Yes, what happened to Baron Frederick Von Richter you ask? Has he met his match in Martha Arden?
Martha Arden has left England to escape the humiliation of a broken engagement. Going to Virginia to visit her cousin Jude, and his wife, Chloe, Martha becomes an unwitting pawn in their game to find a wife for their jilted friend, Frederick Von Richter. Will the ploy work? Will Martha be a bride for the baron?
How about I share the first chapter?
Chloe smiled at her and Martha didn’t like it. What was going on in her head? Something was amiss. Both she and Martha’s cousin Jude had been odd all day. And not odd in the way Colonials were odd. But odd all together. They’d been whispering when she walked in at breakfast and now at tea Chloe’s gaze kept darting about the room.
Martha’s manners were impeccable but she had to know what was going on. After all, she had come to
change and being bolder would definitely be a change. She set her tea cup down,
the sound of the cup rattling against the saucer bringing Chloe’s wild brown eyes
to rest upon her. America
“Is there something you need to tell me?” she asked, her tone sharper than she intended. The question seemed to catch Chloe off guard and her tanned cheeks flushed crimson. That was another thing about the colonies. The women seemed more comfortable, less inhibited. Why even Chloe’s auburn hair had lightened under the intense
There was a robust, healthy glow about her that made her even more beautiful. Virginia
“No, why do you ask?” Chloe’s voice trembled just the littlest bit and to the untrained ear of a novice, that may have gone unnoticed. But to a governess to three of the most conniving, lovable brats to ever trample the English countryside, Martha heard it.
“It’s obvious. Both you and Jude are behaving strangely. Have I done something to offend? Should I not have come?”
Chloe’s mouth opened and snapped shut at the sound of the front door opening. She stood. “Not at all, my dear Martha. I am so glad to have you here.” Moving around the tea cart, she gripped her hands together. She was excited about something, but about what, Martha had no clue.
“Why the intrigue then?”
“Don’t be silly,” Chloe said, her skirts rustling as she walked toward the parlor door. “An old friend has only just arrived from
long to see him. I have so many things to thank him for.” Germany
“I see. Why didn’t you tell me?” Martha took a step back.
Chloe’s attention came to rest upon her. “Because after what happened with Lord Sexton I knew you’d want to leave.” Her expression softened. “I want you to stay. I want you to be happy and I know you’ll adore
do. The baron is nothing like Sexton.” Frederick
Martha’s mouth went dry and her chest grew tight. Lord Sexton. The widower father of her charges. He had made promises. Had told lies and left her hard fought reputation in ruins. She had held off his advances, had accepted his proposal only to have him break the engagement at the bequest of his father. Heat rushed to her cheeks at the reminder of her humiliation.
“I don’t want you planning my destiny,” Martha said, anger taking control of her usually composed demeanor. “And isn’t he the one you cast off in favor of Jude?”
Chloe visibly stiffened. “That was a very harmful thing to say indeed. Please do not speak of him as if he weren’t worthy of the most triumphant woman in all of
…or England .” America
Her defense of him astounded her and Martha smoothed her gown. Ashamed. “I’ll be out in the garden. The sun is nearly set and I imagine it’s cool enough now for me to enjoy the weather.”
At the sound of the front door slamming to a close, Chloe rushed to Martha’s side. “Please don’t be rude to him. I should have given you more warning. I simply wanted to…”
“Catch me off guard?”
Chloe’s awkward smile should have annoyed her. But she found it rather charming that the woman she had known but three weeks’ time could read her so very well.
“Yes. We need a companion for him. Not a wife. Just so he doesn’t feel uncomfortable.” Her brow creased with emotion. “He loved me and it took us years of asking for him to finally agree to visit. Now that he’s here I don’t want him to feel like…”
“An intruder?” Martha inserted and inwardly agreed. Even though they were kind to her and generous, she made sure to go to bed early, and go for walks as often as the heat allowed. The love between them had her aching with a jealousy she loathed and Jude was her cousin and not the object of her affection. “All right. As long as you don’t think I’m a bride for the baron.”
“Only if that’s what fate has in store,” Chloe said in a rush before turning her back and giving Martha no chance at recourse. She hurried toward the door, her frame lithe, and her step light. She was so very elegant and Martha felt like a Clydesdale in comparison.
Chloe pulled open the door and upon the man’s entrance, Martha’s entire body shook. Every bit of her came to life. For in walked possibly, the most beautiful man, she had ever had the pleasure to lay eyes upon.
Dark hair, longer than the custom, full, well-trimmed beard. Bright blue eyes that sparkled as they came to rest upon Chloe. Sparkled with a warmth a man should only reserve for his lover. She swallowed the idea and suddenly had the urge to run to the door that would take her out into the garden.
“Oh Baron! It is so wonderful to see you. Thank you so much for coming.” Chloe enveloped his hand in hers.
“My pleasure.” He bowed his head and when he stood a dark curl rested upon his forehead giving him an almost boyish quality. A quality that would have gone unnoticed had the strand stayed tucked in place.
Jude followed close behind the baron, the joy on his face mirroring that of his wife’s.
“Jude tells me you’ve come to love
voice was deep, the timbre rich and powerful. It’s sound soothing to her
ear…soothing, yet pleasantly chill inducing. Virginia
“I do. It’s a very interesting place with many different sorts of insects.”
The baron’s laughter was robust and when he turned his head and his eyes came to rest upon her, Martha’s heart shuddered in her chest. The stare was intense. The scrutiny, the boldness of it, caused her skin to heat. She’d never been looked at like that before and his expression was anything but pleasant. It was as if he realized Chloe and Jude’s marital intention. For hadn’t she? The two were nothing, if not obvious.
“Come in, come in,” Chloe said, “and meet our cousin Martha Arden.”
“Frederick Von Richter,” he said against her fingers, his breath hot upon her flesh. He straightened. “It is a pleasure to meet you. You are all Jude spoke of on the carriage ride from town.”
“I’m sure that was a rather boring trip,” she said, pulling her hand free and setting it atop her roiling stomach.
“Not at all. For you see, he believes that we will be very suitable dinner partners.”
Martha didn’t like the way he looked at her now. No. He seemed bitterly angry and irate. Why that anger was directed upon her she couldn’t fathom and the unfairness of it had her seething.
“Only dinner partners, sir?” Her tone dripped with her own animosity. “I thought for certain you had come all the way from
to marry me. I am sorely disappointed that dinner is the very best you can
She didn’t know why she said it. Perhaps it was to stun him or to stop his unfair assumptions. Whatever her purpose, his growling demeanor seemed to ease, if only the littlest bit.
They stared at one another for a long moment and as childish as it was, she refused to drop her gaze. She had seen Lewis and Lucy playing this game many times and had chastised them for it and yet she still held her eyes locked to his. Refusing to grant him even the smallest of victories.
Finally, Jude stepped up behind
patted him on the back, ending the ridiculous contest. “Come sit down, man.
Have some tea.” Frederick
Chloe signaled Martha with a wave of her hand. “Cousin, let us find Maggie and freshen up the tea? I’m sure we can locate more biscuits as well.”
Martha didn’t hesitate. More than ready to get away from the rudest, albeit handsomest man she had ever met.
“You have to believe me, Martha,” Chloe said as they walked down the path and toward the kitchen. The small, whitewashed building a welcome reprieve from the suffocating unease of the parlor. “He really is one of the kindest men I’ve known.”
“Is he now?” Martha replied, none too pleased to be forced into the middle of this intrigue. She didn’t want any part of this plot. She wanted peace. She wanted to be left alone. Lord Sexton’s lies had wounded her to her core. Why did Chloe and Jude think this sad attempt at matchmaking would work?
“Did you honestly believe that just because we both lost at love we would settle upon each other…cast off to cast off? That just because he fell in love with you upon first sight, that he would do the same for me?” She blew out an exasperated breath. “Men don’t generally do that to dowerless heiresses forced into servitude. Besides, I don’t possess your poise and beauty, Chloe. Or have you lost your looking glass?”
“Martha really,” Chloe whispered. “You mustn’t say such things. You are beautiful and elegant. You carry yourself with grace and pride and-and dignity.”
Martha felt tears burn her eyes. For if her cousin spoke in earnest, she still could not believe the words true. “Please, let us forget all this nonsense. It matters little now. The baron is in as much a mood to woo me as I am to be wooed.”
Chloe gripped her cousin’s hand tightly. “You are a treasure to me, Martha.”
Martha smiled, glad that all the foolishness had been cleared away. “Now, if you don’t mind. I would like to go for a walk before it gets too dark and I owe little Jack a lesson.”
“Yes, you go ahead. I believe he’s in the garden. But do be careful and don’t be long. You know I will worry if you and the boy are out after dark.”
Martha walked the sandy garden path. Daisies and black eyed Susan’s bowed their heads inward, narrowing the path and tapping her skirts as she passed. Eyeing the boy’s blond curls bobbing up and down amongst the colorful array of wild flowers, she made her way toward him.
Jack turned to her, his blue eyes flashing with his pleasure upon seeing her. May, the lad’s mother stood nearby, her face flush and aglow with the summer heat and sunshine.
“Hello Miss Martha!” The boy’s exclamation warmed her heart and had her forgetting the baron. Children were so refreshing. At such a young age they were guileless and full of affection. She thanked God every night that Jack was here, for he eased the ache in her heart left by the absence of the Sexton children.
“Good afternoon, Jack.”
He rushed to her and she bent to receive him in a most welcome hug. He smelled of summer air along with the tang of sweaty little boy. It was the smell of playfulness and youth.
“What are you doing out here?”
“Waiting for you Miss Martha. I’ve found a frog and I wanted to show it to you before Ma and I take it back to the creek.”
Martha stood and smiled. “Well, let me see it and then set it free. What sort of animal is a frog?”
“A slimy kind?” he asked as they made their way to where May stood, her hands on her hips and her young, fair face glowing with pride.
Martha laughed. “Yes, but you know what I mean. We talked about this before. Frogs are am…”
Jack bit his lower lip and then smiled as the answer came to him.“Andphibiants.”
Martha bit back a chuckle. “Yes, well almost. Amphibians.”
The lad nodded. “That’s a hard one.”
“Yes it is. I’m proud you remembered.
“You’ve come to view the specimen?” May asked, pointing at the brownish green frog.
Martha narrowed her gaze and stared at the creature, it was larger than she anticipated, it’s legs curled beneath his pale belly. His moist skin glinted in the sun. “He’s a fine frog. The finest I’ve ever seen.”
“Aye Miss Martha, he is.” Jack slipped his hands in the pockets of his pants and pinched his lips “I’d like to keep him. Ma says I can’t. What do you think?”
Both May and the boy stared at her expectantly. May seemed so young and as they awaited her reply, it wasn’t lost on Martha that Chloe’s father had taken advantage of the poor girl and left her on her own to raise a baby. Had she herself been younger, would she have yielded to Sexton as May had to Lord Pembridge? Perhaps that reason alone was why she and May had bonded so quickly. Why she wanted what was best not just for Jack, but for his mother as well.
“As much as you like this frog, I think it would be best to take him to the creek.”
“Like him?” Jack’s mouth popped open. “I love him. He’s amazing.”
“Even more amazing out there where he can eat all the bugs he wants.” She widened her eyes. “And just think Jack, at the creek he can find a lovely girl frog and have babies.”
“I don’t know…”
“But listen little man, the babies will be tadpoles and we can watch them grow up. Tadpoles, you know, start out with no legs.” She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and dabbed at a stream of perspiration that slid from her hairline. The sun beat down on them and she worried the frog would turn to dust if he wasn’t returned to the water soon.
Jack stared at her, astonished. “We got to hurry.” He grabbed the frog and headed down the path that led toward the woods and the creek beyond. “Come on, Ma. We want to see frogs with no legs, don’t we?”
Martha watched as the pair slipped from view and smiled. “Yes, thank you God for Jack.”
Circling toward the house, a light breeze touched her heated skin, but the moist warmth of it did little to aid in her misery. She wasn’t accustomed to such a stifling climate and although
many blessing, it was also cursed. Cursed with an array of biting insects and
cloying heat. Virginia
Reaching the wrought iron bench she turned her body toward the setting sun and sat. Pink and yellow clouds met her gaze and she allowed herself to relax. It was a most spectacular sunset and she realized that God was here just as He had been in
was a definite comfort in that. For at times, she longed for the motherland.
The cooler weather, the cobbled streets, the joyful sound of her charges
playing. Lord help her, she even missed those spoiled rotten pranksters. She
had, after all, begun to look upon them as not just her charges. But as her
soon to be children. Damn Samuel for ruining everything and hurting her. Damn
him twice for taking her away from the children. They had just begun to respond
to her teachings. They had begun to love her. England
Despite her strength, tears slid down her cheeks. When she started her employment, she would have never guessed how much she would grow to love the little louts.
At the soft sound of footfalls, she dried her eyes and looked toward the interloper. It was the baron and her stomach dipped. She did not want another confrontation. No. She simply wanted and needed peace in which to think.
Yet, she couldn’t deny that he did strike a fine figure. Especially now with his coat off and his collar opened. He appeared more relaxed and approachable and when he smiled she felt her tension ease, if just a little.
“Miss Arden.” He stopped before her, his shadow blocking her view of the sunset and casting him in silhouette.
“My lord,” she said, wetting her lips. “Is there something I can do for you?”
“You could allow me a moment of your time,” he responded. “And allow me to sit and enjoy the sunset with you?”
Still reluctant, she moved to the side and he lowered himself. The narrow bench forced them close and she could feel his warmth and smell his pleasant, manly scent.
“It is a lovely spot to end the daylight hours,” he said and turned to her. His blue eyes flashed and his mouth turned down beneath his thick mustache. The solemnness of his demeanor had her curious.
“Indeed it is. I spend most of my evenings here. I like to give Jude and Chloe time alone and I find many of my best and most serious thoughts occur on this very spot.”
“Indeed,” he remarked and the silence between them stretched as they watched the clouds darken as the sun dipped lower and lower. Yet it wasn’t an uncomfortable silence. There was a peace in it and when he finally spoke again, she met his gaze. His eyes caressed her face with a gentleness she hadn’t expected and yet found that she enjoyed. “Miss Arden, I feel the need to apologize to you.”
She recognized his sincerity, for his face was so very easy to read. “It is all right, sir. Neither one of us behaved very well.”
“That is not true.” He smiled now, with obvious relief. “You behaved perfectly reasonably. I have been at sea too long and my manners far too unused.”
“It’s all right.” Martha let out a small laugh. “Lady Chloe as much as admitted that she had hopes for…” She looked away, embarrassment at her honesty creeping up in the forms of a warm flush.
He too laughed. “Jude spoke of nothing but you on our travels from town. But that is not your fault and I should not have judged you so harshly. The fault is mine and I just hope you can forgive me.”
He stood and offered his hand. When she placed her fingers in his, he bent forward and kissed her knuckles. Standing he smiled and she noted his even, white teeth. “Friends then?”
“Yes.” She nodded. “Friends.”
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