Please enjoy my festive romance novel, Sleigh Ride . Set in Regency England, and including some authentic language of the times, the reader is taken on a truly magical Christmas journey. Miss Sophia Vale faces poverty. Enter the Earl of Breconbridge, renowned as a rake hell with a conscience. New chapters will be posted every Monday and Thursday.
In Memory of my Mother, Dylis Walker, who sadly passed away on the 20th December 2020. With traditional Welsh tenacity and vigour she lived a rich and full 99 years.
Bye Mum… I shall miss you.
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:
Sleigh Ride: Chapters 3 & 4
To Outwit a Brute
The butler ushered them through to the long withdrawing room decorated with gaudy red velvet drapes with gold tassel trims. The Hepplewhite chairs were also upholstered in a vivid red with gold paint. Some minutes later, a footman opened the mahogany doors to admit the Baron. Entering, he wore a lascivious beam, which promptly fell to one of disgust as he saw not two but three ladies walk towards him, like a funeral cortege. ‘Lady Vale?’
Sophia’s mother rose, gave a deep curtsey, and held out her hand upon which he was forced by etiquette to bow and kiss the air half an inch above her knuckles.
‘My lady, I am honoured – honoured to have you and your lovely daughters.’ He turned to the door, ‘let me introduce my worthy friend, the Viscount Treaditch.
A fop, tall of stature with a dissipated face and rake thin body ravaged by loose living and drink tottered into the room, his bright pink waistcoat quarreling with his yellow satin breeches. A footman rushed to his side as he bowed, teetering dangerously to one side, his left foot crossing over his right foot, causing him to twist into a fall.
The baron guffawed and beckoned for two footmen to lift him to his feet. ‘Silas old chap, come meet the ladies.’ Grinning, he showed a mouth of missing front teeth, and others browned with the stains of life.
The fop made his way over to Sophia. Holding out his hand, he waved a grimy lace-edged handkerchief.’
No – no, you cockle head, Lady Vale – here.’ The Baron shouted, spittle shooting out.
‘Pon rep, forgive me, you are such a lovely woman; I am overcome, my heart bursting with joy at such a vision of beauty. You rise like Venus from the waves; your bosoms riding high o’er—’
‘You bacon brained twit, tis a lady you are addressing.’
The fop nodded, pointing his toe forward and bowed, his nose almost touching the floor upon which he sprawled at her feet, squirming like an upturned turtle. The Baron barked at a footman to help him up, who leapt toward the lecher straightening and brushing down his clothes, as he helped him upright.
Grinning, the profligate turned to Sophia, not at all fazed by his drunken behaviour. He leered his nose almost in her covered bosom. ‘Pon rep Jude, where are we? Didn’t know this was a funeral party; where’s the corpse?’
The Baron seethed, trying to control his temper. He walked over to Lady Vale and ignored the scathing glare of her narrowed eyes, and proffered his arm. ‘Dear lady, may I escort you to the dining room?’ He turned, snarling at Silas, who’d flopped onto a chair now almost comatose. ‘Damn it all, Silas.’ He beckoned to a footman. ‘Tom – Albert, escort the two young ladies into the dining room.
The footmen bowed, and each proffered an elbow to Patience and Sophia. Trying not to laugh, they allowed the footman to lead them into what proved to be a sumptuous dining room. The room was brightly lit with beeswax candles in brass wall scones. Three-tiered crystal chandeliers hung suspended from an ornate ceiling whilst the cornices boasted plaster cherubs. A table large enough to seat forty people was laid out with silver and gold placements with vases of fresh flowers and sugar-coated roses. The exquisite crystal glass epergne held sugar angels with icing sugared wings.
The Baron seethed as Silas half ran with stooped legs after him. ‘You’re dicked in the nob – pull yourself together.’
Silas bobbed assent and fell onto a chair before the ladies were seated.
The Baron bared his teeth to Lady Vale. ‘Forgive us, my dear lady; the fellow’s as drunk as a wheelbarrow.’
She bit her lip; she could not possibly leave so soon; it may throw him into a fierce temper, a temper she knew only too well. No,, that would not do. It was fortuitous she was present; goodness knows what would have happened to the girls without her here. The rascal had obviously invited his friend to what they planned to be a cosy foursome; their intent was patently clear. Sophia and Patience were both highly intelligent and sensible girls. Still, goodness knows to what torments the Baron would have subjected them. She shuddered at the thought of it.
Looking down the long table, Lord Hawsley bellowed. ‘Where are the vittles? That bloody chef; don’t I pay him enough?’
The butler with a stony expression and tight lips appeared, followed by six footmen carrying steaming dishes. As he carved a large rack of roast lamb, the servants laid out the venison, with plates of roasted hare and a whole pheasant. There were at least eight partridge and pigeon pies with vegetable dishes covered in a butter sauce. The footmen rushed to and fro with so many dishes for so few guests. She bit her lip when she thought of the near starving tenants and their dear children. Would they had a quarter of this sumptuous meal on their almost bare tables. She watched ruefully as the footmen with inscrutable expressions laid out even more dishes of roast turkey, snipes, two ducks, and lastly, at the far end of the table, a small roasted pig with a crab apple in its mouth.
Once seated, the footmen poured the wine and served slices of the roast lamb with a blackberry sauce. It appeared the guests were to help themselves to the rest of the victuals.
As the Baron handed Lady Vale a plate of pigeon pies, there was raucous laughter and a kerfuffle outside the door. To her horror, at least half a dozen men exquisitely dressed sauntered in. As the leader came forward, Sophia gasped, his stature and broad shoulders announcing him to be a Corinthian of the first order. The candlelight accentuated the planes and angles of his face. , His toned muscles filled out a superfine corbeau coat of dark blue with a velvet collar and gilt buttons. His collar points reached a strong jaw and his cravat, a waterfall of starched linen, decorated his barrelled chest. ‘Ahah more beauties.’ He paused, frowning, ‘Rather drab are they not. Is this a masquerade? Are they ghosts or what?’
A Kitten Fight
The Baron laughed. ‘Nay, my lord, these are my neighbours who have honoured me with their genteel presence.’
He turned to Lady Vale. ‘My apologies may I introduce Lord Jacob Wells, Earl of Breckonbridge.’
The man leant forward, taking her hand. ‘Charmed ma’am, charmed.’ As he brushed the air above her knuckles, three ladies appeared laughing and chattering. They were indeed beautiful and obviously Cyprians of the highest class.
Shocked to be in the presence of the demi-monde, Lady Vale looked at him suspiciously. She could not concede any titled gentleman would be found here in this den of iniquity. She gave Sophia and Patience warning glances. Lady Vale was unaware of the look in the Earl’s eyes as he gazed upon Sophia.
The Baron cleared his throat and patted Lady Vale’s hand. ‘Forgive me, ma’am, I did not anticipate having any other guests, but I do keep an open house here; my doors always open to my friends. I know not who will turn up or even at what hour.’ He guffawed, then straightened his back preening. ‘Oh, to be such a popular host, eh what, Jake?’
The Earl nodded to Sophia, mesmerized with her beauty, the blue-black hair, and jade eyes. He was determined to know her. She was well-mannered with an ample bosom, tiny waist, and flaring hips or what he could make out in that hideous gown; a curvaceous young woman, yes, delectable.
As the Earl went to answer the Baron’s retort, the Cyprians glided forward, elegant in stance and haughty of expression. The footmen immediately ran to the table, pulling out chairs for them. They were apparently well used to the lack of etiquette in this room.
A tall, beautiful young woman with painted red cheeks and a scarlet satin dress fit for a bawdy house sat down. She immediately reached for the wine glass and beckoning the footman to fill it. As the woman fussed over her skirts, Sophia tried not to stare at the bright butterflies painted on the heavy breasts. Biting her lip, trying not to giggle, she looked across at her mama, who gave her a warning glance. But, it was Patience, who almost choked, as another young woman appeared opposite to her in an emerald green skirt, her top half naked except for two delicate gold leaves pasted on her nipples.
The Baron cleared his throat, for once discomforted, but then gave a strangled laugh, ‘Hah Letitia, beautiful as ever, you are the delight of the Gods.’
He gasped as the third woman appeared at his side and bent to kiss him, her gown consisting of narrow drapes of translucent voile stuck to the skin in places, the sides open to view the curve of her breasts and buttocks. He stuttered, ‘Maisie, you – you are divine.’
The lady in the scarlet dress tittered. ‘Hmm, too bad, I see you copy Lord Byron’s mistress, but Lady Caroline Lamb had the figure for it, whereas your scrawny bosom hardly—’
The woman in voile snarled, and leaping over to her, pulled the woman’s chestnut ringlets.
The Earl wore a grim expression as he walked over, lifting the lady in the voile drapes easily under his arm and setting her aside. ‘Ladies – ladies – enough. You are behaving like naughty kittens.’ He looked over to the Baron. ‘Methinks I should escort your guests to their home, tis not a fit place for ladies in mourning.’
The Cyprian with the gold leaves stuck to her nipples jumped to her feet, her full breasts bouncing. ‘You dare to insult us, my lord.’ She picked up a plate and hurled it at him, whereupon the Earl ducked and held out his hands in placation. He was rather taken with the little tigress and would have enjoyed her feisty charms later. Still, the virginal Sophia captured his heart, even if she took on the stance of a little grey mouse.
Lady Vale nearly choked as she watched him lift the woman, whose legs kicked open. Dearest Lord, the woman, did not wear a chemise– in fact, nothing. Her heart gurgled in her bosom, as she espied neat brown curls between flailing thighs, and they? Oh no – no, those curls in such an intimate place had ribbons on them, ribbons! Oh, God – where was she?’
Astonished, Sophia looked at her mother, who raised eyes to the heavens. She waved a delicate hand at Sophia, whispering, ‘Don’t – don’t look just – look at – oh – oh – don’t look.’
Lady Vale nearly fainted as she saw one of the gentlemen clap his hands, whilst the other gentlemen laughed as he quaffed back the wine, between choosing plates of victuals. It seemed the most normal thing for ladies to behave like she-cats.
Going over to Lady Vale, the Earl bowed. ‘Come, my lady, this is no place for you and your daughters. He glared at the Baron, raising his voice. ‘God’s teeth Hawsley, you have brought these gentle ladies into a den of iniquity. Shame on you, man.’ Turning to Lady Vale, he murmured, ‘Gather your daughters and wait for me in the hall; I will arrange for a carriage.’
Sophia ran to her mother’s side; it had undoubtedly been a momentous experience, one that bested Mrs. Radcliffe’s ‘Udolpho.’
Baron Hawsley rose to his feet and walked with him to the hall. ‘Please use my carriage, my lord. Even better, I shall escort the ladies home.’
The Earl cocked an eyebrow; already the Baron was in his cups, and a crowded carriage of three ladies, however drab of dress, was not a sensible idea.
‘Nay, I feel it is incumbent upon me to see to the ladies’ safety; besides, you have a full house to entertain.’ His mouth wrenched in a grimace. ‘Your duty is to your guests here. Don’t want to spoil the party. Do we?’
The Baron’s gaze swept over the Cyprians now chatting amicably, their light voices tinkling through crystal chandeliers. ‘Hmm. Yes, tis best I oversee things here. Don’t be long now; I have some games arranged for later.’
The Earl laughed, clapping the portly man on the shoulder. ‘Then, I shall make haste, my lord.’ As he strode toward the hall, his expression tightened. Damn the man, what the hell did he think he was doing exposing gently bred ladies to this debacle?
Overseeing the footman ushering the ladies into the carriage, he looked in to see them safely settled against the satin squabs.
Sophia leant forward, her heart hammering as she tried to speak to him. He was the most handsome man she had ever seen, not that she’d met many in her cloistered life at the Manse. She was determined to speak to him, to have him notice her. He was the epitome of her dream hero, tall, handsome, with blue-black hair waving to his neck. As he reached to shut the door, the desire to be clasped in those strong arms flushed through her body. She was startled with the intensity of the feelings, feelings she’d never experienced before, not even when she read Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
The Earl’s handsome face was within inches of hers; those sculpted lips so dangerously near. She was utterly under his spell; indeed, if he did kiss her, she wouldn’t turn away, silly girl; she would have to with Mama seated only two feet away. Yet, she was puzzled, why should she be so enthralled with a man’s beauty, why in heaven’s name would she wish so ardently to kiss those chiselled lips? She realized there was no time for initiatory approaches, and she could not think of any way to gain his interest. Now she knew why Mrs. Radcliffe’s heroines panted and fainted in the presence of such divine men. She wished she’d paid more attention to how these bashful heroines, emblazoned men’s passions, with a single modest glance and lowering of their eyelashes.
How should she look at him? Should she adopt the flirtatious moves of the heroines and lower her eyelashes? Flutter them? Bite her lip? No, she was too shy for that. Anyway, he was so powerful; he wouldn’t keep his eyes upon her; he would be too eager to return to those sirens in the banquet hall. All he desired was to see these little grey mice home. She blushed, remembering the gold leaves on that woman’s nipples, the curve of a breast, and the roundness of her bottom. Were all women so prettily curved? She’d only seen her or her sister’s bodies whilst dressing, and they were moderately blessed with pert breasts and slender waists, not like these buxom harlots. Her cheeks warmed as she recalled how easily he lifted that woman in the voile drapes, lifted her with just one powerful arm. She remembered his strong, elegant hand placed firmly under her breasts. Her heart hammered, as an exquisite feeling rippled to her groin. What was that? Why were her thighs so hot? Dear Lord, she was so confused; what were those exciting feelings, and why was she feeling them?
Her heart sank; she would never see him again. He moved in such different circles. He was a gentleman in the way he rescued them from that odious man, yet she’d been introduced to his other side, a rake of the first order. She blushed, visualizing the ladies’ near nudity, their gaudy dresses, and low cut bodices or none at all. It was hardly surprising he had no eyes for her; she was featureless in her dark grey dress and dowdy hair. However, she now knew the other side to this stranger, his saving grace being, yes; he was a rake, but a rake with scruples. Yet, he showed not the slightest bit of interest in her. Fortune did not shine upon her, t’was the only night, she’d worn a drab grey dress and fashioned her hair like a spinster aunt.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: