A Star in the East Part One

Some decades ago, I wrote a Regency Christmas story the appeared in the print version of my RWA chapter newsletter. I’d like to share it with you over the next three posts. Enjoy!

 

121717 winter

London, 1815

Christmas Eve

Angelica waited on the steps of the townhouse, snow flurries teasing her, darkness pressing her against the wide door.  The man she had called her grandfather seemed to be there, laughing as he always had.  Another death to get over, and at this time of year.  She shivered and knocked again.

The door swung open, and faithful old Mr. Charles peered out at her.  “Ah, child!  How good of you to come.  Inside now, before you take a chill.  The master will want to see you.”

Angelica fumbled with her cloak clasp.  Master?  Not the old earl, who had just passed on.  Which of the many cousins had been his heir?  The note summoning her held the Harrington crest and two indiscernible initials. 

121717 regency drawing room

To her surprise, the house had been draped in Christmas finery, pine and holly, bayberry and mistletoe.  After a flash of resentment, Angelica remembered grandfather’s dislike of mourning.  Christmas had been his favorite time of year.  On a Christmas Eve, much like this one, she had come to live with him, a child of twelve.

Smiling at her memories, she followed Charles upstairs to the massive parlor, where he announced her as “Miss Randall.”  Angelica would have corrected him, but the tall, dark-haired man at the fireplace turned and smiled.  She lost her breath entirely.  And remembered the Harrington heir.

121717 family

“Angie!  I’m so relieved you’ve come.”  Tiger-like, he pounced forward and clasped her hand.  His blue-grey eyes twinkled in the candle-light.  “Now I know everything will be fine.  Aren’t you using your married name?”

“Y-yes, Jeremy.  I am Mrs. Finch, now.  I suppose Charles forgot.”  She looked up at him, wishing she had grown a little in the last eight years.  Wishing she had asked who inherited the title before she came running home.

Jeremy’s smile softened.  “I am sorry about your husband.  Terrible thing, the pox. And a child too, I heard?”

121717 holding child

“A daughter.  Thank you, you are most kind.”  She pushed her sorrow back down. He still held her hand, and she pulled away.  The fire drew her, and the boughs of pine and ivy on the mantle.  “The house looks wonderfully cheerful.”

Jeremy followed her; she could feel his eyes on her.  Did he remember, as she did, the last time they stood this close?  Heat raced to her cheeks, and she hurried to say, “Your note said very little, sir.  Why did you need me to come at once?”

“I have inherited a little problem.  No, I’m wrong.  A rather big problem.  You see, our grandfather’s largest collection is now in my hands, and it is my belief a woman would keep it better than I could.”

Angelica looked up, puzzled.  “You can’t be speaking of the snuff boxes or the first edition books.  What else did he collect?”

121717 frozen river

Jeremy lifted a hand to her cheek, catching her off guard.  “You still look like an angel, blond and pink, with those wide pansy-brown eyes.  I’ll give you a hint.  You were the first.”

She could make nothing of his words as her senses flared to life.  Time might have stood still since the last time he touched her, her reaction came as strong and as overpowering. 

Before she could gather enough wit to reply, the parlor door opened, and a small army of children trooped in.  Angelica turned to stare, aware that her mouth had dropped open.  She pressed her lips together and looked at Jeremy.  “Are they yours?”

121717 angel and star

 

We’ll find out where these children came from on Thursday!

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