Read Learning to Waltz Online

Authors: Kerryn Reid

Tags: #romance

Learning to Waltz

 

 

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/).

 

Published By: Taliesin Publishing, LLC, PO Box 155, Sanford, MI 48657

www.taliesinpublishing.com

 

Learning to Waltz

 

Copyright © 2013 by Kerryn Reid

Digital Release: November 2013

ISBN:
978-1-62916-012-2

 

Cover Artist: : James Caldwell

 

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

 

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.

 

Table Of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty Two

Chapter Thirty Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Learning to Waltz by Kerryn Reid

Deborah Moore has learned her lessons well–feel nothing, reveal less, and trust no one. Now widowed with a child of her own, she leads a lonely, cloistered existence, counting her farthings and thinking she is safe. When five-year-old Julian is lost one bitter December day, she discovers how tenuous that safety is.

Evan Haverfield has lived thirty carefree years, hunting, laughing, and dancing among London’s high society. His biggest problem has been finding excuses not to marry. But his life changes when he finds Julian Moore half-frozen under a hedge and carries him home to his mother. The young widow hides behind a mask, hard and reserved, but Evan sees glimpses of another woman, wistful, intelligent, and passionate. She’s vulnerable, desirable—and completely unsuitable for the heir to Northridge.

Alone in the earliest hours of a new year, Evan teaches Deborah to waltz. Can he teach her joy and laughter? Will love sweep away the shadows of her past and reveal the luminous woman she could be?

 

Dedication

– To Mom and Dad –

Who introduced me to romance,

on and off the page

 

 

 

Chapter One

“Julian!” She tried to call out but had no breath to carry the sound.
God, please let this be a nightmare
. She had plenty of experience with those.

The lane stretched longer with each gasp, each stumbling step. She would never reach Whately. The stitch in her side tore her ribs apart. Her skirts were wet to the thighs, tangling themselves around her knees and ankles. Her old boots, soaked and broken, scooped up dirt and pebbles from the road, making her stagger. Thankfully, her feet were numb—her bare hands too, torn by snags and brambles. Not that it mattered. If she didn’t find Julian, nothing would matter.

Just a couple of hours ago Deborah had sent her maid to fetch some eggs from the dairy farther out this same road. The weather was cold and blustery, but Julian had begged to go along and she gave in, bundling him into his coat and sturdy shoes, chiding him for his fidgets as she smoothed the mittens over his hands. He was bound to lose at least one of them.
What a trivial, stupid thing to worry about. Oh, why did I let him go?

Molly and the eggs had come home. Julian had not.

“Oh, ma’am, I didn’t know what else to do! We looked all over, me and John, but couldn’t find any sign of ’im at all. John went back to the farm to see if maybe he went back there, and I come on home to get you.”

Deborah had snatched her woolen cloak from its peg by the kitchen door, knotting it around her neck as they flew out the back gate.

“I’m so sorry, ma’am, I could die,” Molly blubbered. “John was—we were—”

Deborah could just imagine. Molly, only fourteen, had been sweet on the dairyman’s son for months. “It doesn’t matter now.” Later, if they found him, would be time enough for anger.

Molly had stopped, her chest heaving and one hand pressed to her side. “This here’s about where I saw ’im last. One o’ the dogs followed us from the farm an’ they was playing with a stick. He was right there, an’ then I—”

“Julian!” Deborah had called and then whipped around and called again. Ran on a bit and called again, and again. All the way to the farm they ran. No news of him there, though some of the men were still searching the area.

Molly was spent, gasping and sobbing. “Go on inside and get warm,” Deborah told her, “then get John to walk you home. And by heaven, keep your eyes open on the way!”

It had been raining when she left the farm, a frigid wind-blown drizzle that glazed the leaves and grasses. She’d pushed through a stand of trees to the river, called, and called again. Julian loved the river, especially in rough weather like today when it seemed twice the stream it really was, tumbling and shouting. Even screaming as loud as she could, she could hardly hear her own voice.

Slipping on the muddy bank, she’d sloshed up to her knees and bashed her leg against a rock. Julian was not much taller than her knees. There were rocks everywhere. It was so easy to slip, and if he did, it would be his head…

It was that image that drove her now. Back toward the village she ran, lungs burning and legs like wood. The squire’s estate lay clear on the other side. He could organize a search so easily. If he would.
Surely
he would? She cut across a field, tripped and fell, got up and ran some more.

He was not at home. She must have looked a fright because the footman answered her desperate query without hesitation.

“He was to meet with some men at the inn, ma’am. You might look for him there. If you’ll wait—”

But she was off, running again. Another half mile, needles of rain mixing with her tears. She stopped before turning into the high street, her back pressed against the stone wall of Whately’s bakery. The smell of yeast made her nauseous.

She could not run like a rabid dog through the village—
would
not beg Squire Reston for help looking like a madwoman. Her breath rasping in her throat, she adjusted her cloak and wrapped it tight to hide the state of her gown, pulled up her hood and tucked her hair inside it with hands she couldn’t feel.

She squeezed her eyes shut, dug her teeth into her lower lip, and forced her face to stillness. When her breathing no longer sounded like a death rattle, she pushed herself away from the wall. Her knees tried to buckle, but she commanded them to carry her around the corner. She could see the inn sign, so familiar. Just yesterday, Julian had stopped for the hundredth time to exclaim over the painted boar that ran across it. Not so far away…

She nearly fell through the doorway, tripping over the torn sole of her boot. The innkeep’s wife, passing through the hallway with a tray full of dirty dishes, said something sharp, but Deborah paid no heed.

A rumble of voices came from the public room. But as she paused in the doorway to locate Squire Reston, all fell silent. As if they’d frozen in place, mouths open with whatever they’d been saying, eyes turned on her. Was her appearance so shocking? She almost looked down to make sure this was not one of those dreams where she found herself naked in public. Of course, ladies did not frequent public taprooms alone, but she hardly considered herself a lady anymore and did not suppose the townspeople did, either. The air in here was far too warm, suffocating her with the smell of wet wool coats and mufflers hanging by the big fireplace.

She shoved the hood back from her face.
None of that matters! Where is he? Please, please…

Finally she spotted him. Seated with his back to the door, Sir James was turning toward her, no doubt to see what sort of creature had invaded the room. He rose to his considerable height, his blue eyes startled and graying brows raised in surprise. Then a frown creased his forehead as she hurried to his table.

“Why, Mrs. Moore—”

“Please, I must speak with you. Julian—my son—is lost along the river road somewhere. Please, sir…”

A murmur rose around the room, punctuated by the
shushes
of those avid for gossip. How hateful they were! Humiliating enough that she had to come begging; she did not need an audience thirsty for tragedy.

Except she
did
need them, every one of them that the squire could bring to her aid.

Sir James offered her his chair. “Sit down, ma’am, and tell me…”

She shook her head. “No! No, there’s no time.”

“But you must tell me what’s happened before I can take appropriate measures. Sit down and catch your breath while you do so.”

Every instinct screamed to keep moving, keep running. But the other men at the table had risen along with the squire—she could not keep them all on their feet. So she sat, rigid as the chair itself, her hands clenched tight on the table in front of her. Sir James folded himself into the chair beside her.

She might as well have shouted out her dread—some version of it would go home with each one of these ghouls—but she forced herself to speak softly. Until she neared the end of the tale. “We’ve been looking but can’t find any trace of him. The river is wild today, and it’s so cold, I can’t bear to think what might…” She broke off with a gasp and bit into her lip to silence herself. It would be so easy to give in to hysteria.

Sir James had been kind enough in the year since her husband’s death, in his perfunctory way. She already owed him too much, and now this…

He patted her tense hands. “There, there. We’ll find him, don’t you worry.”

Her legs had stiffened as she sat, but she forced them to straighten as she pushed herself to her feet. Sir James circled the room, addressing all the local men. Several of them promised help, and she made a mental list of these further obligations. Mr. Corbett, who grew hay on the squire’s land. Another tenant farmer, whose name she did not know. The brewer, seated at Squire Reston’s table.

But more waved Sir James away. Even Viscount Latimer, with all those servants at his disposal…well, that should be no surprise. He’d never given her husband the time of day and probably did not know she existed.

“Come now, my lord, surely you can give us something,” the squire insisted. In the end the viscount offered up a couple of grooms from his stables and turned back with a huff to the young man seated across the table, staring at her. Shocked, no doubt, at the pathetic picture of humanity she presented.

She could expect nothing from him, either. A stranger, no doubt cut from the same cloth as Viscount Latimer. The last table was a better bet, a pair of winter-idle farm laborers…

“I’ll be there as well,” she heard, and turned back to the viscount’s friend. His gaze was still fixed on her face.

“Good man, Haverfield.” Sir James moved on, but the man stepped toward her and held out his steaming mug.

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