The Counterfeit Governess – Part One

  One – A Governess For Two Forlorn Children   Henrietta, Dowager Baroness Brixton, took in the slender form of the young woman, standing in front of her. Way too pretty to suit a governess, she thought, but she would have to do. Her son Stephen would finally stop harassing her about searching for a governess to discipline his wretched bastard twins. Lily and Oliver Bradley were the offspring of Stephen’s youthful misstep with a village wench when he was seventeen. The Baroness could easily forgive him for having taken a tumble in the hay with Molly Bradley on a … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Two

Two – Haunting Ghosts From The Past   Lily and Oliver gave a squeak of delight when their grandmother’s dilapidated cottage came into view, and ran like lightning toward it. By the time Beth reached it, they were in Mrs Bradley’s embrace. The three of them were crying, but from joy, not from sorrow. “Dear Beth!” the old lady exclaimed. “Do come in, child! Thank you for bringing back my sweethearts to me. They have been away for three weeks and they were not allowed to come and see me. I missed them something dreadful.” “Granny, can we have tea … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Three

Three – Meeting With The Devil   When the woman stepped into his study and made her curtsy to him, Stephen Fenton had the oddest of sensations – some strange, unknown feeling that made his heart stutter and his brain go numb. For a split second, he was convinced he had been mistaken, and this woman was not Beth Williams but just a stranger, a French governess who joined his staff. An employee and nothing more. Then she raised her head and looked him straight in the face. Her eyes, the colour of chocolate, pierced right into his soul, and … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Four

Four – The Beginning of Battle   Beth’s face froze at the casually spoken accusation. He could not have found her out, she thought. Had he recognized her despite all the precautions she took? Even as the colour left her face, she realised she would have to answer him – and quickly. “Intentions, my lord? I do not understand!” To give herself space to breathe, Beth did not sit down but wandered to the high windows to contemplate the beautiful rose gardens below. When Fenton’s voice suddenly came but from inches away, she started involuntary. Her hand, holding her glass, … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Five

Five – An Unexpected Hitch   After luncheon, Beth prepared for the children’s riding lessons by providing them with clothes suitable for the activity. She planned to take them to Granny Bradley on horseback, thus providing them with an occasion to test their skills. Michael, the youngest groom, helped Lily onto Pearl, the pony he had chosen for her, while Thompson, the head groom, assisted Oliver onto his gelding Rainstorm. Beth mounted on her own; she was very fond of her placid mare Sparkle. That was a badly chosen name, for there was not a quieter animal in the Brixton … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Six

Six – Severe Complications   All around Beth was instantly forgotten and she had only eyes for Fenton’s  prostrated form. He had fallen onto his side and one arm was trapped under his body. Wanting to do something – at least, to help him – she knelt down beside him. To make him more comfortable, she carefully turned him onto his back – and gasped at the sight of the long, ragged scar that crossed his abdomen. It was of an ugly red and marred the beautiful muscles of his stomach, slicing across the fine spray of dark hair that … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Seven

Seven – Under Attack   To Beth’s infinite relief, Fenton had no chance to go further down this dangerous path because Raleigh, the butler announced that dinner was ready. The three of them, Beth and her charges, made it through the meal with tolerable ease. Lily and Oliver were quiet but ate well, only darting quick glances at the baron, every now and then, as if they were not entirely sure what to think of him. When the dowager rose to retire, Beth gathered her charges and made it upstairs as well, ignoring Fenton’s dark, brooding gaze. “I am so … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Eight

Eight –  A Slow Conquering of the Heart   Beth lived in a kind of suspended fear for three long weeks, before she dared to relax. She was convinced Fenton would summon her and tell her she was dismissed from his services. Yet, day after day passed without that happening and she began to breathe more easily again. Then she started wondering why Fenton left her in peace. From what she knew about him, he was a shrewd and evil man who would not leave such an opportunity unused. In those three weeks, Fenton did everything to belie his reputation … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Nine

Nine – Entrapped   She had no means of escape now, Beth realised with a shock, nor did she wish to. She was where she wanted to be, in Stephen Fenton’s arms. The very weak reservations that started in her befuddled mind about why she wanted to kiss her mortal enemy, soon faded away when his lips wrenched open hers and his tongue invaded her mouth, claiming it in violent attack. He pressed her to his hard chest, and Beth swore she could hear her ribs crack but still she did not mind! She only tried to bring her body … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Ten

Ten – Complications   The dowager’s words rang clearly, and Beth heard them as she was about to step into the room. She froze in horror. Dispose? Did the dowager know what Beth was up to? Had she recognized her? Or had Fenton told her about her? Too many questions, too little answers! She looked at Stephen and was surprised to see a look of pure dismay on his face, yet he said nothing in response to his mother’s quip. Instead, he walked toward her and bowed, his mocking smile firmly in place. “Ah, Mademoiselle Guillaume, I trust you received … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Eleven

Eleven – Frantic Searches For Answers   Beth knew she had to act – somehow do something sensible and to the point – but her brain seemed too numb to find answers. She had always feared the Dowager Baroness for the cruel, cold-hearted woman she was, since that long-ago day when her father had been dismissed as a vicar by Lord Septimus Fenton. Beth, frightened with awe for the tall, stern master of Brixton Abbey as he strode into the vicarage’s tiny parlour, instinctively looked at the mistress for compassion, because she hoped the baron’s wife would somehow soften him. … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Twelve

Twelve – First Battle   Five seconds later, Stephen caught Beth on the first floor landing and gripped her arm in a crushing hold. The force of it caused her to whirl around and bump into his chest so violently that tears of sudden pain filled her eyes. She had a stinging reproach ready on her lips but Fenton did not grant her a chance to speak. He dragged her along to the nearest door, forcefully shoved her inside and threw the door shut, never releasing the vice-like grip on her arm. “Confound it, Beth Williams! I will have you … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Thirteen

Thirteen – Uproar   For the second time that night, Stephen dashed after Beth but this time, she outran him and reached her room to close and lock the door, right in his face. He spent the good part of an hour pleading in whispered tones to listen to him so that he might explain himself. He still did not grasp what he had been amiss in his conduct nor what he was going to explain but still, he tried to make her hear him out. To no avail, for there was no sound coming from Beth’s room, not even … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Fourteen

Fourteen – Organizing the Search   The first days of December brought snow and frost in a most severe manner, keeping man and beast inside with gusts of Northeast winds. The small village of Brixton buried itself indoors to await better times and to prepare Christmas. There was still no word of Mademoiselle Guillaume and her charges. Stephen Fenton and his mother had grown quite a bit dispirited over the whole affair. Not, that the Baron had not done everything he could about it. He had been to London to consult his lawyers about his legal rights in the affair. … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Fifteen

Fifteen – Struggling   “Confound it, man!” Fenton glared at Ben Merton in frustration and raked his hand through his hair in sudden misery. “Does it not occur to you that I might be worried about my children? That I am concerned if they are safe, fed, clothed, cared for?” He realized with a shock that it was true! He did worry about his children, even though he had never done so before. But now, at this very moment, he needed to know how they fared. Merton, however,  stood his ground, an expression of profound stubbornness upon his ruddy face. … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Sixteen

Sixteen – Coming Closer   Struggling for balance, Beth gripped the edge of the desk and prayed her legs would not buckle beneath her. All the blood seemed to drain from her face and the air from her lungs. It should be declared a crime to be so overwhelmingly handsome as Stephen was looking just now, she thought. His proud bearings, his powerful body, his beloved face, eyes as blue as ice on a sunny winter day, eyes scorching hers. No, she was wrong. Eyes softening suddenly as if … no, that could not be! Before her incredulous gaze, he … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Seventeen

Seventeen – A Great Sorrow   “Oh, Miss Williams, Granny Bradley is so very ill! The fever will not abate, and I am at the end of my tether!” Ruby wrung her hands in despair and sobbed inconsolably. Beth quickly ran past her and entered the cottage. Mrs Bradley’s body on the bed seemed to have shrunken so much that Beth was instantly in a panic. Ruby had covered her with a cotton sheet but Beth could see the ravishing effects of the fever all too well. The old lady’s face was ashen but her cheeks bore bright red spots … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Eighteen

Eighteen – A Time For Reflection   Mrs Bradley’s funeral occurred on the Tuesday before Christmas 1819. It was a remarkable event with the whole village and the occupants of Brixton Abbey attending the service at St Mary’s church. The Reverend Mr Carter, assisted by his curate, Mr Sage, moved the congregation to tears with his praise of Mrs Bradley’s virtues, all of which were only very true, as Stephen knew. His children were sitting very still and white-faced, clasping their governess’ hands as they sat on both sides of her. Stephen could clearly see their distress but also, their … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Nineteen

Nineteen – The Lures of Temptation   As soon as his right arm encircled her lower back, Beth found herself yielding to Stephen’s enticing, as if it were the most natural thing to do. He took her right hand into his left one, inducing her to place her other hand on his shoulder. When he started moving in a circular way, she felt the muscles in that shoulder shift and flex in a most agreeable manner. He was strong and well-built and … very male, with the faint scent of cologne and tobacco assaulting her senses, making her body respond … Read more

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Twenty

Twenty – The Agreement   On Boxing Day morning 1819, Stephen Fenton, Baron Brixton, was pacing the Aubusson carpet in his library in what might be called a state of agitation. He positively had never felt thus uncertain in his whole life, he mused. Stephen was waiting for his governess to come and have a meeting with him regarding the arrangements to be made for her charges. That was the pretext of the meeting, as far as he was concerned. But in truth, there was a more important issue he wanted to settle; how was he going to make Beth … Read more