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 11 & 12
As the carriage bore them back to the Manse, Lady Vale bit her lip; she felt the need to explain her suspicions. The man may have some misgivings when entering a family where the mother-in-law appeared to be so high in the instep. Clearing her throat, she said, ‘my lord, I fear I have been remiss; due to past experiences with the Baron, I am inclined to be overly protective of my girls.’
Jake frowned. ‘I hope he has not hurt you in any way, my lady.’
She did not answer but bent her head, unable to look him in the eye.
‘My lady, has the brute laid his hands upon you?’ Jake was furious, his voice clipped.
‘My lord, I cannot speak of it, suffice to say the woodsman came to my rescue, without his intervention ….’ her voice faltered.
‘Then, I will kill him.’ He was so matter of fact, she shivered.
‘Nay, my lord, please, no-one knows of this, not even my late husband.’
‘Did you not reveal the bastard’s attack?’
‘My lord, it was hard enough finding a living for the Reverend. If he knew, he would have called the Baron out, even worse maybe. As he was dependent upon the baron for his livelihood, we would have lost everything. I had my children to think of; they needed the safety of a home.’
‘Safe for whom, your family may be, whilst you dear lady, martyred yourself.’
‘I made sure I was never alone again, my lord.’
‘Yes, but he’d destroyed your trust in men. Now I understand your fear for your daughters.’
He unclenched his fist as he said, ‘Madam, you and your family now have a protector in me. I will ensure you have a constant gardener and a footman, both to stand as guardsmen at the Manse from tomorrow.’
’Nay my lord, I am happy that you—’
‘No, madam, I insist on protecting my future wife and her family.’
Lady Vale’s eyes widened. It appeared he was determined to wed Sophia; she glowed inside, her pride building.
‘My lady, my intentions towards your daughter are pure. I never thought to marry for some time, for when I inherited the title, I also inherited the debts of my father. He damn well sold his soul to drink and the gaming hells.’
‘So how – how will you—’
‘My lady, as I said earlier, I am heir to the Marquess of Brindlehurst and am to inherit a vast fortune as well as an estate.’
‘But how will you—’
‘He bestowed an allowance upon me when my father passed, enough for the upkeep of Breckonbridge Castle and a comfortable living. On a more morbid note, my uncle is approaching his eighty-fifth year and is in failing health. I love him dearly, as he was more of a father to me than my own. He has funded and counseled me through the years for which I am indebted.’
‘So he has no other family?’
‘Except for his daughter, no. Sadly, his dear wife passed over twenty years ago; it was a love match. He never remarried. He says he could never replace her; he would rather live with the memories of their happy union. They had only one child, a daughter; he has also willed her part of his considerable fortune.’
Lady Vale bit her lip, regretting her insulting behaviour to such a fine gentleman. ‘My lord forgive me; I have wronged you.’
‘Nay, my lady, you saw me in dark circumstances, some of which I am not proud, but it is necessary for the wellbeing of our country. He was not about to confess he found some of it titillating.
‘So will you continue with such?’
‘No, my lady, I have other connections which I will take up.’ Clearing his throat, he said, ‘Madam, I am so grateful you gave your permission to court Sophia. May I – may I be so bold as to say, I am determined to make an offer to her.’
‘Yes, you may, and I am delighted you find her a suitable match.’
‘More than suitable, madam. I know this may sound strange, but I fell in love with your daughter as soon as I laid eyes upon her. It was, to use a cliché, love at first sight.’ He grinned. ‘Well, second sight.’
‘You have my permission and my blessing, my lord.’
Beaming, Jake looked through the window, ‘Pon rep, tis snowing –and hard.’
Lady Vale peered out. ‘My goodness, it is already laying.
Sophia drew the curtains, amazed, in only two hours; the snow-covered the trees and the garden. ‘I hope mama is alright.’ Tis quite bleak out there now.’
Patience came to her side. ‘Let us hope she arrived before it lies too thick; the carriage could overturn in such conditions.’ ‘
‘Hmm, I wonder if the Earl would escort her home, or maybe she is just with the coachman and postilion.’
‘She should be safe enough with them.’
It was twilight before the Earl and Lady Vale reached the Manse. As she saw him appear, Sophia’s heart raced; he supported her mother along the snow-laden path. It seemed he and mama were in good spirits. Sophia stood back from the door, holding onto the sheepdog who whined, struggling to get loose. Seeing her dilemma, Patience came forward and grabbed Freddie’s collar, taking him into the small withdrawing-room.
Sophia ran forward, giving a pretty curtsey. ‘My lord, welcome.’
Jake bowed, then raised her up, kissing the air above her knuckles. ‘Miss Sophia, tis a pleasure to see you again.’
She bobbed another swift curtsey, ‘My lord, I am so pleased to see you.’
Her mother glanced up the stairs. ‘Is the Physicker and the nurse still here?’
‘No, seeing the snow deepening, Physicker Moreton decided they had to leave before it became too deep. He had the nurse set up a steamer with eucalyptus and smoothed goose fat on Emily’s chest. I was relieved we still had some, as it was the first thing she asked for.’
‘And Emily is improved?’
‘She is more comfortable, thank goodness. The Physick said she should recover well, but to call him again if necessary.’
Lady Vale smiled, ‘Thank goodness, and thank you, my lord, for getting the Physicker and nurse to tend to our dear Emily.’
Jake bowed, ‘My man will pay him for his attentions.’
She turned to Sophia taking her hand, ‘Now the good news; we had a successful visit and as a result; I am delighted for the Earl to pay court to you.’
Sophia blushed, wishing her mother would not be so blatant. She left no room for delicate maneuvers in the mating game. Stepping into the small withdrawing-room, Lady Vale clapped her hands, ‘Hah, a lovely blaze, just what we need after the chill of the carriage.’
‘Then my toil was well worth it, mama.’ Sophia said, ‘I spent hours chopping the logs; we have enough for at least a week.’
Jake grimaced, realizing this family survived in abject genteel poverty. It was obvious she was accustomed to hard labour.
Lady Vale watched, seeing his concern, but smiled inwardly. Soon her darling Sophia, indeed, all her daughters would be cared for and protected by this dear man. Sophia would never have to go scavenging again for logs or lift another ax. She turned to her daughters, looking all agog, at the elegant lord in their midst. ‘Now, girls, we must leave his lordship and Sophia to speak alone.’
As the girls disappeared into an adjacent sitting room, she gave a backward smile but left the door wide open. Laughing, she returned and grasped Freddie’s collar, who was intent on sniffing Jake’s shoes. As he whined and tried to pull back, she grinned. ‘Come on, nosey, you’re coming with me.’
Jake smiled his thanks; he’d been sure Lady Vale would insist on a chaperone, but she was kind enough to give them some privacy.
Sophia beamed, taking his arm. ‘Come, my lord, let us see if it is still snowing.’ She led him to the far end of the small withdrawing room, where they had more privacy and could talk quietly without being overheard.
He grinned, delighted with her friendly and unrestrained demeanour. Reaching the window, he took her hand, stroking her delicate fingers. ‘My heart is racing, seeing you once again.’ He gazed at her, mesmerized with her large eyes that unique colour of pale jade, the touch of rose in pale cheeks, her ebony hair glistening in the candlelight. Yes, she was indeed beautiful, a nymph of the night. He stopped himself, stroking her sloping shoulders, as his eyes swept over the rise and fall of her plump breasts. Taking her hand, he murmured, ‘Dear Sophia, I think we shall have to postpone that stroll, tis snowing hard, and the night is fast upon us.’
Sopha sighed. ‘Tis these early evenings, why today it was fast drawing in at four of the clock.’
‘If we were at Breckonbridge, I would whisk you away on a sleigh ride,’
‘Oh my lord, I would love that. Our papa took us for sleigh rides; we had so much fun. He would pile us in together, with hot bricks for our feet and cover us with rugs; we loved it. Before I lost my two brothers, we had two sleighs. Papa would take us girls, and the boys would follow with our mama.’ Her voice softened, ‘how I miss those days. He was the kindest of fathers.’
Jake bit his lip, thinking of his own selfish pater who’d lived for the gaming hells and loose women.
Seeing his change of mood, Sophia put her hand gently on his broad chest. ‘My lord is all well with you; you look saddened?’
‘Nay – just a few memories rising, but enough I am here, and in your delightful company. Now tell me, do you keep horses?’
‘Nay, my lord, sadly we had to let them go. The sleighs lie unused in the barn; they are in a sorry state.’
‘Well then, I shall have a carpenter look at them.’
‘I don’t think it is possible to repair them, my lord; the wood is rotting.’
‘At least let me have a look at them.’
‘I will just go and tell mama.’
Sophia returned, an astonished look on her face. ‘Mama is actually allowing us to go to the barn with only Augusta as a chaperone. I thought it would entail Patience as well, and even herself.’
He beamed. ‘Come then, but wear a cloak, tis icy out there.’
Picking their way carefully in the falling snow, she led him to a barn some fifty yards from the Manse. As she went to the huge doors, he stepped in front of her. ‘Allow me.’
With Augusta and Freddie close behind them, Jake glanced over the neat bales of straw stacked against the walls and looked to see yet more on the upper floor. Seeing the rickety ladder, he frowned. ‘Tell me you do not use that?’
‘Well, tis sturdy enough, my lord.’
‘Hmm.’ was his only reply as he walked over and tested it.
He almost glared at her. ‘Sophia, promise me you will not use this again until my carpenters have seen to it. Indeed, we will provide you with a new one. That is until….’ He didn’t finish the sentence; for now, he firmly resolved to marry her as soon as possible. He would then take the whole family to live at Breckonbridge. He was determined to keep this precious girl safe.
‘Very well, I won’t be using it for a while, so yes, I promise. However, come, the sleighs are over here. He followed her to a dark corner, where lay two sleighs in a sorry state. Seeing the rotting timber, he pursed his lips; there was not much worth saving. He straightened up, ‘These are beyond repair – fit only for the fire.’
She nodded. ‘I only keep them in memory of papa, really, and all those wonderful times we had together as a family.’
‘Forgive me if I have upset you in any way.’ Jake reached out and drew her close.
Looking up at him, she murmured. ‘My Lord, you are too kind, of course, I forgive you, for you were not to know.’ He nodded; he’d already planned a surprise for her; it would be his wedding gift. He gulped, astonished at his ardour for this young woman. Two days ago, he was unaware of her existence; now, she was constantly in his thoughts.
He felt a rush of delight; he’d found his true love; he’d never thought to find such a woman or to experience these intense feelings. He felt he’d known her forever, that his soul lay waiting until she appeared. The old cliché of love, at first sight, was indeed true. His mind swept back to see her seated at the Baron’s dining table, her beauty outshining her drab attire. He wanted to hold her tighter, feel her curves blend to his body. He glanced over to see Augusta was nowhere to be seen. He bent to Sophia. ‘Where is your sister.’
Sophia grinned impishly. ‘She is giving us some privacy, my lord.’
Seeing her sweet upturned face, he wasted no time. His lips sought hers, his heart racing, as her curves did indeed blend with his angles. Gently, he licked her top lip seeking entrance, and was rewarded with a hesitant tongue responding, the sweetness of honey pervading his senses. Feeling her arms reach up and slip around his neck, he grasped her firmly, feeling the soft, generous mounds rest against him. His hands slipped down to pull her hips against his but then regretted it; his groin responded much too hastily. It was already burgeoning in his breeches. Darn it, moving slightly away, so as not to disturb her innocent responses, he stroked her back, pulling off the cape and allowing it to drift to the straw. He felt her tremble as their tongues now slowly waltzed together. He drew away, his lips following the curve of her slender neck, feeling the veins pulse, as his hands reached her bosom. Gently, he tipped his finger into the modest décolletage; as she did not back away, he stroked the soft nipple to arousal. Shifting his hips, so she would not feel the growing hardness of his member, he drew her in further until she was hard against his thigh and knee. He heard a moan as her body swayed and melted into him. His hands ached to release her breast, to lift those skirts, but he restrained himself. Why risk things now and perchance frighten her away with his lust.
As Sophia arched her body to his, he heard Augusta call to them, ‘hurry – hurry mama is on her way over.’
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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: