Jonathan’s hands were hurting. The paintings were a lot heavier than he anticipated. And there were a lot of them. So much for thinking this would be an easy job for him to do that he didn’t need to delegate to anyone else.
It should have been a distraction for him to keep him busy instead of sitting in his chair staring out of the window like an incapacitated fool. Jonathan wasn’t about to do that. He needed some activity to keep his mind occupied.
If he stopped for more than a few minutes, the ringing in his ears started again. Jonathan didn’t want to be in pain from it. It was bad enough that he couldn’t hear anything and that when the ringing wasn’t happening, it felt like he had something clamped over his ears, but when the ringing started …
God, of all the things to suffer from after fighting at Waterloo, why did it have to be deafness? Jonathan knew he should be lucky that he hadn’t been killed, and the scars he had accrued were not obviously visible, but he didn’t want to be deaf. It was horrible, and Jonathan felt so low in his moods that he ended up in tears. Who knew that losing your hearing would make someone appreciate sounds, no matter how annoying, even more?
Jonathan would love to hear properly again. It was bad enough wandering around the house when the servants were trying to get his attention. He felt like a simpleton.
Thank God the war with France was over, and he had been medically discharged from the army. No more going to war. Then again, knowing that he had been released was a little embarrassing. He was a colonel, after all. He should have been climbing, and he got this due to his hard work with the army?
Stop thinking about something you can’t change. Focus on going forward and adapting. That’s all you can do now.
He needed to keep moving. There was a tingling in his ears, which said that the ringing would start again. Or maybe it was because someone was about to talk to him. Jonathan had found out after a while being at home that he could sense when someone was nearby and talking; the ringing began, almost like a vibration. When he was looking at the person speaking to him, reading their lips, the ringing certainly vibrated in time to what he believed were the words. He still couldn’t hear them, but it helped that he could read lips better. Everyone knew to face him and speak clearly when addressing their master.
It worked. Jonathan almost held onto some hope that he was getting better. He could hold onto that denial a little longer.
Turning, Jonathan saw his butler, Stokes, walking towards him. The flame-haired middle-aged man gave him a nod and ensured his employer was looking at his mouth before speaking.
“Mr King is here, My Lord. He’ll take over.”
“Thank you, Stokes.”
Jonathan was aware that he was speaking, and he knew what he was saying, but he had no idea if he was speaking loudly or quietly. From Stokes’ expression, he was speaking at a normal level. That was something; the last thing Jonathan wanted to do was sound like a fool.
He turned to Mr King, the laborer practically towering over him. At six-one, it was rare to have someone taller than him, and Jonathan almost took a step back to look at him properly. He gave the man a nod.
“Thank you for coming, Mr King.”
Mr King said something but didn’t open his mouth enough for Jonathan to read his lips properly. It just came out as a jumbled mess. Frowning, Jonathan looked at Stokes. His butler was always there to translate for him.
“He said it’s not a problem, and he’s sure you will be fine with the finished product.” He paused, waiting for Jonathan to take this in. “He also asked what you would like done to it? You did say you would give him more details once he turned up.”
Jonathan caught Mr King looking at them oddly. He must have thought Jonathan was slow, and he hurried to reassure, gesturing at his ears.
“Forgive me, Mr King. I can’t actually hear anything. My fault for standing too close to the cannons at Waterloo.”
“Oh.” Jonathan saw the man’s mouth move. “I had no idea, My Lord.”
“As long as you look at me when you speak and make it clear what you’re saying, I’m fine. But it is a bit of a struggle.”
“I heard you had been in the army, Lord Ashbourne.” Mr King peered at him. “You’ve been talked about as …”
The words trailed off again. Jonathan could feel his frustration growing. When he met someone new, getting used to their different speech patterns was difficult. He had got it down to perfection with his household staff and a couple of close friends who hadn’t distanced themselves from him, but it was harder with complete strangers. And it was really embarrassing.
Stokes seemed to realize that Jonathan was getting upset because he moved over to Mr King and said something to him. Whatever passed between them had Mr King nodding and, with one last glance at Jonathan, started walking back towards the front door. Jonathan frowned.
“Where’s he going, Stokes?”
Stokes turned to him.
“He’s gone to get his work tools from his cart outside,” he said. “I’ve told him what you’ve wanted for the wall, and he’ll do it to the best of his abilities.”
“Thank you.” Jonathan rubbed his ears. “I hate being deaf. I want to be back to normal, but unless someone knows how to send me back in time …”
Stokes puts a hand on Jonathan’s arm, a gesture to make him look at the man. His butler looked sympathetic.
“We understand. It’s going to take time to get to the new norm, My Lord. We’re here for you.”
Jonathan knew that, and he was glad about it. As of right now, he was the only one of his family left. His parents were dead, and his sisters had left to live in the Americas, starting their own families. Communicating with them by letters was not how Jonathan wanted to talk with his sisters, but he was glad that it was easy enough to convey himself that way. He knew his speech was a little off because he couldn’t hear himself to know if it was right or wrong, and he didn’t want to humiliate himself in front of his family.
Stokes, a former army veteran himself, understood him more than Jonathan anticipated. Having him around was like God had given him a gift. It was surprising how much patience one man had.
“Why don’t you sit in the garden, My Lord? It’s warm out there right now. I’ll have Mrs Stokes bring some tea and cake out for you.”
“You don’t need to shoo me out, Stokes.”
“You need a moment to calm down. Then, once you’re refreshed, you can return to something else. Alright?”
Jonathan didn’t want to sit down and be lost in his thoughts, but Stokes was right. When he was upset, he needed to go elsewhere to calm down and reorganize his thoughts. It was a relief that the cannon blast hadn’t deafened his inner thoughts, but there were times when Jonathan wished that he could just have nothing going on in his head; being stuck along with your thoughts and unable to express them properly was enough to drive anyone mad.
Besides, he didn’t need to stand over Mr King and watch him work. All the man was doing was smoothing down the wall and painting it with a fresh coat of white paint. Then, it would be ready for whatever Jonathan wanted to do. What he wanted to do with it, he wasn’t really sure. He knew he wanted some sort of painting – a mural, Stokes called it – but he wasn’t certain about what he wanted to do with that space.
It was something he needed to keep him busy. Something to occupy himself without making it feel like he was useless to everyone. His servants might not say it to him, but they had to be whispering behind his back. He goes to fight in France and comes back a different man. A deaf man. Someone who was looked down upon. If he weren’t a decorated officer and a viscount, he would have been tossed onto the streets and forced to figure things out alone. People were not kind to those outside the ton’s regular norms.
Jonathan didn’t want to have anything to do with that. He might as well get everyone to believe he was dead.
Heading out onto the terrace, Jonathan felt the warm sun on his face as he went to the table at the far end, just in the shade. He slumped into one of the chairs and closed his eyes. The ringing in his ears was building again, something that always happened after he had someone speaking to him. If only he could hear the words without needing someone to look directly at him or translate.
Jonathan hadn’t liked being dependent on anyone when he was a child. His parents urged him to be strong on his own, saying they wanted to be sure he could take care of himself should anything happen to him. Jonathan had thought they were overreacting and worrying too much, but then his mother died when he was fifteen, and his father passed shortly after Jonathan’s twentieth birthday. That left him to look after his younger sisters and ensure they had good matches for husbands. Thankfully, both Amelia and Isabel had found good, kind men to marry, and they were in South Carolina working on a business the husbands had started together. Jonathan was glad that his sisters were looked after properly.
After all, he could barely look after himself. If they were still under his roof, he would be floundering trying to look after them when he couldn’t hear a word they said; his sisters tended to talk fast, and he’d had trouble keeping up with them when he could hear them.
His head was beginning to hurt, and not from the ringing. Jonathan pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose. If only he had been blown up instead. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with this.
A hand touched his arm, and Jonathan jumped. Mrs Stokes, the housekeeper, was leaning over him. A tea tray was on the table in front of him. The pleasantly plump woman gave him a gentle smile.
“Your tea, My Lord,” she said.
“Thank you, Mrs Stokes.” Jonathan frowned at the teapot. “Are you sure it’s tea in there? I could do with a brandy.”
“I’m afraid it’s tea, My Lord. I think we need to get some more brandy as it’s been finished.”
Jonathan winced. He knew what she meant. He had been drinking all the brandy. But he thought there was plenty left. Had he really drunk all of it, and there was none in the house?
Maybe that was a good thing. Jonathan shouldn’t be getting drunk all the time. It just resulted in him waking up with a hangover and feeling even worse.
He looked up at Mrs Stokes, who seemed to be waiting for his attention again. Then Jonathan noticed the stack of letters in her hand.
“What are those?”
“It’s the second post, My Lord.” Mrs Stokes’ expression suggested that this might not be news he wanted to hear. “I think most of them are invitations to social gatherings.”
Jonathan frowned at her.
“You know I don’t want to go to any of those. There’s no point in bringing them to me when you know my answer.”
“Forgive me, My Lord. It’s a force of habit.”
“I know. But don’t keep bringing them to me.” Jonathan paused. If only he could hear himself. He hated speaking with no noise at all. “How many are there?”
“There are less than before. I think the amount is …” Mrs Stokes spoke the word slowly. “Dwindling.”
That was something. Jonathan did not want to be around anymore with the way he was. Being an earl and a decorated officer meant he would be in high demand, but he was not prepared to be paraded in front of everyone. They would all want to talk to him and wouldn’t understand that he couldn’t hear a word. Once they realized he was deaf, the ton would distance themselves from him. Nobody would want to associate with a man who would be classed as disabled. Jonathan really hated that word.
It was best to distance himself before anyone else did it to him. Then he wouldn’t feel rejected.
“I suppose there’s one good thing about not hearing anything anymore,” Jonathan said, gesturing at his ears. “I can’t hear how awful the music is, and the social gatherings won’t be loud enough to give me a headache.”
Mrs Stokes smiled.
“You didn’t have an ear for music before Waterloo, My Lord.”
“Now I don’t have any ears for music. That should stop people from inviting me to music recitals, at the very least.”
Mrs Stokes’ eyes twinkled. It was easy to be relaxed in her company. Along with her husband, Jonathan’s housekeeper was a godsend.
“Oh, this is for you, My Lord.” Mrs Stokes reached into the pocket of her apron and held it out. “You wanted me to get the name and address of that artist I was talking about. For the wall?”
It took a moment for Jonathan to remember what she meant. When he said he was looking for an artist to help him paint the wall, but he wasn’t sure who to choose, Mrs Stokes said she knew someone willing to help.
“Here you go.”
Mrs Stokes handed a piece of paper to Jonathan, who looked at the name. Evelyn Caldwell. Was this a woman? Jonathan knew there were female artists, but he had never encountered one.
“Is this a Mr or Miss Caldwell?”
“Miss Caldwell,” Mrs Stokes said when Jonathan looked at her again. “She’s a brilliant artist. I’ve seen some of her work, and she’s great. I think she would be just right for you.”
But the housekeeper just smiled and gave him a nod before turning away, effectively ending the conversation. Jonathan watched her go, curious as to why she considered this woman just right for him with this project. What did that even mean?
He couldn’t figure that out for himself until he met her, anyway.
“Evelyn! We’re back!”
Evelyn smiled when she heard Ignatius’ voice. She lowered her brush and stepped back to inspect her work. The painting was coming along really nicely. Almost done. The viscount who had commissioned her to paint a view of his estate would be really happy with this. Evelyn was glad she had a perfect memory so she could sketch out at the estate and then paint at home; the weather being unpredictable lately was an advantage.
She turned when she heard a knock at the door, and it opened to see her housekeeper, Mrs Barry, entering the room. The middle-aged woman smiled at her.
“Mr and Miss Savage are here, Miss Caldwell.”
Evelyn made the gesture to allow them entry. Mrs Barry moved aside to allow the tall, slim figure of Ignatius Savage to come in, closely followed by his daughter. Valerie strode past her father with a beaming smile and clasped Evelyn’s hands. It was their regular greeting, both of them pleased to see the other.
“That is just beautiful, Evelyn,” Ignatius declared as he crossed over to the painting. “Is it finished yet? You said it would be finished today, and Viscount Crowfoot had a deadline.”
Evelyn released Valerie’s hands and signed her answer at him.
“I’m just doing the finishing touches. Once it’s dry, you can take it with you. It won’t take long.”
“Perfect.” Ignatius beamed. “Time for some tea, don’t you think?”
Evelyn laughed and signed at Mrs Barry to fetch the tea tray. The woman nodded and left, closing the door behind her. As Ignatius leaned in to peer more closely at the painting, Valerie nudged Evelyn to get her attention.
“He’s going to smudge it with his nose if he’s not careful,” she signed, her eyes twinkling.
Evelyn bit back a giggle and signed back.
“I’m sure that won’t be the case, but if it does happen, he can explain to Viscount Crowfoot on his own. Nothing to do with me.”
Valerie’s mouth screwed up as she held back a laugh. Evelyn felt warm and happy whenever she was around her friends. She had been alone in her own world for so long that having someone similar to her, both in creativity and physical issues, was like a godsend. Ignatius had been a childhood friend of her father’s, and he kept in touch while traveling around Europe. After Evelyn’s father passed away when Evelyn was nineteen, he returned and started an art gallery and printing shop on the outskirts of London. Despite the location, which was out of the way of most people, it was very popular, and Ignatius was kept busy. Valerie ran the printing shop, much to the bemusement of some clients, showing that she possessed her father’s love for art. She was mute as well, and Evelyn felt less lonely when she found out about that. It was hard communicating with people outside of the household, who were always used to Evelyn signing and knew how to interpret what she was saying, so to have others who understood her without Evelyn getting frustrated was a delight.
“By the way,” Evelyn signed as Ignatius moved onto another painting, one propped up against the wall in its frame, “have you seen Lucas today? Ignatius said he was going to Brighton to oversee a gallery viewing there.”
“Oh, he’s back now. Apparently, the gallery viewing was a success.” Valerie’s signing was getting more animated with her excitement. “I think we could open up a gallery there permanently. Father’s talked about Lucas being in charge of that.”
“That’s great! Is Lucas happy about it?”
“I think he is. He says it’s a great opportunity, but I think he’s reluctant to leave London.” Valerie giggled. “Honestly, he’s such a worrier. We’ve told him he’ll be perfect for the job.”
“Do you think he wants to stay because he loves London or because of something else?”
“What else could be keeping him here?”
Evelyn was tempted to point out that Lucas was in love with Valerie and wanted to stay around her, even though he thought his love was not returned. Far from it, Valerie was in love with Lucas herself, but she chose to tease him and hide her true feelings. Evelyn could understand that her friend’s reservations about being mute were not something she wanted to put on anyone else, but from what she saw, Lucas didn’t care. He loved Valerie no matter what.
Evelyn could only dream of having something like that for herself.
“Oh!” Ignatius’ sudden exclamation made both of them jump. Evelyn saw her father’s friend hurry towards her, digging into his pocket and bringing out a letter. “I almost forgot. You’ve got another commission.”
“Yes. An earl wants you to create a mural for him in his home. Apparently, his London residence isn’t far from here, so it wouldn’t be much to travel there.”
Evelyn scanned the letter. Whoever wrote this had nice handwriting. It was easily legible. It was from the Earl of Ashbourne, and he was asking her to paint a mural in the house he resided in for most of the year. He also wanted her creative thoughts on the matter as he wasn’t sure what he wanted. That was fine; Evelyn liked using her creative flair. People who saw a mute woman were stunned by her artistry. She liked surprising people.
She put the letter down to sign properly.
“Who is the Earl of Ashbourne? Should I know that name?”
“His earldom is in Derbyshire,” Valerie replied. “He’s also a colonel in the British army.”
“Was a colonel,” Ignatius pointed out. “He holds the title, but he’s not a soldier anymore. He was medically discharged.”
“What happened to him?” she asked.
“He got deafened by cannon fire at Waterloo. Can’t hear a thing now, apparently. He’s been hidden away in his house for over a year now. I’m surprised anyone knows what he looks like.”
Valerie giggled, squeezing Evelyn’s arm.
“You’re going into the unknown, Evie. You might know what this earl looks like more than anyone else.”
“That’s not funny, Valerie.” She turned to Ignatius. “Why do you want me to take this, Ignatius? I like the idea, but you know I don’t deal directly with clients or go to their homes. I stay in the house and do my work from here.”
“He’s asked for you specifically, and I think he wants you to be there to discuss it.” Ignatius shrugged. “He doesn’t know what to do with it, so going to the actual place would help you figure out what would be just right.”
Evelyn didn’t know what to say to that. Ignatius approached her shortly after he started his business to create work for him, provided she didn’t leave the house. It was far easier to stay where she was, not wanting people to stare at her and treat her like she was less than them. Her father had been a baron, which made her a member of the ton, yet Evelyn was treated harshly because she was not perfect.
It didn’t matter how pretty she made herself, how composed she kept herself or behaved; the fact she had been mute since birth and couldn’t speak made her very different. She remembered being slighted by pretty much everyone the first time she went into Society. Her first Season had been awful. Even the gentlemen would not interact with her. It was like nobody knew how to talk to her.
Once her father died, Evelyn completely removed herself from Society, choosing to stay at home away from everyone. She had pretty much given up on finding a husband, seeing as nobody wanted a mute woman as a wife. Even if everything else was fine, that was enough for gentlemen to walk away from her and see her as useless. Evelyn was not dealing with that level of disrespect anymore.
Her life was going well, not seeing anyone outside of the house other than Ignatius, Valerie, and their assistant Lucas. Evelyn didn’t want to ruin it by going out and visiting a potential client.
Valerie tapped her arm to get her attention before signing.
“This will be good,” she urged. “You will get a huge payment for this, and it’s the first time in a long time that you’ve done a mural. You like a challenge, don’t you?”
Evelyn did, and right now, she wished that Valerie didn’t know that. She knew just what to say to pique Evelyn’s interest.
She turned to Ignatius, who was watching her as if waiting for an answer.
“Does he know about my condition?” she asked. “And why would he choose me?”
“I honestly don’t know. He mentioned that someone had recommended you, but no names were mentioned. As for your condition, I don’t know if he knows who you are.”
“I’m a baron’s daughter,” she reminded him. “I was, at least. I don’t know if I can call myself that anymore.”
“Even so, you’ve been out of Society for years. And the Earl of Ashbourne has been in France fighting Napoleon, so he more than likely has no idea who you are.”
That didn’t bode well. If he wasn’t aware of Evelyn’s condition, this would get really uncomfortable.
The door opened, and Evelyn saw Mrs Barry entering the room with the tea tray. Ignatius took Evelyn’s arm and led her to the table at the far end of the room.
“Why don’t we sit down and have some tea? Then we can discuss what we can do about this. I think this will be beneficial to everyone?”
“How?” Evelyn signed with one hand.
“I’m sure we’ll find out.”
Evelyn didn’t know how to respond to that.
Evelyn turned at the door. Her maid had snatched up her little notebook and pencil from the dresser and was hurrying over, holding them out.
“You forgot to put these in your reticule.”
“Thank you,” Evelyn signed, putting both items into her little bag. “I would be lost without that.”
Alison grinned and signed back.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine. You just need to smile, and your charm will shine through.”
“You are far too optimistic, Alison. Anyway, I’ll be back soon. Hopefully.”
“Yes, madam.” Alison curtsied. “And I hope you’ll tell me how it went. I’m curious about this mysterious earl.”
Evelyn didn’t respond, simply leaving the room. But, if she were being honest, she was also curious about the Earl of Ashbourne. After listening to Ignatius talk about him – that man was the fountain of gossip and could find out absolutely anything on a whim – Evelyn wanted to see what the fuss was about. Apparently, the earl – also known as Colonel Russell – was a war hero who had been instrumental in several skirmishes against the French before being injured during Waterloo. Evelyn was horrified to hear that he was now permanently deaf, never to hear again. It must be horrible to be in that situation.
She didn’t know if being deaf or mute was worse when you were a member of Society. It didn’t sound like Ashbourne would be accepted readily, either. Then again, he was a gentleman with excellent credentials, and he had to be rather wealthy, so there were more than likely several ladies who wanted his attention. But it would be for money and status rather than the man, Evelyn was sure. That couldn’t be nice for him.
Although, given what Ignatius and Valerie had said, the man had also become a recluse. He had hidden himself away in his London residence since he returned from France, and barely anyone had seen him. Evelyn wondered why he didn’t go to his family estate in Ashbourne. He was less likely to be bothered in the Peak District. But that wasn’t any of her business; Evelyn didn’t have a right to ask about that.
She needed to focus on the project she had been asked to do, not why he was living so close to London when he barely left the house. His personal life had nothing to do with her.
Even so, Evelyn knew she would be too curious for her own good. She needed to focus. This commission was enormous. She could be set for several years with this payment should it be successful. Evelyn knew she was driven by money more than anything else but couldn’t help it. If it was just her now, she had to find a way to look after herself and the estate her father had left her. Sure, her guardian – her uncle Harold – paid the servants and let her live there while he was in his estate in Sussex, but there could come a time when Evelyn was left on her own. She had to be prepared for that, and having a nice amount of money put to one side would be ideal.
As her small carriage took her to Ashbourne’s home, Evelyn wondered what he wanted the mural for. From her experience, murals were much more personal than paintings and portraits. They had the client’s personal touches to it, and it was harder to get rid of. Asking for a mural was more long-term than a painting, which could easily be destroyed. Even painting over a mural it would still be there. What did the earl want as the mural?
She would have to get some ideas from the house itself to decide what to do if the earl didn’t have any ideas.
It didn’t take long to get to the house, and Evelyn looked out as they went up the driveway. She didn’t like to think impressive homes easily struck her, but this manor house was exquisite. It looked like it had been built in the previous century, its appearance far newer than she anticipated. Maybe there had been a lot of renovations recently? Evelyn would ask about that, her curiosity piqued.
It was beautiful, she had to admit that. And the grounds themselves looked marvellous. Evelyn often took walks in her own gardens and loved the expanse of color and different plants. From the brief glimpse she got, this looked like paradise to her.
The Earl of Ashbourne was incredibly lucky to have something like this. She could see why he wouldn’t want to leave the estate when it looked so beautiful.
Her carriage pulled up outside the house, and her driver, Johnson, jumped down and opened the door. Evelyn gave him a smile of gratitude and got out.
“Do you want me to wait for you?” Johnson asked. “Or do you want me to come back later?”
Evelyn wasn’t sure. She was about to suggest coming back later when the door opened, and a middle-aged man with broad shoulders and a thick mustache came out. He was dressed very smartly, and from his mannerisms, he was one of the servants. The butler, maybe. He approached Evelyn with a pleasant smile and bowed.
“Good morning, Miss Caldwell. My name is Stokes. The Earl of Ashbourne wanted me to greet you on arrival.”
Evelyn smiled. Before she could get out her notebook and write her response, Johnson spoke.
“Do you wish me to come by and pick up Miss Caldwell later, Mr Stokes? Or am I permitted to wait?”
“You can wait in the stables if you like. My wife is the housekeeper and can ensure you’re fed while you wait.”
“Thank you.” Johnson nodded at Evelyn. “Let me know when you’re ready to leave, Madam.”
Then he jumped up into his seat and got the horse moving again. Evelyn watched him go before turning to Stokes. The butler smiled at her and beckoned her to follow him.
“Come with me. The earl is in the morning room. He’s looking forward to meeting you.”
Evelyn almost started signing to ask why he was looking forward to seeing her but then remembered that Stokes wouldn’t know how to sign. She would have looked like a madwoman if she did that. It would be easier to stay silent for now.
Following Stokes into the house, Evelyn gave her hat and coat to one of the footmen, and then she joined the butler at a closed door. Stokes opened it without knocking, which Evelyn found a little surprising. Surely, he would knock before entering a room, especially if his master was present.
Then she remembered that the earl couldn’t hear the knocking. How could she have forgotten that so quickly? Her nerves were already getting the better of her.
The morning room was less of a room and more of a long, wide hallway. Most of it looked like any other room where guests would be entertained, while the rest was mostly bare, although Evelyn could see that the walls looked freshly painted. Was he in the process of more renovation?
A dark-haired man was pacing around near the window. He didn’t stop as they entered, looking lost in his own world. Stokes walked over to him and waited until the man turned and stopped abruptly when he saw the butler there.
“Stokes!” He pressed a hand to his chest. “You startled me there.”
“Forgive me, My Lord. Miss Caldwell is here.”
Stokes gestured at Evelyn, and Ashbourne looked past him. Their eyes met, and Evelyn was momentarily struck at how handsome he was. He had to be about thirty, very tall and well-built. The cut of his clothes didn’t hide the fact that he was a strong individual. And his dark eyes drew her in, leaving her swaying.
Wait, what had just happened? Why was her heart racing so fast that she was feeling lightheaded? This was not normal. Evelyn wasn’t sure she liked it.
With a smile that made her heart stumble, Ashbourne approached her and gave her a bow.
“Miss Caldwell. Thank you for coming here. I understand you’re very busy.”
His voice sounded a little strange. It was relatively clear, easy enough to understand, but it fluctuated with the volume, going from loud to a little quieter and then to a normal voice. Evelyn could understand that he couldn’t hear how loud he was talking, but he was clearly trying to control it. He seemed conscious that he might sound odd to other people.
Even deaf, he was really trying.
Then she remembered her manners. Evelyn lowered her head and curtsied, almost wobbling as her balance suddenly decided to give way. Catching herself before falling flat on her feet, Evelyn straightened up, her face getting warm, and hoping she wasn’t too obvious about what just happened.
Ashbourne smiled at her. It seemed to warm the expression in his eyes. He had a really nice smile as well. Evelyn wondered how she would concentrate when this man looked at her like this.
Or when he was looking at her at all.
“The Earl’s Mute Beauty” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
In a world where society’s cruel judgment thrives, Evelyn Caldwell, a gifted but mute artist, has found solace in the peaceful countryside, far from the ton’s relentless scrutiny. Yet, when she’s summoned by a deafened and reclusive war veteran, her tranquil life takes an unexpected turn. Their first meeting is marked by an intense, magnetic attraction, but also marred by misunderstandings arising from their undisclosed disabilities.
Could this handsome gentleman change her destiny once and for all?
Colonel Jonathan Russell, once a gallant officer, now grapples with the haunting echoes of war, a deafness that has left him feeling isolated and adrift. When he commissions Evelyn to create a mural at his country estate, he’s drawn not only to her artistic talent, but also to the enigmatic allure that surrounds her. His initial frustrations and anger with his own disability slowly give space to hope, as he unexpectedly finds his dreamy muse in her.
Could her serene beauty put some color back into his silent life?
As they embark on an artistic collaboration that transcends words, Evelyn and the Earl forge a deep connection, reflecting their unique battles. However, before they can confess their growing love, a malevolent force tears them apart, forcing them to confront past insecurities. Can they summon the strength to overcome adversity and embrace a future where love knows no boundaries? Or will their journey end in a silence that will painfully echo through time?
“The Earl’s Mute Beauty” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.