LORD ESTERLEIGH’S DAUGHTER
(Book 1 of “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy
by Kathy Fischer-Brown
From the moment her father announced his plans to be gone for a few days on business, she anticipated his departure and the prospect of a long awaited tryst. The day and the time had been mutually arranged. But now the rain threatened to be her undoing.
“If ’ee had need of it,” Hetty Powell said, sliding the bench to the table, “I’d give ’ee a penny for thy thoughts.” She laughed softly when Anne looked up from her musing.
“I wish it would stop raining!” She struck the table with her fist and rose in the same motion to resume her fitful pacing before the window.
“Wishing won’t make it so. Come, or the tea will grow cold.”
Anne drew aside the tattered, dusty curtains and peered out into the gloom. The rain continued unabated. She closed her eyes and held her breath. I will count slowly to ten, and when I open my eyes, he’ll be there. If he’s not there, then I’ll…. She would not permit herself to finish the thought. He simply had to be there!
She counted slowly. Even more slowly, she opened her eyes and focused through the downpour where the lane joined the footpath running along the edge of the wood. Nothing moved save the wind through the tall grass and the clusters of wild flowers bending under the rain.
But you didn’t count slowly enough! she admonished herself. Once more she prepared herself for the ritual, and began to count. Before she had reached five, a rapid knock on the door shattered the hush that had fallen over the room.
Anne opened her eyes in surprise. Spinning around, she bumped into the cupboard, sending a shower of cutlery falling to the floor from the open shelf.
Smiling broadly, Hetty stood. “‘Knife falls, gentleman calls.’” She winked. “He’s come, My Lady!”
Suddenly, Anne could not force herself to budge. Thoughts racing, pulses quickening, she felt suddenly lightheaded with exhilaration and, oddly, with fear.
“Hadn’t ’ee best open the door?”
“Open the…? Oh, no!” She moved in a daze to the table. “I couldn’t. I can’t!”
The knock sounded with renewed urgency, shaking the flimsy door on its hinges. “Hetty!” It was Peter’s voice. “Are you in there?”
Anne swallowed hard and stared at Hetty, who took her gently by the hands and led her to the chair. “Sit ’ee down and calm thyself. I’ll let the poor soul in afore he drowns out there!” Laughing softly, she padded to the door over the sweet herbs strewn on the earthen floor.
Her head down, her gaze centered on the tea in her cup, Anne listened as Hetty lifted the latch and threw open the door. Rain beat the roof with a steady cadence and whistling wind. The door closed and the latch dropped back into place, and Hetty, with padding footsteps, made her way to the hearth, a dripping cloak and hat in her arms.
“And thy shoes and stockin’s, too,” Hetty said. “Bring ’em here. There’s a dear!”
He stood over her. Warmed by the unseen smile radiating from his eyes, still she could not look up. After so long living with her dreams and memories, the thought of confronting him at last gave her pause.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I’ve kept My Lady waiting.”
Buy Link: http://amazon.com/author/kathyfischerbrown