The carriage jolted again, this time enough for Teresa to be knocked into the side. She flinched as pain shot through her shoulder, bouncing back in her seat as the jolting passed.
“Are you all right, Teresa?”
Diana Colborne frowned at her from across the carriage. Teresa managed a slight smile as she rubbed her shoulder. That had really hurt.
“I’m fine, Aunt Diana. It’s nothing, really.” She lied.
Her aunt shook her head.
“You’re not a very good liar, my dear. And I heard the bang when you hit the wall.”
Teresa thought about protecting, but decided against it. Diana was very good at knowing when her niece was lying. She sighed and slumped in her seat.
“I didn’t mean to lie. I just don’t want to complain about being thrown around like a doll.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t get tipped out of the carriage with that one.” Diana gestured at the closed windows. “If these had been open, I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up on the side of the road.”
Teresa couldn’t argue with that. She had been worried about falling out all the way down from King’s Lynn. Foolishly, she had told the driver that she wished to be back in London as soon as possible, and Thomas had said he would take the quickest route through Suffolk.
Now Teresa was beginning to regret asking for this. It was a very bumpy road, and she couldn’t begin to count how many times she had been thrown around inside. She was lucky not to have hit her head.
Next time, she was going to make sure that she went the safest route, even if it took longer. Her nice warm bed could wait a little longer.
“I must say,” Diana said as she braced herself with another wobble, “I’m surprised that we’ve not broken down already. This thing is getting old.”
“Didn’t it get the back wheels replaced last year?”
“I believe so.”
Teresa grunted and opened the window. Dusk was setting in, leaving a mixture of orange, purple and black across the sky. It was fascinating. Even though the weather had cooled and she was letting cold air into the carriage, Teresa couldn’t stop herself from staring at the landscape. A huge expanse of fields and trees with an occasional house. There was something about the spread of green grass and the setting sun that looked startlingly tranquil, even with the uncomfortable journey.
“Could you please shut the window, Teresa?” Diana shivered and tugged her coat around her.
“It’s getting really cold now.”
“Can you see the sunset, Aunt Diana? It’s beautiful.”
“I can see it, but I can also feel the result of the sun going to sleep. Please, Teresa?”
“Yes, Aunt Diana.” She shut the window and sat back. “Forgive me, I wanted to look outside.”
“You don’t need to apologize. It’s just a little too cold.” Diana shivered. “I hope we get home soon. I don’t like the thought of being stuck in the middle of nowhere. There doesn’t seem to be any civilisation nearby.”
“There are houses close by.”
“You know what I mean, Teresa. Your Aunt Charlotte said when you’re in the country, night comes in so fast that you blink and it’s pitch black. I’m beginning to see what she means.”
So was Teresa. She had always had a fascination with the countryside. There was something peaceful about going for walks in the country. Her parents thought it was a silly pastime and she needed to focus on things they believed were more appropriate. If it hadn’t been for her aunt saying that she would be her niece’s chaperone, Teresa was sure she wouldn’t be able to go beyond the gardens that wrapped around the house.
Her parents meant well. They wanted her to do well with life and focus on what they believed was more important. But there was a part of Teresa that wanted to explore more. She was interested and wanted to find out more about her surroundings. Diana encouraged her, which was much to the displeasure of her parents, especially her father.
At least there wasn’t too much argument when Teresa expressed a desire to go and visit her aunt in Norfolk. Lord Colborne and his older sister didn’t get along and hadn’t for some years, but he didn’t argue when Teresa wanted to travel up to visit. In his words, having her out of London for a while would help out with their current business.
Business that Teresa would be a part of when she got back.
“Are you glad we got to see your Aunt Charlotte?” Diana asked.
Teresa smiled. She always did whenever she thought about her aunt.
“I am. It was a very enjoyable month. And she looks to be doing really well.”
“That she is.” Diana beamed. “Charlotte’s painting is coming along beautifully, and she seems to be very happy with her own company.”
Teresa could agree with that. Charlotte had chosen to become an artist some years ago and travelled for a long period of time. Now she was settled in England and her paintings were doing pretty well as an income. Teresa watched her aunt walk around town with her head held high and not caring how people saw her. She chose to speak her mind, which was not a good thing in current society. She just didn’t care. Teresa didn’t think she would be that brave.
“She does take some getting used to in the beginning, I’ll admit.” She said. “But she’s a lovely lady. And I can’t believe that she’s fifty and has never been married.”
Diana burst out laughing.
“You think that’s a shock that a woman can get to middle age and not have a husband?”
“I mean…” Teresa felt her face getting warm. “It’s just when I hear the word ‘spinster’, I imagine an elderly lady who is a recluse and keeps away from everyone. Aunt Charlotte is…she’s just the opposite.”
And still very handsome. Teresa was in awe of her aunt. She was such a warm, lovely lady under her eccentricities. Teresa never knew what was going to come out of her mouth next, but there was a part of her deep down that looked forward to that. It made life with her aunt far more entertaining.
If only her parents were like that. They were very strict in what their society really wanted. Teresa was told what to do, what to say and how to dress. She was one-and-twenty and she was treated like a child. It was frustrating, but Teresa wasn’t about to argue. She always did as she was told.
She wasn’t brave enough to do anything differently.
“I think your grandfather had a heart attack the day his eldest daughter left abruptly the morning of her supposed marriage to a Duke.” Diana chuckled. “She always stood up to him, but he never thought she would actually walk out and embarrass the family. Your father was just as horrified, while I just hid in a corner so they couldn’t see me laughing.”
“Is there a reason why she never wanted to marry? I did ask her about it, but Aunt Charlotte said that I would understand when I was older.” Teresa frowned. “That didn’t make any sense, but that’s all she would say to me.”
“She said that she didn’t love the man she was being made to marry. She argued with your grandfather over this arrangement, but you know what your grandfather is like. He’s very stubborn.”
“Aunt Charlotte is stubborn as well.”
“I won’t argue with that.” Diana shrugged. “Her logic was that she would rather be unmarried and happy than married and miserable. She did not like the man she was due to marry at all. And when Father didn’t believe her, she followed through.”
Teresa found that was very brave. It took a lot to walk out when a marriage was pretty much set in stone. This had her thinking about her own upcoming marriage with the Duke of Westmoreland. Her parents were delighted that a Duke was taking a great interest in her, and they had been in talks with Lord Westmoreland to finalise the dowry and the marriage. Teresa didn’t like being treated as something to be passed from one person to another, and she didn’t care too much for Lord Westmoreland, but she wasn’t about to argue with her parents. Her father would be furious if Teresa said a bad word against his decisions. Teresa didn’t like making him upset.
She understood advantageous marriages, and she understood that she had a duty to do. But why did it have to be with a rude, uncharismatic man?
“Oh, Teresa, dear.” Diana sat forward and patted her niece’s knee. “Don’t fret. Your marriage is all but sorted. You’re heading into a good marriage, and I know you’ll make a perfect Duchess.”
“How did you know what I was thinking about?”
“Because I know you, darling. And I can see the thoughts turning in your head.” Her aunt’s expression softened. “It’s going to be fine. It’s pretty much sorted. Your parents only need to finalize the last part before the banns are published. That I’m sure will happen soon after we get back.”
Teresa was aware of that. But instead of excitement that she was going to become a married woman soon, all she felt was apprehension. There was a chance she could come to love her husband, but from the way he behaved Teresa wasn’t so sure. She didn’t think she would have a happy marriage if Lord Westmoreland was so rude. He called it being straightforward. Teresa had a different word for it.
What if she said no? That was the problem. She couldn’t say no; her father wouldn’t allow it.
Suddenly, the carriage jerked violently, causing both women to be flung against the side of the carriage. Seconds later, there was a loud bang and the back of the carriage went down abruptly, Diana falling towards Teresa and then onto the floor with a scream.
Teresa clutched onto the window as they bumped and shuddered before the carriage slowed and then finally stopped. Her eyes tightly closed, she waited as her heart tried to stop racing.
It had happened. What she had hoped wouldn’t happen. They had crashed.
In the middle of nowhere.
Andrew yawned loudly as he headed up the stairs. He was looking forward to getting some sleep.
It had been a very long day, and tomorrow was looking to be the same.
Running a farm was never meant to be easy, and Andrew was used to getting exhausted pretty quickly. But there were days when he wished he could actually stay up way past dusk. A few years ago, that was easily done.
He had reached the top of the stairs when Andrew heard a loud bang and the sound of horses neighing in distress. He stopped. While he couldn’t be certain, he thought he heard women screaming.
Andrew hurried back down the stairs. His cook was wiping her floured hands on her apron as she hurried to the kitchen door.
“You heard that, too, Andrew?”
“I did. I think I heard someone screaming as well.”
“I thought I was imagining that part, but if you heard it as well…”
Rose opened the door and peered out into the dusk. It had fallen faster than Andrew thought, the outside almost completely black. They could barely see the wall that lined the front yard and the gate. Rose squinted and rubbed her eyes.
“I can’t see a thing.”
Andrew hurried into the parlour and found a lantern and a candle. Putting the candle inside the lantern, Andrew lit it and closed the lantern. Then he went back into the kitchen. Rose was still peering outside.
“Can you see anything?”
“Not yet. No, wait!” Rose pointed. “Look! Over there!”
Andrew squinted to where she was pointing, and then saw a flicker of light further up the road, right on the turning. The light was moving around as well, and the faint sound of voices reached their ears.
It wouldn’t be the first time someone had an accident on that turning. That part of the road was a bit of a difficult one to deal with during the day, and Andrew had almost upturned his cart a few times when he was hurrying, but in the dark it was dangerous. Chances were it was someone who wasn’t a local who had taken the turn a little too quickly and was now suffering for it.
“You wait here, Rose.” Andrew snatched his jacket from the back of a chair and shrugged it on.
“I’m going to see if there’s anything I can do to help.”
“What?” Rose stared at him. “What if they’re robbers and this is a ploy?”
“Robbers in Earl Soham?”
“It can happen!”
Andrew sighed. He patted Rose’s shoulder.
“Just wait here. I’ll let you know if there’s anything we can do. But there’s no need for both of us to go out yet.”
His cook didn’t look happy about that, but she moved back into the brightness of the kitchen as Andrew headed down the path towards the gate. Hopefully, nobody was hurt and the carriage was still drivable. Then they could get on their way with a warning not to go so fast on a blind turn. Andrew was sure it was someone who was just passing through; locals were very well aware of the turn.
He was at the gate when Andrew heard someone calling.
“Is there anyone there? Please, we need help!”
It was a woman. A young woman from the voice. Andrew opened the gate and stepped into the road just as someone came running into the light from his lantern. Her blonde hair looked like she had been tugged through a hedge on one side, fallen on one side while still pinned up on the other. She was also limping a little, a dazed look in her eyes.
Her very startling green eyes. Even in the dim light, Andrew could see them. And he couldn’t stop staring.
“Excuse me?” She limped over to him, her expression flooded with relief. “Can you help us, please? We’ve had an accident back up the road.”
“I heard that.” Andrew lifted the lantern a little so he could get a better look at her. “What happened?”
“My aunt and I…” She straightened up and brushed her hair out of her eyes. She hadn’t appeared to have noticed that it was half-up and half-down. “We were heading back to London and our carriage swerved and broke down. Our driver says it’s a broken axle.”
A broken axle. Then there was a good chance that they wouldn’t be able to move that carriage anytime soon.
“Is anyone hurt?”
“My aunt hit her head.” She bit her lip. “Our driver was thrown from his seat. He’s fine, but he’s very shaken.”
“And you, Miss?”
“Are you all right?”
The young woman blinked. It was like she hadn’t thought about her welfare at all.
“Oh. I…I think I’m all right.” Then she raised both hands to her head and her eyes widened. “Oh, my goodness!”
Andrew tried not to laugh as she attempted to do her hair up again, her face going bright red. She looked really pretty when she was embarrassed.
Hang on, why am I thinking about how attractive she is when she’s just been in an accident?
Rose’s voice came from behind him, and Andrew turned to see Rose reaching the gate.
“I thought I said to stay inside, Rose.”
“I heard voices.” Rose frowned at the woman. “I take it someone else has taken that turn a little too quickly.”
“Pretty much.” Andrew turned to the young woman, who was looking even more embarrassed.
“Forgive me for not introducing myself. I’m Andrew Galpin. I own the farm here. This is my cook, Rose Leeson.”
“Oh.” She drew herself up and squared her shoulders, still looking a little red but trying to get her composure. “Lady Teresa Colborne.”
“Yes, I’m a lady.” Her eyes narrowed. “Have you got a problem with my status?”
“No, not at all.”
Of course she was a lady. Her clothes, even a little ripped around the hem and dirty from the accident, were made of a very fine cloth that would have cost most of Andrew’s monthly wages.
The way she carried herself and the way she spoke also said she came from money. Andrew looked past Teresa and into the darkness.
“Shouldn’t you and your aunt be travelling with a chaperone?” He asked.
“Aunt Diana is my chaperone. And we were doing fine on our own until just now.” Teresa bit her lip, and Andrew tried not to stare at her mouth. “Please help. Her head is bleeding. She needs a physician.”
“He’s on the other side of the village. It will take a while for him to get here.”
“Really?” Teresa swallowed. “And I suppose there’s someone nearby who can mend our carriages and a place for us to stay tonight?”
“You would have to go into Ipswich for someone to deal with your carriage. There’s no one around here. Even if there was, we wouldn’t be able to help you until it’s light.” Andrew looked up at the sky as he heard a loud rumble. “As it is, there’s a storm coming, and we wouldn’t get anything done.”
Teresa looked like she was about to cry. Andrew had a sudden urge to wrap his arms around her to comfort her. That had him taking half a step back. Yikes, where had that come from?
His mind turned quickly. He was on the outskirts of Earl Soham, but the nearest hotel was in Framlingham, and that was still another thirty minutes, at the very least. And from the look of it, Teresa was in no fit state to be going anywhere, especially when it was going to start raining.
Andrew looked over his shoulder at Rose.
“Rose, could you get the guest room ready? And make sure the room in the barn is prepared as well?”
“What?” Rose blinked. “You’re going to let them stay here?”
“They’re in need, and they won’t be able to get to Framlingham with no transport. We can set up their driver in the barn until the morning.”
Rose’s mouth opened and closed. It was not often that he saw his cook speechless, and Andrew had known her for years.
“But…that’s a little inappropriate, isn’t it?” Rose hissed. “I mean, she’s a young lady and you’re an unmarried man!”
“Rose, I’d rather be inappropriate than be rude and leave them out here.” Andrew turned back to Teresa, who was staring at him with a dazed expression. “I know it’s not ideal, but I have a spare room you and your aunt can sleep in tonight, and your driver can sleep in the barn. Once it’s light, we can have a look at the carriage properly. I know we’re not a hotel, but the beds are comfortable enough.”
Teresa’s expression wavered. Andrew thought she was going to burst into tears again. The poor thing was stuck in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, and she was scared. Finally, Teresa took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“I suppose we’ll have to do that. Thank you, Mr Galpin.”
“It’s the least we can do. Go back to your aunt and I’ll join you in a moment.”
“What about a physician for Aunt Diana?”
“I have a stable boy who can go for him.” Andrew handed the lantern to Teresa, noting how cold her fingers were when they brushed against his. “I’ll send him now. You go back to your aunt.”
“All right.” Teresa hesitated. “Thank you.”
Then she was hurrying away, still limping a little. She must have twisted her ankle in the accident. Andrew tried not to watch her go, but he couldn’t help himself. She just drew him in.
“Andrew?” Rose tugged on his sleeve. “Are you sure about this? I mean, people are going to talk.”
Andrew sighed and turned to his cook.
“People will talk if we leave them out in the dark when we could have helped them. I’m not about to be uncharitable to people in need, Rose.”
“The least we can do is get them out of the coming storm.”
Why was Rose getting upset about this? Normally, she would be the one jumping to help someone who really needed it. This time, she was trying to slam the door in their faces.
Finally, Rose huffed and turned away.
“Fine. I’ll get the rooms ready. And I’ll get Rodney to fetch Mr Dobson.”
Teresa couldn’t begin to describe her emotions when the crash happened. It had happened so fast, and she was aware of someone screaming. She had no idea if it was her or her aunt who had screamed as they were thrown around inside the carriage.
It was probably both of them.
Somehow, they had managed to get out. Thomas had been there, looking very shocked as he helped them onto the road. There Diana had slumped against a wonky wheel, and Teresa had seen the blood. That had sent her into a panic. Her aunt was injured, the carriage was broken, and there was only one house close by. Teresa could barely see it in the dark.
She should have stayed by the carriage and let Thomas go for help, but panic about her aunt being hurt had sent Teresa stumbling off in spite of the shouts behind her. Her ankle hurt, and it was difficult to walk on it easily, but Teresa pushed that aside. She just wanted to do something, anything.
Even if it meant she would be getting lost.
Then he was there. Andrew Galpin, appearing out of the dark like an angel. Teresa had tried to stop herself from staring, but she couldn’t help it. Andrew was tall. If she stood before him, Teresa was sure the top of her head would barely brush his chin. She couldn’t see his features well in the light from the lantern, but she could see his eyes. They were green, just like hers. And they had her momentarily frozen to the spot.
And he was so kind to her. Teresa hadn’t expected a farmer, of all people, to be nice. The farmers she encountered who used the land around her family’s country house were rather brusque. Then again, her father wasn’t particularly kind to them, either. Lord Colborne considered them beneath his family.
Andrew wasn’t rude to her. He was actually giving her and her aunt a place to stay for the night. If there was no other option, then Teresa was going to take it. It was getting far too dark and it was scaring her. She just wanted to get out of it.
Teresa helped Diana into the house and settled her down at the kitchen table while the men brought the trunks inside. Andrew carried both trunks upstairs, and Teresa couldn’t stop staring at the way his muscles strained under his jacket, how he carried the trunks without any problems. Even the footmen had struggled to get the trunks onto the back of the carriage, and yet here was a man carrying them barely breaking a sweat.
After a short while, Rose the cook came downstairs. She was a petite, plump woman of middle-age, close to Diana’s age, wearing a simple grey dress and apron with her hands and arms stained with flour. Her dark hair was pulled back into a simple bun and she wore a scowl. Teresa wondered if this woman had ever smiled in her life.
The cook went about her business in the kitchen, getting on with kneading what looked like dough. Teresa had never been in a kitchen, so she had no idea what went on. She hovered at the other end of the table and stared at the way the older woman thumped the dough on the table and slammed her fists into it. She ignored them.
Probably for the best. Teresa had no idea what to say.
Andrew came back downstairs and Teresa noted that he had to bend his head slightly to get through the door. He really was tall, and well-built. There was a confidence about him that made Teresa feel a little nervous. His hair was dark and cut short close to his head, and there was a dusting of stubble across his jaw. Teresa had never seen a man in between clean-shaven or with a trimmed beard. It made her wonder if that stubble was as soft as her father’s beard.
Wait, where had that come from?
Andrew gave her a smile, and Teresa felt her heart miss a few beats. That was a really nice smile. It made his eyes twinkle. Teresa’s mouth went dry.
What was happening to her?
“I…” Teresa gulped. “Thank you for this, Mr Galpin. You’ve been very kind.”
“It’s the least I can do, Lady Colborne.” Andrew glanced towards the window as another roll of thunder reached their ears. “I know it’s not ideal, but it’s either this or you sleep out in the carriage. And that’s not good for anyone, especially not refined ladies like yourselves.”
Diana grunted. She was holding a cloth to her forehead.
“From the way I’m feeling right now, being a refined lady is the least of my worries.”
Teresa winced as Andrew raised his eyebrows.
“Please excuse my aunt, Mr Galpin.” She said hurriedly. “She’s had a shock.”
“After what happened, I’m not surprised.” Andrew nodded towards the door. “I told your driver to put the horses in our stables and that he could sleep in the barn for tonight. In the morning, he’s going to ride back to London.”
“That’s good.” Teresa sighed. “It’s a shame we can’t go with him.”
Diana reached for her hand.
“Darling, it’s best that we stay here. I’m not in a fit state to ride and it’s too dark for you outside. Besides, what would happen to our belongings?”
Andrew folded his arms.
“Your aunt is right, Lady Colborne. It’s safer for you to stay here while your driver goes to London. He’ll make sure your family knows that you’re safe.”
Teresa hoped so. Her parents were going to worry that they wouldn’t be back by the morning. Her mother, especially, would panic. Thomas would be able to assure them that they were safe. Hopefully, he would come back with another carriage. They weren’t that far from London, so it shouldn’t take too long before they were on their way again.
“I’ve got a friend who might be able to help me with the carriage.” Andrew went on, the soft timbre of his voice making Teresa’s hair stand up on the back of her neck. “Once it’s light, we’ll bring your carriage into my yard and have a closer look.”
“That will be something.” Diana took the cloth away from her head and inspected the blood.
There was a cut just under her hairline. “It’s a shame that we had to stop our journey home.”
“It’s a good thing we got you inside. You wouldn’t want to be in a storm around here, let me tell you.” Andrew shook his head. “When it rains in Suffolk, it pours. Sometimes, the roads become very flooded. You would have had more trouble travelling in that.”
Teresa went to the window and looked out. It had only been thirty minutes since Andrew came to help them, and it was so dark she couldn’t see anything at all. She couldn’t even hear anything coming from outside, either. It was unnerving.
“My goodness.” She breathed.
“Exactly. Makes it a good thing that you’re in here instead of out there.” Andrew gestured towards the door. “Your room is the second on the right. It’s a double bed, but it’ll be big enough for you two to sleep in for tonight.”
“I’m sure that will be fine. It’s only for one night. And we’ll make sure you’re compensated for this, Mr Galpin.”
“Don’t worry about that. Only happy to help.” Andrew hesitated, glancing at Rose, who was scowling at him. “I’ll head on outside and see if Rodney’s come back with Mr Dobson yet. He’ll take a look at your head for you.”
“Thank you, Mr Galpin.”
Andrew looked like he was going to say more, but then he picked up the lantern, which was still burning, and headed out into the yard. Teresa went to the window and tried to look for him, but all she could see was the light flickering in the darkness. It was surreal.
Rose sighed heavily and stormed off into what looked to be the larder.
“Oh, Teresa, darling,” Diana reached for her niece, “you don’t need to look so scared. We’re fine.”
“You’re bleeding, Aunt Diana!”
“But I’m alive. That’s enough.” Diana glanced over her shoulder and then lowered her voice. “It was very hospitable for Mr Galpin to let us stay the night. We could have been very unlucky.”
She was right. It could have been worse. Teresa crossed to the table and took her aunt’s hand as she sat down.
“I do hope Father sends a carriage soon.” She whispered. “I want to get away.”
“You know he won’t send one to fetch us, Teresa. That was the second one we had, and he’ll say that he needs their carriage to go around London.”
Teresa’s heart sank. Her father wouldn’t leave them in the middle of nowhere, would he? Not when he was always wanting to know where she was. Why wouldn’t he want to rescue them.
“So, we’re going to have to stay here until the carriage is fixed.”
“Pretty much. Thomas will let them know that we’re safe, but that’s about it.” Diana squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry, Teresa, dear. It’s going to be a while before we’re going home, but it’s not going to be bad. We’ve got a dry place to stay, and it’s warm. And we do have a nice host.”
Teresa had to concede that. At least Andrew Galpin was a decent man. He could have been a rude, grouchy old man who slammed the door in their faces. But Andrew wasn’t like that at all. He was a gentleman in spite of his social position. And very nice to look at.
Why was that a good point? Why was she even thinking that at all?
“Don’t worry about it so much.” Diana went on. “Maybe it’s time you experienced something a bit different for yourself. It’s fine to do it from time to time, and a few days in the country isn’t going to do you any harm.”
“Maybe not, but…” Teresa hesitated. “What if I don’t like it?”
“I have a feeling you will like it.”
Andrew found himself struggling a little to sleep that night. He lay awake for quite a while, staring at the ceiling. With the walls as thin as they were, he could hear Lady Teresa Colborne and her aunt moving around in their bed next door. He heard them whispering, although their whispers weren’t loud enough for him to hear.
He didn’t need to be clever to know what they were talking about.
At least Lady Diana would be all right after a knock to the head. Mr Dobson had come by, grumbling that he had been dragged out of bed, and had tended to the cut on the older woman’s head. She was still looking a little pale, but better than she had been when Andrew first caught sight of her slumped against the side of the lopsided carriage.
She was going to be dealing with a nasty headache for a few days.
Mr Dobson had also checked on Teresa’s ankle, although she was trying to very politely refuse. But she was looking less shocked, although whenever the young lady looked at him Andrew felt like she was in a fish bowl.
There was something very innocent and very naive about her that normally Andrew would leave alone, but he found himself unable to stop staring at her. Petite with a tiny frame, her golden hair now fallen about her shoulders after Teresa had pulled out all the pins. She looked so young like that. And those eyes, they threatened to keep him staring for hours.
The only person he knew with eyes as green as those were his. Andrew found himself wanting to look into those eyes and not look away. But from the skittish way Teresa was, that would probably not be a good idea.
Hopefully, their carriage would be dealt with soon, or a new carriage would be along for Lady Teresa and her aunt, and then they would be able to head back to London. From the way Teresa had acted, she was desperate to go back to what she thought of as civilisation.
The country life, especially as deep into the country as Earl Soham was, was not for everyone.
Somehow, Andrew managed to get a little sleep, although he did feel exhausted when he opened his eyes and saw the light peeking in through his thin curtains and the sound of his cockerel crowing in the silent air. His head felt like he was stuffed with sandbags as he rolled out of bed. Rubbing his eyes and trying not to yawn every couple of minutes, Andrew got washed and dressed before heading downstairs. Now he was up and moving, his stomach was growling. Hopefully, Rose would be along soon to make breakfast. Unlike him, she chose to get up at a more reasonable time.
Andrew set about feeding the animals, still yawning. At least the animals were in a good mood, going for their feed like they were starving. How anyone could be so enthusiastic in the morning, Andrew had no idea. It took him a while to get used to being awake.
That and he had unexpected guests who had been restless until very late.
He was coming out of the cowshed when he saw Rose entering through the gate. She lived in a little cottage further down the road that Andrew also owned, having bought it from the previous landlord who had been planning on throwing Rose out. He wasn’t about to let his oldest family friend go homeless. Also, who was going to cook for him and make sure Andrew didn’t burn down the house.
He crossed the yard.
“Morning, Andrew.” Rose accepted his kiss to her cheek. Then she glanced towards the house. “Did the two ladies give you any problems?”
“Why would they have given me any problems?”
“Because they’re very refined people, Andrew, or didn’t you notice how they were dressed.”
Andrew folded his arms.
“I had noticed. I’m not completely blind. But that doesn’t explain why they would have given me problems.”
“Well, what they’re used to is not a farmhouse. I’m sure they weren’t too impressed underneath their gratitude for letting them stay in something that wasn’t their own home or a hotel.”
“Thank you for making me feel better about my home, Rose.”
Rose huffed and swatted his arm.
“You know what I mean. I’m just seeing it from their point of view.”
Andrew had seen it from the other side as well. Lady Teresa and Lady Diana were certainly ladies of the ton, but neither of them gave up a title or a family that Andrew would have recognized. Even if they hadn’t said they had the title of Lady, their clothing would have said everything.
Only members of Society would have the money for fabric that expensive. Andrew was sure they were more used to things that gave top comfort and they were waited on. While his farmhouse wasn’t a hotel, the beds were comfortable, and they would be getting fed. Although Rose might object to that from the way she was acting.
Hopefully, they would be able to sort out the carriage or see if there was another way to get them to Framlingham. Earl Soham was a tiny village with the houses scattered all around. Maybe Andrew could take them on his cart so they were somewhere a bit more comfortable and a lot more clean than his farm.
Why did the thought of Teresa leaving the farm leave a nasty taste in his mouth? He should be looking forward to getting a refined young lady away from his home. This was not the place for her, and Andrew felt like he was going about his duties with someone looking over his shoulder.
“I understand this isn’t something they’re used to, Rose, but what did you want me to do? Leave them out in the dark and the rain? I’m not that cruel. Even in your most prickly moments, you wouldn’t want that, either.”
“I’m not prickly!”
“What do you call your behaviour towards them last night?”
“Well, I wasn’t happy with you allowing them to stay in your house. It’s not the proper thing to do.”
Andrew gave a wry chuckle.
“Forgive me, Rose, dear, I didn’t realize you were my mother now and I was a child looking for your approval.”
“This isn’t amusing, Andrew.”
“I think it is. I made a decision to help people in need, and that’s what I did. You may not like it, but it’s my choice.”
Rose pursed her lips. Then she sighed and threw her hands up in the air.
“All right, fine. I know I’m not your mother and I don’t get a say, but I do feel like they’re invading your home.”
“You make it sound like they planned it.” Andrew followed her towards the kitchen door. “You’re not going to be the one trying to entertain them, Rose. They are my guests for the moment.”
“Guests are people we planned for.” Rose snapped. “I have to be in the house as well. I don’t like other women getting in the way when I’m in the kitchen.”
“I shudder to think how you’ll behave when I finally get married.”
“Oh, I’ll be fine around your wife.” Rose opened the door and went into the kitchen, picking up the apron from the nearest chair. “But you’re not marrying either of them, are you? They’re guests we weren’t expecting.”
Andrew sighed. Rose seemed to be in a combative move this morning. He didn’t want to deal with her grumpiness as well as an impending headache from his lack of sleep.
“Please, Rose, don’t do this.” He leaned on the doorframe, ducking his head before he bumped it on the frame. “They needed help. And I’m not about to throw them out. That’s not how I was raised. Mother and Father said I had to remember my manners.”
“They raised you to do a lot of things.” Rose grunted, hanging up her coat and tying her apron around her waist. “Including learning when the best time was to say no.”
Andrew rubbed a hand over his face. She really was in a bad mood. He could only hope it didn’t get directed at Teresa and her aunt.
“Look, there’s not much we can do right now. Once I’ve had breakfast, I’ll get hold of Lewis and see what we can do about their carriage.”
“You’ve got all your work on the farm to do.” Rose glared at him. “Are you going to ignore that?”
“The least I can do is get the carriage off the road so it’s not blocking the way. The sooner we get their things fixed, the sooner the two ladies can go home. We’re not going to get anywhere if we argue all the time, are we?”
Rose looked like she did want to argue, but she let out a heavy sigh and looked away.
“I suppose not.” She stepped around Andrew and back outside. “I’m going to check the bread in the kiln. It should be ready by now.”
Somehow, watching his cook walk away, Andrew had a feeling that Rose wasn’t going to make it easy for their sudden guests, no matter what she said.
“A Duchess’s Scandalous Adventure” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
After a startling accident on their way home, Lady Teresa Colborne and her aunt end up stranded in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, an enticing farmer sees them and invites them to stay until he fixes their carriage. The more the enthralling Teresa spends time with her captivating host, the more she is drawn to him and longs for his touch… Will a simple farmer manage to tame her flaming passion or will her deepest secret ruin forever her chance at true happiness?
Andrew Galpin was living a peaceful farmer’s life until the tantalising Teresa came into his life. He was only trying to be a gentleman by allowing the ladies in need to stay with him, but fate had other plans… It has been so long since he has let a woman come into his life, yet he finds himself fascinated by the alluring Teresa and cannot resist the temptation. Will Andrew give in to his desires for Teresa or will he abandon her once he discovers he has been played in a wicked deception?
An incidental encounter of fate intertwined Teresa and Andrew’s lives, leading them to an unexpected and sinful affair. However, while the two of them are getting closer, secrets will soon start to spill. Will Teresa tell him the truth about who she really is? Will their burning desire defy every obstacle that stands in their way or will all the lies between them destroy their lives and shatter their lustful romance forever?
“A Duchess’s Scandalous Adventure” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.