To paraphrase a song from "Annie."The Earl
'll come out
So ya gotta hang on
Come what may
So, tomorrow you will be able to pick up your copy of The Earl
. And, since my promo skills are sadly lacking, I'm going to just leave you with an excerpt
Jon stepped out of his coach and looked up at Number Nineteen Park Court. It looked like most of the other houses along the street, its three-story brick-fronted facade plain and unadorned. The brass knocker on the door shone, signaling the owner was in residence.
He gave his coachman instructions for when to return, then dismissed him and climbed the steps. The door opened as he reached the top step, revealing Smithers, his grandmother’s butler.
“Good day, my lord.”
“Morning, Smithers.” He handed his hat and cane to the man. “Is my grandmother receiving?”
“In the green parlor, my lord.” Jon headed toward the back of the house and the room in question.
He could hear voices as he approached the door, which sat slightly ajar, and slowed his steps. He had hoped she would be alone. It was the reason he had come in the morning. He frowned. Now what? Then the voices drifted out, and he relaxed.
“So, now what do you plan to do?” he heard his grandmother say.
“I don’t know,” was the reply and he recognized Amanda’s voice immediately. “I haven’t decided yet.”
“Seems to me you’re burning your bridges a bit too fast.”
“I know, but I really couldn’t have married him.”
“If you’ll recall, I told that you before.”
“I know, I know. Oh well, that’s over with now, and I can concentrate on more important things.”
“The school, of course.”
His grandmother made a tsk
ing sound. “You should not allow the school to consume you.”
“I try not to, but they need so much. The new Board is horrible. We need to do something about them. We don’t need the grants, so we ought to be able to teach what we feel is necessary. And Mr. Cooper is an idiot. Somehow we must get out from under the thumb of the Board.”
Jon decided he’d eavesdropped enough and knocked on the open door, entering the room at his grandmother’s invitation.
“Well, it’s about time!” she exclaimed upon seeing him. “You’ve been back for days, and this is the first time I’ve laid eyes on you.”
Jon gave her his warmest smile. “I’m afraid my secretary and solicitor are born slave drivers.”
Amanda jumped to her feet as he approached, her eyes wide. It took him a moment to recognize the emotion he read there before she looked down, and he wondered what she felt guilty about.
The dowager Countess of Wynton sat in a large overstuffed chair that dwarfed her small frame. Jon was surprised by how much she had aged in the last three years and was reminded she might not have been here at all when he returned. Having lived into her seventies, he knew her health was not the best and she rarely left her home. Yet even as he looked down into eyes which mirrored his own, he could see they were still sharp and alert, although her previously blond hair was now completely white.
He bent to brush a wrinkled cheek with his lips. “How are you, madam?”
“Much better now that you’re here,” she replied. “Sit.” Then turning to Amanda, “You too. Sit.”
Jon grinned at Amanda’s sudden nervousness. “Lady Amanda.” He inclined his head in her direction as she resumed her seat beside his grandmother’s chair.
He made himself comfortable on an overstuffed sofa and allowed his eyes to feast on the sight of her. The pink of her gown gave her skin a rosy hue and emphasized her eyes. Blue as a summer sky, he thought, and wondered when he’d become a romantic. Her hair was pulled up into a soft knot, a lone curl having escaped to trail across her shoulder, but nothing could disguise its lush brightness. He was reminded of the sun, and suddenly Nona’s words came back to him. When you tire of blue skies and sunshine abroad, you will return to find them at home.
Felicia had been right. Nona had
given him a description. But it didn’t fit. Hadn’t Amanda told him just two nights ago she’d only seen a panther in a book? Even his broad hinting about figurines hadn’t elicited anything more than a polite response. Perhaps he was just being fanciful, looking for something which wasn’t there.
His grandmother commanded his attention.
“Stop gawking and pay attention!” she snapped. “Amanda and I need your help.”
“Of course,” he replied smoothly to cover his inattention. “How can I be of assistance?”
“You can help her find a decent headmaster or mistress for the school. Someone who doesn’t think girls are idiots. And talk to Shaftesbury.”
“Headmaster?” He blinked. “School?” He looked from one to the other. “What school?”
“The one in Southwark,” his grandmother replied. “It’s a school for girls—mostly orphans, but some merchants and tradesmen send their daughters there as well.”
For the next hour and a half, Jon was introduced to Amanda’s charity work. He was not pleased to discover she went into Southwark alone nearly every day to teach. Nor was he happy to learn she had to deal with an ignorant headmaster, put in place by a Board that felt learning was wasted on girls.
If you'd like to read more, check out my Website (entire first chapter is posted) or my Coffee Time Forum (a different excerpt is posted there).
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