Ed Young felt a sharp pain in his ankle as his feet skidded on the wet and greasy cobbles underfoot, and he cursed out loud. Then he quickly looked about him to make sure no one had heard him use such foul language. He seemed to be quite alone, but he could not be certain. Just in case someone had heard him swear, he said quietly, “I beg your pardon.” No one replied.
It had been raining for days, but now a thick and dirty fog smothered the streets of London, trapping all of that moisture within, muffling sounds, and creeping into buildings through cracks in windows and doors.
Never before had he experienced such a dense and dark miasma as the one that tended to descend on London. Perhaps it was all those industrial chimneys belching out soot and smoke that contributed to it. Or maybe it was simply the sheer size of the population, all rammed together in a relatively small space, burning all those fires and cooking on all those stoves.
The gritty damp caught at the back of his throat, and he coughed violently into his hand. His chest was still so raw and sore, and he was sure his ribs were bruised from so much hacking and barking. At least the coughing seemed to be easing now, after several days of it being quite the nuisance. As he was not so uncouth as to spit, he instead flicked his tongue over his lips and swallowed hard, tuning in to his own body to see if the coughing fit had passed.
Visibility was only a few feet in front, and he peered into the murky semi-darkness, trying to find his bearings. After so many days of being cooped up indoors while the rain had continued to fall, Ed had thought that the walk might do him some good now it had finally stopped. However, he was not expecting such a heavy mist to come down on the tail end of the days-long downpour. He had expected fresh, clean air to clear his head. Perhaps it was always like this in the city. He was certainly not accustomed to such disgusting weather.
Limping now, he pulled the collar of his overcoat up around his neck to keep the dank cold at bay. His heart leapt with shock as he heard someone call his name. Then he shook himself. He had taken great care not to leave any tracks. No one knew where he was. And so he continued on his way, carefully scrutinising each address as he passed it. He did not wish to walk through the wrong doorway again and would sooner walk past and retrace his steps than make the same mistake.
It took most of his concentration not to step into the road by accident. There were ankle-deep puddles in the gutter, and he did not want wet feet on top of everything else. Every so often, a horse suddenly emerged from the fog towards him, dragging a cart or a carriage behind it and startling him. And then the whole ensemble would disappear once again as quickly as it had appeared.
There were no street hawkers selling their wares, nor any ladies of the night plying their trade. Even the beggars had taken shelter elsewhere. It really was most surreal and incredibly eerie. Oh, how he yearned for the clean and wide-open countryside.
The sound of another man coughing reached Ed’s ears before drifting off again, closely followed by a drunkard singing the chorus of a sea shanty and then, by the sound of it, stumbling to the ground. In the muffled distance, he heard a horse’s hooves on the cobbles. The streetlights had not yet been lit, but they would have been of no use in any case. It would be easier to see in the darkness of night than in this daytime fog, and Ed did not like it one bit.
He found the correct doorway and pushed his way into the filthy inn, accompanied by a cloud of fog from outside. The stuffy heat hit him in the face, and ash stung his eyes, both caused by a fire that roared in the hearth at one end of the dark and dingy room. He flinched slightly at the sight of the flame glowing in the distance and turned to face the other way. Normally, he would go straight up to his room without lingering in the bar. But he still had business to conduct, and he was awaiting an answer to his question.
Undoing his coat buttons, he glanced around to see if there were any free stools. He needed to rest his twisted ankle, but he did not wish to sit on top of the fire.
In the farthest corner, as far away from the fire as he could possibly get, stood an empty stool at an empty table. He caught the barkeeper’s eye and indicated with a finger that he would like a mug of ale. The barkeeper nodded, and Ed made his way to the corner, where he sat down heavily on the stool. He untied the lace on his boot and relaxed his foot, rubbing his injured ankle with his hand and twisting his foot this way and that to ease the sprain. The barkeeper came over and cleaned ash and spilt beer from the tabletop with a grubby cloth, and he placed Ed’s drink down in front of him. Ed sat up, fished in his pocket for a coin that he tossed at the man, and then he leant down again to rub his ankle. The pain was definitely fading now.
“Keep the change,” he muttered, to the barkeeper’s surprise.
“I was going to add it to your bill,” said the barkeeper, looking down at the shiny coin in his hand.
“No matter,” said Ed. “I would sooner pay now than have it added to my account. Be sure you do not charge me again.”
“Can I get you anything else?” asked the man, tucking the coin into his waistcoat pocket with smug satisfaction. “We do not usually see you in here.”
“Do you have any cigars?”
“I’m afraid we don’t,” replied the barkeeper. “This is an inn, not a gentleman’s club.”
With the current state of Ed’s chest, that was probably a good thing. What on earth was he thinking?
“Of course,” said Ed. “My apologies.”
“Anything else?” asked the barkeeper.
“No, thank you,” replied Ed, tying up his boot lace again and sitting upright. “Is he back?”
“He is,” said the barkeeper. “I will let him know that you are here.”
As the man scurried away, Ed picked up his mug and took a deep swallow of the lukewarm, flat ale. The table wobbled when he replaced the mug, and he cursed again, under his breath this time for the room was definitely full. The last thing he wanted was to spill ale all down himself. Being sure not to make any eye contact, he looked about the room to see if he recognised anyone. But he did not. Still, he felt them staring at him whenever he was not furtively watching. He knew they were wondering who this unpleasant stranger was lurking in the corner of the room, so rarely did he patronise the bar.
Ed pulled a small key from another pocket in his coat and fidgeted with it, turning it over and over in his hands. I wonder if it could feel any less heavy, he thought. He noted with dismay the soot and dirt that was becoming ingrained in his skin and under his fingernails. He was losing his own self-respect allowing his hands to become so grimy. He used a corner of the key, the part that went in the lock, to clean the muck from beneath his fingernails, and he dropped the bits onto the floor, brushing them from the front of his shirt too. Then he returned the small key to his pocket and took another swig from his mug of ale.
The other man, the innkeeper, pushed his way through the crowd and pulled up short in front of Ed. “Ah,” he said. “Mr Young. There you are. He said that you were —”
“Did you do as I asked?” said Ed, interrupting the man’s attempt at small talk.
“I, ah, yes. I have.”
Ed waited a beat, and when the man was not forthcoming, he said, “And?”
“Ah,” said the innkeeper. He wore an apron over his clothes that was once, Edwin assumed, white. Now it just looked grey and grubby in the dim light from the candles and the fire. The innkeeper rummaged in a large pocket at the front of the apron and pulled out a creased and crinkled letter.
“The seal is already broken,” said Ed, taking the letter from the man’s chubby hand.
“It was addressed to me,” pointed out the innkeeper with a stubby finger.
Ed turned the folded letter over in his hands and, sure enough, the letter was indeed addressed to the innkeeper. “What does it say?” he asked.
“It is from my cousin. He is a steward in an earl’s house in the country, and his employer is looking for another groom – they already have one, but their other man left recently. If you want the job, it is yours.”
The innkeeper rocked on his heels and folded his fat arms across his large belly. Ed turned the letter over repeatedly in his hands.
“Are the details in here?” he asked. The innkeeper nodded. “May I keep it?”
“Yes. I have read the contents, and there is nothing else that my cousin mentions at this time.”
“Very well,” said Ed. While the innkeeper waited, Ed picked up his mug and drained the ale from it. Then he stood up and handed the empty glass to the innkeeper. He fished in his coat pocket again and pulled out a hefty purse, handing that too over to the innkeeper.
The innkeeper weighed the purse in his hand before stuffing it into the bulging pocket in the front of his apron. “I thank you,” he said.
“No,” said Ed. “It is I who must thank you!” He brushed past the innkeeper. “I will be gone by first light.” Then he walked to a door at the rear and climbed the stairs beyond up to his room.
The small bedroom was even dingier than the bar room downstairs. Despite it still being the middle of the afternoon, he found he had to light a candle, and he shivered at the sudden chill after the stuffy warmth of the bar. He looked at the fire and wondered if he should ask for it to be built up. But he decided to leave it. He would warm up soon enough, and it was only because of the fire downstairs that he had even noticed.
He packed his meagre belongings so that he would be ready to be off in the morning, fingering the once-fine fabrics of his remaining clothes that were now soiled and slightly worn. Before hanging his coat up on a peg, he retrieved the small key once more and gripped it in his fingers. Perhaps he would be able to put the past behind him after all.
Fordcomb Green, Kent
Lady Rose Gale tucked her feet beneath her as she curled up on her favourite chair in the corner of the family sitting room, clutching the novel she had just finished reading to her breast. She heaved a great sigh of satisfaction and closed her eyes, for the tall, dark, and handsome hero in the story had finally expressed his love for the pretty little heroine, and not before time either.
Outside, the heavy rain hammered a steady tattoo on the windows. She opened her eyes and watched the rivulets run down the glass. Gosh, it had grown quite dark very quickly. Lady Rose thought she must have been reading for hours, but when she checked the clock on the mantelpiece over the roaring fire, she realised that it was just the weather causing the sky to darken so. It was not yet three o’clock. Shivering slightly, she pulled her shawl around her shoulders more tightly.
The door burst open, and Lady Rose’s older sister Lady Beatrice, the Countess Yarmouth, swept into the room, bringing a gust of chilly air with her. She closed the door tight behind her to keep some of the warmth in.
“You are back from the town, I see?” said Lady Rose, putting the book to one side and sitting up properly in her chair. “How was Tunbridge Wells?”
“It was very wet,” replied Lady Beatrice, warming her hands on the fire.
“And yet it was still fine when you left,” said Lady Rose.
Lady Beatrice plonked herself down on a chair next to her sister’s, causing the cushion to squeak as the air was pushed out of it. “It was indeed,” she replied. “I did know that it might rain, but I did not expect it to rain quite so heavily or as quickly as it did.”
“Did you manage to find shelter, Beatrice? You do not look very wet.”
“Fortunately, I was already in the carriage before the worst of it arrived, and we were already on our way back.”
“How was your luncheon? Did all of the ladies you expected come too?” asked Lady Rose.
“They did. You should have come with me, really. They all asked about you. Such a pity that you had your nose stuck in that ridiculous book.”
“It is not ridiculous,” argued Lady Rose. “I have finished it now in any case. So I may accompany you next time to purchase a new novel.”
Lady Beatrice nodded indulgently at her sister and patted her hand. “Did you have your happy ending?” she asked.
Lady Rose nodded and pointed at the book now lying on the side table. “You can read it too if you would like that.”
Lady Beatrice shuddered. “No, thank you. But I appreciate the offer.”
“Were you able to find everything that you went for?” asked Lady Rose.
“Yes, thank you. I ordered a new dress while I was in town, for that dance we have been invited to, and I brought the newspapers back with me for Father, as well as some mail. I thought it would save the delivery boy a trip later on.” She picked up a tiny handbell from the table and gave it a shake. “I must say that I am parched, Rose. Have you had any refreshments recently? Would you like to share a pot of tea with me?”
Lady Rose nodded, and after the maid came and took their request, she said to her sister, “What news do you bring from town? Did you steal a look in Father’s newspapers?”
Lady Beatrice had the good grace to blush, which suggested to Lady Rose that her sister had indeed sneaked a look at the newspapers before their father had seen them. He would be most annoyed if he found out or if she had left them crumpled or obviously riffled through.
Lady Rose laughed. “Do tell, sister.”
“Mr Charles informs me that Father has a new groom starting in the morning, to replace Mr Hartley,” she said pointedly as if to say I have not yet seen the newspapers, so I can only tell you what has been told to me by our own butler.
“Oh,” said Lady Rose sadly. “I take it that Mr Hartley has gone now.”
“He has indeed,” replied Lady Beatrice.
“I hope he will write to me from his new position,” said Lady Rose.
“Sister!” scolded the countess. “You should not be so familiar with the staff.”
“I cannot help it,” Lady Rose replied. “They are the only people who I see regularly. Apart from you, of course. And Father.” She thought for another moment and added, “And the delivery men. But apart from all of them.”
“Nevertheless,” said Lady Beatrice. “It is not very ladylike to mix with the stable hands. And nor is it befitting of your station.”
“What else have you heard?” asked Lady Rose, changing the subject.
Lady Beatrice thought for a moment, no doubt trying to frame her reply as though it was something else she had heard. “There was apparently a terrible fire over in East Anglia.”
“Apparently?” asked Lady Rose. “According to whom?”
“According to one of the ladies who joined us for luncheon, I cannot quite remember which one …” Lady Beatrice made a show of having a good, hard think while the maid brought them their tray and fussed about with it on the table. When the maid had left them to it, Lady Beatrice added, “It must have been Lady Hunstanton.”
“Lady Hunstanton is indeed a long way from home.” Lady Rose chuckled. “Are you sure it was not a story you saw when you were peeking into our father’s newspapers?”
“I would have you know that Lady Hunstanton is in Tunbridge Wells to take the waters,” said Lady Beatrice a little snootily. “She told me that the Marquess of Norwich died in the fire, along with his entire family.”
“Then I am very sorry to hear that,” said Lady Rose, more soberly.
“And I was NOT peeking at Father’s papers,” her sister insisted.
“Of course you were not,” agreed Lady Rose, laughing. Then, to change the subject once more, she asked, “You say you ordered a new dress, sister?” Lady Beatrice nodded at her while she sipped from her teacup. “What news of the latest fashions in town?”
Lady Beatrice finished her tea and placed her cup and saucer back down on the table. “I must admit that they are rather dull this year. I have asked the dressmaker to make me a dress from one of last year’s fashions. I do not believe that the current fashions will be very popular.”
“That is such a shame,” said Lady Rose, truly feeling for her sister. For while she herself was happy to explore the estate looking for adventure, Lady Beatrice preferred to do things so much more appropriately. Yet, despite being as different as chalk and cheese, and despite Lady Yarmouth’s marriage several months prior, the sisters were still very close, and they still bickered and gossiped and shared each other’s confidences as though they still shared even a bedroom.
“I hope that I do not look like the odd one out when we attend the ball,” said Lady Beatrice.
“I am certain there will be others there in last year’s fashions,” replied Lady Rose, “but theirs will have been worn before. Yours will be brand-new.”
That seemed to cheer her sister up no end, and Lady Rose could not help thinking that the countess needed cheering up. Lady Beatrice had been so happy when she had married her earl and looked forward with excitement to running her own household and bringing a family into the world. But the Earl of Yarmouth was so often away from home, and Lady Beatrice was too often left to her own devices. It was almost as though the countess had not left home at all, as far as her sister was concerned. And, rather selfishly, Lady Rose adored still having her sister to herself a lot of the time. Just not when she was scolding her.
“Then we must order you a new dress too,” said Lady Beatrice smiling, “so that your ‘last year’s fashion’ is also brand-new.”
Lady Rose was about to say that she liked that idea very much when the door burst open and in walked a jubilant Lord Alan Gale, Earl of Fordcomb, waving one of the letters that Lady Beatrice must have brought back from town for him.
“You look very happy with yourself, Father,” said Lady Beatrice, standing and greeting him with a bow of the head.
“I have wonderful news,” announced the earl, dismissing her greeting with a flap of his hand. “Jerome Thorne has returned to the neighbourhood and has accepted an invitation to dine with us.”
“That is indeed very fine news, Father,” said Lady Beatrice, sitting down again and smoothing out the creases in her dress.
Lady Rose burst out laughing, in a most unladylike fashion, and even snorted down her nose. Ignoring her sister’s slightly disgusted look, she said, “I do not know why you are congratulating him so.”
“The news clearly makes our father very happy,” said her sister, puzzled. “And it is a good thing that he has agreed to come and eat with us.”
Lady Rose laughed again. “Mr Jerome Thorne may be quite rich, and I am sure that many people in the county would be more than content to have him at their table. However, he is very poor company, and he is a terrible bore.”
Lord Fordcomb and Lady Yarmouth fell silent, and the latter suddenly looked anywhere but at her sister. Lady Rose looked from one to the other, and then it dawned on her, and her heart fell.
“Oh,” she said. “This is like when Lord Yarmouth used to come and call on us, is it not?” Neither her father nor her sister answered. “Yes, I remember you being so delighted then too.” Her shoulders sagged, and she wished that the chair she was seated on would swallow her up. Her father would no doubt make a great show of seating her next to the dreadful Mr Thorne at the dinner table as well, as he had done so previously with her sister and Lord Yarmouth. “You were married within three months,” Lady Rose said flatly.
“I do not know what you mean,” blustered Lord Fordcomb. “Jerome Thorne is a member of the landed gentry and one of the county’s wealthiest men. He is also my business partner, and our family has known him for a long time. What is wrong with that?”
“Becoming your son-in-law would enable Mr Thorne to move more comfortably amongst the peerage,” his younger daughter reminded him.
“And?” said her father. “What of it?”
“And you only have one unmarried daughter left.”
“Exactly!” said Lord Fordcomb, tapping the unfolded letter several times with his finger in triumph. “The man is committed to making you his wife —”
“You sound as though you have already discussed this with him,” accused Lady Rose.
“Well, of course we have discussed it,” he replied.
“However, you have failed to discuss it with me,” she said.
Lord Fordcomb sank onto the settee heavily. “I do not need to consult you,” he reminded her.
“And what if I have other plans?” she shouted at him, jumping to her feet.
Perplexed, the earl said, “Do you have other plans?”
“No,” she replied.
“Well then,” he said, smiling at both of his daughters. “It is settled.”
Lady Rose looked from one to the other and ran crying from the room.
Lady Beatrice found Lady Rose lying face-down on her bed, sobbing noisily into her pillow and, closing the door softly behind her, she rushed to her sister’s side, sitting on the bed so that she was right next to her.
“Oh, Rose!” she said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Do tell me. What is it, dear?”
Lady Rose rolled over onto her back and stared at the ceiling. “What do you think it is, Beatrice?” she said, in between gulps for air.
The younger woman dashed at her nose with her sleeve and wiped the last of the tears from her eyes.
“I do not know,” admitted the countess, brushing hair from her sister’s face that had worked itself loose. “Father has found you a most splendid match. Yet, instead of being grateful to him for that, you are acting like a spoilt little child. Any other woman in the county would be glad of such an arrangement. Why is it so different for you? Think, sister. You will not now grow to be a lonely old spinster.”
“Beatrice, I am only nineteen years old. You were much older than that when Father found a match for you.”
Lady Beatrice sat upright. “I was only twenty-one. I am still only twenty-one. You make it sound as though I was an old maid.”
“No!” said Lady Rose, sitting up on the bed and stretching her legs out in front of her. She shuffled up the bed so that she was leaning on the headboard, which knocked against the wall as she moved, and she wiped her nose on her sleeve again.
“I do wish you would not do that, Rose,” chided her sister, taking a handkerchief from a pocket and giving it to her. “You are not a toddler.”
“I was going to say you are no such thing as an old maid,” said Rose, sticking out her chin but snatching the handkerchief anyway. “But if you continue to call me a child, I may not bother.” She blew her nose loudly into the handkerchief before handing the squelched-up mess back to her sister.
Lady Beatrice stared first at the handkerchief and then at her sister, and then the two of them sat and stared at each other for a moment, both trying to feel affronted. However, as was usually the case, they both ended up laughing at each other.
“I am sorry, Rose,” said the countess. “You are neither a spoilt child nor a naughty toddler.”
“And you are not an old maid, Beatrice,” replied her sister. “I, too, am sorry.”
“Yet you must still tell me why you seem to have such a problem with Mr Jerome Thorne,” said Lady Beatrice.
“Have you ever met him, Beatrice?” asked Lady Rose.
Lady Beatrice shook her head. “I fear that I have not.”
“Mr Thorne is a dullard and an ignorant bore,” her sister informed her. “He has no flesh upon his bones, and his nose has a continual drip on the end. Also, his cheeks are permanently scattered with thin, red veins, as though he has gone to bed with a bottle of something alcoholic. Every night! And he smells too, as though he has not washed himself for a year.”
Lady Beatrice laughed again. “Oh dear, I must admit, you do not make him seem at all attractive.”
“That is because he does not have an attractive bone in his body. And he is so arrogant. I would feel sorry for any woman who was forced to marry him.”
“That woman may well be you, Rose dear.”
“Never!” Lady Rose replied. “Not ever for as long as I live will I marry him. If he were the last man alive, then I would go to my grave an old maid. I would join a nunnery! I would run away to sea and live with the pirates.”
Lady Beatrice laughed. “If there are any pirates for you to run away and live with, then Mr Thorne may not necessarily be the last man alive,” she pointed out.
“They will all be lady pirates!” said Lady Rose. “All he is interested in is money.”
“Are pirates not interested in money?” asked Lady Beatrice. But Lady Rose continued as though she had not said a word.
“All he talks about is how much money he has made. And when he is not talking about that, he is going on and on about how much more money he can still hope to make, or how much he can make for everyone else.”
“Exactly!” said a triumphant Lady Beatrice. “And he has a lot of money. In fact, I believe that he is the richest man in Kent. Surely it must be ideal to be pursued by such a catch?”
“And surely that is not the only reason to marry a man?”
“Well, no. But let us be honest here. Men are not exactly clamouring at our door,” said Lady Beatrice.
“And I am not exactly desperate to have them doing so,” countered her sister.
“You must not consider only your own opinions and feelings,” said the countess.
“Who else must I consider when choosing my own husband?”
“Why, our father, of course,” said Lady Beatrice.
“Our father already has plenty of money,” said Lady Rose. “What need has he of more?”
“Men always need more money, Rose. The estate itself must cost a fortune to run.” The countess sighed. “I know that now, ever since I have taken an interest in the Yarmouth estate and its running, as I am so often left to rattle around that big old house.”
“Oh, but Beatrice,” breathed her sister. “Imagine if you had married for love. Imagine if your husband did not jump at every opportunity to travel and leave the country in pursuit of … whatever it is he pursues. Imagine how much less lonely you would feel then. And while we are discussing it, why is it that the Earl of Yarmouth is never home?”
“He does not tell me all of his business,” said Lady Beatrice nonchalantly. “And I am not interested,” she added, untruthfully.
“Well, I would be interested,” said Lady Rose. “I do not wish to be unkind, but as a newly married man, should he not be spending more time at home with his blushing bride?”
“The Earl of Yarmouth was not truly ready to marry. He is still doing what other young men of his age have always done,” said Lady Beatrice.
Lady Rose dropped her mouth open in surprise at her sister’s apparent liberalism, and her sister blushed in reply.
“Oh, Rose!” she said. “I do not mean in that way. Young men like to travel and play sports and gamble and suchlike, and many of them spend most of their former years at war, seeing the world that way. My poor Oscar —” Lady Rose had forgotten her brother-in-law’s Christian name “… he was called home from Europe when his father died so suddenly, and he inherited the title. He was not ready. And he was forced into choosing a bride by his uncle in order to take control of his own finances. He had his youth cut short, and he is simply doing what he can while he is still able.”
“And in the meantime, you are left at home alone,” said Lady Rose. “Well, I will not have it.”
“My marriage to the Earl of Yarmouth was most beneficial to both our father and our family, Rose. A similar marriage to Mr Thorne, with all his business connections, will also help our family wealth grow yet further.”
“And I will be trapped in a love-less marriage with a man I can hardly abide and with not even a title to assuage my sacrifice.”
“Ah, so it is a title that you wish for?” asked the countess.
“Absolutely not,” replied her sister. “I wish to marry for love when I am good and ready. I am saying that I will not marry a man I do not even like at Father’s convenience when there is nothing in it for me.”
“But you will be settled for life. What more could you possibly wish for?” asked Lady Beatrice.
“I wish to be happy,” sighed Lady Rose.
“You may yet be happy, Rose. You hardly know the man. He may be your perfect partner, but not if you do not even give him a chance. Many arranged marriages are very happy. And many matches made for love are not so happy. Father only wants what is best for you —”
“What is best for him, you mean,” interrupted her sister. “He does not wish either of us to be happy, Beatrice. We are simply … chattels to be bargained over, to be bought and sold, for the benefit of our father’s businesses and the estate, and at the expense of our own well-being and happiness.”
“Our father wants you to be happy. Of course he wants his youngest daughter to be happy. He wishes for both of his daughters to be happy,” argued Lady Beatrice.
“And are you happy, Beatrice? You had an arranged marriage, a match planned and manipulated by our father. Was he thinking of your happiness then? Yet, here you are. You spend hardly any time at your own home, and you are forever visiting this relation or that relation. Tell me, sister. How happy are you? Truly?”
Lady Beatrice clamped her mouth shut at her sister’s insensitive comments and simply glared at her. When Lady Rose thought that the countess was about to burst into tears, she jumped to her side and wrapped her arms around her.
“Oh, Beatrice,” she said. “I am so very sorry. I did not mean to upset you. I do not mean to say such wicked words. Please say that you forgive me.”
For a moment, Lady Beatrice stiffly resisted her sister’s embrace. But then she relaxed and folded into the younger woman’s arms. “Very well,” she sniffed. “I forgive you.”
“Thank you; thank you,” said Lady Rose kissing the countess on the cheek. The skin felt hot to her lips, and she realised how upset her sister must be. Lady Rose felt tears prick the back of her eyes once again, and she fought to keep them at bay.
“All I am saying,” said Lady Beatrice at last, “is keep an open mind. Do not dismiss this man before you have even given it your full and proper attention. Mr Thorne may not be as bad as you believe him to be when you go from being an acquaintance to more of a companion. He may be much more interesting than you think when you have not previously even given him a chance.”
“Perhaps,” said Rose. But she did not believe it for a moment. He would still be ugly, and he would still smell. However, she would go through with the charade and be polite to Mr Thorne. But she would not allow herself to be alone in his company. “I will not marry him if I do not like him,” she said at last.
“And as long as you have given him the benefit of the doubt and at least considered him properly, I will stand by your decision,” said Lady Beatrice. “And, as far as our father is concerned, I will argue in your corner for as long as you need me to.”
“Do you promise?” asked Lady Rose, her bottom lip beginning to quiver.
“I promise,” said Lady Beatrice.
“Falling for the Stableboy” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Lady Rose Gale, an adventurous and free soul, is destined to marry the commoner Mr Jerome Thorne, her father’s detestable associate. Opposed to a betrothal that looks more like a business arrangement, Lady Rose is desperately searching for other alternatives on the horizon. To her surprise, this horizon will unexpectedly brighten the day she meets their new stableboy who will soon make her heart skip a beat. When she concocts a plan that could keep her away from her arrogant intended, Rose is convinced that their handsome employee is the right person to help her in this undertaking. Will Rose convince the handsome stableboy to be part of her liberating plan? Most importantly, what is she willing to sacrifice when she inevitably realises that she is completely in love with him?
Following a devastating incident that left him alone and sorrowful, Ed Young joins the Gale household as the new horse groom. He gradually starts enjoying his new job, but the element that will help him reclaim the spark for life is still missing. This is only until he meets his employer’s daughter, whose presence will start warming his broken heart. However, when he is asked by her to be part of a risky proposition, Ed will find himself in a profound dilemma. To make matters more complicated, Rose will soon have an ace up her sleeve that will leave Ed with no choice but to agree, despite his original skepticism. Will Ed manage to help Rose escape a doomed fate? With Rose invading his dreams and occupying his every thought, will he find the courage to admit his feelings?
Despite their own protestations and society’s expectations, a sweet romance will start flourishing between Ed and Rose with each passing day. However, Ed has a deep and dark secret, and he fears that if Rose discovers it, he may lose both his new life and his new love forever. Could Ed and Rose be the answer to each other’s painful problems? Or will obstacles such as past secrets, duty and social norms keep them from following their hearts?
“Falling for the Stableboy” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.