The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Thirteen

Chapter Seven Ketteridge House, Leicestershire, England, December12th, 1815   The next morning, the earl seemed much more rested. Last night’s large bandage on his brow had been replaced by a smaller one that sneaked through his lush black locks. He wore buff breeches, a moss-green waistcoat over a crisp white shirt, and a dark green coat, instead of his usual drab brown attire. He looked positively dashing, Rowena marvelled. Her slippers created but a soft sound on the parquet floor, but the earl’s head came up as soon as Rowena entered the morning room. His blue-grey gaze was instantly upon … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Twelve

Chapter Six (completed) Dr Orme was a surprise to Rowena. In his thirties, tall and wiry thin, he had a long, narrow face in which pale grey eyes sparkled under a lion mane of blond curls. Thin to the point of emaciation, he nevertheless was strong enough to lift Alex, while Porter and Rowena changed the sheets. When Alex was back in his bed, she addressed the doctor. “Sir, can I be of assistance? I am Miss Drake, Ketteridge’s housekeeper.” The doctor’s pale eyes scanned her shrewdly before he asked. “Are you newly appointed here? I did not know that … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Eleven

Chapter Six (continued) Feeling gingerly at the bandage on his brow, Alex groaned. “Could you not have made it just a tiny bit smaller, Porter? I am sure to scare Mrs Hall and Miss Drake, when next they set eyes on me.” “It’s a big gash, major. I ‘ad to do three stitches. Ye know ye’re lucky not t’ ‘ave broken yer skull again, don’t ye? Ye really must be plenty more careful in the future. An’ wha’ about ridin’ a horse? I don’ like it, an’ well ye know it!” “Let it be, man. I had to stop cowering … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Ten

Chapter Six   Ketteridge House, Leicestershire, England, December11th, 1815   Alex swung round, took one large step towards the sound, and tripped over his pile of discarded clothes. A split second before he landed heavily on the solid, wooden floor, he regretted throwing them where they would fall. A second later, he hit his head on the wash stand. His poor vision blurred even further when a sharp pain shot through his skull. He had forgotten the golden rule of blindness never to be careless with objects lying about neglected. “Oh, heavens, my lord!” Hands turned him onto his back … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Nine

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 … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Eight

Chapter Five (continued) Rowena did as the earl asked and laid her hand on his offered arm. She was anxious to see how this was going to develop. She was, after all, the one who had stirred it all up. What if something happened, and the earl got injured? Rowena suddenly realised she would never forgive herself. They came out into the crisp coldness of the paddock. Rowena shivered when the sudden sharp wind whipped over her. “What is it?” Raventhorpe snapped. “Are you unwell?” “No, nothing of that, my lord, but … are you certain you should do this? … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Seven

Chapter Five Ketteridge House, Leicestershire, England, December11 th, 1815  “Do you ride, Miss Drake?” Alex asked, a few days later. They were sitting next to each other in his carriage, a hot brick at their feet and a woollen blanket covering their legs. It had been Rowena’s idea to go visiting the more remote tenants on the estate. Now they were heading back to Ketteridge House. Rowena wondered how she came to be so comfortable with the earl, after what he had done. After what he had made her feel … He had not repeated his actions, though. Oh, they … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Six

Chapter Four (continued) Alex could not have explained why he wanted to do this, not if his life depended on it. He just knew he had to do it, as if it was something so important that indeed his life would change if he refrained from it. He found himself besieged by the urging, vital need to learn what Rowena’s face looked like. To know what others saw when they looked at her. He needed to explore her features and store what he learned in his mind, so that he would be able to draw forth her image whenever he … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Four

Chapter Three Ketteridge House, Leicestershire, England, December 4th, 1815 It had become urgently clear to Alex that he needed to find out all there was about Rowena Drake. She would, however, not be forthcoming; on the contrary, she was extremely reticent, as if there were a deep and dark secret in her past. She was also avoiding him, and taking extreme care not to be alone with him. “Porter, be so good as to search a tome for me from those shelves over there.” Alex and his batman were in the library, working on the ledgers. Or better, trying to … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Three

Chapter Two Ketteridge House, Leicestershire, England, December 2, 1815 The next day, the weather was still extremely harsh. The snow had stopped, but the temperature had dropped considerably. The fields now lay buried under a blanket of solid ice. Alex readied himself for a meeting with his Leicester solicitor. Septimus Middlebridge was in his mid-sixties, and had been his father’s man for as long as Alex remembered. A tall, wiry man with a large beacon of a nose in a long, thin face, and piercing blue eyes, Middlebridge still wore a wig in the style of thirty years before, powdered … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat -Part Two

Chapter One (continued) When the strong, warm hands were taken from her marble-cold flesh, Rowena moaned in protest. She wrenched her eyes open, only to see the back of a tall, dark-haired man disappearing from her sight. An elderly, motherly looking woman with a shock of white curls escaping from under her mop cap immediately replaced him. “Oh, me dear little duck,” she crooned, “Wha’ were ye doin’ out on a hellish day like today? And you wi’ child and all! Come, me pet, let’s get you cleaned up and fed.” With an effort, Rowena shifted in the bath. The … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part One

Chapter One   Ketteridge, Leicestershire, England, December 1, 1815   She was going to die of sheer exposure. She was exhausted. Her limbs were shaking with the effort of simply putting one foot before the other. Her heart was pounding with exertion and weariness, but Rowena Drake doggedly kept trampling through the deserted copse. She had planned to escape the sting of the heavy snowstorm by leaving the road to find shelter in the undergrowth. The springy trees gave little protection, as they were now bare. The early winter dusk was quickly settling, and Rowena was desperate to find somewhere … Read more