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First pages

Prologue

London

~1880

"Have you ever heard Mozart played half as well?" Lady Mirabella Ladenshaw smiled at her young companion's enthusiasm. True, it had been some time since she last heard notes played with such accomplishment. With such vigor. But through her many years in society, including two arranged marriages and countless lovers, she’d learned many things. And one was that a beautiful face could hide many flaws. A fact she could certainly attest to.

The music slowly died. A brief pause and then the audience responded with exuberant applause. Mirabella studied Lord Barington with mild amusement. The young buck was dying to stand up, so great was his enthusiasm. But like most well breed young men he managed to restrain himself. In the meantime the young lady at the center of everyone's attention was rising gracefully from the piano. Her head held high like a proud, confident swan as she mingled among the ton.

"Lovely is she not? But rather dull when separated from her instrument so I'm told." The young lord smiled apologetically at the older widow, sorry he couldn’t contribute more to conversation. Especially since the more he ignored her the more she seemed to talk.

"Hum? Oh, I hadn’t heard," he replied, craning his neck ever so slightly in an effort to catch another glimpse at the young lady. "And they’re staying on George's street, not a bad neighborhood to be exact, but so lacking in refinement. And such a small residence. How can they think to entertain properly?"

Her words fell on death ears. For at that moment, Lord Barington cared not for cramped drawing rooms or dull conversations. After tonight's recital and the worthless chatter he’d been forced to endure, he was of a mind that a woman who talked less and listened more would be a pleasant change indeed.

He’d been on the verge of leaving the gathering all together when the young woman stepped up to the piano. She was by far the most beautiful person he’d ever seen. Tiny wisps of the blond hair had escaped the high coiffure and curled gently against soft, rosy cheeks. Her eyes were lively, dancing with merriment under the candlelight, not brooding and discontent like those beside him, he thought with annoyance.

And instead of the gaudy, over embellished and downright frilly ensembles women paraded around in these days, her dress was a modest dark blue gown of gauze and silk. Accentuated by her womanly curves, the square cut bodice and high waistline gave way to matching underskirts. The layers of silk, tiered in front, swept and gathered to form an elegant train that swayed with every dainty step.

But even as lovely as she was, there was more- something else that made her stand out from the crowd. Henry couldn’t quite describe the sensation but felt it deep in his bones.

From the way she smiled. To the way her slender fingers slid effortlessly over the keys. Sometimes with the slightest touch, and other times with such strength and vigor that it made his heart beat wildly in his chest.

Everything she did was precise. Calculated. And with purpose. Qualities he embodied himself and had on more than one occasion been teased ruthlessly over. But it was her talent, her poise that excited, intrigued him the most. And for the first time in his life he admitted - at least to himself- that a woman had stirred him to great passion.

The young man slid from his seat with haste, hvoice shaking only slightly. "If- if you will excuse me Lady Ladenshaw. I shall return, shortly." "Of course you shall," the older woman murmured in resignation. Silly child. How dare he leave her unattended, in search of a woman that could never be his. It was nonsense, but then men rarely used their brain when it came to the fairer sex. No, it was up to her to set things right.

***

Lord Barington had thought he’d never escape the older woman's clutches. It wasn’t that Lady Ladenshaw was without her charms. She was still attractive, with large pouting lips and a voluptuous body, quite envied by many a younger woman. His friends certainly found her seductive, mysterious, seeking her company at every opportunity.

But the the way she flirted– draping her arm carelessly on his. Whispering huskily in his ear. Such forward behavior he wasn’t accustomed to and found it altogether quite vulgar – no matter that she was widowed twice.

But it was her endless prattle, of such nonsense, that was his undoing. When he tried to turn the conversation to topics of importance, such as politics or General Wolseley and the Ashanti conflict, happenings that actually mattered, she’d stared at him in shock, as if he were an oversized toad, and started laughing. Laughing! At him!

Well, he wouldn’t sit in that chair any longer or he would surely go mad! Not to mention that the most interesting female he’d ever laid eyes on was in this very room. And he had yet to speak to her. His anticipation was great, and he cursed his cousin under his breath. 'Where are you when I need you, dammit?'

Normally he avoided his cousin like the plague. But he was desperate for an introduction, and considering the man knew practically everyone at these functions, he was Henry's best hope. A fact that would amuse Tavert to no end he thought with disgust. Ah. And there he was– laughing indecently loud, in the center of a group of young ladies– chilled glasses of Champaign in either hand.

John Tavert was tall and lean with an unruly mop of raven locks who was well aware of his own attractiveness and had used it countless times to his advantage. They were related on his mother's side, and being the third son of gentry had left him with few ambitions and a taste for the exquisite niceties of life. Unfortunately, it had also left him very little capital and no means to maintain his voracious appetites.

Although John had a quick mind and was the very devil with numbers, he lacked the discipline his younger cousin so embodied. And while he had initially shown promise at Oxford, he had grown found of late night carousing. And of course the gambling halls.

'And why should he throw away his youth? Spend hours pouring through old books that bored him to death?' he had thought at the time. In any case his time at the university had been brief and a great disappointment to his family.

"Henry, it's been too long." John enthusiastically embraced his younger cousin, clapping him on the back somewhat harder than necessary. "Didn't expect to see you at some boring gathering-" "I need an introduction," Henry said very much to the point.

John sipped slowly from his crystal glass, the exquisite Aztec cut glimmering in the light as he eyed his cousin over the fluted rim. Now this was something he’d never seen before. Henry Barington– nay, Lord Barington now– was an Oxford graduate, top of his class, and even at twenty and nine all agreed he was destined for greatness- no doubt soon to follow his late father into politics.

Adored by John’s own mama and her gaggle of silly friends, his cousin was the very paragon of proper decorum– the mold for every young gentleman to follow.

And he was a little shit. A complete and utter bore who sucked the life out of a good time, by Jove! John had watched him grow up from a whining little bugger to a self righteous snob. Too good for the likes of him and always with a snide remark concerning John’s “family responsibilities.”

But now, judging by the way the younger man's eyes followed a certain young lady to the punch bowl, it was apparent not all of his thoughts were so neat and proper after all.

Well for once it was nice to see him squirm. It would be worth introducing the young beauty to him. If nothing else than to see the look of longing on his young cousin's face for something he could never possess.

"Of course you do. I suppose the lovely–“ "What’s her name, John? By God, tell me her name."

Oh this was going to be good Tavert thought with another chuckle. Never had he seen his wealthy cousin so excited. So vulnerable. Perhaps there was something to be gained from it...

"Ms. Randall is the young lady I presume you wish to meet. And seeing how I’m closely acquainted with her father, well- I could certainly make an introduction-" "Yes," the young man murmured enthusiastically, “I would like that. Very much."

Chapter One

Conservatoire de Paris

4 years earlier...

 

The dreams would not stop. How many times this month had she woke in the middle of the night? Her breathing heavy. Her body soaked in perspiration.

Slender fingers continued to slide and bounce across cool black and white keys, the sound gradually growing louder and louder, an effort to drown out all else.

Why did things have to change? They were truly happy here. Content. As her eighteenth birthday had come and gone and not a word of correspondence, she had foolishly begun to hope.

But the dreams didn’t lie. They never did.

Chopin's Winter Wind vibrated throughout the immense concert hall. A single candle burned nearby but she didn’t reach to turn the page. Her eyes were half closed, head thrown back in utter release. Now and then she would come back to reality, her eyes surveying the keys. Years ago she’d learned the piece, and now it was etched across her very soul. One needed only to feel to play music so dear.

As the last chords floated and dissipated in the air, she sat there. Her fingertips still vibrating from the music- her thoughts once again at ease.

On all sides, dark shadows flickered and danced along the wooden balconies while crystal chandlers tinkled eerily in the drafty breeze, the sound sending chills down her spine. Before her were rows of empty white chairs with plump red cushions, seats that by tonight would be filled with paying guests.

The concert hall, once so intimidating, was now a familiar haven. It was where they’d soared through their first recitals- she and Margaret out shining pupils twice their age. Where they played along side the orchestra de la Société. She was acquainted with politicians. French nobility – or what was left of them after the bloody revolution. Not many could boast the same, and yet there was still so much yet to do...

"You are so alike, your mother and you."

The soft voice penetrated the stillness, breaking the young woman from her deep, pensive thoughts. "She barley slept. Said she could not face the dreams."

Mademoiselle Francesca Moreau. Her late mother's best friend. They’d met here at this very school, and after Mary had gone back to England to take her place in society, Francesca had stayed to teach music. Dance.

"Do you ever regret staying here? Never marrying?" She wasn’t sure were the question came from or if it was even appropriate. Since arriving at the conservatory, Francesca had looked after Elaina and her sister like her own. Offering love and advice. Scolding them when they were wayward, and as was often the case, too headstrong.

She was the closest thing to a mother they’d ever known. Even so Eliana had never asked such a personal question. But time was running out for them and she wanted- needed to know the answer.

"That is a difficult question mon petite. Oui, there are times-like this very moment when I wish nothing more than to have had my own family. Perhaps a stubborn daughter like you. No? But, alas, children grow up. They marry and are taken from us. As for la amour, well, I am too old for that now."

She sat down next to Mary’s eldest child, the young woman she’d watched with great pride grow and become one of Gerard’s greatest students.

Her talent was exceptional. But that in itself didn’t set her apart.

It was her essence when she took the stage. Her enthusiasm. The great passion she managed to hide behind cool indifferent composure unleashing itself during a performance that thrilled and captivated her audience.

Eliana still had a great deal to learn about life. To mature. But the day she finally gained the confidence she already deserved, she would truly be a force to reckon with. Francesca’s only regret was that she wouldn’t be there to witness the transformation.

"Teaching is who I am. It’s deep in my soul, just as music is now part of you. I cannot live without it now. But unlike me, mon petite, you are not destined to stay here, hidden behind your instrument as the world passes you by." The young woman tried to argue but she shook her head. "Non, n'est pas. You must go back to England. Face your fears-only there you will find your way."

"Like – like my mother," the young girl whispered weakly, not even trying to hide the fear in her voice. "Your mother made a mistake. She married the wrong man, for all the wrong reasons. You won’t be so foolish." "I – I will miss you so much. We both will."

The older woman's heart ached at the sight of the fresh tears streaming down the young cheeks. Tears that until this very moment she’d never seen shed, nor was likely to ever see again.

"Hush mon petite. There's no reason to be sad when life awaits you! You have the whole world before you – but you must find the courage to open your eyes and take it.”

They sat there in silence, Francesca stroking the long blonde strands that reminded her so much of her long lost friend. Neither said a word. Each remembering this moment for the days ahead.

“Now, go back to your room before the others realize what you're about. The sun is already starting to rise." "Thank you Francesca. For everything. I will never forget you."

***

Aunt Edna was a short middle age woman. Stout. And judging from the deep crease along her brow, she was prone to scold. Her dark blonde hair although attractive, without even the slightest hint of silver, was pulled back without care. The severe bun secured tight against her nape. Black skirts billowed out from every angle, the stiff bombazine pleats creating a loud crunch with even the slightest of movements. Other than the stiff white collar, which appeared slightly worn, there were no trimmings – no flounces or ruffles to speak of.

‘How strange,’ Eliana thought as she studied the other woman through drowsy lids. If she didn’t know better, she would think her aunt was in morning. Her somber clothing was of good quality, but it was obvious she cared nothing for fashion- a complete contrast to their headmistress, Madame Devenue.

"I’m your father's sister. Here to take you home. A pleasant surprise I am sure you will agree."

Not a surprise Eliana thought, trying to suppress a yawn. And although she found their aunt an interesting sort of person, the fact that their father had not come to fetch them stung more than she wanted to admit.

Three years. For three years she and her sister had been living in France, studying at the Conservatoire de Paris. And not once during that time had their father come to see them. To attend a performance. Or send them a single letter. It was simply as if they didn’t even exist.

"Ou est le pere? Pourquoi n'est il pas ici? Et-" "English! English child! Good heavens you do know how speak it?" Edna demanded, quite flustered by Margaret's foreign tongue.

Madame Devenue chuckled softly at the prudish woman's alarm. Oh how she despised the English. “Oui, of course she can. But here, we only accept the Persian tongue. You understand? N'est pas?"

Edna ignored the French woman's superior tone, focusing instead on her nieces.

“Aunt Edna where- where is father?" The sadness in Eliana’s younger sister’s voice echoed her own thoughts. Where indeed. "Oh my dear. Jeremy- your father wishes very much to be here for your journey. But alas, he is- well a busy man. At any rate you’ll see him soon enough. Tomorrow we leave at first light. Headed to London, to Baker Street-"

"Baker Street? But where’s that? I thought we'd go to Grantham House and live with grandfather." Margaret's face was a mask of confusion. Uncertainty. While Eliana had also hoped they would return to their grandfather, to live at his estate, it appeared their father had other plans.

"How can we afford-" "Hush child," Edna ordered sternly, glowering down at her wayward niece. "I’m sure you want to say goodbye to your friends. You may not see them again for some time. And we have a long trip ahead. Now, off with you!"

After being neglected most of her life, Margaret was tired of being ignored, of being told to patient and behave like a good little girl. Eliana knew her sister well and took her hand, urging her to follow.

Once they were alone Margaret didn't hesitate to vent her frustration.

"But I have so many questions! About father - why has he never come to see us? I thought there was no money. That’s why grandfather sent us away. It's why father-" "Oh Margaret you cannot ask questions about money in front of strangers."

"But we are family! And we have a right to know." "Yes, but Madame Devenue is certainly not. She already lords over us that our funds have trickled to practically nothing."

Anyone who knew the Randall family also knew that Jeremy Randall had squandered most of his wife's small fortune within their five year marriage. It was perhaps a blessing that Mary Randall didn’t live long enough to discover the truth.

Within two days of lowering her body deep into the damp English soil, the creditors came swooping in with a vengeance, demanding their money with interest. And with the threat of debtors prison hanging over his head, Mr. Randall had for the first time in his thirty-two years felt real fear.

Born a gentlemen to an old family with good breeding but little practical sense, he’d neither experience nor the desire to pursue a true profession. Or face debtors’ prison.

Instead of using common sense, he took the small amount of coins left in his pockets and headed straight to the racetracks. And by some providence of fate his horse came in second place earning him enough chink to pay off some if not most of his creditors.

But narrowly escaping prison had left a sour taste in his mouth, and to make matters worse, he now had two young children to look after. And girls at that!

So when his late wife's father, Anthony Ellington, came to his house offering to pay for his grandchildren to be sent to boarding school, it was no surprise that Mr. Randall readily agreed to the proposition. Sending his only children away was a great sacrifice he would explain to his acquaintances. And in his opinion a waste of good money, considering they were only girls.

But without a mother to look after them, it really was for the best. Refining schools like Mrs. Hall's insured young ladies learned the necessary skills. Let them sew and dance. Serve tea and carry on proper conversations. That was wanted he expected of his daughters.

And after some time, his family began to slowly accept him back into the fold. He was given a small but acceptable allowance for a single young man, and for all purposes life resumed its normal course. He was once again a handsome, unattached bachelor with no worries expect to decide the most stylish residence to dine. Or what cravat to sport since his valet was still too new and could hardly be counted upon to decide such matters.

Life was good again he had thought nostalgically. But then, as it is well known, all good things must eventually come to an end. And even those fortunate enough to call themselves Randalls must pay their dues.

****

"I cannot believe you are going to London. Oh Elaine that’s wonderful!"

Her friend, Henrietta, was ecstatic that they would be together for the season, although Eliana was far from thrilled. Her wealthy friend had a kind heart, and next to Margaret she was perhaps the most optimistic person she’d ever met- a bit of a contrast to herself. But Henrietta had never known hardships - had never known what it was like to be poor and fearful.

"I worried when it came time for me to leave that you’d fade away in this place! Lost in your work, domed to grow into an old maid. But now! Oh the ton will be in an uproar with the two of us," she teased. "You forget, my friend, that we will be moving in very different circles." The small brunette frowned at the young woman who’d become her closest friend this past year.

Eliana was the perfect confidant - she had a good taste, gave the best advice, and she never once let a secrete slip. But why did the chit have to be so gloomy all the time?

"Not so different I should think. The Randalls are -an old family. You should be invited to a few balls- to the Wetmore’s Ball surely."

Elaina's closed her eyes messaging her temples gently. "Cheer up, my dear. What could you possibly be nervous about? You are the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. And if that’s not bad enough your sister is probably the second most stunning. I should hate both of you for that alone I think."

Her friend's statement made Elaina laugh. "And now you laugh at me. I see what a friend you are?" "Henrietta you are the dearest, silliest person I have ever meet. I’m laughing at myself."

Her friend's look of confusion was good. It meant that she was managing to conceal her thoughts. To hide this madness. This obsession.

"You still do it, don't you? The counting. The worrying." Eliana nodded her head, looking up to the pale grey sky and low lying clouds.

"How many? How many do I have?"

What use to be a joke between two young girls was in fact something Elaina had struggled with all her life. As long as she could remember there had been the impulse to count anything and everything. Windows. Doors. Cracks in the ceiling.

"You have ten yellow and six white bows lining the front of your newest Parisian dress. Three velvet stripes down either side. And as for your gloves, well- three white pearl buttons on the left and - sadly my dear friend- your right glove has only two."

Her friends' eyes widened in disbelief and a smile slowly spread, showing off her pretty dimples.

"You must have lost it in the park. They were all there earlier today-" "Oh never mind the button Eliana. I can buy dozens more. How extraordinary! You managed to hide it from me." "It's a childish game to you Henrietta. And maddening for me."

They continued walking along the pond, stopping to stare up at the infamous Temple de la Sibylle.

"I shall visit the real one some day. You shall see! Oh how lovely it will be!"

The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont had become one of their favorite past times. Henrietta was fascinated by the white temple, perched high upon an ivory rock effacement. It had been crafted to resemble a Roman temple in Italy, which Henrietta after learning of its existence had become quite obsessed with and was determined to visit.

Her friend was to be plainly put quite spoiled. Her father, after much pleading on her part, had agreed to send his only daughter to the conservatory for an entire year. All so that she could study under the infamous Gerard. Her mother of course had been furious, but as was often the case, his daughter managed to have her way. And now after staying for nearly three years, Henrietta was expected back home.

How different her arrival in London would be, Eliana thought wistfully. Her friend would be launched into society by one of the largest coming out balls of the season. Her armoire filled with the latest Parisian fashions – dresses for morning, walking, traveling. Evening and opera dresses. Boots and slippers to wear over fine merino thread stockings. Cashmere wrappers and warm fur hats and cloaks.

Perhaps their father’s financial situation had improved, Eliana thought doubtfully, and they too would be wearing new gowns in London. But she wasn’t very optimistic, and right now she and Margaret’s second hand gowns were so worn even Gerard had complained about them.

The two young ladies, followed closely by their chaperone, walked carefully through the damp grottos. Small waterfalls poured in, sending a cool mist percolating the deep cave. While Henrietta did her best to protect her immaculate curls from the moisture, Eliana closed her eyes and savored the moment.

The trickling and gurgling water was steady and constant. A peaceful haven surrounded by the busy city on all sides. Eliana would miss its somber walls. London she was sure would be lovely. But the parks of Paris would always hold a special place in her heart.

"I never would have guessed that you still do it. But how-" "Gerard. He taught me to concentrate on the music. To train my mind and use the obsessiveness to my advantage." "And so he works you like a slave-for his own gain." "You should not -" "Oh but I will speak the truth! He uses your talent, flaunts it around as his own achievement. As if you had nothing to do with you it!"

It was true. Gerard used her- exploited her talents. But she didn’t mind. The hours, the years of training and his strict schedule had given her life the structure she so desperately needed. In the process, she’d become a great pianist, playing at more recitals than she could count - to foreign diplomats, bishops, and cardinals. Marquesses, Counts and other French nobility. They all flocked to hear Gerard and his musicians des talent perform. It was important to be seen. And heard. For as long as their popularity remained, Madam Devenue was content to let them stay.

What only a few knew and none dared speak of was that Gerard's eyesight was slowly fading. And while he could still teach and play beautifully, somehow she felt his heart was no longer in the music. In a few years, she was sure he would retire to the countryside he talked of so often.

"As fascinating as it is, I cannot blame you for keeping it secrete. A gentleman would be quite put out by a female who could do sums better than he." "And should I play slower? More demure to suit him as well?" Eliana murmured with annoyance.

"Chopin! Beethoven! You relish the anger and frustration in those pieces," Henrietta exclaimed. "No, your talent isn’t such a threat. But as your friend I suggest you stick to simple, traditional pieces in England. Less eyebrows raised the better. And for heaven's sake," she said in her most serious tone, “you must remember you are only a woman. Give up this madness of trying to compose yourself! It oversteps all bounds of society."

Mademoiselle Francesca had said as much. Her mother had raised a great deal of criticism, even at the conservatory where the rules were lax when she began to compose her own pieces. Gerard had given Eliana the stack of papers, filled with her mother’s scribblings and notes and ordered her to burn or hide them.

"Don’t even think to complete them! Notz here! You have too much to do already," he had told her sternly. Of course her stubbornness had eventually gotten the better of her, and she had tried on a number of occasions late at night to add to her mother's work.

But playing and composing while similar were actually very different. And for some reason she had yet to grasp the latter. Still she liked to fantasize that one day she or Margaret would take up her mother's legacy - finish the pieces Mary had begun.

In the meantime Eliana had laughed willfully at Francesca's suggestions for the recitals, instead picking the boldest, most daring pieces she could find. She was Gerard's most famous student, she had thought haughtily, and would play whatever she wished.

But now, on the verge of leaving all she knew and steeping into a completely different world, she was less confident. Doubt and fear flooded her senses. If there was one thing she’d learned from French aristocracy, it was that society would look for any excuse to tear her apart. To prove she was nothing more than a fraud.

Chapter Two

"What a foul country. The food. Oh my stomach turns at the very sight of it!" Margaret starred in horror as their aunt continued to list complaints against the French. First it had been the weather. The roads. Then the people. And now their cuisine was under attack!

While Eliana had grown fond of French culture, for Margaret it was all she really knew. Her rants where tolerable when they were alone, but their aunt seemed completely oblivious to the other passengers, causing more than a few curses to spew forth in their direction.

"English soil. We’re not safe until we reach it. Then you will see.” “What will we see aunt?” Margaret asked with a devilish grin. “Why civilization! True refinement. Not this gibberish. What was your grandfather thinking? To send you half across Europe. And for music-“ “But we love music. C’est la vie.” “My child it’s fine and well to be proficient at the pianoforte. But to perform as you did-" Edna continued to shake her head in disapproval, unable to comprehend that music was more than just a pleasant past time. A pretty piece played in an elegant drawing room.

"What do you mean," Margaret asked in confusion. "My child. A young lady should never convey the impression of- of being a performer. It simply reeks of the working class. And theater!" "But we love the theater. And what is wrong with working? We have to eat."

Poor Margaret, Edna though with sympathy, patting her gently on the hand. She hand much to learn. "Let the lower classes work my dear. As for the theater- it is fine and well to attend for one's own amusement. But holding concerts as you did! No. That will never do in England. And to think you were immersed in their culture for over three years! Oh, well, never mind. We shall forget all that nonsense."

Nonsense? Did their aunt truly consider their life's work, their accomplishments nonsense?

When Edna looked away, Margaret rolled her eyes dramatically and pointed mischievously to their aunt’s extraordinary hat. It was made of dark silk and covered in outrageous bows of the same material, a stark contrast to her otherwise somber attire. Eliana shook her head. 'Behave,' she conveyed with her eyes, to which Margaret pouted. While she agreed traveling with their aunt was tolerable at best, what lay ahead terrified her even more.

Eliana closed her eyes, the stagecoach continuing to bounce up and down, sway to and fro. In the background, her aunt's monotone voice had yet to cease. From one village they passed to the next, the woman knew every obscure military battle. Every skirmish. Every scandal and minute detail you could possibly imagine.

Eliana rubbed her temples, trying to suppress the early stirrings of a headache. She had gotten up this morning and played one last time. In the dark. She could still feel the keys sliding beneath her fingers and-

"Married? He's married. C'est impossible!" Elaina's eyes pried themselves opened in response to her sisters' irate voice. It was amusing to see Margaret frustrated as she inevitably lapsed into French. Edna eyed her young niece with a mixture of exacerbation and cringe.

"English! English my dear. None of that gibberish! Now, as I said before your father is busy, young miss, and best you remember your manners. Fiery French. I can see they have left their influence over you and-" "Who is married Aunt Edna?"

To Eliana's credit her face remained impassive, showing not even a trace of shock at her aunt's words.

"Your father is married to Amanda Fitzgerald. A country lass, seems your father is bound and determined to drag the Randal name into utter ruin. But at least she has money, thank goodness-"

They were to learn that their father had married the widow of a prosperous farmer almost two years ago. And they now had son, a legitimate heir, who was nearly six months old. She and Margaret not only had a half brother but a stepsister as well. Yes, Aunt Edna was right - he had been busy. So busy he hadn't even had time to write.

Cold anger spread through her body, and it took all her composure, her years of training to remain calm. To tell herself it didn't matter. Their father's actions confirmed what she already believed. That he did not need - did not want them. Well, so be it. The feelings were mutual.

She stared out the coach window, watching the green pastures grow and disappear behind the weathered glass pane. Thick hedges divided the fields into neat plots, giving the landscape a checkerboard appearance.

Like Margaret her anger was a problem. But with much discipline she had learned through the years how to control it. How to funnel it through her body so that it never reached her face to reveal itself.

She would need to think. To concentrate and devise a plan. And ultimately she would have to find a way to take matters into her own hands or these people, she thought angrily, glancing at her aunt's dosing form, would destroy them.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I’m your typical romance/ fantasy reader, and with so many stories in my head I’ve always dreamed of writing my own novel. I grew up and still live in a small rural town where everyone thinks and acts the same - they would be totally shocked by writing hobby! Enjoy the novel - honest suggestions,criticism are welcomed.

Q. Why do you write?
A.
I write because sometimes life can be boring and let’s face it down right depressing at times. It’s my way of escaping to a different place and time where I’m the one who makes all the rules! I honestly never expected to finish the story, so I’m thrilled to finally be done.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
As I matured, I realized that real everyday love isn’t the hot fantasy I always imagined - it has flaws and sometimes feels a bit methodical. So every now and then it’s fun to break from reality, get cozy on the couch, and read a good steamy romance :)
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
I grew up in a close family. We do everything together, and although we have issues and are far from perfect, we love each other unconditionally. I feel those same traits are reflected in the main characters,Margaret/Eliana, who’ve had to rely upon each other for love and strength.

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