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Silence Is Golden

Silence Is Golden

Vorschau lesen

Silence Is Golden

Länge:
280 Seiten
3 Stunden
Freigegeben:
7. Juni 2017
ISBN:
9781509213597
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Ever since Evelyn Westby was cursed, she hasn't been able to speak to anyone outside her family. That hasn't stopped men from seeking her favor, especially the handsome and eligible Lord Alexander Newgate. But when her sister elopes and her betrothal is then canceled, Evie will do anything to win back her fiancé, even travel to war-torn France to find the gypsy who cursed her. Alfred Coombes takes his fate into his own hands when he quits his employment to follow the call of adventure. On the road, he meets Lady Evelyn Westby and sees she needs a protector. Sacrificing his own journey, he becomes her guardian. Treacherous weather and a sinister smuggler throw them together, and he must decide whether to continue his journey or take a chance on a new adventure with a captivating beauty.
Freigegeben:
7. Juni 2017
ISBN:
9781509213597
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Sara Ackerman writes books about love and life, and all of their messy and beautiful imperfections. She believes that the light is just as important as the dark, and that the world is in need of uplifting and heartwarming stories. Born and raised in Hawaii, she studied journalism and later earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories.


Buchvorschau

Silence Is Golden - Sara Ackerman

Inc.

Her other hand crept up and rested on his upper arm. I know I don’t need to, but please accept my apology anyway.

He studied her for several minutes, the swirling blues and grays in his eyes intensifying the longer he assessed her. He leaned in so his mouth brushed the top of her ear.

If you insist on apologizing, do so for the kiss you stole from me. I never got a chance to steal one back. His whispered words were a fiery caress on her already sensitive skin, and gooseflesh dotted her arms.

I-I don’t take your meaning. Even as she feigned ignorance, she could not ignore the low ache building deep in her abdomen. But I want to return to my seat. She unlaced their fingers and scooted back to her own chair, careful to keep a watchful eye on him lest he surprise her and take the kiss he wanted.

Are we going to avoid talking about it?

About what?

He raised his eyebrows and took a bite. Watching his teeth capture the morsel of meat, she sighed as his mouth wrapped around the tender bite. She licked her lips and caught him staring at her. Her face warmed as much from her wayward fantasies as from his predatory gaze.

Praise for Sara Ackerman

Sara Ackerman flawlessly blends romance, intrigue, and mystery. A fantastic read not to be missed!

~Rose Lange, Gracie's Plan

Ackerman whisks readers to a magical time and place where lust, betrayal, and a gypsy’s curse enchant each page. Readers will want to travel back in time and make Tavis their own.

~Ava Black, Crimespree Magazine

~*~

The Westby Sisters Series

includes

LITTLE WHITE LIES

SILENCE IS GOLDEN

and

SILVER-TONGUED TEMPTRESS

All are available from The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

Silence Is Golden

by

Sara Ackerman

The Westby Sisters, Book Two

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

Silence Is Golden

COPYRIGHT © 2017 by Sara Ackerman

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Contact Information: info@thewildrosepress.com

Cover Art by Debbie Taylor

The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

PO Box 708

Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708

Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com

Publishing History

First Tea Rose Edition, 2017

Print ISBN 978-1-5092-1358-0

Digital ISBN 978-1-5092-1359-7

The Westby Sisters, Book Two

Published in the United States of America

Dedication

To R-

Did I write a book to prove I've been right all this time?

Why, yes. Yes, I did.

Prologue

London

The rain pattered against the window pane in Evelyn Westby’s upstairs bedroom of Westby Manor, the steady drops a sharp staccato in the still room. She swung her legs from her perch on the window seat, twirling curly strands of white-blonde hair between her fingers. The bleak June afternoon suited her mood.

She was bored. Nothing had been the same since her sisters left. Beatrice, the eldest Westby sister, had disappeared without a word to anyone, and Amelia, her elder sister by two years, had been gone for weeks, eloping with a perfect stranger at her come-out ball. Now Mother and Father were gone, too, having located Amelia in Scotland, of all places, and Evelyn was left alone. There was no one to talk to besides the servants, and it had been days since anyone called on her.

Not even my betrothed. She pushed aside the nagging doubt something was wrong and reminded herself Lord Alexander Newgate was what a gentleman ought to be—handsome, titled, and above all, considerate of her needs. It was difficult to imagine what kept him from her side, as previously he had not spent more than a day away from her since their engagement was announced. She hoped nothing had happened to cause him to regret his choice of bride.

A swift knock on the door had her scurrying from her perch. She flung it open, and the cheerful face of her long-time maid, Camilla, greeted her.

A letter for you, my lady. The maid curtsied and offered a sealed letter.

It’s from Alex. She sighed, clutched the missive to her breast, and shooed Camilla away. Once settled in the window seat, she tore open the seal and read.

Dear Evelyn,

I want to apologize for not calling on you these last three days. Each of those days away from you has been tortuous, my beloved. Mother and Father, though, attended the Stones’ ball last week and have learned of your sister’s infamous elopement, and they are not pleased. They told me that while they were willing to overlook your curse because you are a sweet, pleasing young woman, they could not dismiss your sister’s scandalous elopement, no matter if her groom is the fifth Earl of Stanton. Two scandals in one family are unacceptable.

What was he telling her? His parents disapproved of her sister’s elopement? They could overlook her curse? With trembling fingers, she turned the page.

I am sorry, but in light of recent events in your family, I am breaking off our engagement. Please know I will always hold you in the highest regard.

Cordially,

Lord Newgate

The letter fluttered to the floor while she processed those upsetting words. One phrase out of all the others returned to bother her, and it wasn’t until she retrieved the discarded letter she found it.

Cordially, Lord Newgate? she screamed to the empty room after locating the offending phrase which rankled more than any of the others in his horrible letter. Cordially?? Not a week ago, he had signed his letters with greatest affection and love, and now he was using cordially, a word she didn’t use even to address distant acquaintances, let alone one’s betrothed—or former betrothed.

Jumping from her seat, she stalked to the fire and threw the letter into it.

Because of your mother we are no longer betrothed, are we? Bird-witted goose, she muttered to the flickering flames, wishing it were Lady Newgate’s head she was watching disappear instead of her son’s letter.

Though Lady Newgate had never objected to her curse, Evelyn knew the aging matron harbored doubts about the success of a marriage in which one of the members was mute. They had both reassured her of their marriage’s success because they loved one another, and love conquered all. At least she had believed so. Now she wasn’t so sure about Lord Newgate’s love, given he had folded at the first sign of protest from his mother.

Another phrase bothered her, and she stormed back to the fireplace to yell at the last remnants of burning paper, What does he mean his parents learned of the elopement a week ago? All of London has known for ages!

Once her sister Amelia had run away, it wasn’t long before the real story behind her disappearance surfaced for all of London to gossip about. While some called it scandalous and made a point to ignore her and her family when out in society, she didn’t care about the ton’s opinion. She was delighted for her sister and any happiness she found. The curse had made their lives difficult, bringing nothing but grief, yet Amelia had found her happy ending. What did she care if disapproving matrons gave her the cut direct at recent soirées? Her sister was happy. She did worry about her future family’s reaction to the news, but her betrothed had assured her it changed nothing between them.

Bollocks. Except, according to your letter, it did. Either Lord Newgate or his parents needed a reason to end the engagement. Her sister’s elopement was all the excuse they required. Who do they want for him instead of me? She narrowed her eyes at an unhappy possibility. Or who does he want for himself?

Throwing herself on her bed, she stared at her canopied ceiling in an attempt to quiet her racing mind. As it often did when ideas crowded her mind and words overlapped, the haunting song of the gypsy’s curse wove its way through the muddle.

Be still, little girl, and dry your pretty eyes. Quiet, precious child, there’s no need to cry. Hush, my girl. Don’t say another word. Silent now, child, never more will you be heard.

They were calming words to soothe a frightened child. Though she remembered the gypsy woman singing it to her, sometimes she imagined it was all a dream. It happened so long ago, and the gypsy woman had smiled with infinite sadness when she sang to her. She knew in her heart the old woman meant her no harm. When she remembered her parents’ distraught faces as they begged her to speak, and her own rampant panic when she was unable to, she knew it had never been a dream, and the words which had at first soothed her into calmness grew larger, lodging in her throat until no sound escaped.

Not being able to speak aloud in front of others had its disadvantages. She had to wait to be noticed, and she never shared in gossip with other young ladies of her acquaintance. No, if she wanted to be included in the conversation she had to wait until others had time to read what she had written. She hated it. What’s more, she hated waiting for others when she was ready now.

She twitched. Her calming routine was not doing its job. Hush, Evie, hush. After years of repeating those words, they filtered through her mind like the trickle of a stream in a silent forest. Ever present, it allowed her to focus on what was important.

In an instant she knew what had to be done. My betrothal, she announced to no one in particular. I need to make Alex see ours is still a good match, and to do so… Her idea was brilliant, and her confidence soared as her sketchy plan took shape.

She leapt from the bed and rummaged through her dressing room storage until she found her luggage. In a trice, she was packed and ready to leave.

There is nothing to be done about my sister’s elopement, but I know what to do about the curse.

Evelyn Grace Westby was done waiting.

****

It had been almost two hours, and still Alfred T. Coombes, solicitor and man of business to the fifth Earl of Stanton, sat unattended, waiting for the elusive Lord Westby to receive him. He sighed and pulled out his pocket watch to check the hour for the tenth time since the Westbys’ aging butler had shown him into this cramped, ugly front parlor.

He was all too used to being shoved away in tiny, out-of-the-way rooms waiting for someone to appear. While the rich and titled needed money to continue the lifestyle they enjoyed, none wanted to deal with the day-to-day monotony of managing it. He was the lucky sot who claimed that privilege. Last year, when the late Earl of Stanton employed him to negotiate a contract and then asked him to stay on and help manage Stanton’s vast holdings, Alfred’s role evolved to include estate management as well as contract negotiations. At the time, he’d told the late earl he’d stay until his lordship no longer needed him. The former earl had died months ago, and with him so did Alfred’s obligation. Yet here he was, stuck in another forgotten, stuffy room.

How he wished for a job where he set his own schedule and did what he wanted, but when given the opportunity, he had not seized it. The new earl had assumed Alfred came with the estate, and as he had long since accepted his lot in life, Alfred had not corrected him. The more fool he for allowing apathy to limit his independence.

Instead he was subjected to the whims of his employer, Lord Tavis McGuire, a temperamental former soldier now turned earl. Though his disposition had improved upon marriage to Lady Stanton, he still barked out orders like the captain he was trained to be. Out of the blue, Lord Stanton had ordered Coombes to pack his bags and travel to London to wait upon Lord Westby. Once in London, he was to finalize a marriage settlement between the Earl of Stanton and his new wife, Lord Westby’s middle daughter, Lady Amelia Stanton, née Westby.

He did not like being ordered about, even if his employer had sent him to London, a place he could appreciate much more than the wilds of Scotland. No, he objected on principle. One man should not be able to order another about.

Glancing at his pocket watch yet again, he fumed. Furthermore, one man should not make another wait for more than two hours!

Yanking on his neck tie—he always managed to tie the damn things too tight—he paced the small confines of the room.

If it was one thing he hated, it was waiting. Even as a young child he had disliked waiting, as idle time was wasted time. His father had often cautioned him on the misery born from impatience, saying an impatient man was one who could never comprehend the marvels of the universe. His father was a little silly, worrying about the marvels of the world when he himself was a mere solicitor, but he insisted a man needed to feed the soul from the beauty of the world as much as he needed to fill his belly from the fruits of his labor.

He remembered laughing at his father, telling him, What good does it do to smell the flowers when you have to pay for the pleasure in the first place? By applying myself, I can make enough money to buy an entire greenhouse and smell the flowers whenever I want!

His father had shaken his head, a sad frown marring his face. You may gain wealth beyond measure, but what will you lose along the way?

Two weeks later, as he prepared to depart for a career in shipping on the sugar plantations of Jamaica, his father had died. Overnight, Alfred was transformed from a confident, carefree young man to the serious head of the household providing for his mother and younger siblings.

Five years had passed, and each year he spent working for someone else, he lost another piece of the young man he had once been. Soon there would be nothing left for him to lose. At moments like this, his father’s words returned to haunt him. Since their conversation all those years ago, he had lost what mattered most—his father, his chance at success, his youth—and what did he have to show for it?

He was twenty-five years old, almost twenty-six, and from the day his father had died, he’d not known a moment’s peace. If he wasn’t caring for his mother and siblings, he worked day and night ensuring the solvency of other men’s properties. It angered him, and if he were honest with himself, it made him jealous, to work so hard and watch other men reap the benefits of his efforts.

It wasn’t as if his dreams were as lofty as they were when he was younger. Once, maybe, he had dared to reach for the stars, but years of responsibility and hard work had destroyed any shred of hope he may have harbored for himself. Now, he wished for a home of his own, maybe a wife and a couple of children, though he was reluctant to admit it. He was too afraid of wishing for more than he deserved.

No, the day he buried his father was the day he had resolved to do whatever it took to ensure the wellbeing of his family, even if it meant sacrificing his own desires. Most of the time, he never regretted his decision, content to put aside all of his aspirations in light of his family’s obvious need. Over the years, he numbed himself to the daily tasks required of him until he no longer remembered a time before he was a solicitor.

If there was a small part of his soul retaining the memory of a bright, carefree boy eager for adventure out in the world, he pushed it away. One day soon it would disappear, and with it the remaining dreams of his younger self. In his place would be a lonely, bitter man with no dreams left to live.

He pushed aside his maudlin gloom. I hate waiting! With those words resounding throughout the empty room, he knew. He knew he could no longer wait while others dictated his life. He could no longer stand by and watch other men get rich off his hard work. His mother and two youngest siblings would get by. After all, hadn’t he saved some of his wages all these years?

Firming his jaw lest he lose his sudden burst of confidence and newfound resolve, he straightened his jacket and strode out of the cramped receiving room, through the front door, and on to the bustling streets of London.

Alfred T. Coombes was done waiting.

Chapter 1

Lady Evelyn Westby was not a superstitious person by nature. She had always scoffed at the supernatural beliefs many a peer of the realm still held to his blue-blooded breast. It astonished her how educated and God-fearing members populating the aristocracy retained the fears of their early cave-dwelling ancestors, huddling around the campfire to ward off evil spirits. Of course, the aristocracy would never make a fire in the wild when the soft glow of candlelight in a well-situated room served the same purpose, but the sentiments were the same. While desperate mamas with daughters of marriageable age fretted about spots and lack of interested suitors, others whispered behind their hands about how the unlucky mother had spied the new moon through a glass when she was expecting. Or when a gentleman ran out of luck at the tables, someone commented how they had seen him cross two knives at dinner.

It was all nonsense. Good luck or bad was not the product of a broken mirror or whether a person happened to sneeze on a Monday versus a Sunday. Even cursed as she was, she did not believe it was because of something her parents may or may not have done. She was cursed because she told a lie when she was five years old. While there were definite aspects of the curse she disliked, it had served her well. Hadn’t it made her an object of mystery and allure in the eyes of London’s eligible gentlemen? Hadn’t her curse caused her guilt-ridden parents to give her anything she desired? Some might call it luck, but she called it good planning. She knew how to use her curse to get what she wanted from people. It had been a useful tool over the years, one she wielded with precision. Now, with her engagement cancelled, she no longer had any use for it. Her curse was an illness and had taken her away from the one man she ever wanted. She was desperate for a cure. Though one had not been found, it did not negate the fact a cure was possible. If anyone could find it, she could. Unlike the frantic mothers of unmarriageable daughters in their third season or the poor card players who lost more than they won, she had a plan. She always had a plan.

Take her curse, for instance. She knew what needed to be done. She would travel to France and find the gypsy who cursed her. After she made the gypsy undo the curse, she would return home to marry Lord Alex and live happily ever after. Five days ago when she had concocted this idea, she had been certain of her success and was eager to leave because the sooner she left London, the sooner this whole misunderstanding with Lord Newgate would be resolved.

There was one teensy problem barring her from her heart’s desire. She had no money, and without money she couldn’t go far. A search of her father’s study for his stash of pin money proved fruitless, as did a thorough inspection of all of her mother’s hiding spots. It wasn’t until she stumbled upon a little nook next to her father’s study that her prospects turned around. Finding tens of thousands of pounds stuffed between the pages of several musty books increased her surety of eventual success in this endeavor.

With a fortuitous beginning to her journey—due to excellent planning on her part—she had hopes the journey between London and Surrey would be as easy as finding a king’s ransom in a pile of old books. Yet ever since boarding the stagecoach, she was reevaluating her beliefs about the importance of superstitions. Maybe she had been too hasty to dismiss the omens her peers took to heart. Maybe careful planning did not mean Fate would not intercede and turn her plans topsy-turvy.

Her stomach pitched as the pelting rain buffeted the coach and she and the other passengers clung to the inside in white-knuckled terror.

More likely, this coach will upend before Fate has a crack at me.

Lord almighty! Mrs. Peabody cried as the driver took a turn too fast and the entire coach shuddered, listing dangerously to one side. Mrs. Peabody shifted, her ample frame trapping

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