“I do not care what it is you wish,” her father’s voice boomed, though there was a notable shake in his tone that she did not miss. “You will obey me in this matter and let go of these wild ideas.”
Sarah Poole gazed helplessly at her father, frustration and despair whirling within her. They stood together outside the small barn that shared their family’s plot of land with their house. Sarah’s mother and younger siblings were inside, still asleep, as it was barely sunrise.
“Papa, please…I just want to help….”
He shook his head sharply and growled, “We have had this conversation before, and I do not understand why you believe my views on the matter will change. My daughter will not train horses. That is not what you are meant to do with your life.”
It was a conversation…or rather, an argument…they had had many times before. Sarah’s father, Arthur, was the master of the local village stables and an expert horse trainer. She had grown up watching the magic he could do with the animals and had always wanted to follow in his footsteps and work at the stables, training horses.
Unfortunately, her father was far from supportive of her aspirations.
“Papa, you know that I am more capable than all of the stable hands beneath you,” Sarah insisted. “I would relieve some of the weight on your shoulders and help support the family. Is that not a good enough reason to let me work for you?”
Her father’s eyes narrowed, but he was overcome by a coughing attack before he could respond. Sarah’s heart thudded painfully as she watched him struggle. No matter how many times she witnessed him in such a state, it never got any easier.
She knew she should not be getting him so worked up. The illness ravaging his body stole his strength and made it difficult for him to work and fulfil the responsibilities of his position. Such an argument was likely to steal his little power for the day.
She would have tried harder to avoid such a confrontation with him, but he had caught her off guard. All she had wanted to do was sneak in an early morning ride before the day truly began. She had not expected to find her father already out in the barn, caring for the few horses they called their own.
“This is not a discussion I will have with you anymore,” her father snapped. “Get back to the house and ready yourself to help your mother with morning chores.”
Gritting her teeth, Sarah replied, “I intended to ride this morning.”
“That is not necessary,” he said dismissively.
Now she was growing irritated. “You are right, papa, it might not be necessary, but I want the exercise. If you refuse to let me work with horses, I can at least enjoy an outing now and then, can I not?”
Her father regarded her for long moments with a tense jaw, and she thought he would refuse to allow her to go out.
To her surprise, he finally gave a stiff nod. “Very well. You may go, but do not be out for long. I want you to help your mother with your brother and sister when they are all awake. That is your place, and those skills will provide for your future much more than horse training ever will, I assure you.”
Sarah did not want him to be right. She wanted to scream at him that she could contribute so much more to their family through working to bring in money than she could trying to lure in a husband. That, however, was what her father truly wanted her to focus on. Getting married and starting a family of her own.
Letting her work as a horse trainer was simply a waste of time in her father’s mind. She knew he wanted her to marry up, and in his view, no gentleman would take notice of a young lady that worked in anything other than homemaking.
Deciding it was best not to say anything and just walk away before she lost her temper entirely, Sarah nodded to him and turned to walk into the barn. She heard him start to make his way back to the house, and she paused once she was inside the barn and glanced over her shoulder.
He was moving slowly and limping. Sadness washed over her at the sight. Her father tried to mask just how sickly he truly was, but she could see how much pain he was actually in when he thought no one was looking.
The sorrow and worry she felt for her father swirled together with her irritation and frustration, and she hurried to get her horse saddled. She needed to get out of there. Needed to feel the wind against her cheeks as she tried to outrun all the disappointments trying to drag her down into the depths of despair.
She mounted her horse, directed it out of the barn and paused to look back at her family’s home, highlighted by the rising sun. She loved so much about her life, but there were moments, like the one she had just shared with her father, when she wondered if this was indeed where she was supposed to be.
Was this all she could expect from her life? Was she really doomed to push aside her dreams and simply settle into what was expected of her? Marriage to a man who would likely want her only to cook and clean for him and bare his children?
The thought made her stomach twist. Turning away from her home, she urged her horse forward into a gallop, her sights set on the forest down the road and the trail she knew would offer her some peace and quiet so that she could take stock of her life and figure out what it was she could do to avoid the fate her father assumed would be hers.
“Riding alone today, my Lord?”
Peter Hallow, Marquess of Hampton, nodded to the stable hand currently holding out the reins to his stallion.
“Yes, I am,” he answered, taking the reins and moving to mount the horse. “If anyone asks, I have gone into the village to conduct some business.”
The stable hand, a young boy with bright red hair, frowned. “Is that not the truth of it, my Lord?”
Peter gave the boy a mischievous grin. “No. I am going to go riding in the woods.”
Blinking, the stable hand slowly nodded, “I see, my Lord. Well, I hope you do enjoy the lovely day.”
Peter nodded, turned his horse around, and urged it forward along the path leading from the stables that would take him across an open field and then into the woods he wished to ride through. It was the opposite direction he would ride to get to the village.
As Peter made his way down the path, he glanced back over his shoulder and found the boy watching him with a furrowed brow. He was clearly confused by Peter’s actions, but the young stable hand knew better than to question a nobleman. For a moment, Peter had thought the boy might ask him why he was lying. In fact, he had kind of hoped he would, as it would break the monotonous mould that was his life.
Though he was somewhat disappointed that the stable hand had held his tongue in the end, Peter could not blame him. The boy’s position in the world was far more precarious than Peter’s was. One wrong word, and the lad could find himself in trouble.
Sighing, Peter urged his horse to break into a faster trot. As the cool morning breeze whipped across his face, he felt the tension begin to leave his shoulders. It had been a rough beginning to the day. He had received a message from his parents inviting him over that day for a discussion.
Peter could imagine what it was they wished to discuss. It was the same topic they brought up nearly every time he saw them. Or, rather, the same topic his mother brought up. In truth, he did not think his father cared all that much about the matter, apart from Peter getting around to it sooner rather than later.
Marriage. Marriage was becoming a point of contention between Peter and his parents…his mother in particular. Upon receiving the note, he immediately determined that he needed to go riding. Needed to clear his head before he made his way to his parent’s estate.
Making his way across the field, he reached the forest and plunged in among the trees along a path he knew well. His horse was steady on its feet as they moved, quickly picking its way among the uneven ground.
Peter let his mind wander as he relaxed into his saddle. He trusted the horse to make its way along the path. Releasing a long breath, he thought about how he would handle the conversation with his parents. His mother would not take no for an answer, he was well aware of that, but Peter was simply not interested in marriage. At least not the kind his parents wished for him.
It was his duty, he was well aware of that, but he thought it rather ridiculous that he would attach himself to a perfect stranger he might not even like simply because it was expected of him. No…no, that is not what Peter wanted.
If and when he married, it would be to a lady he actually wanted to spend time with. Someone he respected and whose company he enjoyed. He wanted someone who would improve his life in more than just financial ways. In truth, he did not care much for dowries. Peter was of the mind that marriages should have more emotional value than monetary value.
It was a relatively rare point-of-view in the Ton, where almost everyone was obsessed with improving their position within society through nearly any means necessary. Marriage was seen only as a means to an end in such instances. Peter thought marriage in and of itself should be the end goal.
No matter how many times he tried to explain this to his mother and father, however, they never seemed to understand. He did not know what else he could say, but he was growing increasingly frustrated and hopeless that he would ever make them see that he would marry one day, but it would be on his terms and not theirs.
Peter grew so distracted by his thoughts that he did not notice right away when his horse began to falter in its steps. Only when it stopped entirely and began to paw at the ground nervously did he realize something was wrong.
“What is it, old boy?” Peter asked with a frown, leaning down and patting the horses’ neck. However, his soothing words and gentle touch did not seem to calm the animal. Instead, he grew increasingly agitated.
Peter felt a stab of nervousness in his belly. Before he could do anything else to try and calm the horse down, it let out a wild whinny and reared up onto its hind legs. Peter clung to his reins and saddle, so he was not thrown to the ground. As soon as the horse’s hooves touched the earth once more, it shot off down the path at breakneck speed.
All Peter could do as the animal went barreling forward down the path was hang on with all his might, praying he did not lose his grip and go tumbling down to the ground.
The sound of her horses’ hooves running along the forest trail was soothing to her ears. It was a perfect day for riding. The sun was shining, and a lovely breeze rustled the leaves in the trees and sent a tendril of her hair flowing across her forehead.
Sarah reached up to push the stray strand back behind her ear before tilting her head back to soak up the sun’s beams. It was a peaceful moment, and she savoured it. Such moments seemed to be becoming rarer and rarer as the difficulties her family faced continued to increase.
At the thought, Sarah dropped her face from the sun and leaned over her horse’s neck. She urged the animal into a run, hoping she could flee all the cares and concerns that haunted her day in and day out. She did not want to think about her father or his health. She did not want to think about her mother, who put on a brave face but who Sarah could tell was growing increasingly concerned by the family’s finances. She did not want to think of her younger brother and sister, who were both, for the most part, ignorant of the state of things.
Tears pricked the corners of her eyes. No. No, she would not let them fall. Not when she was riding. Riding was a source of happiness for her. An escape. She could not allow her worries to taint this one thing she had where she could feel truly carefree.
Sarah was so lost in her thoughts that she did not hear the approaching rider until they were nearly upon her. She realized someone was racing in her direction just in time to pull her horse to a stop and avoid a collision.
The large black stallion that had almost run her down reared up on its hind legs with an angry screech. Sarah’s smaller mare shied away from the brute, but she calmed the animal enough to keep her from bolting away.
Once the stallion lowered back down to all fours, Sarah took in the rider and readied to give them a thorough scolding. Once her eyes fell on the rider, a young gentleman, she froze, and her harsh words died on her tongue.
“I beg your pardon, miss,” he said, his expression one of genuine concern. “Are you hurt at all?”
Sarah could not find her voice to reply right away. The gentleman was quite handsome, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a robust and athletic figure. He was dressed very finely in a deep blue velvet coat, top hat, tan trousers, and shiny black riding boots. She was almost certain by the tailored cut and fine material of his clothing that he was of the nobility.
“Miss?” he gently prompted, pulling her from her whirling thoughts.
Sarah’s cheeks heated when she realized she had been staring at him.
“Oh, I am terribly sorry,” she hurriedly said, dropping her gaze. What was she doing, gazing so blatantly at someone so obviously high above her station? “I…I think I was momentarily stunned.”
However, she could not help but peek up at him and saw his strong brow furrow. “I should be the one apologizing. I am so sorry that I frightened you. You are not injured, I hope?”
That was the second time he had asked such a question, and Sarah felt a rush of embarrassment that she had not yet answered him and put his mind at ease. Then again, he had been the one to nearly run her over, so should she be so concerned about his state of mind?
Her mind was jumbled, and she forced herself to focus on the conversation, finally telling him, “No, I am not injured. Just startled.”
Looking bashful, he rubbed a hand at the back of his head.
“It was the strangest thing,” he said. “Usually, Brutus here is a very steady mount and doesn’t spook easily. However, he was startled by a snake crossing our path for some reason. I cannot explain it, really.”
“That is odd,” Sarah agreed, gazing at the large stallion with a discerning eye. He stared back at her with his giant black eyes, giving nothing of his inner workings away. “He is a beautiful animal.”
The gentleman chuckled. “He is spirited. I am about the only person that he allows to ride him.”
Sarah glanced back up at the rider with a small smile. “A discerning horse is usually a good judge of character.”
The gentleman released a surprised laugh. “Is that so? I suppose I should be grateful that he is so particular then. That makes me feel quite good about myself.”
Sarah giggled, and then silence fell between them as they stared at each other. She had to admit that she was somewhat at a loss about what she should say next. It was not as if she had never spoken to a nobleman before. In her work at the stables, she often interacted with upper-class members.
Something about this gentleman, though, seemed to steal her reason and usual wit. It did not help that he appeared as unable to come up with something to say as she was.
At last, he cleared his throat and blurted, “Forgive me. I am being rude. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Peter Hallows, Marquess of Hampton.”
He was a nobleman then.
Sarah inclined her head since she was not able to curtsy. “A pleasure to meet you, my Lord. My name is Miss Sarah Poole.”
“The pleasure is all mine, Miss Poole.”
Was it her imagination, or had he seemed to relish saying, miss? Sarah blinked, banishing the silly thought. She could not allow herself to be fanciful.
“What brings you out to these woods today, Miss Poole? If you do not mind my asking?”
“Oh, well, I find that this area tends to be quiet,” Sarah explained, surprised by his question and apparent interest. She would not have expected him to linger after assuring himself that she was all right. “I can ride here without worrying about bothering anyone. Well, usually.”
She let out a little laugh so that he did not take her words as criticism.
Lord Hampton grinned. “I suppose I should apologize for interrupting your peace and quiet, but if I am honest, I am somewhat grateful that my mount was uncharacteristically spooked.”
“Why is that, my Lord?” she asked with a small smile.
“If not for that, I likely would never have run into you…almost literally.”
Sarah’s cheeks heated, and she let out a little laugh.
“Have you been enjoying my company that much?” she teased. “It has only been a few minutes.”
He nodded. “Indeed, but it seems a few minutes is all that is required to recognize your shining personality, Miss Poole.”
He was flirting with her. In truth, it was highly improper for this exchange to take place. They had not been introduced formally, and she had no chaperone to guard her virtue while she spoke with him. Still, she could not find it in herself to be displeased by his attentions.
She thought him rather charming, in fact.
“May I ask where you are headed, my Lord?” she asked, moving the topic to safer territory. “What brings you to these woods?”
He let out a sigh and answered, “I am just on my way to meet with my mother and father at their estate just outside of these woods. They wish to have a discussion that I imagine will not be pleasant.”
“That is a shame to hear,” she told him.
He shrugged. “It is, and it is not. I am quite close to my parents, but there are some aspects of my life that they do not truly approve of.”
“Such as?” The words slipped from her lips before she realized how inappropriate they were. It was none of her concern what parts of his life his parents did not like. Really, she should not be prying, not only because he was a noble but because it was rude.
However, to her surprise, he did not appear to mind her question.
“My continued bachelorhood, for one,” he confessed with a grin. “They simply cannot understand why I have not already found a young lady to take for my wife. It is simply shocking to them.”
The way he spoke was teasing and humorous, but Sarah could sense some underlying tension in his words. This was apparently an issue that truly bothered him, and she found herself curious as to why that was. It was not so unusual, she did not think, for a young, handsome lord to delay marrying for the sake of a few more years of freedom.
However, she was not a member of the nobility nor part of the illustrious Ton, so who was she to say what was usual for his class and what was not?
“Does marriage not appeal to you at all?” She flinched and inwardly cursed herself for her loose lips.
He appeared thoughtful for a moment before answering, “That is not it. Not really. I simply do not want to marry because it is expected of me. I would rather marry because I genuinely care for the lady in question.”
That sounded very much like he wanted to marry for love. Sarah stared at him in fascination, having never heard a gentleman express such a sentiment other than her father.
His expression turned bashful under her gaze. “I apologize. I do not know why I am revealing so much of myself to you, a perfect stranger. I feel strangely at ease talking to you, however.”
Now it was Sarah’s turn to feel bashful. “I will take that as a compliment, my Lord. If you do not mind.”
“Not at all,” he replied. “For that is exactly what it is.”
Sarah stared at him with no small amount of wonder. What a strange encounter this was turning out to be. Strange, but lovely. She was suddenly feeling rather grateful for whatever had spooked his horse.
In that instant, though, she realized they had been lingering there for some time, and she needed to return home quickly.
“I apologize, my Lord,” she hurriedly said. “I do not wish to cut this conversation short, but I have been gone longer than intended and must return home.”
“Oh, yes, of course,” he replied with a nod. “I apologize for keeping you. And for nearly running you down.”
“No apology is necessary for the first, my Lord,” she grinned. “I will happily accept your apology for the second, though.”
He smiled at that. “It was lovely meeting you, Miss Poole. Perhaps we will see each other again sometime.”
“Perhaps,” Sarah nodded, turning her horse around to head for home. She knew they would likely never meet again. This was a happenstance that would not repeat itself, she was sure. A nobleman such as himself had no reason to engage with the likes of her and her class.
The thought saddened her somewhat. He seemed kind, and he was pleasant to talk to. Not to mention very handsome. A small, fanciful part of her wished that she was a lady deemed worthy of a gentleman like him. Unfortunately, that was not her reality. What was happening between them was a momentary taste of fantasy coming to life.
Her real world was not so pleasant. Not so kind.
“Good day, my Lord,” she called over her shoulder as she urged her horse forward.
“Good day, Miss Poole!” he replied, his words just reaching her before she rode out of earshot of him completely.
She ignored the pang in her chest as she left the dashing Lord Hampton behind. He was not for her, and that was that.
I hope he gets his way, though. I hope he marries for love.
Unlike her, he might actually stand a chance of doing so.
“A Marquess’ Passionate Ride” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
All her life, the ravishing Sarah Poole has dreamed of one thing; to train horses. Yet, it is only when her father falls ill, that she grabs the opportunity to secretly offer riding lessons to the children of noble families. Even though it is not what she truly desires, soon fate will throw her way the most seductive Marquess she has ever laid eyes on and everything will change. Despite vowing to never be weakened by lust, she soon starts falling for the tempting stranger…
Will the enthralling Sarah surrender to the most scandalous affair of all?
For Peter Hallow, the captivating Marquess of Hampton, family always comes first. When his beloved sister is in need of riding lessons, Peter instanlty seeks out the much-praised instructor that all the noble families in the area seem to be raving about. However, when the instructor turns out to be a tempting and fiery woman, his life will be turned upside down forever…
What will happen when he finds himself drawn to her, for far more than her teaching skills?
As Sarah and Peter grow closer, the harsh reality of their situation comes crashing down on them. She is a commoner. He is a noble. There is no chance that they could ever be together… Will they manage to trust their hearts and overcome the social divide that stands between them? Or will their sinful affair go unspoken?
“A Marquess’ Passionate Ride” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.