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Visions of what could be…

Kenna, the healer for Clan MacLaren, pushed her cart of herbs towards the lists where the Knights of Berwyck were training. They had not yet called for her aid but she knew from the vision she had this morn they would have need of her skills. The men would be training far into the night if their master was not pleased with their performance this day. ’Twould not be the first time such a happening occurred, nor would it be the last.

Once reaching the outer baily, she continued onward through the postern gate and gazed out to the wide field where the lists could be found. She saw her liege lord sitting upon his black steed inspecting his men. He was a formidable foe and known as the Devil’s Dragon of Berwyck. Not many could best this man on a field of honor nor upon the battlefield, or so the stories went.

Her own eyes scanned the men ’til she found the one her heart continuously sought. Geoffrey… even thinking his name brought a smile to her lips and when he saw that she neared, he gave her that lopsided grin she had come to cherish. He was a cocky one and knew what he did to her with just one look in her direction, the rogue!

Geoffrey continued to occupy her thoughts as she pushed her cart up near the wall of the castle. She had barely gotten the wagon in place when she felt herself slipping into another vision. A mist rolled over the mountains whilst she watched the images swiftly pass afore her eyes. Berwyck Castle and war, a red haired woman who played with fire, women who were not of this world coming to the castle gates, along with seeing far into the future of what the world would someday become. 

“Kenna…”

Her name being called brought her out of trance-like state. She rubbed at her eyes ’til she was at last able to see Geoffrey leaning over her.

“What happened?” she asked, although she already knew her answer especially since she was propped up against the wall.

“Kenna, you gave me such a fright,” Geoffrey murmured with green eyes filled with concern. “Can you stand?’

Kenna clutched at his sleeve. “You must needs prepare yourself for war, Geoffrey,” she warned.

His chuckle rumbled inside his chest. “War? We have secured Berwyck in the name of our king. There will be no war.”

“Said every man too sure of themselves and their ability,” she returned with crossed brows.

He laughed again causing her frown to deepen. “We are the Devil’s Dragon’s men and remain victorious. Have you not heard that no man or beast can defeat us?”

“You make light of a situation when you should be heeding my words instead,” she replied but could not hide the smile that turned up the corners of her lips. He was just too handsome for her to resist his charms.

He leaned closer to whisper in her ear. “You care for me, admit it,” he crooned softly.

Laughter bubbled forth from Kenna’s lips. “Never!” she cried out playfully. “You are already too sure of yourself. I shall not be the cause of your ego growing any larger, good sir. However would I deal with you then?”

“I am certain we could think of something, my lady,” he said afore placing a quick kiss to her cheek. He held out his hand for her to take but she hesitated knowing what could possibly happen if they were to touch.

Too late, he reached out to grasp her hand and vision’s once more swam afore her eyes with images of her and Geoffrey naked and kissing by a pond in a secluded cove. Just as quickly, she returned to the present. Her face flamed scarlet wondering if what she had just witnessed would come to pass. Afore she could make any attempt at speech, Geoffrey helped her gain her feet and placed a kiss above her knuckles.

“I must needs return to my training. You will sup with me this eve,” he stated, apparently sure of himself that he already knew her answer.

Kenna nodded and watched Geoffrey leave her side to return to the field. She was glad she had not mentioned the women from the future who would one day come to Berwyck to claim the hearts of the very knights who trained afore her. Geoffrey would surely think she was daft and, considering what she had just seen, she would not want him to think ill of her. Change was in the air and Kenna would look forward to what the future had in store for her and, of course, Geoffrey.

This is an original piece with Kenna and Geoffrey who are secondary characters in Sherry Ewing’s debut medieval romance, If My Heart Could See You available in audio book, eBook, and paperback.

When you’re enemies, does love have a fighting chance?

For Amiria of Berwyck, defeat does not come easily as she watches her home and clan being ripped asunder. When the very enemy who has laid siege to her home demands her fealty, she will do whatever it takes to protect her people including a hastily concocted ruse that quickly begins to unravel. All too soon, she starts to question whether she can forgive herself for betraying those she has sworn to protect.

Dristan of Blackmore, champion knight of King Henry II, has a reputation to uphold as the Devil’s Dragon. After his invading army conquers Berwyck castle, he sets out to manage the newly claimed estate by training its knights in the art of proper defense. At first, everything appears as it should be, or is it? Betrayed by those he believed he could trust, he must first set aside his anger before he can make room in his heart for love.

Together they are tied by an unspoken bond. As they begin to rebuild the land and unite their people, forces beyond their control attempt to tear apart their fragile truce and only time will tell if love will forever bring them together.

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A peer’s ceremonial robes

Peers wearing their robes and waving their coronets celebrate the coronation of the king

Good day, everyone.  Lady Eleanor Pringle from the London Penny Post coming to you today with a very interesting and captivating interview.  I had been in town recently gathering information for an upcoming article regarding the pomp and ceremony of parliament when I ran into a special someone at Ede and Ravenscroft.  It was none other than Dane Redford Lambourne,  Earl of Huntsbridge.  He had been visiting the shop to have his family’s ceremonial robes cleaned, having been just recently given the title of Earl due to the untimely passing of his brother, when we got to chatting about everything noble and peer-like.

E: What a pleasure it is to run into you, Lord Huntsbridge,  I thank you for allowing me to speak to you so candidly about all of this.

H: The pleasure is mine, Lady Eleanor.  It is lovely to meet you.

E:  First, I wish to offer my sincerest condolences on the loss of your brother, the third Earl of Hunstbridge.  I’m sure his passing was quite a shock.

H:  It was.  My family and I had just discussed the fact that he was always the one who was healthy while the rest of us battled colds and fevers throughout childhood.  That a fever should bring him low, well, yes… quite the shock.

E: And your having to carry the new title was probably a shock as well.

H:  Yes, and equally daunting,  It was never a task I’d aspired to, and never thought on much, being the second son.  I had thought Thomas would have carried the title until my father passed and then his titles would go to his son.  It was unfortunate that he never had that chance to see either come to fruition.

E: It is quite the pity.  But now that the title falls to you, how are you getting on?

H:  It has its advantages and disadvantages.  Aside from the change in status, I have my brother’s tasks to take over, mainly handling my family’s many estates.    I am lucky in that I have a dedicated staff, and my younger brothers are also helping with some of the work until I get the routine down, but it is a lot of responsibility.  And of course, I am not used to the new moniker and the gesturing that comes with it, so it has been awkward to say the very least.

E:  Oh, I don’t know, I would think having people show respect in bows and nods would be rather flattering.

H:  I am so used to gesturing to others that I never once thought about people doing it to me.  It was very bizarre initially.

E:  And I see you are visiting Ede and Ravenscroft.  What is the occasion?

H:  Once I moved into Lambourne House, I had the staff clean some things out and I came across the family robes and coronets.  Several of each, as it were.  Many of them are my fathers and grandfathers before him, so they had seen better days.  Eventually they will be mine as my father, Lord Coventry, has taken a step back from his duties in Lords due to his health and I felt I should have them cleaned and repaired where needed as they had been stuffed in storage for so many years.

E: The robe, though strongly scented of mothballs, is rather lovely.  Can you tell me about it?

H: Indeed.  It is a parliamentary robe that was made for my grandfather, who was the first Marquess Coventry.  I am told Master Arlo put it together for him in the late 1700s.  The body is made of scarlet wool and it’s trimmed in the white ermine fur with the requisite three and a half bars of gold brocade suited to his title.  On the ceremonial robe, which is rarely worn, it has three and a half rows of the ermine tail, you can see the black bits here,  and there are also gold clasps, inlaid with mother of pearl, that were a gift from a French diplomat.

E: I believe your family has origins in France, am I correct?

H: Oh yes, though it was years back before my grandfather.  Our family name is French.

E: And the coronet you have with you?

H:  It is so heavy.  I cannot imagine how men wear these awful contraptions.

*Lord Huntsbridge handed it to me and it was, indeed, very heavy.  Perhaps a half stone or more.

E: Oh my!  Ones neck much pain them for days after having to don it.  As someone who does not own and will never have occasion to wear a coronet, when do you wear such a thing?  And the robes?

H: It is another thing I shall never understand. Look at the fine detail of the coronet.  The artistry of the design.  All the small details.  And it must have cost a small fortune to produce.  These are real pearls.  All this cost and work put into something worn maybe once in one’s lifetime, and then its stuffed in a box and forgotten.

E: That’s tragic.  You would think something so lovely would be displayed.

H:  You know, you are right. I should devise a way to display these items.  Perhaps set up a small type of cabinet in the foyer at Lambourne House.  Otherwise, it is quite the shame, and a huge waste of money to let them mold in a box somewhere.

E;  That’s a wonderful idea,Lord Huntsbridge.  And perhaps like the country homes, you could open your foyer to visitors to view them.

H:  Another fabulous idea.  Though I am sure my family would disparage having strangers wandering in and out of the house in town while they are trying to get on with their day.  I could do with having them set up at Leighsham Park though.   That is my mother’s estate in Grantham.  There’s a lovely corner to the entrance that would lend itself to being a sort of display area.

E:  I am glad to have given you ideas to work with.  They are truly too lovely to hide away.  But getting back to my question, when do you wear such things?

H: I do beg pardon, I did not mean to let my thoughts wander.  The robes are worn more often than the coronets, to be sure.  The robe here is for Parliament.  They are worn during the opening ceremonies each term.  I also have this ceremonial robe, which is more richly crafted with the velvet and ermine trimmings.  The coronets are only worn at royal coronations, when a sovereign is crowned.  It’s all very lovely but personally, I think it’s a waste of money.  I mean, it’s a beautiful piece to have on hand, and the closest I shall ever come to feeling like I have a crown on my head, but to wear it?  I don’t see the point.  It’s heavy and uncomfortable, and when we do put it on, it’s rather pompous, don’t you think?

E:  I think it’s all rather regal actually.  So very noble.

H:  I suppose if you do not have one or have no chance to get one, it’s a different story.  Very much the grass being greener, as it were.

E: I would say so, yes.  So you say this was all in storage.  Do they have special boxes?

H: The robes, yes.  They are boxed in tissue and kept on a shelf in our safe out of the damp to avoid mildew.  The coronets, well…  this one, the oldest article in our family, once came in a box, but that box is now long gone.  I am sure it dissolved over time.  The rest were all just shelved in the safe with the robes.  No special boxes.  Someone had stuffed them each with tissue to keep their shape, but they are all so old.  That is why I’ve brought them in, to be cleaned.

E: And perhaps you shall be wearing them yourself soon enough.

H:  As I mentioned, my father has not been in the public eye of late because of his health, so I suppose it’s fair to say I am just preparing for the inevitable.

E:  I know you say they are only worn for coronation ceremonies, but have you ever tried them on in private?

H:  A gentleman never tells…

And with a wink, Lord Hunstbridge excused himself to deal with the clerk who was taking in his items to be cleaned and refurbished. 

What a charming young man, and so handsome!  I could easily see him wearing those robes.  And a coronet on that brow of his would only make him seem more noble than he already is.  He was very kind in speaking to me and offered that I stop by for tea so that I may meet the rest of the household.  Such a generous offer from the new Earl.  Hold onto your bonnets, ladies.  This one is a real charmer.

Earl of my Heart

Dane Redford Lambourne, now Earl of Huntsbridge, never thought to live a responsible, noble existence. Spending his nights as a privileged gentleman, carousing and enjoying the company of friends was the only life he ever aspired to until the sudden death of his brother thrust him into a world he never wanted and was not prepared to face.

Lady Nichola Crawford could care less if the fabric of her new evening dress matched her shoes or if any of the men at the upcoming ball even looked in her direction. She would sooner stay in the country and scour her father’s library than place herself on the marriage block to be picked at and prodded by the scant handful of ill-deserving men in London.

But a chance meeting at a local confectioner shop is all it takes to set off sparks between the man who vowed no woman would ever get under his skin and the woman who would do anything to deny the love she felt for the Earl of her heart.

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Meet Victoria Oliveri

History has always fascinated me.  From an early age, I recall asking my grandparents and great-grandparents about their pasts, what it was like in other countries, and found myself enthralled with the old customs they adhered to.

As I grew older, I became a genealogist for my family and traveled abroad to see where my roots started.  Pouring over old pictures and documents was like a treasure hunt, keeping my attention down to the finest detail.  How events came to pass based on the actions of a few excited me to uncover, and what I found always opened paths to new information.

I also became involved in reenactment groups and found that immersing myself in living history was both intriguing and intrinsic to my love of telling stories of the past.  Details are fleshed out for my readers because I know how things feel, how they smell, and how they taste.  As if I had been there, through some amazing portal, and have come back to share what I have learned.

My love of world travel also helps round out my stories in ways I cannot imagine.  I have had in-depth conversations with conservators about ramparts at an abandoned Irish castle I found, and have felt the stone beneath my fingertips.  I have walked down the streets of Mayfair, imagining my characters strolling there beside me, and I have sat in King Henry’s kitchen at Hampton Court joyfully smelling the meat cooking on the hearth.  With each separate occasion, I learn more about history.  Being hands-on has made me see beyond what any book could tell me, and all of those moments to come will only help me to write stories that will intrigue and entice you.

A Flower of Scotland in Flight

The Forfar Inn

Forfar, Angus, Scotland

Roslyn Grant pulled her cloak tighter around her as she watched the coach pull away from the inn, her thin shoulders shivering in the cold air. What to do now? The coach fare to Forfar had cost every last penny of her small savings, and what had it gained her but a mere forty miles from her villainous stepbrother?

“Kin I help ye wit’ yer bag, miss?”

A boy about twelve in a torn jacket and brown wool cap pointed at the small valise at her feet.

Roslyn blinked and bent down to pick it up herself. “Thank you, but no, I can manage it myself.” No doubt he was wanting to earn a coin or two, not knowing that her pockets were as bare as his. In any case, the bag was light enough, as she’d had time only to stuff inside a spare gown, stockings and undergarments, and her nightrail.

The boy stared at her curiously and she realized she must appear a strange sight, standing immobile in the middle of an inn yard with a cold wind whirling about her.

“I’d best go inside,” she said hesitantly.

“There’s a first-rate fire goin’ in the public room,” he offered.

She nodded. “Yes, of course.” The worst they could do was throw her out again. So she took brave steps to the door and made her way inside.

Two men sitting at the bar eyed her with interest, but she walked past them with practiced ease toward the fireplace, where she put down her bag and stretched her hands out toward the fire.

“Kin I git ye somethin’, miss?” A weary-looking woman carrying a jug approached her.

She yearned for a cup of tea, but without coin to pay for it, she shook her head. “No, thank you.”

The door opened again, letting in a gust of icy air and about a half-dozen rough-looking men, cursing and behaving raucously. Roslyn ignored them, leaning closer to the fire, but the harassed serving maid could not.

“Liz-zie! Git yerself over ‘n wait on the new folk! I ain’t payin’ ye to stand there ‘n flap yer tongue!”

Lizzie reddened. “Ye don’t pay me to do the work o’ two,” she said under her breath. “When I see that Ellen girl agin, I’ll give her a piece ‘o my mind, ‘n that’s a fact.”

Roslyn perked up. “Are you short of staff then? I-I might be able to help.”

Lizzie looked her up and down. “Needin’ some o’ the ready, are ye?”

Roslyn nodded. “I-I’m looking for a position, yes.”

“Ye sure ye kin handle rough folk like these ‘uns?” She waved her hand toward the newcomers.

Roslyn set her shoulders back, untied her cloak, and hung it across a chair before making long confident steps toward the table of hooligans.

“Can I get ye some ale, gentlemen? Or is it food yer wantin’ We’ve some fine stew this evenin’,” she said with a look at Lizzie, who appeared to be stifling laughter.

“That so?” said one man, taller and bigger than the rest. “Ole Jack’s stew’s never bin called ‘fine’ afore. Jack git a new cook?”

“He did,” she fibbed. “Me. I cooked up the stew tonight.”

The innkeeper, ‘Ole Jack,’ stared at her incredulously from the kitchen door.

“In that case,” said the big red-headed fellow, “we’ll each have a bowl o’ the pretty gel’s stew. Won’t we, mates?”

They all roared their agreement, and Roslyn hustled toward the kitchen, shrugging sheepishly at the innkeeper. “Yer hired,” he said. “Fer tonight. Wot’s yer name?”

“Ros-er-Rachel,” she lied, using the alias she’d invented previously, in an attempt to cover her tracks.

“Rachel,” he said with a conspiratorial wink. “Git in the kitchen ‘n serve up the stew. Mebbe fancy it up a little. Lizzie! Git ’em some ale!”

Roslyn tied an apron around her waist and went to work on the stew, first siphoning the fat from the top and then adding in some finely chopped onion and thickening it with a little flour. The men, when they tasted it, declared it was the best stew they’d ever had. Roslyn brushed off their improper advances with such practiced good humor that their ringleader declared his intention to return the next night to wear down her resolve.

“Ye say ye need a job?” inquired the innkeeper. “Ye kin have Ellen’s. A lazier lass I never saw. Comes in late more ‘n half the time ‘n sometimes not atall.”

“I wouldn’t want to take Ellen’s position,” Roslyn said. “But I don’t mind helping out for a day or two, until I can find something permanent. In return for food and a place to sleep,” she added.

It would be too easy for Teryn to find her at the Forfar Inn, whatever name she used. Her most pressing need, however, was food and lodging. Once that was satisfied, she could work on devising a longer-term solution.

Roslyn Grant is fleeing the stepbrother who stole her inheritance and sold her to a brothel. Without money and facing the perilous Scottish winter weather, she has only her wits to keep her safe.

In search of one of the Flowers of Scotland, Quinn Murray finds her at his estranged uncle’s home, employed as a housekeeper. Slaying her dragons for her might not be enough, however. Can there be a happy ending for this earl’s heir and a long-lost descendent of Robert the Bruce?

This story will be coming out in the spring with the rest of the stories in the Flowers of Scotland series.

About The Flowers of Scotland series

Only The Marriage Maker can pull flowers from the ashes…

Few men are legends in their own time, great fame more often coming years, even centuries later, and by the pens of scribes who rely on long-told tales rather than fact. Even so, now and again, larger-than-life heroes appear, the sheer force of their personalities raising them above all others. These are the fabled ones, flesh and blood men whose lights blaze so bright they eclipse all who’ve gone before them, as well as those who follow.

In the early years of the thirteen century, when medieval Scotland was entrenched in the treachery and chaos of the Wars of Independence, one such man emerged from the tall shadow of the great William Wallace. This man went on to lead Scotland in a fierce fight for freedom that culminated with his 1306 crowning as King of Scots and then, in 1314, with his stunning victory against Edward II of England at the Battle of Bannockburn.

This man was Robert the Bruce, Scotland’s greatest hero king. Even after his triumph at Bannockburn, he railed against England for another fourteen years, finally securing full Scottish independence in 1328, one year before his death.

Extraordinarily beloved by his men, Robert Bruce was also known for his good looks and charm. Yes, he loved the ladies, and they flocked to him. Such adoration from beautiful women is hard for any man to ignore, especially a warrior king always on the move, long away from hearth and home. The Bruce was married twice and is known to have especially loved his second wife. Yet, medieval wars were brutal and it proved too great a temptation to decline the feminine comfort offered him at every turn.

In short, he succumbed. The hero king who came to be known as the Flower of Scotland for his chivalry, sired many bastards and, great-hearted as he was, he ensured that each one lacked for nothing.

But time rolls on, and after but a few centuries, glory-seekers claimed descent from Scotland’s most revered king. Fortunes turned, and some of his true descendants fell from favor. Eventually, no one remembered that their blood carried the richness of such a great and heroic man.

Of course, no one forgot Robert Bruce. His fame burns as brightly as ever. Some historians are obsessed with him, delving deep into history to uncover every nuance of his life and deeds, including the amorous tales.

When one such historian discovers four young women whose lineages trace directly to the Bruce, this man is deeply troubled. The Flowers of Scotland, as he views these Bruce descendants, should not suffer lives of hardship and obscurity as these women do.

Sir Stirling James

Something must be done and he knows just the man to help them; Sir Stirling James, The Marriage Maker. Sir James is a regular at the Inverness pub run by the hobby historian, an establishment named The Melrose for the final resting place of Robert the Bruce’s heart; Melrose Abbey.

Sir James, a true patriot, and history buff himself, agrees that the four young women deserve triumphs of their own. He knows just the four men worthy of them—men who, like the Bruce, possess charm, rank and standing. These heroes can sweep the lassies off their feet and into a world of happiness and love they never dreamed possible.

About the Author

Susana Ellis has always had stories in her head waiting to come out, especially when she learned to read and her imagination began to soar.

A former teacher, Susana lives in Toledo, Ohio in the summer and Florida in the winter. She is a member of the Central Florida Romance Writers and the Beau Monde chapters of RWA, Maumee Valley Romance Inc., and the (in)famous Bluestocking Belles.

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Lady M Comes to Tea

You pour, dear; my hands are far too aquiver with the latest news. I would spill tea all over that lovely dress. What color would you say it is? Parma? Yes, very fetching.

Oh, but I haven’t the time to talk clothing. Except, did you see what Miss J— wore to… No, no, I’ve more important news to impart. We can talk about her later.

Now, you knew that Viscount Burbridge was engaged to Miss Archambault. Yes, the older daughter with the funny name, not the pretty little blonde one. It was quite sudden, you know, and we all thought there might be some reason for the rush, though as it turns out there’s no rush at all because the engagement has been broken! Yes! And while there’s been quite the hush about it, I have the inside story. Oh, is that seedcake? Just one, if you don’t mind. I must consider my figure. Gowns these days are not forgiving.

Where was I? Oh! Viscount Burbridge. The girl is unexceptional, but unexceptionable, so no worries there. But you know Burbridge’s younger brother, the Honorable G—? Well, it seems he’s the reason for scotching the engagement. Oh yes! What? No, no, nothing like… Wouldn’t that be something? But no, why go for the younger brother when you’ve got the son of an earl in the palm of your hand? The girl isn’t stupid. Odd, certainly, but there’s one of those every Season.

No, you see, the Honorable G— has been caught with his hands where they shouldn’t be! Indeed! They were setting him up as a match for Lady H.T. You know who I mean. And what does he do? Goes after her little sister instead! Lady E. And she encouraged it! Can you imagine? Not even out yet, that one, though I suppose close enough to. Even still, can’t condone it. Proves you can be a Lady and still not be a lady, if you understand my meaning.

Well, of course, the scandal. There’s no wonder Lord Averland put a stop to his daughter’s wedding plans. To connect to such a family, earldom or no. What a shame. Darley has always been a good name. I’m sure it will be again, but they’ll need to bury themselves in the country for a while.

Hm? Miss Archambault? Oh, I don’t know. I heard a neighbor offered for her. She could do worse, I suppose. She’s handsome enough, certainly, but all she ever wants to do is ride horses all day. I don’t know what kind of husband she’d be fit for, or what Viscount Burbridge possibly thought he was doing. Might be he’s had a lucky escape.

Yes, dear, just a little more, and some sugar, too, if you would.

Oh, but here’s another thing that’s happened. You’ve heard of Mr. Duncan Oliver? No? Well, he’s a nobody, really. I mean, a very nice young man, lost his parents fairly young. His servants practically raised him. Such an odd situation all around. But he’s disappeared. Yes! His friend George Fitzbert—of course you know George, everyone does—has been haring around asking questions, and even Oliver’s valet has been out looking. What’s stranger, the last people to visit Oliver were the Milne brothers. You know the Milnes. Well, no, not know them, but know of them. Quite the stir when they came to town. Last Milne to come to London was their father when he needed a wife, and no one’s been to Faebourne in I don’t know how long. The brothers weren’t here a week, and now they’ve gone and so has Mr. Duncan Oliver. No word of any kind. What do you make of that?

Thank you for the tea. I must go. That dress really is quite lovely. The color suits you, unlike that jonquil confection Miss J— was wearing. Looked like a walking dollop of lemon cream. Oh, but I haven’t the time to parse it. We’ll talk again soon. There’s always something exciting going on. I do so love London!

About Brynnde:

Brynnde Archambault’s father has given her an ultimatum: find a suitor during the London season or accept dull Mr. Dallweather’s offer. Brynnde believes she has found the answer to her problem in the form of the handsome and witty Viscount Burbridge, but then scandal strikes and scotches her plans.

Meanwhile, Brynnde has no trouble finding matches for her friends and even her own brother. But can she find love herself, or is she destined for spinsterhood?

About Lady M:

Lady M is a bluestocking of the worst kind but still a valued member of tea parties because she spins the best of tales. Read the full story of Brynnde now and look for Faebourne in the near future. http://pepperwords.com

On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/M-Pepper-Langlinais/e/B008FBOSPE/

Some old acquaintance are better forgot


“Cici! Darling!” The tall lady in the fashionable dress turned at her name, and pasted on a smile as a willowy blonde in green hurried across the room to seize her hands and kiss in the vicinity of her cheek.

She returned the salute, the smile still not reaching her eyes. Lady Norton had retired to the country a year ago, perhaps because her husband was ill. And then, a few months ago, she was widowed; not an unexpected occurence with a groom some forty years her senior.

Apparently, she was back. “Vivi, I did not know you were out of mourning.”

Vivi waved at her gown, and laughed, the melodious tinkle that Cici had heard her practice every morning when they shared a room at the select ladies’ academy they had both attended. “As you see, my dear. And Guy says it will be perfectly acceptable for me to attend assemblies and the like, but not to dance.”

“You are staying with your brother?” Guy Kitteridge had been a suitor for Cecily’s hand. Thank goodness she had had the sense to select dear Thornley instead. And Thornley had chosen her instead of being distracted by Vivi’s obvious and openly proffered charms.

Girls were protected from the very knowledge that would keep them safe, but since her marriage she had learned that Kitteridge was vicious as well as rather stupid. Somewhat like his sister, in fact.

“With my aunt, though I have just come from meeting Guy. Cici, you will never guess who Guy and I ran into today. Candle Avery! Lord Avery, I suppose I should call him now, since his father died. Such a tragic accident. And his mother will never walk again, or so I hear.” She smiled, as if this news was particularly delightful. “I suppose it must be true, since he was at a business meeting with a designer of invalid chairs. He must be buying one for his mother, do you not suppose?”

“How sweet,” Cecily said. “He always was a very nice man.”

Vivi dismissed the comment. “I suppose. Odd-looking though. So tall and skinny, and his hair such a bright shade of red. No wonder his schoolfriends called him Candle!”

Not friends at all, from what Cecily had heard, but bullies led by Vivi’s own brother.

“Still,” Vivi was pursuing her own line of thought. “He is a viscount, and one can put up with a lot for a title. And he has inherited a fortune, as well, which is a thing I could do with, for Norton’s guardian is difficult about allowances.” She flicked impatiently at her gown, which was of the finest silk and bore the unmistakeable look of a London modiste. The new Lord Norton was in the custody of his much older cousin, who was known to heartily dislike his aunt-by-marriage. Cecily noted that Vivi’s only mention of her son so far was in relation to money for gowns.

“I could have had him three years ago, but he was poor then, and untitled,” Vivi continued. She nodded, decisively. “It is a good idea, I think.”

“Three years ago,” Cecily reminded the silly cat, “Candle Avery was courting Minerva Bradshaw. He wouldn’t have noticed you if you had appeared in his bed naked.”

Vivi laughed again. “Darling, a dead man would notice if I appeared in his bed naked, but so funny that you should mention little Minnie! Guess who Candle has hired to make his mother an invalid’s chair!”

Ah. Cecily had heard that the Bradshaw Carriage Makers, Minerva’s family business, also produced chairs for the many invalids of Bath. “The Bradshaws?” She said, since Vivi was clearly not going to go away until she had said whatever she had come to say.

“Close, darling, but not quite. Little Minnie herself! Not just from the shop, darling. She is an actual tradeswoman. How shocking, do you not think? Of course, Candle will never look at her now.”

Ah. Here came Thornley. Thank goodness. He smiled at his wife, and bowed coldly to Lady Norton. “You must excuse us, Lady Norton. My wife and I have an engagement.

Cecily took his arm and waved goodbye, hoping her relief was not apparent.

Though Thornley noticed, of course, saying once they were out in the road, “Really, my sweet widgeon, why do you talk to that fluff-headed she-cat? You do not even like her!”

“I haven’t talked to her in a year, Thornley,” she protested, but he informed her from his superior height that Lady Norton had been in the country for a year. “And I wish she had stayed there,” he added. “I tell you, Cecily, if you invite her to our house, I shall beat you.”

Cecily, who knew precisely the weight to put on such threats said, “You know that you will not, Thornley.”

“No, because I love you to distraction,” he agreed. “But really, my dear, will you not cut the connection? I know she was your friend at school, but I can do without being propositioned under the very eye of my own wife.”

Cecily pulled to a stop, tugging on his arm until he faced her. “She didn’t! She did!” She dropped his arm, and turned on her heel to march back down the hill.

“Wait!” Thornley caught up and stood in front of her. “It was a year ago, darling, and I had a word with her husband. That’s why he took her home to his country estate. Of course, then he died, but I thought she’d be out of circulation for at least another six months.”

“And when did you plan to tell me,” Cecily demanded.

“I didn’t. The barbarian in me delights in the idea of your scratching the nasty cat’s eyes out.” He heaved large sigh. “But I know you are too much of a lady to descend to her level. So it seemed pointless to upset you, especially when you were so fretf— so impatiently waiting for the arrival of our son.”

Cecily thought about this and decided the excuse could be accepted.

“Very well, Thornley, but do not think to keep such secrets from me again,” she said sternly. Her husband hung his head and did his best to look contrite, though his eyes twinkled so that she relented and told him, “And I will cut the connection.

Can a viscount and a carriage maker’s daughter find love?

Randal Avery, known as Candle, comes to buy an invalid chair for his mother, and finds the woman who has been haunting his dreams for three years. He has until she finishes the chair for his mother to convince her to marry him. If he says it with flowers, will she understand?

Minerva Bradshaw, educated beyond her station, once dreamed of stepping into the fairy tale world of the ton, only to have her dreams crushed. Now the man she cannot forget is back, and he seems determined to raise those false hopes all over again. But she only has to resist until Christmas.

Buy links on my website at http://judeknightauthor.com/books/candles-christmas-chair/

Excerpt

“Tha’ wants to talk to Min about they chairs,” said the man in the office, and directed Candle Avery to the far corner of the carriage-maker’s yard.

Candle strode through the light rain, dodging or leaping the worst of the mud and puddles. Min. Short for Benjamin, perhaps? Or Dominic?

No, he concluded, as his eyes adjusted to the light inside the shed. The delightful posterior presented to his eyes belonged to neither a Benjamin nor a Dominic. The overalls were masculine, but the curves they covered were not.

She was on a ladder, leaning so far into a bank of shelves that lined the wall opposite the door that her upper half was hidden, but he had no objection to the current view—said delightful posterior at his eye level and neatly outlined as she stretched, a pair of trim ankles showing between the tops of her sensible half boots and the hems of the overalls.

“Botheration.” Whatever she was reaching for up there, it was not obliging her by coming to her hand. Perhaps his lofty height might be of service?

“May I help, Ma’am?” he asked.

There was a crash as she jerked upright at the sound of his voice, and hit her head on the shelf above. As she flinched backward from the collision, the ladder tipped sideways, spilling its occupant into Candle’s hastily outstretched arms.

The curves were everything he thought, and the face lived up to them. A Venus in miniature, black curls spilling from the kerchief that held them away from the heart-shaped face, that quintessentially English complexion known as peaches and cream, grey eyes fringed with dark lashes.

Grey eyes that had haunted his dreams for three long years, ever since she’d led him on at a house party for the amusement of her friends, and then left without saying goodbye.

Grey eyes that turned stormy as he held her a moment too long. He hastily set her down.

“Miss Bradshaw.”

“Captain Avery. No, it is Lord Avery, now, is it not? My condolences on the death of your father.”

He bowed his acknowledgement, his mind racing. Bradshaw Carriages. He hadn’t made the connection. Had he known when he was courting her that she was a carriage-maker’s daughter? He didn’t remember anyone mentioning it.

But he did remember that her friends called her Minnie. Miss Minerva Bradshaw. Min.

Lord Avery was broader than she remembered. He’d been little more than a boy at that horrid house party, but even then the tallest man she had ever met. Isolated and nervous in that crowd of scheming cats who had only invited her to humiliate her, she’d believed him when he claimed to care. She’d been thrilled when he called her a little goddess, and asked for leave to worship her.

With him at her side, she’d braved the crush at the ball. Short as she was, she usually found such occasions overwhelming. People looked over her, bumped into her, ignored her. But Lord Avery—Captain Avery he’d been then—kept her safe. She’d even, for the first time in her life, been enjoying herself at a ball. Right up until she overheard his best friend talking to him, and it became clear that Lord Avery despised her common origins and was only courting her for her money.

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