Greetings, friends! In all the excitement of preparing for Violet’s Daybreak to be released, I never actually posted on here. Can you believe it?
Violet is officially here. Isn’t she lovely? I’m so excited about this book!
Some of you know that this was the first novel I ever completed. It took years and years, and birthed another novel that came both after and before (after, if we’re talking about writing-time; before, if we’re talking about timeline of the stories). Because of the detour in publishing Violet, some changes were made, scenes were cut, and a main character’s name was even changed. (Can you guess whose?) I’m so pleased with how it turned out, and the resulting development of this series has been a great deal of fun for me. I hope it’s as fun for you to read!
Violet is the sister of Mr. Ashbridge Wyndham, the male protagonist in my first book, Penelope’s Hope. Violet enchanted readers with her quiet yet faithful friendship to Penelope and prayerful support of her brother. Now you get to read her story, hear her thoughts, and meet Lord Reymes, her future husband. I can’t wait for you to get reacquainted with Violet and to meet Nathaniel!
Here’s a little excerpt of their first meeting…
“No, I do not wish to be persuaded! I wish to be left alone. Please!”
And in the next instant, he was gone. Violet collapsed onto the ground near the balustrade, breathing shallowly as she drew her knees to her chest and buried her face in the fabric of her gown, attempting to calm her crying. She was vaguely aware of the sounds of a scuffle of feet, several grunts – satisfied and pained in turn – and finally some whispered threats before the door creaked once more as someone returned to the ballroom. The sound of the water below sounded more natural now and the aroma of damp earth and sweet flora floating on the air once again reached her.
“You are safe now,” came a gentle, masculine voice. With one last shudder, Violet managed to tamp down her sobs and force her breaths to come at a more even pace. Still, however, she could not bear to meet the eyes of her rescuer.
“Miss, er– Wyndham, was it?” the man’s voice asked, a voice similar in cadence and timbre to that of her attacker, but with gentler, richer tones. “Are you–”
“Please,” she blurted, “please just leave me be!”
“I will,” said he, his voice closer than it was previously, “but first may I ask if you are harmed?”
Violet could not help but be grateful that he phrased his inquiry as he did. She was not well, but neither was she truly harmed, so she was able to offer an honest answer. “I am not.”
“Will you look at me?” he asked, very near now, if his voice was any indication.
Violet did not wish to look at him, but felt that she could not reasonably deny the man’s request. Such a simple matter, Violet, she chided herself. Truly, Mama would be shocked to see how childish, how missish you are being. And so, with a shaky breath, Violet raised her head.
The light through the door to the ballroom afforded little visibility, but as he crouched beside her, rather than between her and the door, Violet was able to see enough of his features to recognize him.
“My lord Reymes!” she cried, allowing her gaze to again drop. She immediately began to gather her skirts in order to stand, but his hand gently placed upon her forearm stayed her. She shyly peeked up into his face.
“Miss Wyndham,” he began, inclining his head slightly. “Please do not trouble yourself. These are not the polite but inane words exchanged in a ballroom or during a morning call. I want you to be certain that you are well enough before you attempt to stand, and we must discuss, a little bit at least, what has transpired just now. And what’s to be done about it.”
She blushed, but nodded slightly before settling again where she was. As she arranged her gown more tidily about her, Violet realized that it was difficult for her to believe that it was actually Lord Reymes who was speaking to her.
The man was rumored to be rather haughty, as many men in his position were expected to be – young, handsome, titled, and unmarried. There was a dim memory that she carried, though, of a dance shared with him a couple of years past. During the dance, she had no misapprehension of his feeling anything more for her than a vague apathy. However, he had been polite, and offered no pointless conversation. Her heart had been pained with sympathy for him, and perhaps something else which she did not understand. Something she had kept to herself when she later discussed the dance with her friend. At the time, Violet had thought that he carried a deep sorrow.
That memory had faded in her mind, especially as life with her mother and sister continued after her brother’s marriage. She had all but forgotten their brief encounter. But when she again saw Lord Reymes earlier this evening, nearly two years after the shared dance, the memory began to resurface. During their introduction at the door of his house, she had forced herself to look at his eyes and saw that same sadness she had discerned when they danced. Her sister and her mama, of course, did not see anything save his handsome face, well-tailored coat, and the expensive yet tasteful embellishments to his ensemble: one fob, a signet ring, and a snuff-box which seemed more something with which to occupy his hands on occasion than to use.
The Earl sighed tiredly as he took out said snuff-box and then spoke again, bringing Violet’s attention back to the present. “My brother has long disregarded the requirements and strictures which Polite Society places on him had he held to a more honorable code of living.” Lord Reymes turned the small box over and over in his hands. Violet blushed after realizing that they were strong hands, yet still soft and not calloused by labor: the hands of a gentleman. She forced herself to concentrate on his words.
Oh! That was his brother? came the belated thought.
“His behavior toward you this evening was reprehensible, to say the least. If there is anything I may do to make restitution, please do not hesitate to name it. Unfortunately, he is unable to offer the protection of his name, being recently married, but I certainly can offer any assistance within my capability – confirmation of your innocence, refutation of rumors, monetary assistance – if you have a suitor who may need some incentive in the form of an increased dowry, or if there is anything else you may think of–”
“Please, my lord, do not trouble yourself.” Violet suddenly felt badly for the man before her. Clearly, he was burdened by the depravity with which his brother conducted himself and his offer suggested to Violet that he had paid previously for his brother’s misdeeds. Her desire to assure the man over-rode her fear of speaking to him. “Trust me when I say that I will require nothing of you. I-I cannot imagine that my party has even missed me yet!” She managed a tremulous smile.
He returned her smile with a small one of his own.
“Are you well enough to stand now, Miss Wyndham?” he asked, offering his hand. She nodded and accepted his assistance in rising.
“Thank you, my lord,” she murmured while smoothing her gown.
After a moment, Lord Reymes said conversationally, “You are in the neighborhood visiting your relatives, are you not? The Doberly family?”
She swallowed before answering, hoping her earlier bravery would remain when answering his questions. “Yes, my lord,” she replied. “They are my aunt and uncle.”
“They are excellent neighbors.”
“Yes, the very best of people.” Her eyes flitted to his face, which was again darkened in shadow. Even so, she could see that a slight smile formed at her words.
“Are you enjoying your visit?” he asked, immediately followed by a small choking sound. “That is, aside from…this current unpleasantness.”
“Yes, my lord.” Violet knew she ought to say more, illustrate some of the meals or perhaps excursions provided as entertainment to them, but she feared that she would bore him. She settled with, “We always enjoy our visits with one another.”
“Is your home far from here?” he inquired.
“No. Mama prefers to take two days for the traveling, but when my father still lived, we would go all in one. We changed horses once, but it is not so terribly long.”
“I see.” Hearing amusement in his voice, she looked up again into his eyes. She could not be certain, but they seemed to crinkle at the corners with his grin. She wished to ask what he found so humorous, but did not. Before she could begin to fret, he asked, “How do you find the assembly?”
“I find it…” Violet was at a loss. She detested being there, but could not very well admit it to the host. “That is to say, it is…I, er-” Violet stopped her sputtering and decided that with her bungled attempt at an answer, there was nothing for it and she must be honest. “I do apologize, but I am not very well at my ease in such…varied company.”
The man’s smile expanded fully upon his face. His teeth reflected the filtered light from the ballroom. Good teeth, came her mama’s voice in her head. “So you find it as dreadful as I, then? Miss Wyndham, I confess that I do not enjoy balls nearly as much as I ought. However, since beginning to converse with you, I allow that my opinion of this one, at least, has risen considerably.”
Violet felt her face flame and prayed that Lord Reymes would not notice, in spite of the soft light she knew illuminated her face. “It is more tolerable to know someone else shares my feelings.”
A low chuckle sounded before he answered, “Indeed. I suppose there is some merit to the saying misery loves company.”
“I cannot say that I should go so far as to say that misery describes my feelings on the matter.” Violet felt a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips, but did her best to repress it; she did not wish so great a man to think she was flirting with him. Her mama had mentioned just yesterday that the Earl was notorious for brushing off the misses who dared act familiarly with him. Though he did not act in such a manner when we danced, she could not help but think. He was not precisely amiable, but neither was he dismissive.
Lord Reymes drew her from her thoughts. “Then you are kinder than I.”
In what regard? Violet wondered initially, until she recalled they were speaking of their opinions of balls and large crowds of near-strangers.
Following a pause that had grown nearly uncomfortable, he breathed out quickly before saying in low tones, “Miss Wyndham, forgive me, but I must inquire once more as to your well-being. I am aware that you require no monetary compensation, but are you well? While I myself have never been – attacked – beyond childish, school-boy pranks, I am given to understand that these – er, these sort of occurrences may very well cause a lady of delicate nature, such as yourself, to suffer. Are you possibly in shock? Not that I mean to imply that you should not be as recovered as you appear to be. I wholly hope that you are well and that there are not any lasting repercussions for you. But please, do tell me if you are unwell.”
Violet was taken aback at his loquacious manner of asking if she was well in spirit. He struck her as a man of few words, but then she supposed she did not know him very well. One dance two years in the past does not make a close acquaintance. Indeed, it seems that he does not even recall that evening. Rather than dwelling on this, though, she hastened to assure him. “Pray, do not trouble yourself, my lord. I am well. He – he did nothing but k-kiss me.” The memory of ten minutes ago pressed at her from the corners of her mind, where she had relegated it for the time being, and a tremor ran down her spine.
Lord Reymes shifted closer to her. She may have imagined it, but he seemed to furrow his brow in concern. It is rather dark; and I cannot believe that he would be unnecessarily worried over me. “Miss Wyndham, are you certain? You cannot convince me that your shiver was from the cold.”
Must he be so attentive? She found frustration coloring her voice as she said, “I will admit that the likelihood is high that I shall weep tonight, in the privacy of my bed, but I cannot very well do it here, can I?”
“Some ladies would,” was his reply.
“I grant you are right,” she admitted. “Extravagant displays of emotion are rather common nowadays, but the attention which would accompany such a display is something that I could not abide.”
“Do not ladies live for attention?”
A slight grin tugged at the corners of his mouth as he answered, “No, I suppose you would not care for that.” After a brief silence, he cleared his throat and motioned toward the ballroom, taking a step back at the same time. “Do you wish to return to the assembly now?”
Violet did not wish to return at all. She was uncertain, though, as to how she felt about the Earl remaining on the small balcony. A part of her wished he would go, so that she might again enjoy her solitude and compose herself. Even more, though, Violet was surprised to realize that a part of her wished he would stay and talk more with her. Although his gaze was decidedly unnerving, she enjoyed the humor in his voice and the smooth timbre of it. She realized that her quivering and fear had all but vanished. It was odd how much this man’s presence put her at ease, in a manner that only her brother had been able to do previously – especially considering what his brother had attempted to do to her.
Regardless of her desire to remain where she was, Violet’s answer bowed to the demands of propriety. “Yes, my lord. I have been absent for too long. In fact, if I do not return soon, I might be proved wrong and my absence be noticed. As it is, they must believe me to be taking some refreshment.”
“I see. In that case, let us return with all due haste. Step here, where the light will show me your appearance. It would be unwise to return if you appear at all out of countenance.” Violet turned her face to the light of the ballroom, feeble though it was, and felt her cheeks warm as she sensed his close scrutiny. “Your hair is slightly mussed, but perhaps you may smooth some of those escaped strands.” Her fingers trembled as she swept them over her hair, pulling the loosened strands back, even as he nodded approvingly. “Your hair is much improved – we may now return.” He grinned wryly as he spoke. “To avoid any rumors if we return together, shall you return first or shall I?”
She managed to breathe, “I–I will, if that is agreeable to my lord.”
“Very well,” he said, smiling while he put out his hand his hand to usher her in the direction of the ballroom.
Violet moved toward the door and had just reached it when his firm hand grasped her elbow. A predilection for preservation stiffened her body, fear racing through her like icy pin-pricks.
“Miss Wyndham, your dress.” Lord Reymes’ cautionary voice reached her. Her confusion at his words dispelled the alarm which had descended upon her and she quickly spun to see what he meant. Doing so easily broke his hold on her arm and her comfort with him returned. He was much closer than she expected, though, and Violet’s eyes widened at seeing his eyes mere inches from hers. Startled, she hurriedly took a step back. Her foot caught in the short train of her dress, and she was suddenly tipping backward.
“Oh!” Violet’s arms flailed, reaching for anything behind her which might stay her fall, but she was suddenly caught in a strong arm which prevented a fall. To further steady her, his other hand reached for one of her flailing arms.
One moment she was suspended in air, the next pressed against his warm body.
For the space of several breaths, Violet’s heart thudded heavily in her chest and her breath came in short gasps. His spiced scent filled her head, but she felt none of the fear she had when his brother had forced himself this close to her. Swallowing thickly, she looked up into his surprised face, knowing it reflected the same emotion as hers. His deep eyes gazed steadily back into hers, darkening minutely as his arm shifted subtly around her.
“Violet! What is the meaning of this?”
Copyright Sarah Baughman 2016. All rights reserved.