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Authors: Elizabeth Hanbury

A Bright Particular Star

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A Bright Particular Star

by Elizabeth Hanbury

Published by Astraea Press

www.astraeapress.com

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.

 

A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR

Copyright © 2012 ELIZABETH HANBURY

ISBN
978-1-62135-
023-1

Cover Art Designed by
Wordsugar Designs

Edited by
Em Petrova

 

For Alan, 1945 – 2009
,

w
ho
loved an adventure.

 

A
nd to all the
readers who have
waited patiently for Theo
’s
story to arrive.

Acknowledgements

 

Thanks go to my family for their love, ent
husiasm and
support
; to Jul
ia
for
being a great
friend and
critique partner;
to the other members of the Coffee Crew, Nell Dixon and Phillipa Ash
ley, for their advice
and
for
keeping me supplied
with caffeine and cake
.
Thanks also
to Gilly for being an endless source of inspiration and historical sn
ippets
, and
to The Girls
Night Out Gang
– still going strong
after all this time.

I’m
also indebted
to
Wendy, Glenda,
Sue
, Hilary, Rosy
, Helen, Jo, Mags, Sally,
Eve,
Leah, Elise, Vanessa, Judy, Annalise,
Annelisbeth,
Janet,
Maggie, Hazel, Felicia,
Carolyn
, Diane, Leslie
, Nora, Neelma, Steph
and
others
at C19
for the continued
friendship,
fun,
encouragement
and title suggestions
.

“T
hat I should love a bright particular star

And think to wed it
.

~
William Shakespeare
~
All
’s
Well That Ends Well

Chapter
One

 

August 1817

If only he could go for a swim
.

The day
was
already
hot
,
and
stripping off to dive
into
a lake
was an inviting
prospect
.
Unfortunately
, all
the surrounding country
had to
offer was
a
village pond
so he would have
to
cool off
with
a
tankard of
ale
instead
.
At least it would
be
a fitting
way t
o celebrate
.

A
cloudless
sky stretched out to the horizon
and
the
park
surrounding
Ludstone Hall
was
bathed in sunshine
.
A
s
Theo Cavanagh
drove
down the gravel drive
, he breathed deeply, savouring
the scent
of freshly-cut hay drifting on the breeze
and
glad
to be leaving
Ludstone behind him
.

He smiled
as
he
c
ontemplated his
success
.
The
wine
ve
nture was g
oing well and
,
with
t
he order
he had just
received
,
he co
uld purchase th
at
colt
he ha
d been coveting
.
A
descendant of the all-conquering
Eclipse,
the colt had
the po
tential to become a valuable
stud
stallion
.

Lost
in
his
deep
reverie
,
Theo
entered
the
shade thrown by an avenue of trees.
He h
ad almost reached the
iron
gates
when something fell from above amid a flurry of leaves and twigs.

Billowing
muslin passed by in a blur
and a girl fell into his lap.

W
inded, he
ut
tered a
terrific oath
.
H
is thoroughbreds
responded by bolting
,
startled by his expletive
and
his
violent
tug on the reins
when the
feminine
ar
mful
had
descended from the heavens
or, mor
e
correctly, from the
tree
s which arched low over this
section of the driveway.

In seconds
his
bays were
out of control and
racing
ahead at breakneck speed.
Forced
to put his arms about
the girl and with his vision obscur
ed by a mass of dark shiny
hair,
a
tirade on the folly of dropping into moving carriages
died on
his
lips
as he struggled
to keep the curricle
in a straight line
.
The girl
nestled
closer
,
w
h
ich at least allowed him to see
the way ahead
.

He
almost wished h
e couldn
’t
.

Deuce take it,
they
would be lucky to
escape serious injury
!
T
hey were
going to crash
into the gates
.

His
mind raced
through
his
options
.
Easing
round in a circle would be useless
. T
he bays might
collide with
one
of the trees
or
overturn the carriage
if he turned at
too sharp an
angle
.
There was no incline for him to
point his team
at
,
and j
umping out
at this speed
would be
risky.

T
here was nothing
for it but to hold on
and try
to
regain control
.

Theo
was
aware of
sweet, moist breath play
ing
against his throat, a
delicate
floral scent,
fingers clutching
at his driving coat
and
a
figure
as supple as a cat
curled
against him
,
but
he had no time
to dwell on these perc
eptions as t
he curricle career
ed
wildly
from side to side, the bays

hooves thundering
over the ground
as
the g
ates loomed
.

Sc
enery flew by as
t
he
carriage bowled on at a furious pace
.
Sweat beaded on his
brow
and trickled down his back
.
H
is horses
were
in no mood to respond to any
tightening of the reins
.
In desperati
on, he
tried a different tactic, see-sawing
the pressure

release and pull, release and pull.
The
bays

pace checked enough for him
t
o b
ring their heads down
.
Gr
itting his teeth
for one last
effort
, Theo
threw
his weight
back
wards
and
hauled long and hard
, praying
it would
be enough.

Through
brute strength
and luck
,
the bays
came
to
a plunging,
head-tossing
halt with
only
yards to spare
.

Immediately
,
the girl struggled
to sit up.
The
s
ens
ation of her body pressed against
his
vanished when s
he gave
his
che
st a purposeful shove
and scrambled
across the seat
.


What the
—?

Theo
cut the
exclamation short
.
H
is horses
were now registering their further disgust by
rear
ing
up.


Hurry up and bring your team
to order

they will overturn us if you do not,

sai
d a
breathless
voice at his side.


Of all th
e
cheek!

he panted
,
hauling
yet
again
on the reins.

If you
hadn
’t
made them lose their heads
by dropping into my lap like a



Ripe apple?

interjected his companion helpfully.


No, dash it
!
I was going to say
like a hoyden.
What a
ramshackle thing
to do!
What do you mean by it?
Are you
mad
?
You could have been
hurt
.

Satisfied th
at
his bays
were
in hand
at last, Theo
, still fuming
,
swung around
to
look at his passenger
.
She was
turned
away from him
and s
mudges
of d
irt and moss
covered her face
so it was hard to tell if she was pretty or plain.
She was certainly dishevelled
.
S
he
wore no bonnet
and
brown
hair tumbled down her back in disarray.
She was built on petite lines, t
he
top of her head barely reach
ing
his shoulder.
T
o his surprise
she was
not
, as he had suspected,
a schoolroom miss
but
a little
older
.
A faded,
ill-fitting spencer covered an equally ill-fitting
gown and
scuffed half-boots peeked ou
t from under the hem.
Studying
her profile, Theo co
uld see a
pert
nose
and
well-shaped
mouth
.

H
is fury
mingled with astonishment as
,
apparently unconcerned at having dropp
ed into his carriage
,
she pushed
errant curls back
from her face
and
began
rummaging
through her reticule.

When
she became aware he was sta
ring, s
he
turned
and Theo
found himself looking down into an
arr
esting pair of eyes.
Large
and f
ringed with lush lashes
,
they were the colour
of a sunlit sea
.

H
er
brows lifted in indignation
.

Of course I

m not mad.
The risk of getting hurt was slight and I was prepared to take the chance.


Good g
rief,

he murmured
after a
stunned silence.
“D
o you drop
into gentlemen
’s
carriages often as a way of amusing yourself, Miss—?


S
ophie
Devereux
.
And I

m not amusing myself,
I am escaping and this was the only way I could do it without being observed.
Now,
will you please
drive on before my aunt
realize
s I am
missing
?”

His jaw dropped a
nother
notch.

Did
you say escaping?

She nodded.

From
Aunt
Eudora and
C
ousin Peregrine.

Still g
aping
, Theo forced himself to concentrate
on her reply
.
W
hile
the outcome of his visit
had been successful, he had not enjoyed his meeting with the imperious Mrs Sloane, the owner of Ludstone.
She had been as
grovelling
towards him as she had been
arrogant
in every other regard
, b
ut he could not
refuse orders just
because he didn

t like the person behind
them
,
or
because he
deplored
the
oppressive
atmosphere that
had pervaded
the Sloane household
.

Is your aunt the lady
I have been visiting
up at the Hall?

BOOK: A Bright Particular Star
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