Watch Captain Pug

Watch Captain Pug

Watch my Captain Pug video! On the 23rd of March, 2021, The Golden Legacy will be released on Amazon Kindle, though is already available for pre-order. A romance box-set, based upon the premise of the lure of cursed pirate treasure. It can be used for good or evil, but expect consequences. As far as I am aware, there are no pugs involved in this excellent collection of books, but do expect a really good read.

Music: Jackson Parodi – Barrett’s Privateers

You can pre-order The Golden Legacy at Amazon using the following links:

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 13, 14, & 15

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 13, 14, & 15

Please enjoy the final chapters of my romance novel, Sleigh Ride . Set in Regency England, and including some authentic language of the times, the reader is taken on a magical journey. Miss Sophia Vale faces poverty. Enter the Earl of Breconbridge, renowned as a rake hell with a conscience.

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Sleigh Ride: Chapters 13, 14, & 15

Chapter 13

Bribes and Presents

Sophia raced to the window with Freddie leaping at her skirts; he was near; the dog always seemed to sense when Jake would arrive. She clapped her hands as minutes later, her beau arrived at the picket fence.

True to his word Jake, visited every day, bracing snowdrifts to see his love. As it snowed almost non-stop, they were trapped inside the house or the barn.  Lady Vale seeing their dilemma and realizing it was such a brilliant match for her daughter, was wily enough to give them time together. Of course, she made there was not enough time for naughty capers, but sufficient to fire their desire for each other. Augusta was somewhat tired of playing chaperone but deferred from procrastinating, as Jake brought her gifts with each visit;, small boxes of confits or sweets from his chef, or novels by her favourite author Ann Radcliffe.  In return, Augusta would spend a few shivering moments in the shed adjoining the barn and secretly out of view from their mama. Jake had no intention of despoiling his ladylove but hoped the long passionate kisses and sweet words would persuade her to an early wedding. With Augusta keeping a beady eye on the Manse, they lay on the straw in each other’s arms. Jake tickled Sophia’s chin. ‘So my love, what say you to a Christmas wedding? We have met numerous times now, and I have not swerved from my initial intention: to marry you. We could hold the wedding at Breckonbridge, t’would be a grand time for you to meet all the family, as we have relatives visiting over the festive season.’ 

Sophia stiffened. ‘How many will be there?’

‘Oh, about thirty, I would say.’

‘Oh Jake, I couldn’t, I don’t know any of them, and I am not titled; I have dowdy clothes, and oh dear no; I couldn’t.’

Jake laughed. ‘Darling, on that day, you will become the Countess of Breckonbridge, and when you greet the guests, I will be at your side. Besides, a glass of champagne will soon banish your nerves. And, d’you think I would allow you to appear in anything but exquisite gowns and ermine capes? Also, I hasten to add, you will wear silken slippers on your slender feet and jewels adorning your lovely neck and bosom. Come now, you must accept my offer, and then I can arrange everything; indeed, I shall employ the best Modistes and milliners for you. Say yes, my darling, say you will marry me.’

Sophia bit her lip; she’d held back to gain his respect, to show him that she was not some chit rushing to catch a title and his fortune. But, she fell in love with him the very evening they met. Her heart sank every time they parted, for she could not forget his amusement as he lifted the near-naked Cyprian from what he called a kitten fight, nor the way he joked with them. Indeed, she worried some exquisite belle would steal him from her.  No, she dare not hold back anymore. ‘Yes, oh, yes. I will marry you. I love you so much, so very much.’

Laughing, he rose, pulling her up with him. ‘Come, we have been here long enough. We must get back to the Manse.

Puzzled, she followed him begrudgingly to the house; he appeared eager to leave her. Her mama met them at the door, a mischievous grin lighting up her face. Jake led Sophia into the small withdrawing room with his arm around her waist and guided her to the window. Lifting the curtain, he said, ‘come, my love.’

Peering through the window, Sophia cried out in delight.  There in the lane, stood two horses in front of a lovely sleigh.  ‘Oh Jake, tis beautiful – beautiful.’

‘Tis yours my love. My wedding gift to you.’

Lady Vale put her hands to her face, overjoyed, ‘Wedding gift? Oh my darlings, I wish you happy.’ She glowed inside; her daughter made a splendid match.

Gazing at the sleigh, Sophia actually jumped for joy.  ‘Oh, Jake – Jake. I love you.’ Going on tiptoe, she hugged and kissed him soundly. For once, her mama did not talk but stood quietly beaming and wiping her eyes.  

Sophia suddenly frowned, ‘But how, how can we keep the horses? We have no—’

‘Tis all arranged, my love. Your mama agreed to the horses being housed in the barn until we marry, whereupon we will take them to Breckonbridge. Furthermore, until we wed, for their safety and also yours, I shall leave an able groom, and more guards with you.’

‘But we already have a footman, and the constant gardener, who only sweeps the snow from the garden path.’

‘Well now, you will have more retainers, especially as the news goes abroad that we are to wed. Hawsley is on the secretly wanted lists; he’s a dangerous villain and a smuggler.  I have to ensure the safety of you and your dear family.’

Jake then turned to her mother. ‘Lady Vale, can we now discuss your future?’

Lady Vale looked at him, her eyebrows raised in sheer surprise. ‘My future my lord?’

‘Yes, you and your family. May we speak privately?’

‘Of course, my lord. Just a moment if you please.’ Lady Vale ushered the girls from the room as Jake and Sophia sat down on the settee near a blazing fire. Swiftly, Jake kissed Sophia and ruffled her ebony curls. ‘My darling, I am the happiest man in the world.’

Sophia grinned, ‘And I am the luckiest girl. ‘

On returning, Lady Vale took a place on the faded brocade chair opposite them and waited for Jake to speak.

He felt his heart jump, for what he had to say was important to both families. His mama had already agreed to his plans, but he had yet to apprise Lady Vale of his decision.

‘Lady Vale, I would be honoured if you and your family made your home at Breckonbridge. We would be so —’

‘Oh no, my lord, tis very kind and generous of you, but we number eight in our family beside Sophia.’ 

‘Room is of no consequence Lady Vale; we have over a hundred and forty bedrooms, besides the living quarters. You could have your own apartments in one of the wings, which will give you all the privacy you wish.  Please say, you will?’

Lady Vale bit her lip. ‘My dear Jake, I am overcome with your generosity and goodwill, and your love for my precious daughter, but how can I say this…?’ She paused. ‘I came to the Manse, as a new bride with a man who I married, not because it was a good match, but because we were in love. We spent many happy years here; this is where I bore all my children, watched them grow and watched some of them ….’  She stopped, unable to say the words, as she alluded to her dead husband and children.  But choking back those sad memories, she said, ‘Even in grief, the Manse sustained us, we fell on hard times and do still struggle, but it is a good and sweet life.’

Sophia felt her heart fall, gripping Jake’s hand as her mother continued. ‘All my memories are here.’ She waved to the portraits on the walls, some done by well-meaning amateurs and a couple that held the gaze. Nary was professionally painted, but they were the likenesses of her beloved husband and children. ‘Everything in the Manse, my husband and I collected together … I cannot leave it behind.’


Chapter 14

Where Lies Happiness

Sophia felt her tears rising. She never realized just how much mama missed her papa and how much she loved the home where she came as a bride. Nevertheless, her sisters and brother would lose a great deal if they stayed. Jake could give them all a future of promise.  ‘But mama, my sisters and brother would have such a wonderful life, such luxury.’

Lady Vale lifted her head. ‘I know it sounds selfish, my love, but this is our home, our way of life. Maybe we could benefit from a new carpet and furniture, and maybe a fuller table, but not only did we survive, but we have also been happy here.  We have a rich life with lifelong friends and neighbours.’ She lifted her head, gratitude in her eyes.

Patience flew into the room; she’d obviously listened at the door. ‘Mama, don’t get upset, we love you, and we want to stay with you here. You’re so right; this is our home; it’s not just a house; it’s a home.’

‘Yes, it is; it’s our home. Mama, we’re happy here.’  Augusta said, joining them, 

Patience looked at Jake. ‘You are so kind and generous, and we love you for it. But, we love this house, and this is where our mama is happy.’

Jake nodded, overcome with the love shown to him by this family. He was almost overwhelmed. They should choose the near-poverty of this home over the luxury of a castle. Stunned, he could hardly find the words, for he realized this was the love he’d yearned for in the lonely years of his boyhood. Those years of fear and trepidation flooded his mind, waiting late at night for the dreaded bellow of his drunken father as he stumbled home. He still remembered his father’s voice echoing in the massive stone hall, the tears of his beloved mama in the early hours.

Feeling the warmth of Sophia’s hands in his, he almost choked. ‘I realize I cannot match what you have here, Lady Vale. I am privileged you shared your feelings with me. But – but please allow me to help you financially. I can see your girls each have a come out, and Benjamin is presented to the King. I don’t really know what—’

Lady Vale got up from her chair and came over to him, putting her arms around his shoulders. ‘Dear Jake, I would be grateful for your help, but I do not want my girls to have the pressure of entering a society for which they are not equipped. I know just how cruel the ton can be. However, if the girls wish to come out, I will not stand in their way. I will allow them to choose their destiny.’

Jake nodded, lost for words; all his allusions on wealth and status turned on its head.

Patience broke the silence. ‘Well, I, for one, would love to have a tutor. I could learn languages, study Greek philosophy, even mathematics. Why I could train to be a schoolmistress.’

Augusta interrupted. ‘And I would love to learn how to paint in oils, have a proper easel, canvasses and —’

‘I’d give anything to have riding lessons.’ Jennet said, her eyes sparkling.

Jake couldn’t help chuckling, as the girls excitedly clapped their hands, each relating to him in their different ways.’

Lady Vale sat back a winsome smile on her face, tears filling her eyes if only Stuart were here to see this, but then he may well  be looking on from heaven.’

Jake rose to his feet and looked at them all.  ‘Then the lessons you shall have. Some, I will arrange at the castle tis only half an hour’s journey from here. I will arrange a carriage to pick you up and take you home. ’

Lady Vale beamed. Come now, I have heated the bricks and have the rugs ready for the sleigh.’

Jake leapt to his feet. ‘Well then, Sophia, let me lead you to your snow carriage.’

Once settled with her feet on the hot bricks warmed with the rugs, Sophia sat beside Jake as the groom lifted the reins. Soon they chortled with laughter as they sped along the snowy track. She knew he’d arranged for the carpenter to build a new sleigh, but she never dreamt it would be so sumptuous. It took her back to the happy times of her childhood with her papa, but now she sat cuddled by the love of her life, the man she’d always yearned to meet.

Later, with the horses safely stabled in the barn with an able groom. Jake stood on the doorstep, his face solemn. ‘Darling, I fear I will not be able to see you for a few days now.’

‘Oh? But why?’

He smiled at her direct ways. A titled lady would have demurred and not prevailed upon him, for further explanation. However, this was his naturally inquisitive Sophia. ‘Well, tis to do with my work; I know not how long it will take, but it will definitely be only a few days.’

 ‘Christmas is only four weeks away.’

‘I know, and we must make plans. Make a list of your guests.’ Enfolding her in his arms, he kissed her deeply, murmuring, ‘take care now, my love.’ 

Watching him ride away, picking through the snowdrifts, she turned to her mother and sisters. ‘I am sure he has gone to arrest the Baron. Tis dangerous work he does.’

Lady Vale put her arm around her shoulder and led her back to the withdrawing room. ‘Come now, sweetheart, don’t fret. You know not what he does, really. Besides, Jake is a very able man.’

‘Yes, but I fear for his safety if anything should—’

‘Hush, child, do not despair. Surely he is not alone in his work, be assured he is safe.’

 Numbly, Sophia allowed her to lead her to the settee whilst Patience handed her a hot cup of tea. ‘Come now, Sophia, all will be well.’

Sophia bit her lip and tried to smile at her sister, but her heart filled with foreboding.

***

He smiled grimly; every window was alight, which would make it easier to round up the culprits.  His officers were stationed in a circle around the Manor; there was no room for escape.  Some men stayed on the outer perimeter in the cover of trees; others formed an inner perimeter ready to attack.  More officers now crouched behind the ground floor kitchen windows waiting to scour the cellars for contraband. He’d done an earlier reconnaissance whilst at one of the Barons debauched gatherings, parties that went on for days. He grimaced, but for his intervention, Sophia and Patience could well be sex slaves to any rakehell’s lowest whim.

He and his officers perfected a rook’s caw as the signal to advance. They would take as many prisoners as possible, sorting them out later at the holding cells.

He raised his hand and softly gave the signal upon which the officers sprang into action.  Luckily, the main doors and entrances were open, but not for those officers who knelt outside the ground floor windows; they would have to smash their way through the glass.

Amidst the frantic haste of fleeing guests, Jake searched for the Baron; he had to be somewhere. His officers followed him to the first floor, booting open doors to find naked tangled bodies. Women shrieked, and men cursed, fruitlessly, trying to cover themselves, with sheets strewn on bed and floor. But Fiend’s’ teeth, where was the Baron?  Surely he wouldn’t be on the second floor? Upstairs, he heard a wail of distress. God’s teeth it was that of a young female. Taking the stairs two or three at a time, he ran down the narrow carpeted corridor, as his men smashed open doors until they reached one solidly locked.

Standing back, he lunged, using all his strength to kick the door open. Sure enough, the wretch had a young woman pinned beneath him. She screamed for help, her large eyes terrified, her tender young body tied to the bed. Snarling, Jake charged at the Baron, lifting and throwing him across the room, whilst one of his men hastily covered the sobbing girl.  Botany Bay wasn’t good enough for this varmint; he would fight to see him hung. Yes, it looked like Jake could have him charged with abduction of a minor and act of depravity.  Oh, yes, he would hang. 

Chapter 15

Sleigh Ride

Lady Vale helped lift the dress over Sophia’s head, letting it fall in drapes over her slender body.  She did up the silk covered buttons and then stepped back as her daughter gazed at herself in the long mirror. Sophia gulped with delight as she saw the shimmering folds of silk embroidered brocade, the Valenciennes lace edging the puffed sleeves, and the hems of her skirts. She turned to see the attached train some six feet in length, trailing the floor. 

Sophia gasped. ‘Oh goodness, mama, how am I supposed to walk in this?’

Her mama clapped her hands. ‘Jake has exquisite taste, my love. With those adjustments, it fits like a glove.’ Sophia adjusted the low décolletage of the simple bodice. ‘I still fear this is still too low; they will think I am a brazen hussy.’

‘No dear, display your bosom, tis the height of fashion to do so. And you are blessed with a lovely figure.’ 

Sophia gave in; the bodice did emphasize the pearl white beauty of her plump breasts. She twirled to one side; the bodice embroidered with exquisite silks had a wide silken band at the high waist, with silk ribbon bands underneath the ruffles of lace on the puffed sleeves.  She picked up a box delivered early that morning, with a note from Jake, not to open it until she was dressed. Sophia’s heart fluttered as she opened it; she’d found it hard to obey his request. Still, now her heart fluttered as she pushed aside the tissue paper to reveal a crown embellished with dozens of cut crystals. A tulle veil of the most delicate embroidered netting flowed to the floor. ‘Oh goodness, mama, look, it’s so beautiful.’ She choked, ‘Oh, isn’t he just wonderful?’

Her mama beamed, the tears brimming. ‘Dearest, you look every inch a princess. I just know you will be so happy together, and his family are so kind; I am thrilled we could arrange for the banquet at Breckonbridge; it’s only half an hour away.’

Slipping into the satin slippers, she turned to see one of her mama’s mischievous smiles as she whipped out a box she’d been hiding behind her back. ‘Now look, another surprise from Jake.’

Sophia’s fingers trembled as she picked up the card with a message in a strong masculine script.

My darling,

This is an heirloom worn by the brides of Breckonbridge on their wedding day. Please wear them for me. I love and adore you.’

Jake.

Sophia held her breath as she opened the velvet-covered jewel box.  ‘Oh my God, mama, I can’t – I  can’t wear them. I’d be terrified; I’d lose them. They are so beautiful.’

As they gazed at the parure of three rows of diamonds cut in glorious shapes and fashioned on delicate silver strands, Lady Vale joined her. Beside them lay matching drop earrings and a delicate bracelet.

Her mother held her breath, placing the necklace around her daughter’s neck, as Sophia put on the drop earrings and adjusted the bracelet. 

‘There, you are indeed a princess. Your papa would have been so proud of you. But now, are you ready? I think the carriage should be here at any moment.’

Sophia heard a whine and looked to see Freddie lying in his basket, with his nose between his paws. ‘Oh Freddie, we wouldn’t leave you behind, come on sweetheart.’ The sheepdog stood up with bright eyes,  a wide satin bow on his collar, his long bushy tail wagging, as Sophia leaned over to stroke him, ‘Now you are a good boy, no biting anyone’s bottom. Promise?’

Sophia trod carefully down the narrow stairs, helped by her sisters now dressed in pale blue gowns of the finest satin embroidered with flowers.  Each wore a wreath of fresh flowers with matching bouquets. Sophia looked out, ‘Oh dear; the carriage is not here yet.’

She paused, and then gasped, her eyes wide. ‘Oh – oh my goodness.’ She looked at a long sleigh coming into view, bedecked with forest greenery, red berries, and covered with an arched canopy covered in Christmas roses.  To her astonishment, another followed, equally festooned after that Patience and the girls almost jumped up and down with excitement. ‘Is that for us?’

Sophia laughed with delight as Jake handed the reins to the coachman and sprang down into the snow.  

Swiftly, he came to her side.  ‘My dearest dear. You are a vision, an angel in the snow.’  He held out a cloak of heavy pale blue velvet with ermine trim, draping it around her slender shoulders. ‘I have flung convention to the winds; I insist on taking you to the church myself, and what better way for my bride than a sleigh ride?’ 


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 12

Sleigh Ride: Chapters  12

Oops! Here is Chapter 12, which I accidently left out of Thursday’s instalment. Apologies for that, but it has now been added here and also there. I will post the final 3 chapters on Monday!

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Sleigh Ride: Chapter 12

Chapter 12

Time Alone

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.’


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 11 & 12

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 11 & 12

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Sleigh Ride: Chapters 11 & 12

Chapter 11

Taken

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.’


Chapter 12

Time Alone

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.’


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 9 & 10

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 9 & 10

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Sleigh Ride: Chapters 9 & 10

Chapter 9

A Lady Trust a Duke

Taking Sophia into the small sitting room, she closed the door. ‘Dearest, I must needs be quite sure of the Earl before I allow him to court you.’

‘Court me?’ Sophia felt her heart jump within her breast. ‘But you have blown this out of all proportion; next, you will be telling me you have demanded the wedding bans be called.’

‘Nay, sweetheart, it appears he is serious and has even confided to me that he has a tendre for you already. But, there are things to clear up before I allow him to proceed.’

Sophia plopped down on the chair, ‘Goodness, I was not aware his intentions were so serious.’

‘Well, my dear, once we have seen the Marquess, and he has declared the Earl to be all that he claims to be, then I would not be surprised if he offered for you.’

‘But Mama, we’ve just met and only had a few words. How on earth could he be serious? Honestly, Mama tis you, pushing like this; I would not be surprised if he runs with his tail between his legs. You are worse than Freddie; you bite with words.’

‘Dearest, there is something I am not at liberty to tell you at the moment, but upon my return, I hope the matter will be cleared up.’

Patience came to Sophia’s side. ‘Mama, I fear your standards are too high, even the most angelic of men could not reach them, and I am not sure I wish to marry a puritan, why life would be a bore. None of us will ever wed or even receive an offer. Your standards are far too high.’

Augusta nodded. ‘Yes, I hear that tis quite in order for a gentleman to have a mistress; the wife just pretends she has no knowledge of it, and would certainly not upbraid him for such, as she could be punished.’

‘Augusta, enough, I do not wish to hear the word “mistress” or any allusions to it, uttered in the Manse. What would your dear papa have said?’

Augusta raised her eyes to the ceiling. ‘Really, I think we must prepare ourselves for the nunnery.’

‘That is enough, Augusta. The Earl has been kind enough to send for the Physicker and a nurse, who will attend to Emily in my absence.’

Seeing her daughters’ faces drop, she added hurriedly. ‘Tis just in case there is an emergency beyond your caring abilities.  So I would like you to treat them with the greatest of respect. The Earl has kindly offered to reimburse Physicker Moreton and the nurse who will accompany him. So now, I must hasten to get ready, as the Earl will return any minute now.’

Sophia looked aghast. ‘You mean you are really serious; you will meet with the Marquess?’

‘Yes, my dear, I intend to meet the rules of propriety in this matter. I must have an impeccable reference from the Marquess, as to the Earl’s good character and standing in the ton.’

‘Why all this palaver about the ton? We have had naught to do with it before.’

‘My dear, I know we are far below the status of any member of the ton. That is beside the point; you, your sisters, and your brother are of the first importance in my life. I will fight for your safety and happiness now and in the future. After the Earl’s behaviour last night, you must appreciate my apprehension about his suitability as a suiter.

Sophia nodded. ‘Yes, I do realize that, mama, but I fear I will lose him before I have the chance to even meet him properly. He is indeed so handsome, so debonair, and I am over the boughs with him, but you are not giving me a chance to experience even courting with him. He will flee before your draconian demands.’ 

Lady Vale laughed. ‘You underestimate your charms, my love.’

Augusta frowned. ‘But mama, he cannot be sincere in his intentions to wed; the ton will give him the cut; he is marrying a commoner.’

‘You are all the grandchildren of an Earl and a Viscount, and as such, you are entitled to membership of the ton; it’s just that I did not have means to present you at Court or pay for a come-out ball. So rest assured, my darlings, you are all very precious, and with sweet manners, so you will be embraced by Polite Society.’

Sophia raised her eyebrows. ‘Mama, you are too optimistic.’

‘Our only set back is, you have no fortune, the Earl; however, is heir to a fortune; his uncle is the Marquess of Brindlehurst and resides at the Abbey. It has over eight hundred acres, can you imagine that?’

She beamed. ‘So I shall leave you all now. However, I’ll return by early evening.’ Without further ado, she rushed to the door and, opening it, disappeared down the path.

Sophia ran after her; she just wanted a glimpse of the Earl; it was all happening so fast, and they had not even exchanged two sentences.

As Jake helped Lady Vale into the carriage, he turned to see Sophia, her skirts flying, run towards them. Walking towards her, he grinned, his heart lifting. Each time he saw her, he was impassioned with her beauty, her vitality, and most of all, those eyes, the colour of pale jade.

Trying to catch her breath Sophia curtsied, speaking softly, ‘my lord, I know not what is happening here. Do forgive my mother; she is inclined to be dramatic of nature.’

Lady Vale, now seated in the carriage, poked her head through the door. ‘Sophia go back – at once, d’you hear? At once.’

Sophia felt the impulse to climb into the carriage with her; after all, it was her life, her beau. She was one and twenty and could legally pick and wed her own suiter. It seemed the Earl read her thoughts, for he came up to her and held her hand. ‘Bear with me; we shall have that stroll.’

Sophia whispered, ‘I  wonder you have not run for your life. I know mamas can be overbearing, but mine is turning into a dragon.’

Her mama called out, ‘Sophia, go back to the Manse now, d’you hear me?’

The Earl kissed the air above Sophia’s knuckles. ‘Never fear dear girl, I will sort this and return to you within a short while; yea, even in time for us to have the infamous stroll.’ Bowing, he turned and made his way to the carriage, where her mama sat irritated, fanning her face with a lace handkerchief.

Watching the carriage trundle away, Sophia, with glum visage, turned back to the Manse and her sisters.

Augusta came forward. ‘Oh, Sophia, how could she, how could mama ruin it all for you?’

Shutting the door behind them, Patience said, ‘I shall make sure I have clandestine affairs at night when mama is abed.’

August said, ‘you know you would not be allowed to do that, Patience, you would be ruined.’

‘Yes, but better ruined than becoming an ape-leader. I can imagine all six of us becoming spinster aunts doting on Benjamin’s offspring.’

Sophia nodded glumly. ‘I wonder whether the Earl will return with her. I would never have thought this of Mama; she has always been fair and sweet with us all. I know she reprimanded us at times but only when necessary. Now, she is truly turning into a dragon. The Earl may think he could not bear the prospect of spending the rest of his life under the auspices of such a domineering mother-in-law.’ She felt tears spring to her eyes. ‘Damn the Baron, he is the cause of all of this. He ruins anything we do. Will, I ever see the Earl again?’


Chapter 10

The Vow

A distinguished butler of some fifty years or so met the Earl and Lady Vale at the gothic portico of Brindlehurst Castle. He bowed a welcome, looking elegant in dark coattails, black satin breeches, white silk stockings, and black buckled shoes.  Lady Vale, aware of her faded velvet maroon cloak and worn brocade gown followed him, almost overwhelmed by the castle’s wealth and elegance. Coats of arms covered the vast stone walls, interspersed with ancient tapestries and heraldic flags, going back through the centuries.  Here and there, she caught the liquid stare of a stag, its magnificent antlers towering over a majestic head.

The Butler led them into a spacious reception area furnished with Jacobean oak mule chests and chairs with triangular seats, the arms, and legs, a mass of turnery. Elizabethan farthingale chairs were lost in the vast space, with Turkish rugs covering a huge flagstone floor.  Fragile Hepplewhite chairs sat by the grand fireplace, a massive stone carved mantel with gargoyles leaping out.

It was such an impressive room but bitterly cold when too far away from the enormous logs’ flames. As Lady Vale put her hands out to the warmth from the hearth, the butler announced the Marquess. Her heart pounded as she turned to see an elderly gentleman walk towards them, his back somewhat bowed. But he exuded an air of elegance; a kindly smile softened his face’s hard aristocratic planes.

She gave a deep curtsey, murmuring, ‘my Lord.’

Taking her hand, he raised her up and led her to a chair. ‘Come warm yourself by the fire, my lady; these rooms can be somewhat draughty.’

Lady Vale nodded, relieved to feel the warmth from the flames. Draughty was not the world; icy would be more appropriate.  She noticed he wore a single-breasted fine worsted herringbone tailcoat with a high cutaway and peak lapels, twill breeches, and thick woollen stockings. On his head, he wore a soft velvet cap with a tassel. He was so different from what she anticipated. Indeed, his whole demeanour gave an aura of homeliness. 

Seated, he leant on his cane. ‘So m’dear, you have some reservations on this whippersnapper here heh?’

Lady Vale nodded; even with his grandfatherly stance, she still felt embarrassed and somewhat flustered. It wasn’t every day one met a Marquess, and for many, it wasn’t once in a lifetime. However, she took a deep breath, thinking only of her dearest Sophia. This was such a critical time for her. If her mama did not protect her, she would be on the threshold of a terribly unhappy life, married to a debauched rakehell. Not that the Earl looked anywhere near debauched, but from the way he behaved last night, he soon would be.

Seeing her discomfiture, the Earl said softly, ‘Lady Vale is somewhat dismayed that I am interested in her daughter. Sadly, uncle, she found me at the Baron’s manor in my assumed role of a rakehell.’

The duke raised his eyebrows. ‘Pon rep, not a word to utter in the presence of a lady. Hey, what madam?’

Lady Vale nodded, biting her lip. ‘Yes indeed, your lordship, I … I … forgive me, my lord, but I question the Earl’s suitability for my gently raised daughter. I found him in … in questionable circumstances with … err … oh dear how can I say it?’

‘Say it, my lady. I will not be offended.’

‘No, but I will be, so instead, I shall say ladies of dubious character and also an odious man known as Baron Hawsley. ‘

‘Hah, I see, can’t say as I blame you, madam. Would have many dear ladies reaching for their vinaigrettes.’ He glanced at his nephew. ‘Darned bad show Jacob. We have to protect our ladies, can’t be disturbing their fragile brains. Told you before about this. Treat ‘em with the utmost gentleness, so delicate y’see.’

‘Yes, uncle, I am well aware of our duty to protect our fairer sex—’

Lady Vale jumped at the word ‘sex.’ Oh dear, oh dear, Lord Wells – please.’

The duke growled. ‘Forgive the whippet madam, pon rep., don’t know what’s wrong with this generation, wasn’t so in my day. Knew our “p’s and q’s” as Caxton would say, hey what?’ 

Jacob coughed to interrupt him. ‘Uncle, can you assure Lady Vale that I take on an assumed role when I am abroad on my business.’

‘Hmm? Err – yes madam, the whippet leads a double life, all for king and country you know. Ye see, sworn to—’

‘Uncle, I think the lady has heard enough.’

The Marquess beamed. ‘Quite so, quite so. Tis through the work of my nephew and other brave fellows like him, you can sleep quiet of mind in your bed, madam. But as Jacob says, I can say no more.’

Lady Vale nodded, but she was indeed a dragon when on a quest for the safety of her child. ‘Yes, but does it entail such ribald behaviour, my lord?  Cannot this work, of which you speak, be done with delicacy?’

‘Don’t think there’s any delicacy in cutting off a varmint’s head – same thing my lady.’

‘Oh – oh. Cutting … head.’ Lady Vale pushed back in her seat. ‘My lord, I think I have need of my hartshorn.’ Rummaging in her large reticule, she pulled out the vinaigrette and waved it under her nose.  ‘Oh dear, I do believe I am about to faint.’ At which she toppled from her chair, landing sprawled on the floor at the feet of the marquess.

‘Deuce uncle didn’t have to be so bloody about it; twas you who said they are such delicate creatures.’ Gathering the lady up in his arms, he carried her to the Hepplewhite sofa, and knelt fanning her face with his own lacy handkerchief. Within seconds, her eyes fluttered open. Weakly, she whispered. ‘My lord, I think; I must return home, tis all too much for me.’

Jacob smiled wryly; she was indeed a dragon. She knew well how to act; her fall to the floor was effected with aplomb, her way of controlling both men, young and old.’ Weakly she said, ‘So even now you or your uncle cannot assure me you are….’

Dryly he said, ‘my lady would you like to speak to the King. I can arrange an interview?’

‘Oh – oh, err no of course not; I…oh dear. I think I do believe you.’

Jacob nodded, stung with a fleeting thought, if this was how the mother behaved, would the daughter grow to be like her?  The thought gave him momentary grief; he envisaged the years stretching ahead with a younger version of Lady Vale. Would she acquire the same domineering manner, ruling and ruining his life?

He shook his head; no, he thought of Sophia’s gentle smile, her delicate whispers, those beautiful eyes the colour of jade. He looked at Lady Vale. ‘Madame, I am enthralled with your daughter. I do not have to court her; I fell in love with her the moment I saw her in that plain little gown, and even with the drab hairstyle, she sparkled. Nothing could hide her beauty and gentle nature. I intend to claim her.’

Lady Vale sat up sharply. ‘I am convinced my lord – and will be happy to allow you to pay court to t my daughter.’

Jacob smiled politely and forgave her; after all, if Sophia had been his daughter, he would do the same. Probably even worse, he’d have banned her from seeing him ever again. After all, he’d behaved like a dirty dish, a bounder of the lowest order. He couldn’t say it was all in the cause of duty; he’d rather enjoyed it.  A wave of guilt swept through him, but the Cyprians appealed to his basic instincts, as would any man. It was so unfair really, gentlemen could misbehave and be forgiven without even a slap on the wrist. However, ladies were imprisoned behind the bars of propriety that forbade them to be alone with a man. Ruination was so easily had for the slightest mistake in a young girl’s life. For the most minor mishap, she faced not only ruination, but a cut from Polite Society, a life alone, as no man would have her. As for his lustful behaviour, maybe it was time to call it a day. Brandy, loose women and gaming were slowly debasing him; it was time to settle for the sweet Sophia, a diamond of the first water.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 7 & 8

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 7 & 8

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Sleigh Ride: Chapters 7 & 8

Chapter 7

If You Say a Word …

Lady Vale took a deep breath, yet her voice was thready.  ‘Well, I screamed and tried to pull my skirts down, but the Baron just ripped them from me until I stood before him in my – my chemise. And then he put his hands on my person; I knew he intended to … so I gathered my courage and punched him in the face. I heard his nose crack, and a spurt of blood landed on my chest.’

 The girls gasped almost in unison, their eyes wide.

Lady Vale paused, placing a trembling hand across her bosom.  ‘He wiped off the blood from his face and swore such filthy words, words I’d never heard before. Then the scoundrel leapt at me, dragging me into the forest. I yelled and screamed, but he paid no heed and threw me to the ground. He tried to stifle my screams by putting his hands over my mouth; I thought then I was undone; he would have his rotten way with me, to this day I shudder; I could have borne a bastard child of his. As he lowered his odious body upon me, I saw him lifted up in the air like a struggling turtle. Twas Old Tobias, the woodsman. He was certainly an elderly man, but he was so tall and strong; indeed, he had the Baron dangling, his toes barely touching the ground.’

She stopped and wiped her forehead. ‘Patience, please get my vinaigrette.’

Hastening to the sideboard, Patience pulled open the top drawer, took out the vinaigrette, and hurrying to her mother’s side, waved it under her nose.

Lady Vale sniffed and sat for some moments quite still. To their relief, she took a breath. ‘Hah, that’s better.’

In hushed tones, Augusta said, ‘What – what happened, mama?’

‘Tobias gave the Baron a beating. I rose to my feet to stop him, for I thought he would kill him, and then the poor man would be hung from the nearest tree because he saved me. Anyway, he dropped the Baron, who lay panting in the ferns.  Hawsley cursed Tobias threatening to have him hung for attacking him. I then interrupted, saying I would reveal all to papa. He stopped, for he knew papa would call him out; being the third son of an Earl, he was highly trained in fencing and such.  He turned to me and leered, saying he would execute Tobias if I uttered a word of it.

Tobias was furious and shouted, he would tell the Reverend. However, I hushed him, saying, for all our sakes, twas better left. I knew it would be difficult for papa to secure a living, and so it was settled.’ Tears fell as she lowered her eyes. ‘So you see why I am afeared for you all.’

As the three girls rose to comfort her, there was a knock on the door. Startled, they turned as one, fearing it was the Baron.  Sophia went softly to the window and looked out to see a tall man of maybe seventy years, with a long solemn face beneath a top-hat. He appeared composed as he saw her looking at him.   He kept his solemn expression, bowing to her and raising his hand politely.

Reassured, she went to the door, but after her mother’s revelation thought it fit to ask who he was. She did so, and he answered promptly in an elderly and kind voice. ‘Mr. William Thorn, butler to the Earl of Breckonbridge. She looked out to see the Earl leaning nonchalantly against his carriage, the coat of arms embossed in gold on the carriage door. 

‘Mama, tis the butler to the Earl.’

Lady Vale’s face tensed, her eyes lighting up. ‘Well, open it, child – open it.’

Sophia threw the door open to the genteel smile of the butler. He bowed and handed her a small silver tray upon which lay a card headed with a coat of arms.

Taking the tray to her mother, she said excitedly, ‘Why mama, tis a request, I believe.’

Reading the card, Lady Vale flushed. ‘Oh my goodness, I thought the man was lying last night; I thought he was an imposter.’

‘Anyway, dear girls, he requests a private audience with me, so I wish you to leave and don’t listen at the doors.’

‘But why would he wish to speak with you alone?’ Sophia asked.

Her mother’s mouth tightened. ‘You will know soon enough.’ She clapped her hands.  ‘Sophia, I bid you open the door and allow him entrance, but then you must leave immediately.’

She breathed deeply. What did the Earl wish to say?  She would at least listen to him, but nothing would induce her to leave him alone with Sophia. The man mixed in the most demoralized company, engaging in evenings of sinful behaviour.  What horrors lay in wait for her virtuous Sophia if she became his wife? Twas quite unwise to give him any leverage.

As he entered, Jake felt the lady’s unease. She would, of course, be suspicious of him, and quite rightly so, who wouldn’t, after finding him in the company of a salacious baron, rakehell’s, and ladies of the night? He was fortunate; she even conceded to see him.

Crossing over the small withdrawing room, he bowed and bussed the air above her proffered knuckles, her gloved hand stiff beneath his touch.

He backed away, murmuring.  ‘I am honoured to be granted an audience, my lady.’

Lady Vale waved him to the settee on the other side of the fire. ‘Please, my lord, I cannot say I am without misgivings.’

He realized he had a tough interview ahead. Clearing his throat, he said, ‘first, my lady, I wish to apologize profusely for the lewd behavior you were subjected to last eve. Had I known you and your daughters were to be present, I would have made it my business to ensure we did not come near the Manor. However, as it was, we had no prior warning.’

He looked up at her, at the narrowed emerald eyes. She was indeed extremely wary of him. It would be hard to convince her of his sincerity.


Chapter 8

Sworn to Secrecy

‘We’ll ma’am, I know not how to proceed; I beg your sensitivity and charitable indulgence in this matter.’  He felt his heart beat rapidly. This startled him, as he was not one to suffer fear or trepidation. However, at the moment, this dainty lady was the most important person in his life. She held the key to his future. It was all important he impressed her with his honesty, and good standing, without revealing his true profession. He was sworn to secrecy, an oath of allegiance as a spy, to His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. ‘My lady, I fear I cannot reveal the truth of my true status. Notwithstanding, I swear I have only the greatest respect and highest regards for your daughter Miss Sophia.’

‘My lord, you confuse me; why the mystery? I take it; you are indeed the Earl of Breckonbridge?

‘Of course, my lady, but I am sworn to secrecy. Let us say I serve my King and country.  I cannot give you even the slightest hint of my profession, save you are aware of my family and the title’s good name. I have three vast estates and some more in Jamaica.’ He was not about to state that he was also in significant debt.  

‘My lord, I am not aware of the standing of your family; I was proud to be the wife of a vicar, the Reverend Stuart Vale, or may I say The Right Honourable Stuart Vale. Sophia’s father was the third son of the Earl of Spaldingshire, and I am the daughter of Viscount Maidstock.  We led a quiet life here in the country and did not frequent the ton’s social gatherings. Indeed, my husband ministered to the yeomen on this estate and three villages belonging thereto.  When my dear husband passed away, my daughters and I led a tranquil and simple life. So no, I do not know you.’

Jake gritted his teeth. This was going to be doubly difficult.  However, it did not surprise him that Sophia was the granddaughter of an Earl and a Viscount; she had that fine bearing, the delicacy of limbs. ‘Perhaps I may call upon a relative, who will vouch for my good name.’

Lady Vale sighed. How could he plead for his morals after last night? Why she’d seen him pick up the lady in the voile drapes? Indeed, the memory put her to the blush.

‘My lord, how can you expect me to condone your behaviour? Surely you don’t think that I am overcome with your title or your estates?’ she said stiffly. ‘The safety of my daughter is paramount in my understanding.  How can you expect me to trust you with her safety, indeed her life? Would you wed her, and then desert for one of those women who appeal to your lower….? How can you even come here and seek my permission to court her, for that is your wish, is it not?’

‘Indeed, madam. All I can say is that what you witnessed last night was part of my work. I have to move in circles that I …. I find distasteful, but I am sworn to uphold….’ He stopped as he raked long elegant fingers through ebony waves.

Watching him, Lady Vale felt some pity; indeed, it seemed he was battling with his soul, but could not reveal the truth to save his honour.

He looked up, the sapphire blue eyes sincere; to her surprise, he rose from his chair and knelt on his knees before her. Taking her hand, he said, ‘my lady, I beg you to give me some hope; I have sworn fealty to our country and its welfare. My work takes me into areas where I am beholden to act the part of a loathsome character.  I fear I can say no more than that without going against my oath. Can you just reflect upon what I have revealed?’

Startled, she swallowed. She wanted to believe him. The man looked sincere; she tried to see honesty in his eyes, hear it in his deep baritone voice, feel it in the grip of his strong hands.

‘Madam, I am heir to the Marquess of Brindlehurst, who is my beloved uncle. I can have him see you so he may reassure you of my sincerity without revealing my mission.

Lady Vale shook, the Marquess of Brindlehurst? Good lord, she almost choked, had her baby, her Sophia, captured the heart of the nephew of a marquess no less? Nay, it could not be he was trying to dupe her.

Feeling a withdrawal, he did not blame her, but his heart dropped. It seemed he’d have to gain his uncle’s assistance here. He’d only see the girl once, held her in his arms once, looked into the pale jade eyes once, and he was enraptured.  He’d heard of falling in love at first glance, well it wasn’t exactly that, but it was damn well near it.

‘Madam, would you be prepared to meet with my uncle? I shall contact him immediately.’ He paused, ‘Better still, being a favourite nephew of his; I may call upon him at any time without notice. So, we could travel up to his estate this very day.

Lady Vale’s blood raced to her head. Good Lord, the man was sincere. However, even then, he could be playing a canny game.  She decided to call his bluff.

‘Very well, but I cannot go just yet; my youngest Emily is recovering from a severe cold.’

‘Then, with your permission, I shall have a Physicker and a nurse to attend her. Do you know of a good Physicker near?

‘Why yes, Dr. Moreton, and I am sure he will know of a nurse to care for her. However, my Lord, you need not go now; we can leave it a few days.’

‘Nay. I would rather have it settled now. So please write a direction to your Physicker, and my rider can deliver it.’

Rising to her feet, feeling somewhat agitated, Lady Vale looked at him. ‘But he may be seeing another patient, he may be—‘

‘Then, I shall wait.’

‘But he may not wish to—

‘He will come when he knows who’s summoned him.’

Goodness, he showed his iron confidence in his imperious tone and the set of his chin.  He was not one to be refused. She felt a megrim coming on; the man appeared sincere; she’d put him through the strictest testing. It seemed Sophia attracted an admirer of high standing in the ton. Pray God he was genuine and observed the rules of propriety. ‘I shall see to it straight away, my lord.’

He rose to his feet, kissing her hand. ‘Upon seeing my uncle, I hope the way will be cleared for me to court Sophia.’

Lady Vale looked at him, and then at the butler standing at the door, also the coachman and the postilion. She should trust him but fear still pulsed in her heart. She’d been attacked herself and would not allow Sophia to experience such terror. Why, even now, she had nightmares of the attack, awaking screaming, her sheets, and nightrail soaking. No, first, she had to see if this was some façade for darker intentions.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 5 & 6

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 5 & 6

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Sleigh Ride: Chapters 5 & 6

Chapter 5

A Despoiler of Maidens

As he turned away, her yearning mounted to desire, she suddenly had the longing to feel those strong arms clasped around her, her head nestling on the broad chest, his lips on her hair. She gulped; she had to attract his attention. ‘My lord, we are indebted to you. You saved us from such a mortifying situation.’

He turned his head to look at her, his dark sapphire blue eyes holding hers. ‘Dear girl, I would entreat you to stay well away from Baron Hawsley, be not beguiled by his sly ways.’

She nodded, her breath coming in short bursts, her mouth opening, but with nothing to say, as he looked at her mother and sister. ‘We’re off now, ladies. If you need me, just tap on the roof, and we will stop immediately. Have a good journey now.’ He slammed the door shut.

Climbing aloft with the coachman, he frowned, for all her dull attire, the girl was a beauty, more so close up. Indeed, her hair dragged back in a tight bun actually served to accentuate her fine features, the pearlite skin with a hint of rose, the delicacy of high cheekbones. He was mesmerized, the huge eyes and arched eyebrows and a pert retroussé nose. Those full lips that begged to be kissed.  Her ebony hair shimmered a shade of silvery blue in the moonlight, her eyes glimmering a pale jade, not unlike the carved statuettes in the East. Intrigued, he pursed his lips and turned to the coachman. ‘Do you know these ladies well, John?’

‘Err … I know as their father was the vicar, but he passed away some six years ago now.  They have had it, hard milord, living on a stipend as the Baron says.  He has his eye on Miss Sophia now; he did have a thing for Lady Vale, but she fobbed him off. However, he has summat up his sleeve for Miss Sophia.’

Jake frowned. Dammit it all, he knew instantly what it would be. He gritted his teeth; there was no way, the brute would get his hands on that sweet young girl, not whilst he was around anyway.’

‘Do they frequent the Manor often?’

Nah, I’ve never seen ‘em attend a dinner afore. But, what surprised me was the way they dressed, tis not like em. They don’t have much blunt as I said, but they do wear a decent dress, not bawdy, but sweet and pretty like. So it got me thinking, maybe they woz tryin’ to put him off like, but I don’t think it would have worked. He was out to ruin them.’

‘You are sharp-witted John.’

‘I’ve been told that afore milord. Talkin’ like this, I know the Baron would throw me out on me arse if I was ter go against him, as far as the young lady is concerned, but I would have summat ter say if he tried to ruin young Sophia. Out on my arse or not.’  

‘Aye, I can understand your situation John, and I admire your principles.’ 

The coachman straightened up, puffing out his chest. ‘I would not allow him to touch a hair on that young lady’s head milord.’

‘Really.’ The Earl turned to him. ‘So you would ruin your life for her sake?’

‘Aye milord, one thing I can’t abide is a young lady molested by an evil rake.’

The Earl fell silent for some moments, as he reflected over the man’s brave words. ‘Then I have a job for you, my man. In fact, I shall make it permanent. But for the present, if the Baron manages to lure these ladies again to the Manor, I want you to drive the carriage straight to my estate and tell me.’

‘Your estate milord?’

‘Yes, I open Breckonbridge Castle in the winter months, tis only half an hour’s ride from here. That cur has designs on Miss. Sophia and her sister, and I must safeguard their virtue.’

‘Then I shall do that milord. As I said, I do think that he has lewd designs for Miss Patience as well, that is, once he’s finished with Miss. Sophia.’

‘Damn villain. It’s time he visited Newgate.’

‘Botany Bay more like milord.’

As the carriage trundled along the earthen track, he mused on a young woman with eyes the colour of pale jade. Dressed in fine clothes with an expert hairdresser, she would grace any grand ball; indeed, the bucks and dandies would queue up to fill her card. In fact, the more he mused on those lovely features, the more morose he became. Dammit it all, he felt the urge to pluck this rose within seconds of seeing her. No other man would get his hands on her; he’d never been so aroused, so eager to lay claim to a woman. God’s teeth he would even offer for her now, twas not often one had the chance to capture a diamond of the first water.  But, he could not forsake his family, five sisters and three brothers, and an estate that came with massive debts. His bloody pater was one selfish bugger with no thought of his offspring or of his loyal wife. No, upon rising, from a stupendous hangover, his afternoon would begin at White’s. As the day progresses, it would fast sink to the meanest of gaming hells. He gritted his teeth; in one night, the bastard lost fifty thousand pounds. He could even beat the Duchess of Devonshire’s gambling with his enormous debts. Faro was the gaming man’s executioner, which broke up many families, started countless duels, and precipitated suicides. On his demise, his pater left Jake with a title, castle, and enormous debts, besides his sisters and brothers and a mama, delicate through years of abuse.  He was also heir to millions of pounds and the estates of the Marquess of Brindlehurst. His uncle, entering his eighty-fifth year, was in failing health and no longer the renowned Corinthian.

He recognized the puzzlement, the awakening in those innocent eyes, as Miss Sophia met his gaze, the tip of her pink tongue moistening those rosebud lips. She was for the taking, but he would not stoop to harm her; she was too pure, too precious, rather he would become her benefactor. However, lustful thoughts raced through his mind. As his mistress, he could have this lovely girl, keep her and her family in comfort, but these were wild pointless reckonings. No, as a spy for HM Revenue and Customs, his record must perforce be spotless, above suspicion, as it was his only source of income. At such lustful thoughts, guilt swept over him/ He was no better than those scurrilous rakehells scouring the balls and assembly rooms.

It was the duty of every gentleman, lo; all men to care for the weaker sex, and in this light, although he may not have her, he would make damn sure she met a suitable suitor. He smiled wryly; at least he’d saved her from the licentious Baron. Soon he would reel the lecher in, now he had proof of the enormity of his smuggling; port, cognac, tea, coffee, cigars, and fabrics. Of course, Jake turned a blind eye to a lot of smuggling, for it was the only way the poorer classes could afford tea, coffee, chocolate, or wine. However, the Baron was an evil personage who despoiled innocent girls, corrupted wives, and destroyed families. For this, he would pay. Oh yes, Baron Hawsley would do well to enjoy these last few days, for soon he would be bound for Botany Bay.

On reaching the Manse, he escorted the ladies to the door, bowing and kissing the hand of each. On bussing the air above Sophia’s gloved knuckles, he smiled, a twinkle in his eye. ‘Mayhap, I will have the pleasure of seeing you again? I pray you will permit me to accompany you on your morning stroll in the woods?’

She lowered her eyelids, murmuring, ‘I have not told you of that, my lord, how come you know my habits. ‘Well, tis there you saw our scheming baron.’ He winked. ‘But you will be quite safe with me; I can assure you.’ 

He turned to Lady Vale, ‘If it is not an intrusion, may I call upon you and Miss Vale tomorrow afternoon?’

She bit her lip; although he had rescued them from such bizarre dinner companions, he too was of their ilk. Her tone was even, polite with a tinge of coolness.’

My lord, I am grateful for your chivalrous assistance, but we are rather busy at this time of the year. However, I thank you again for your kindness.’

He bowed. ‘My apologies for being so bold as to ask my dear lady. I should have sent my card, but as the Manse is such a distance, I thought to take this opportunity, to ask personally. My profuse apologies.’

‘Pray, do not take it to heart, kind sir, it is just there is much to do; the winter is upon us, and we must prepare.  Now I bid you good night.’

Bowing once more, he glanced over to Sophia and gave a surreptitious wink. She started back in surprise but could not resist a smile and a delighted shiver. Turning abruptly, he made his way to the gate, closing it gently behind him.

Sophia glared at her mama, a pout on her full lips. ‘Mama, how could you?  You did not even consult me. Now I have lost the most handsome of men. And he showed an interest; how could you?’

Lady Vale hugged her. ‘My dear girl, he will be here tomorrow, begging to see you. Jump not at his first approach; you must needs lure him with your diffidence.’

‘He won’t come; you’ve sent him off with cold words.’

Dearest, he will be here; he is a strong natured man and will not be thwarted by a protective mama. Come now; be happy, for like the eagle, he will pursue his mate.’

‘That’s rather brown, mama.’ Watching the carriage depart, she saw his lordship turn and blow a kiss. Blushing, Sophia grinned, too shy to return the gesture.

Lady Vale opened the front door to be greeted by Freddie, who bounced off his feet with joy, his tail wagging furiously. Sophia laughed and bent to stroke him. ‘Dear Freddie, the things we do for you.’

Lady Vale smiled, fondly patting him. ‘He’s worth it, but I do not wish to undergo such trials again, Sophia. You must keep him close to heel in future.’

‘I know, mama, but he has such winsome tricks. If I try to put him on the lead, he just throws himself on the ground and pants, his tongue lolling, his eyes so doleful. It fair touches my heart.’ 

‘I know he is such a sweet dog and a brave protector.’

‘Oh mama, I am so sorry you had to go through this evening’s monkeyshines.’

‘Sophia – language – language.’

‘Mama, that was quite discreet.’

‘Not in this house; we do not suffer slang here. Pray, I wonder where you hear such abhorrent language.’  Lady Vale took off her cloak, hanging it on the hall tree; she entered the small withdrawing-room and poked the embers of the fire. ‘Brr; tis such a cold room, we really must chop up more logs.’

Sophia smarting from her mother’s reproach, said tartly, ‘I will see to it in the morning.’

The lady sank gratefully into her chair. ‘Dear Lord, what an experience, thank goodness tis all over now.’

‘Mama, twas dreadful, and those awful women.’ Patience said, taking off her cloak.  Twas not that they were ladybirds; it was—’

‘Patience, never – never again say such a vile word in my presence d’you hear me?’

 Patience nodded, ‘Oh mama; you must get up with the times, tis a decorous term for ladies who—‘

‘Enough, I say.  Why, would you have spoken thus, if your dear papa was alive? Pray, answer me.’

Patience lowered her eyes. ‘No, mama, I apologize.’

‘Hmm, it seems everyone’s apologizing this evening. What a night, vile company, unspeakable people thrust upon us, that I should be even in their company. Dear Lord, I feel faint.’

Sophia rushed to the chest of drawers, pulling out vinaigrette. ‘Come Mama, breathe it in.’ She waved the hartshorn under the poor woman’s nose. ‘Tis much too much for you, mama.’

Patience nodded, ‘Yes, did you see those golden leaves on that woman’s—’

Lady Vale shrieked, ‘Patience – don’t speak of it. Leave the room – leave the room, I say, go see how Emily is.’

Patience raised her eyebrows at Sophia and bit back a giggle as she left.

After seeing her mother revive somewhat, Sophia pushed down the vial’s crystal cap and replaced it in the drawer. ‘I am so sorry; I should never have put you through all this. Just because Freddie—’

‘Twas not our dear dog’s fault Sophia, he was just protecting you, and thank God he was there. Heaven knows what would have happened. After seeing those odious creatures this evening, my heart almost fails for the worry of it all.’

‘Mama, it won’t happen again; I will keep Freddie close to heel.’

Patience said tersely, ‘their manners, and their dresses were quite bawdy, if I may use the word.’ She turned to Sophia, ‘Did you see those golden leaves covering that woman’s —’

‘That’s enough, Patience; I do not wish you to refer to such people in this house. Please go and see how Emily and Augusta are.’

Patience turned but then said, ‘their behaviour and manners were so lewd. I know that many women are forced into prostitution. Still, those ladies were beyond the bounds of even the lowest morals. Why did you see—?’

 ‘No – no Patience, do not refer to that obscene behaviour in this Manse.’

‘Now we will have to make one rule from now on. None of your girls can leave this house alone. You must go in pairs.’

‘Oh Mama,’ Sophia wailed. ‘Patience and Augusta hate going for walks, and they just refuse. I can’t just stay in. You never allow us to attend the Assemblies or go to the country balls; I’ll never meet a beau – never.’

‘Come now, Sophia, don’t get hysterical.’  Lady Vale sighed in exasperation. ‘Now you must sort it out amongst yourselves, but on no account will any of you go abroad alone. The Baron is an evil man, and we have been warned of his wickedness by the Earl.’

Amidst the groans of the girls, she turned back to Sophia. ‘Remember, Sophia, no solitary walks.’

‘But Mama—‘

‘No, I do not want to hear anymore. I forbid you to go out alone, is that clear?’

Sophia gritted her teeth. She’d planned to walk in the forest in the morning, for she hoped to see him there. Although he hadn’t exactly said he’d be there, perhaps he would look out for her. He suggested a stroll in the forest, so he may well be waiting.


Chapter 6

A Proposal

After breaking their fast early, Sophia said, ‘Mama, I’m just going out to chop up some more logs.’ Sophia tied her heavy duty apron around her waist. It was at times like this, she missed Benjamin. His particular duty was to gather fallen branches from the forest and chop them up for logs and kindling. Now he was away at University, it fell to her. Patience was only eighteen months younger than her. Still, she was very slight of frame with delicate wrists, so her domain was the kitchen and the hearth in the withdrawing room. This was much dirtier but lighter work and entailed cleaning and blacking two grates, besides scrubbing the oven and the kitchen floor.

Sophia threw on a light Spencer, as although there was a frost, she would soon be perspiring with the heavy labour.  Later, she planned to take her younger sister Jennet with her for a stroll, as mayhap, she would chance upon the handsome Earl in the woods. He hinted he would see her, but maybe it was just her romantic yearnings. Nevertheless, she was determined to find out. Lady Vale put down her teacup and looked at her third eldest daughter. ‘Augusta, would you nurse Emily? She needs cheering up. Play Fox and Geese with her; she does love it so.’

‘Oh, mama, I hate board games; they are so boring.’

‘Yes, dear, but it’s not about you, is it? So go along now, Goodness knows the child has suffered.’

‘But mama, you know she doesn’t put all the pegs in the lattices; they’ll get lost in the bed as usual; Patience said, pulling a face. ‘No, I shall go with Sophia; Jennet and Lark love the game, so she shall play with one of them. ’

Sophia nodded, ‘Yes truly; I must gather some more lungwort for Emily’s chest; it is still crackling. I wish we could afford a Physicker; I am very worried about her.’

Lady Vale arched her eyebrows. ‘The Baron may be prowling the woods even as we speak. He is well aware you take a morning walk. For want of repeating myself, I must say you should both stay very near the Manse; he may have one of those rakes with him.’

‘Oh mama, please, we can’t remain prisoners for the rest of our lives, just because of one odious man. Besides, Emily needs more healing herbs.’

‘But, he is not to be trusted, however persuasive he may be.’

‘Persuasive?  Mama, he’s an ogre; his jowls hang over his three chins, and he’s quite odious in his speech, let alone his body odour.’

‘Well, you may go, as long as you take Augusta with you as well. Now, do not stray far from the Manse, and stay within calling distance.’

‘You are making too much of this; after all, he did not harm us or in any way suggest any—’

‘Sophia, please, he … he … oh dear I have to say it, he is a dirty-dish.’

Sophia raised her eyebrows and tried not to giggle. Twas the first time she’d heard her mama talk slang, and with such venom.

Lady Vale continued. ‘He exposed you and Patience to those … those lightskirts; to my gently born girls of tender years; he is an odious nincompoop, a bacon-brained twit. There, you have me cursing, Sophia. Why I have never in my life experienced anything like his guests, as you may call them.’

 Augusta said with some bravado, ‘Papa would have landed him a facer.’

‘Augusta – watch your tongue. No, as I was saying, if your dear papa were alive, he would have used his cane against them, or more so—’

‘Mama, he was a Reverend, a man of the cloth; he would never—’

‘Sophia, don’t be high in the instep with me. You know your papa had a hot temper, and you take after him. He would have been horrified, indeed, if he….’ She paused, ‘But then, it would never have happened with papa here; the baron would not have dared behave so. I know for a fact your papa would have set about him with his cane, or as I said, called him out.’

‘Really mama, we’re only some minutes away from the Manse and—’

  ‘Yes, and it was Lord Jacob, who saved us; he knows the baron is capable of exposing you girls to unspeakable horrors. Indeed, he is capable of absconding with you.’

‘Mama, now you’re making him out to be a villain in one of the penny dreadfuls.  But he—’

‘He is a villain, caught up in all sorts of havey-cavy behaviour. If you girls do meet him, do not allow him to engage you in speech. Be polite and demure in your demeanour, but give an excuse to slip away.’

Patience went to her mother and hugged her. ‘Mama, we will be very careful and will not give the detestable creature a chance to speak to us; we will make an excuse.’

‘Hmm, still I loathe letting you out alone. Oh, if only Benjamin were here.’ She took a lacy handkerchief out of her skirt pocket and wiped her brow. ‘I know you children think I am fussing, but I have something to tell you, and then you will understand my huffing and puffing.’

She moved in her chair, straightening her back, and beckoned them to her side. ‘Now, dearest girls, do not interrupt, for I only wish to tell you this once.’ Seeing the girls settle at her feet, she took a deep breath. ‘Some years ago, when your dear papa was alive, I used to love to stroll in the forest, especially as the wildflowers appeared. I would always pick enough for a posy for the drawing-room windowsill.  One day … I … was bending to pluck some, when the Baron came upon me.  He slapped me on my bottom, and then … and then … he lifted my skirts and threw them over my head.’

Sophia looked at her. ‘Oh my God, what happened?’

‘He wished to have his evil way with me.  I was too far away from the Manse to call for help, and unlike you, Sophia, I did not have a dog with me.’

The girls waited with bated breath for her to continue.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 3 & 4

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 3 & 4

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Sleigh Ride: Chapters 3 & 4

Chapter 3

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?’


Chapter 4

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.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 1 & 2

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 1 & 2

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Sleigh Ride: Chapters 1 & 2

Chapter 1

A Sly Baron

Shafts of light shone through the last leaves of the silver birch tree, tracing lacy patterns across the path. Sophia Vale lifted her head to the sweet trebles of birds high among the branches above her. It was an idyllic morning for mid-winter, and more so as Lord Jude Hawsley would be still abed. That dratted monster would not rouse until early afternoon, giving her the freedom to enjoy the vestiges of winter sun. Now she was free from the fear of his unwelcome advances.  However, wary of the sly ways of the Baron, she’d taken Freddie, her loyal sheepdog, with her. 

Picking her way through a mound of gold-brown leaves, Sophia espied a patch of medicinal herbs.  Lungwort was the most beneficial for her little sister’s congestion. Relieved, she plucked them from ferns, fast disappearing as winter advanced. With icy winds now sweeping the countryside, she was lucky to find them. The herbs would make tisanes to alleviate the crackling congestion on Emily’s chest and ease the rasping cough. She wished she could afford the services of a Physicker, but his fees were well above their modest means. The stipend they did have, covered only their food and shelter of a dilapidated manse.

The scent of the wild herbs wafted through the forest bereft of foliage to a silent watcher. Hiding behind the thick trunk of a horse chestnut tree, Lord Jude Hawsley grinned, caught the chit; she was well away from the manse, well away from her noisome siblings. She was indeed a picture, in her velvet pelisse, those ebony waves flowing down her back to her waist. His heart rippled with her nearness, his fists clenching. How he yearned to take that slender body in his arms, tear off that coat, fondle her curves, kiss those full lips. Oh, what he wouldn’t do if he had the chance.  As she neared, he pounced. ‘Miss Vale—’

‘Oh – oh my Lord, you frightened me.’ She jumped back, turning in desperation to search for Freddie; where was he? However, the dog picked up her fright and emerged from the ferns, rushing to her side to her relief. 

Seeing the blasted animal, the Baron waved his hands in placation. ‘My dear girl, you should not walk unescorted through these lonely paths. Some scoundrel could be waiting behind the bushes ready to ravish you.’

Sophia’s heart sank, now he’d changed his tactics, but at least she had Freddie with her. ‘Such talk, sir, how indiscreet. Have you no sense of propriety?’ she asked with asperity.

‘Hmm, I think only for your safety, my sweet girl.’

‘Truly, my lord.’ She smiled, lifting those beautiful eyes to his. ‘I am quite safe here with only the birds and the deer as my companions. She looked pointedly down at her dog, now sniffing the man’s feet. ‘And of course, Freddie, I do not venture far without him.’

‘Quite – quite so.’ he spluttered, wishing he could kick the cur away. ‘Such a loyal animal. However, now I am here to—’

‘But my lord, you should repair to the Manor; you will begrime those exquisite clothes.’

Not picking up her veiled sarcasm, he preened, struggling to lift his treble chin above the immaculately folded cravat. Hurriedly, he smoothed down the blue superfine frock coat, as he endeavoured to tug down the high cut over his barrel of a belly. Simpering, he squawked, ‘I am fit to swoon with your sweet praise. Praise from an angel alighted on my unworthy path.’  Foppishly, he flourished a silk handkerchief near her face as he posed, pointing his foot away from the damn cur’s nose. ‘So my apparel pleases you?’

Sophia took a deep breath. He reminded her of a fat old wood pigeon bowing and bending his tail feathers to his female victim. Well, he would not be jumping on her back. ‘Tis clear your valet spent hours fixing your cravat.’

‘Hmm, I follow Gronow and Beau Brummel to the tee, y’know.  However, be that as it may, my angel, I risk all for one sweet word from that delectable mouth. Now I am here, pray to let me escort you to your door.’ He felt Freddie’s teeth on the back of his leg, nibbling gently.  Dammit it to hell, the bugger was herding him. He jerked his head back, ‘Hah; I see yer dog is up to his tricks.’

‘Hmm, yes, it looks like it. However, those fine kid leather boots are not fitted for such rough terrain, my lord. You should turn back before these twisted roots mark them.’ 

Trying not to laugh, Sophia beckoned to the sheepdog. ‘Oh, my apologies, kind sir, it is his way of showing his affection. Freddie – Freddie sweetheart, come here.’

The Baron’s nose crinkled up, his smile, not quite a grimace, then opened his arms. ‘My dear girl; I cannot help it; I must just give you a hug; you are so precious, so—’

Freddie bit him on the buttock as the odious Baron bore down on her. 

Aghast, Sophia ran forward and grabbed the dog whilst the Baron hopped around, clasping his buttocks in pain. His red cheeks now crimson, he spluttered, ‘My breeches – my fine buckskin breeches. Really Miss Sophia, I … I … I really do think you….’ He twisted his head to see if Freddie had drawn blood, whilst Sophia, alarmed, stood aside wide-eyed.

‘Miss Sophia, pardon me, but would – would you see if he has drawn … blood?’

‘Oh my goodness, of course – of course.’ Sophia, not wishing to go too near his unmentionables, stuttered, ‘I … I can see from here; his teeth have torn through the buckskin. However, there is no blood. I fear, my lord, you moved too fast toward me.  I sincerely hope you can ignore this – this unfortunate occurrence.’

The Baron bared his teeth, now was his chance; the damn dog played right into his hands. ‘Only, my dear, if you do me the honour of dining with me this evening.’

Seeing her draw back, he said slyly, ‘of course, I am willing to overlook this incident if you afford me the pleasure of your company. If not, if not, then I’m afraid I ….’ He paused, his tone ominous. ‘My man regularly hunts in these woods. He is an excellent shot, but you should be on your guard.’ He grimaced, looking down at Freddie. Sophia felt her heart leap to her throat. He would kill him if she didn’t accept. ‘I … my lord you know tis not appropriate. I do not have recourse to a chaperone.’

‘Well – well bring your … your delightful sister, Patience, is it not?’

‘Why, of course.’ Knowing she was trapped and alarmed that he could harm her dog, she nodded. Just this once, she would have to oblige him, if only to save her beloved Freddie. ‘Tis I who am honoured, my lord. Patience and I will be happy to accept your most kind invitation.’

Huffing with pleasure, he took her hand, ‘I will send my carriage at seven of the hour this evening.’ He beamed; sister or not, it would be easy to separate them. Once in the Manor House, she was his for the taking.


Chapter 2

The Plans of Mice and Women

Rushing through the door, Sophia ran across the stone-walled hall and, flinging the door open, burst into the withdrawing room.

‘Why, Sophia, my dear, what is wrong?’ Her mother, Lady Beatrice Vale, rose from her chair. ‘You look troubled.’

Patience, at ten and nine years, her younger sister, came to her side, taking her hand. ‘Why you are trembling dearest, what’s happened?’

‘Freddie bit the Baron.’

‘Oh-oh, dear. Where?’ Her mother clasped her hands together.

‘Err … on his … err … unmentionables.’

Patience’s face crinkled up with laughter as her mother giggled. ‘Where?’

‘His unmentionables?’ Her sister chortled. ‘He didn’t really bite him?’

‘Yes, he did, but he didn’t draw blood.’

Her mother shrieked with laughter, ‘Don’t Sophia, don’t. Oh, dear God.’  She wiped the tears from her face. ‘Tis very unseemly to talk so; don’t say anymore.’ She gripped her waist, laughing.

Patience looked down at Freddie wagging his tail, his bright brown eyes wide and innocent. ‘Oh Freddie, you dear – dear boy.’

Sophia plumped down in the chair. ‘This is no laughing matter, mama; he threatened to have him shot.’

Lady Vale bit her lip. ‘I’m sorry, Sophia. It’s just – you caught us unawares.’

‘But why did he bite the man.’ Patience asked.

‘He came too near, and Freddie leapt to my rescue. He’s never bitten anyone’s unmentionables before.’

Lady Vale stroked the dog. ‘Oh, my brave – brave boy. Now you deserve a special treat.’

At the word ‘treat,’ Freddie pricked up his ears, jumping up in joy, then dashed to the door leading to the kitchen.’

Patience rose and followed him; after all, he wouldn’t rest until he had his reward on hearing the word.

‘But mama, he could have him shot, maybe I should—’

‘No, my dear, then he would have to reveal he made lewd advances to a gently bred young lady. The ton would spurn him. Oh no, he would have to hold off on that.’

‘But, he could shoot him when we are not around.’

‘No, my dearest, we know about the incident now, and I shall make it my purpose to ensure I make him fully aware of that.’

Patience returned. ‘Freddie’s enjoying his treat.  But, Sophia, what is it?’

Sophia turned to her. ‘He blackmailed me. He insisted I go to dinner at the Manor House, this very evening.’

Lady Vale frowned. ‘Oh no, it is impossible; you do not have a chaperone, tis quite inappropriate. No, you cannot go.’

‘But mama he did threaten me, if I didn’t attend, he inferred Freddie would meet with an accident.’

Patience frowned. ‘Mama, I don’t think we should chance it; I don’t want anything to happen to Freddie.’

‘Then there is nothing else for it; I will accompany you both. We will have to leave Emily, Jennet, and Lark with Augusta.

‘But he may not allow you entry.’

‘I don’t think he can refuse; he would be the talk of the village. Besides, I am the wife of the third son of an Earl and the daughter of a Viscount. No dear, never fear, I will be with you. Why he may scheme to get you alone and then ruin you.’

‘Yes, I am afraid of that.’

‘That’s decided, come let us prepare ourselves. At least, we may look forward to some good food this evening; t’will be a pleasant change from our frugal fare.’ Lady Vale’s eyes gleamed; she knew and hated the devil. For that was what he was, a devil which sought to debauch women – any woman, titled lady, servant. Even before her dear husband’s demise, he’d evil designs upon her, and now it seems he’d cast his eye on her daughters. She sighed; this would never have happened if her beloved Stuart was alive; he would have called the brute out. As it was, she knew she should refuse the dinner invitation outright, but she could not bear to think poor Freddie could die for trying to protect Sophia.  Now it was up to her; she was a force to contend with when it came to her daughters’ welfare. 

She looked at the small fire in the huge hearth of the cold, draughty room.  They’d lived through hard times since her husband’s death. Being the third son of an Earl, he was destined for the Church to earn a living and had done well with the Baron’s father. On the worthy gentleman’s demise, his son, a rakehell of the first order, embarked on a life of debauchery, spending his fortune on the horses, gaming, dinners. The guests were not mentioned in Polite Society, or the riotous balls filled with Cyprians and their masters. Her husband struggled through this disastrous time, but tragedy hit the family. When the Reverend Thomas Vale succumbed to the fever and two of his three sons, only Benjamin survived.

Due to the charity of the Reverend Vale’s father, the Earl, Benjamin could attend Oxford. Woefully, his charity did not extend to the girls, although she quite understood, as there were six daughters. However, he was gracious enough to bequest a modest stipend that allowed them to live in some comfort. Lady Vale was an intelligent and educated lady who tutored the girls as befitted any gentle born daughter. Not wishing to pay for another minister, the Baron allowed her and her family to stay for a high rent that enabled them to continue living with friendly and lifelong neighbours. 

Late that afternoon, as they prepared for the dinner, Lady Vale gathered her daughters around her. ‘I know that the Baron is a treacherous man, and therefore, we must make plans to avert his dastardly designs upon us. I have come up with a list to ensure we stay only an hour at the most. So listen carefully. Firstly, his usual female companions wear lewd and gaudy attire, so we shall dress in the most sombre mode, which will be sure to dampen his mood. Now for the next items on my list.’

As she finished her list, the girls clapped their hands in glee. They were well aware of the danger they faced. However, he would be hard done by to ravage three ladies. Yet, there was some danger, as his staff was renowned in giving a deaf ear to the rousting of their master, heeding no cries for help or pleas for mercy. T’was more than their jobs were worth, the very least they could expect was a flogging.

Sophia picked out a plain grey dress with a high neck and violet trimmings. She dressed her hair in a chignon primly caught at the base of her neck. Her only adornment was a chain of jet beads usually worn in the mourning period.

Her mother and sister were similarly attired. Patience wore a dusky mauve whilst her mama favoured her black bombazine widow’s dress. Some ladies took to widows’ weeds for the rest of their lives on losing their husbands, but her mother discarded hers within three years. It was only last year, she laid the gloves aside, but Sophia noted, she wore them tonight. Seeing each other’s appearance, they grinned. Beatrice’s eyes glittered; she was prepared for battle; he was a demon of the first order.

Hearing the carriage halt outside, they donned their black and grey capes, putting the finishing touch to their gloomy garb.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 33, 34, & 35

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 33, 34, & 35

Here are the final three chapters of my enthralling fantasy romance novel, Maid of the Forest . Set mainly in a mystical Arthurian world, filled with mythical creatures, Goddesses, and magical powers, the reader is taken on a truly memorable journey.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

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Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 33, 34 & 35

Chapter 33

The Banquet

The main hall was already filled as Devlin and his knights entered.  Forestyne stared in awe at the bunches of flaming rushes held in iron wrought sconces on the walls.  The central fire was built on a bed of stone, upon which huge logs flamed and hissed. The aroma of roasted meat filled the air as a wild boar rolled on an iron spit.  Forestyne looked up to the high table to see Adreva sitting on the right-hand side of King Vortigern, whilst his mistress, the lady Althea sat on the left. 

Their table was directly below that of the King and Queen and the advisors’ council with their wives. As Devlin explained that it was the Queen’s pleasure to choose her guests for the second table, he noticed food for the two top tables arrived on silver plates, whilst the people on the rest of the tables ate from carved wooden boards

Seated beside Gary, Tania leant over to look at the food, whispering, ‘I can’t believe anyone would eat all that. Thankfully Lily was allowed entrance to the dining hall along with the king’s hounds. Looking over, Tania saw the ladies share their silver plates, with their tiny pet dogs on their laps, who yapped excitedly, eating and licking voraciously. 

Forestyne cringed as she saw a beautiful Swan carried aloft on a sturdy frame; the delicate white feathers reinserted into roasted skin. But, her mouth watered at the sight of roast chickens, partridges, and whole hogs roasting on a massive spit in the centre of the hall. Numerous plates of fish and prawns were also displayed on a vast side table. The only birds missing were ravens, revered as the psychopomps leading the departed soul to the Upper Worlds. Also missing from the bounteous tables were the squirrels, the lords, and messengers for the Eternal Shadow of Death. It seemed that the royalty observed Christianity but clung to the old ways.

‘Come, my love, you must eat; you have survived on crusts and dried fish, so you must fortify yourself.’

Further down the table, Clara sat next to the mighty gnome, Prince Ansgar. Although this should be an evening of company, luscious food, and merriment, Tania caught the deep sadness in her friend’s face. She should be so happy; Ansgar loved her and had already proposed.  She tried to catch her attention, but on failing, resolved to speak with her after supper.

Whilst they ate, a harpist played the most vibrant tunes, interspersed with a lyre accompanied by drums.  Forestyne could scarcely speak over the music, let alone the hubbub of chatter and raucous laughter.

As servants cleared the plates to make way for dessert, a troupe of female dancers emerged from the side door. Tania gulped, trying to look composed as the ladies trooped to the centre floor, each wearing only a voile sheath draped around naked hips. Seeing her shocked look, Gary laughed, ‘Darling, it’s quite normal you’ll get used to it. They are superb dancers. She bit her lip as the drums started up a slow beat. ‘I don’t think so Gary, they’re topless, and they’re not wearing any knickers, not even a thong.’

Gary chortled. ‘Honestly, dearest, this is nothing to the orgies that take place later.’

‘Well, count me out. I don’t think Clara will be too pleased.’

Gary beamed. ‘Just kidding, sweetheart.’

Tania narrowed her eyes, from the sounds of it; he’d obviously been party to at least one of them.  His grin was too broad to believe otherwise.

As she took up her goblet, there was an almighty crash; people cried out and jumped to their feet as the massive doors to the hall burst open. Knights rode into the centre of the hall. The leading rider wearing a coronet addressed the King. ‘The Earl of Hunstead is besieged by the Picts.  The devils are at the front entrance. Some could possibly be on their way here.’

The King rose to his feet, his face grim. Looking around the hall, he raised his hand, bunching his fist. ‘To arms – to arms. We ride this very hour. Gather round, we must set out our plans. There is no time to waste..’

Guards hurried the ladies down a corridor to the secured Assembly Room. In the flurry of anxious chatter, Forestyne slipped into an archway; she had to be free to summon the wolves.

Only as the soldiers closed the massive wooden doors did Tania realize Forestyne was not with them. She turned worriedly to a guard. ‘A lady is missing; we must go back for her.’

The guard shook his head, pushing her back to the other women. Furious, she turned to Clara. ‘She’s not here, oh God, we must try to find her. I’ve told the guard, but the bloody man won’t listen. I don’t think he understands my rotten Latin anyway.’

With the vast doors now under heavy guard, Tania looked around the room at the narrow arrow slits for windows. ‘There’s no way we can get out of here. Let’s hope she’s with Devlin.’

Within half an hour, the King and his commanders planned their attack. A thousand soldiers would remain to guard the fort, the Black Warrior would lead in a frontal attack on the Earl’s besieged fortress, whilst the knights attacked on both sides.

Devlin’s first missive was to inform Forestyne and the other two women of the coming onslaught. He grimaced as Tania hurriedly told him of Forestyne’s disappearance. As he left them securely locked in and heavily guarded, he made his way back to the main hall and the king, his heart heavy, where was she? He swung round as he felt a slight touch on his sleeve.

‘Forestyne – oh my love, thank god, I was so worried.’

As he enfolded her in his arms, he said, ‘Why are you not with the ladies?’

‘My lord, I am with you.  I will summon my wolves and join you at the fort.’  Devlin grimaced.  ‘I forbid it – you will remain here at the castle.’ Forestyne beetled her brows, ‘My lord, you have no say in what I do. I go now to join my wolves at Lord Hunstead’s fort. We will rally the other packs throughout the forests. You cannot win this by arms alone. There are thousands of picts roaming the woods, and you have only a thousand or more soldiers under command.

Devlin gritted his teeth, trying to remain calm. ‘Forestyne, obey me; I am now your lord and master, you protector.’

‘Like hell you are, go now, we waste time and lives.’

‘I will keep you here, even if I have to tie you up.’

‘You have no power over me, my lord; I can dissolve right now before your eyes. Push me not to that, for I promise I will do so.’ She growled softly, lifting her lips enough for him to see the canine teeth lengthening.

Choking down his anger, he lifted her chin to gaze down into the dark depths of her eyes.

I love you more than life itself, Forestyne. Don’t do this to me. How can I go fight when I know you are in danger?’

‘Fear not Devlin, tis what I must do.  There is no way you can persuade me otherwise. I love you too, but I also have my own purposes and duties, the main one being to defend humans.’

He hung his head, his skin whitening. ‘So be it, then kiss me first.’

She went on tiptoe, putting her slender arms around his strong muscled neck, kissing him hard on the mouth. He drank in her fierce passion, feeling her canines lightly nip his lip.

Brushing away the blood with his finger, he looked down at her, ‘Come back to me, my love, come back.’

She looked at him for a long moment, then reaching up, touched his cheek.


Chapter 34

The Midnight Raid

Hearing the onslaught may well consist of thousands of Picts, Devlin listened carefully to Gary’s plans of attack, knowing him to be a brilliant strategist in warfare. Having been caught by surprise, amid their revels no less, they had no time to haul their catapults through the narrow roads. Instead, they must resort to hand combat.

Gary laid out a strategy of two ambushes to segregate the leading group. This would utterly confuse the Picts. They had little time, as the Picts were already fighting to gain entrance to Lord Hunstead’s fort. Devlin’s master at arms was to take three hundred foot soldiers to march at speed along the besieged fort’s main track. Seeing such a small army, the Picts would not use the full force or send runners messages to send for more men. Meanwhile, at the front entrances, the approaching soldiers would pretend fear and scatter.

Unbeknownst to them, Devlin’s troops’ main body would approach the fort from the back, creeping in stealth through the forest, and scale the fortified earthen levels to gain entry. When the Picts broke in the front entrance, they would be confronted with over a thousand of Vortigern’s troops waiting for them. 

As they advanced, Gary lifted his hand. ‘Did you hear that?’

Devlin looked around, ‘Nay, it’s the trees whispering to us.’

‘Oh, come on, you’re kidding.’ Gary looked at Devlin aghast.

‘Nay, tis true, the trees do protect humans; it’s just that we’ve forgotten how to listen. I only know of this since meeting my wife, who is one of the tree people. If you concentrate, you will hear the whispers. They are trying to warn us.’

Devlin lunged his horse to the edge of the track, ready to attack, when he saw flashes of silver fur streaking the trees. His heart leapt to his throat. Forestyne? He swallowed, turning back to Gary.

‘Seems the wolves have joined us.’

Gary hissed. ‘Damn it all, that’s all we need. The critters can attack, damn lethal.’

Devlin did not wish to disclose Forestyne’s secret or that some of those wolves were the tree people. He’d sworn an oath of secrecy to her and could not divulge even a hint of it. ‘‘Well, you never know, they may be on our side.’

Gary grimaced. ‘Well, let’s hope to God, it’s our lucky night. All we need now is an attack by wolves, the Picts outnumber us, we’d be done for man, done for.’

Devlin nodded grimly, hoping to God it was Forestyne and her magic at work. Still, even then, he prayed for her safety. He’d fallen deeply in love with her; she was not only his love, but she was also part of his soul. As Devlin urged his horse forward, he had a striking thought, one that took him by force. If they won this night, then he would disappear to the woods with her, for the first time, begin to lead a life of peace; find some sanctity for his soul, not the constant battle of courtly life.

But now the battle was before him; the flames roared from the top of crenelated towers as soldiers fought hand in hand with the Picts. He looked over to Gary. ‘Remember; we pull the soldiers out on your signal. May God be with you, my friend.’

Gary nodded, pulling down his visor.’ 

As he galloped forward with the foot soldiers running behind them, spears and hatchets raised, a group of wolves howled and raced in front of them towards the savages. The troops roared in relief as they saw their silver furred allies fighting by their side. Gary could hardly believe his eyes as he fought alongside the wolves who despatched the Picts in a fury of fangs and howls. At this moment, he truly believed in magic, believed in the oneness of nature, the inseparable unity of man, beast, and tree.

Devlin, Gary, and the troops whooped with furious joy as the Picts fled the scene, terrified of the wolves and the savagery of the soldiers. 

Seeing the main gates open before him, Devlin rode into the cheers of the knights and soldiers within.  Yet, he immediately realized something was terribly wrong. One of the knights rode up to him.’ ‘We were too late to save the Earl; they cut him to pieces. Bloody savages.’

Devlin swallowed hard, saddened. They did not get there in time to save the good Earl’s life. He also knew he had a grim task ahead of him, t’was he who would break the news to the Earl’s motherless young son. Yet even as he shook hands and clapped armoured mitts on shoulders, he looked at the groups of wolves now sitting panting on the side, some already slinking away to the trees. Which one was Forestyne?

Gary rode up to him. ‘You know that was breath-taking, never did I think to see wolves and man fighting to together. Come, my friend, you know more than you say. Share this magic with me.’

Devlin shook his head, I am sworn to secrecy, but yes, I will agree there is magic; it’s real. But now I must hie back to court and report to the King. He did not add he was anxious about Forestyne. As far as Gary was concerned, she was safe at the castle.

Entering the great hall of Vortigern’s castle fort, Devlin waved the sign of victory to the tense groups of servants and some of the guards waiting anxiously for news. With a heavy heart, he thumped on the door of the Earl of Hunstead’s young son’s bedroom.  The lad appeared immediately, his eyes puffy, as if from weeping. ‘My father?’

Devlin nodded grimly. Entering, he bade the boy take a chair and sat beside him. ‘Your father died bravely, Darine; I am now your protector until you are of age to rule your lands.’

Darine hung his head, tears tumbling down his young cheeks. Devlin allowed him to weep and then, pouring some wine into a goblet, bade him drink. ‘Come, this will fortify you; we will discuss more in the morning. But never fear lad, I will protect you and your estate.’

The boy rose to his feet and, going to Devlin, hugged him putting his head on his chest.  ‘I don’t want to talk about anything; I just want my father.’

Devlin held him, stroking the tousled curls. ‘I know lad, it hurts, but you have me; you are not alone.’

Opening the door to their apartment, he gasped as Forestyne rushed naked into his arms, the chain mail almost scraping her tender skin. Her dripping body from the bath smelt of roses.

‘My dearest girl. I need you.’  Grunting in between her fervid kisses, he took off his helmet and coif, he rasped, ‘help me with this damned hauberk.  Willingly she leapt up and pulled off the heavy chainmail and the padded undershirt beneath. As he ripped off the linen shirt, his desire rose to a fever pitch as she widened her naked thighs to pull off his leather boots, her bobbing breasts, sending him crazy, as she pulled down the heavy mail chausses.

Stroking the rippling sweat off the hard-packed muscles of his magnificent body, she giggled, ‘You stink like one of my wolves, come, a splash in the tub is needed.’

He scowled, the need of his iron rod far more significant than a bit of sweat, but to please her, he submitted.  He leapt in one jump into the bathing tub, the water splashing over the floor and on her. Laughing, she bent to pick up; the bathing cloth only to shriek as he lifted her onto his lap. ‘Well, my maiden, you may have your pleasure washing off my sweat. Whilst I find pleasure in your superb body.’


Chapter 35

Fare You Well

There was an air of gaiety as the friends sat down to a private banquet, the apartments festooned with greenery, bright ribbons, and aromatic rushes. It was a bittersweet moment as the friends would go their separate ways. 

Banging his golden spoon on the table for silence, Prince Ansgar rose to his feet. Clara gazed up at him with adoring eyes as he spake. ‘My dear friends, let us congratulate our Black Warrior, Sir Devlin. Not only is the heir to the Northern lands of Conterry, but our king has also awarded him the title of Duke of Winsmoor for his outstanding bravery.’

Devlin stood and bowed to the cheers of his friends, who thumped the table with their appreciation.

He held up his hand. ‘Thank you, but I say now I would not have won this battle without Gary’s brilliant strategy. This did not go unnoticed by our King; in gratitude, Gary now bears the title of Lord Geraint, Earl of Trenton, our noble Blue Warrior.

As they clapped and lifted their goblets, Tania slipped a chicken breast to Lily, who lay slavering under the bench. Leaning over to Clara, she whispered. ‘So are you going to live in the lower World?’

Clara shook her head. ‘Oh, its wonderful news Tani’ he said. He didn’t think I would be happy in the Lower World, a dark place of mountain ridges and live volcanoes. He said he prefers living here, so it suits both of us.’

‘Yes, but one day he will be King.’

‘He said they have a vast estate here in the Middle World. His brother will most probably inherit the Kingship whilst Ansgar sees to the estates here.’

‘Oh, that’s wonderful news; I’m so pleased for you.’

‘So we shall still see a lot of each other.’

Tania nodded. ‘But, Gary and I are still determined to find our way back to our own time. King Vortigern has given him a wonderful estate, and it’s so near to where the cottage will be in the future. Lily will love it there, with fields and the forests to run in. She loves the mud as well. I bet she’ll find the pond, from which we all emerged from the well.  Forestyne is well aware of it. Gary feels sure we will find the time portal.’

Clara frowned. ‘Oh, I shall miss you, Tani.’

‘And I will miss you terribly Tani, I have to make sure I keep Lily tied to me when we try to slip through the portal. Don’t you have any yearnings to go forward to our time?’

Clara shook her head. ‘No, I could never leave Ansgar, and I do love it here. I just feel I fit in.’

Leaning over, Gary said, ‘you never know, if we find the portal, we could visit each other.’

Devlin seeing the friends chatting, turned to Forestyne. ‘So my love, what think you of living on the Winsmoor Estate?’

‘It’s all I could wish for. It was such a surprise. I can see Moraig whenever I wish.’

Devlin grinned; he’d shown her the fortified castle and then, with a mischievous sparkle in his eye, said softly, ‘dearest, come I would like to ride with you.’

‘Now? Where? Forestyne looked at him, somewhat surprised.’

‘Hah, a mystery. Come, trust me.’

‘Devlin, don’t tease, tell me.’

He beamed. ‘Be patient, my love; you shall see very shortly.’

‘Well, I will bid the others goodbye.’

‘Yes, tell them we will meet them later.  Now let us ride.’

Coming to a narrow path through the forest, he said, ‘We shall have to go in a single file here, watch out the horses do not stumble on the twisted roots of the trees, this is the most ancient part of the forest. Following him carefully, Forestyne gazed in wonder at the scarlet bark of the Yew trees. ‘This is a place of wizardry, my lord, you tempt fate to come here.

‘Hah not with the most mighty sorceress of our time.’

She laughed. ‘Now you mock me, I am still training and will be for many years yet. Indeed, I have yet to visit the Great Hall Under the Moon.’

‘’Hmm, magic indeed. Look yonder’

He pointed to a clearing where the yew trees gave way to the slender birch.

Forestyne gasped. ‘Oh, upon my heart, I have never beheld such a magical abode. Pray, who lives here?’

‘Us, my love.’

Forestyne gazed at the cottage, at the sturdy oak beams, with the thatched roof sloping on one side almost to the ground.  The structure appeared to nestle in a display of tumbling roses and wildflowers. It even had apertures covered in the finest heavy velvet, framed in wooden doors that could be closed if necessary.

He grinned at her silence, at the look of longing on her beautiful face. He urged his horse across to her. ‘Tis yours, my love. I want nothing more than to reside here with you as my beloved wife, the woman of my heart.’

She gazed at him with wide eyes, the tears brimming like crystals about to tumble over her satin skin. ‘Oh Devlin, This is a dream, a dream brought to your dear heart by the Goddess of love, Ambrosia herself.’

‘Don’t let’s forget the Blessed Virgin Mary as well. This is your hideaway, my love, a place where you can spend time with the people of the trees, and your beloved pack, your wolves. Gathering her in his strong arms, he held her close, whispering in her ear. ‘So much privacy, so much space for love. What say you?’

Her eyes sparkled as she pulled back to look up into his beloved eyes. ‘My love, my heart, my life is yours.’

 He gazed down earnestly. ‘Darling, I must warn you there are dangerous times ahead. I have not forgotten my vow to your mother. I will win back the Kingdom of Llanmadoc, and you will take your rightful place on the throne as Queen Rhoslyn. She gazed at him, tears in her eyes. ‘Oh Devlin, my dear lord, I only want the forest; I have no need for castles. I—’

‘Darling, the castle at Llanmadoc is surrounded by a forest that goes down to the sea. You will be in your element.’ He hugged her, you may be as wild as you wish and still be Queen.’

‘And you shall be my king.’

‘Nay, I shall be your consort.  For you alone will be Queen.’

‘Nay, I insist you will be king, I will not agree to anything less.’

Devlin grinned kissing her hand. ‘So be it my forest sprite. I am forever bewitched by you.’

Delighted, she threw her arms around him, her love so great she burst into tears.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

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

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