Lady Emma's Campaign, страница 1
Cover images: Emma photograph by Picture This... by Sara Staker
Background Image: The Battle of La Fere-Champenoise, on the 25th March 1814, 1891 (oil on canvas), Willewalde, Bogdan (1818-1903) / State Central Artillery Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia / Bridgeman Images
Cover design copyright © 2014 by Covenant Communications, Inc.
Published by Covenant Communications, Inc.
American Fork, Utah
Copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Moore
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any format or in any medium without the written permission of the publisher, Covenant Communications, Inc., P.O. Box 416, American Fork, UT 84003. The views expressed within this work are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Covenant Communications, Inc., or any other entity.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, names, incidents, places, and dialogue are either products of the author’s imagination, and are not to be construed as real, or are used fictitiously.
First Printing: November 2014
For my parents
You both taught me a passion for books.
Mimi, you gave me my love of romance.
Big Dog, my obsession with history.
Thanks to my family. For your support, laughter, and for giving me some alone time to do what I love. You five guys are everything to me.
To Ed Lunt for teaching me how to work a bayonet and sharing his collection of Spanish coins and military knowledge, Dave Lunt for telling me about guerilla warfare, and Carla Kelly and Sarah Eden for your willingness to answer questions, loan me books, and tell me where to find information I need.
I am so grateful for the hours Dr. Adam Schwebach spent talking with me, answering questions, and impressing on me the seriousness of PTSD. My heart goes out to those afflicted with this disorder.
Thanks so much to my critique girls: Angela, Becki, Cindy A., Cindy H., Jody, Josi, Nancy, Ronda, and Susan. I love you girls, your brainstorming ideas, good advice, and encouragement. You make me reach higher and work harder.
Amanda Kimball, Penny Lunt, Josi Kilpack, and Nancy Allen, thanks for being my beta readers and for understanding when you found out how terrible a first draft can be.
Stacey Owen is the world’s most patient editor. She makes sentences flow and the story shine. An editor does more than just correct grammar and punctuation. She comes up with ideas and gives excellent feedback and encouragement when it got tough. I completely love working with her and the lovely Kathy Gordon and everyone else at Covenant. It is truly a pleasure.
Lady Emma Drake smiled as she tied the last ribbon. She stood on tiptoe upon a chair in the great hall, reaching to arrange a garland over the mantel on Christmas Eve morning. She had risen early, before anyone else in the family, and while it was still dark, persuaded the steward to help her collect the wreaths and evergreen boughs from the stable. For the last few days, she had secretly gathered and fashioned greenery to decorate the Manor House.
It had only been three weeks since her older brother William, the new earl, had returned from sea with his wife, Amelia, and his closest friend, Sidney Fletcher. For the first time in her life, her home was filled with love and laughter, and Emma was determined to make this Christmas special for her family and their guest. Her mind spun with thoughts of the Yule log, the warm cider, and a few remaining details needing attention when a voice startled her from her reverie. Not just a voice, his voice.
“Why, Emma! I do not believe I have ever seen such splendid decorations.”
Emma turned and saw Sidney smiling up at her; the twinkle in his brown eyes caused her heart to trip. He reached to take her hand and, for a moment, touched her waist to help her balance as she stepped down from the chair. The brief contact nearly stole her breath, and she ducked her head to hide the blush that immediately covered her cheeks.
He tugged on one of her braids playfully. Emma thought it could be time to begin following her mother’s advice—sleeping with her hair in papers and trying to coax a bit of curl out of her stick-straight unmanageable locks. Perhaps then Sidney would not tease her as if she were merely a little girl. She was seventeen after all.
“Happy Christmas!” Emma was thrilled that he had been the one to discover her.
Since Sidney had arrived, she had found herself yearning for his attention, while at the same time paralyzed when he spoke to her. Her heart had beaten faster each time she heard his voice and saw his smile. She lay awake in her bed at night thinking of witty anecdotes that might make him laugh, though she knew she would never be brave enough to actually say them.
Sidney tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow and led her around the hall, admiring and commenting on the decorations and even opening the front door for a closer inspection of the holiday wreath. They stopped beneath the archway that led to the dining room, and Sidney turned to face her.
Emma kept her gaze on the floor, though her heart had begun to race. They were standing directly beneath the kissing bough.
“How, indeed, did you accomplish such a thing before the rest of the household even awoke, Emma?” He lifted her hand off his arm and pressed it to his heart dramatically. “Truly, this has the makings of the best Christmas in my memory.”
Sidney glanced upward and then stepped back for a closer look at the cluster of greenery that hung from a ribbon directly above them. He studied for a moment the evergreens, apples, paper flowers, and dolls representing the figures of the nativity that Emma had so carefully bundled together.
Emma’s heart had risen into her throat and threatened to choke her. She did not dare meet his gaze.
“Finding myself beneath the kissing bough with such a beautiful young lady is not a responsibility I take lightly.” Sidney’s voice carried a note of mock gravity that would have normally caused Emma to laugh, but under the circumstances, she was attempting to control the heat that flared over her face and neck.
Sidney crooked a finger beneath her chin and lifted her face until their eyes met. He winked and smiled, which did nothing to relieve the trembling in her knees. “Be assured that I shall not fail in this important duty.” Bending down, he placed a very tender and very chaste kiss upon Emma’s cheek.
Emma felt as though someone had lit her heart on fire and replaced her legs with gooseberry jelly. Her mind tumbled, and her pulse raced. She wondered if Sidney could feel the shaking in her hand, which he still held.
If he could, he didn’t acknowledge it. Hearing someone’s throat clearing, they both turned to see William descending the stairs with Amelia.
“Good morning, and happy Christmas!” Sidney called out.
William looked between Sidney and Emma. His eyes narrowed when he saw their joined hands, and he heaved an exaggerated sigh, looking up to the heavens. “And this is what happens when I sleep late, I find my houseguest kissing my sister.” He turned to his wife, and Emma recognized the teasing in his voice. “I knew we should not have invited him to our home, Amelia.”
Emma had often wondered how Sidney tolerated her brother’s rudeness, even though she knew it was usually contrived. The two men were like brothers. They had sailed together in the navy since they were boys. Sidney constantly teased and provoked William with his cheerfulness, and William invariably responded with feigned bad temper. And yet they still remained the closest of friends.
Amelia ignored the men. “What a beautiful surprise. The house looks wonderful. Thank you, Emma.” She pulled William toward the dining room doorway. “And look, my dear, a kissing bough.”
“Emma and I have put it to the test and hav
“And naturally you have exploited my hospitality—and my sister. I shall have to keep a closer eye on you, Mr. Fletcher,” William said. The lines around his eyes softened in an expression that most people would not have even noticed, but Emma recognized it as humor.
“I understand. But you must admit that I am not in the least to blame, finding myself quite by accident in such a circumstance and with a lovely girl so close at hand.” He winked at Emma again.
She attempted to smile back. She was, after all, a grown woman, and a simple kiss on Christmas Eve should not elicit such overwhelming emotions.
“Shall we leave these two alone to assess the kissing bough themselves, Emma? Come, I can smell breakfast, and I should not wish to remain in such a vulnerable location in case Mrs. Hatfield happens by and attempts to extract a kiss as well.” He tucked her hand back into the crook of his elbow and led Emma into the dining room.
As she walked with Sidney, she lowered her head and touched her hand to her cheek, wondering how she could possibly still feel warmth from his kiss. She wished that he would have shown some bit of discomfort when William had found them beneath the kissing bough. But he had acted as easy as if they had simply been discovered playing at cards. She glanced his way and wondered what he was thinking. Had he noticed that she’d grown up?
The first time Emma had met Sidney was five years earlier. William and Sidney had traveled to the Manor House on shore leave. Lawrence, Emma’s and William’s elder brother, had been the earl then. Like his father before him, Lawrence had had a violent temper and a propensity to drink too heavily and lose too frequently at the gaming tables. While William and Lawrence argued and yelled in the study, Sidney spent time with Emma and her mother, regaling them with stories of his travels and playing card games when he could just as easily have left the contentious house and occupied himself elsewhere. Emma had committed each moment in his company to memory, and by the time of his next visit, she had admitted to herself that she was utterly smitten with the dashing sailor. Yet his attentions toward her remained that of a brother, albeit a kind and silly one. Had he not noticed that she was a young woman? Would he have kissed her five years ago just as he had today?
When William and Amelia had finished admiring Emma’s handiwork and making use of the kissing bough, they took their places at the dining table, followed by Emma’s mother, whom Amelia and Sidney affectionately addressed as Lady Charlotte. Emma listened to the conversation and commented in the appropriate places, but she was distracted by Sidney’s close proximity beside her and extremely conscious of the way his sleeve occasionally brushed hers. She was a hopeless case. She sighed and took a bite of egg.
“And what plans do you have in store for us tomorrow, Emma?” Amelia asked. “You seem to have arranged everything to perfection. I even overheard cook saying something about a roasted goose.”
“Yes, Christmas dinner will be a grand feast: boar’s head, plum pudding, gingerbread, and more pies than you can imagine,” Emma said. “Then, of course, we shall have games and music.”
William groaned. “Please do not say we will be forced into any type of play acting.”
“Certainly we will,” Amelia said. “And, my dearest, you shall partner me in charades.”
William put his hand over his eyes.
Sidney laughed. “Maybe I shall demonstrate my expertise at snapdragon, if you are up to a challenge, Emma.” He snatched a bit of scone from her plate to prove his skill at the competition that required exceptionally quick movements.
“Please do not allow her to play such a game, Sidney.” Lady Charlotte wagged her finger at him and smiled. “She has a Season in a few months, and how would it look if she were to be presented at court with scorched hands?”
Emma refrained from rolling her eyes. When would her mother realize that Emma was nearly a grown woman and stop treating her as if she were made of glass?
William pushed his chair back from the table. “It’s Christmas. Must you remind me that we are soon to be inundated with mantua makers and forced to attend balls and concerts in the hope of finding my sister a husband?”
Emma could feel Sidney’s gaze on her. She focused on running her fingers over the stitching of the napkin in her lap. Any mention of her Season left her feeling vulnerable and nervous.
“Lady Emma is to be presented,” Sidney said slowly. “The young men of the ton do not know how fortunate they are.” He flipped one of her braids playfully over her shoulder. And when he spoke next, his voice regained its usual note of good humor. “She shall undoubtedly be the loveliest young lady in London. And it is probably fortunate that I am to return to sea after Epiphany. I should not want to ruin Emma’s debut by occupying her entire dance card or to cause a scandal by chasing away men that I deem less than worthy of my dear friend.”
Emma’s stomach felt as if it were filled with lead. Her brother Lawrence’s death last year had delayed her debut, as the family was in mourning. At seventeen, she would be one of the oldest ladies presented, but she felt the least prepared.
The meal ended after a change of conversation, for which Emma was immensely grateful.
William stood, and Sidney followed suit. “If you ladies will excuse us,” William said. “I am to make a few tenant visits this morning, and Sidney has agreed to accompany me.”
“Even though a sea captain has no business upon a horse,” Sidney added with a grimace that caused the three ladies to chuckle. He started to follow William but turned back, meeting Emma’s eye. She straightened in her chair and wished—again—that her hair was not in braids this morning. “Emma, do make certain that you find a husband that will make you laugh. The sound is too delightful to be wasted on a man who does not appreciate it.” He winked and reached over to tug on her braid one more time before leaving the room.
Emma knew of only one man who fit that description, but it was folly. Even if he had thought of her as more than his best friend’s little sister, Sidney would return to sea, and she would be launched into society. She pressed her hand once more to her cheek, marveling at the emotions that had been stirred by such an innocent kiss and fearing that every other man on earth would pale in comparison. Her heart was lost to Sidney Fletcher.
Eighteen Months Later
Lord Dewhurst was without a doubt one of the most eligible bachelors in London. His manners were exemplary, his dancing graceful, his waistcoat a la mode and perfectly fitted. He was an attentive conversationalist, classically handsome, charming nearly to a fault. And Emma hoped desperately that he would not propose.
This was the fifth time he had called at the Drakes’ London residence since he and Emma had been introduced a few weeks earlier. He’d appropriately limited his visit to thirty minutes, conversing about such easy topics as the weather or the events of the Season. But today, instead of being contented to remain in the drawing room where Emma could depend on her mother or Amelia’s presence, Lord Dewhurst had insisted that it was a pity to waste such a lovely afternoon indoors. He had waited while she fetched her bonnet and gloves, and now the pair strolled through the small garden behind Emma’s family’s town home.
Her mother’s roses perfumed the air around them, and ivy covered the wrought iron trellis above a garden bench, which was picturesquely situated in the shade of a willow. Birds sang in the trees. The garden was one of the most beautiful in town, and the early summer displayed it splendidly.
Tilting her head the slightest bit, Emma glanced up beyond the edge of her bonnet to find Lord Dewhurst looking directly at her. She looked away quickly, casting her eyes about for something—anything—to focus on in order to avoid meeting his gaze.
“Do you mind very much if we sit for a moment, my dear?” He gestured to the bench. “There is something I should like to
Emma was disappointed to note that his touch did not send her heart fluttering. It was the same with the other men she had met in her two Seasons. She had briefly clasped hands as she stepped from a carriage or partnered in a dance, but as usual, the sensation was no different than what she would experience if her mother had taken her hand, or William.
Emma sat upon the edge of the small bench with her back straight, her head tilted demurely, and her lips curled in the slightest bit of a smile, casting her eyes downward in the manner expected of a proper young lady.
Despite her outward appearance of serenity, Emma’s mind raced. How could she distract Lord Dewhurst from the question she was sure he intended to ask? “I do believe you told me you meant to purchase some new horses, my lord,” she said. If there was anything to divert a man’s mind, it was the mention of horses.
Lord Dewhurst smiled, and his eyes took on a dreamy aspect. “Why, yes. It took a bit of persuasion, but in the end, Baron Wilkinson and I managed to agree upon a price. And I must admit I feel as though I got the better part of the bargain . . .”
As he launched into a description of the animals, Emma began to relax. Perhaps his equine report would occupy the remainder of his visit. She glanced up at him again while he spoke. He was indeed one of the handsomest men she knew, and she did enjoy his company. She had already refused four suitors in her two Seasons but thought that it would be more difficult this time, as she did have tender feelings for Lord Dewhurst. She had hoped that if she spent enough time with him, her affection for him would grow into something deeper than friendship. But even though their association was genial, the idea of becoming his wife produced a sour taste in her mouth.
Her musing was brought to an abrupt end when Lord Dewhurst turned toward her and laid his hand upon her shoulder. “I also inquired after a smaller mare. A gentle mount more suitable for a lady. Which brings me to the reason I had intended to speak with you.”