up my head again, I cannot say. But Giles has informed us that if we do not wish for a public breach we must recognise his bride and really, what choice do we have? But such a wedding! The bride’s father and mother were there, but did the poor Earl of Dersingham give his daughter away? He did not! Instead the bride’s children did so, if you please! I wonder the marriage can be considered legal with such a flagrant disregard for all decency. And all Giles would say when I mentioned it, and very tactfully! was that since Dersingham had apparently not shown up for Emma’s first wedding they had thought it wiser not to rely on him this time!

As if that were not scandal enough, the Duke of Keswick appeared at the last moment with his son, Lord Martin Lacy and a magistrate. I thought for a moment that they meant to forbid the marriage, but sadly it was not to be. Giles remembered his manners for long enough to bid them welcome and they sat down at the back. I believe Giles had some discussion with his grace afterwards, but apparently he has insisted on retaining guardianship of the two children. Really, it would be much more the thing if the boy and his sister were raised by their father’s family. Especially since the boy is now Keswick’s heir. It is none of Giles’s business after all. And as for the girl I consider her to be a pert little minx, and all the better for a sharp set-down and some discipline! But what can you expect when her mother defies all authority and sets up to know better than her own father and father-in-law.

I can only pray that my poor brother does not come quickly to realise his mistake, but I fear he is in for a sad disappointment and that we can expect nothing but sorrow and scandal from this appalling mesalliance.

Marquess WeddingAbout the Book: His Convenient Marchioness

After the loss of his wife and children, the Marquess of Huntercombe closed his heart to love. But now that he must marry to secure an heir, he’s determined that the beautiful, impoverished widow Lady Emma Lacy should be his…

Emma has vowed never to marry for money so must refuse him. But when her children’s grandfather sets to steal them away from her, she has no other option: she must become the marquess’s convenient bride!

https://www.amazon.com/His-Convenient-Marchioness-Lords-Altar/dp/1335051635

https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781488086434_his-convenient-marchioness.html

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/his-convenient-marchioness-elizabeth-rolls/1126552293

https://www.millsandboon.co.uk/p54418/his-convenient-marchioness.htm

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Convenient-Marchioness-Mills-Historical-Lords-ebook/dp/B073TRS6T7/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

About the Author

Elizabeth Rolls lives in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia in a valley of apple, pear and cherry orchards. She considers tea bags the work of the devil, and has what many consider far too many books along with three dogs and two cats. She enjoys cooking, reading, walking the dogs and sampling the offerings of local wine makers.

http://www.elizabethrolls.com/books.html

 

Desires of the heart…

Garrick of Clan MacLaren burst through the turret door whilst rushing after the distraught woman as she ran towards the battlement wall. Lady Coira Easton almost collided with a kitchen serf who quickly moved out of her way. His eyes briefly met Fira’s as they passed one another on the narrow stairs but he had no time to worry over the troublesome look she gave him. He had bigger problems on his mind than to wonder what she was doing so far from Berwyck’s kitchens.

He hurried to Coira’s side. “Dinnae worry yerself, lass. We shall think of something,” he whispered suddenly finding his arms full when his lady reached out to him for support. He could do nothing less but clutch her trembling body to his own. “Please, Coira… I canna stand yer tears.”

“’Tis hopeless, Garrick,” she sobbed. “If my cousin will not give his consent for us to wed, he will marry me to another. How will I bear it?”

How indeed, he thought remembering his meeting with Dristan of Berwyck. His laird had warned Garrick that his life would be all but over if he so much as touched the hem of Coira’s gown. And now here he was with his arms wrapped around his lady offering her what comfort he could.

“Hush now, my sweet. Dry yer eyes. I willna have this upsetting ye.” Coira lifted her head and he witnessed for himself her tear filled eyes. He swore his heart broke all over again and he could not imagine a life without this woman at his side. He pushed back a lock of her hair when it fell across her face and laid a kiss upon her forehead.

“I cannot marry another, Garrick,” she said, echoing his own thoughts, “not when my hearts desire is to belong only to you.”

“’Twill not come to that, I promise ye.”

“You cannot make such a vow, my love, and I will not hold you to it. You know my cousin better than most. When his mind is made up, he will not change his decision for me to marry no less than a knight.”

“I will make him see reason, Coira, and prove my worth upon the lists,” Garrick proclaimed. “Trust me…”

She gave a heavy sigh. “You know I do with my very life, Garrick. Now kiss me as a token of your affection for I must needs return to Amiria’s solar afore I am missed,” she insisted as she closed her eyes and leaned back her head.

He wasted no time claiming the lady who more than proved her own desires when he deepened their kiss. He was unsure how long they stood there wrapped up in their own little world but the sound of Coira’s name being called from the turret stairs broke the spell woven around them. Not wishing to be caught opening disobeying his liege lord, he reluctantly pulled Coira from his arms.

“I must go,” she declared even though her eyes told him she would rather stay. “I will see you at the evening meal.”

He could only nod in response, not trusting himself to have further speech with the lady. Instead he watched her leave to disappear down the stairway. Garrick leaned his arms against the battlement wall, lost in thought, ’til he felt a hand upon his arm. He did not expect to see Fira at his side. Her eyes were swimming like pools of jealousy for she clearly could not mask the emotions etched upon her mutinous face.

“What is it, Fira?” he asked, almost hating to hear her answer. She had been bothersome of late with hopes that there was something between them. He was unsure where she had gotten such a notion for he had been nothing but polite to her in the past.

“What does that outsider have that I do not,” Fira hissed.

“I willna discuss the Lady Coira with ye,” he answered, hoping she would let the matter rest. Such was not going to be the case.

“Ye shall regret not taking me up on me offer, Garrick. ’Tis best tae stay with yer own kind instead of thinking ye can wed someone above yer station.”

Garrick scowled, her words thrusting into his heart like a dagger. He did not need Fira to remind him that he was only the clan’s piper and not a knight. “Dinnae be daft, Fira. I have already told ye I am not interested in what ye offer tae any of the men who pass through Berwyck’s gates. Be off with ye and mind yer own business,” he snapped harshly as he lost what little patience he had left.

 

Fira gave a laugh. “Ye best remember me words, Garrick,” she answered leaning her shoulder upon the wall and crossing her arms.

“If ye willna leave me in peace, then stay and enjoy yer view,” Garrick huffed. He gave her no further thoughts and made his way back to the Great Hall. He would have been troubled to learn just what the woman had in store for him and his future.

This is an original piece by Sherry Ewing. Garrick and Coira can be found in The Piper’s Lady in the Bluestocking Belles’ box set Never Too Late.

The Piper’s Lady

True love binds them. Deceit divides them. Will they choose love?

Lady Coira Easton spent her youth traveling with her grandfather. Now well past the age men prefer when they choose a wife, she has resigned herself to remain a maiden. But everything changes once she arrives at Berwyck Castle. She cannot resist a dashing knight who runs to her rescue, but would he give her a second look?

Garrick of Clan MacLaren can hold his own with the trained Knights of Berwyck, but as the clan’s piper they would rather he play his instruments to entertain them—or lead them into battle—than to fight with a sword upon the lists. Only when he sees a lady across the training field and his heart sings for the first time does he begin to wish to be something he is not.

Will a simple misunderstanding between them threaten what they have found in one another or will they at last let love into their hearts?

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