Authors: Karyn Gerrard
His heart begins to heal…
He gave her shelter from the storm, nursed her back to health, just as any good man might do for a damsel in distress. But Tremain Colson is more than just a small town vicar performing a gallant duty. He’s an ex-soldier whose spirit has been ravaged by war, a nobleman hiding his aristocratic heritage. Yet despite his secrets, he cannot help but feel drawn to the fallen beauty and soon asks her to stay and care for the orphan in his charge…
And hers is lost…
Disgrace sent Eliza Winston out into the world, a governess in ruin. But once she finds herself in Tremain’s home—and in his bed—she realizes her handsome rescuer is the one in need of healing. No sooner does Eliza thaw the vicar’s heart than she realizes her own is in danger. For Tremain is not only the man she dreams of marrying, but a blueblood whose noble birth makes him an impossible match….
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The Vicar’s Frozen Heart
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Copyright © 2015 by Karyn Gerrard
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First Electronic Edition: March 2016
Printed in the United States of America
To my ancestors who lived and/or fought during World War II, particularly my late great-uncle, Donald Lewis Evans, of the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve, who made the ultimate sacrifice May 23, 1944.
Also to my late father, whom I miss every day. You would have liked this story, dad.
Although I love historicals, I have never written one set in the 20th century. World War II England presented some challenges. Many thanks to my teacher husband and his passion for history as he assisted me every step of the way.
I also wish to thank Kensington Publishing for contracting The Ravenswood Chronicles, and again thanks to my editor, Amanda Siemen.
January 1882, Yorkshire
Eliza Winston experienced many dressings down in her life, but none as vicious and hurtful as the one Lady Bowater gave her. Standing in the drawing room with the housekeeper, Mrs. Travers, Eliza faced the firing squad with her chin jutting out in stubborn defiance.
“I will not tolerate this sort of loose morals in any member of my staff, Miss Winston. Especially not in a governess,” Lady Bowater huffed with indignation. “Do you deny you’ve had carnal relations with my son?”
The pert reply nearly escaped her lips, but instead Eliza decided staying calm and stemming the sarcasm would be a more prudent plan. “I do not deny it. If you ask William, he will inform you the consensual assignation was of a brief duration.” In fact, their scandalous affair lasted barely two weeks with three mediocre tumbles between the sheets. Well, perhaps more than mediocre, not that she had any vast sexual experience to go by.
“He is Mr. Winters to you, my girl!” Mrs. Travers snapped.
Lady Bowater held up her hand to silence the housekeeper. “The Honorable Mr. Winters is no longer on the premises. He’s decided the time has come for a stint in the army. It will do him a world of good. Build character. Quite a shame we cannot do the same with you.”
Now here she stood and he’d been sent off to the army. Eliza winced inwardly.
They never would have been discovered if his loud, enthusiastic yells had not been heard through the entire servants’ wing.
“You’ve worked here two years and I am extremely disappointed to find my trust in you sorely misplaced. You are dismissed immediately.” Mrs. Travers bobbed her head in agreement at Lady Bowater’s admonishing tone. “You will be given thirty pounds, but I will have assurances you will not turn up on this doorstep again, even if you find yourself with child. Nor will you have contact with any member of my family or this household. Those are the conditions.”
It sounded as if Lady Bowater had done this before with female servants
. Thirty pounds?
Eliza did not expect such a sum. Not a chance. With knowledge comes power and she had made bloody sure his nibs wore sheaths. Regardless, she gave her ladyship a stiff nod in agreement.
“Mrs. Travers has written you a letter of reference. It is not exactly glowing, but adequate enough for your needs.” The housekeeper thrust a sealed envelope into Eliza’s hand. “Your trunk has been packed and brought downstairs. Furthermore, I’ve hired transport to take you far from this estate and Yorkshire.”
Goodness, Lady Bowater was not wasting a moment.
“It’s seven o’clock. Couldn’t my departure wait until morning?” Eliza asked, her voice shaking on the last two words as the reality of what was happening began to sink in.
“I want you gone from the premises straight away.” Lady Bowater handed an envelope to Mrs. Travers, who in turn handed it to Eliza, disgust clear on both their faces. Eliza’s heart tumbled in trepidation, the ramifications of her brief dalliance hitting her hard at last. Through hard work and determination she’d managed to secure a good position and now she’d ruined it.
All on me.
Well, not completely her fault, there was enough blame to share with William. But she should have shown forbearance in the face of a tempting seduction. She was smarter than that. At least, she had been. Eliza turned her attention to Lady Bowater. “The men I hired will be escorting you through the night to Dover. The farther you are from here, the better.”
Eliza blinked rapidly. “But your ladyship, wouldn’t traveling by train the entire distance be more expedient?”
“I do not trust you. You could disembark from any stop. I want you delivered personally to the Southeast Coast,” Lady Bowater answered haughtily. “However, I gave the men permission to use the train part of the way should the weather deteriorate.”
Eliza gulped. “I’ve never been to Southeast England. I do not know anyone....”
“Exactly. Now, be gone from my sight. Wretched wanton. Vixen.” Lady Bowater’s face flushed with self-righteous anger or abhorrence, maybe both, as Eliza couldn’t be sure. The woman’s eyes narrowed. “Seducer of innocent boys.”
Granted, pretty William was three years her junior, but at nineteen years of age he was certainly old enough for sex. And hardly all that innocent, as he seemed to know what he was about in bed. Regardless, the words hit their mark, churning her insides.
Mrs. Travers clasped Eliza’s elbow tightly and steered her from the room. “A fine mess you’ve got yourself in, my girl. All to have a young lordling between your legs. Stupid, stupid,” Mrs. Travers whispered fiercely as she pulled Eliza toward the downstairs entrance.
Eliza wriggled out of the housekeeper’s clutches. “One moment, please. I want to go through my room one last time and collect my coat and reticule, at least grant me that.”
Sighing, Mrs. Travers did an about-face and then pulled Eliza upstairs to the servants’ quarters. For an older lady she could move quickly. An enormous ring of keys bounced against her hip with each long stride. Mrs. Travers stopped in front of the door and released her. Eliza rubbed her arm. Thanks to the housekeeper’s tight grip, she would no doubt have bruises.
“Make haste. I grant you five minutes. I’ll wait right here.”
After slipping into the room, Eliza closed the door behind her. Tears welled in her eyes the instant she found herself alone.
Hell. Bloody hell.
She’d made a complete muck of things. With no family to turn to she had no choice but to go where told. If she refused, the money and reference would be lost to her. Wiping the hot tears from her cheeks, she frowned while glancing about the room. It was bright and pleasant with a comfortable bed and a good size window to let in the sunlight. Better accommodations than at the orphanage.
During the past two years, Eliza had added little touches to make her living space her own, a rug, a framed picture of a calm ocean, and a blue quilt with a star design. The items weren’t there; hopefully they were placed in her trunk and not tossed in the rubbish bin. They had certainly cleaned out her belongings. Opening each drawer, she made sure nothing was left behind. Empty. Slamming them shut, Eliza spied her shawl hanging on a wall hook near the bureau. She pulled it down, opened the envelope, and carefully separated the pound notes, tucking a few in each of the shawl’s hidden pockets.
Long ago she’d learned that when travelling with money, hiding it on your person was the sensible thing to do. The wool coat and reticule must be with her trunk. Standing in the middle of the room, a tug of regret filled her. How she would miss little Lady Susanna, her charge. A delightful child. They wouldn’t even allow her to say good-bye.
Eliza had been raised at the St. Ann’s Industrial School and Orphanage to be a governess, a respected position within the pecking order of the servant world. Not an easy situation to obtain, but she accomplished it thanks to her abundant nerve and clever intelligence. Only she abandoned her intelligence as soon as William’s lips touched hers. Perhaps she
a wanton. Truth be told, she rather enjoyed carnal activities.
Too late for regrets. A brave face was needed for this sorry situation. She would walk out of the Estate with her head held high though her insides tumbled with uncertainty. Like it or not, it was time to move on with the rest of her life.
* * * *
Eliza could not say how many hours had passed. The rocking of the carriage made sleep impossible, not that she could relax. Instead, she relived the humiliating calling-on-the carpet she’d received. How arrogant of her to think she could indulge in a clandestine dalliance with the earl’s youngest son. His handsome face, golden hair, and broad shoulders awakened something inside her: a vast, deep passion she had no inkling existed. Eliza liked it when he kissed her, thrust into her, held her close when they completed the act. Such
Perhaps William sensed her desperation for warmth and human contact. Somehow, she doubted the young man was quite that clever. He’d wanted a shag, pure and simple, and it seemed she had as well.
Rubbing her burning, tired eyes, Eliza pushed aside the curtain and glanced outside. Complete blackness filled the horizon except for the snow tumbling from the sky. For the middle of January, she supposed a clear road for passage was too much to ask. In fact, the snow looked deep. With a sudden jolt the carriage came to a halt.