England 1812 Severely injured at the battle of Salamanca, Edward Thurston, the
new Earl of Sinclair, returns home to his beloved Fly Hall. Determined not to
present his prospective bride with the wreck he believes himself to have become,
he decides to end his betrothal, unaware that Lady Jennifer, for vastly
differing reasons, has reached the selfsame decision. Throughout the campaigns,
Edward was often seen relying greatly on a miniature he carried, and it is to
this token he clings upon his return. Will he eventually find happiness with the
girl in the portrait, or will he remain firm in his resolve not to wed? Reason
dictates one course, his heart another.
Turning in her chair, she saw that the earl, elegant in evening attire, standing but a few feet away, conversing with one of his cronies. If not for the loss of his arm and the pale scar that now creased his left cheek, Jennifer would not have believed him returned from war. He retained his noble grace and bearing, appearing oblivious of the interest he evoked and she could easily believe that he would once more become the darling of the London hostesses.
Excusing himself from his companion, she saw that he intended to advance toward her, and she immediately rose to leave.
“What, you would desert me, Lady Jennifer?” he said, smiling as he came to stand before her. “Am I not to be allowed at least one word with you?”
“I am totally out of patience with you, my lord, and have no desire whatsoever to talk to you,” she snapped, resuming her seat and refusing to meet his gaze.
At her attempt to rebuff him, he stood squarely before her. “Come, Jenny; it must not be seen that we argue and feed the scandalmongers. At least, amongst company, it must seem that we can be civil to each other. Think of the attention we would draw if we appear antagonistic.” As she gave no answer, he drew up a chair to sit beside her. Concern showing on his handsome countenance, he laid his hand over hers as it rested in her lap.
“Would you have it said that there is a bitterness between us?” he asked quietly, attempting to read her face. “Is there a bitterness between us?”
Still she made no reply and he pressed the hand that he held.
“I see that I have wounded you, but believe me when I say that it is for the best. You would not wish me to husband. Come, did we not agree to at least be friends? I wish not to alienate you.”
Jennifer still gave no immediate reply, but then, raising her eyes to his face, smiled and said,
“Yes, I do believe we may suit as friends. Though what society will make of us I know not.”
“Do you care what the tabbies say?”
She gave a small trill of amusement.
“Not in the least, sir.”
“Good,” he said, rising from his seat. “Perhaps now that our friendship is confirmed, you might consider using my given name for, as you may have noticed, I have every intention of using yours.” He bowed formally and held out his hand. “Would you do me the honor of standing up with me for this waltz? I do believe we may attempt it in all propriety.”
“But how, Edward,” she asked, for a fleeting moment allowing her eyes to glance at his left shoulder.”
“Pay no mind to that, my dear. I do believe with a little ingenuity we will manage quite creditably. You need only rest your hand on my shoulder and all will work out perfectly.”
She appeared taken aback by the suggestion.
“I could not, sir. It would look almost as if we embraced, and as we are no longer betrothed, it would appear quite shocking. Even if we were, it would cause comments.”
He grinned at the idea, his eyes dancing with devilment.
“I’d not thought of it. Yes, I can quite see that we would cause a stir, but I do believe that we really must. Let the tabbies say what they like, I must have you dance with me.”
She smiled, an answering sparkle in her eyes.
“Then, sir, dance with you I will. I care not for the scandalmongers. I’m quite sure your impeccable reputation will more than render us immune to their malicious gossip.”
“Is my reputation impeccable?” he asked with some surprise.
“Most certainly! Especially as you are one of the gallant few who are returned victorious from war.”
“What utter nonsense,” he scorned, laughing. “I assure you there’s nothing gallant about war.”
Purchase a copy of the novel at the following links below:
About the author:
Hazel Statham lives in England and has been writing on and off since she was
fifteen. Initially she was influenced by Austen, the Brontes, and Sabatini but
when Hazel turned seventeen, Georgette Heyer opened up the romance and elegance
of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She immediately knew she had found
her eras and wanted nothing more than to re-create them in her work. Hazel lives
with her husband, Terry, and a beautiful Labrador named Mollie.
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