LILY COLLINS JOINS‘TOLKIEN’ AS THE LADY WHO INSPIRED LORD OF THE RINGSNot so long ago, in fact it was earlier this summer, we had the piece of news that Nicholas Hoult will play the father of the MiddleEarth in biopic TOLKIEN and now ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ has got the scoop that Lily Collins might play the woman who inspired legendary Lord of the Rings!The movie explores the early life of J. R. R. TOLKIEN as he finds love, friendship and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts. When the horrors of World War I envelope Tolkien’s life, they threaten to tear this “fellowship” apart, and he questions the very meaning and purpose of his art. Instead, he finds a way to use these experiences as inspiration for his famous works, among them The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lily Collins will play his love and wife Edith Bratt who inspired the elven princesses from his sagas. Anthony Boyle has also been cast!
Something positively delicious this Monday! BBC has released first images and a promo teaser for their upcoming new epic mini series GUNPOWDER which should air sometime this Autumn (twould be fun if it starts on the 5th of November!)! Kit Harington plays famous rebel Robert Catesby who, back in 1605 tried to blow up the king and the parliament. Guy Fawkes, another famous rebel, is played by Tom Cullen, with Liv Tyler also in the cast. Kit Harington has revealed that he is actually related to Catesby
The three part historical drama follows the story of the Gunpowder Plot, the 1605 attempt by a group of provincial English Catholics to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I in order to help restore
|The series will have a Saturday evening airing slot|
a Catholic to the throne. Although to this day people mostly associate the famous Gunpowder Plot with Guy Fawkes, the mastermind was nobleman Robert Catesby, a 30 year old committed Catholic at a time when Protestant England persecuted the church’s members
|Liv Tyler plays Catesby’s cousin who is worried about the success of the plot|
relentlessly. He himself lost both his father and wife and is forced to raise his little himself on his own. That is when he starts recruiting help for his plot among family and supporters. Liv Tyler plays his cousin Anne Vaux, who gets caught up in the plot. The cast also includes Peter
|Guy Fawkes is still celebrated with bonfires every November 5th!|
Mullan, Edward Holcroft, Shaun Dooley, Robert Emms, Derek Riddell and Mark Gatiss as Robert Cecil, the chief of the king’s spies whose network of informants pursued the plotters in a game of cat and mouse.
The Plan and the Spring Ball
“Please, John, I need to be sure. Please repeat what you said a moment ago.”
John slowly went down the list, not leaving anything out, while watching every suspicion pass across her face. “Yes,” Margaret said, “I think I know who it is.”
“Would you care to tell me, or should I guess?” John asked, speaking firmly to her for the first time. He was starting to lose patience.
“But what if I am wrong?”
“Before we arrest whoever it is, there will be many others who will find the proof of your assumption that you are not telling me about,” he said in a rising voice.
“It all sounds like Mr. Cavanaugh next door,” Margaret said in a light half-hearted tone.
John, stunned, promptly flopped back against the couch. Now he was running down the list himself, almost too disturbed to think it could be him. He pulled the crinkled paper impression from his vest pocket. Barrister would fit. COURT MONDAY BARRISTER . . . KANE? That could easily have been written on a tablet in the office. John ran to the back door and called to see if the officer was still on the property. He was.
“Don’t leave, officer. I want you to carry a note to your Chief immediately and wait for a reply.” John quickly scribbled something down on a paper and folded it in quarters, handing it to the officer. “Take this to Mason, now. Thank you.”
“Margaret, you may be right. It does fit, with the exception that he’s never given me any impression of being dysfunctional, but all the rest works. I hope you are right. I can leave now, feeling much better that he is being watched while I am away. It should not be long before he tries something new and plays into the Chief’s hands, especially if he knows I am going to be absent for a few days.
There was silence for a long time, and each of them proceeded through all the scenarios. Even if Adrian recognized Cavanaugh as being the person he thought he saw, it was not proof enough. However, it was a start.
Shortly, a message was returned by the officer, via the back door, and handed to John.
We will heed Mrs. Reed’s intuition. A lot fits there. I will continue with all coverage of Mrs. Reed and add an additional detail to watch Cavanaugh at all times. He will make a mistake, and we will catch him, but we will still not lose focus on others whose names are now on a list being formed by Wilson. Travel with peace of mind that it may all be over when you return, or perhaps he’ll be waiting for your own justice.
Margaret huddled closer to John, sensing relief might be in their future, and this nightmare would soon end. She could see that John was still far away in his mind. She hated what all this was doing to him more than she feared for herself. Observing his internal grief, she saw his love for her pour out these past few days.
“What are you thinking about, John . . . Cavanaugh?”
“Well . . . yes, that and the thought of anyone harming you. It isn’t over until he’s put away if it is him. I’ll worry until it is proved. And to think he’ll be right next door to you while I’m gone. I can barely stand the thought.”
“John, it sounds as though I will have many people watching me, and him as well. Nothing can possibly go wrong. Don’t leave worrying about me.”
“Speaking of leaving . . .” John pulled out his watch to check the time. “I thought I’d have more time with you, but it has slipped away. I must go.”
“John, may I ride with you to the station?”
“It’s either that or I carry you there . . . Of course, I want you to ride with me. Where is your shawl? It’s a bit cool this evening.”
John whistled out the back door to alert Branson he was ready to leave and for him to assume his post.
“Adrian!” called John. “Would you guard the house until Miss Margaret returns? The other officer should be here by then. She’s just going for a brief ride with me to the train station.”
“Yes, sir, I’ll wait right here.” He indicated the back step.
“No, it’s better if you wait in the house so you can hear if anyone comes to the front door.”
“Very good, sir.”
John accompanied Margaret through the front door, watching her as she locked it.
Handing her in, he slid in beside her and once again took her hand as he sat thinking, his mind churning. Nausea was going to claim him before this night was over.
Sensing his worry, Margaret asked, “So exactly what are you doing on this trip?
“I’m sorry. What did you say?”
Margaret repeated her question; John gave her a brief outline of his schedule, and all the meetings entailed. She added a few other questions to the conversation to prevent John from relapsing into worry.
John continued to stare out the window. “Margaret,” he said, “I know what you are trying to do, but it won’t work. I will not ever stop worrying about you when you are out of my sight, not for the rest of my life. You must know that whatever happens to you happens to me. Please take care of me, while I’m away.”
John heard her sigh. The station was coming into sight, and he had turned within himself, knowing the moment to depart was drawing near. He was consumed with regret for leaving her behind, in possible danger. All approaches were well covered, and he would have to rely on Mason, and everyone else involved, watching over his beloved. The coach came to a stop. John turned to Margaret. He hugged her tightly and kissed her a very long time as if it could be his last. He fought to release her and hesitated to take the initial steps to leave her side.
“I will be back as soon as I can possibly get away. Take care, my love. God, how I love you,” John said, in a harsh agonized whisper, as he kissed her neck.
He grabbed his travel bag and satchel and stepped out of the coach. Looking back over his shoulder at Margaret, one last time, he disappeared into the station depot.
John was almost sick with anxiety. He had held Cavanaugh in high esteem, but who knows what dwells deep within someone’s mind. Well, he must focus on something else. It may not even be him. But telling himself not to think about it was like trying to stop a wave from crashing on the shore. He was alone in the train coach and decided to try to settle in and doze if he could. It was going to be an eight-hour journey from almost one end of the country to the other. Several hours later, forced into total mental exhaustion, he drifted off into a nightmare.
It took three days for proof to finally present itself. Adrian had already confirmed that Cavanaugh looked very much like the man he had seen watching the house, but could not be entirely positive. Per her normal schedule, Margaret left her home to walk to the Professors for her daily work. Several hours later, Dixon left the house with her market basket.
Cavanaugh, watching from his office window that faced Margaret’s home, thought the house to be empty, so he decided to deliver his next note. He had to be careful not to be seen by that man she had working for her, who was usually always around the back of the house. He easily slipped outside and walked a few feet to Margaret’s front door. He delivered the note through the mail slot and began walking back to his office, in a casual manner. The officer inside heard the brass hinge banging closed, and immediately went to the window and saw Cavanaugh walking away. If what he had slipped through the door was another note, they had him.
The officer was a little unsure if he was permitted to open the note to confirm it, so he got Adrian’s attention to come inside. The officer gave Adrian both his note and the delivered note; he asked him to take it the long way around to the precinct and see Chief Mason, only. Adrian put the notes in his pocket and hurried around the back block, so as not to be seen from any of the law office windows.
Margaret and the Professor were discussing some of his recent interviews, but Margaret eventually asked him about coming to the Ball. The Professor beamed with delight
“I am most excited, Margaret. To see the original Mill Masters and the future generation of machinery masters, in one place, is a thrill for me. I hope I learn a few names and can talk with them about having a more in-depth interview at another time. There will be some, should they attend, whom I have already met. I am very sorry that John cannot be with us tonight.”
“As am I; I’m attending with Mr. Steen, you know.”
“Is your table full?” the Professor asked.
“Oh . . . I have no idea. Nothing has been explained to me, but I want you to sit with us. I need you there for support.”
“Does John know of this Mr. Steen?”
“Yes, John knows. He is familiar with Mr. Steen. He put on a very brave face, but I knew he was bothered. I think jealous is the word, but he’s certain this is a step I should be taking. I am very hesitant, but knowing that you and Nicholas will be there has eased my mind considerably.”
Just then Chief Mason came through Pritchard’s office door, looking very excited. “Mrs. Reed, I think we may have the proof we need to verify Cavanaugh is our man, but we need your help.”
“Yes, of course. Professor, will you excuse me?”
“Margaret, take the rest of the day. I will see you this evening at the Ball.”
“Thank you. All right, Chief Mason, shall we go?”
“I’ll tell you what has happened on the way to your house,” Mason said.
“Oh Dixon, please stop fussing with my hair. It must be quite lovely by now. Mr. Steen will be arriving soon, and I still have my gown to put on.”
“Miss Margaret, that sure is a lovely dress, with all that lace and ribbon. If it weren’t so low on the shoulders, I think it would look like a wedding dress, even if it is a peach color.”
Margaret and Dixon slipped the gown carefully over the ribbons and flowers in Margaret’s braided hair. Dixon fastened all the fittings to her dress and steered her toward the floor mirror.
“It is lovely, is it not, Dixon? I think it will go well here in Milton even though it was last year’s fashion in London. Would you get my matching shoes and bag from the wardrobe?”
Margaret sat at her vanity and applied the few light paints that she rarely used: a bit of color for her cheeks and lips and a small dab of perfume. Finishing that, she popped the paints and a comb into her bag and took one last look in the mirror. She picked up her lace shawl and headed downstairs with Dixon.
As she waited in the parlor, she began to pace, thinking about the man next door, and wondering why they were going to wait for John to return home tomorrow. The proof was definitely there.
The officer came from the kitchen and almost dropped his tea cup when he saw Margaret. “Ma’am, you look very lovely this evening. You will turn heads tonight.”
Oh dear, Margaret thought, she didn’t want that much attention. She remembered John saying a lot of men would ask her to dance. Now, she wished she hadn’t accepted, but the Professor was proud of her, and that was enough to see her through this. It was nearing 7:00 p.m. when Margaret heard Mr. Steen’s carriage arrive.
Watching him exit, she thought he looked most handsome, in his forest green velvet coat, cream color embroidered vest, and matching forest green breeches with white stockings and a nice pair of black dance slippers, made especially for men in formal wear. His top hat matched his vest, and he carried a gold-headed cane in one hand and a nosegay for the wrist, in the other. She’d wage anything that it would match his boutonniere. She realized she was excited to be going. John had been right. He was always right. Why did she ever feel distressed over his suggestions? This was good for her, and down deep she knew it, herself.
Dixon answered the door. She greeted and led Mr. Steen into the parlor. Looking at Margaret, and stunned by the sight of her, his face radiated approval. He knew her to be beautiful, but her gown added another glow; one that wasn’t ever apparent at her workplace.
“Mrs. Reed, you are the loveliest vision I have ever seen. I will have to fight the men off with my cane this evening,” he smiled.
He had Margaret laughing. “Thank you.”
“Here is a small bouquet for your arm, but it now pales against your own bloom.”
Dixon took the flowers from Mr. Steen and began to slide them over Margaret’s hand. No way, was she going to let that man touch Margaret. Dixon liked him well enough, but not where his interest in Miss Margaret was concerned.
“Thank you, Dixon, and thank you, Mr. Steen, for the pretty nosegay and nice compliment.”
“If you are ready, milady . . . shall we?” Mr. Steen asked, extending his arm. “Would you mind calling me, Craig? I’m not sure I could stand Mr. Steen all night as we dance.”
Laughing, Margaret replied, “Craig it is, if you will call me Margaret.”
“Margaret, we have an accord. Would you mind inflating my self-confidence by allowing me to know how many other suitors asked you to the Ball this evening?”
Margaret saw his smiling, laughing face and could not deny him. “That would be three others, apart from you.”
“Oh, I am the most fortunate of men. I have even impressed myself. Thank you, Margaret, for allowing me to escort you to a grand evening of dining and dancing. I’m looking forward to dancing. It has been a while.”
They walked across the street and arrived at the courthouse’s entrance where Margaret surrendered her wrap. They proceeded up the wide staircase to the top floor, a climb which nearly exhausted everyone that evening. As they approached the main entrance into the ballroom where many were gathered, Margaret could see people standing in the wide door frame, talking to each other. She could see it was lovely inside the main ballroom. There were many round tables with white linen (or was it cotton?) tablecloths, shimmering with fine china, crystal, and sterling flatware. Once their tickets were taken, they were permitted to seat themselves wherever they chose.
Craig heard Margaret gasp. He quickly turned to look at her, barely seeing the huge smile on her face as she took off across the room.
“Margaret?” Craig muttered, quickly following her.
“Nicholas, Peggy! What a joy to see you here. John was hoping you would come. You both look marvelous. Although somehow, Nicholas, you look uncomfortable in that formal attire, you do look most handsome.” Nicholas’ face reddened.
Craig caught up with Margaret as she excitedly introduced Nicholas and Peggy.
“Oh, are you the Higgins from Marlborough Mills?”
“Yes,” Margaret responded before Higgins could. “This is Nicholas Higgins and his wife to be, Peggy. John has recently made Nicholas a partner in Marlborough Mills, so he is no longer the respected overseer that you, perhaps, have heard about. He is an owner now,” Margaret remarked with pride.
Nicholas was already standing and reached across the table to shake the man’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“I am Craig Steen, and please call me Craig.”
Margaret looked around the table, resolving the seating arrangements so that the Professor could sit on one side of her. Craig Steen waited until she decided and then seated her. Dr. Pritchard entered a few minutes later, and Margaret glided across the floor, to the main entrance, so she could accompany him to their table.
Mr. Steen wasn’t sure if he could keep up with Margaret if she kept running away from him all evening.
“Oh, Professor, thank you for coming.”
A few minutes later Fanny and Watson appeared. Margaret introduced Mr. Steen around again, but Watson seemed to know him, and a conversation ensued. Margaret was smiling and looking around the room at the gowns and faces and all the men in their finery. Their table was full with only one empty chair. She looked at Nicholas and knew he felt the significance of the empty chair.
Margaret soon launched into a discussion about Dr. Pritchard, who he was, and what his project was in Milton. While dinner was being served, there was much talk around the table about the Professor, Nicholas’ partnership, and his upcoming marriage. Everyone was getting along splendidly. A nice dinner was served, and eventually, the dishes were cleared of the dessert plates. While the wait staff circulated the brandy and wine decanters to each table, a podium was pulled up to the center room in front of the wide entrance.
Watson stood. “Excuse me,” he said, “if John were here tonight, he would be doing this.” As he proceeded to the podium, he pulled a note from his pocket. He never cared for talking to crowds, but this would be short; he was thankful for that.
He welcomed everyone, adding a few words, but nothing of much importance, except to say “enjoy the evening.” Then it was time to introduce the Professor; Watson waited for silence in the room before he continued.
“I am very privileged, tonight, to introduce to you someone who most of you will get to know very soon if you have not already met him by now. As our mills and industries have grown here in Milton, I think most of us know the impact that we have made over the years, not only nationwide but worldwide. Tonight, I would like to introduce the man who is going to literally put us in the history books. He has made his home here, living among us, and is writing about the growth of Milton and the beginnings of the Industrial Age. Please welcome, Professor, Dr. Trevor Pritchard.
A very great round of applause was heard as the surprised Professor walked to the podium. Margaret was so happy for him; she looked around at all the people acknowledging him with their applause. Suddenly, she caught sight of Mr. Cavanaugh looking at her. He nodded his head as if to say “hello” and she demurely nodded back. She knew not to give anything away.
All through the Professor’s speech, she could feel his eyes burning into her. She did not mention it to anyone, for fear they may look his way and alert him to something. As the Professor concluded his short talk on his plans for the future, there was a very large round of applause and people began standing as they clapped.
Watson’s final words were, “Let’s dance, everyone,” as the applause began to die down. He walked the Professor back to the table.
Upon being seated, the professor turned to Margaret, “Margaret, did you know about this?”
With a chagrined look on her face, she nodded yes.
Many congratulations were offered from around the table, and several factory owners came over to introduce themselves to him; one was Mr. McGregor, the tartan mill owner.
After speaking with the Professor, Mr. Albert asked across the table, “I hope you save a dance for me, Mrs. Reed.”
A liquor bar was set up at one end of the banquet hall, with the orchestra at the other. The musicians started to tune their instruments, and the crowd grew loud in anticipation of the entertainment ahead. The orchestra leader conducted his musicians into the first dance of the evening.
Craig asked Margaret to dance and then escorted her to the floor. Margaret trembled a little but soon fell into the rhythm of the steps. He turned out to be an exceptionally smooth dance partner. They danced several more before the other gentlemen found their way to Margaret’s table. She danced with Mr. McNeil, Mr. Albert, Watson, and other unknowns; even Mr. Cavanaugh asked to dance. She hesitatingly accepted, afraid of what he might want to talk about, but he was a gentleman the entire dance. She invited the Professor to dance, and he finally gave in. Craig claimed dances whenever he could before the orchestra rested around 10:00 p.m.
Finally, whenever she would look up, she would be aware of heads that turned her way as she walked to and from the dance floor, and she couldn’t help but feel a little nervous. Many times she had to turn down dances from unknowns, strictly out of politeness to Craig. The evening was turning out to be very pleasant, and Margaret finally began to feel comfortable with other gentlemen, but she missed John being there . . .
or so she thought.
From The Ottoman Lieutenant / Game of Thrones
Huisman was born on July 18, 1981, in Amstelveen, Noord-Holland, which is near Amsterdam. Before Game of Thrones (2011), Huisman had a role in Paul Verhoeven’s acclaimed Black Book (2006), and he played Rudolf Nureyev in the BBC TV movie Margot (2009) about prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn. Before he became ubiquitous on television, Huisman also performed in a band called Fontaine that wrote music for soundtracks. (Huisman released a solo album in 2005.) more = http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0401264/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
This guy is getting hot!! Between 2017 and 2018 he’s got 6 films.
Chapter Five (completed)
Alex gestured to a chair opposite his across the large desk in his library. The chair scraped, when John Wallis seated himself.
“So, Mr Wallis, let us discuss the terms of your employment. I had thought …”
“Begging your pardon, my lord, but I am yet unsure if I want to work for you under the circumstances that present themselves here.”
He must have heard wrong, Alex thought. This elderly, former steward had reservations about working for him? “What circumstances, Mr Wallis? Pray explain.”
“My lord, I mean no disrespect but I am appalled that Miss Drake is living here without a decent female companion. I worked for her father for forty years, and he was the best employer I could have wished for. A good man, an excellent landowner and a doting father to the child from his second marriage. Sir George would be devastated to know that his daughter’s reputation is in tatters. Only you can remedy that, my lord.”
Surely, he was not cut out to be an earl, Alex thought. How was it that he did not burst out in fury and have this insolent man thrown out of his house? Instead, he found himself wondering and thinking over the man’s words, as if they had a hidden meaning, or second contents. And feeling not a bit uneasy about it. Yes, he would explain the situation to this man, who was to be a servant in his house.
“Miss Drake is and has never been my mistress, Mr Wallis, if that is where your thoughts are going. She told me her fiancé – the father of her child – was a cavalry officer who died at Waterloo. She also told me that her brother wanted to hide her, until the baby was born, and then give the child away. Miss Drake fled her home with the intention of seeking employment in London. Her funds ran out long before she reached the capital, and she was forced to continue on foot, without having the slightest notion of her whereabouts. My batman Porter and I found her on my driveway during a snow storm. She would have perished, had I not taken her in. All this happened a week ago, so I cannot fathom why Miss Drake’s reputation would suffer from it. I do not entertain socially, Mr Wallis, because I have been a recluse for months since I returned from the battle. Moreover, I am as good as blind; how can a wreck of a man harm a woman’s reputation?”
There was an awkward silence in which Alex – and not for the first time – cursed his damned affliction. What he would not give to just have a glimpse at Wallis’ face. The man should say something, and then Alex would be able to discern his mood and his thoughts.
“I apologize, my lord, for my rudeness, and I thank you for your patience in explaining the facts to me. Miss Drake is the closest my wife and I have to a daughter; we could not have children of our own. We have known Rowie since the day she was born, and Meg became her nanny, and later her confidante. We love her dearly, my lord, but we are at a loss as what is to become of her now.”
Alex could picture his father’s reaction to a speech like this one; the third earl of Ketteridge would have called for his burliest footman and have Wallis thrown onto the cobles. Even his mild brother Reggie would not have tolerated this lack of propriety. Yet all Alex felt was a deep gratitude towards the Wallisses who had cherished and guided Rowena Drake as if she were their own. It was not proper for him to listen to a commoner’s insolent speech, but Alex could not care less, at the moment. He was just interested in all things concerning Rowena, and the Wallisses were the source he needed to tap into, since they had known her all her life. Rowie … what a ridiculous name … and yet also an endearing, very appropriate name for her.
However, Rowena could not stay here without a female companion. In that, Wallis was right. It was a good thing that Meg Wallis was here; when her time came, Rowena would need help. Alex knew he was prepared to do everything that was necessary to help Rowena. And … he needed to keep her here, after the baby was born. That was paramount. Alex’ mind focussed on that thought and began working out plans to secure it.
John Wallis cleared his throat. “My wife will take Miss Drake with her to live with Meg’s sister in Leicester. That way, propriety will be satisfied, until we find a proper solution for her.”
“You will come with me, Rowie, and we will go and live with my sister Millicent in Leicester. Her Hannah is expecting her second child. She has an excellent midwife and a decent wet nurse at the ready, when your time comes. After that, we will have to make arrangements for you.”
Rowena let Meg’s words ripple over her like running water. Words that had no meaning except for one horrible notion; Meg wanted her to leave Ketteridge, and that was just too unbearable to grasp. Rowena could never leave Raventhorpe. Alex … no, she must not think of him that way, he was His Lordship, a man far above her station, far above the fallen woman she was. But not to see him each morning at breakfast, not to be near him when they visited tenants or talk about the improvements she planned for Ketteridge? She could never live without that. Raventhorpe – Alex – had become a vital part of her life over these few days. Rowena shook her head while she took Meg’s hands in hers.
“No, dearest Meg, I could never leave Ketteridge. I want to have my child here, under His Lordship’s roof and protection.”
Protection … how well Rowena recalled the warm joy that had flowed through her when Alex had spoken about his duty to protect her. She felt so safe at Ketteridge, safer than she had ever felt at Daveston Hall. Impulsively, she hugged Meg, feeling full of confidence and joy.
“Oh, Meg, I will be fine! Do not fret so. I am in good hands. His Lordship assured me of his support and protection. After the baby is born, I will have to reassess my situation, I grant you that; but for now I am safe, and that means all to me. Can you understand that?”
“But why, my pet, should you need to stay here to be safe? You have reached your majority now, since your twenty-first birthday was a few days ago. Therefore, you can come into your inheritance and make a life somewhere where they do not know you. I mean not now but after the child is born. In the meantime, …”
“Meg …” Rowena’s quiet address startled Meg, and she looked at her former ward with a sudden anxiety.
“Meg, there is nothing to inherit for me. Father bequeathed all to Roderick, leaving me to fend for myself. That is why I need to stay here as His Lordship’s housekeeper and make some money first.”
Meg’s mouth fell open. “But, Rowie, that cannot be true! Your father loved you so dearly! He cannot …”
“Yet he has,” Rowena cut her off, quite sharply. “As of yet, I am penniless and homeless. His Lordship kindly offered me employment, and I took it. That is the end of it.”
Rowena rose. “Now I must see to my duties but I will come up when I have finished.”
Meg stared after her dearest Rowie with utter disbelief and also, deep concern. Her dearest had fallen prey to the charms of the master of Ketteridge. Oh, it was a bad thing, indeed, because Meg was at an utter loss how to be of help.
The little word – spoken with quiet emphasis – was out of his mouth before Alex could stop it. Silence followed. John Wallis seemed to have stopped breathing.
“Miss Drake stays,” Alex continued. “She is needed at Ketteridge House. And now, Mr Wallis, we will proceed to more urgent matters. I want you to go over my ledgers and the post that came this morning. We will work in the mornings, and in the afternoons, you can accompany me when I do my rounds on the estate. You ride, I presume?”
“Y … Yes, my lord, I do. Please show me the books.”
Alex reached for the small bell on his desk and rang it. He had bells on every table he used in every room he usually was in during the day or night. Soon Porter entered and asked what was required.
“Show Mr Wallis where we keep the ledgers and documents. Stay with him and lend a hand where necessary. I will be upstairs.”
“Aye, major. Will ye manage to …”
“Yes, carry on.”
With long strides, showing more confidence than he was truly experiencing, Alex left the library and went upstairs. He needed a break and he would accomplish it in the only way he knew; through sheer physical exertion.
On the second floor, the bedchambers were in a dismal state of neglect. When Alex’ father had still been alive, house parties had filled the manor on many occasions. Then these rooms would have been occupied and splendidly furnished. Alex’ brother Reggie had frequently entertained many guests, many of them carefully selected friends, who must have been – Alex realised that only now – of the same sexual disposition. Reggie had never used the rooms on the second floor, and when he came into financial difficulties, he had sold every scrap of furniture he could. The second floor was now mainly used for storage.
As soon as Alex was again fit enough to leave his bed, he had chosen the largest room, and instructed Porter to install a gymnasium. That way, Alex could physically exert himself, and he would frequently do boxing, stretching, weightlifting and push-ups, until he was exhausted. He desperately needed to build-up his lost strength.
Rowena knew she was a coward to have fled Meg and her many questions. Yet she needed to do her work, as was her duty, and the surest way to quell all upsetting thoughts. When she reached the second floor landing, Rowena first turned left.
This floor was new to her, and she wanted to make a survey of the rooms. They seemed abandoned but not empty. The long corridor stretching out before her was littered with spare furniture from the lower floors, and every item was buried under layers of dust. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling, reaching out to touch the cupboards, chairs, desks, and the many adornments one finds on the surfaces of side tables and pedestals. There were boxes filled with china figurines, oil lamps, stuffed animals and framed paintings, and everything was dull with dust. All doors were closed, except the last one at the very end of the corridor, from which sounds reached Rowena’s ears. Sounds of sparring, if she was correct. She recognized them from those her brother Roderick made when exercising his duelling skills in the gymnasium he installed when he came into his title.
Quietly, Rowena continued her way down the long corridor, opening doors and inspecting the rooms behind them as she went. She made notes in her small household ledger of what needed to be done in each room. Later she would come up here with her cleaning staff and assign the multitude of tasks that were required to have this floor set to rights.
When she finally reached the last room, Rowena froze and realised she must have come upon something that she was not supposed to witness. The Earl of Ketteridge, clad solely in black breeches, was vigorously pounding his fists into a large sand-filled bag hanging from the ceiling.
With a jolt of panic tightening her insides, Rowena’s eyes quickly darted around the room. It did not contain any furniture safe a washstand and a plain wooden chair, but there were other items lying around on the bare wooden floor. In a corner, a heap of black balls was stacked neatly against the wall, and beside it, a large wooden crate showed ropes, sticks and other things unknown to Rowena. This was clearly a sort of gymnasium.
Rowena’s gaze came to rest upon the earl’s semi-naked form, and her throat constricted with sudden lack of air. No wonder, for he was utterly magnificent.
His torso was toned to perfection, his dark skin, the colour of polished bronze tightening over hard muscles. Flat nipples showed through a sprinkle of dark hair that circled them. The fine mat of hair tapered into a line pointing to the rim of his breeches. Breeches that moulded his powerful thighs and led one’s gaze to his well-shaped legs and strong bare feet.
Rowena blinked when she noticed the large scar that ran over the right side of his abdomen. It spread from beneath his armpit to his navel in a diagonal line. A thick, red, ragged line flanked on both sides by a row of red dots, where the surgeon had stitched him up. All saints in heaven, it was a miracle that he had survived a wound like that. Yet the scar did nothing to mar his perfect body; he was all strong, virile male.
Due to his semi-blindness, Raventhorpe was unaware of Rowena’s presence, and she was free to feast her eyes on him, as he was pounding at the sandbag with hard yet well-balanced blows, that made the muscles of his shoulders ripple and roll.
Rowena stood in the doorway, utterly still and mesmerized. Heat erupted all over her body, and the nipples of her breasts, already swollen by her pregnancy, achingly tightened with sudden desire. Almost instantly, she felt a painful ache throbbing low in her abdomen, while the skin of her inner thighs dampened. She could feel moisture pooling at her core, hot and wet like warm honey. How well she knew these sensations; they were lust and passion, and she had experienced them with Peter when they had lain together in her aunt’s house in York.
Shame lanced through her, together with raw sexual need. What business had she, a pregnant woman who had almost reached the end of her term, to feel desire for a man she was not married to? But there it was – she longed for Alexander Raventhorpe with a fierceness which left her burning with sudden urging need.
Realisation that she was shamelessly trespassing hit her, and she forced herself to turn away. Her little notebook fell to the bare wooden floor with a loud bang.
‘THE VALIANT’ EPIC TV SERIES
ABOUT A FEMALE GLADIATOR
2nd book The Defiant is out next February
CW is, meanwhile, preparing an epic new series for us! As ‘Variety’ reports, they are looking to adapt Lesley Livingston‘s novel THE VALIANT into an epic TV show about a female gladiator! After they ended Reign last season it could be CW’s replacement in the genre of historical shows. The series would follow a Celtic princess on the run from an arranged marriage and a sheltered life who is captured and forced into slavery under Julius Caesar. She ends up training among the first wave of female Gladiators to compete in the Colosseum for fame, fortune and, ultimately, her freedom.