The Story of a Baron – Excerpts
Ready to read this weekend? Enjoy these excerpts from The Story of a Baron by Linda Rae Sande.
Lord Sommers took a quick glance over the three rows of shelving, realizing almost immediately that the book he sought was not among the titles on display. He was about to turn and take his leave of the shop when he realized there was a wide space between the books, a space through which he spied a young woman.
A young woman who was lit by sunlight streaming in from a reading room window.
A young woman who appeared as if she were an angel.
A young woman who was resting the spine of a book on one forearm whilst she opened it with her other hand.
A young woman who appeared to be reading the very last page of the book.
A young woman who was now turning to the front of the book and apparently reading the first page!
It was then Jeffrey caught sight of the title page. A very brief sight, for the words, The Story of a Baron, flashed by in a blur.
She was reading the very book he sought!
How dare she? Didn’t she realize that by reading the end, she was spoiling it for herself?
By reading the beginning, she was … well, she was doing the very thing he’d seen at least a half dozen other people do whilst they shopped for books, so he couldn’t fault her for that, he supposed. But she was reading his book!
Jeffrey stilled himself, realizing if he gave any more thought to the woman’s actions, he would make his presence known. He didn’t wish to draw attention to himself. And upon further viewing, he found the young woman rather easy to watch.
She was blonde, he thought, although her bonnet hid far too much of her hair for him to be sure. Fair of skin with an oval face, she appeared young, but no longer young enough to be in the schoolroom. Her complexion was clear, her cheeks displaying a hint of color, no doubt due to having climbed the stairs to get to this level. Her pink lips were barely parted, the lower one a bit more plump than her upper one. Her lashes were so long, they hid her eyes whilst she read the book through a pair of gold wire spectacles that rested on the tip of her nose. And her left hand …
Jeffrey straightened. The woman’s hand was bare, its long, slender fingers barely grazing the surface of the page that held her attention. Fingers that were free of adornment. Free of any rings. Including the one that should have been on her fourth finger.
Seated in one of the floral upholstered chairs in the Fitzsimmons Manor parlor, Lady Samantha Fitzsimmons sighed as she removed several stitches from her latest attempt at embroidery.
Usually after a few minutes or so of sewing, she attained a rhythm with the needle and thread that allowed her mind to wander without having to be too concerned about the size and placement of her next stitch. Today was apparently not a usual day.
Her best friend, Lady Julia Harrington, never seemed to have difficulty with the intricate sewing. She was also prolific. Julia managed to finish two or three samplers for every one Samantha completed. But the earl’s daughter wasn’t nearly as skilled at painting as Samantha.
In fact, Julia had given up further attempts at that particular art when her last piece, a still life of a bowl of fruit, was misidentified by her father as a cairn in Devonshire.
“I wonder what’s become of Eva,” Samantha commented as she dared a glance at the mantle clock. She had expected Lady Evangeline to appear at ten o’clock on the dot, for the sister of the Earl of Everly was usually quite punctual.
Julia lifted her head from her embroidery hoop, absently pushing an errant golden blonde lock behind her ear. “Today is Tuesday,” she remarked calmly. “New books at The Temple,” she added with an arched eyebrow.
Samantha relaxed. “Of course. How could I forget?” The brunette returned her attention to her stitching. “What topic do you suppose she’ll choose this time?” she wondered, always surprised by the variety of books Evangeline managed to procure – and read in their entirety.
“Barons, in fact.”
Both eliciting gasps of surprise, Julia and Samantha lifted their heads in unison to find Lady Evangeline on the threshold of the Fitzsimmons Manor parlor. “Barons?” Samantha repeated with a grin, setting aside her embroidery hoop and rising from her chair to greet her friend.
Julia did the same, hurrying over to kiss Evangeline on the cheek. “Oh, do tell,” she urged as she took hold of the book that Samantha held on one arm.
“The Story of a Baron?” Samantha read from the front cover. “Why, Eva, I had no idea you were interested in barons,” she teased as she moved to ring the bell for tea.
Giggling, Julia rested the book on one arm and flipped it open with her free hand. She read the first line aloud. “Matthew Winters, Baron Ballantine, entered his favorite bookshop in search of a particular new title.” She turned the first few pages, noting how they were already bent. “You’ve already started reading this,” she accused as she flipped to the back page.
Evangeline nodded. “Indeed. And not by myself,” she replied as she moved to take her usual place on the settee facing the fireplace. Although the navy striped velvet was worn, Evangeline found the settee the most comfortable piece of furniture in the parlor.
“Oh?” Samantha waved to a maid who was wheeling the teacart into the room. “I’ll serve, thank you,” she said to the maid as she leaned over to prepare the pot and pour the tea.
“Who was your companion then?” Julia wondered, returning to her seat with the book still open to the last page. She read the last line. “Forever?” she added before looking up in surprise. “This is a work of fiction!” she exclaimed as she rifled through the pages. “Written by … “ She turned to the title page and furrowed her delicate eyebrows. “… Anonymous.”
Evangeline Tennison rarely read fiction; at least, if she did, she didn’t tell her friends about those books. She instead regaled them with information she gleaned from books on philosophy, natural science, and history.
Evangeline accepted the cup of tea Samantha held out for her. “Lord Sommers,” she said as she added a lump of sugar and a bit of milk to the cup and stirred.
Samantha nearly spilled the tea she had just poured for Julia. “Who?” she asked, her own eyebrows furrowing.
“Jeffrey Althorpe,” Julia answered, looking up from the book. “A baron. And a bachelor, no less,” she teased, closing the book and setting it aside, apparently more interested in discussing possible gossip involving a member of the ton than learning any more about the book.
Taking a sip of tea, Evangeline wondered how to explain herself. “He was at the Temple of Muses, and he wanted to buy that book,” she said as she pointed toward Julia. “But, seeing as how I was there first and had already decided to purchase it, we agreed to read it together until Mr. Pritchard can get another for Lord Sommers.”
Rather proud she was able to distill her morning into a simple statement, Evangeline helped herself to a lemon biscuit, sat back and took another sip of her tea.
At this point in the story, Evangeline gasped, one hand moving to cover her mouth. “Oh, my,” she whispered, glancing down at her monochromatic outfit. “This is truly the last time I wear such an ensemble,” she vowed, mortified by her decision to dress like Lady Geraldine.
Jeffrey shook his head. “But you’re lovely in pink, my lady,” he countered, thinking his own cheeks were certainly that color given the descriptions of Geraldine’s scandals. What had he been thinking to write such dreck?
“Lady Barrick’s incident at Lord Abdington’s ball sounds exactly like what happened to Lady Pettigrew at Lord Torrington’s dinner party last year,” Evangeline commented, her brows furrowing.
Although she hadn’t been present at the dinner party, the incident had been reported in every parlor she visited the following week.
Jeffrey stiffened, remembering the incident at Grandby’s house quite well. Although he barely knew the earl, he’d been invited to attend the intimate gathering of about forty guests. Well, not so intimate, he realized, remembering how the dinner table had been so long, he couldn’t see the ends from where he sat near the middle. He’d been placed directly to the right of Viscountess Pettigrew, where he had an up-close and personal view of the lady’s charms when they suddenly went on display. Which is why he included just such an incident in the book.
Who could make up such a story?
“Now that you mention it, I do believe I heard something about that,” he admitted, glad Evangeline wasn’t in attendance at the dinner party to witness how long he stared at the surprisingly pert plums on display. Surprising because Lady Pettigrew was nearly old enough to be his mother.
Visit tomorrow for more information about Linda Rae Sande and her books.