Could today really be the day, Melisa thought as she woke to the sound of the grandfather clock striking seven o’clock. She opened her eyes to the morning sun with fright in her heart, the day she’d been dreading since she was twelve coming at last. And no matter how hard Melisa had prayed that this day would simply not happen, it seemed that her fervent prayers had gone unanswered.
Melisa was slow to rise, remaining in bed till she could hear the grandfather clock down the hallway chiming that eight o’clock had now come. She was holding the covers close to her body, the warmth like a shield from what was about to happen. She wondered if she could remain here, that if she laid still that no one would come for her or want to prepare her for the awful event that was scheduled to take place this evening. But eventually, nature called, the calling too strong to ignore. Therefore, forcing Melisa finally from her bed.
After taking care of the necessity, she pulled the servants’ cord by her bed, signaling that she was awake and ready to prepare for the day. But all that Melisa did was slump down into a chair by the window that allowed her a view of the gardens below. Perhaps if she could imagine she was a bird, then Melisa could simply transform and fly right out the window. That was the thought she was preoccupied with when her lady-in-waiting came into her bedchamber.
“Good morning, Miss Melisa. How did you sleep?” Miss Thorsten asked as she came into the room, carrying a tea tray that she placed on the small table next to Melisa before going to the bed to make it for the day.
“I slept well enough, thank you,” Melisa replied as she poured herself a cup of tea and held it in her lap, not really wanting to drink it but enjoying the warmth in her hands. She kept her eyes on the gardens below, watching the birds fly by her window as Miss Thorsten busied herself around the room.
“Lord and Lady Stanton should be down for breakfast shortly. Shall we get you dressed so you can join them, Miss Melisa?” Miss Thorsten asked once her task had been completed.
“I will take my breakfast in my room today, Miss Thorsten. I will decide afterwards if I’m ready to dress for the day,” Melisa replied as she set her teacup aside, not having drunk a single drop. Melisa finally turned her eyes towards her lady-in-waiting. Miss Thorsten looked at her charge wearily.
“Are you sure, Miss Melisa? Are you ill at all?” Miss Thorsten asked, concerned about the young lady.
“No, Miss Thorsten, I am not ill. I am simply not ready to go down and will want to take breakfast in my room,” Melisa said sternly. As she looked at the woman, who didn’t appear much older than her seventeen years, she thought that perhaps she could trade places with the servant and avoid it all.
“Certainly, Miss Melisa. My mistake,” Miss Thorsten replied with a curtsey before quickly leaving the room and shutting the door.
Alone again, Melisa turned her eyes once more to the gardens below. The rising sun highlighted the many rose bushes, a plant that her mother had been impertinent about having the gardener grow. It was one of the many things that her mother liked to show off to her friends and dinner guests, so much so that Melisa had stopped taking to the gardens because it reminded her of one more thing that her parents had done simply to show off to others.
“Perhaps that’s why I have no friends,” Melisa thought aloud. Perhaps other young ladies didn’t want to associate with a family that was too showy, too concerned with what other families said about them. Or maybe it was the fact that Melisa wasn’t like other young ladies. Indeed, normally young ladies looked forward to Seasons in Town, getting invited to balls in order to meet eligible gentlemen, having the opportunity to fall in love and decide for themselves who’d they marry.
“God, why was I born into this family?” Melisa asked something she did when she was alone and had no one else to talk to. “Why do I have no control over my own destiny?”
It was a question Melisa had prayed about quite often. If Melisa had been able to keep any friends, perhaps she would have confided in them instead of praying to a being who rarely answered her. But when you’re a young lady who doesn’t attend balls and dinner parties because her fate has already been decided, because her parents feel that it’s appropriate for her to remain home while they answer to the many invitations their family receives, one tends to become very lonely, and very desperate. Therefore, she’d taken to praying anytime she needed to talk to someone openly.
Though her parents weren’t very religious, they’d always attended Sunday services to keep up appearances as God-fearing people. It was only Melisa who seemed to rely on prayer to help her deal with her raging emotions. And now as she sat staring out her bedroom window, she fought against the need to cry.
“Heavenly Father, give me strength this day. Help me to overcome these emotions and do what is required of me. Help me to find happiness in all of this desolation,” Melisa whispered as she heard footsteps coming down the hallway towards her door.
Miss Thorsten returned then carrying a breakfast try. She set it across from Melisa, picking up the tea tray that had been left untouched. Melisa didn’t even look at her lady-in-waiting as she moved about the room.
“Anything else I can do for you, Miss Melisa?” Miss Thorsten asked as she stood by the door.
“After breakfast, I care to enjoy a relaxing bath before dressing for the day. Then I’ll want a walking gown so that I might take a stroll through the park,” Melisa said, finally turning her focus on the other woman.
She watched as Miss Thorsten’s brows furrowed. “But Miss, certainly you wouldn’t want to be out in the sun today. You wouldn’t want to risk getting too much sun before the ball this evening,” Miss Thorsten reasoned.
Usually, Melisa could hide her inner emotions quite well. But at this moment, she was tired of working so hard to keep them at bay. Her eyes watered as she thought about how she just wanted to do as she pleased without being reasoned with. “I’ll be sure to make it a short trip, Miss Thorsten. But I’d dearly like some fresh air today,” Melisa said, trying to keep her voice level.
Miss Thorsten simply nodded her head as she curtsied, but Melisa could still see the frown on her face as she left the room. Her lady-in-waiting had always been very attentive, a kind woman who might even be considered the closest person she had to a friend. But it would be quite unusual for Melisa to consider a servant a friend. After all, Miss Thorsten only did her job for the promised pay from an Earl. This was certainly a good position for any servant Miss Thorsten’s age.
As Melisa turned her gaze back to the gardens, the breakfast tray in front of her not seeming to induce any appetite, she imagined what she would rather be doing today if it had been just another ordinary day. Perhaps she’d go riding, despite the fact that her mother had deemed one of her favourite pleasures very unladylike. She loved her mare and the feel of the open road in front of her, no one around to tell her how to act or what she should be doing instead with her leisure time.
Or, Melisa would spend time with one of her many tutors, practicing her knowledge of the modern languages and discussing worldly things. Since her father had spared no expense when it came to her education, determining that a future Duchess needed the best upbringing, Melisa had taken to learning all that she could, simply because it gave her a way to forget about her reality. And since her parents didn’t speak any other language besides English, then she was free to discuss whatever she pleased with her tutors. Indeed, today would have been a fine day to speak to Monsieur Philip about the current events in France as she daydreamed of one day traveling to Paris. Even though she knew that the Duke did not travel, she could at least dream about seeing all the countries she’d studied. And perhaps she could find a way to travel alone once she rose in rank within society. Surely no one would speak ill about a Duchess.
“Will I find happiness in my new situation?” Melisa wondered out loud, as though there was someone in the room that could answer her. Though she’d been also trained in how to manage a household of servants, entertain dinner guests, and plan menus, Melisa wondered if there would be more to married life, and perhaps she could still enjoy some pleasures of the world. But no matter how positive Melisa tried to think in order to overcome her emotions for this evening, she couldn’t imagine the Duke giving her any more leeway than her parents currently did.
Her thoughts then turned to this evening, to the ball she would be attending in order for her father to make the big announcement she’d been dreading since her parents first told her of the betrothal when she’d just turned twelve. For five years she’d been dreading marrying the Duke of Avertin, Lord Smithers. The gentleman had never appealed to her, despite his status in society. And though her mother had swooned over the fact that her daughter would be well off in life, Melisa thought it was the worst thing that could happen to her. It was all her mother had spoken of these last five years, another thing to brag about to her friends.
The worst thing that Melisa could do was picture Lord Smithers in her mind, but the more she thought about the ball that was being thrown in her honour, the more she thought about seeing the Duke this evening. He’d always been an imposing figure, tall with dark hair and even darker eyes. He reminded her more of a crow than a person with his hooked nose and a slightly large belly. It was not hard to fathom that Lord Smithers was glutinous for the pleasures of the world. After all, he could afford anything he could ever dream of. But no matter what the man could afford, he’d never appealed to Melisa. She couldn’t even think of him as a close acquaintance. She’d spent so little time with the man that all she could learn about him was what she’d heard from others.
Servants had always been gossipers, a fact that Melisa learned from a young age when her nanny tattled on Melisa for riding her pony bareback, her legs astride. She’d received a tongue lashing from her father for that moment of freedom, teaching Melisa that she could never trust a servant. But it was through servants that she learned much about other members of society since all servants gossiped to one another about their masters. That was how Melisa came to learn what kind of gentleman Lord Smithers truly was.
She’d heard rumors of his lavish dinner parties, hiring cooks from France to prepare the latest in cuisine. That he’d offer the finest wine to his dinner guests, and when they’d become too tipsy, he’d take advantage of young ladies he’d get along.
Melisa shuddered at the memory of overhearing her lady-in-waiting whispering about the evil deeds of Lord Smithers. Miss Thorsten had wondered aloud why Lord Stanton would allow such a man to marry his daughter, but the servants reasoned that their master truly did not know the real Lord Smithers. But Melisa now felt like she had a realistic idea of what type of married life she’d have. And it didn’t look like a pretty picture.
Melisa sighed as she leaned forward and took a piece of toast from the breakfast tray, spreading jam on it before taking a bite. She’d finally started to feel hungry after a while and knew that it would be important to keep up her health. It would be no good if she allowed herself to waste away simply because she had no hope for her future. Instead, Melisa knew that she should remain as strong as she could just in case an opportunity arose that allowed her to escape this engagement.
“Perhaps Lord Smithers will choke and die on his dinner tonight?” Melisa wondered aloud as she began to giggle. It was an evil thing to say, and she hoped that God would forgive her. But it was those types of thoughts that allowed Melisa to capture some sort of hope that her future wouldn’t be completely miserable.
“Father! Someone is at the door!” Oliver called out from his bed at the back of the loft apartment. He’d been up late last night after performing for another prestigious family. When he’d returned to the apartment after the performance, he’d noticed that his father was still not home, wondering if he’d gone to the gaming hells again. But surely the man had returned home by now and would answer the door?
As the banging on the front door continued, Oliver was forced to get out of bed and hastily pull on a pair of trousers. He walked from his room at the back of the apartment and crossed the common room until he reached the door, pulling it quickly open as anger crossed his face.
“Are you Mr. Oliver Quinn, son of Mr. Edward Quinn?” the man asked directly without greeting him. Oliver wasn’t expecting a constable to show up at his door, causing him to still as his mind raced to think what had happened for the officer to be at his door.
“Yes, that is I,” Oliver replied, his hand still on the door handle as his fist closed around it.
“My name is Constable Williams, and I have come to inform you that last night Mr. Edward Quinn was shot in the alleyway outside of a popular gaming hell. No one saw the shooter, but your father’s body was found after the sound of the pistol was heard. You’ll need to answer a few questions, Mr. Quinn,” the constable said so quickly that Oliver had a hard time reasoning his words.
The constable continued to speak, but Oliver heard none of it as the news of his father’s death washed over him. He felt sick to his stomach and a bit dizzy as he leaned heavily on the door, afraid that he might faint.
“My father is dead?” Oliver asked, querying what the constable had said.
The man just stared at Oliver, noticeably frustrated. “Yes, Mr. Quinn; that is what I said. Your father was shot outside of Luthiers. The body is down in the morgue, and you’ll have to come with me now to identify it. You also need to explain where you were last night since most are wondering if you were the one that killed Mr. Edward Quinn,” the constable said, clearly annoyed to have needed to repeat himself.
Oliver blanched, surprised that he would be considered a suspect. “Constable, I was performing with a troupe of musicians at Lord Hawthorne’s last night. You may enquire with his lordship if you need confirmation. The musicians were sent away at eleven o’clock, after which I returned straight away since I have another performance this evening,” Oliver explained, fighting the urge to vomit. He still felt dizzy as his mind tried to process that his father was not only dead but murdered.
“I’ll be sure to enquire with Lord Hawthorne. So, you are a musician?” the constable asked.
“Yes, I’m a pianist. Tonight, I will be performing with other musicians for Lord Stanton’s ball. I’m expected at the Earl’s house at four o’clock for rehearsal,” Oliver explained, wondering if he was still dreaming. But when he pinched his leg, hard, all he felt was pain.
“Well then, you better come with me. We’ll identify the body, and I’ll get your sworn statement. You should be able to make it in time if we leave now,” Constable Williams said as he gestured to the hallway.
Oliver simply nodded his head. “Just give me a minute to collect myself,” Oliver said as he shut the door partially and returned to his room to finish dressing. He threw some water on his face, using it to comb back his light brown hair. Once he felt collected, he returned to the door and stepped out with the constable, locking the door behind him.
There were no words needed as he followed the man quickly down the many flights of stairs to the street, the morning air rushing to greet Oliver as he followed the constable a little way down the crowded street and to a waiting carriage. People in this part of town were always up before the rising sun. Since his area consisted of mostly those who worked for businesses or as servants for wealthy masters, everyone had to rise early to carry out the day’s orders. For Oliver, he was employed by varying masters, his skills at the piano earning him many invitations to play at all manner of celebrations. But it still didn’t earn him enough to relocate himself and his father to a better part of town.
Once situated in the carriage, the constable knocked on the side of the carriage, signaling for the driver to commence to the morgue. Oliver’s stomach tightened in knots as he thought about having to go to such a place. His eyes watched those on the street walking quickly to make it in time for their morning assignments. Even though he prided himself on being able to earn an income doing what he was passionate about, at this moment he’d give it all up to avoid confirming that his father had been killed.
Oliver’s heart started to beat hard against his ribs as the carriage came up to a black building that had a small white plaque hanging from beside the front door. From appearances alone, this building told passers to beware. And as Oliver stepped down out of the carriage after the constable, his hands began to feel clammy as they approached the front door.
Constable Williams didn’t even knock as he opened the door and motioned for Oliver to step in first. The pungent smell of chemicals hit Oliver the moment he walked in, causing him to crinkle his nose at the stench. The inside of the building was completely white, not a floral print in sight. Even the floors were marble, making Oliver’s boots sound on the floor as he followed the constable down a hallway. Coming to a door, the man opened it, revealing a set of stairs descending far below.
“Right this way, Mr. Quinn,” the constable said as he lit a lantern hanging at the top of the stairs before descending below. Oliver followed behind without a word, the stench of the place seeming to increase as they traveled below.
“Good day, Constable,” a man greeted them at the bottom of the stairs. It felt like they were in a basement now, completely made of stone. As Oliver looked behind the man that had greeted them, he saw what looked to be access to the underground sewers. The smell of rot filled his nostrils as he stayed close to the constable in case they became separated as the two men moved further into the room.
“The murdered man’s body is right over here. The one from early this morning,” the portly man said. Oliver couldn’t understand how the man was so rotund when he himself was having trouble keeping the bile in his stomach down. And as the undertaker moved to the body that was lying on a table, a white sheet over it, Oliver stepped closer as the face was revealed.
Never would Oliver be able to get his father’s deceased features from his mind as he peered down at his agonized face and quickly turned away. “Yes, that is my father, Mr. Edward Quinn,” Oliver confirmed as he wrapped his arms around his body and started to shake.
“Come this way, Mr. Quinn. You can make funeral arrangements back upstairs with Mrs. Jenkins,” Constable Williams said as he walked Oliver back upstairs. Tears were gathering in Oliver’s eyes now as he followed the constable quickly up the stairs, the smell of rot seeming to fall away as he was led to an office.
The room was such a stark contrast that Oliver stopped and stared at the small room. A single desk and a few chairs were the only furniture, but the walls had been papered in a soft blue design, the floor carpeted in such a plush material that he could feel it under his boots, and several flowering plants hung from hooks in the ceiling, making the room feel more inviting.
“I’ll be waiting for you outside, Mr. Quinn,” the constable said before leaving the room. Oliver then noticed a woman sitting at the desk and quickly took a seat in a chair.
“Good morning, Mr. Quinn. My name is Mrs. Jenkins. I’ll be helping you prepare funeral arrangements for your relative. I’m terribly sorry for your loss,” Mrs. Jenkins said in such a monotone voice that Oliver thought that her words must be scripted. Despite how welcoming the room was, this woman made him feel uneasy, as though he was trespassing in her personal bedchamber.
For the next half hour, Oliver answered questions about his father, from religion to heritage, to preferred way of being buried or cremated. Having never talked to his father about his will or preferences after death, Oliver did his best to honour his father’s memory, but also made choices that he could afford.
“That will be all, Mr. Quinn. The funeral will be held in two days’ time. You’ll need to return tomorrow for the payment in order to secure everything,” Mrs. Jenkins said dismissing Oliver without even looking up from the paperwork she’d filled out, having Oliver just sign his name at the bottom to verify the death certificate.
“Thank you, Mrs. Jenkins,” Oliver said as he rose and left the office. As soon as he stepped out of the room, Constable Williams was there, along with the gut-wrenching stench of the building. The constable gestured for Oliver to follow him as they left the building together.
As he followed the constable back to the waiting carriage, Oliver took several breaths of fresh air, never before being so thankful to breath outside air that was tainted with death. His head felt less dizzy as he stepped up into the carriage and quickly rested against the back of the bench as the carriage took off.
“I’m going to take you home, Mr. Quinn, because you look quite ghastly. I’m going to construct my official report and come by tomorrow to have you sign it, stating that your father was murdered and that you are saying you did not kill him,” Constable Williams said as he continued to study Oliver.
“Indeed, sir. I have no reason to want to kill my father. He was my only living relative, and he never spoke of any other family,” Oliver said, a sob rising in his throat as he clamped his hand over his mouth. He’d never felt so alone in his life. “I simply cannot believe that he is dead and that anyone would cause him any harm. He was a good worker for Mr. Mathews, the cobbler, and though he frequented the gaming hells, he never gambled more than he could afford.”
“Forgive me, Mr. Quinn, but that little detail is hard to believe. Most go to gaming hells because they are desperate to get lucky and win a large fortune. Perhaps your father secretly owed someone money and that person took his life?” the constable wondered.
“I understand your perspective, Constable, and that you are only doing your job. But I testify that my father wasn’t addicted to gambling. He simply went to enjoy socializing with others and trying his luck at the card tables. But he’s always been a very reasonable man, hardworking, and not one to waste money,” Oliver said with the same passion he had when he played the piano.
To Oliver, it seemed that the constable believed him. But Oliver wasn’t sure that he could rest easily until he knew who had killed his father. After all, if someone was intent on taking his father’s life, who was to say that this killer wouldn’t come for him next?
Oliver was pulled from his thoughts as the carriage came to a halt at the intersection down from his apartment building. He turned his eyes to the street, knowing that he’d have to get out of the carriage and make his way back to his apartment, alone. That when he returned, his father wouldn’t be there. Nor could he ever expect his father to return to their small home in town.
“Thank you, Constable Williams. You’ve been a help to me this dreadful day,” Oliver said as he nodded to the man while alighting from the carriage.
“Till tomorrow, Mr. Quinn,” the constable called before pulling shut the carriage door and calling orders to the driver.
Oliver walked slowly down the street, not in a hurry like so many moving around him. He was truly in no rush, knowing he had a few hours until he’d be expected at the Earl’s home to prepare for this evening’s performance. He took each step of the staircase to his apartment gradually, his hand firmly on the rail to keep his balance as he feared that he was about to be sick. He was successful at keeping the bile at bay until he reached his apartment and threw open the window, sticking his head out and heaving up every ounce of substance in his stomach that he’d fought to keep down. His mess landed in the back alley below where most contents were thrown, making their way to the sewer below.
Thinking of the sewer made him cringe as he leaned back into his apartment and shut the window, the image of his father in his mind. He slumped to the floor then and wrapped his arms around his knees as he pressed his forehead to his kneecaps. He let the sobs come then, his body shaking as he cried and wailed. He let the pain wash over him as he grieved for his father, praying that someone would come to take the pain away from him. But as an hour went by, still no one came to comfort him or give him their sympathies.
It took a while for Oliver to regain control of his emotions. He eventually pushed himself back up onto his feet and made his way to his room, needing to get ready for tonight’s performance. And though he was usually always eager to play for an audience with his fellow musicians, tonight he simply wanted everything to be over. He didn’t want to be around anyone, and he didn’t feel much like playing the piano. But as he reminded himself that tomorrow he’d have to pay for his father’s funeral, a cost that was four times the amount of rent he was used to paying, he knew that he couldn’t skip out on this job. Tonight’s performance could perhaps be the one thing that could save him from being completely insolvent.
“A Sonata for a Fiery Lady” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
When the Earl of Wellington, Miss Melisa Stanton’s father, announces her engagement to the Duke of Avertin to everyone’s surprise, she sinks into despair. He’s a womanizer she despises, and there’s nothing she would want more than to get out of this engagement. Leaving in secret with a mysterious stranger is her only chance to escape imprisonment. But will this fiery Lady be able to live with nothing when she is used to have everything?
Mr. Oliver Quinn is a skilled pianist and a very handsome man. While life has not been easy for him already, he will soon find himself accused of an egregious crime he did not commit. There seems to be no other option for him than to leave England, but to his misfortune, he does not have enough money. When an offer comes up to play at a ball organised by the Earl of Wellington, he can not turn it down. When everything he was aiming for was his freedom, will an unexpected meeting the very same night change his life forever?
His dark brown hair and eyes, his tall and strong build tantalized Miss Melisa when she first saw him. But is she willing to give up everything and run away with the seductive stranger? And what if the mysterious musician has his own reasons for escaping? When the future is uncertain and important decisions need to be made, will Miss Melisa make the right choice?
“A Sonata for a Fiery Lady” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.