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Rescuing Lord Inglewood

Rescuing Lord Inglewood

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Paperback Novel. Signed by Author.

Silas Riley, Earl of Inglewood, is a guarded and stoic figure in Parliament, known for his unyielding nature. 

When Esther Fox she saves the life of her brother's closest friend, the Earl of Inglewood, they are forced into a marriage to protect both his and her reputations. It is a union marked by obligation rather than genuine desire.

As they navigate unexpected loss and the complexities of their relationship, can they bridge the gap between them and discover love in the face of adversity?

Romance Tropes

  • Marriage of Convenience
  • Brother's Best Friend
  • Noble Hero


All he wants is someone he can trust. All she wants is to belong. But when compromising circumstances force them together, do they have a chance at finding love?

Silas Riley, Earl of Inglewood, is known among his peers in Parliament as the man made of stone. As a wealthy peer, there are few he trusts with his friendship. He guards his heart and his honor with vigilance, and when an accident nearly takes his life, he’s faced with a situation which threatens his standing in society.

Growing up in the shadow of her older brother, Esther Fox’s acceptance in his circle has been indifferent at best. So when she ends up in a compromising situation as she saves the life of her brother’s dearest friend, the Earl of Inglewood, she is forced to marry him to save her own reputation. Once again, she finds herself accepted only because of the situation, and not because she is truly wanted.

Neither are prepared for a loss which further complicates their new relationship. With such a difficult beginning, can they ever hope to understand one another, let alone find love?

Sample of Chapter One

Esther Fox attempted to hide her amusement with her companion’s hopeless sighs. The poor girl had thought herself near to being engaged to a gentleman who had hardly been more than polite to her. Esther had never been so hopeful of a match as Miss Linton. 

She kept her arm linked with the younger woman’s as they walked past the stately homes of Grosvenor Square, the tall red brick homes guarding the street as soldiers guarded the palace lane.  Perhaps when she returned to her stepbrother’s house she would try to paint the scene, but getting the shade of red for the bricks just right might prove a challenge. 

“We have all of summer before us to do as we please, and then you may try again,” Esther said, putting as much cheer as possible into her words, but the woman’s forlorn demeanor did not change. “Come now, Miss Linton. You mustn’t let one gentleman’s lack of interest disappoint you so.” 

Miss Linton, three years Esther’s junior and certainly less experienced in the ways of the ton, did not appear ready to let go of her tragic manner.  Esther did not remember feeling that way at the end of her own first Season, but then, she was hardly a romantic sort. 

“He flirted so, and always danced with me twice,” Miss Linton said, directing her eyes to the ground. “I thought he would at least have the decency to make an offer.”

Though uncertain as to how it had fallen to Esther to buoy up Miss Linton’s spirits, she determinedly did her best. Her sister-in-law, Diana, had insisted Esther pay a call to their neighbor. Esther had complied and soon found herself walking—and consoling—a dejected woman she hardly knew. 

At least they were both getting some exercise. And perhaps Esther’s reasoning with Miss Linton would help.

“He is rather young himself,” Esther said. “Perhaps he is not ready to give up bachelorhood.” That was the most likely thing, given the gentleman in question was but twenty-one years of age. Gentlemen could afford to wait until they were forty, if they wished it, before even considering marriage. Ladies, on the other hand, were given half a dozen years to make a match before spinsterhood set upon them. 

Esther cast about to find something to distract Miss Linton when the girl did not say anything. “Oh, look at the gardens, Miss Linton. Are they not lovely?”

The garden park across the street was well tended, with rolling green lawns and beautiful flowers lining the walk. “Would you like to take a walk there?” she asked, preparing to step in that direction. A few paces behind, their maids paused as well.

“No. The blooms make my nose itch.” Miss Linton’s unfortunate nose twitched at the very idea, it seemed. 

What else might be a pleasant distraction? Esther ought to be adept at finding things to occupy the mind. She had done little else for herself the past two years, living with her stepbrother and his wife, Diana, while her natural brother was away at war. If she was not trying to take her mind off of Diana and all her kindly meant demands, she was trying to forget that Isaac faced French soldiers and their bayonets on a daily basis. 

Esther put those thoughts away, as hastily as possible, and gave her full attention to her walking companion. 

“Would you like to go to Gunter’s this afternoon? My stepbrother will loan us his phaeton and driver, I am certain.”

Miss Linton’s lower lip receded slightly, and her eyebrows drew together. “I do like the orange ice. It is most refreshing.”

“I like the mint tea ices, too.” Esther brightened, pleased Miss Linton shared her weakness for the cold treats. She looked ahead, at number 21 Grosvenor Square, and stopped walking immediately. “Oh, Miss Linton, look. It appears Lady Sparton is redecorating in the Greek style.”

“Dear me.” Miss Linton stared ahead, her mouth dropping open at the spectacle.

There were laborers before number 21, uncrating a very large statue. Ropes dangled from a window two floors above street level as other men put a pulley system into place. The marble statue was nearly life-size, and when the last side of the crate dropped it was plain to see the Greek god Hermes in full motion, with winged sandals and flowing robes. 

“My mother says people filling their homes with pagan statues is not at all appropriate,” Miss Linton murmured, sounding scandalized. 

“I think it interesting.” Esther watched the men scurry about, more ropes going about the statue while two ropes with hooks were lowered from above. “Emulating an ancient society, while purporting to be modern, is something of a paradox, isn’t it? We dress our hair like Grecian statues, quote their philosophers, and imitate their artwork. And yet . . .”

Esther glanced at Miss Linton and found her staring, her eyebrows drawn down in consternation. 

“Never mind, Miss Linton.” Esther offered a soothing smile. “Come, let us go closer so we might watch Hermes rise into the air.”

“Hermes?” the girl asked, looking back to the statue. “Is that someone important?”

Esther refrained from giving an explanation but hurried her friend along the walkway. They stopped perhaps fifteen feet from the statue, just as the men prepared to hoist it from the ground. Rocking forward on her toes, Esther could barely keep hold of her excitement. Others along the walk had stopped as well, further back or across the street, to watch. She studied the different expressions people wore; some appeared as disapproving as Miss Linton’s mother would be, while others seemed amused. 

But a spectacle was a spectacle, and people would be speaking of Lady Sparton’s redecoration for days, if not weeks. 

Esther’s attention went back to the statue, rising slowly from the ground. It was not the best rendering of the god she had ever seen, in stone form or otherwise. She rather suspected it was soapstone, too, merely painted to resemble granite. Perhaps a cheap copy of a finer piece.

The statue soon lost her interest, so Esther allowed her eyes to travel to the men backing up as they pulled on their ropes. The path beneath the statue remained clear in all directions. People near them were talking animatedly. Though Esther knew few of the people surrounding her, being in the midst of a crowd enjoying the same sight as she gave her a blessed moment of belonging. 

She looked upward, studying the pulleys fixed to rods over the house, and then trailed her gaze down the ropes. 

Was that rope fraying? Esther shaded her eyes and peered more intently, and she gasped. Several cords were sticking out, untwisting from the braid. 

She turned her attention to the men pulling the statue up, wondering if they were staring at the fraying rope as she had, seeing the possible dangers. The sun shone upon them, directly into their faces, obscuring what they could see. 

Esther looked from the men to the rope, to the statue, to the distance Hermes had yet to rise. 

It is only a statue, she told herself. If it falls, it falls. She bit her bottom lip, knowing that crying out would not help the situation. Perhaps the statue would make it to the top before the rope gave way. No harm done.

Her gaze fell to the walkway and her heart stuttered. A man walked toward 21 Grosvenor Square, staring down at something in his hands, and moving at a fast enough clip, Esther felt certain he would not stop. In fact, he appeared oblivious to the sight enthralling everyone else, his whole attention directed to a paper in his hands. 

Esther slipped away from Miss Linton, a cry of warning on her lips. 

Her eyes went up to the rope again and an invisible hand closed around her throat. 

Acting quickly, Esther ran forward as fast as she could. She stretched both hands out before her. 

She heard the snap of the rope above her head. Esther did not slow, but she ran directly into the body of the man with all the force at her disposal, knocking them both down to the ground. She landed atop him, a horrific crack sounding at the same instant her world went black. 

* * *

One moment, Silas seriously contemplated whether there were any men of sense in the House of Lords, and the next he found himself flying backward to the ground. 

His arms came up reflexively, wrapping around the slim figure of the woman literally flinging herself at him, as though doing so might protect at least one of them from the fall. As he hit the ground with the woman atop him, the air pushed out of his lungs.

A horrific crack assaulted his ears and echoed against the houses on the square, and somewhere a person screamed. His whole body protested, pain radiating from his spine outward.

He looked down at the head of deep brown curls upon his chest, realizing the woman in his arms had not moved since their inelegant landing.  Her bonnet hung askew, pulling locks of her hair to the side with it, obscuring her face. 

Silas started to sit up, cradling the woman in his arms, his heart pounding against his ribs almost painfully. 

Was she hurt? What had happened?

As though hearing his muddled thoughts, a man knelt next to Silas and started speaking rapidly. “Oy, she’s bleedin’, sir. Looks like a bit of the rock clipped her on the head. Are you injured, sir?” Then the person turned away and shouted over the crowd. “Someone run for a doctor!” 

People appeared in Silas’s line of vision, pressing forward in clusters, women with pale faces and men with deep frowns. 

“She saved your life, she did,” someone said. 

“Oh, Miss Fox,” a high-pitched voice wailed, another woman coming forward. “Is she dead?” 

Silas looked down again, tilting the woman back in his arms enough to see her face. Long dark lashes lay against her colorless cheeks, her lips parted and her features were relaxed. Yet he could feel her breathing, could see the rise and fall of her chest. She groaned and her eyelashes fluttered again.

Worry clouded his mind. Why did her face seem so familiar? 

Miss Fox? It could not be—not Isaac’s sister?

Dread gathered deep in his chest, forcing a gasp from him. Moving carefully, Silas got his legs beneath him and stood, holding the unconscious woman in his arms. He looked around, seeing white stones scattered about the pavement, white powder everywhere with it. 

Men shouted from above, over an iron rail three stories in the air, and gestured wildly. 

The woman in his arms stirred and groaned, her eyes softly opening but closing before he could even make out their color. She remained limp. 

Silas swept the crowd pressing in upon them, then went to the house before which they stood. Lady Sparton stood on the steps, wrapped in a dressing gown, her hands pressed to her cheeks. 

Silas acted. Standing about and waiting for someone to explain things to him would not do. He barreled toward the lady, up her steps, and past her into the elegant house. He ignored her startled gasp, looking about the entryway for a door, a parlor, a suitable place to lay his burden. He went to the first door he saw and kicked it open, entering what appeared to be a receiving room of sorts. There was a couch, and that was all he needed. 

Silas carried the woman there and laid her down, as gently as possible. He eased his arm from beneath her head, and he saw, at last, the blood the man on the street had spoken of. The gray sleeve of his coat was coated in red where he had cradled the back of her head.

“Lord Inglewood, what happened?” a breathy voice asked from the doorway. 

He looked up to see Lady Sparton, still a sickly shade, staring at him in horror. 

“Make certain the doctor knows where to come,” he said, unwilling to admit he wasn’t actually certain what had occurred. She nodded and started to withdraw. “And send a maid in—and her friend from the street.”

“Of course, Lord Inglewood.” She disappeared to do his bidding, no further questions asked. 

Silas found a cushion for the woman’s head and attempted to reposition her on her side, keeping the injured place free of pressure. He pulled the pins out of her bonnet, allowing it to fall to the floor. Then he inspected the wound himself, which was somewhat difficult given the abundance of brown curls in his way. Why did women wear their hair in such ridiculous twists upon their heads? 

He glanced at her face, the pert nose and well-structured jawline. He knew her. But how?

The sound of sobbing reached his ears, growing louder. A woman, the same who had been wailing outside, came into the room. Two other girls, dressed in the plainer clothing of servants, appeared directly behind her, clutching each other’s hands. 

Silas stood, but did not move from the unconscious woman’s side. “Miss, is this woman your friend? Do you know her?”

The weeping girl nodded, raising her hands to cover her mouth, completely overcome with her distress. Silas turned to the maids, fixing them with a stern glare. 

“Who is this woman?” he demanded, pointing to her inert figure. Though he already knew, it must be confirmed. 

One of the maids stepped forward and bobbed a curtsy, as though maintaining proper forms was important, and she spoke in a near-whisper. “If you please, sir, she’s my mistress. Miss Fox. Sister of Sir Isaac Fox. She must’ve seen the statue and she tried to help you….”

The rest of the maid’s words were unimportant. Silas stopped listening and turned to Esther Fox, the younger sister of one of his oldest friends. 

How many times had he seen little Essie trailing along behind Isaac, pleading to be included in their games? When was the last time he had seen her? Five years ago, perhaps. She hadn’t been out yet. He hadn’t paid her any attention, not serious attention. 

Yet, she had saved him from a falling statue. 

“I found a doctor right on the street,” a man said, pulling Silas from his thoughts. It was the same man from before, holding a cap and strangling it, staring at Esther. 

The doctor, a gentleman with gray hair and a narrow face, came inside with all haste. He knelt beside the couch, completely ignoring Silas except to ask, “How long since the accident?”

Silas did not know. Everything had happened too quickly, had been too confusing. 

“Not more’n a few minutes, sir,” the laborer said. 

It felt like longer. Isaac would kill him if something terrible happened to his little sister because Silas had been lost in his thoughts, distracted by a pamphlet printed by some idiot peer.

Silas turned his attention to the doctor, then to the gathering in the room. He hated everyone standing about, gaping, intruding upon Esther’s privacy. He opened his arms and waved, as though herding geese, to move everyone toward the door. 

“Come, out into the hall. We must let the doctor work, and I have questions.” 

The sniffling young lady was the first to move away, then the maids, then the man from the walk. Lady Sparton joined them in the entryway, wringing her hands. Several of her servants stood about as well, though one did slip inside the room Silas had just exited, holding a bucket and a stack of towels. 

Good. Any indication of someone using their head in this situation could only be appreciated. 

“I want to know exactly what happened,” Silas said, searching each of the faces before him. He let his gaze rest upon the man strangling his cap. “Why did that statue fall?”

The man shook his head, the lines of his face deep with worry. “We checked the ropes, sir—”

“Lord Inglewood,” the woman of the house snapped.

Silas cast her a baleful glare. “Niceties are less important than this story, madam.”

She turned red and crossed her arms over her dressing gown. 

“We checked the ropes, my lord, and I thought one of them didn’t look right. Mr. Lampton, he’s the one in charge, said it would hold and we ought to use it. We didn’t bring more rope and he didn’t want no more delays.”

“The statue ought to have been delivered last week,” Lady Sparton added. Silas gave her another warning glance and she bit her lip. 

“The sun was in our eyes, my lord. We didn’t see the rope had frayed past saving or we would’ve lowered it carefully.” He shuddered. “That lady—I’m sorry for it. I truly am.” 

“And where is the man who told you to use the faulty rope?” Silas asked with a growl. 

The other man shook his head. “He left, my lord, before the accident even happened.”

“Give information for contacting that man to—” Silas glanced around and settled on a footman. “To this man. I want his name, address, and place of business if he has one. After you have given the information, you may deal with Lady Sparton.” 

He turned to the trembling woman, now being consoled by one of the maids while the other stared at the room where her mistress lay. 

“What did Miss Fox do, exactly?”

“We were watching with everyone else, my lord.” She sniffled. “But she made us stand so close.” 

“Miss Fox is always daring,” the most agitated maid said. “She was talking about Hermes.”

Silas reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Names, please.” Why did moments of crisis always unhinge people’s rational thought?

"Miss Linton,” the distressed woman said with a nod. “And this is my maid, Sarah. And this is Mary.” 

“Mary,” Silas said while the maid dipped a curtsy. “You seem the most composed at the moment. Did you see everything that happened?”

She nodded. “Miss Fox ran out and knocked you out of the way. The statue would’ve hit you otherwise. When the statue hit the ground, pieces flew everywhere.” 

The account now fit correctly in Silas’s mind. He owed Isaac’s sister his life. “Very well. The doctor is with her now. I will stay with the young lady and I think it is best she is not moved until the doctor gives other instructions. Miss Linton, I suggest you return to Miss Fox’s family, with the very helpful Mary, and tell them what has happened. I am certain someone will wish to come see to her well-being. Are you far from Miss Fox’s residence?”

“It’s a street over, my lord,” Mary said, bowing her head. 

“Then walking will be faster than ordering a carriage.” He pointed to another Sparton footman. “You, lad. Go with them.” He could help the rattled women back and then return with whatever relative came in search of Esther. 

Orders given, Silas turned and went back into the room occupied by the wounded young savior. He took in a deep breath as he approached. The doctor knelt beside the couch, and a servant stood against the wall waiting for orders. 

“You have had a nasty bump on the head,” the doctor was saying, his voice low. Silas’s eyebrows lifted. Had she wakened? “But it isn’t so bad as it seems. Head injuries bleed excessively, even with the smallest of wounds. Most likely a piece of that statue clipped you as it flew by, causing no lasting damage. You are fortunate, miss.”

The tightness in Silas’s chest eased. 

“Where am I?” Esther Fox’s voice, a pleasant alto, asked. From his angle, Silas could not see her face from behind the arm of the couch. 

“Lord and Lady Sparton’s home,” the doctor answered. “How does your head feel?”

“As though it has been cleaved with an axe.”

The doctor chuckled, then covered the sound with his fist. He glanced up at Silas and immediately sobered. “I am told it was a stone depiction of Hermes that assaulted you, miss. And that your actions likely saved the life of another.”

She took in a shuddering breath. “The gentleman. Is he all right?” She made as if to move, her skirts rustling and her brown curls lifting above the arm of the couch for a moment before she groaned and laid back down, assisted by the doctor. 

“He is perfectly fine, my dear. Please, lie still. I do not think you ought to move for at least an hour. Rest. You will likely have a headache, perhaps some nausea. It is best you do nothing to excite yourself for the rest of the day, perhaps two days, at the very least.” The doctor stood. “I believe you will be well again after some rest. I suggest you clean your hair very carefully, lest you reopen that wound. But you ought not need stitches. Merely time to heal.” 

“Thank you, doctor.” Her voice was soft, resigned. 

The doctor approached and fixed Silas with a most serious frown. “You heard my direction to the lady. I trust you can ensure she rests peacefully and is returned home with the least possible excitement.”

“Yes, doctor. Thank you.” Silas started to bow but the doctor interrupted the movement with a quick shake of his head. 

“That girl saved your life, that is certain, but I am concerned that she will pay for her kindness with more than a nasty bump on the head.” 

Silas narrowed his eyes. “I am not sure what you mean, doctor. I will see to it that Miss Fox is granted the rest and care she needs to recover from the ordeal.”

The doctor did not look as though he believed Silas. He pulled gloves from a pocket and put them back on his bare hands. “I will call on the young lady tomorrow morning. Fox, you said?”

Esther’s low voice came from the couch, evidence that she remained awake and alert. “I am staying at the home of my stepbrother, Mr. Aubrey.” 

The doctor’s forehead wrinkled. “Then it is there I will call upon you tomorrow, Miss Fox. Good day to you.” He bowed to Silas. “And to you, my lord.” The doctor left the room, so only a servant, Silas, and Esther remained. 

Silas let out a slow breath as he moved to the couch. Esther, whose eyes were closed, rested her head on a cushion. He traced her features with his gaze, trying to see the girl he remembered in the lines of her face. Her cheeks were not so round as they’d been, and they lacked the rosiness of her childhood. Her hair had been a lighter brown with golden tips, but now the rich curls tumbling freely down her back were dark. Little Essie had grown into something of a beauty.

And Isaac would have Silas’s head for thinking any untoward thoughts about his sister.  

“Esther?” he said aloud, going down to one knee beside the couch. 

Her brow furrowed and she opened one eye to look at him, then the other came open as both went wide. “Lord Inglewood.”

Right. They were not children any longer. He saw ample evidence of that in the changes of her features. The fact that she recognized him immediately did not escape him. “Miss Fox. Good morning.” Was it still morning? It felt more like it ought to be evening, or another day entirely. 

“Why are you here?” she asked, her lips pursing in puzzlement over the question. 

“You do not remember? I am the man you flung yourself at on the walkway.” He tried to grin at her, to adopt the teasing tone from their childhood. It made the experience a little easier to bear, thinking back on those summer days. Esther had followed her brother and his friends wherever they went, whether it was up into trees, the attics of houses, or along sandy beaches. Despite being five years their junior, she was determined to be part of all their doings. 

Her color came back into her cheeks, but it faded away again. “Truly? And you are unharmed?” She studied him from the top of his head down to his knees, as though looking him over for injury. 

Silas stood and raised his hands then turned in a circle. “It is touching that here you are, injured, and your concern is for me. I am well, Miss Fox.” He lowered his arms and bowed. “Thanks to your quick thinking, I will have no more than a bruise or two.”

“I am glad of that, my lord.” She smiled weakly. “Even if my head does pound rather terribly.”

He pulled one of the chairs in the room closer to her and gestured for the footman to bring his towels and basin nearer. “Perhaps a cool cloth will help with that.” After removing his gloves, he prepared one of the smaller cloths by dipping it in the clean water. The doctor had left a towel beneath Esther’s head, which was spotted with blood—not so much as what was on Silas’s sleeve. How much of her blood had been spilled on his account?

Isaac would have something to say about it, were he present. 

Silas folded the cloth over and then carefully laid it upon her forehead. She released a gentle sigh, her blanched lips parting. “Thank you, my lord.” 

“Does it pain you to speak?” he asked, gentling his voice to an almost-whisper. “Or for me to speak to you?” Sitting in silence for however long it took someone to come for her might be best, but curiosity over his rescuer’s circumstances nipped at him. He had not heard word of Isaac in some time. 

“No. I would prefer to talk. It might take my mind off my stomach, if not my head.”

Yes, the doctor said she might feel sick. He looked about for the bucket he had seen before and then pointed to it, catching the eye of the footman. The servant put the basin of water on a table, then fetched the bucket from near the hearth and brought it to Silas’s side before returning to his post against the wall. 

That precaution taken, Silas studied the woman before him. She wore a fine gown, and appeared to be in good health, aside from the wound recently acquired for his sake. 

His insides twisted with guilt. Why hadn’t he been paying attention to where he walked?

“Do you hear from Isaac often?” he asked. Speaking of her brother might be best, since he hadn’t seen Esther in years. 

“His letters come as regularly as the post allows.” She kept her eyes closed, though her expression tightened. “From what I can tell, his duties in the army keep him extremely busy. Thus far, he remains safe.”

Isaac, as a baronet, had no obligation to serve in the British military. Yet he had purchased his own commission and went across the channel three years previous, to fight Bonaparte. Silas had not understood his friend’s need to take up arms, but he respected Isaac for it. “I am glad to hear it. I admit, I think of him every time the idiots in Parliament speak of the war effort.”

“I hope that means you do what you can to aid Isaac from home.” One of her eyes opened again, fixing him with a rather stern gaze. “He will not return until it is all over and done.”

“Which ought to be soon, since we expect France to surrender at any time.” Everyone knew Napoleon’s defeat at the hands of Russia had crippled the French army. The self-proclaimed emperor’s own generals had begun to turn against him. But talk of war likely was not the best way to occupy Esther’s mind. Silas cleared his throat and changed the subject. “How have you amused yourself in your brother’s absence?”

“As anyone in London does. I go to balls and card parties.” Her lips twitched slightly. “And I do my very best not to mortify my stepbrother’s wife. She is determined to see me wed and is forever in despair of failing me.”

Although the activity of seeking husbands for unattached ladies was not a secret, rarely had anyone spoken to Silas so openly of the pursuit. That Esther would, entertained him. “I suppose it is kind of her to take such an interest in you.”

“Mm.” The sound of amused agreement made him relax. “Diana—Mrs. Aubrey that is—promised my brother she would look after me while he was away. She is quite tenacious in keeping that promise.” 

“How is your stepbrother?” Silas recalled little of the man. He had already been at school when Esther’s mother, the widow of a baronet, married the senior Mr. Aubrey. From all accounts, the match had been a good one for both families. Isaac had been raised by a good man, though it took the Fox children away from Woodsbridge and entirely out of Suffolk, where they had grown up together. 

“He is a harried soul, or so his wife says.” Her lips parted in a grin before she groaned and raised a hand to the cloth. 

“Ah, I have neglected your headache. Forgive me.” Silas reached for the cloth, his bare fingers brushed the cool, damp skin of her forehead. He swallowed, somewhat guiltily, as he damped the cloth and wrung it out again. He carefully laid it back upon her brow, arranging it to stay out of her face. 

Her gloved hand came up and took one of his in a gentle grasp. Silas made eye contact with her, surprised to see a reassuring expression upon her lovely face.  

“This is not your fault, Silas,” she said quietly, his Christian name slipping most naturally from her, causing an odd sort of prickle in his chest. But of course, how often had she shouted at him to slow down, to come back, to stop playing tricks on her? She had always called him Silas, until they had gone away to live with their stepfamily. “I will be fully recovered in next to no time, and I would do it again.”

Caught in her deep brown eyes, Silas did not look away, nor loose his hand from hers. He leaned forward, speaking as though he shared a secret. “If Isaac was here, he would berate me soundly for needing his little Essie to save me.” Her eyebrows raised at the childhood name. “If I had paid attention, none of this would have happened.”

The moment stretched long, until he became aware of the way their breaths had synchronized, quiet and deep. The sunlight filtering in through the tall windows warmed the room, though he thought something else likely caused the heat creeping up his neck and the answering blush on her own. 

A loud slam startled him out of the silent exchange. A tightness in his chest, one he hadn’t been aware of, gave one last squeeze before vanishing. Silas stood, ready to investigate the noise, when the rather shrill voice of a woman filled the entry hall beyond the closed door. 

“Where is she? Where is my Esther? Is she well? Oh, she is ruined, even if she is well,” the voice loudly proclaimed. 

Frowning, Silas looked down at Esther, who appeared paler and more pained than she had the entire time he had been sitting with her. 

“Diana,” she whispered, then squeezed her eyes shut. “Good luck, Lord Inglewood.” 

Silas did not have time to be disappointed in her use of his title before the door to the parlor opened, another footman scuttling out of the way of a rampaging woman. 

Mrs. Aubrey proved to be a formidable looking woman, nearly as tall as Silas. Dressed in deep purples, she put him in mind of an oncoming thunderstorm, sailing into the room with unexpected urgency and bluster. 

“Esther,” she shouted, causing even Silas to wince. “Oh, my poor girl, my poor darling child.” She hardly spared a glance at Silas, though he stumbled backward out of her way, before throwing herself on the ground next to the couch. She took up one of Esther’s hands and patted it rather forcefully. Esther had opened her eyes, though she cringed, and attempted to speak several times only to be cut off again by the exuberant Mrs. Aubrey. 

“Are you fainted, my dear? Are you able to speak? I have heard the whole of it from that feather-brained Miss Linton, and your maid. You poor darling. What were you thinking? My little heroine.” She abruptly stopped her patting and withdrew a handkerchief directly from her bosom, along with the overwhelming scent of flowery perfume, using it to stop a sudden onslaught of tears. 

Silas might have been entertained, had he not seen Esther’s discomfort. 

“Mrs. Aubrey,” he said, presuming to forgo an introduction. “Your sister-in-law is injured. The doctor has asked that we keep her from overexcitement.”

The woman’s tears stopped as abruptly as they started, and she rose to her feet with almost an unnatural swiftness. “You,” she said, pointing a gloved finger at Silas’s chest with as much force as one might put into a rapier thrust. “What are you going to do about this?”

Silas, folded his arms defensively, and glared at her. “What do you mean, madam?”

She drew herself up to her rather impressive height, a large silk blossom in her hat waving dangerously. “You have ruined her.”

Physical Product Information

Weight: 12 oz

Dimensions: 6 x 0.58 x 9 inches

Pages: 230 pages

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