The rain tapped on the window beside Hyacinth Wellford’s seat. She looked out, gazing where rain dripped onto a small flower garden. It was September in London so she wasn’t surprised by the presence of rain. She leaned back in her chair, pushed a strand of her pale hair away from her eye and twisted away from the window to look into her bedchamber.
“London. Again,” she said aloud.
Hyacinth lived in London with her father and mother; the Earl and Countess of Harfield. With the autumn rain starting to come down over town, and the upcoming Season to attend, she was feeling more than restless.
“I need to get away.”
She sighed and turned back to the page on her desk. She was writing to her cousin Emmeline, who happened to have the rare luck, as Hyacinth saw it, to have been raised in France. She lived in a chateau with her parents. Her father, Lord Rayford, was an important man. He was an assistant to the ambassador. Hyacinth frowned at the thought because she knew the relationship between France and England was not good at all. The two countries had recently been at war, and it puzzled her that an ambassador for England was permitted in France. Then again, now that they were nominally at peace, perhaps that made sense.
She dipped her pen in the ink well and continued to write her letter.
I wish I could visit her.
She longed to visit Emmeline in France. She asked her parents many times, but they always met the request with a refusal. A sweet and kind refusal, but a refusal nonetheless. Hyacinth ran a hand through her hair and settled back in the chair.
She wasn’t discontent with her life and where she lived. Harfield was a lovely townhouse situated in a gracious quarter with a garden. The nearby park was perfect for taking a stroll and there were teahouses and shops all around. Even with all the amenities, Hyacinth couldn’t help but feel like a caged bird ill at ease.
There was no real adventure.
She smiled and, while waiting for the ink to dry on her letter, she stood and walked to her bookshelf. There, Robinson Crusoe rubbed shoulders with other exciting tales about exotic lands and faraway places. Novels her cousin had sent her, too, were there, set on the Continent. Learning German and French became exciting, just because she wanted to read those books and find out how people lived there.
She ran a hand over the books on the shelf and turned to the window where the gentle rain was still falling softly.
“Oh!” Hyacinth looked around, surprised, as her maid, Harriet, came in. Harriet was carrying laundry as Hyacinth nodded to show her she was welcome to come in. “Please, come inside,” she added. “I was just writing a letter.”
“Oh?” Harriet replied. She put the linen in the wardrobe. They had an easy relationship, it was more like a friendship. Harriet had been with Hyacinth for three years. She was only seventeen when she started and Hyacinth was sixteen.
“It’s too rainy to be outside,” Hyacinth added, turning back to her desk.
“Shall I ask Mr. Farnam to take the letter to the post-office for you?” Harriet asked as she drew the curtains.
“No. Thank you, Harriet,” Hyacinth said softly. “It’s not urgent. It’s just a letter to my cousin in France.”
“Well, tomorrow morning will do as well as any; the next boat to France won’t go tonight.” Harriet grinned.
Hyacinth sighed. “Sometimes I wish I could go there,” she confessed.
“I know. You do love the thought of an adventure,” Harriet said. She gave her a warm smile. She had a neat, pretty face, framed with a mop of blonde curls. “I don’t care where I am myself, so long as I have a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head.”
Hyacinth looked at her warmly. “I wish I could be content like you,” she said. It would be so pleasant, she thought. She had so much to be grateful for, a beautiful bedchamber, lovely dresses, and a life that was filled with parties. But, it didn’t feel like enough; she longed for something more, something exciting.
“Well, my lady, if we were all the same, the world would be a horrid place,” Harriet chuckled.
Hyacinth smiled at her again, she was so fond of Harriet. Hyacinth was adventurous and lively, while Harriet could be unfailingly down-to-earth with a good sense of humor.
“You’re right, of course,” she admitted.
“Thank you, my lady.”
They both laughed. Harriet went out the door making a soft sound as she closed it. Hyacinth walked to the window and looking out, she wished she could feel at ease. It was the start of the season, and she knew that tomorrow she would be expected to attend a private ball at the home of a duchess. It was one of the more exclusive balls, and she knew her mother was excited for her, but they went every year. Hyacinth debuted last year, and the round of balls and parties they would attend this year was the same as those they had attended last year. Nothing changed.
“At least my gown is new,” she told herself.
She went to the wardrobe where the gown was hanging. It was a magnificent dress with a white muslin skirt sewn with brilliants, a bodice with a low oval neckline and puffed sleeves. It had taken the seamstress days to make, and Hyacinth couldn’t help but be excited about it. But at the same time, the excitement felt hollow. She would go to the balls, see the same people, drink the same lemonade, and dance the same dances.
This is getting to be too much, she told herself crossly. It can’t all be so terrible. She scolded herself, but her restlessness would not subside. She walked briskly to the door and ventured outside, deciding that a walk in the garden would distract her.
“Oh, Mum!” she smiled as she bumped into her mother on the stairwell. She flashed a brilliant smile back at her daughter. Her brown hair was curly like Hyacinth’s, though she wore it in a bun and not ringlets. She had bright blue eyes, where Hyacinth’s own were a soft gray. While her mother’s face was heart-shaped, she favored her father who had an oval shaped face.
“Dearest,” her mother greeted her fondly. “There you are. Are you going to the drawing-room?”
“No, Mother,” Hyacinth said quickly. “I thought I’d take a walk around the grounds.”
“I’d like to come with you,” her mother said. “But I wanted to read for a little. How about I join you in half an hour?” She smiled, blinking in a way that showed she was sleepy.
“Of course, Mum,” Hyacinth said. She made her way down the stairs and onto the thick, lush carpet. The deep blues, jades, and dark purples of it reminded her of peacock feathers. After she walked the length of the stunning carpet, she reached the door and went out into the garden.
The cold air that hit her face was a bit shocking. It was cold, but not bitterly cold. At that moment, she wished she had brought a shawl with her. She breathed in deeply, the air filling her nostrils smelled of rain and wet grass. She walked down the path towards a bench that was set under the large oak tree. It was a quaint garden and could be crossed in ten paces. The entire garden was enclosed with a stone wall so tall that nobody on the street could see inside. All along the bottom of the gray stone barrier was a myriad of bright colorful flowers. She stood with her back against the wall and gazed over the little garden.
“What is the weather in France, I wonder?” She laughed at the thought. Maybe it was raining there too. It probably was. Emmeline lived near Paris, and from her letters, it certainly seemed summer was warmer there. Especially when she described what it felt like to wear petticoats in that heat.
She tried to push away thoughts of going to France, India, and faraway lands where tea, sugar, and cinnamon came from. She longed to go there too and breathe in the scent of spice. She imagined markets crowded with sailors, traders, and tents under a blue sky.
Hyacinth smiled to herself. There was so much to explore, but she knew she should try to be content with her life. It was hard to quell those exciting dreams though.
“Dreams do come true,” she told herself aloud. She remembered her Aunt Julianne saying that. Maybe she was right. Maybe dreams did come true.
“Oh, Daughter?” her father called from the step, making her look up.
“Did you see Mr. Walton out here?” he asked. Mr. Walton was the gardener. He didn’t come every day. The garden was so small that it only needed tending a few days a week.
“No, Papa,” Hyacinth said, wrinkling her brow. “It’s Tuesday.”
“Right, of course,” he replied. “I’ll tell him tomorrow that the borders of the lawn need digging. I had a guest nearly trip the other day, and I have another visitor coming later. Are you all ready for the ball tomorrow, darling?”
“Yes, Papa,” Hyacinth said, smiling up at him. She was so fond of her father, and loved him dearly. “The ball is tomorrow,” she confirmed. She wished something exciting would happen there.
An Evening At A Ball
Hyacinth drew in a deep breath. Her heart was thumping in her chest, and her palms were damp with perspiration. She always felt excited before a ball, even though, in her heart, she had no reason to imagine that this one would be any different than the dozens she’d attended in the past.
“Are you sure my hair is right?” she asked Harriet.
Her maid gave her a warm smile and said, “You look beautiful. Honestly, you’ll be the prettiest one there.”
Hyacinth gave her a shy smile and said, “Thank you, Harriet.” She looked down at her gown. The brilliants sewed onto the skirt sparkled in the light. She felt her stomach tingle with excitement as she twirled around in the new gown. She could feel the whisper of the soft muslin about her ankles, and the puffed sleeves sat comfortably on her upper arms. She glanced sideways in the mirror.
Her honey-blonde hair was arranged in ringlets that framed her oval face. The soft creamy white color of the gown complimented her gray eyes and complexion. She could feel a soft flush in her cheeks as she turned back to the room.
“I think I’m ready. I’ll just get my things and go down to the coach,” Hyacinth said.
“Of course, my lady.” Harriet nodded fondly. She assisted Hyacinth into the dress and arranged her hair, and now all that was left was for Hyacinth to take her soft, lacy shawl that matched the color of her gown and meet Papa and Mother where they waited in the hallway.
Before she walked out the door, she turned to speak to her trusted maid. “Harriet, I’ll get myself undressed and ready for bed tonight. You don’t need to wait up for me to get home.” She didn’t want Harriet to have to stay up all night waiting for her return; they would likely get back after midnight. Lady Dalmure was notorious for parties that continued well into the night.
“My lady, I’d be happy to help,” Harriet said gently.
“Please, Harriet,” Hyacinth said fondly. “I’d be glad if you were in bed. I’ll be able to sleep until midday if I choose.”
“Yes, my lady,” Harriet said. She seemed to accept the idea and Hyacinth wrapped her shawl around her shoulders, letting it hang in the crook of her elbows, and hurried downstairs.
The entrance was brightly lit causing Hyacinth to blink. It was a grand entranceway, with marble tiles and a vaulted roof, but she focused on her parents waiting near the door.
“Mother, you look lovely! Papa! You, too.”
Her father’s eyes widened and he said, “Oh darling, you look absolutely beautiful – you’ll be the loveliest young lady at the ball tonight.”
“Oh, Papa…” Hyacinth blushed. She looked at her mother, who embraced her affectionately. The family had always been close. Many noble families kept rigid rules, and kept their children at a distance parented by nannies and maids. By the age of twelve or thirteen they were allowed to dine with their parents. But the Wellman family was less formal than most. Hyacinth spent every spare hour with her parents and always had since she could remember. Their meals were informal, friendly times taken upstairs in the drawing-room with just the three of them, and no servants in attendance.
“You are beautiful,” her mother said, squeezing her hand. “Now, let’s get out to the coach. I asked Mr. Fenley to bring it to the stairs…it’s a little chilly outdoors.”
“Thank you, Mother,” she said warmly. Mr. Fenley was the coachman for the Wellman family. He was a kind man and loyal to a fault.
Hyacinth followed her mother down the steps. She wore a gown made of pure silk in the deepest blue she’d ever seen. The sleeves of the gown were soft chiffon, and the color brought out the intense blue of her eyes. Papa wore a gray velvet jacket, a fashionable high-collared shirt, and dark trousers.
Hyacinth allowed her mother to alight first, then took her father’s hand as he helped her into the coach. Once they were all settled in the coach, they headed to the ball.
The streets of London were busy, which was normal during the six o’clock hour. Hyacinth looked out the window at the fashionable dressed men and women making their way to the theater, the park, or dinner. Torches blazed in lanterns outside the doors of coffee-houses and traders were starting to close their shops for the night. The shutters were closed over the glass windows of storefronts to protect against thieves breaking in during the night.
Hyacinth leaned back into the soft cushion of the seat, feeling the slight roll of the coach as they swayed over the cobblestones.
The ball would take place at the manor of Lady Dalmure, it was a grand, elegant home in the Kensington district. It was not far from the Harfield House, and soon they stopped in front of the great house.
“Oh, isn’t it lovely?” Hyacinth murmured. She could see the torches lit outside the manor, casting warm light on the marble facing. The steps leading up to the manor were made of fine stone, and coaches of other guests were starting to line up, their lanterns casting patchy light across the stone path. Hyacinth drew in a breath, as her father opened the coach door and helped her and her mother out. She felt her ankles jar as she landed on the cobbles, her dancing shoes little more than silk slippers, with almost no sole beneath.
“Shall we go in?” her father asked with a gentle smile. “Take care – there’s a coach turning there.” He took her hand, and on his right, Mother walked beside him holding his other hand, and the three of them proceeded across the cobbles to the stairs. Hyacinth swallowed hard, her heart beating briskly as she walked up the stairs.
Their hostess was standing in the doorway, waiting to greet her guests. Her gown was a bright russet color, one shade paler than her rich brown hair which was styled in an elegant updo that proudly showed the gray streaks. She smiled when she saw Hyacinth.
“My dear Lady Hyacinth,” she greeted her warmly. “How good to see you.”
“Thank you, Your Grace,” Hyacinth said, curtsying politely. “Thank you for the invitation.”
“Of course, my dear. It’s a pleasure to have you here. Good evening, Lord Harfield. Lady Harfield,” she added, greeting Hyacinth’s parents, who stood a little behind.
Hyacinth looked around as her mother chatted with their hostess, feeling her heart thump. She was standing on a slight rise above the ballroom, where perhaps ten marble steps led down to the dancefloor. The ballroom was an older style than their own, with rich marble tiling on the floors, grand white floor to ceiling columns, and elaborate murals painted on the walls. The opulent chandeliers cast rich golden light onto the dancefloor.
Hyacinth turned, feeling nervous, and was relieved to see her parents walk over to join her. She took Papa’s hand for a moment needing reassurance, his grip brief, but firm.
They stepped down the stairs, she could feel the cold marble through her shoes as she walked into the ballroom.
Hyacinth noticed the room was surprisingly warm. It had been cold outside, almost chilly, but the ballroom was filled with about twenty guests and felt hot.
She adjusted her shawl, letting it fall back around her elbows, and looked around. Mother and Papa were close by, also scanning the room for people they knew. Hyacinth’s heart thudded.
She didn’t see anybody she recognized. Not that she knew very many people. Lady Greenhurst, a young countess, and Emily Alwood, a wealthy industrialist’s daughter, were her only acquaintances from last year.
“Ah! Mr. Brownley,” her father greeted someone. Hyacinth turned around to see a baron’s son approaching them. He was probably a decade older than herself. He was known in society for his clever investments, but her parents had known his father well. She knew her parents would be talking to him for quite some time.
She glanced around. The heat was starting to make her feel dizzy.
“Mother?” she murmured, “I feel a little thirsty. May I go and fetch some lemonade? Would you like some?” she added, gesturing towards the refreshments table. Her head really was hurting, and her mouth felt dry.
“Of course you may,” her mother said. “Ah! Lady Aldersley!” she exclaimed as she greeted her friend, who had just drifted over. “I think I will be quite all right without a glass of lemonade right now. Thank you.” She squeezed her daughter’s hand adoringly.
Hyacinth walked over to the refreshments table. It was on the far side of the ballroom, close to an alcove. She could see a liveried footman behind it, serving drinks, and a few of the guests had gathered there, laughing and talking. She could smell pomade, perfume, and candlewax. The sound of delicate laughter and hushed voices wove around her.
She joined the group around the table, glancing at the array of glasses and food on the table. Sandwiches cut into delicate triangles were laid on silver platters and fruit tarts sat on cake stands. The sweet and the savory adorned the table. She glanced up at the footman.
“A glass of lemonade, please?”
“Of course, my lady.” He poured her a glass, and Hyacinth took it, sipping at the cool lemonade gratefully. She looked around the room.
The party goers were making more noise now, and it wasn’t helping improve the ache in her head. She moved a little towards the wall where the air was cooler and looked over the crowd, hoping her head would stop pounding.
“Open the doors, please,” Hyacinth heard Lady Dalmure’s say. She looked over to see two footmen in their crimson uniforms going over to open the big doors at the back of the hall. Hyacinth guessed they led onto a terrace. She smiled gratefully at Lady Dalmure.
“It was getting very warm in here,” she said.
“I know!” Lady Dalmure waved a hand, fanning herself. She directed a bright look at Hyacinth. “This should help a little.”
“Thank you, Lady Dalmure,” Hyacinth said warmly.
She went towards the open doors, hoping the cool air would relieve the headache that pressed on her temples. The air was indeed cool, and the noise from the ballroom wasn’t as bad. The sound of chatter and laughter was but a gentle hum and she took a deep breath, feeling relieved.
The sounds of the garden were soft and mysterious. She felt drawn to go out there and listen to the chirp of crickets and the wind rustle through the leaves. She could see her parents, and if she told Lady Dalmure where she was going, there would be no harm in it.
“Lady Dalmure?” she asked, approaching her hostess as she went to instruct some footmen to open a window. “I think I might venture onto the terrace for a moment or two to take the air.”
“Of course, my dear,” Lady Dalmure said. “I would join you, but I’m busy in here.” She gestured to the footmen, who were moving benches to make space for the musicians.
“Of course, Lady Dalmure. Thank you,” Hyacinth said warmly.
She looked around, checking again that she could see her parents and that they could see her, and then walked out into the garden.
The air was like a cool stream washing over her warm skin, and Hyacinth breathed deeply, smelling the scents of the night. The smell of water was cool in her nostrils, as was the loam scent of damp earth. The wind rustled through the leaves of the creeping vines that grew along the terrace.
“I must stay out here a moment or two,” she said aloud to herself. It was what she needed. This calm, yet exciting space called to her, making her long to stay outdoors just a bit longer.
She walked further along the terrace, the sound of the hall fading as she walked further down. It would be another ten minutes before the dancing started, and she hadn’t even heard the musicians tuning yet. There was plenty of time to cool off and enjoy the silence.
She walked to the end of the terrace, where a fragrant creeping vine clambered up the wall and along the railings. She stared out into the blue darkness of the beautiful, shadowy garden.
Hyacinth whipped around in alarm. There was somebody coming across the terrace. Suddenly, all the nervous queasiness of earlier returned. She looked over to see Lord Loughdon.
“My lord!” Hyacinth swallowed hard. She recognized him from balls she’d attended last year. She’d almost forgotten about him, since he hadn’t made much of an impression on her. Although she did find him a little irritating. He had insisted on dancing at least one dance with her at every ball, and called once or twice at the house. She couldn’t understand why since he seemed to have no interest in having a conversation with her.
“Lady Hyacinth,” he said smiling. He was a classically handsome man, she thought. He had a chiseled jaw, blue eyes, blond hair, and a muscular body. But, he didn’t strike her as good-looking though, because the look in his eyes was unfriendly and probing. He looked as if he studied everyone he met with an air of superiority.
“My lord,” she said again. “Please…I should not be out here. Allow me to return to the ballroom.”
Hyacinth started to realize the bad position she’d put herself in. If anyone saw herself and Lord Loughdon out here together, they would assume they’d sneaked out here to kiss, and that would tarnish her reputation. Being caught alone with a man out in the garden would be the sort of thing that would be talked about through London, and nobody would think she had a good reputation again. It could ruin her.
Lord Loughdon raised a brow. “I see no purpose in doing so,” he said. “The current situation suits me rather well. Just one kiss of your sweet lips, and I will have sealed my fate.”
“What?” Hyacinth felt her heart pounding. Her voice was raised, and she looked around, feeling desperate. If she screamed, she would only draw attention to herself, and besides, she doubted that anyone would hear her. The musicians were starting up and she was closer to the front of the house now, having walked down the length of the terrace.
“I kiss you, I ruin your reputation, and I agree to marry you. Your parents will have no choice but to allow it; they will need to save your good name. And I walk away with the loveliest heiress in London.”
“What?” Hyacinth said again. She could understand what he said, but her brain refused to make it make sense. Would he deliberately ruin her to marry her? That made no sense at all, and then suddenly, it did. She was, as he said, the most sought-after heiress in London. Her dowry was considerable, and the London papers had all described her as beautiful and respectable. She was just as he said, and that was why he’d been courting her last year. It wasn’t for her personality or charm, but for her status.
“No,” Hyacinth whispered. She had known all along that there was something unappealing about Lord Loughdon. She wished she had told one of her parents more details about him. Last year, she’d told her mother that she didn’t feel comfortable around him, but that was all she’d said. Now, she wished she’d talked to both her parents about it more.
“What danger is there?” Lord Loughdon said, advancing towards her. “I am a Marquess, and well-respected. I have much to offer. All you need to do is let me kiss you, and let someone see us, and then all is well.”
“No,” Hyacinth said again. She looked back towards the entrance. In following her down the terrace, Lord Loughdon had stepped out of the direct line to the door.
If I dash away, I will be able to make it into the ballroom. Can I make it ahead of him? Taking a deep breath, she started to run.
At A Ball
“Do cheer up, Nathaniel,” Jeremy said, making a face. “You know, it’s a ball. Not a forced march through enemy territory.”
“I know, old chap,” Nathaniel said with a grin, turning to face his friend. “You know I dislike this sort of thing.”
“I know, but it’s honestly not that terrible. There’s food, music, and all sorts of people to talk to; some of whom are rather beautiful. It’s not that bad, really.” His friend smiled contentedly.
Nathaniel, Viscount Ramsbury and son of the Earl of Rallden, felt a frown crease his brow. He wished that he could relax and enjoy himself like Jeremy could. He’d never enjoyed balls and parties, finding the crowds oppressive and the music overly loud. Perhaps it was because he lived a quiet life at the country estate, and only went to London for his first ball when he was twenty.
Seeing his friend’s cheerful face creased with worry, he said to him, “I really will try to enjoy myself.”
Jeremy had a lively face with a slightly retrousse nose, bright brown eyes and thin lips that nevertheless lifted at almost everything mirthfully. Nathaniel had known him since they completed their studies together, and he wished he could be more like Jeremy in some respects. A baron’s son, and one who had spent three or four years in military service, Jeremy had an easy-going nature that Nathaniel wished he could possess. My life would be simpler should I worry less and adopt Jeremy’s brighter outlook.
“Let’s go get some lemonade or something,” Jeremy suggested. “Look, there’s a whole crowd over there.” He gestured to a table in the far corner of the room. Lady Dalmure usually hosted large parties, her ballroom was wide and gracious, and she enjoyed entertaining. Nathaniel glanced over to where Jeremy pointed.
There was indeed a crowd of people at the refreshments table, but his stomach twisted uncomfortably with the thought of going over there. It would be loud, and the press of people would jostle him around. He ran a hand through his dark hair and closed his hazel eyes for a moment.
“I’ll go and stand over there for a minute or two,” Nathaniel said, gesturing to the corner. He could see less people there, and perhaps he would gather his nerve and be able to join the crowd at the refreshments table. He glanced sideways, seeing the musicians with their black suits on starting to set out their instruments. In a few seconds, they’d be tuning up, and then his head would hurt.
He went over to the corner he’d indicated, Jeremy following him, and stood there for a moment or two, breathing deeply.
“I’ll go, if you like,” Jeremy said after a long moment. He looked up at his friend, his brown eyes crinkled at the edges with concern.
“It’s all right,” Nathaniel said softly. “I just need a moment.” He took a deep breath and looked over the crowd. Nathaniel was tall like his parents with broad shoulders, and he could easily make his way through the crowded room. Many people claimed that he intimidated them, though for the life of him, he couldn’t see why anyone would find him even a little daunting. He was far more weary of them.
“I’m thirsty,” Jeremy commented. “I’ll just hurry over there and get two glasses of lemonade. I’ll be back in a moment.”
“Thank you,” Nathaniel said, with a relieved breath.
He watched Jeremy walk over to the table, then turned away. He really did feel ill. A moment or two by the door would help, he thought. The cool night air washed over his face as he reached the open doors.
“That’s better,” he told himself. He stood just inside, facing the hall, breathing in the cold air. It was a cool night, and he was glad for his dark blue jacket. He didn’t know how the ladies could stand near the door when they had short sleeves on, but then he noticed, there weren’t any ladies nearby. They were mostly on the dancefloor, and the musicians were starting to tune their instruments.
“Ugh, My poor head,” Nathaniel said.
He went to the door that led out onto the terrace, and as he did so, he heard someone cry out. It wasn’t a loud sound, but the terror in it froze his blood, and he didn’t hesitate for an instant. He ran out to see what was happening.
The night air was cold on his face, and Nathaniel felt disoriented for a moment after the heat and noise from inside. He guessed the sound had come from his right, somewhere down the terrace, and he turned and ran swiftly toward it. He caught sight of a scene that made his blood flood with rage.
A young lady was being restrained by a man. He might have simply been shocked, but that wouldn’t have angered him. What angered him was that the young lady was clearly resisting the man and trying to push him away. The man was persistent in his vulgar pursuit though, pushing his face close to hers, kissing her cheek, her lips, her neck.
“No!” Nathaniel yelled, as the woman whimpered.
He raced over, and in one swift move, he clocked the man. He had trained in athletics and fencing, and never realized how strong his punch was. The vile man reeled back and slipped to one knee, freeing the lady.
“What…?” the woman called out in alarm, her eyes moving from the man crouched on the ground, to Nathaniel.
“It’s all right,” Nathaniel said as gently as he could. “I won’t hurt you. I won’t let that brute hurt you either.” He stopped talking as the man got up, and even though he was uncertain on his feet, Nathaniel ran at him.
He kicked out and hit downward, and the wounded man made no sound, just let out a breath and crumpled over, falling towards the stairs. He stumbled down them into the garden. Nathaniel didn’t watch to see where he went. He doubted he would be coming back to trouble either of them.
“Sir! You…you…” The young lady was sobbing. Nathaniel went to her, seeing how distressed she was. She must be freezing. Her shawl had fallen on the stones, and he retrieved it for her, going over to where she stood.
“Shh. Shh,” he said gently. “It’s alright. It’s alright.”
He reached for her, and held her tight against him. She was shivering, and he could think of nothing else to do to keep her warm. Her face rested against his shirt; her tears wet through the fabric. He held her tight, and a strange warm feeling flooded through him. It was a delicate feeling, like a rose that bloomed within him.
He heard a yell, and whirled around sharply as two faces appeared at the door. One was a man’s face, and the other was a woman.
“What is going on out here?” the woman demanded. Her voice was furious, and Nathaniel reddened.
Their hostess was staring at them, and other people were starting to form a crowd by the door. They were all taking in the scene of him with a woman in his arms on the terrace.
“I…it isn’t…” he paused. “Allow me to explain myself…”
“No,” the young woman whispered in his arms, and Nathaniel realized that she wasn’t telling him not to explain himself, but rather that it was an exclamation of pure fright. He suddenly understood why. As more faces started to appear in the doorway, their hostess fought to restore order by telling them to go back to the ballroom.
Undoubtedly, the young lady had once had a fine reputation. Which was likely ruined now that she’d been caught on the terrace in the arms of a strange man. And there was nothing he could do or say to help her.
He looked down at her, seeing the tears running down her cheeks, and felt his heart ache.
“Shh,” he said gently. “Shh. It will be well.”
He wished he could think of some way to remedy it.
“Viscountess by Chance” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Lady Hyacinth, daughter of the Earl of Harfield, has led a pleasant, yet rather predictable life. Her heart has always yearned for adventure, envying her cousin Julia’s life in Paris. All of her dreams collapse though, when after a public scandal, she finds herself betrothed to a complete stranger…
Will Hyacinth find a way to escape a miserable life and make her dreams come true? Could love flourish in a marriage that was born out of a scandal?
Nathaniel, Viscount Ramsbury, is relatively new to London society, having been raised on his parents’ country estate. While visiting London, fate brings the beautiful Hyacinth in his path. Little did he know that in his attempt to help the young lady, he would be forced to marry her. Could a miracle help Nathaniel get out of this tangled mess?
Two kind souls in the most unpredictable situation they could ever imagine…
When Nathaniel and Hyacinth head on an expedition to France, they both agree to follow separate ways, without expecting their feelings for each other to suddenly conquer them. However, there is a lot in store for them along the road, as they are thrust into yet another adventure. Will Nathaniel and Hyacinth learn to trust each other during their fateful journey? Will they manage to put all trouble behind and embrace their special romance?
“Viscountess by Chance” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.