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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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

Hearts Adrift – Part Thirty-Six (Final Chapter)

Chapter Thirty-Six   The sun was high in the August sky when the newlyweds left St Wulfram’s church. A double row of village girls, all dressed in their best Sunday clothes were standing along the path that led out of the churchyard. They were forming a flowered arch over the path, inviting Richard and Manon to pass under it on their way to their carriage. A chorus of happy cheers sounded as the couple ducked and walked under the arch, while a sprinkle of rice rained down on them. Well-wishers shouted their congratulations and children offered nosegays to the grateful … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Five   The vision of his bride, exquisitely dressed in a silken gown of fragile green, knocked the air out of Richard’s lungs. Good Lord, she was breathtakingly beautiful, and she was going to be his wife. He took a deep breath – a much needed breath because his head was spinning with the deep feelings of love and joy that overwhelmed him. Then Manon smiled at him, and his heart turned to water. His legs would have walked toward her of their own accord, had not Lucian’s hand on his arm kept Richard on the spot. “Steady, old … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Four   August twenty-second dawned with a shaft of golden sunlight piercing through the gap in the curtains of Richard’s bedchamber. He woke with a start when the light touched his face with pleasant warmth. His arm flung out to reach for Manon but to his utter disappointment, she was no longer there. He turned to the small ormolu clock on his nightstand, which told him it was barely seven in the morning. A feeling of utter loss assaulted Richard as he reclined on his back with his arms supporting his head. He now knew for certain that he … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Three   Richard could see the vivid green of Manon’s eyes in the silver glow of the moon. He basked in that eternal fire, which always burned in them. He saw the cloak of her gorgeous hair, fanned out over her slim shoulders. Not even the lack of daylight could dim the abundant waves’ bright auburn shade. His hand came up to twine into the silken smoothness. Oh, Lord, the feel of it…so divine… “My sweetling,” he croaked, summoning every ounce of sense he could muster, “do not try me so. I need to hold you in high esteem … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Two   In the end, Richard and Manon kept matters as uncomplicated as was possible since their wedding was only twelve days hence. They purchased a special marriage licence at the Brighton Register Office and asked the Rev. Mr Hiram Merryweather, vicar at St Wulfram’s Church in Bearsham Village, to perform their wedding ceremony on August twenty-second. Mr Merryweather kindly consented to allow an Irish priest he was acquainted with to perform a Catholic ceremony afterwards. Father Damian O’ Rourke and Mr Merryweather had been at Oxford together and had stayed friends over the years. Manon was particularly touched … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Thirty

Chapter Thirty   “Bearsham Manor, 15th April 1793   To my beloved son Richard,   If this letter has come into your possession, it means that I have gone to meet my Maker. For my own sake, I hope that it has been a peaceful passing, but we do not have a say in the way that we part from this world, do we?   I deliberately kept the enclosed information from you because it was my sincerest intention to share it with you someday. If you are reading this, then life has not granted me that chance.   I … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Twenty-Nine

Chapter Twenty-Nine   A discreet knock on the chapel door startled them both so unexpectedly that they almost jumped apart. “Come in,” Richard summoned, and Thornton entered in his usual dignified manner. “Sir, you have a visitor from London, a Mr Blenkinsop. He says he is Sir Jeremy’s man of business. His Lordship is out riding so I have put Mr Blenkinsop in the drawing room. Perhaps you might want to receive him in his Lordship’s absence? He says he has extremely urgent business with Sir Jeremy.” “Very well,” Richard recollected himself and followed his butler. Manon trotted after them, … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Eight   Two weeks passed in relative peace, so that Manon was able to go to Greenhaven to check on how Mrs Lynver fared. Pru who had gone there a few days before Manon, told her that she had secured the services of a young Cornish physician, Dr Trevellyan. Together with the staff of nurses they managed to stem the constant daily tide of sufferers to a reasonable amount. Manon returned to Bearsham Manor on the tenth of August. She found her uncle much improved in strength and in spirits, although he was still in need of rest. After … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Seven   “Whoohoo!” Jéhan’s cry of delight instantly brought his sister back to reality. “Hush, mon chou! It is a secret. No one must know we are searching for the treasure yet.” Jéhan’s eyes shone with delight. There was nothing her little brother loved more than to play hide-and-seek or pirates-and-villains. Jake Davies was scrutinizing Manon in a puzzled way. He had been a London street urchin until he was rescued from starvation by Richard’s father. Playing hide-and-seek had been essential to staying alive in the grimy rookeries of London. However, he had a hard time imagining what Manon … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Six   “Now turn onto your back,” Manon asked. “Slowly, mind!” Richard complied but had to bite his lip to forgo crying out with the excruciating pain. By Jove, that hurt! He could not fathom how it was possible that he had not broken any bones when Spartacus had thrown him off. Manon repeated the gestures she had made on his back, this time on his chest, and she applied the poultice to his torso. Lord! That was an even greater torture. Her hands were sparkling fire wherever she rubbed. He begged for strength and closed his eyes in … Read more